By Erin McKelle
February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Month, and we’re inviting you to help us spread the word!
On Monday, February 24th from 8-9pm EST, Adios Barbie is teaming up with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to host our second annual #AdiosED Twitter party. This year, our theme is mythbusting in diverse communities. It’s no secret that eating disorders are surrounded by stigma, which means that inaccurate information is the norm when they are discussed. In order to increase awareness and help those who have eating disorders (EDs), either diagnosed or undiagnosed, we have to start by facilitating discussion based on accurate information, rather than the misinformation and stereotypes.
Our mission for the party is to challenge popular myths about eating disorders and take the cultural conversation deeper. Many of the misconceptions that exist around eating disorders center around who has them and why. In reality, people of all races, genders and sexual identities can suffer from body dysmorphia, negative body image, and eating disorders. These myths have real consequences for those suffering from eating disorders resulting in limited support networks that understand the specific needs and treatment options in different communities, and fewer people seeking treatment because of the assumption that only certain kinds of people suffer from anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) Eating disorders are not one-dimensional. The only way we can understand these diseases and work towards recovery is through education.
We’ll be joined by a panel of activists and mental health professionals who will answer your questions and help clarify common misconceptions around eating disorders. The panel members are Brian Cuban (@briancuban), Melissa A Fabello (@fyeahmfabello), Anne Wennerstrand (@endgrdbodiesnyc), Kjerstin Gruys (@KjerstinGruys), and Mae-Lynn Reyes-Rodriguez (@MLReyes_PR). Feel free to tweet at them directly during the chat with your questions about their work, or field of expertise. To learn more about the panelists, click here.
Want to start thinking about these issues, but aren’t quite sure where to begin? To kick off the conversation, let’s talk about some of those popular eating disorder myths:
Eating disorders only affect women
In fact, 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder are men. This ratio is likely conservative- a study on bulimia showed that men with the condition felt ashamed of having what is perceived to be a female disease, which could deter them from seeking treatment. The fact is, men have eating disorders, and their struggles are largely ignored or minimalized.
Only rich white women have eating disorders
While most media coverage of eating disorders follows this stereotype, it is simply not true. Eating disorders affect people of all socioeconomic statuses, races, and identities. “Research suggests that eating disorders present differently among different ethnic and racial groups, and that clinicians may miss opportunities to detect and treat disorders in women of color because they lack an understanding of these differences.” Since public perception of eating disorders has been largely whitewashed, the experiences of people of color with eating disorders are lacking in our discussions. Furthermore, treating eating disorders as “lifestyle choices” or “first world problems” is damaging to sufferers of all backgrounds, and can create a culture of shame that deters them from seeking treatment.
Only straight women have eating disorders
LGBTQIA+ folk have many unique stressors in their lives that research has linked to higher levels of substance abuse and mental illness. Examples of these circumstances include possible negative consequences of coming out, increased rates of homelessness, body image standards, a lack of familial support, and violence. These stressors can cause the anxiety and depression that are often a part of eating disorders. Thus, members of this community face challenges that predispose them to eating disorders. Although research of this connection is minimal (and has sometimes provided contradictory results), studies suggest that gay men have a massively disproportionate risk of having an eating disorder, possibly influenced by the body image standards in the LGBTQIA+ community. Also, lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents are at a higher risk for engaging in binging and purging, and they in fact binge, purge, and use laxatives at higher rates than heterosexually-identified teens.
These represent just a few of the common ED myths out there, but of course this is just the beginning of the conversation. Our goal is to bust myths about eating disorders in all communities. We recognize the importance of intersectional identities in discussing eating disorders, and we hope that you will join us as we participate in this important dialogue.
The chat is taking place on Monday, February 24th from 8-9pm EST (although everyone’s welcome to chat as long as they like). All you need to do is follow the #AdiosED hashtag on Twitter and jump in the conversation with us. Don’t have a Twitter? Now would be a great time to sign up, and it’s easy!
In the meantime, RSVP to our Facebook event here, make sure you’re following Adios Barbie and NEDA on Twitter, and please share and/or reblog this article to spread the word. We look forward to talking with you all as we all work to say adios to eating disorders!
To read the archived version of last year’s #AdiosED event, click here.
To learn more about eating disorder myths and why they’re false, check out some of these past Adios Barbie articles: