Eating Disorder Awareness

“Eating is fundamental to human existence. It’s the primary work of mothers and babies; the basis of every holiday and communal celebration” (Virginia Sole-Smith, The Eating Instinct)

Yet, eating is sometimes difficult.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 25-March 3)

Thirty million people of all ages and genders suffer from eating disorders in the United States. These illnesses affect all races and ethnic groups and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

Alarmingly, every 62 minutes a person dies as the direct result of an eating disorder.

These illnesses typically co-exist with mood disorders, substance abuse, obsessive compulsive or anxiety disorders. They have genetic and environmental roots.

Food Climate

Even for someone with no underlying mental health conditions, the food climate today can be challenging to navigate. We learn to ignore our eating instincts because they are “bad”. Eating something that you crave (like potato chips) can be “bad”.

We learn we should choose natural foods, but have not defined what a natural food is. We have only defined the moral characteristics of someone who chooses natural foods and someone who does not choose natural foods. (How Natural Foods became a Moral Issue)

Processed foods, which are useful when you are short on time, are unappreciated. It can feel like a sin not to prepare elaborate garden fresh meal from scratch and eat the occasional processed foods.

Then there are the “no-no” lists and food rules that retailers create in order to make us feel good about choosing their establishment. These “no-no” ingredients are not health threats, or at least not physical health threats.

A person with a larger body is judged negatively in the current food climate and labeled unhealthy and lacking discipline. Judging people on their appearance should be wrong, yet doctors, employers, educators and parents often do this even though there is evidence indicating that larger bodies do not have an increased risk of death.

I understand how our senses affect our food choices, but also am well aware that our emotions affect our food choices. Like the author, Virginia Sole-Smith, I have suffered as a mother watching my child struggle with food intake.


Counseling and support from friends and family are the cure for eating disorders. Preventing eating disorders takes even more effort. We must build awareness about eating disorders and its triggers.

More information about eating disorders is found here.

A positive food climate and culture that accepts all body sizes may prevent eating disorders. In France and other countries, children learn about food using the SAPERE method. They learn about food by tasting and experiencing it as well as sharing their feelings about food.

“SAPERE was created out of the conviction that taste education is good for health. We believe that helping young children to understand and enjoy the pleasures of a varied and balanced diet helps lay the foundations for healthier eating in the longer term. ” (

In contrast, our educational system focuses on teaching children to avoid foods. Avoid fat, avoid sugary beverages, processed foods and avoid gaining weight.

The components of school lunch is a controversial twitter discussion amongst adults, nutritionists and politicians, yet our children struggle to find enough time to get their lunch, relax and eat.

In the past, I have accepted the current food climate and been complacent. As my awareness of eating disorders, their destructions and triggers develop, I know complacency is unacceptable.

If you have concerns about your relationship with food or exercise, please seek help. You are not alone.

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