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Eating Disorder Awareness Week Interview 2: Tasmia Arfin

Megan: Why is eating disorder awareness important?

Tasmia: I'm personally affected by eating disorders. In the past, I did struggle with disordered eating and this obsession with weight loss. I do understand that has to do with the diet industry, but also because of a lack of education and awareness of it. So I think it's really important that youth actually begin to understand what resources are available and who is available to talk. Joining support groups and just like speaking out about eating disorders, in general, helps so many people because when others see that people like them are able to talk about what they go through or even just share any support, that makes the biggest difference and impact on a person's life. So advocating for eating disorders and resources that people can use make a really big impact in just putting the first step forward into initiating change.

Megan: I definitely agree. I feel like awareness and advocacy is so many people's first step into actually creating policy change. That's exactly what we're trying to do here at STRIPED. So I think that's really good. But on that note, how did you actually first get involved with the work of STRIPED and what do you do in STRIPED?

Tasmia: I joined STRIPED a couple of years ago, in my freshman year of high school. Now I'm a senior, so it's been quite a journey. I've been struggling with eating disorders my whole life. So when I saw that there was an actual organization that was working with youth to enact this change, I thought that it was time to get out of my bubble and try something. At first, I was actually quite cynical of it. I was unsure if a youth like me, someone who's so young, can actually make an impact. But when I worked with STRIPED as a Youth Corps member, we began with youth sign-on letters, doing meetings with Congressmen, and just meeting together every Tuesday at 3:30... But it just made such a big difference because slowly more and more members joined from different states, different countries. And I start to see the connections that we're actually making these big impacts that people may not see right now on the surface, but with each meeting, with each testimony we do, everything started to add up.

And even though sometimes we would pass the state legislature, we wouldn't always have the bill confirmed. Like, for example, I'm from New York, so Kathy Hochul did veto the bill and that was like really sad to hear. But the journey that we went through to get to that point was such a big difference because we can always start over again and we started that first step. So that made a really big impact on me.

Megan: Yeah, definitely. I'm more like helping with the Massachusetts side and they've had bills thrown out multiple times, especially with COVID. So I completely understand- but it is really, truly a great process. On that note, how can people support STRIPED?

Tasmia: I think the biggest thing we can do right now is outreach. It would help a lot for youth members to share with their families, like sign-on letters or any of these testimonies that we're doing. If you want to repost our stories, go on social media. Journalism is also a big thing now. Journalistic articles, op-eds, articles, feature articles, and anything to get our story out helps so much since a lot of people now turn to technology to get their news and information. And that's a very fast way for our stories to reach out to mass people. So just having the people support us through social media, through journalism, or even through just sign on letters, I think that will add up and just help us along the way.

Megan: Yeah, 100%.And that kind of links back to the fact that advocacy and awareness are kind of first steps in creating any legislative change in the first place.

Tasmia: Exactly.

Megan: What is something that the public doesn't know about eating disorders that you think they should know?

Tasmia: I think the biggest misconception with eating disorders, it's all about weight loss or just your body image in general. That's such a big component to it and affects everyone, but it also stems from so many socio-economic factors such as food insecurity, mental health, your environment, are you in a toxic household abuse, are you struggling with school? Or in general, you can just develop an eating disorder due to anything that's going on in your life.

And the thing with a lot of diet industry companies, big pharmaceutical companies, is they do target these teens and adolescents knowing that struggle with these eating disorders. And they know how severe it goes to- the point where we're turning to diet pills or muscle-building supplements, but this is how they make their profit. But when the public is not aware of the different components of factors that go with eating disorders, that's where a danger becomes her society. And that's why I believe STRIPED is so important because we're bringing that story out there and just starting with that stuff is, like, really helpful. There's this testimony that I'm working on right now for a hearing in Maryland- just me typing up my story for a testimony that will help the process is so impactful because we don't see these little steps add up. But having that emotional impact, having youth stories along with the Congress work and the legislation builds that we're working on, I think having the statistics and the evidence and the science behind eating disorders but also having the youth stories, like, together, those really make the story come out.

Megan: Do you think other people should sharetheir own stories with eating disorders toaid efforts into eating awareness? And how else can they support Ed awareness?

Tasmia: I think that's a difficult question because eating disorders are very personal and that's why it's so impactful. I believe 100% it's up to the person whether they want to share this story or not. But if people are comfortable with sharing their stories, I think it 100% helps us to have more and more people of different backgrounds, ages, and environments, speak about a similar story, and e can all see how different people are impacted by the same danger.

Megan: Lastly, in one sentence, can you kind of summarize how dire you think the current Ed landscape is?

Tasmia: It is a public health crisis, but also just a mental health crisis in general. We need help for our youth as soon as possible and whatever work we can do to help them.Starting from advocacy legislation like just passing these laws and getting that awareness out there is going to help everyone so much.

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