Recently we read Warsan Shire’s poetry collection Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth which features a poem titled “Bone.” “Bone” addresses the topic of eating disorders, describing the reactions of two women to a third woman who is starving herself. In class, we discussed how eating disorders can be an uncomfortable and taboo topic, which can be made more accessible and relatable through poetry such as Shire’s. Sentences such as “Later that night while we lay beside one another/ listening to her throw up in our bathroom/ you tell me you want to save her” (Shire 12) are straightforward and clear, which allows for a real discussion about eating disorders. Poetry can also be a means of giving a name to the nameless and a voice to the voiceless, which I think Shire is doing here by writing about an unpleasant topic. During its National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, the National Eating Disorder Association is also working to make eating disorders easier to understand and talk about.

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The last week of February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). There are many ways to get involved with NEDA, both during this week and throughout the year. An easy way to reach a lot of people is through social media. Nedawareness.org/social has shareable graphics that you can post on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #NEDAwareness to start a conversation with your friends and family about eating disorders. The images encourage everyone to talk about eating disorders and to get screened for an eating disorder. They feature pictures of diverse individuals, pointing out that 20 year-old white women are not the only victims of eating disorders. The website also has pictures that can be used for your Facebook or Twitter profile and header photos, as well as sample posts and captions for each social media site. Examples of some of the available images are included throughout this post.

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NEDA also hosts NEDA Walks during NEDAwareness Week in cities throughout the country. These walks help to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding eating disorders. Although there is not a walk in the Pittsburgh area, there are other events that you can attend. On Monday, February 27, the Gulf Tower and One Oxford Centre on Grant Street in Pittsburgh will be lit up, as well as buildings around the country, in observation of the 30th anniversary of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Volunteers are needed to take pictures, and there will be live tweets about the event under #NEDAwareness. There are also events and information throughout the week at the Community College of Allegheny County for anyone interested in more information about eating disorders.

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By becoming involved with NEDA, I have learned that there is a great deal of stigma surrounding eating disorders and that this could be reduced through education. While one week dedicated to eating disorder awareness is a great start, we should begin to look to how we can educate in our daily lives. A good first step is using the photos provided by NEDA. From there, keep talking about the National Eating Disorder Association, why everyone should get screened, and that treatment is possible, and we can really make a difference for individuals with eating disorders.

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