National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

February 23-March 1 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
Eating disorder awareness is awesome, but the most important part of this is that people become aware of how hidden and prevalent it really is. The key to my own recovery was recognizing it within myself, but this was difficult to do since I was never severely underweight. While my BMI was under 18 at one point, it was nowhere near being sickly thin, which made it difficult for me to see myself as having an eating disorder. And often there are people out there with a BMI under 18 who don’t have eating disorders, too, who are wrongly accused.
Thus, we must clearly emphasize how much of a psychological problem this is–that it is how we approach food and our habits around food that make an eating disorder what it really is.

Awareness comes in knowing that eating disorders are not always visible and can happen to anyone (that includes men!). I believe National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is about breaking the misconceptions and stereotypes of eating disorders. It is to become aware of more than just “stick-thin white girls,” that the demon lies deep inside the mind, and perhaps the ones who suffer the most seem to be far from the right “image” we have grown up to think eating disorder to look like.

I think the biggest eye-opener for me with this entire “coming out” experience was the realization of how many people deal with it. And I think what made it more difficult was the variety of experiences, “rituals,” weights, and definitions of eating disorders. Eating disorders also commonly stem from/are a part of anxiety, depression, or OCD tendencies (or all three!).
Everyone’s eating disorder varies. After studying and observing others who deal with the disorder, I see a variety of “rituals,” rules, etc. An example of my own ignorance would be was when I suspected someone I knew might have an eating disorder. But I kept putting it off because some of the foods he decided to eat would have been “forbidden” for me. He mustn’t have an eating disorder because he is eating THAT food and I could never allow myself to eat THAT. 
But I soon found out that he did suffer, and my awareness for eating disorders expanded beyond what I knew in my own head with my experience.
All I ask is that we open our minds and watch out for our friends and family–notice subtle cues, any changes in behaviors with food (even if just small–something as simple as trying to eat healthier should be filed away in the mind to pull out later if anything progresses from there). If anything, just learn to care about others and encourage yourself to ask how others are doing. Something as simple as showing you care can help others to open up–because for me, learning to speak was the best way to admit something wasn’t right.

And now for those of you waiting on the manuscript, I will make you AWARE of what is going on with Rachael and revision!:
The pages have been cut down to under 400 now, but with more revision, the page count may rise again. I’m reading through it a fifth time, but I’m sure I will be reading through it five or more times again. There is plenty to work on, and I have myself on a schedule of reading/revising 30-50 pages per week. I’m excited to dive deeper into each experience and really develop and bring out the story. This is a huge learning experience for me, and I can say it can be an overwhelming project at times, but I am enjoying the ride and enjoy the revision process.

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.
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7 Responses to National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

  1. Dean M says:

    How true this post is. I almost missed my daughter heading into the ED world, simply because she was eating many things I wouldn’t, but skipping meals that I would skip when I was in high school.

    My wife and I have since addressed the issue, and do our best to not monitor and stalk her eating habits, but reinforce healthful eating when she “isn’t hungry” for a given meal and ensure she takes a little something. We make sure that she understands how metabolism works when you skip a meal.

    One thing I didn’t agree with in the post was to declare any ED to have levels, they are all intense and should be met with the same level of care, love, and attentiveness.

    Keep on writing, I love your approach and style.

    • rachael says:

      Thanks for your comment Dean!
      I agree with your thoughts about the “levels.” I think I still struggle with feeling I need a label/”level” for where I am at or where I was with the eating disorder, and it comes up often in my own thoughts. I completely agree that no matter where anyone is in their eating disorder journey, they DO need the “same level of care, love, and attentiveness.” Thank you for your insight.

  2. Ryan Jensen says:

    Keep up the good work Rachael! Always look forward to your posts.

  3. Pingback: Eating Disorders Can Kill Your Body OR Spirit | Andrea Works . . . and Writes, and Runs

  4. Rachel says:

    Hey, Rach. Nice post, but I do feel uncomfortable with one thing you say in it. When you say that a simple act of trying to eat healthier may be a sign that someone is headed down the ED train. While I understand that this may be the case for some, it’s important for people not to get too sensitive to the issue of eating disorders and start seeing them in every person. It’s the same as assuming that everyone struggles with the same issue that you (not necessarily talking about you personally) is dealing with. I think humans have a tendency to project their own issues on to everyone they meet because it’s at the forefront of their minds. This is a common mistake, but can really hinder our own openness toward others’ needs and others’ struggles.

    • rachael says:

      True, good point. I probably should have clarified that we should at least be attuned to when people suddenly choose to eat healthier; to not judge and believe it means they will fall down into the ED path, but just to be aware that it can happen if taken too far and to watch for signs that it does go too far.
      Thanks for your insight!

  5. Necla says:

    Hi there! I had never heard of your story until recently. I am from the same hmowtoen as Bubba, who is playing Jason in the movie. I am also a special education major and have suffered from depression for over ten years. It is a daily struggle. Thankfully, I am surrounded with wonderful friends and family. I am really excited for this movie and hope that it brings a lot of attention (and donations) to your organization!

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