Author’s note: This article discusses disordered eating.
If you see something, say something.
It’s a saying we have all heard before for different reasons. I remember learning it as a freshman in college learning about how to be an “active bystander” in a possible date-rape situation. The phrase could also apply to a number of scary situations we deal with in life. Every time we decide to “say something,” though, we must speak with conviction. It may not be what the person on the receiving end wants to hear, but it could change their life for the better. That’s why I am saying something as a member of a panel that will speak on eating disorders for my university’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
Four years ago, I attended my first panel for the same event. I listened to each speaker as they told the story of their eating disorder and how they had overcome the illness. It seemed like a great idea, but it was not for me. As I watched some of these speakers choke up while getting their thoughts out there, I hoped that people were appreciating what these girls up on stage were doing. It seemed like the most gut-wrenching and vulnerable position to stand on stage and talk about your personal battle with the big E (my nickname for the eating disorder). I had a story to tell, but I didn’t feel comfortable sharing such intimate and scary parts of my life with some seemingly disinterested college students. However, after leaving the auditorium that day, I made a promise to myself that I would speak before I graduated. Something inside of me lit up as I remembered how the only way to help someone else is to speak up, no matter how terrifying it might be.
My closest friends in high school spoke up when they noticed I was losing weight fast. But if it weren’t for that embarrassing, dreadful conversation, who knows where I would be today. What they had to tell me was difficult to hear, but a dose of the cold, hard truth was what I needed to jumpstart a path to wellness. Not to say that it started right away, but it at least caught my attention. Not only that, but the fact that they had the courage to share their feelings and concerns with me made me feel so loved and brought to my attention that what I was doing not only hurt myself but was hurting those I cared about the most.
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week officially falls during February 21st to 27th, but every day is the time to be aware of the warning signs and effects of disordered eating. The purpose of NEDA as an organization is to “put the spotlight on eating disorders and improve public understanding of their causes, dangers and treatments.” According to the NEDA website, more people die from eating disorders compared to any other mental disorder. For this reason, early detection and intervention is imperative to successful recovery. The program’s focus this year is primarily on early intervention, so the website even has a confidential online screening test. It only takes three minutes to complete, and it can help determine if someone needs professional help to get better.
NEDA is also an incredible resource to answer any questions surrounding eating disorders. Under the “Get Healthy” tab, you can find links to topics such as “What is Recovery?” and “12 Ideas for Negotiating the Holidays” along with personal stories people wrote about their experiences.
Ignoring the signs, especially of an eating disorder, will only make matters worse in the long run for both the victim and their loved ones. So, it really is that easy. If you see something, say something. It might be awkward and they could push you away the first couple tries, but it will let the person know that you truly care for their wellbeing.