'Three Minutes Can Save a Life' During National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

By May Wilkerson 02/25/16

This year the National Eating Disorders Association's awareness campaign focuses on three key points in early intervention—getting screened, getting help, and getting healthy.

'Three Minutes Can Save a Life' During National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
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Are you or someone you know struggling with an eating disorder? It’s highly likely, even if you don’t realize it. Eating disorders impact millions of Americans, yet many people go to great lengths to keep them hidden. 

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) hopes to raise awareness and help people get access to treatment with their annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, from February 21-27. This year’s theme is “3 Minutes Can Save a Life: Get Screened. Get Help. Get Healthy.” In keeping with the theme, NEDA encourages people to complete a free and confidential online quiz that may help identify if they have a problem. The organization clarifies that the quiz is “NOT an official diagnosis” but the results could highlight a potential problem.

Though eating disorders increasingly impact people of any gender, age, class and ethnic background, the problem disproportionately affects women. In the United States, an estimated 20 million women suffer from a “clinically significant” eating disorder at some point in their lives, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). 

Studies show that the problem is setting in younger and younger, with girls as young as 6 starting to express concerns about their weight or body image. And a recent survey found that 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are displeased with their weight and worry about becoming overweight.

Though experts agree the media isn’t entirely to blame, it does contribute to the problem. Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say the images in magazines influence what they consider an “ideal” body shape and nearly half (47%) say the images make them want to lose weight. 

One way to possibly prevent an eating disorder is to be an “educated and critical consumer” of media, according to NEDA. But staying aware and nurturing a healthy body image won’t necessarily eliminate the risk. Eating disorders are complex and stem from various biological and environmental risk factors, some of which cannot be prevented. This is why NEDA stresses the importance of eating disorder prevention and identifying a problem early on, in hopes of treating it before it becomes more severe or life-threatening.

If you or a loved one is struggling with body image issues or disordered eating, NEDA recommends you seek out professional help from an eating disorder specialist. One way to do this is through the NEDA Helpline (available Monday - Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET) where specialists can help direct you towards information and resources and help you (or your friend or family member) find treatment.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.