Eating disorders used to be looked upon like a disorder for young, Caucasian girls. That is changing. Many boys and races other than Caucasians suffer from eating or exercise disorders. The excuse is and as always been “because the media portrays the ideal as rail thin.” And, predominantly, the individuals featured in the media were young, Caucasian females. But that’s changing.  There are many women of color on the covers of magazines, male models are preferred for their athletic builds, and the “plus size” model is coming IN.

So, why is the disorder growing?  I think, both professionally and personally, it’s because we live in a society that values one another based on another person. What I mean is we don’t value or celebrate our differences as what makes us amazing. Our sizes and shapes are compared to food shapes (ironic I know) — the apple and the pear being negative comparisons. Our body size is described with negativity. To the point where when I say I’m “thick” or “curvy” or “healthy” to my teens one of them laughed and said “that’s just a nice way to say overweight.”

Why don’t we value what our bodies are capable of versus our weight, shape, and size? I believe its because those things aren’t directly measured. People say “I don’t see color”.   They should also be saying “I don’t see size” because who we are is so much more than the package we come in. Eating disorders are beginning to be seen and treated as an addiction. That is fabulous news to me treatment wise and I have seen the addiction model work effectively in treatment. But, I think our desire to compare and measure ourselves and others needs to be addressed as well. Eating disorders reach across age, gender, race and socio-economic status because it’s a disorder of people and society. The people we live amongst and the society we are raised in. So, it’s not just an addiction disorder, but a societal disorder.

So, trreatment needs to address our society.  Let’s stop living in secrecy. I had a family ready to pull their daughter from school so her peers and teachers would not know she had an eating disorder.  I say tell them and don’t allow her to hide in her addiction. “Hello I am ___ and I have an eating disorder.” Therapeutically, it calls attention to her internal negative voice and challenges the comments and beliefs of others. Also, the addiction model is about living a life of secrecy.  However, with open and honest conversation about your addiction, you are more accountable to yourself and others. Don’t hide in the secrecy because if there is one girl or boy suffering, there may be more than one. That builds awareness, treats the group, and works to end the negative stereotypes around how we see each other.

This is only the start. But if eating disorders are seen as more than a dirty secret of not feeling good enough but rather as an addiction encouraged by society; it’s a good start