It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week but I can’t help wondering whether we need it at all. I don’t wish to sound cynical, but has there ever been a time when the general public were more eating disorder-aware? We’ve come a long way since the days when anorexia was known only as “the slimmer’s disease that killed Karen Carpenter.” These days most people are aware not just of anorexia, but of bulimia and binge eating disorder, if not also orthorexia and EDNOS. We have become ED-literate, at least in comparison with the not too distant past.
Unsympathetic portrayals of sufferers in both medical literature and popular culture – the anorexic as spoilt and manipulative, the bulimic as gluttonous and sexually insecure – have become thankfully rare. The promotion of very low calorie diets and ultra-thin models continues, but rarely goes unchallenged. Much of our information may be gleaned from unreliable sources – concern-trolling celebrity magazines, humblebrag memoirs, rubber-necking documentaries – but the cultural presence of EDs still makes it easier to talk about them. Things are improving – aren’t they?