Let’s be honest’at one point or another, we’ve probably all been on some kind of diet. We’ve cringed at photos that don’t show us at our best. We may have even had the occasional "fat day." But for some people, thoughts and feelings about weight become a preoccupation. They morph into an obsession with weight and food, and sometimes even result in eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia or orthorexia.
People who suffer from these disorders often do so in silence’hiding their struggle from family and friends. But National Eating Disorder Awareness Week aims to break that silence and raise awareness about these potentially life-threatening conditions. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, the goal of this week is "to reduce the prevalence of anorexia, bulimia, dieting and body image problems through a public education program examining the cultural, psychological and biological factors influencing their development."
Part of this education plan is to change social perceptions about eating disorders. When you think about eating disorders, what do you see? Teenage girls trying to emulate celebrities? Rail-thin models walking down a runway? Actresses who go on extreme diets in an attempt to slim down for their next role? The truth is, eating disorders have many faces. They are not solely a women’s issue. They do not discriminate based on age. And not everyone realizes how harmful they can be. In fact, pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia messages are out there, genuinely extolling the "benefits" of these diseases. And it is because of these kinds of attitudes and misconceptions that National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is so important’the more we educate ourselves and others, the better chance we have of helping people to develop a better relationship with themselves and with their food.