There are causes in which I believe, live by and wish other would know about, but the word “awareness” has been tagged on to so many things that it’s lost its effectiveness. We have dedicated ribbons, dedicated months, international days and it’s all superficial at best. Wearing pink doesn’t help anyone with breast cancer. Funding education and research helps. Outreach programs for women to get mammograms help. “Awareness” needs to go beyond a ribbon but, for some people, wearing a color is all they can do. Money is tight so donations aren’t feasible. Personal obligations are overwhelming so volunteering might send you over the edge.
Education is the weapon we need.
Ask anyone about eating disorders and they’ll tell you all about anorexia and bulimia. The NIMH recognizes binge-eating as a disorder but I wonder how many people take it seriously? It’s been my experience to hear dismissive statements such as “we all over eat sometimes” or “you just need to control yourself more”. Apparently it’s just that simple.
I don’t know which of my diagnoses most affects my bouts of binge-eating. There are days when I’m afraid to eat. My fear is once I start, I won’t be able to stop. My husband is of the “we all over eat sometimes” camp. He doesn’t understand that it’s more than the amount of food I’ll eat in a short period of time; it’s the feeling of being out of control that scares me the most. I can explain it to him and he’s loving and open-minded so I know he does what he can to avoid invalidating my feelings. All this being said, my binges aren’t horribly bad. I think people afflicted with severe binge-eating would be offended by the classification of my episodes as a binge. And although I’m afraid to eat at times, I do. I know fasting isn’t the answer.
I want a healthy relationship with food. I want to enjoy a piece of Italian bread with butter during my meal and be satisfied with one piece– or even two, depending on what else I’m eating. Moderation isn’t my strong suit.
Back to my original rant now. People need to be educated that some or most of us who are overweight or obese are not like this because we’re lazy or over indulgent in a conscious way. Eating disorders go beyond starvation and purging. One of the very definitions of disorder is “a disturbance in physical or mental health or functions; malady or dysfunction”. If stopping this type of behavior was truly as simple as “don’t keep bread in the house” or “try eating just a small amount of your favorite treat”, then the weight-loss industry— or the self-help industry as a whole– wouldn’t be the morbidly obese money making monster it is.
How do we foster more recognition and less judgment? How can we be brave enough to initiate a conversation? When I’m at a restaurant, instead of politely declining the bread, should I say, “I have an eating disorder and would prefer not to have the bread on the table, thank you.”? It won’t make much of a difference to the server probably, but isn’t that how awareness begins? By making something a part of life and conversation, without shame, without inhibition, we start to create a new normalcy. A new acceptance. A new perspective. With acceptance, both internally with ourselves as well as the random person on the street, maybe the fear of food, the fear of lost control, the fear of (insert your demon here) will diminish.
It sounds easy. It sounds optimistic.
Are there enough soapboxes in existence for all our society needs to conquer?