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  • Isara Moriya

Mindfull X Shield - The “Silent Epidemic” of Eating Disorders


Now that society and culture have normalized certain eating behaviors, it is difficult to distinguish signs of eating disorders. The “silent epidemic” gets its name because of how eating disorders destroy a person unnoticed. Only when it gets too late do people realize the damage done. Eating disorders call for more recognition and open dialogue. 


Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness one could have, the ANAD’s statistics predict one million Americans to lose their lives. However, rarely do victims come out and openly discuss their disorder. This is because a lot of shame, guilt, and fear surround this illness. Those with an eating disorder often conduct their endeavors in secret. Examples of this would be hiding food in one’s bedroom to binge on alone, or eating “normal portions” of food in public but restricting food in private. Those with eating disorders not only may feel shameful about their food choices but also their outward appearance. They may go out in baggy clothing or limit social activity to hide their physical and mental states. 


Exposure and Facts

According to the ANAD, only 10 percent of patients actively receive treatment and help. The knowledge of eating disorders is relatively limited compared to other mental illnesses. Therefore, people often don’t comprehend the degree of severity of these eating disorders. Additionally, because of limited knowledge and public voice, patients may not know where to reach out to or how to seek proper help. Supporters of the victims also may feel anxious, confused, and stuck on how to support a person with an eating disorder effectively. The lack of exposure to eating disorders also causes many false stereotypes surrounding the subject, for example, the myth that only young women are affected by eating disorders. Truth be told, people in minority groups, men, and older adults are all susceptible to eating disorders, and millions of people in those categories unfortunately have to deal with the mind games an eating disorder creates. 


The Effects of Media

It also didn’t help that mainstream media glorifies certain bodies and creates unrealistic ideals for both male and female audiences. For decades, movies and media have promoted certain ideals, restricting what is considered “beauty,” and making audiences yearn for what they don’t have. For example, low-rise jeans became popularized in the ‘90s but are portrayed in the media as toxic. These jeans fall to the hip region, with models on magazine covers showcasing their thin bodies and waists. Rather than empowering the wearer, they made people feel shameful and inadequate. 


Culture 

Not only media but also family and our roots may be the cause of eating disorders. Society today is a culture that readily promotes weight loss, restriction, and diet behaviors. Looking at supermarkets, you can find snacks with low caloric numbers slapped on the center of the package, or big letters writing “Keto.” Even within family conversations, weight loss and picking on a certain family member’s body is common. Listening to a grandparent say “You’re too skinny, you should fatten up,” or “You should lose a little bit of weight” are situations that are too familiar. 


In the midst of wars and a pandemic, eating disorders may be the least of many people’s concerns. However, eating disorders and food constitute one’s mental health - which all people deserve to have proper mental health. Changing a whole society or culture seems still out of reach, but giving notice to this silent epidemic will make it not silent. There is much-needed attention for eating disorders, as it affects over 20 million Americans alone. An eating disorder can make you feel alone, but looking at the numbers, you are not. You don’t have to be alone in this. 


Writer: Isara Moriya


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