It’s the last day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017. I’ve enjoyed the conversations and activities happening on the college campus where I work. The topics have ranged from signs and symptoms of eating disorders to mental health stigma to eating disorders among athletes to cultivating cultural criticism in order to combat the negative messages we receive from the media. This week’s theme (“It’s Time to Talk About It”) has reinvigorated my interest in advocacy and reminded me of the power of sharing our stories…the power of connection with one another.
So, how can we keep the conversation going? How can we ensure that fewer people feel stigmatized, fewer people are impacted by the insidious body-hating messages promoted by the diet/fitness industry, and more people seek treatment? Here are a few suggestions:
- When you notice friends or family members talking negatively about their bodies or shaming someone else, draw their attention to it. Your way of doing so may not be my way, but I might say something like, “I notice you’re so hard on yourself. What do you like about your body?” Or, for someone who’s shaming someone else: “Hey. Everyone deserves respect. Appearance-based comments hurt all of us.” (This goes for commenting on any aspect of another person’s appearance — the recent barrage of appearance based insults about our President are no better than his own comments about women’s bodies!)
- Become critical of the media, especially the diet and fitness industry. Notice the overt and covert messages: thinness = happiness/success; fat is bad; healthy looks a certain size, etc. When you recognize the absurdity of the messages and talk about that with others, more people’s eyes will be opened. The capital t Truth is that true joy comes from within and can only be cultivated by being present to each moment as it unfolds. It has nothing to do with size, weight, or shape.
- Practice mindful eating by yourself or with others. Take note of the sensations of eating and the feelings it evokes for you. Talk about this experience with others. Check out The Center for Mindful Eating for more on the principles of mindful eating.
- Before eating a meal with a friend, imagine and discuss the many people who were involved in bringing that food to your plate. For example, take a simple slice of bread: the farmer who planted the seed, the person who invented the harvester that harvested the fully grown grain, the people involved in processing the grain into flour, those who baked and packaged the bread, the person who stocked the bread on the shelf, and the cashier who sold it to you — so many people involved in bringing this bite of food to you. It’s so important to take time to notice our connection to one another as it cultivates gratitude.
These are just a few ways to keep the conversation going as National Eating Disorders Awareness Week draws to a close. Best wishes as you continue your journey of awareness.
Peace, joy, and good conversation,