Participants at the 2016 Charleston NEDA Walk at Hampton Park smile for the camera! The event is held annually to raise awareness about the seriousness of eating disorders, to raise funds to support those affected by the deadliest mental illness, and to build a supportive, local community of hope and recovery. The 2017 NEDA Walk will take place on Saturday, Oct. 14.

DI resident on eating disorders: ‘It’s not a lifestyle’

NEDA to host walk to raise awareness about the reality of eating disorders
When imagining someone who is struggling with a mental illness, because of popular television shows and other media, what comes to mind is a person with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or something more serious like schizophrenia. In reality, the most dangerous and fatal of all mental illnesses are eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).
Ten million men and 20 million women develop an eating disorder at some point in their lives, the NEDA website states. Daniel Island resident Marie Delcioppo, the newly-appointed president of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association and a NEDA volunteer, is one of the many to have faced an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
Delcioppo, who is a successful and community-involved 41-year-old woman, explained that she was bulimic for 10 years before seeking help at the Renfrew Center in Miami, Florida.
“That was my last ditch effort,” she said. “Either that was going to work or nothing was going to work. I stayed there for about a year for treatment, meals and everything. What you realize is just how common of a problem eating disorders are and also how misunderstood they are. Eating disorders are the deadliest of all mental illnesses. That’s the thing to remember—an eating disorder is a mental illness. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s not something that you wake up one morning and think, ‘this is a nifty idea of how I’m going to lose weight.’”
Because of the unrealistic societal standards that exist in America and around the world today, finding a line between being thin and being healthy can sometimes be challenging, Delcioppo continued. And eating disorders do not discriminate. 
“It doesn’t touch any particular group more than others,” said Delcioppo. “You see it regardless of age. Certainly, in the year that I spent at Renfrew, it was all ages, socioeconomic status, education levels, all different shapes and sizes. Somebody does not need to be emaciated like what we think an eating disorder should ‘look like.’ It doesn’t look like anything in particular. I try to get people to move beyond judging based on how somebody looks.”
Educating others about eating disorders and wanting to raise awareness about the misperceptions are two of the many reasons that Delcioppo and other NEDA volunteers take part in the organization, she explained.
Many who struggle with eating disorders often do not acknowledge the fact that they have a problem or seek help because of the stigma surrounding mental illness that exists in the United States. NEDA offers a free resource for information and further aid for those who seek it.
“One of the things that NEDA really likes to focus on is that recovery is possible,” said Delcioppo. “This is not how you are destined to live. You can get out the other side. That’s kind of the awareness and understanding of why I decided to work with NEDA—is to help understand what an eating disorder is and to break down this taboo around it or this mentality of ‘whatever you have to do to be thin.’ I want to really show what it is. It causes lifelong, permanent damage to a person, if gone to a certain point. You will have residual health effects. The suicide rate and dying from ramifications of an eating disorder is astronomical. That’s really what we’re trying to focus on.”
One of the main events that NEDA hosts is the NEDA Walk, which takes place in over 70 locations around the country, including one in Charleston on Saturday, Oct. 14.
This year is the second year that the walk has taken place in Charleston and Delcioppo assured it’s going to be an entertaining one. Best-selling author and singer/songwriter Jenni Schaefer is just one of the six guest speakers for the event.
The walk is open to all, even your furry friends. To register, either as an individual or as a team, visit Registration is $25 per person and another $5 for a pet.
“It should just be a nice relaxing morning,” said Delcioppo. “A lot of times in the treatment of eating disorders, you’re placed on exercise restriction, so we want something that is very inclusive for anybody. We don’t care about your age or your ability, so however somebody wants to participate, we want it to be accessible for them.”
Funds raised through the walk help all NEDA programs, including legislation and advocacy in Washington, D.C; support groups and educational resources; and a 1-800 help line for those who are struggling. To reach the NEDA helpline, contact (800) 931-2237. Helpline volunteers are trained to aid in finding information and support for all who call in.


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