This year, February 25 – March 3 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, a week dedicated to educating the public about eating disorders and connecting people to treatment and support. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) selected numerous businesses and organizations as collaborators during this week, and I am honored that Empowered Mathematics, LLC is among the ones chosen to help raise awareness. Additionally, I have designated NEDA as the charity towards which to donate 5% of profits during March 2019.
There are various social, psychological, genetic, and biological factors that can influence and maintain an eating disorder. All of these types of factors are complex and multifaceted, but social factors are generally the easiest to tackle from the standpoint of cultivating positive change through educating the public. Social factors can exist in the form of stereotypes associated with eating disorders, leading to misinformation about who may or may not be at risk. Diet culture and weight stigma are also examples of social factors.
NEDA aims to change the dialogue around eating disorders to include people of every size, age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, race, ethnicity, culture, and socioeconomic status. There is a common misconception that only young white women are affected by eating disorders. However, there are many other demographics that are commonly affected but not widely included in the realm of eating disorders. These groups include:
Representation of various demographics in research, statistics, images, and stories allows for people to see their experiences reflected. If someone does not feel like they fit the stereotype, they may not believe that it is possible for them to experience an eating disorder. Eliminating the stigma removes obstructions to obtaining diagnoses, treatment, and recovery.
There is also the issue that a person may not feel that their condition is “bad enough” to seek treatment. This can be detrimental because it inhibits people from getting proper help. For instance, it is widely believed that a person must experience a drastic change in weight in order to have an eating disorder. This is not always the case, considering that eating disorders are first and foremost mental health disorders – just with the capacity and high likelihood of leading to physical changes and conditions. Furthermore, there are various physical symptoms that are not weight-related. People should not be overlooked just because they don’t fit a certain size description, nor should people have to wait until physical symptoms appear before seeking treatment. NEDA provides a list of warning signs and symptoms that include behavioral, emotional and physical symptoms. NEDA also offers an eating disorder screening tool that suggests whether or not a person may be at risk. This screening tool addresses several warning signs and asks questions such as the importance of weight compared to other aspects of life.
With diet culture and weight stigma being perpetuated throughout our society, it’s no wonder why body dissatisfaction is a prevalent issue. Sociocultural idealization of thinness suggests that we have to lose weight or look a certain way in order to be the best version of ourselves. This is untrue because everyone has genetic traits that influence their body size and each person can be healthy across a range of weights. In order to promote body positivity, NEDA created a body acceptance challenge, which is a simple yet meaningful pledge that invites people to accept their own body, respect other’s bodies, and fight weight stigma.
In addition to raising awareness about eating disorders and providing helpful resources, NEDA advocates on both the federal and state levels for education, training, early intervention and prevention programs, funding for research, and improved access for treatment of eating disorders. NEDA also hosts annual walks in nearly 100 cities across the U.S. During these walks, money is raised to fund eating disorder education, prevention, support, and research.
To help be a part of the solution, we can all reevaluate how our words, thoughts, and internalized beliefs can affect others as well as our own well-being around body image. Fighting diet culture and weight stigma, rather than accepting them as suitable cultural standards, allows for higher levels of body acceptance. Additionally, realizing that eating disorders can affect any type of person is crucial for giving everyone access to treatment and recovery.
When unfortunate scenarios arise and people find themselves without a place to live, there are various resources in the Dayton community that can provide assistance. One such organization is Homefull, based in downtown Dayton, which offers programming and case management to people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or formerly homeless. Homefull is part of a network of services in Western Ohio that have a mission of helping people help themselves.
Homefull assists over 600 people each day in an effort to reduce and prevent homelessness. They educate people in the shelter system about job searching, home searching, employability, and life skills. Case managers work one-on-one with people to find suitable housing and set goals for obtaining housing as quickly as possible. Resources for leaseholder education and legal aid referrals are also available. Along with assisting people who are homeless, Homefull offers a community transition program for adults who are re-entering society after being incarcerated.
By partnering with other organizations in the Miami Valley, Homefull is able to connect people to a range of helpful resources in the community. Homefull works closely with organizations that provide food, shelter, housing programs, and assistance for people with disabilities and mental illness.
Shelters are wonderful for providing food, clothing, and safety, but they are only a transitional step in a person’s journey toward a better future. Organizations such as Homefull are a vital resource for people who are unsure how to go about finding a permanent home and employment. Additionally, being able to keep homes and jobs is just as important as securing them in the first place. Homefull gives people the skills necessary to maintain homes and jobs so that they won’t need to go back to shelters.
Sea Shepherd, established in 1977, helps conserve marine life by fighting the destruction of species and habitats in the world’s oceans. Uncharted territory and international waters make it easy to get away with irresponsible behavior, and the vastness of the oceans can make it unclear to determine which parties are responsible for acts of destruction. Sea Shepherd makes it their mission to investigate and confront illegal activities in the oceans. They also create and implement measures that contribute to the sustainability of marine-related activities.
