What You Don’t Know About Eating Disorders Could Kill You

… or someone you love.

I’m not fond of the word “empowerment.” I try to avoid it, as I avoid certain aisles of certain greeting card stores that reek of sickly sweet-scented candles and stained glass sentiments. It creeps into school board meetings … over-used eduspeak … and talk of social service programs aimed at girls and women. Empower this, empower that, blah, blah, blah.

So pardon me while I slip into my Oprah mode …

The reality is the need for you-know-what exists wherever, whenever women or girls feel marginalized by society’s narrow view of what it means to be female. One need look no farther than the magazine racks of grocery stores for images that that say to women, teens and girls, “You’ll never measure up.”

And if you thought growing up was hell when you were a pimply-faced junior high student, consider that these days girls/teens (and guys, see below) have to hold their own not only in the concrete world but on the Internet. Rumors and catty comments that used to travel in a matter of days now fly at cyber-speed in social networks mostly out of sight to caring adults.

Experts say that these pressures are contributing to the incidence of eating disorders like anorexia and bulemia, among a host of other self-destructive behaviors. A North Kitsap women is trying to reach girls early, between the ages 8 to 12, to gird them for the battle that is coming of age in the cyber-generation. According to her nonprofit organization’s Web site:
81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat
42 percent of first through third grade girls want to be thinner
51 percent of 9 and 10 year old girls feel better about themsleves if they are on a diet
84 percent of girls in a survey believed they had to be thin to be popular.

As I wrote about the Our Beauty Within program, I also talked to an expert on eating disorders, who said there is wide-spread lack of awareness of how deadly these conditions can be. ED is not a fad, it’s a serious mental illness to which some may be more predisposed than others.

To learn more about ED, you can watch this public service announcement from the National Eating Disorders Association, conducting an annual awareness week today through Feb. 28.

P.S. Guys can suffer from ED, too. Of the 11 million people in the U.s. suffering from eating disorders, one million are males.

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