Eating Disorders Awareness: Increasing Awareness In and Out of the Field

What’s that saying? “Clean up your own backyard” before pointing your finger at somebody else’s. Something like that?

It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I can’t stop thinking about that quote. Stay with me on this one.

It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week and:

  • Eating disorders remain the most lethal of mental illnesses, second to death due to substance use.
  • Every 52 minutes, someone in the US dies as a direct result of their ED.
  • Eating disorders research remains wildly underfunded.
  • Approximately 9% of the US population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.
  • People of color are half as likely to receive an eating disorder diagnosis.
  • We still do not have accurate data on eating disorder rates in the LGBTQIA+ population.

increase eating disorders awareness of how harm is perpetuated within the field

Those of us in the field of eating disorders often focus on the forces that lead to the development of eating disorders. Don’t get me wrong, this is VERY important. AND. I’d like to propose that we also spend considerable time critiquing what we are doing inside the field that is interfering with our ability to support folks in their efforts towards recovery.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), an international organization focused on research and research informed practice, continually centers “obesity” in talks, workshops, and research publications. This means that one of the most prominent ED organizations is dually focused on controlling and suppressing weight, which we know is a primary risk factor for the development and perpetuation of eating disorders. This is not ok.
  • The International Association for Eating Disorders Professionals (iaedp) has demonstrated minimal resources towards structural change to remove barriers for underrepresented individuals who might like to pursue certification, membership, or speaking at their conferences. The lack of representation at the highest levels of power and leadership, alongside policies which reinforce gatekeeping prevents meaningful change in the eating disorders field.
  • Eating disorder programs continue to assert “weight management” techniques for clients in larger weight bodies. This includes setting weight targets for adolescents that are below their natural curve, lower calorie meal plans for higher weight individuals, and low-calorie food options which perpetuates dieting behavior.
  • Eating disorder programs do not update their technical systems to display a client’s preferred name and identified gender, leading to daily harm imposed on gender-diverse clients.
  • Eating disorder programs which don’t accommodate client’s cultural cuisine because they don’t “fit” into exchange-based systems. This is white supremacy in action.

These examples are a drop in the bucket. I have tremendous growth and learning to do. And we as a field HAVE to be willing to spend considerable time, money, and humility to repair the mistakes we seem to continue perpetuating.

It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I’m committed not just to raising awareness outside of the field, but inside the field as well. Who’s with me?

Do you worry that you are not serving your clients with eating disorders?

Top 5 PitfallsMaybe you feel sometimes that you are not sure of the ideal way to reach these clients?

Seem like “something” is missing your your work with these clients?

This is a common feeling with many clinicians, after all you want to do your best for all your clients. I have worked with clients with eating disorders for over 15 years, and I have learned there are 5 common pitfalls clinicians experience. If you change your methods and work to avoid these pitfalls, you will see a drastic shift in yourself and your eating disorder clients.

The art and science of working with eating disorders is an ongoing journey of learning and development. This free eBook will get you started on a new path! You can download it here.