Sea Shepherd has several campaigns that target different aspects of ocean conservation:
Operation Virus Hunter
Operation Clean Waves
These are only five of about a dozen campaigns that Sea Shepherd runs. Combating and raising awareness about various issues regarding marine conservation makes it easier for countries, corporations, and individuals to make change. Taking action to protect the world’s oceans now is essential to ensure their survival for the future.
Every student should feel valued and respected at school regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. GLSEN, which stands for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, aims to create an inclusive environment in schools for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) students. GLSEN was founded in 1990 by a small group of teachers who wanted to put an end to LGBTQ students being bullied and discriminated against.
While GLSEN stands for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, their efforts impact students at any point along the LGBTQ and gender identity spectrums. Teachers, peers, and school administration all play a role in allowing students to feel respected and accepted for who they are. Therefore, school policies must reflect inclusion for all students.
GLSEN advocates for LGBTQ issues in Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, and local school districts. They ensure that inclusive safe school policies are considered, passed, and implemented in order to end bullying and harassment for LGBTQ students. On the federal level, GLSEN has built support for legislation such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. They also partner with several national education organizations to share their expertise and research-based solutions for creating inclusive schools for all children. Donations go towards advocacy, research, and programs.
When talking about where GLSEN would be 25 years from now, executive director Eliza Byard said “I hope that we’re not needed in the same way, and that all of the things that we’re working for are just inbedded in a way that our schools are supposed to be for any child who walks through those doors.” It’s undeniable that all children should be able to get a good education and feel safe in school no matter where they fall in regards to gender and sexuality. Much progress has been made over the past few decades and hopefully in the near future school policy everywhere will show acceptance for all.
It’s never too soon to take steps to protect the environment, and Greenpeace has been doing that for 40 years and counting. Built on investigating and exposing global environmental problems, Greenpeace is an organization that finds environmentally responsible solutions for a green and peaceful future.
Greenpeace has various campaigns that promote environmental protection across different fronts. Their campaigns include:
Greenpeace also aims to diminish corporate influence that prevents environmental sustainability. One of the biggest threats to the environment is drilling, fracking, and mining fossil fuels. Greenpeace campaigns to keep coal, oil, and gas in the ground and advocates for renewable energy sources. Another huge problem is plastic that ends up in the oceans. Greenpeace urges corporations to find alternatives to single-use plastic. Along with encouraging companies to be environmentally responsible, we as consumers must choose to support companies that adopt eco-friendly measures. Uniting against corporate interests that harm the environment allows us to rebuild a democracy that protects the environment.
Greenpeace is not funded by government or political contributions. Instead, individual contributions are what make their efforts possible. Donations provide the foundation that make Greenpeace able to advocate for earth-saving policies.
Recently, Dayton was named the overdose capital of the United States. A local organization in the Miami Valley called Families of Addicts (FOA) aims to eradicate this label. FOA transforms lives affected by addiction by connecting people to recovery resources. This organization supports individuals seeking and in recovery as well as their families.
To eliminate the stigma around addiction, FOA holds outreach events such as the annual Rally 4 Recovery in Dayton. They also hold weekly meetings in several nearby counties. Creating an environment of compassion and understanding about addiction is one of their main priorities. People affected by addiction are encouraged to share their stories in order to show that recovery is possible. In 2017, FOA reported:
FOA acts as a liaison between individuals and recovery resources, especially when individuals do not have the ability to help themselves. People faced with addiction and their families are welcome to attend FOA’s weekly meetings which provide methods for obtaining and sustaining recovery. They also provide opportunities for individuals who are seeking or going through recovery to form connections with one another.
The cost of each weekly meeting is $3 per person and donations to FOA help cover this cost. Donations also go towards providing phone support, resource referrals, education, and advocacy.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is an organization rooted in health, nutrition, and ethical research practices. One of their biggest campaigns is the National School Lunch Reform, which encourages schools to offer a variety of healthy food for students.
School lunch food typically contains processed meat and dairy items that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Eating a diet of primarily processed foods and insufficient fruits and vegetables is linked to poor health outcomes, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The National School Lunch Reform promotes students’ current and long-term health by encouraging schools to offer nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes. This program also educates school administrators, food service workers, parents, and students about food choices that promote optimal health.
Many students are unable to eat certain foods due to either health reasons or preference. For example, lactose intolerance and dairy allergies prevent students from eating anything containing milk. Additionally, many students chose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for ethical, environmental, religious, and/or health reasons. Therefore, schools must cater to these dietary needs.
