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Op-ed: Taking action against eating disorders

To start, let’s be honest about something.

Talking about eating disorders is uncomfortable. No one wants to be presumptuous about what other people might be struggling with. No one wants to be offensive or insensitive in trying to help. No one wants to bring it up when they don’t feel like they understand.

I remember a situation like this with a past roommate. We used to leave each other notes around the room — in drawers, on desks, under stacks of paper. Wherever was fair game for for these little affirmations.

On this day in particular, I decided to put a note inside one of her drawers telling her good luck on her test the next morning. But when I opened the drawer, all I saw was a few yellow sticky notes, with “fat” written on them in all capital letters.

I shut the drawer, trying to blink away the image of all those little notes covering her jeans. I chose another drawer — this time the bottom drawer of her desk — hoping this one wouldn’t hold the same thing as the last.

Yet again, I saw a ton of yellow sticky notes.

I shut the drawer.

I spent the night awake, trying to think of something to say to her, trying to think of some way to tell her that I thought she was gorgeous. But I couldn’t think of anything. I had no way to convey to her what I’d seen, or how worried I was for her.

So, I said nothing. And to this day, it’s my biggest regret.

I said nothing when I found the yellow sticky notes. I said nothing when I saw her going to the gym more than I thought possible. I said nothing when I saw her taking diet pills I learned in class were unsafe.

I said nothing because I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be wrong in thinking she had a problem. I didn’t want to confront her with something she wasn’t ready to deal with and cause problems in our relationship.

I still wonder how she’s doing every time I see a photo of her online, and I wonder if she’d be in a better place if I reached out and said something to her.

That’s what this week has been about. Understanding eating disorders and the toll they take on the people around us, starting a conversation about food and the way we’re using it and learning how to support the men and women who struggle silently with this disorder.

So take some time today to look at the warning signs on theNational Eating Disorder Awareness website and learn how to help someone with an eating disorder.

If you are struggling and wondering if you might need help, use the NEDA Screening Tool to get a free and confidential assessment, or go to health or counseling services to talk and get help starting the process of treatment.

At the end of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we need to remember what we’ve learned and move forward with the confidence to speak up when we see something that doesn’t look right.

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