On the surface, counting calories may seem harmless enough; just a way to attempt to live healthy, to develop and prize health and vigor of body. And for many of us, working toward goals of weight loss by counting pounds truly is just that. For others though, this common practice can be much more dangerous.
Eating disorders, or unhealthy relationships with food and weight that harm multiple aspects of an individual mentally, physically and emotionally, affect 11 million people in the United States, many of whom are students in high school and college. This disease can exist in three different forms:
- Anorexia Nervosa: Individuals restricting their calorie intake; only eating specific foods; skipping entire meals frequently; all for fear of gaining weight or becoming fat.
- Bulimia Nervosa: Individuals binge eating and purging; exercising excessively; using laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills; all to avoid gaining weight or getting fat.
- Binge Eating Disorder: People frequently and rapidly eating very large amounts of food to the point of feeling ill or nauseous.Eating disorders are commonly assumed to solely be about food and/or weight; in reality, these deadly diseases can be more about control, or coping with other mental or emotional distress. Using the word "deadly" to describe eating disorders may seem dramatic, but because only one in ten victims seek treatment, and because so many individuals coping with eating disorders are doing so in secret, they are classified as the most deadly of all mental illnesses. And in a society obsessed with weight loss and unhealthy depictions of "beauty," where every other television commercial is advertising a way to "be skinny and look great," eating disorders are nearly forgotten in the name of "being fit."
But what can we do about it? How can we put a stop to this painful and harmful epidemic? How can we begin to tackle such an overwhelming and common problem?
We can all start by instead of counting calories or pounds, by Counting What Matters.
In honor of the 2012 Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we challenge Alpha Gams of all ages all over North America to stop counting calories, serving sizes, exercises and pounds and instead focus on counting what matters. Begin to track your improved behaviors, your moments of success and victory, your assets, your strengths, and your personal bests! Count the positives in your life, the things that truly matter.
This is not to say that we don't encourage each of you to be healthy and to continue to develop and prize health and vigor of body. We do ask that instead of reciting this line of the Purpose as a justification for counting our calories, we look to another part of our Purpose to help us count what truly matters to each of us.
"To covet beauty in environment, manner, word and thought."
When we think about this line of the Purpose, our minds may begin to think of enjoying a beautiful sunset, appreciating someone holding the door open for us, being touched when we hear the words "I love you," or by the birthday card our friend remembered to send us. We remember the subtle parts of our days and nights that we might otherwise overlook if Alpha Gamma Delta didn't remind us to covet these moments for the beauty they bring to our lives.
But do we think of ourselves? Do we think of coveting our own beauty, in our own environment, manner, word and thought?
The Alpha Gamma Delta Purpose is meant to inspire us to continue to be the best versions of ourselves, and this line is no exception. When trying to Count What Matters, this line of our Purpose can help us do just that; by asking us to appreciate, love and covet the beauty that exists within ourselves and those around us.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week is still some time away (February 26-March 3), which leaves us all plenty of time to brainstorm ways to show our support and commitment to helping women and men of all ages stop counting their calories and instead to Count What Matters. Take time within your chapters, with your friends and your sisters, colleagues and families to brainstorm ways you can celebrate the beauty within yourselves, and to support the cause of Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Spend time with your families and children discussing healthy body image and positive management of food and eating. Be sure to visit the "More Resources" Link in the top right corner of this page for more ideas about how to get involved in Eating Disorder Awareness Week!
Just as you covet the beauty of a blooming flower, of the kind gesture, of the sweet words or thoughts you have for a friend, covet the beauty in your environment, manner, word and thought; covet the beauty within yourself.
If you or someone you know may be dealing with an eating disorder, please do not delay. Talk to someone immediately. Visit this referral website to find a way to get help near you.