COLUMBUS, Ohio — National Eating Disorder Awareness Week starts in late February each year, and even while the week comes to a close, advocates across the country are working to bring attention to a mental health issue that affects so many people.
The National Eating Disorders Association works nationwide to make sure people see a decrease in those statistics.
A lot of volunteers work within the organization connect with other organizations, businesses and communities to end the stigma that comes with even just talking about disordered eating.
Doctor Kerry O’Grady, National Wellness Liaison and for NEDA and a member of their Lived Experience Task Force has been in recovery from anorexia for 12 years.
She said there were a lot of stops and starts in her journey that started in college, but she wants to encourage others to talk to a professional or even just friends or family that can help them to that first step of recovery.
“An eating disorder is a very lonely place,” she said.
“It is a place of isolation. It’s a place of despair. It is a place where you feel like nobody will understand and I wanted to use my story of survival and inspire others… even if you are in a very dark place and you don’t think you are able to get out of it, you can and you can overcome it.”
Breaking stereotypes about eating disorders and addressing people in marginalized communities who deal with them is also a huge part her and NEDA’S mission.
The organization really wants people to get that image of a white, cisgender high school girl or “typical” housewife out of their minds.
Dr. O’Grady says communities of color and uninsured people have big hurdles in their ability to get help if they do reach out for it.
According to NEDA’s website:
- Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binging and purging.
- A 2014 study found that rates of disordered eating have increased across all demographics, but faster in male, lower socioeconomic, and older participants.
- According to the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence report, nine out of 10 women say they will actually not eat and risk putting their health at stake when they feel bad about their body image.
“Marginalized populations have to overcome a lot more to get eating disorder treatment, and also diagnosis,” Dr. O’Grady said.
“There are biases in the medical community that impacts their ability to get care – health insurance obviously, uninsured or public health insurance is not very kind to the eating disorder community.”
Dr. O’Grady and her fellow members of NEDA’s Lived Experience Task Force get together a few times a year to talk about how to make the eating disorder space more inclusive and more welcoming for everyone.
They then talk to other organizations and communities to form partnerships and spread awareness to this issue.
If you or anyone you know feels like they may be dealing with disordered eating, there are resources to reach out for help on NEDA’s website and helpline or closer to home, The Center for Balanced Living in Central Ohio.