Empowering Change: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week Revealed

May 11, 2024

Discover the significance of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and ways to promote change.

Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious conditions that involve persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact a person's health, emotions, and ability to function in various areas of life. To educate the public about these conditions and their associated impacts, disparities, resources, and treatment options, a nationwide initiative, known as National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW), is observed by organizations, health professionals, and communities across the country.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW) is a nationwide campaign aimed at raising awareness about eating disorders. The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) participates in this initiative, joining other organizations and communities across the country. The goal is to spark conversations about eating disorders, their impacts, and the resources available for treatment [1].

Through NEDAW, participating entities hope to reach those affected by eating disorders, offering them support, reducing stigma, and encouraging early detection and intervention. This initiative also serves to inform the general public about the seriousness of eating disorders and the need for comprehensive treatment.

Common Types of Eating Disorders

There are several types of eating disorders, each characterized by distinct behaviors, symptoms, and health implications. The most common include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Eating Disorder Description
Anorexia Nervosa Characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image, leading to self-imposed starvation and excessive weight loss.
Bulimia Nervosa Involves recurring episodes of eating large amounts of food, followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors.
Binge Eating Disorder Characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, a feeling of a loss of control during the binge, experiencing shame or guilt afterwards, and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.

Other lesser-known eating disorders and disordered eating conditions include avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), pica, rumination disorder, orthorexia, and other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED) [1].

Understanding these different types of eating disorders is crucial for early detection and intervention, which can significantly improve treatment outcomes. Through initiatives like NEDAW, it's hoped that more individuals will come to recognize the signs and seek help for these serious and potentially life-threatening conditions.

Impacts of Untreated Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, if left untreated, can lead to severe health complications. These impacts can be broadly categorized into physical health consequences and effects on reproductive and maternal health. The following sections detail these adverse outcomes, emphasizing the need for awareness, early detection, and treatment.

Physical Health Consequences

Untreated eating disorders can harm the body in numerous ways. According to Women's Health, these conditions can lead to:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Oral health problems
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Sleep issues
  • Bone and muscle loss

These health issues can be severe and life-threatening. They underline the seriousness of eating disorders and the importance of seeking prompt medical attention. Proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial for individuals to fully recover from eating disorders and minimize the risk of these physical health consequences.

Reproductive and Maternal Health Effects

In addition to the physical health impacts, untreated eating disorders can also negatively impact reproductive and maternal health outcomes. Women's Health reports that these conditions can lead to:

  • Complications during pregnancy
  • Low birthweight in newborns
  • Miscarriage
  • Postpartum depression

Moreover, eating disorders are associated with higher rates of anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, which can further complicate pregnancy and postpartum experiences. These impacts highlight the need for comprehensive care and support for individuals with eating disorders, particularly during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

The significant health impacts of untreated eating disorders underscore the importance of initiatives like National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Through awareness, education, and support, we can help individuals seek the help they need and work towards recovery.

Risk Factors for Eating Disorders

Understanding the risk factors for eating disorders is a crucial part of recognizing and addressing these conditions. These risk factors can be broadly categorized into biological and genetic factors, and psychological and social influences.

Biological and Genetic Factors

Biological and genetic factors a significant role in the development of eating disorders. A family history of eating disorders can significantly increase the risk of an individual developing a similar condition. Genetics, too, are a contributing factor with certain genetic mutations or inherited traits potentially predisposing individuals to these disorders.

It is important to note that not everyone with these biological or genetic risk factors will develop an eating disorder, and not everyone with an eating disorder has these associated risk factors. However, these factors can provide valuable insights and assist healthcare professionals in tailoring effective treatment plans.

These findings have been supported by multiple organizations including the Women's Health and the National Eating Disorders Association.

Psychological and Social Influences

Eating disorders are also strongly influenced by psychological and social factors. Psychological aspects such as perfectionism and low self-esteem can contribute to the development of such disorders.

Social influences, including cultural or societal pressures, can also play a role. For instance, societal pressure to conform to a certain body type or size could potentially lead to dieting or extreme weight management behaviors, which in turn can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.

Additionally, personal history of dieting or weight stigma and a negative body image can also contribute to the risk of developing an eating disorder. Remember, not all individuals with these risk factors will develop an eating disorder, and not all individuals with eating disorders have these associated risk factors.

These insights have been shared by several organizations such as National Eating Disorders Association and the NIED.

Collectively, understanding these risk factors can be instrumental in raising awareness during the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and beyond, informing prevention efforts, and guiding effective treatment strategies.

National Initiatives for Eating Disorders

National initiatives play a crucial role in combating the prevalence and impact of eating disorders. They help raise awareness, provide resources, and advocate for improved treatments. Key among these initiatives is the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

NEDA Week Campaign

The National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW) is a significant nationwide initiative that aims to raise awareness about eating disorders and their impacts, disparities, resources, and treatment options. Spearheaded by the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), this initiative engages organizations, health professionals, and communities across the country to shed light on the seriousness and prevalence of eating disorders and the need for support and treatment.

