Body Mass Confusion This Emotional Life - PBS

Eating disorders / Blog

 Lynn Grefe

Lynn Grefe's Bio

Lynn Grefe is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Eating Disorders Association.

Body Mass Confusion


On the heels of fashion week comes National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, February 21-27.. That certainly sounds like a contradiction, one week beautiful fashions hung, in most cases, on extremely beautiful but overly thin women and teens. The next week dedicated to fighting unrealistic, unhealthy and generally unattainable sizes in an effort to promote health, not dress size. This year’s theme for the week is “It’s time to talk about it,” and we have never been more serious. Hospitalizations for eating disorders have risen 18%, and within that rise we have seen more than a 30% increase among males. In the past several weeks I have met with 6 parents who have lost their daughters to the illness, all under the age of thirty. Meanwhile, another woman called who cannot get health insurance because of her pre-existing condition of an eating disorder; another turned away because she was not yet thin enough to qualify for treatment..  There is something very wrong with these stories and it tells us that nobody at the top is listening.

So, Washington, D.C., State Capitols around the country, I am here to tell you it is estimated that nearly 25 million Americans suffer from Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder. These are life threatening illnesses that need insurance coverage, and that require a commitment from Congress to the National institutes of Health to seriously step up our investment in these brain disorders. Unlike other mental illnesses, eating disorders not only affect the brain, but can wreak life threatening havoc on the long term physical health of the individual.

It is time to talk about all of this, starting  with a serious commitment to look at how we discuss weight, size, body mass index and diets. The missing word is health, and the only winner at the moment is the 40 billion dollar diet industry. This week let’s measure the size of our hearts, not the size of our hips, and work together toward a goal of healthy proud bodies, while ensuring that for those who are already suffering, they get the help they need.