Monthly Archives: October 2011

Event Review: Beyond Barbie – Caught in a Fun House Mirror

Update: An extended version of this review was published for RVA Magazine. You can access it here.

Last week, my good friend and fellow Junior Board member of the Eating Disorders Coalition Karen Morris took the spotlight in a series of art shows that started in September and will run through November 3. The shows focus on the work of Richmond artist Susan Singer, who has spent the past two years painting nude portraits of all shapes and sizes. Each weekly show has had a different theme, such as body modification, birth stories, surviving domestic/sexual assault, and of course, eating disorders.

Nudes? In an art gallery? Oh my!

I went to support Karen and knew I would enjoy whatever they had put together, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much I appreciated the show. Susan truly has painted a diverse group of women in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and through the paintings, something really incredible happens. So much time is spent critiquing our bodies and identifying supposed “imperfections” that we usually don’t stop to appreciate anything we actually like about our bodies (what a concept!) Put onto canvas, though, the very idea of imperfections vanishes, and we’re left with the stunning and unavoidable reality of the beauty that is the human (and, in this particular case, female) body.

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Defining Recovery?

I’ve gotten a lot of interesting responses to the post about full recovery, and I think it warrants further discussion, if only to highlight some of the insight others have shared. My intent was to write about the potential for full recovery in reaction to what is a louder-every-day voice in the professional and activist community that one cannot ever fully recover (a notion I respectfully but firmly disagree with).  I guess I also started a discussion on what recovery actually IS, because if I’m going to defend the notion that you can fully recover, I guess it’s necessary to explain/define it in contrast to what full recovery supposedly is not.

In doing so, most of the responses had less to do with the idea of fully recovering and more to do with how I defined it. One of the first replies I got on Facebook was also one of my favorites, courtesy of my friend Rachael Stern of the Eating Disorder Activist Network:

“The problem I keep seeing is that recovery and recovered are social constructs, not an essentialist gesture towards something with inherent meaning – thus when we talk about things by a “word” we get into identity politics rather than a conversation about what someone’s every day life is like.”

This and other comments reinforced one rather important thing: recovery is very personal, and will be a little different for everyone, just as the onset of disease isn’t going to be the same in every case.

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EDC Call-In with NBC

A friend of mine who is also on the Eating Disorder’s Coalition Junior Board, Ashley Grizzard (you can check out her blog here), arranged to do a call-in to the local NBC news station. It’s a service that’s pretty well known in the greater Richmond area, Call 12, and people call in for all kinds of things.

They did a segment on Ashley’s history with and recovery from an eating disorder, which led into introducing the special call-in segment. There were four of us total, and we mostly took down emails and sent out a large packet of local resources and general information on eating disorders. You can see the clip (and me awkwardly sitting there, not knowing what to do with myself while on camera!) below:

Group shot of everyone from the call-in.

A lot of the calls we got were from people who didn’t realize we were focusing on eating disorders that night, and a few of the people called in to ask questions about going on diets. But for the people who really did have disordered eating problems, I think it did a lot of good.

One caller that I got hit me kind of hard. After I answered, the very first thing she said was, “Hi… can you be overweight and have an eating disorder?” I’m so involved these days with various advocacy and activist ED stuff that sometimes it’s easy to forget just how little information and how much misinformation is out there and available to the general public.

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Another Successful Lobby Day!

I’m back from DC and wanted to do a quick post about it, though I’ll try to write more on it later. Working with the Eating Disorders Coalition has consistently been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and yesterday was no exception. I think we had some of the best weather in probably two years – we’ve lobbied in intense rain storms and in blistering heat! Yesterday, though, was perfect:

Clear skies over DC.

Fellow lobbyists crossing Capitol Hill to the House of Representatives.

Lobbying can be tiring, exhausting work, but it’s worth it! We dropped in to see Congressman Jim Moran to thank him for his support – he’s already signed on as a co-sponsor of the FREED Act:

Jim Moran takes time out of his busy schedule for a photo with EDC volunteers!

We always have a fair number of first-time lobbyists, and the combined sense of nervousness and excitement is pretty consistent. The idea of going into meetings with strangers to talk about your experience with eating disorders can be very daunting. It’s such a powerful thing, though, to be there with so many other people who understand the issue and are speaking up about it that I think it breeds a sense of confidence that many on arrival weren’t expecting to find in themselves.

That’s because when we all come together and share in our triumph and tragedy, it gets to the heart of the matter. Eating disorders are serious illnesses that make families go bankrupt, ruin lives, and sometimes take lives. We need to take all that raw emotion, hope, and pain contained in each of our stories to the people who are in a place of power to make a real difference – elected officials. Eventually, they’ll have a chance to vote on the FREED Act, and it’s up to us to inform them why it’s so important that they pass the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders.

If you’re reading this and have a story, then I want YOU to join us for future lobby events! Even if you can’t make the trip to DC, there plenty of other ways to get involved. You can support the EDC by donating, or participating in the letter writing campaign.

Alright, one last picture! Two people who really inspire me, Kitty Westin and my dear friend, Kathleen MacDonald:

Kitty Westin, myself, and Kathleen MacDonald at the EDC reception, 10/3/11 (photo credit Jim Knapp)

Do you want to help improve treatment options, research initiatives, education, and preventative action for eating disorders? Then come lobby with us!

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In Defense Of Full Recovery

In the eating disorder world, ‘ED’ usually refers to just that – eating disorders. Sometimes as an abbreviation, sometimes as if naming the disorder ‘Ed’ and personifying it to better understand the way the disease can manipulate people and drives their actions.

Today, though, the ‘ed’ I’m referring to is that which is attached to the word ‘recover’ – as in, recovered. I believe in full recovery. Here’s why.

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