National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week is an annual week of recognition and awareness-building related to eating disorders and their impact on numerous people. This year’s week will be observed from February 21-27 and aims to provide hope, support, and visibility to eating disorders and those impacted by them. Indeed, it is always good to provide disordered eating support for women. However, NEDA Week offers numerous resources and tips on supporting the women in your life who may be struggling with an eating disorder. If you want to help but don’t know where to begin, places like nationaleatingdisorders.org are great informational hubs. Contact The Willows at Red Oak Recovery® at 855.773.0614 to learn how you can advocate for women’s disordered eating support.
Women and Eating Disorders
It may feel strange to focus on just women and eating disorders. Men also struggle with eating disorders. However, women experience eating disorders at twice the rate that men do. Hence the greater focus and reason for building eating disorder awareness explicitly concerning women.
Providing disordered eating support for women begins with recognizing that eating disorders are mental health disorders. Recent data indicates that as many as 20 million American women struggle with at least one type of eating disorder. So while it may not be top of mind for most people, these disorders are actually prevalent in society. The most commonly recognized eating disorders are:
- Binge eating
- Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder
Eating disorders do not limit themselves to physical impacts. They often have a mental component. It is not uncommon for a mental health disorder to co-occur alongside an eating disorder. The signs and symptoms differ between the different eating disorders, as does the treatment for each.
How to Support Women with Eating Disorders
The first way to support women and raise eating disorder awareness is to self-educate. A lot of stigma and misunderstanding continues to float around despite the prevalence of these disorders. Without properly educating yourself about the types of eating disorder, their symptoms, and how it impacts a person’s mental health, you may do more harm than good. The most important thing to understand is that eating disorders are not the result of specific choices. Instead, they are biologically-influenced illnesses that deserve proper treatment.
One key aspect of NEDA week is starting conversations and breaking down the stigma around eating disorders. Show your support by broaching the topic with a loved one who you know struggles with an eating disorder. Avoiding the topic is not a way to help them. Approaching them with compassion and a listening ear can help the conversation get started. Other ways to provide disordered eating support for women include:
- Encouraging them to seek professional help
- Offering meal support
- Challenging cultural obsessions with diet and thinness
Something to remember about supporting women who struggle with an eating disorder is to ensure your interactions and support go beyond mealtimes or food-centered activities. Eating disorders make meals a fraught experience. Yet there are many other ways to encourage people and spend time together that don’t involve food or meal sharing. If you make a mistake in this regard, be quick to acknowledge it, apologize, and resolve to do better.
Engage in National Eating Disorder Awareness Week with The Willows at Red Oak®
This year’s NEDA week is an excellent opportunity to take part in supporting greater eating disorder awareness. Consider getting involved in meaningful ways that not only support the people you love. You can also advance a healthier national conversation about eating disorders and their impact on millions of families. Call 855.773.0614 to find out how you can support women during NEDA Week in 2022 and throughout the year.