February 24, 2012

Awareness of eating disorders awareness

Yes, "awareness" is good. The public really knows little about eating disorders and it is not until we are hit with it in our own families do we discover how difficult the illness is and how absurdly difficult it is to get proper treatment.

But not ALL awareness is good. Awareness that distracts from the important stuff can be WORSE than ignorance.

Most awareness campaigns around eating disorders are based on the same mistaken ideas of the problem that the public already holds: poor body image, size zero models, pressure to be thin, appearance over achievement, and "an issue of control." Trashing our scales, mocking Barbie, taking off our makeup, and scolding mom are easy but cheap and suspiciously easy: we really don't need any more awareness around those ideas. We need to DISPEL those.

Here's what the public needs awareness about:
  • Dieting and over-exercise are toxic for the developing brain, and can be a sign of deadly mental illness.
  • Children and adolescents shouldn't be losing weight, skipping meals, or using exercise to change their body size.
  • Eating disorders, while very serious psychiatric conditions, are treatable.
  • Get your loved one into treatment. Not ANY treatment: treatment based on good science.
P.S. Most treatment available is not based on good science.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks Laura... I fully agree with this. I have seen some good awareness of EDs in the media this week, but also the usual stuff about social pressures on people to look good - assuming cause and effect. I do not deny that social pressures exist and that they can cause body dissatisfaction and encourage dieting behaviour. I am not in favour of our societal obsession with beauty and 'perfect bodies'.

    But many people develop EDs who have not been exposed to such pressures, or have no interest in them. I have seen a number of articles this past week that advise parents to focus on boosting their child's self esteem through encouraging them to participate in sport rather than their physical appearance - with the objective of reducing the risk of EDs. Yet, there is plentiful evidence to show that many young athletes develop EDs. In fact, athletes may be at greater risk of developing EDs than non athletes because of their high energy expenditure and even accidental failure to consume an adequate energy intake.

    EDs develop in all countries of the world; not just Western society. EDs are not culture-bound syndromes. I find it interesting that in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, few media articles on EDs focused on 'body image' and in particular, the effects of culture on 'body image'. Nowadays, it is very rare to find an article that doesn't focus on EDs and both 'body image' and cultural pressure to be thin.

    Very few articles on EDs in the media that I have read this past week have focused on the importance of good nutrition.

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  2. Yes, Laura! I am going to highlight your points on FB today.

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    1. Thank you, KrisB - isn't it neat how we can all amplify our voices this way. We are a village, and we're having an influence.

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  3. Sing it, Laura! I'm linking to / quoting this post in blog, hope that's okay!

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