Maris Degener

NEDA Week 2019 Inclusivity Round-Up.

Maris Degener
NEDA Week 2019 Inclusivity Round-Up.

This year, the theme of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week was “Come As You Are.”

The emphasis was on inclusivity, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled about that. The media’s portrayal of eating disorders is often disappointingly narrow: it paints the picture that only affluent, thin, white, able-bodied, cis women are affected by this disease. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While there are certainly plenty of folks who fit the description above that suffer from eating disorders or disordered eating, there are countless others who fall somewhere else on the spectrum of identity.

Below is a round-up of my posts from NEDA Week 2019, each talking about a different element of identity as it relates to eating disorders and mental health. The biggest message I hope to convey is that you are worthy of recovery, no matter who you are. You do not need to be “sick enough,” you do not need to look a certain way, you do not need to fit a certain picture of what an eating disorder “looks like.” Nothing should stand in the way of your pursuit of happiness, health, and freedom.

My Journey.

The LGBTQIA+ Community and Eating Disorders.

LGBT+ community and eating disorders 🏳️‍🌈 Last year, I wrote publicly for the first time that I identify as a member of the LGBT+ community, and that keeping that under wraps for years contributed to my mental health struggles. I haven't written much about it since, but it's something I'm constantly reflecting on (both personally, and as someone who acts as a mental health advocate). LGBT+ folks can face challenges that can put them at unique risk for eating disorders: including fear of rejection, internalized shame in relation to their sexuality/gender-identity, discrimination, and body dysphoria (source: @neda). They also face challenges in recovery, such as being in treatment programs that are insensitive to LGBT+ issues or needs or not having full family support. I'm making a promise to speak more openly about my own experience with being "closeted," my relation to these sensitive topics, and to help raise awareness about the disproportionate effects of eating disorders of this community. For now, what I care to share is this: I was ashamed of who I was for so long, that I began to project that shame on my own body. I thought that if I could "fix" how I looked to meet a certain ideal, I would be "normal," accepted, and therefore free of shame. I thought that if I could find a way to fit in, and fit more easily in a box, the pain I felt would go away. What I've learned is that being yourself, unashamedly and with abundant love, is the only thing that can offer you the sense of freedom I was seeking. And while it's not always safe to "come out of the closet" in a big way, finding acceptance within your own heart is where healing truly begins. 💜 #nedaweek

Barriers to Eating Disorder Treatment + Resources.

Ableism and Eating Disorders.

Eating disorders and disability / / A lot of media around eating disorders perpetuates the idea that only a narrow population is affected by the disease: thin, white, cisgendered, affluent women. In reality, eating disorders don't discriminate. They affect people of every age, ethnic identity, gender identity, and...ability. Ableism isn't talked about nearly enough, and I know I'm not the perfect person to discuss it, as an able-bodied person. But in honor of #nedaweek, and the theme of "come as you are," I think it's important to talk about this population that's so often overlooked in conversations about eating disorders. Our society sends us a lot of messages about what the "perfect body" is, and that image is riddled with ableism. And if you are a disabled person with an eating disorder, there are unique challenges to face in recovery that recovery teams may not be well-equipped to support you in. Body positivity is for uplifting marginalized bodies that are underrepresented, and disabled bodies are just one example of that. Growing up in a world that offers a narrow vision of what a "good body" is, has limited representation of what mental illness looks like, and undervalues the voices of those most affected can absolutely affect your eating disorder journey. Like I said, I can't speak from personal experience on this matter. If you feel comfortable sharing your experiences, opinions, and insights, I would be so grateful if you spoke up in the comments below. Let's all learn together and make inclusivity a primary goal in our mental health conversations. 🤟🏽 #nedaweek

If you are concerned that you may have an eating disorder, check out NEDA’s online screener. This tool may help you decide if it’s time to enlist professional help.