National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
I was thinking recently about how I haven’t heard as much about eating disorders recently - from the media, from research briefs, or from friends in ministry. To be honest, I am not familiar enough with the research (nor did I have the time this week to explore it) to know if the incidence of eating disorders (in particular anorexia nervosa and bulimia) are increasing, decreasing, or static, but I do know that they are still occurring far too frequently in teenagers of both genders, as well as in children and adults.
That’s why I’m glad that this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The theme for this year’s focus on eating disorders is “Everybody Knows Somebody”.
I think that theme is very appropriate - we likely all know somebody who has an eating disorder. We just might not be aware of it.
So to get us all a bit more aware of the people - especially young people - we know who might be struggling with self-starvation or binging, here are a few insights that have struck me this past week:
-It’s vital to make sure we not only are aware of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders but that we also understand the cultural as well as individual, psychological issues that underlie eating disorders. My understanding is that in general, the individual’s issue isn’t really about food; there’s something deeper going on. That’s why folks who are struggling with eating disorders generally need to see a professionally trained therapist.
-There are steps all of us can take to have a healthier body image, and pass that on through our example and words to teenagers.
-Eating disorders, while more common in females, are also something experienced by boys, as powerfully depicted by NBC News recently.
-It’s important to have discussions with teenagers about the media’s portrayals of men, women, and the way they relate to each other physically, emotionally, and sexually.
This last idea is perhaps the most broadly relevant. The teenagers around us are like sponges, and on a regular basis, we need to have good, honest discussions with them about the toxic messages that they are soaking up. We have the chance to wring out the unhealthy views they adapt toward themselves and others, and re-fill them with the truth of God’s unconditional love, and that they are made in God’s image.
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