Building awareness and understanding during Eating Disorders Awareness Week 

Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) is an annual campaign to educate on the realities of eating disorders and to provide hope, support, and visibility to individuals and families affected by eating disorders. As King County’s Employee Wellness Program, Balanced You is committed to supporting employee well-being, which includes mental and emotional health along with physical, financial and social well-being. We know that our relationship with food and our body can cause mental health challenges and harmful diet culture messaging has an effect on nearly every person. Below we share ways resources and tools for anyone struggling with their relationship to food and their body. 

Eating disorders effect nearly everyone

All of us have received and been impacted by harmful messages around our bodies and food. This might come from social media and news stories, or even comments from family members, friends, or colleagues. This messaging can paint a picture of what health means, equating it to an ideal body shape, size, or standard. This can have negative consequences for our physical and emotional well-being. For many, it can lead to eating disorders, weight cycling, negative body image, and low self-worth. 

Statistics show  that 9% of Americans experience an eating disorder in their lifetime and that eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, resulting in around 10,000 deaths per year. Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically underweight. 

Eating disorders can disproportionately affect BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities. According to Project Heal, common stereotypes about who experiences eating disorders are limiting and result in less treatment access to the diverse population that needs it.  

Eating disorder treatment and recovery communities advocate for a more inclusive world. They seek a cultural shift where all bodies are welcome – regardless of size, skin color, gender, age, or ability. 

Free eating disorders screening tool

This screening tool from National Eating Disorders Association can help determine if it’s time to seek professional help. If you are need of professional help, see below for a treatment provider available through health insurance.

A non-diet approach to wellness: glossary of terms

This glossary of terms will shed light on how to think about our well-being holistically and offers a non-diet approach to wellness.

Attuned nutrition and intuitive eating 

Attuned nutrition and intuitive eating reconnect us to eating what is nourishing, removes shame and stigma from food choices, and supports tuning in with self and hunger. Read more about the principles of intuitive eating here. 

Diet culture 

Diet culture is a set of beliefs and/or behaviors that values thinness, appearance, and shape above health and well-being. Examples of diet culture include:   

  • a focus on “good” versus “bad” foods  
  • calorie counting or restriction  
  • normalizing self-deprecating talk  
  • ignoring internal cues from your body (hunger, fullness, and satisfaction)  
  • focusing on appearance – including compliments on weight loss or gain  
  • exercising for punishment or seeing food as a reward for exercising

Health at Every Size (HAES)  

HAES is a research-based model that encourages health-promoting habits without focusing on weight as a measure of health. HAES also works toward ending size discrimination, the culture of dieting, and the belief that “thin” is the only acceptable body size. The primary intent of HAES is to support improved health behaviors for people of all sizes without using weight as a mediator.  Read more about the Health at Every Size principles.

Mindful/joyful movement  

A focus on bringing pleasure and awareness to movement, removing shame and “should” from exercise, and reconnecting to the body.    

Weight cycling  

Weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting, refers to repeated dieting. Research shows repeated dieting typically results in repeated cycling of weight loss and regain. This can lead to significant health risks including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Watch: why dieting doesn’t usually work.  

Weight stigma  

Weight stigma, also known as weight bias or weight-based discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s weight. Weight stigma is prevalent in the workplace, within families, and in healthcare settings. This can have negative consequences on psychological and physical health. Weight bias in health care is especially dangerous, as research shows that healthcare providers tend to spend less time with their patients in larger bodies, provide them with less health information, or blame their patients for their health concerns.  Patients in larger bodies often don’t receive the diagnostic screenings they are asking for because they’re told to come back when they have lost weight, and their physicians fail to recognize that something serious could be going on.  

Seek support through health insurance

Regence and Kaiser members have access to eating disorder treatment through their mental health programs.

Both insurance companies cover the treatment provider EQUIP. Learn more about how to access EQUIP by downloading this flyer:

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