In order to help schools provide healthy food options, the PCRM works to increase funding and resources for school kitchen equipment and infrastructure. They also provide resources such as free recipe guides and webinars. Past webinar topics include heart health and shrinking the carbon and water footprint of school food.
Donations to the PCRM go towards promoting higher standards for nutrition policies, health education, and cruelty-free lab research.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) aims to prevent suicide through education, research, advocacy, and loss support. Founded in 1987, AFSP began as a research organization and research continues to be at the forefront of their organization. AFSP incorporates research results into evidence-based programs to prevent suicide.
One of AFSP’s main goals is to get people in tune with their mental health so that they can recognize when they are struggling and know how to seek help. Common ways to seek help are through therapists, school counselors, mental health hotlines, friends, and family. AFSP encourages schools to promote how and where students can get support. However, even when students are aware of the resources available to them, some may be hesitant to reach out due to stigma about mental health issues. Therefore, AFSP works to change attitudes about help-seeking so that people feel more empowered to take care of their mental health.
Educators play a crucial role in suicide prevention because they may be able to detect changes in students’ mental health. AFSP develops training programs that show teachers how and when to intervene and refer students to counselors. These programs also help schools mindfully respond to suicide deaths, such as by determining the best way to communicate the crisis and sourcing additional counsellors and support resources.
Advocacy at both the state and federal levels is another important aspect of AFSP. Some of their victories include mandatory suicide prevention programs for schools and the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which makes it easier for Americans to access mental health treatment services.
Donations to AFSP go towards funding their research programs as well as continuing education and advocacy about suicide prevention and mental health. By raising awareness about this issue and making resources available, more people can find the help they need.
All over the world, women are subject to domestic violence, human trafficking, forced marriage, and other forms of abuse. Making the decision to escape these forms of violence is risky because there is no guarantee that safety will be found.
Tahirih Justice Center helps immigrant women in the U.S. who have decided to flee violence from other countries or who are forcefully brought to the U.S. through human trafficking. This organization provides these women with legal and social services that lead them towards a life free from abuse. Tahirih Justice Center states that:
“We protect immigrant women and girls who live in the United States and have a legitimate claim to legal status under U.S. immigration law as survivors of gender-based violence.”
Tahirih assures that the women they serve are aware of their rights under U.S. law, which facilitates them getting on the right path towards living in safety. Women are also given legal advice and/or full-scale legal representation.
During the period of uncertainty when their cases are being decided in court, Tahirih offers women a range of social services that help maintain their well-being. These services include access to food pantries, emergency shelters and housing, medical services, and employment assistance. Along with ensuring that clients’ physical safety is under control, they also support clients’ mental and emotional health by providing counseling.
Money donated to Tahirih Justice Center goes towards expanding their network of legal advocates to seek justice for women fleeing violence. Additionally, donations give Tahirih the resources to train legal professionals and doctors about clients’ unique situations. Often, this training includes working through language barriers and cultural differences so that clients can be understood and comfortable enough to open up about their hardship. Tahirih also focuses on evoking community awareness so that people know how to help women who are faced with this situation.
To kick off the first month of Empowered Mathematics being in business, I’ve chosen the charity for June 2018 to be something that affects the world as a whole. As someone who loves nature and cares deeply about environmental issues, I have designated Plastic Oceans as the first charity of the month.
This organization encourages people to rethink how often they use single-use plastic since these products cause a massive pollution of Earth's water sources. As stated on their website:
"The problem of plastic pollution is growing exponentially every year; we are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic, half of this is designed for single use, and each year around 8 million tons of it ends up in our oceans."
Plastic Oceans raises awareness about plastic pollution and encourages people to take the initiative to stop the exponentially increasing amount of waste going into our oceans and landfills. In addition to providing information and resources on their website, they filmed a documentary titled A Plastic Ocean which addresses these issues. Donations to this organization go towards producing new film and other digital media, providing translated versions of these resources, and educating the public about plastic pollution. Plastic Oceans has also created an entrepreneurship program to bring together individuals who strive to develop innovations, work with corporations, and influence others to solve this problem.
One way that we as individuals can combat plastic pollution is to avoid single-use plastic and other "disposable" items. Here are some strategies that I personally use:
When we buy things, we want the product – not the packaging. With items like shampoo bottles, plastic soap dispensers, and deodorant sticks, we discard or recycle the containers as soon as the product runs out. Other items such as plastic grocery bags, straws, and single-use cups are only used for a few minutes before they’re headed to the landfill. Why waste these unnecessary materials when all we want is the product itself?
Much of this wasteful packaging is made for the sake of convenience, but it can be hard to see how much society's desire for convenience is damaging the environment. It would be beneficial if individuals introduced methods into their daily routine to cut back on waste, even if it seems a little inconvenient at first. Imagine how many materials can be saved each year by following these steps every day!