This is the first time I have been a participant in a meaningful way during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. How have I been disappointed and gobsmacked? Let me count the ways . . .
1. All the body-image stuff going from organizations that purport to be doing eating disorder awareness. Why, you ask? Let me illustrate:
All of you with body image issues stand up (I am fairly confident the percentage of you standing is in the high nineties). Now sit down if you don't ALSO have an eating disorder. Well, that was certainly loud with most of you sitting at the same time.
I love to talk about the way media and our thin-focused culture do girls and women dirty (and even guys now). Just NOT during NEDAW--I want to talk about eating disorders during NEDAW. Sigh.
2. All the talk about how to prevent eating disorders by focusing on postive body image and having parents not be body-shaming, perfectionistic, driven and controlling stereotypes. Why does this bother me?
Because parents couldn't cause eating disorders if they tried and (as I learned the hard way) doing every. single. thing. on these prevention lists won't help in the end if you've got a kid wired for an ED.
3. The images of the skeletal, blond seeing her elephantine reflection in a mirror that accompany most articles.
Guess who gets eating disorders? Everyone--really, being an pretty, thin, affluent, white girl is actually not a prerequisite for developing an eating disorder (just a coincidence that's my girl's profile). Also (news flash), anorexia is NOT the only eating disorder there is--and you don't have to be skeletal to be sick. These graphics may actually prevent people from believing they have a problem and that is definitely an eating disorder awareness fail.
4. I don't have ANY problem with all the articles that are focused on research and treatment and funding for research and the issues of access to quality treatment and the problems surrounding the way insurance companies cover treatment and the fact that many medical professionals are still using 1970s knowledge to treat EDs in 2014.
Wait . . . I do have a problem--I'm not seeing those articles :(
The bottom line is this: it really doesn't matter WHY someone developed an ED (accept in the context of research); it matters that they recover from their ED.
You know those St. Jude's commercials that get us to open our hearts and wallets so effectively? They don't spend any time pontificating about whether or not the mother ate tuna high in mercury three times a week and "gave" her child cancer or whether dad smoked in the house when the child was a baby and "gave" his kid cancer or whether the kid "gave" herself cancer by playing next to electrical wires. They just ask you to support funding for research and treatment.
You can bet that next year I will have a plan in place for how to deal with NEDAW--and it's going to include being prepared to comment and tweet A LOT about articles and postings that don't further the cause, but rather hinder it by conflating symptoms with causes and blaming patients and familes.
If you are on Twitter and feel like seeing firsthand what I am talking about, explore these hashtags: #NEDAW #NEDAwareness #NEDA. If you want to see what I and others in the know are seeing, we are using hashtags #EDAfail and #EDAstar to highlight the good, the bad and the ugly (much more of the last two, but maybe next year will be different.