On Sunday, Feb. 25, a walk for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) took place at the Phoenix Zoo.
NEDA is the largest nonprofit organization for eating disorders. NEDA walks take place around the country year-round to help to raise awareness, fund research and provide resources for those suffering from an eating disorder.
Melody Pierce, Miss Arcadia 2018 and Walter Cronkite School of Journalism student, spoke about her eating disorder recovery.
“My recovery journey started when I was about 14 years old,” Pierce said. “It was 4 years into my eating disorder, and I decided that I needed help.”
Pierce discovered resources for her treatment through NEDA walk, and is involved in local programs geared toward eating disorder recovery and awareness.
“The stigma that surrounds eating disorders is just really large,” Pierce said. “A lot of people think they’re a fad, a phase or even a lifestyle choice – and that’s just simply not true.”
Treatment may require different things for different people but Pierce believes having a team of professionals is crucial to recovery.
“The first step [to recovery] would have to be to just find that spark of hope in your heart that decides that living is a priority, and it’s something you want to do, and that life is worth living,” Pierce said. “That it’s worth it, and you do deserve recovery and you do deserve this journey. You deserve to live, you deserve to love yourself.”
Pierce hopes to see more conversations centered about body positivity and self-love.
“Something that’s really important to me is that we start getting more people talking about this, and more people involved,” Pierce said. “The fact that we are educating our children and talking about body love and body positivity – and just to point you to resources that we have here locally – that can be such a great help, and can really save a life at the end of the day.”
Grace Canevari, a Primavera Online High School student, walked with her family in support of her friend who has an eating disorder.
“I’m here because my friend told me about it and she has been suffering from an eating disorder for quite some time – and it’s kind of made me want to do something,” Canevari said. “I know that they don’t receive a lot of funding from the government, so it made me want to get out and try to raise awareness.”
A number of treatment centers and other resources were present at the walk, distributing information and offering assistance to those in need.
Starting Feb. 26 and all the way through March 4 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline can provide support and recommend a plan for treatment.