Contributor: Leigh Bell, BA, writer for A Center for Eating Disorders and for Eating Disorder Hope
We have many opportunities during the holidays to turn the world’s focus, even briefly, from buying, baking, and the bustle to eating disorders.
Awareness fosters prevention, early intervention, and hopefully one day, eradication of this insidious illness.
We can simultaneously tackle the big and little pictures of eating disorder awareness by what we do, say, and buy.
Hit the Hill
The Anna Westin Act is currently before Congress to make it a law, which would train professionals on the signs of eating disorders and clarify the Mental Health Parity Act to require insurance policies to cover residential treatment for eating disorders.
We have the power to make this important act a law by contacting our local Senators and U.S. Representatives. You can find more information about how to write or call your lawmakers here (http://eatingdisorderscoalition.org/documents/ActionAlert_EDCAdvocacy073015_000.pdf).
Anna Westin was a young woman who required residential treatment in her battle with anorexia, but her insurance company refused to cover the need. Anna eventually took her own life, and with a heavy heart, her mother Kitty Westin began advocating for awareness of eating disorders and insurance coverage for treatment of the illness.
The Anna Westin Act as gained bipartisan support with 12 republicans and 21 democrats signed as cosponsors since it was introduced in May of this year. This is the closest we’ve come to a federal law specifically for eating disorders, so it’s an exciting time to get on board to help.
You can also use the power of a pen in the campaign to Hold Insurance Companies Accountable (HICA) to cover treatment of eating disorders.
The HICA Campaign is led by the Eating Disorders Coalition, and encourages anyone who has had insurance coverage denied for eating disorder treatment to write state insurance commissioners.
The commissioners have the duty to protect consumer rights and need to know if insurance companies are denying coverage. Denial of coverage is, sadly, common for the appropriate eating disorder treatment, even though coverage is mandated in the Mental Health Parity Act.
Use Your Voice
Local chapters of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) across the country and throughout the year host walks to promote awareness and prevention of eating disorders. Look in your city and see if and when a walk is being held. If one isn’t near you, you can sponsor someone participating elsewhere.
You can also donate to these local chapters and other national nonprofit eating disorder awareness organizations. So maybe we spend a little less on Christmas gifts and put some of our holiday budget toward supporting the fight against eating disorders.
Your voice is perhaps the most powerful tool we have to advocate for eating disorders. If you are recovered from or currently battling an eating disorder, talk about it. If you’re supporting a friend, daughter, son, or other loved one in the battle against an eating disorder, talk about it.
Talking about eating disorders, normalizes the illness, which is too often stigmatized and misunderstood.
Talking about your personal experience with an eating disorder may be hard, but doing so takes the illness from “something out there” to “something in my life.” Only then does someone become passionate about it.
Eating disorders are not caused by the media, but the warped body ideal we see on magazines and screens doesn’t help how women feel about their bodies. When we are purchasing holiday gifts, we can do so from companies that advertise positively for females and refuse to support companies that advertise in ways harmful to women and children.
To help, you can download a list of positive and negative companies on a wallet card from, About Face, a nonprofit organization teaching media literacy and media advocacy in an effort to improve body image and self-esteem among females. You can also purchase less and donate to About Face’s efforts.
You can also purchase gifts that support eating disorders, media awareness, and positive body image. For example, About Face sells t-shirts, decals, totes, etc. promoting their message for women. The National Eating Disorders Association also sells t-shirts, jewelry, and many other items advocating for and symbolizing eating disorders. These type of items supports an organization and publicly expresses support for the cause.
Just Show Up
Time is one of the greatest gifts to give during the holiday season and year round. Organizations are looking for volunteers to help their advocacy work for eating disorders. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) needs volunteers for various roles, and NEDA needs people for their helpline.
Also a nonprofit organization MentorCONNECT pairs volunteer mentors recovered from an eating disorder with others who have eating disorders but want to recover.
If you have experienced the effects of an eating disorder in your life, directly or indirectly, you have unique wisdom and insight in this devastating, but curable, illness.
You can play an important role in the advocating for awareness, prevention, and effective treatment for eating disorders.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What has your role been in eating disorder awareness and advocacy? How have nonprofits and advocacy groups impacted your recovery or the recovery or your loved one?
About the Author: Leigh Bell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in Creative Writing and French from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a published author, journalist with 15 years of experience, and a recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Leigh is recovered from a near-fatal, decade-long battle with anorexia and the mother of three young, rambunctious children.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 23, 2015
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com