“Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives”.

-Bill Gates

When many of us hear the word “activism,” we think about politics, human rights or animal rights. Standing up for what you believe in by speaking your truth and advocating for actions to bring about positive change for others is the definition of activism. Famous activists including Malala Yousafzai, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, Nelson, and Mandela, to name a few, have left a lasting impact on the world because they chose to inspire change and fight injustice for every individual across the globe. Activism begins at a grassroots level, lead by everyday people who believe in everyday causes and the eating disorder community is no different. Eating disorders, affect 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States and have a large presence across the globe. Many cultures in the East discriminate against eating disorders and mental health disorders; increasing stigma surrounding body image, self-confidence, self-harm, depression and leading many to have a fear of body image. It is essential for all cultures to understand the importance of self-confidence and how body image and appearance are closely intertwined with an unhealthy relationship with food. Our entire generation is paralyzed by undesirable, negative body talk primarily through social media. We need to be the change.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

This year’s 32nd annual National Eating Disorder Awareness Week sponsored by NEDA will make an effort to advocate for all individuals struggling with an eating disorder or a body image disorder, across the United States during the week of Feb. 25 – Mar. 3, 2019. From the famed Empire State Building in the east to Los Angeles International Airport’s stylish, 100-foot, glass pylons in the west, more than 90 iconic landmarks in dozens of cities will light up in the signature blue and green colors of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to put a spotlight on the seriousness of eating disorders. NEDA is one of the national eating disorder awareness organizations and is a huge advocate for those currently struggling with an eating disorder or who are undergoing recovery.

A new form of advocacy in the eating disorder world

Today, there is a new form of advocacy in the eating disorder realm that allows any individuals, regardless of their background to stand up for body positivity. A body positive advocate works to promote healthy body image by sharing with others through education and awareness how to reclaim their body as their own, defined by their own rules of beauty and acceptance. In other words, they stand up against body shaming and promote a safe environment for others to feel empowered in their skin, regardless of their body shape or size.

A body positive advocate intentionally leads by example through their own actions and words towards others and themselves. This is in response to the tremendous, destructive influence toward body shaming that is currently taking place throughout our culture. Supporting others by standing up against body shaming, empowering those who are struggling by lending a helping hand through dedicating time to go clothing or food shopping or accompanying a friend who is struggling with their weight to take part in a community body positive discussion are all ways to be advocates for others in the eating disorder community.

How can you be the change in the body activism world?

First, love, and by extension by taking care of your own body. Instead of being forever critical of your body, and essentially at war with it, learn to respect what it does for you. Choose to honor your body, not in parts, but as a whole.

Use social media as a platform for compassion and change, not a punching bag.

In your social media activity, text or post messages that are only body positive.

Refuse to participate in judgmental conversations. We have all heard them, know what they sound like, and may have participated in them. This includes conversations in your own mind. Change the dialogue. Choose to honor and celebrate the diversity and beauty of all bodies, different bodies, every-bodies. Show up in your body. Explore the experience in your very own skin. Your body is sustainable, rich, and wants to give back to you.

Live the message, “I am choosing health and wellness with happiness and joy.” Advocacy work can start with one person sharing the message for hope and change. Will you be a body advocate? There is no telling how many people will change their very own life, and subsequently, the lives of others.