Eating Disorders Explained

Family based treatment, often called the “Maudsley Method”, is a newer recovery protocol showing evidence based (or scientifically proven) effectiveness in assisting sufferers with achieving recovery progress. This reader and her mom are smart to investigate other alternatives if what they have tried previously has not yielded satisfactory results!

Q.How do I deal with feeling like my life is too screwed up an I have wasted so many years and it is too late? More than one college kicked me out, I refuse to go inpatient, I am more than XX pounds from my goal weight. My mom wants to try Maudsley? What do you think of it? How do I get past this and on with my life? MOST IMPORTANTLY, how do I deal with body image, especially the “refeeding spare tire”? Whenever I get out of a treatment center, I am unable to keep the weight on because I am unable to tolerate those initial months before the body redistributes. Thank you so much.

A. In my own experience, the most common reason why individuals who come out of refeeding treatment are unable to sustain the weight stabilization is because they don’t have anything to replace a fixation on food and weight with yet – in other words, the coping skills and sense of self are not present strongly enough to edge out the desire to pursue “thinner”.  And since insurance often won’t cover the length and intensity of treatment needed to make this inner shift, people who seek recovery often feel like yo-yo’s on a string – up one minute, down the next, making progress one minute, richocheting backwards the next. It’s enough to make you lose what little self-respect you once had! Read the rest of this entry »

This reader is struggling with the “split mind” that an eating disorder produces – she literally describes how one-half of her wants recovery and the other half of her appears to want to hang on to the very thing that is killing her – her eating disorder. What she needs is support – lots of it, and fast.

Q.I just received your book and I was wondering if you can help me.  I am 34 years old and I have had anorexia since 12.  I have had body image issues since I was four.  I have been hospitalized so many times I have lost count.  I am struggling .  I have no insurance and I am not working.  My weight is very low.  A part of me wants to get better, but I have this one thought that eats at me-like if I gain weight and eat a normal amount of food like a normal sized person – what if I decide one day that I regret getting my body back.  Did you ever feel like this?  I did get to a normal weight once but I was in such turmoil that I hated the way my body turned out.  I was so uncomfortable.  So I feel if I get there again I’ll experience that same situation.  I have a very bad habit of chewing and spitting food.  I fear stopping.  So I am scared to eat-how big will I get?  I’m scared.  How do I get the spark to just take the plunge and eat?  I am sorry-Please help.  I am so desperate.

A. There is no easy answer to your question, although I truly empathize with your situation. Read the rest of this entry »

This writer is concerned about how a diagnosis of anorexia prior to puberty may affect growth and maturation. While this is a question that can only be answered by the professional medical treatment team, I do share some thoughts that I hope may be helpful to her as well.

Q: When a woman becomes anorexic in prepubescence, does it affect her acquiring a ‘womanly figure’?

A: Hi – believe it or not, this is not an easy question to answer, because the way an eating disorder manifests in each victim’s life is as unique as s/he is. Our bodies respond in different ways to our disease, and to treatment.

It is also vital for us to remember that some women who suffer from anorexia do not necessarily ‘look’ anorexic – they may never lose their curves, or, as you say, ‘womanly figure’, even while they are starving to death. Other women may look quite thin but they do not suffer from anorexia or any eating disorder at all. It is very risky to use a female’s outer appearance to determine whether anorexia is the source of the trouble, or whether recovery has in fact been achieved. Read the rest of this entry »

I have always benefited personally from seeing my recovery process as similar to aligning the four wheels of my car. There is the wheel of the body, the wheel of the mind, the wheel of the heart, and the wheel of the spirit, or inner me. Some enjoy calling this “spirituality”, others prefer “the soul”, and still others have terminology that reflects their particular religious upbringing and beliefs. Semantics aside, I have witnessed time and again how healing and powerful it can be when an individual in recovery becomes willing to confront their own personal sensing of what connects us all together. This brave writer is embarking upon a journey that will undoubtably yield many powerful insights in days and years to come!

Q:In what ways are people grasping some sort of spirituality to help them through the tough times? I know for me I’m trying to really hang on to yoga in order to get me through. My dad is a recovering alcoholic and he grabbed onto christianity. Is this generally an effective way of coping?

A: I can only share from my personal experience, but for me, there are four essential elements to lasting recovery – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Sometimes we make a lot of progress in one area, say, in restoring our physical health, but we don’t feel so strong emotionally because we are getting used to the feeling of having better nutrition and allowing our body to assume its healthiest weight, shape, and size. Other times, we may feel very connected on the inside – to our deepest hopes, dreams, and goals, but we don’t feel comfortable in our physical skin. And there is the continual ebb and flow as we move closer and closer to full recovery on all four levels. Read the rest of this entry »

This writer really does ask the essential question – how long will it take for me to recover??? Well, just like there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan that works for each person, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. In fact, answering this question for ourselves is a vital part of our recovery process! Read on for more of my thoughts – and hugs to this reader for grappling with the big question every recovering person seeks an answer to!

Q: How long did it take for you to fully recover?

