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Sunday, 12 February 2012

Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Time To Go.



It is about to hit us. Or did it come and go? Whatever, I think it is time to be banned.

Years ago, no one knew anything about eating disorders.  No one understood and knew how to recognise the signs and symptoms in either themselves or other people. This is no longer true.

The net result is that people with eating disorders are stigmatized. That hasn't changed. Even doctors regard people with bulimia as at least unfortunate and possibly weak willed. They regard anorexia as a vanity illness suffered by willful and irrational people. Even some experts regard compulsive eaters as weak. The new rash of articles about men with eating disorders is helping perhaps but not changing the general image of people with eating disorders as being somehow lesser, sicker beings than other people. You wouldn't want to ask them home for tea.

Well meaning people in their hundreds, go into schools to teach Health and Education studies about eating disorders. This does little to change the incidence of problems and in some cases made the situation worse by sensitizing vulnerable girls and boys about issues of food and weight. These do-gooders don't like to hear this. I once had to argue against a former anorexia sufferer going into schools to warn pupils about the dangers of self-starvation. If you tell someone not to do something, chances are they will.

When people with eating disorders pass through the sieve of investigative journalism they are portrayed in sensationalist ways, which often only enhance a sense of disgust and revulsion among onlookers.  You even get a chance to see vomit in 3D.  Lets face it, the symptoms of an eating disorder are unpleasant and people do terrible, unbelievable things to themselves because of their apparent fears of fatness.

It’s time to stop doing the very thing central to eating disorders, the sense that somehow this condition is special. Even putting eating disordered people on Supersize/Superskinny is unethical.  Why not have Depression Awareness Week or Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness week? Why not have a different Awareness Week every year; surely all the walking wounded deserve their mention.

Lets have an informed debate about what it is helpful to communicate – such as which kind of therapists are to be avoided because their training is partial, or inadequate; or, how to help schools develop an eating disorder policy to protect the healthy as well as the ill.  The rest, I believe is a disservice to the sufferers.

If you like or don't like what I have written contact me on Deanne@ncfed,com  and at least THINK before you leap!

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