National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is observed during the last week in February to spotlight eating disorders. This year, it takes place from February 20 to 26. It’s an annual event meant to raise awareness of the resources accessible to those who suffer from these ailments. One of the main objectives of the week is to disseminate information and incentivize the sharing of personal stories from people in recovery and their families, as well as the provision of life-saving resources and educational materials. Every diagnosis of an eating disorder — from anorexia nervosa and binge-eating disorder to avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder and bulimia nervosa — can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, body size, or sexuality.
History of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
Eating disorders have been described as far back as the 12th Century. Before that, during the reign of Caesar, it was typical for wealthy Romans to overindulge in food and drink. After overindulging in expensive meals, they relieved themselves by vomiting to return to the feast and continue their feasting spree. Purging was a practice in ancient times in societies such as ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Arabia, where it was employed to prevent diseases that were believed to be brought on by foods. Women would starve themselves in subsequent centuries, believing that their desire for food was a sin.
First coined “Night Eating Syndrome” in 1959, binge eating disorder — was later clarified — can occur at any hour of the day. It wasn’t until the 1990s that binge eating disorder (B.E.D.) was recognized as a medical condition. When this type of behavior was originally researched in weight reduction communities, it was dubbed ‘emotional overeating,’ ‘compulsive overeating,’ or ‘food addiction.’
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the United States’ biggest non-profit organization dedicated to those suffering from eating disorders and their families, established National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. For more than 30 years, this annual, week-long event has provided an opportunity for people all over the country to come together in support of those suffering from eating disorders and to set the record straight on common misconceptions about eating disorders.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week timeline
Romans purge themselves to return to their feasts and continue their feasting spree.
Reports by the English physician Richard Morton of a boy and girl with “nervous consumption” are the first known examples of anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia nervosa is now recognized as a psychiatric condition by the medical community.
Gerald Russell, a British physician, initially characterizes bulimia nervosa as a form of anorexia.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week FAQs
What is the difference between anorexia and bulimia?
Bulimia is similar to anorexia in that it’s characterized by an inflated desire for thinness and an abnormality in eating behavior. Anorexia nervosa is a syndrome of self-starvation, while bulimia nervosa is defined by binge-eating and compensatory purging behaviors. Vomiting, diuretic, and laxative abuse are examples of purging.
Are there characteristics people with eating disorders share?
Many people with eating disorders, particularly those with anorexia nervosa’s restrictive subtype, are perfectionists, eager to please others, sensitive to criticism, and dubious of their own abilities. Adapting to new situations might be difficult for them, and they may become routine-bound.
How common are eating disorders?
It is estimated that 0.5% to 3% of women suffer from the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia at some point in their lifetimes. These usually develop between the ages of 12 and 25. Males account for 10% of all cases and females the remaining 90%. There are more cases of B.E.D. and O.S.F.E.D. than of A.R.F.I.D., which has only lately been recognized as a diagnosis.
How to Observe National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
Volunteer to operate a helpline
You can volunteer to operate a helpline. People need someone to help them with their struggles, and you can help them by speaking to them honestly and with encouragement. This is very important as some eating disorders may also be associated with suicidal behavior, including self-harm.
If you want to be an ally, you need to educate yourself about eating disorders: types, habits of people who struggle with them, and so on. Be open-minded and listen to the stories of people who have gone through them. More importantly, be kind and try not to be judgemental as you learn.
Share your experiences
If you have had any experience with eating disorders, you can share so others can learn more. Alternatively, you could invite someone who has had experience with an eating disorder to talk about it.
5 Interesting Facts About Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are the second leading cause of death from mental illness in the United States, after opioid use disorder.
Types of eating disorders
Eating disorders can be divided into six distinct categories, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
No distinct look
People with eating disorders don’t always look emaciated — some people look healthy and still struggle with eating.
Don’t blame families
Families are not to blame when a family member develops an eating disorder.
It’s very possible to recover from an eating disorder.
Why National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is Important
It raises awareness
The week raises awareness of eating disorders, as well as factors that may be responsible for developing eating disorders. There are so many misconceptions and myths about them, which is why this week is so important.
It allows for open and honest discussions
It can be very hard to overcome an eating disorder so this week, it’s very important to have open and honest discussions with others struggling with eating disorders. If you suffer from one, know that you’re not alone.
It offers support
The week serves as an opportunity to show support for a group of people whose hardships are often invisible. We love being able to openly discuss and offer support.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week dates