Part II - The Alliance of Eating Disorder Awareness: Recovery

I’ve found Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015 to be inspirational and thought provoking. There are so many organisations working out there and many individuals like myself, who try to do their bit.

Meeting two such individuals, Johanna Kandel and Sharon Glynn from the Alliance of Eating Disorder Awareness recently helped ME.  I often feel like I’m shouting in the wind, that my lone efforts are, well, not as effective as larger groups. But Sharon and Johanna made me realise once more the importance of all of our efforts.

I always say it’s a team effort. And I guess I’m part of that team.

An essential part of the Alliance’s team is Sharon, their Director of Programming. Creating and presenting information to schools as well as healthcare professional and treatment facilities, working on the Alliance’s Treatment Referral Guides (great sources), fundraising and co-ordinating takes not just energy – but dedication and passion.

For example, Sharon explained that young men and women need presentations which are sensitive to potential ‘triggering’. As I well know – it’s a minefield. You need a fine balance between educating and making matters worse.

This balance influences their Support Groups, both in-house and in the community. Johanna told me how careful they are to differentiate between support, which they offer, and therapy – which they do not. Co-ed and ‘men only’ groups have begun, as more men seek help.(She has had some interesting reactions when speaking to fraternity groups about their body image issues…)

As we know eating disorders do not discriminate. Older women make up the fastest growing eating disorders group; the Alliance has women aged 65+ who frequent their support groups. Some are ‘new’ to eating disorders, some not.  Johanna told me this increase can be explained as a response to empty nest, divorces, menopause, bereavement –  and yes, media pressure. With pressure on older women not to look (anything) like their age it can’t be a surprise that media pressure is making an already bad situation worse.

I’m so glad that Facebook,etc,wasn’t around when I was growing up in the States.

Body image has always been fragile but now there is nowhere to hide.

Life Beyond YOur Eating Disorder 3Poor body image is only one factor that can help trigger eating disorders in vulnerable people. Speaking personally about her 10 year struggle with a variety of eating disorders, Johanna discussed the stigma attached to diagnoses, how parents either don’t recognise or will not acknowledge the possibility of an eating disorder. Her 2010 book, Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder offers hope, and reflects the philosophy of the Alliance she founded 15 years ago.

Recovery is possible. Johanna considers herself recovered, not in recovery. Crucial semantics amongst “too much” negativity. She told me of doctor’s telling patients “you’ll never be cured”. Hence their mission to:

” provide programs and activities aimed at outreach and education related to health promotion, including all eating disorders, obesity, positive body image, and self-esteem.”

I felt renewed purposed on my own mission to change our culture.  What about you? Do you find it hard? Or is it just me?

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