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In the United States alone, there are 20 million women who struggle with some form of an eating disorder. And I am one of them.

I was diagnosed with an eating disorder in 2012 during my sophomore year of high school after an intervention with both friends and family. It is easy to say that it was one of the darker periods of my life, especially when I first entered treatment. Treatment varies on a case by case basis, greatly revolving around the personal needs of the individual, the severity, and other factors.

For me, it consisted of outpatient appointments with both a counselor and nutritionist who each specialized in the treatment of eating disorders. I met at least once a week with each one of them individually for about seven months. On May 13th, 2013, I walked out of my last counseling appointment. I would love to tell you that since then, it has been easy, that I haven’t struggled … but if I did, I would be lying. Some days are harder than others, and some are easier, but no matter the day, I keep fighting for this life I have. This experience not only changed my life, but motivated me to advocate for those whose lives are also affected by eating disorders.

The National Eating Disorder Association, NEDA, is an organization that I will forever be thankful for. NEDA not only provided myself and my family with resources during my time in treatment, but also hosts an annual awareness week. This is used to promote the organization and the resources it has for those whose lives are affected by these diseases. This includes informing the public, holding advocacy events, and educating people about the helplines it offers for those struggling with an eating disorder.

This year, NEDA’s theme for its awareness week running from February 26th to March 4th is “It’s Time to Talk About It.” For me, this means it’s time to talk about how destructive eating disorders are. It is time we are real about the warning signs. Most importantly, it’s time we take the step of courage to speak up to a friend or family member about destructive behaviors we may have. Throughout the week, there is social media outreach as well as different fundraisers and events throughout the country to draw attention to the cause.

A large part of advocacy is sharing the warning signs. With eating disorders, the warning signs can vary based on what particular disorder it is as well as the individual. For more specific information on the symptoms of an eating disorder, you can click here.

Join me this #NEDAwareness week and initiate the conversations with those you love and call attention to a disease that affects so many. The only way recovery can begin is with the recognition of the illness. While that recognition may be the most difficult step, it opens the door for a future that may not have been possible without it. Recovery is easily the best decision I have made in my life, even if I still have to fight for it some days. It is not easy, but it is incredibly worth it.

Bailey L
Bailey is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who enjoys writing, traveling, and coffee. When she isn't working, you can find her with her nose in a book or planning her next adventure.

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