The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) is holding NEDAwareness Week from February 26 - March 4, and this year's focus is reducing the stigma behind this mental illness. Over 30 million men and women in the United States suffer from eating disorders, but only 10% of individuals will seek treatment. NEDA Awareness Week aims to increase awareness and increase access to care for at risk and struggling individuals.

There are many reasons that individuals refuse to seek treatment for this illness. There is still a huge stigma surrounding mental illness in this nation, and no matter how much organizations like Wear Your Label try to prevent mental health shaming, it continues.

In addition, there is such judgment within eating disorder diagnoses. Anorexia Nervosa is not the only ~real~ eating disorder, contrary what the media may depict. In addition, you do not have to be underweight to suffer from an eating disorder, and there is no weight that labels you as "not sick enough" for treatment (though many insurance companies may say otherwise).

The shame for this mental illness is so f*cking real. Many people still believe that it is an active choice based on vanity and that recovery is as simple as "eating a cheeseburger." 

Let me personally tell you that neither of these statements are true. I developed my eating disorder because of a combination of intense self-hate, perfectionistic tendencies, and unmanageable anxiety – it took six years of therapy, nutrition work, psychiatry, and hospitalizations for me to even begin my recovery.

coffee, beer
Sydney te Wildt

There have been many moments that I questioned being so open about my struggles. I feared judgment from others (especially potential employers), and I worried that my words would be worthless to others. I continued writing, however, because I received messages of support and gratitude on my food instagram, and recognized that my recovery, and my story, could provide the hope that someone so desperately needs.

Eating disorders thrive on shame and alienation. So speak up. Be honest and tell your story. Talk about what triggers you. Talk about your challenges, your fears, and your emotions. This NEDAwareness Week, I promise to do everything that I can to end the stigma about eating disorders, and I challenge you to do the same. So let's finally talk about it. 

Find resources here, at the National Eating Disorders Association website.