Category Archives: Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Anorexia in Men on the Rise – Huffington Post Live Interview

Happy Eating Disorder Awareness Week! I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion on Huffington Post Live on eating disorders in men this past Thursday. I’m excited that they chose to highlight this subject during awareness week, and appreciate the thoughtful questions they had for everyone on the segment.

You can watch the full segment below, which includes a young man named Alberto De Leon in Chicago who is currently in recovery from an eating disorder; Margaret Johnson, the editor for HuffPost Women; Amanda Webster, an Australian mother who’s son developed anorexia in childhood; and Dr. Gregory Jantz, an eating disorder specialist in Seattle. You can watch the full video below:

You may notice that the title on the video says, “Manorexia on the Rise.” Well, I don’t care for that term one bit, and I’m happy to report that when I emailed my contact on the production team, they changed it on the main video page and wherever else it was possible. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to edit out of the video stream, but I want to extend my gratitude for the quick response they had in changing it where they could.

I’ve written about my disdain for that term in the past:

If you’ve been keeping up with me on here, you have probably heard me talk about “gender inclusivity.” I believe for ED treatment, research, and prevention to advance, it has to be fully inclusive and not just catered to the majority. I almost slipped through the cracks of the resources available to me during my own recovery because it was all designed for women, and I mourn for other boys and men who find themselves in similar circumstances.

I grimaced at the original title because taking a word like “anorexia” and altering it to reference EDs in men carries the implication that men experience it differently in some way – otherwise, they would just call it anorexia, right? …In short, it by default is not gender inclusive.

It won’t do us any good to take notice of how our recovery culture is feminized if we just turn around and make it gendered in the opposite direction. Eating disorders are, more than anything, a matter of public health concern.

Thanks again to Huffington Post Live for having me, and for responding to my request regarding the segment title so quickly. If more media outlets handled this issue with the same level of care, we’d all be the better for it.

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Quick Updates

Currently Listening: Murder by Death – Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week! Normally I try to have a ton of stuff to post and share, but life has been pretty crazy right now. If I did everything I wanted to do, I’d need about twelve more hours in the day and at least an eight day week!

Which is kind of a salient point for talking about NEDAW. Taking on more than you can handle or have time for can be a recipe for disaster, and I learned a long time ago that sometimes you just gotta let some things go.

Have you heard of NORMAL in Schools? They promote positive body image and eating disorder education  with a special focus on schools and universities. I’m now contributing to their blog about once a month, which means I will occasionally be dividing my writing between this site and theirs. My first post is about one of my favorite topics – gender inclusivity! It’s adapted in part from a seminar paper I worked on last year which discusses the gendering of eating disorder recovery culture:

Maybe you’ve never considered the idea that we have a gendered recovery culture. As a male who suffered from anorexia, though, I know it all too well. To create space and dialogue which is gender-inclusive means we need to examine the reasons that negative body image and eating disorders have historically been associated with women or regarded as a “women’s problem.” Given that it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, this seems a fitting topic. After all, we have a huge recovery culture which has a cursory awareness of eating disorders in males but rarely includes them in a visible way.
-from ‘What the Heck is Gender Inclusivity?

While you’re there, check out other great contributors like Robyn Farrell, Caroline Rothstein, Becky Henry, and Carolin Costyn! I must say, it’s seriously an honor to have my writing appearing alongside so many other awesome voices.

Stay tuned for more updates for NEDAW 2013. What are you doing this week to educate and advocate for eating disorders? For yourself?

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Review: Miss Representation

I finally got to see Miss Representation last night, courtesy of a local event for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Released in late 2011, it’s a film exploring the role of women in our society and what we can do to change the disparities that exist.

It’s easy to hear about such a film and say, “But so much progress has been made!” While this is true, and yes, progress continue to be made, it’s slowed down more than you think. I’m not always one to tout statistics, but some of the figures they’ve researched are quite startling. For example:

  • The average teenager consumes roughly 10 hours, 45 minutes of media per day, between television, movies, the internet, and music, the majority of which is TV watching.
  • Of that media consumed, women own less than 6% of TV stations and roughly 6% of radio stations. The board members of the biggest media companies (such as Viacom, Time Warner, etc) systematically outnumber women by more than 2-1, so most of the media being produced and approved is from rich men.
  • Women make up 51% of our population at present, but are only 17% of Congress (even I was surprised by how low that number is).

Mad yet? You should be.

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Eyes Open, Mouth Closed

Way back in 2004, I made a big decision. I got out of class one night and drove from the city back to my parents’ house with the intention of telling them I had an eating disorder. It was rather spontaneous, although it had been in the back of my mind for months. Having had inconsistent luck with friends when seeking support, I wanted to try and avoid those same pitfalls when speaking with my family.

