Guidelines for Responsible ED Reporting
Thank you for your willingness to educate others about eating disorders. As a member of the media we know how important it is to produce accurate, insightful and informative pieces that will resonate with the public.
One challenge of explaining the causes and effects of eating disorders is the complex interplay of biological, psychological and social forces that combine to ignite the onset of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders, like suicide or terrorism, are issues that must be covered in a careful and responsible way in order to inadvertently glamorize or promote copycats to experiment with these life-threatening behaviors.
When you cover eating disorders, please:
1. Do not focus on graphic images or descriptions of the bodies of eating disorder sufferers. Research proves that coverage dramatizing dangerous thinness can provoke a "race to the bottom" among other sufferers, i.e., "She is thinner than I am and she's still alive. I should lose more weight."
2. Do not play the numbers game. "She ate only 400 calories a day" or "He took as many as 10 laxatives at a time" can turn a well-intentioned article into a recipe for disaster.
3. Avoid disclosing tips on how they acted on their eating disorder (i.e. discussing tricks and tips of how they binged and purged).
4. Watch out for "anorexia chic." Eating disorders and their sufferers shouldn't be glamorized or, worse yet, presented as people with "astounding will-power" or "incredible self-control."
5. Be careful with narratives of those who "bravely fought their illness alone." Perhaps your subject did, but most don't. The vast majority of those who beat eating disorders do it only with the ongoing help of trained medical professionals. Consider how you would write about someone "bravely fighting" alcohol or drug addiction without proper intervention and professional care.
National Eating Disorders Association
Information and Referral Helpline: 800.931.2237