Happy National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2021! It seems like with every passing year, the engagement in this event grows. I’ve loved logging onto Instagram and Twitter and seeing so many positive quotes and recovery stories on my feed. This type of openness and support has been monumental in chipping away at the stigma surrounding mental illness and truly is the best way to normalize talking about mental health and keep making forward progress.
Speaking of progress, this is the first year I’m celebrating Eating Disorder Awareness Week when I’m in a solid place in my recovery. There was a time not too long ago when I wondered whether I even had the right to promote recovery if I wasn’t quite there myself. Thankfully, those thoughts—those doubts—are in the past, and I plan to keep them there. I’ve realized that getting to this better place really boiled down to time, patience, and exposure. Time to heal. Patience to forgive myself. And exposure to challenge my disorder again and again. None of it was easy, nor was it fun. But I have no doubt that it was completely worth it.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week is an overwhelmingly positive event that promotes hope and education and provides support and resources. However, it’s not without its share of controversy. With the increased outpouring of support comes an increased outcry against one fairly common occurrence: before and after photos. While this is usually done with the best intentions, for people who have or are still struggling with an eating disorder, before photos where weight loss is often evident can be very triggering. I know that when I was in the worst of anorexia, I’d only focus on the before photos, comparing myself to the emaciated individual and wondering if I’d ever be thin enough or sick enough to please my disorder (spoiler alert: I never was).
While these photos no longer bother me, I know they continue to hurt many brave people who are battling this brutal illness. So if you’re going to post on social media in support of ED Awareness, please be cognizant of this. Just as words have actions, so do pictures.
To everyone celebrating recovery this week, I offer my utmost support and congratulations. To everyone wanting to celebrate but not quite ready yet, you will get there. As I said, so much of the goodness and beauty in recovery comes with time. If there are two things to take out of Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2021, they are that you’re not alone and that recovery is very possible.