The Conspiracy

On ending the silence [Eating Disorder Awareness Week]

Eating disorders are thought to be more prominent in the Jewish community than in the general population | photo by flickr user photograsaur (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Eating Disorder awareness week affects us all, whether we know it or not, Deborah Blausten argues beautifully. The women and men who are affected are mothers and daughters, sisters and wives, fathers and sons. This is not a disorder that can be callously dismissed as a “teenage girl problem” passed off as “a phase” that they will “get over”. Eating Disorders are a life or death struggle, every single day – a battle of the will inside someone’s mind. And they’re entirely silent.

There’s little you can do for someone suffering from an Eating Disorder until it’s too late. You can gently encourage them to seek help, you can set a good example or try nudging them in the right direction, but ultimately, their food intake is their own affair, and they will have the last word over it. What you can do is simple – do not presume. Do not fall prey to the image of the anorexic teenager we’ve been fed by the modern media – Eating Disorders, like any other disorder, take on all shapes and sizes. So be kind to the girl whose pants are maybe a little too tight. Be kind to the boy who is anxiously counting calories so that he may qualify for the wrestling team. At the Shabbat table, do not force food down anyone’s throat. Be supporting. Be affirming. Be loving and patient and kind, and trust that they’ll come around. Create an environment where someone with an Eating Disorder feels comfortable enough speaking up and getting help. Help end their suffering by ending their silence.

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