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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week was able to get people talking about disordered eating. Now, it’s time to continue that discussion.

The conversations sparked from NEDA Week should continue throughout the rest of the year. An eating disorder impacts lives 24/7 and by learning about them we can not only help others but implement change into our daily lives.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.

An eating disorder does not have a certain “look.” Anyone from any walk of life can suffer from disordered eating habits.

Oftentimes characters shown in movies and TV shows who have an eating disorder fall into a similar body type and are also often white women. However, ANAD reports that less than 6 percent of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”

People from all walks of life can develop an eating disorder. Any weight, race, gender, sexuality and age can experience it; Mental illness doesn’t pick and choose.

There are a large number of different eating disorders and habits people who are suffering may develop. There is not a set mold that someone with an eating disorder has to fit into. There is also no such thing as being “sick enough” to receive help for an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are one of the deadliest mental illnesses. ANAD reports that over 10,000 deaths a year are related to disordered eating. That estimates to about one death every 52 minutes.

Yet, for something so deadly, disordered eating habits are still prominent in our day-to-day lives. The National Eating Disorders Association reports that, “The best-known environmental contributor to the development of eating disorders is the sociocultural idealization around thinness.”

We see it in diet culture, promoting that people need to lose weight in order to be valued. We live in a world where many companies profit off of making people, especially women, insecure of their bodies.

We are constantly told that we should look one way instead of another. That our stomachs shouldn’t be big, that people should cover up parts of their body that aren’t “stereotypically attractive,” and that we should feel guilty about taking up space.

Constantly being told this information can have a lasting impact.

NEDA reports that, “by age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape.”

The words we say and the actions we make can have lasting impacts on someone’s development. Phrases like “You’re eating all that?”, “You should start a diet,” or “Why don’t you just eat?” can stick with someone years down the line.

How do we change a narrative that has been present in our society for so many years?

Change begins with each person. Each person can work to destigmatize eating disorders.

There is no way to look at someone and know whether they have an eating disorder. When talking about food and bodies, it’s important to watch the language that you use.

Don’t question what someone is eating because you don’t know what they might be going through or how much strength it can take for someone to buy food, cook dinner or just to eat.

We should allow people to exist in their bodies the way they look already. You don’t need to fix yourself to fit any sort of box or beauty standard.

At the end of the day, we should all admire our bodies for the work they do for us. They help protect us and they let us enjoy and experience life.

While the national awareness week was just seven days, we can continue to make strides toward destigmatizing eating disorders for the other 358 days of the year.

ANDREA RICKER is Features Editor The Vidette. She can be contacted at arricke@ilstu.edu Follower Ricker on Twitter at @ricker_andrea    

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