I had found an article on a website that seemed perfect – it was something I wished I could make everyone read before they tried to talk about eating disorders. I printed it out and stuck it in my backpack, where it stayed for weeks, just in case I needed it. When I finally got home, I handed the print-out to my mother and asked her to read it and to not say anything until she had.

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 9

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

Part 9 brings us a great post from author Becky Henry, who shared her Top 10 Reasons for Recovery, but first explains it’s origins:

I’m on a mission to improve the lives of all impacted by these most deadly of all mental illnesses.  One life at a time.  I start with the family members who are walking around with their hearts ripped open from the pain they have observed in their loved ones who are being taken over by one of these monsters.

As part of that mission I am doing what I can to help raise funds for research.  The AED and Hope Network 1 Family $1 Drive for Eating Disorders Research idea came to me one morning while meditating.  There are approximately 70 million people worldwide suffering from eating disorders.  They all have at least one person who cares about them.  The idea is that if each of those carers donates $1 to this fund then there will be millions for research scholarships. Here is the website http://www.aedweb.org/Get_Involved.htm when you click on the purple words AED and Hope Network 1 Family $1 Drive for Eating Disorders Research you will be taken  to another page.  On this page put your dollar amount in the box next to the words, “Scholarship Fund” and your donation will add to the others and soon we’ll have some answers. 

In that role of helping the caregivers or carers I often suggest that they make a “Top 10 List” of things that they enjoy doing, that bring them peace and joy.  The purpose is to help them get their oxygen mask on so to speak.  To get their cup filled up so that they are equipped to not only function well themselves but also to be an effective support to their loved one who is so sick.

So today I am sharing my “Top 10 Reasons for Recovery! “

1. There are people who care about you and want you to live.
2. You are special because you are alive.
3. Life in recovery is amazing.
4. It gets better.
5. You have talents and gifts that are unique and the world is waiting for them.
6. Your true self is waiting to be released.
7. Your dog/bird/spider/lizard/cat/pet.
8. Having FUN!
9. Enjoying life and food and yourself.
10. It would make Becky happy to know that Ed lost and YOU won!  Truly.

You can see her full post here.

I don’t have much to add today – all of her points are great! There’s a whole life of experience, opportunity, and happiness waiting to be lived. Please consider donating to Becky’s fundraiser and supporting the important work of the Academy for Eating Disorders.

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Review: The Slender Trap by Lauren Lazar Stern

Given that it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it seems appropriate to be talking about books like The Slender Trap by Art Psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist Lauren Lazar Stern. The Slender Trap is a workbook full of exercises to challenge the reader to think about eating habits and body image in different ways, and could serve as a good companion piece to a treatment program. However, when it comes to resources like this which are more in the “self-help” realm, I caution strongly against trying to rely on a single resource without any guidance from a qualified treatment professional (a sentiment echoed in the book’s introduction).

Lauren Stern offered me a copy to do a write-up with, but first asked me: “Is it OK that it’s geared towards women? It is definitely relevant for men, too, but the writing is directed towards females!” Well, it turns out she was right on both accounts. The topics and ideas in this book are relevant to potentially anyone with an eating disorder, regardless of gender. At the same time, it’s very much a book written and intended for a female audience, which I’ll comment on shortly. I don’t consider my writing to be geared at a particularly male or female audience, so I told her I’d be happy to give my impressions. As far as I’m concerned, anything which promotes and supports recovery is OK with me!

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 8

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

Today’s post comes from writer Benjamin David in the UK (another male contributor – awesome!) Ben writes:

Nothing beautiful has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was paramount to individual circumstance. This illness can plague, tarnish and jade the emotional faculty and instils within sufferers a ubiquitous obsession, infatuation and anxiety that can tarnish almost every element of one’s being. I have spent numerous, mundane hours pensively exploring my mind, recognising my tendencies, frailties and strengths and recognising that despite all the perceived “benefits”…. I wanted freedom. I wanted to be able to have the freedom to make an impartial action, to take an impartial, rational stance. I wanted to be able to sit down without that lingering impulse that is symptomatic of an eating disorder. Tranquillity, peace and serenity cannot be induced with a oscillating and unyielding eating disorder… The road of recovery is a journey of self-discovery. We recognise our values, qualities, desires, strengths and weaknesses. We advance within ourselves, we question the pressures that the inane mass media invoke on us, we question those comments from others about our appearance and we ask ourselves why we deserve freedom. The most striking question that we ask is what it means to be happy and what founds the most impassioned, long lasting and healthy form of happiness?

