Everybody knows someone – how awareness can save lives


Photo via thinkprogress.org

Hey everyone, happy last week of February. Hopefully this means that warmer weather is on its way, but either way, our chance for spring-break-escape will be upon us soon! As the need to fulfill the beach-bod stereotype closes in on us, this last week of February is National Eating Disorder Awareness week.

Let me hit you with some facts. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA):

– In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically
significant eating disorder at some time in their life.

– Nearly fifty years of research confirms that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.

– Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment.

– In 2011, research dollars spent on Alzheimer’s Disease averaged $88 per affected individual, $81 for Schizophrenia, $44 for Autism. For eating disorders, the average amount of research dollars per affected individual was $0.93.

– Medical dangers surrounding eating disorders include kidney failure, heart failure, osteoporosis, muscle loss and weakness, tooth decay, peptic ulcers and pancreatitis.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I read these, I wasn’t all that shocked. In fact, I was more concerned about this information not coming as a surprise to me than I was about the content of the information itself. Clearly, eating disorders are no small deal. They affect millions of people across the country and have lasting impacts that can be seen years later. Here is the thing, though, prevention is simple – its education.

The goal of this week of eating disorder awareness is to help anyone displaying signs of early eating disorders get help so that full-on disorders don’t engulf his or her life. By getting counseling help, years of struggle and even lives can be saved. NEDA has many free resources on its website that can help individuals determine if seeking help is needed.

As for you and me, there are a few things that we can do in order to quit feeding into the destructive environment that pushes eating disorders to evolve.

Support. Doesn’t matter if you know that someone is struggling with an eating disorder or not, through supporting the loved ones in your life to look after themselves, value their body and strive to live healthy lifestyles, you are already making a huge impact. Being there for kids, friends or anyone, for the matter, and encouraging them to seek help if needed or open up about their lives keeps the conversation about body image, body shaming and eating disorders relevant.

Speak up. I’m sure you’ve heard of the “see something, say something” idea. Same thing here, except I want this to be a suggestion of positivity. No need to pass on the body-shaming magazine covers or laugh at a “fat” joke. Instead, spread compliments directed toward wonderful personality traits. Share images of strong, confident celebrities, not focused on how they look in a bathing suit or them scarfing down a hamburger. Say kind things to those around you. Body-negative media surrounds our daily lives and its up to us to counter it with positivity, love and awareness.

Smile. And quit body shaming yourself! When you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, smile and recognize that you are fearfully and wonderfully made just how you are. Walking around on a day-to-day basis confidently will allow you to serve as a positive role model. There are few things more powerful then self-love. By loving yourself, your example could influence someone else to reach out for help and strive to love him or herself, too.

As members of the Marquette community, we have also been blessed with plenty of resources to help us out in the case that you or a loved one is facing an eating disorder. Checking out Marquette’s on-campus counseling center can serve as a good resource, as well as counseling through the university’s Employee Assistance Programs. Student-run Project HEAL, another on campus organization, aims to bring awareness and raise money for those in need of treatment but are unable to afford it. Project HEAL is involved with an on-campus speaker this week, Tuesday night at 7 in the AMU Ballroom C, there will be a registered dietician speaking about the myth of the Freshman 15 and how it can cause harmful thoughts and behaviors in college students. This information will be insightful to all audience members as it helps raise awareness .

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