Everything You Need To Know About World Eating Disorders Day

Trigger warning: The following article contains language associated with disordered eating. 

If you noticed more posts about eating disorder awareness recently, there's a reason: June 2 marks World Eating Disorders Day. Separate from National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, World Eating Disorders Day is a worldwide, grassroots movement where advocates and providers come together both virtually and in-person to raise awareness about eating disorders. This includes sharing information about the disease itself, as well as ways to support friends and family members who have an eating disorder

Their goal? To put it simply: save lives.

Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld, psychologist and certified eating disorder specialist at Gatewell Therapy Center, explained exclusively to The List that the culture we live in is one that "supports disordered eating, where having an unhealthy relationship with food is praised and rewarded." "

"This can make it more challenging to recognize a diagnosis," Rosenfeld explained, "and subsequently reach out for help."

According to the World Eating Disorders website, the goal of the movement has been to "advocate for early intervention and evidence-based treatment" and "address the lack of access to affordable, culturally competent, representative, and comprehensive care among underserved populations," both of which Rosenfeld recognizes as major issues when it comes to getting help.

There is a common misunderstanding that anorexia is the only "serious" eating disorder, or that only eating disorders affect only girls and women when men make up one-third of reported eating disorder diagnoses, per the National Eating Disorders Association, which downplays the seriousness of the disorder, no matter what stage of the disorder someone is in.

Common myths about eating disorders

The idea that eating disorders can only happen to young, wealthy, white teen girls is one major stigma World Eating Disorders Day is trying to combat (via Eating Disorders Families Australia). As Kathleen Someah — a therapist and eating disorder survivor herself — writes for the Two Chairs blog, studies show that back in 2007, there were at least 30 million people in the United States that had an eating disorder, almost 70% didn't intend on seeking treatment because of the stigmas surrounding the illness.

That number didn't count those who didn't meet clinical diagnosis standards, of which World Eating Disorders day wants to expand as well. "[T]he number on the scale is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of the severity of the disease," writes Someah. The seriousness of eating disorders is severely underplayed; eating disorders have "the second highest mortality rate out of any psychiatric illness," per Eating Disorder Hope.

Eating disorder recovery is possible, but grossly misunderstood, Someah explains. More goes into someone developing an eating disorder than just body image, and it takes more than just telling someone to eat for them to get healthy. "When someone restricts their caloric intake," Someah writes, "their body is so focused on maintaining a place of medical homeostasis that the person doesn't have any energy left over to pay attention to whatever external or internal stressor was occurring." Recovery takes patience, understanding, and support for both the person with the disorder and those caring for them.

This is the World Eating Disorders Day theme for 2022

The theme for 2022's World Eating Disorders Day is "Caring for Carers," with the goal of "putting a spotlight on those who care for people affected by eating disorders," according to the World Eating Disorders Day website.

While struggling with an eating disorder is difficult, caring for someone with an eating disorder can be equally stressful. According to Beat Eating Disorders, this has had reported effects on both a carer's physical and mental health. Advocates want carers to remember to build a support system for themselves, make time for themselves — their physical and mental health matter, too. Just because it feels selfish doesn't mean it doesn't serve a purpose; you can't pour from an empty cup.

An additional factor playing into the well-being of carers is the pandemic. In a recent study published by the Journal of Eating Disorders, Kristen Maunder and Fiona McNicholas found COVID-19 increased negative impacts on carers of those with eating disorders. Not only was there reduced access to eating disorder support services, but both carers and those struggling with eating disorders faced isolation and more overall stress from outside factors, like working and going to school from home.

Disturbances to normal coping mechanisms and routines are just one part of why eating disorders got worse during lockdowns, for both those with disorders and carers. Kathleen Someah writes for the Two Chairs blog that social media, and a focus on body changes like the "quarantine 15," had a big impact on eating disorder development as well.

How to take action on World Eating Disorders Day

The main goal of World Eating Disorders Day is to make sure people realize they are worthy and deserving of help, health, and happiness, no matter if they have a disorder or if they care for someone who does (via World Eating Disorders Day). To participate, all you need to do is share information. The official World Eating Disorders Day has a social media kit filled with info-graphics ready to be posted on your favorite platform. You can also share information on free resources, like Balance Eating Disorder Treatment Center's free Coping with COVID-19 workbook.

According to Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld, getting the right kind of support and treatment is the best way to find eating disorder recovery. Kathleen Someah echoed the sentiment in her Two Chairs blog, asserting that the longer someone goes without getting help for their disordered eating habits, the more ingrained the habit becomes on a neurobiological level. That's why changing the stigma about eating disorders is so important: the earlier they're caught, the easier they are to treat.

Everyone experiences their eating disorder differently, with varying root causes and behavior manifestations, so even if you only suspect you have an issue, or someone you love does, professional help is going to be the best lifeline during the recovery process.

Even if someone isn't ready for help, the National Eating Disorders Association says even talking about it — or offering to make an appointment — can make a big impact.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).