MOODY: Capturing hope, awareness about eating disorders

Susan Moody

I will fully admit magazines are one of my biggest vices. Consumed  digitally on my tablet, in line in the grocery store, and delivered to my mailbox, I’ll spend hours reading articles, flipping through advertisements, tearing out pages for later and oohing and aahing over the latest red carpet style. With a budding “fashonista” at home, using InStyle and Vogue to look for kindergarten sight words seemed like a good way to indulge Harper’s passion for fashion and get some homework done at the same time.

I didn’t give much thought to body image until we started comparing the tiny physiques of starlets and supermodels  with some of the truly powerful bodies of the female winter Olympic athletes. I had to ask myself if I was I sending mixed messages about body image to an impressionable 5 year old, and what could we do as a family to shape both Alex and Harper’s views of healthy bodies and relationships with food.

According to the National Eating Disorder Awareness Association (NEDA), more than 30 million people have been impacted by an eating disorder. While eating disorders affect women by a ratio of 2:1, experts are seeing a rise in eating disorder diagnosis’s among young men.

Whether suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating, all eating disorders are characterized by an unhealthy relationship with food and can lead to a disported view or perception of the individual’s body. As with any illness, early detection and treatment is critical to recovery, and the NEDA encourages everyone, especially parents, teachers, and coaches to learn and recognize the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. There a number of great tools on the association’s website, NEDA.org, including printable toolkits and posters, a list of blogs, and conversation prompts.

Every year, the NEDA launches its annual Eating Disorder Awareness week, aimed at raising awareness about eating disorders and their treatments. This year, the awareness campaign is designed around the theme “I Had No Idea” and stresses the need to address common misconceptions about eating disorders and raise awareness about the mental, physical and emotional toll of the illness. 

According to the website’s social media campaign, eating disorders are more common than green eyes, and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness or disorder. Addressing the pressures, attitudes, and behaviors that surround eating disorders and examining your own relationship with food and body image are good jumping off points for families and the cornerstone of any conversation about body image and food.

While NEDA and the medical community stress that eating disorders are a medical illness, and not a lifestyle choice, the association wants to help change the conversation about eating disorders especially through social media.  According to social media experts “thinspiration” and pro-eating disorder content is a real challenge for educators and medical professionals working to raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders.

As part of this year’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, everyone is invited to participate in the association’s Instagram #CaptureHope campaign.  Upload and tag your powerful, hopeful, and inspiring images using the #Capture Hope to celebrate positive body image and spread the word that recovery is possible with intervention and treatment. 

I doubt I’ll be cancelling my subscription to InStyle any time soon, but I’m certainly more cognizant of the messages I’m accepting and passing along to my kids — and myself. In the meantime, I’ll be uploading my image to Instagram this week, and standing with others looking to Capture Hope for those affected by eating disorders.

Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at www.emeraldcoasttreasurebox.com