February is International Eating Disorders Month. So guess what I’ll be doing? Yep. Talking about eating disorders. Internationally.
Which is sort of my area of expertise, come to think of it, as I have been the proud carrier of this horrendous disease over the entire continent of Europe and even places like Thailand and the Dominican Republic.
I do believe that many misconceptions exist about what constitutes an eating disorder – and in various countries, the opinions vary greatly as well. In places like the USA, for example, eating disorders are gaining their recognition – they have their own place within the DSM-V classification of mental disorders, they are being treated as such, for the most part; however, people remain ignorant about the things that make an eating disorder so individual and tailored to each sufferer in particular.
Places like Ukraine, where I grew up, for example, disregard the very notion of eating disorders, which are all stuffed beneath the broad and vague term of dieting. You don’t say that you’re barely surviving on an apple a day and half a glass of orange juice. No, you’re on a cleanse. You’re not overexercising, you are simply preparing for beach season. Beauty standards in Eastern Europe and Asia, for the most part, are tailored to venerating small bodies – both in height and in weight, at least for women. You are feminine, thus you cannot have a waist that isn’t an hourglass. This mentality has become so ingrained in the minds of the layfolk that anorexia and bulimia have ceased to exist – they are simply part of normal life.
Europe is somewhere in the middle. Though some countries, like France, have taken a stance against mentally detrimental body images in media, others remain skeptical about even naming eating disorders just that – disorders. They are problems, which may require treatment, but such treatment is hard to find and very difficult to maintain. Psychology in Europe still has not reached the level of maturity regarding ED’s that North America has.
Why am I saying this? I am promoting awareness. That’s what all this is about: being aware of when the problem begins to develop to help beat it down.
If your daughter or son suddenly stops asking for a second helping, be aware.
If they keep running to the bathroom to stand on the scale, be aware.
Aware means prepared.