February 20: National Eating Disorders Week
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In the United States, many people struggle with eating disorders, with some of the most common being anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of age, race, background, or gender. When these disorders continue for an extended period of time without treatment, they can cause a lot of serious health problems. Some people even turn to substance misuse to cope. 

Spreading awareness about eating disorders, including how they are caused and how they are treated, is critical, life-saving work. That is why beginning on February 20th of every year, we have an entire week to spread awareness about them. This year, take the time to truly participate. This can be done through educating yourself, spreading information, and learning about how you can help those you love who may be struggling. 

The Purpose of National Eating Disorders Week

National Eating Disorders Week was started by the organization National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA). The purpose of this week is not only to help further inform the public about what eating disorders are but to let them know that there is help available to them and that they don’t have to continue to live this way. Its purpose is also to help ensure that all of those that are looking to seek treatment have access to the resources that they need.

National Eating Disorders Week focuses on spreading awareness about different eating disorders–specifically, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED). It also focuses on spreading awareness regarding the different factors that can play into an individual’s likelihood to develop an eating disorder. Of course, this can be different from person to person, but there are some main factors that we know can play a role. Some examples include bullying, low self-esteem, and mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

Recognizing the Signs

There is also a focus on learning to recognize the signs of an eating disorder. While for some people, it is very obvious that they are struggling with a certain type of eating disorder, others can hide it very well, and they may go on for years without anyone recognizing that there is something wrong. 

Some of the common symptoms of eating disorders to look out for include: 

  • Cold, clammy hands
  • Sudden fluctuations in weight 
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Skipping meals
  • Not wanting to eat around other people
  • Excessive exercise 
  • Constantly weighing oneself
  • Negative self-talk
  • Obsessing over calories
  • Changes in sleeping habits 

The better able we are to notice these signs, the more equipped we are to help others who may be struggling and encourage them to get the help that they need. 

Each year, National Eating Disorders Week has a theme. In past years, themes have included “Every Body to Have a Seat at the Table” and “Come as You Are.” 

The History of National Eating Disorders Week

NEDA was created back in 2001. At the time, the organizations Eating Disorders Awareness and the American Anorexia Bulimia Association had already been founded. The combination of the two was done in order to become stronger and spread more awareness about how eating disorders affect so many people across the nation. NEDA has done important work for many years. 

In 2012, NEDA launched the website Proud2BMe. The purpose of this website is to help to empower young people, increase healthy body positivity, and inspire others to learn to love themselves and their abilities. February of 2021 was the first year National Eating Disorders Week was held. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, its events were held virtually. 

How You Can Participate

There are a lot of different ways that you can get involved with National Eating Disorders Week this year. You can start by following NEDA’s Facebook page. They are regularly announcing newly scheduled events across the country, including charity walks. These walks are held across many states at different times throughout the year, not just during this specific week. It’s a great way to get exercise and meet new people, all while raising money for a great cause. Consider inviting a friend to come along with you. 

Another very important thing you can do is to continue to educate yourself about eating disorders and how they are developed. Maybe there is somebody in your life whom you know is struggling. Now is the time to approach them in a loving way and encourage them to seek the proper treatment that they need. Make sure that they know that you are coming from a place of care, love, and concern and that you’re not here to ridicule or embarrass them. 

February 20, 2023, begins this year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This annual initiative is meant to spread awareness about what eating disorders are and how to identify the signs. It is also meant to make sure that those struggling not only know what types of resources are available to them but that they also have access to these resources. Eating disorders are severe and can become life-threatening when they are not treated. Some people with eating disorders also struggle with substance misuse. This can make matters even more serious. This is why continual awareness is so important. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use disorder, call The Ho Tai Way at (714) 581-3974 today.