Ellie’s Expression: Educate to destigmatize eating disorders

Eleanor Marshall
Opinion Columnist

Lura Borden, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, with photos of her daughter, Laurie. She died on June 1, 2005 because of an eating disorder. Photo by Price Chambers/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS

News flash: eating disorders are a disease.

I know it’s hard to picture something Hollywood glamorizes so much as a bad thing, but yes, it’s true: eating disorders are a disease, and a fairly common one at that.

“Thirty million Americans will struggle with a full-blown eating disorder, and millions more will battle food and body image issues,” according to nationaleatingdisorders.org (NEDA).

If so many people struggle with this, why aren’t they given help? The answer is simple: the stigma surrounding these disorders.

This stigma is an issue. People struggling are scared to talk about their disorder, scared it will be brushed off as “a lifestyle choice,” according to Mental Health Australia, rather than acknowledging the seriousness of the disease.

This is extremely dangerous. When left untreated, eating disorders can be deadly.

The mortality rate is “4 percent for anorexia nervosa, 3.9 percent for bulimia nervosa, and 5.2 percent for eating disorder not otherwise specified,” NEDA said. Reasons for death include starvation, substance abuse and suicide.

Another reason people don’t come forward about their eating disorders is the stereotype. People struggling without a certain body type are worried they won’t be taken as seriously as people who are extremely thin. This leads to even fewer people getting help, which obviously is a problem.

People don’t realize that diseases don’t discriminate– they can happen to anyone.

To fight these stereotypes, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) is promoting the message “One Size DOESN’T Fit All” to emphasize that these disorders can and do affect people of all sizes “genders, ages, races and ethnic identities, sexual orientations and socio-economic backgrounds.”

What can we do about this? Educate.

If people learn the dangerous truths about eating disorders, the stigmas will vanish. People will be able to talk about their issues and get the help they need, making the world a healthier and happier place.

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