by Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, F.E.A.S.T. Executive Director
For me, being an eating disorder advocate isn’t about feeling good. In fact, it doesn’t always feel good at all.
I understand we have to rally people with positive messaging and build awareness. But let’s not forget:
It’s about bringing change and progress. I know that makes me a bore, and it isn’t as attractive as wearing certain colors and talking about loving our bodies and smashing scales. But I say there must be a point, and there have to be real goals.
Eating disorders aren’t that subtle. They are pretty obvious if we know what we’re looking for. What blocks that looking, and seeing, is a society that normalizes disordered eating, exercise, and body image.
It’s like cancer or other progressive health issues: catch it early or it is harder to treat.
It isn’t enough to just find a specialist. Those with eating disorders need treatment that is established as effective and safe. That’s called “evidence-based.”
Eating disorder interventions don’t happen in a vacuum. The family, including siblings and extended relatives, and school and the community need to be equipped with and surrounded by awareness and recovery-oriented support and language. No dieting. No body shaming. Acceptance of body diversity. Joyful movement. Community connection. Stable and nurturing homes. Caregivers with the time and community support to focus on recovery.
Access to Treatment
Knowing what treatment one needs isn’t enough either: it needs to be available immediately, and in your community, affordably, at will.
Treatment that is too weak, poorly trained, lasts for only a short time, or isn’t coordinated with other levels of care is not acceptable.
Family and Community Support
Eating disorders isolate and alienate affected people from family, friends, and community. Successful recovery without that support is not just difficult it is often impossible. No one with an eating disorder should have to maintain that journey with only themselves and their professional team. Family, friends, and community need to step up.
All the above is doable. These are not rainbows and unicorn dreams. Eating disorders are one of the most treatable brain disorders, and one of the easiest to diagnose. Diagnosis and treatment do not require expensive equipment or drugs. We know what to do, and we know when to do it. We’re just not doing it. That’s where “awareness” needs to be.