This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW). Each year we are truly grateful for this time of year, as it puts the national spotlight on the causes, dangers and treatments of eating disorders.
It also brings together those of us who have a passion for promoting self-love and self-confidence through body acceptance and celebration, and health at every size.
Most importantly, it’s a week that starts the conversation in spaces and places where these conversations may not happen regularly, but desperately need to.
One example of such a place is on college campuses.
Last Monday we had the privilege of reading a bit about Abby’s experience as a college student navigating her body journey. She shared with us so beautifully vulnerable thoughts and feelings many of us can relate to. She also shared the sense of connection she felt when the “walls of false perfection were broken down” [between her and her classmates] and “we were able to share about our imperfections.”
Ashley Corasanit, another bright light and brilliant college student, who is also one of our Warriors for Change, shared this about her experience on campus:
“While trying to make friends and do well in school, there was this constant pressure I put on myself to be thin … It was actually my pledge sisters who inspired me to speak up and share my story about my eating disorder. They were the first people I ever opened up to about it because I learned many of them shared a similar story. That night I discovered one of the most remarkable things – I wasn’t struggling alone and nor would I continue too. I no longer had to hide how I was feeling.”
These stories are one of the main reasons why I still share my recovery story nearly 20 years later. Why this week alone, I’m expressing my heart and truth in NEDAW programs at Binghamton University, Colgate University, and St. Lawrence University.
It is through our shared stories – through giving voice to the abnormal suffering many of us have come to believe is the normal way to think, speak, and act regarding our bodies – that we can encourage those who need support to seek it, and how we can inspire those who seek another way to live and be in their bodies to know that it’s possible.
3 Minutes Can Save a Life is this year’s theme for NEDAW, focusing on the importance of early intervention. It takes just 3 minutes to complete this confidential online screening that will help determine if it is time to seek professional help.
This screening is one of many great resources available through the National Eating Disorders Association’s website. Others include informational guides for schools, workplaces, clinicians, and friends and family members.
It is our hope and wish that this week’s attention to, and awareness of, eating disorders, disordered eating, and body dissatisfaction, helps to both save lives and liberate them.
It is also our hope and wish that we will all continue to have open and honest conversations about our struggles, fears, vulnerabilities, and imperfections, well after this week. We know we will.
As for me, one thing I know for sure this NEDAW is that recovery is possible.
What I know even more for sure is that we are never immune to the pressures of our society, our world, or our own inner critic regarding our bodies, our worth, and our beauty.
Every day it takes a conscious effort on my part to not believe what I’m told by that sneaky, little self-sabotaging voice in my head, or by that loud, obnoxiously oppressive voice in the mainstream.
As my dear friend and colleague, Holli Zehring, said in a blog post about her eating disorder, “It taught me that my relationship to food and my hatred of my body had nothing to do with my actual appearance, but my inability to maneuver the pains and the emotional stressors of life.”
I couldn’t agree more with Holli. It taught me this too. This is why expression is so important to me, and why it’s our word for the week in our Love Your Body video affirmations. Holli often says community saved her during recovery. Expression saved me. Expression through movement. Expression through adventure and travel. Expression through communication. And expression through connection.
May you express you, the beautifully flawed, imperfectly perfect you … always and forever.
All my love,
About the author: Jill Catherine's passion for helping others feel whole in their body and follow their heart, is not only infectious, but authentic to the way she lives her life. She is currently the spokesperson for Ophelia’s Place, but has been involved with the organization since 2003. A former collegiate athlete, Jill became immersed in the field after healing from an eating disorder that nearly took her life. A bi-coastal gal, Jill calls Santa Cruz, California home, though she works and plays regularly in Syracuse, New York. When she’s not traveling to speak or to perform her love of cultural dance and drum, she can be found surfing, stretching, or sitting in stillness at sunrise and sunset.