A: Well, that really depends on how you define ‘fully’. I am still in recovery. I am still recovering. Somewhere along the way, my perception of “recovery” transitioned away from “eating disordered thoughts and behaviors” and towards “finding better ways to interact with my life as it is”, but that is just the way I look at it.

Which means that the only real helpful answer I have ever found to give for this particular question is – the answer to that question depends on how you personally define “recovery”! Some of us find more comfort in using the word “recovered”, because to them that signifies the end of one thing and the beginning of another. Others of us find more comfort in using the words “in recovery” because they, like me, see recovery as a process of continual evolution.

In other words, the answer to this question can be found somewhere between semantics and your own innermost hopes and dreams.

But I suspect you may have asked the question in a more practical sense, so I will also answer your question in a more literal translation, as “How long did it take you before you were able to live largely free of your former eating disordered thoughts and coping skills?” Read the rest of this entry »

Transitions from different levels of care – up or down – can be amongst the most perilous times in our recovery journey. This reader is so smart to plan ahead! Hopefully some of these thoughts will help her to have an easier time of it when she does return home.

Q: Do you have any advice on how to transition appropriately from intensive treatment back to living life, working full-time, etc.?

A: I do have several thoughts on this issue – in times of transition, say from intensive care to aftercare, we are once again vulnerable to the effects of sudden change. One of the most powerful connections that can be made during intensive treatment is the connection we make with others who are there at the same time, going through the same or similar recovery experiences. So to leave treatment, and our new community, can provoke feelings of extreme abandonment, anxiety, fear, doubt, and loneliness. And this sudden change can trigger an unwanted return to the ED.

This is why it is SO important to begin thinking of how we will transition out of treatment before we even GO to treatment. It is critical to have a plan for how we will connect with caring others once we are home again. Can we attend or start a support group? Are there caring mentors close by who would be willing to talk with us, work with us, and walk beside us? (NOTE: for more on this see MentorCONNECT) Read the rest of this entry »

This reader gets right to the heart of the matter – eating disorders recovery treatment is expensive, and there are still far too few resources for those who need care and cannot afford it! Here are some ideas to try if you find yourself in a similar boat to this writer.

Q: I was wondering for students who do not have insurance, is there a support system where someone with an eating disorder can find a support group or therapist? For example, if there is someone who has had treatment and has been able to work, go to school , keep a house but has no insurance but would like somewhere to go for support, where would they go to find an experienced therapist who has experience with eating disorders or a group? I greatly appreciate all your time and efforts with this question.

A: Great question! There are so many who find themselves in this situation, and still too little in the way of knowledge and resources for how to cope.

I have several recommendations: Read the rest of this entry »

These days, in the era of what one colleague calls “professional anorexics” and I often call “recovery celebrities”, it is refreshing in a way to receive this reader’s innocent question. As I explain in my response below, I believe that when the motivations are connected to desiring a deeper level of recovery progress, it can be essential to find a safe outlet to share our stories with others. After we recover, it can be healing and empowering to be able to help someone else out of gratitude for the help that we received during our own journey. But it is not for everyone, and not for all the time. I am glad to have the chance to address such an important question.

Q:How can you be so courageous and talk to the public about your eating disorder?

A: I had a hard time at first. I would write songs about my recovery and ‘talk’ that way, but I wasn’t willing to open up and share my story because I was afraid I would be rejected, pitied, or shamed for doing so. But then I met a girl who had gone to inpatient treatment and she was so open about sharing her story, and I saw how much strength it gave her to own what she had been through and honor her own courage by sharing what she had learned with others. She was the one who convinced me to start speaking in public about my recovery. The biggest gift “going public” with my story has given me is newfound self-respect. I honor myself for being willing to do the incredibly hard work to recover, and I remind myself that I am worth recovering for! I also remember how alone I felt when I was sick and had no one to talk to. I never want anyone to feel that alone – EVER! Read the rest of this entry »

Wow – talk about a proactive reader! Still fresh from receiving an accurate diagnosis, she has already gone shopping for a book about recovery and is reaching out for support! Way to go!

Q:Hey Shannon! I just started reading your book today.. It’s amazing and very helpful so far. I was recently diagnosed with bulimia and i’m only 15 years old. I am scared for my life and I feel like I have no one to turn to for advice or help. Do you have any ideas for what I could do? I go to therapy and group therapy, but it doesn’t really help. Thanks!

A: I am so glad you are finding that Beating Ana is helpful to you in your recovery work. My first suggestion would be, that if you haven’t already, you can join some of the support groups on MentorCONNECT and begin working with one of our mentors and find support that way. That is what the community was created to do – offer support!

You should also make sure that you do the following: Read the rest of this entry »

This reader is brave enough to realize that eating disorders are deadly, and to reach out for advice and support. May we all be so brave!

Q: I am not doing well with managing my eating disorder, and I need help. What do I do, and how???? How did you do it?? Please help. Thank you.

A: Recovery is never an easy, painless, or quick process. I wish it was. I can hear the urgency coming through your words, and my empathy and compassion is with you as you begin the journey towards freedom from your eating disorder.

The first thing I want you to know is that recovery IS possible – for anyone who wants recovery badly enough, and is willing to do the hard work it requires, then you, too, can achieve full recovery as I have done! Read the rest of this entry »