NEDA Week is observed in the last week of February or the first week of March and has been taking place for over 30 years. During this week, communities worldwide host various activities, including talks, resource fairs, social media engagements, and walks, all aimed at raising awareness and funding for eating disorder treatment and research [2].

NEDAW Themes and Initiatives

Each NEDAwareness Week often adopts a specific theme to steer its awareness and advocacy efforts. The theme for this year's NEDAW is "Let's Talk About It: Eating Disorders, Stigma, and Empowered Recovery." The focus is on understanding the facts around eating disorders, addressing common eating disorder stigma, raising awareness about disparities in diagnosis and treatment, highlighting best practices for improving quality of care, and empowering people when seeking support and recovery [1].

NEDA also strives to provide information and support for the estimated 20 million women and 10 million men who will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. As part of its mission, the organization advocates for prevention, improved treatment access, and increased research funding related to eating disorders.

To facilitate public involvement in NEDAwareness Week, the organization provides various ways to participate. These include engaging in social media, sharing personal stories, or joining community walks. More details on these engagement opportunities can be found at NEDA's official website [2].

Through such initiatives, NEDA plays a significant role in raising national awareness about eating disorders and driving efforts to combat these disorders effectively.

Engaging in NEDAwareness Week

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week offers a platform for individuals and communities to engage in raising awareness and promoting education about eating disorders. Here, we explore the various opportunities for participation and ways to promote awareness and support during this pivotal week.

Participation Opportunities

If individuals wish to get involved in National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, there are various ways to participate. These include engaging in social media campaigns, sharing personal stories and experiences, or joining community walks and events designed to raise awareness and foster solidarity. Details on these meaningful engagement opportunities can be found at NEDA's official website.

The #EDAW campaign offers various resources aimed at both individuals and communities. These resources include:

  • NEDA's screening tool: This tool assists individuals and their loved ones in determining if professional help may be needed.
  • Grace Holland Cozine Resource Center: This center provides information and resources related to eating disorders.
  • Campus Warriors program: This initiative is designed for college students, providing them with the resources to raise awareness about eating disorders on their campuses.
  • Eating Disorders 101 presentation: This educational resource is designed for educators and students, providing them with critical information about eating disorders.

All these resources can be accessed through the National Eating Disorders Association website.

Promoting Awareness and Support

Promoting awareness and support during NEDAwareness Week is crucial in combating the stigma and misinformation surrounding eating disorders. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, from sharing educational resources and personal stories on social media to organizing or participating in local events.

One of the major campaigns during this week is the #EDAW social media campaign. This campaign encourages individuals to share their experiences, insights, and messages of hope and recovery, contributing to a broader conversation about eating disorders and fostering a supportive community.

In addition to individual efforts, organizations, schools, and businesses can also engage in NEDAwareness Week. This can involve hosting educational presentations or discussions, distributing informational materials, or even displaying supportive messages.

By participating in National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, individuals and communities can play an integral role in promoting understanding, reducing stigma, and supporting those affected by eating disorders.

Historical Evolution of NEDAwareness Week

A crucial aspect of the fight against eating disorders has been the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Over the years, it has evolved from a small-scale initiative to a significant, nationwide event. This section delves into the inception, growth, recognition, and advocacy efforts associated with this impactful week.

Inception and Growth

The Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) was first launched in Columbus, Ohio in 1984 by the National Anorexic Aid Society. It was initiated to coincide with the 3rd National Eating Disorder Conference, and was themed "Be the person you are; It’s what’s inside that counts". The primary aim was to educate various professionals and the public about the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and providing treatment resources for those affected [3].

In 1987, a plan was developed and launched for a National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which eventually evolved into a significant national event. This initiative has since expanded globally, with activities taking place during different weeks in various parts of the world [3].

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) was formed in 2001 through the merger of the National Eating Disorders Association & Prevention organization and the American Anorexia Bulimia Association. Both of these were considered the largest and longest-standing eating disorders prevention and advocacy organizations globally [3].

Recognition and Advocacy Efforts

Further strides in the recognition and advocacy of the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week were made by Jill Andrew, a long-time supporter of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). Andrew championed Bill 61 in 2018 and again in 2020 to get EDAW officially proclaimed in Ontario. The bill passed unanimously across party lines on December 3, 2020, nearly 35 years after the inception of the idea in 1986 [4].

Following the official proclamation in 2020, EDAW in Ontario is recognized from February 1-7 every year. This proclamation marked a significant moment for Eating Disorder advocacy in the province, giving recognition to individuals impacted by eating disorders. It also provided a necessary first step to continue the advocacy efforts [4].

The evolution of the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, from its humble beginnings to becoming a globally recognized event, underscores the growing awareness and concerted efforts to address eating disorders. Continued support for such initiatives is critical in spreading knowledge, providing resources, and encouraging those affected to seek help.


[1]: https://www.womenshealth.gov/nedaw

[2]: https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/what-is-neda-week

[3]: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/welcome-39th-eating-disorders-awareness-week/

[4]: https://nied.ca/the-history-of-eating-disorders-awareness-week-edaw/

[5]: https://www.womenshealth.gov/nedaw