When I first began working with the Someday Melissa organization, I was unaware that mentioning my involvement in the eating disorder community to friends and family would spur some incredible discussions. What began as casual conversations about my work with Someday Melissa turned into meaningful and often frank dialogues about many of the complexities of eating disorders- body image, society, media, genetics and biology and dieting. Out of these talks, people I know have shared personal stories about their own connection to eating disorders- from their friends who have been treated successfully and are in recovery, to their family members who have engaged in unsafe weight loss practices, to their own struggles with body image and eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating.
Even today, after almost two years of being a member of the Someday Melissa team, the stories and thoughts that our supporters share with us continue to amaze and inspire me on a daily basis. Sometimes people are quick to share their own struggles with eating disorders- or the struggles of people close to them- other times these stories may emerge quietly but powerfully. All these stories are important because they are helping to break the stigma and silence about the issue.
Up to 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. Some fully recover but others may relapse. Like too many others, Melissa Avrin passed away prematurely due to complications from an eating disorder. Despite these significant numbers, eating disorders are vastly underfunded; only $0.93 is spent on research per affected individual. Alzheimer’s Disease, in comparison, has an average of $88 spent on research per affected individual (National Institutes of Health, 2011).
This is why it is more important than ever before to not only continue the discussions about eating disorders, but to create new dialogues. The theme for this year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAwareness Week, February 24- March 2) was “Everybody Knows Somebody,” emphasizing the fact that eating disorders impact not only someone dealing with an eating disorders,but their friends and families as well. By sharing stories, we are sending a message that it’s ok to talk about eating disorders. With each word, each sentence, each communication, we are signaling that this is important and impacts us all.
NEDAwareness Week lasts a mere seven days each year, but we can all work year-round to speak up about eating disorders. Our mission at Someday Melissa is to promote recognition and awareness of eating disorders and the importance of early treatment and we do this through the film and our outreach and education through our website and social media throughout the year. It’s also as simple as speaking up and starting a dialogue- because “everybody knows somebody.”