You can read the full post here.

I really like the inquisitive nature of Ben’s post, because everyone’s experience is going to be different. Before you find the right answers, you must first ask the right questions, and I think we will all have a different question & answer even if we all arrive at the same conclusions. This speaks to the deeply personal nature of recovery – although there is certainly a universality in the experience of an eating disorder (just read the whole blog series from this month, we’ve all hit many of the same themes!), the path that each of us take to recovery is as unique as the individual.

Others can push you along, encourage you, and point you in the right direction, but no one can walk it but you – day by day, meal by meal, one foot in front of the other.

Like this post? Stay up to date by ‘Liking’ my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter or Tumblr, subscribe via email, or just leave me a comment to let me know what you think! 

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 7

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

This post actually went up earlier this month and it got lost in the shuffle. So, better late than never! Today’s featured post comes from another UK-based writer, Sia Jane Loyd. She writes:

The day I chose to eat, was the day I chose to turn my life around. The day I chose to accept my body for what it is, is the day I chose to turn my life around. And the day I chose to let go of any remnants of this illness, is the day I fully recovered. Over the years I have written at length about how I personally define recovered life. I know there are a lot of sufferers who have their own interpretation of recovered, because let’s face it; anything is better than full engulfment in the illness. For me however, there are a number of distinct factors that incorporate being recovered. The obvious for me were weight restoration to a point of health, eating a healthy, balanced and varied diet, with no safe foods or foods I feared. There was then the social integration back into life, the letting go of compulsive and obsessive behaviours, sleeping enough, and finally, the living. A lyric speaks, we might all be alive, but not everyone lives. And that is the key to recovered life; the actual living. To look at me, talk to me, spend your days with me, you would never have thought I had a life threatening disease a number of years ago.

You can read her full post here.

She draws attention to a very important idea – though we may be alive, are we truly living? What does living mean to each of us? I often think of the years I was anorexic as years that were stolen from me. I should have been focusing on school, making friends, and developing relationships. The eating disorder ravaged my life and forced me to place everything else on as low a priority as possible without feeling like a complete failure. I wasn’t failing my classes, but I wasn’t doing well in them. I still saw my friends, but I felt like I was lying to everyone, smiling and assuring them I was OK, not unlike being in an abusive relationship and dreading the return home where things are so different behind closed doors.

It was easy to feel hopeless back then. I remember the first time I went to a support group, I heard people talking about recovery. I’d heard about it, but didn’t really have a good concept of what it consisted of. I almost thought I’d go to the support group, they’d tell me what to do, and I’d do it and get better, not unlike getting a prescription from the doctor for a cold.

I quickly realized that recovery from an eating disorder wasn’t going to be that simple. This could have been a discouraging thought, except for one thing: the people I met there had hope. They had an objectivity and peacefulness in their voices when they would talk about their struggles that was so foreign to me, and I wanted it.

That was my first moment of resuscitation – a glimpse of the life that could be if I committed to recovery with all my heart and mind.

Like this post? Stay up to date by ‘Liking’ my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter or Tumblr, subscribe via email, or just leave me a comment to let me know what you think! 

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 6

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

The posts just keep coming! Today’s post comes from Arielle Lee Bair, who runs a fantastic blog devoted to body image and eating disorder recovery. She starts off with her recovery mantra (Hey, I have one of those!) which speaks for itself:

Recovery is possible.

It’s not a guarantee. It’s a possibility.

It’s not simple. It is difficult and sometimes seems impossible.

It’s not a one-step process. It’s a multi-step process complete with twists and turns and bending roads…and roads you didn’t even know were there.

It’s not the same for everyone.

It’s not always a happy process. It’s not always a sad process.

It IS empowering.

It’s not about pleasing other people. It is not about them.

It’s about YOU.

It’s not about perfection. It IS about emotion. It IS about honesty. It IS about self-discovery and self-affirmation.

It’s not about what you don’t have. It’s about using what you’ve got.

It’s not about hiding. It’s about finding and displaying.

It’s not a quick-fix. It’s a lifelong plan set into motion by truth and nurturing and self-love.

It’s not about external factors or environment. It IS about what’s within.

It is not crazy. It IS real.

Recovery is possible.

…It’s difficult to promote recovery to those struggling with eating disorders when they are constantly being told that the odds are against them. Why bother trying at all? If you are already deemed to be (and doomed to be) a statistic from the start, what’s the point in paying money for treatment/care/counseling or getting support from friends/family/services? Isn’t it all a waste?

The short answer is: NO. Not only is recovery completely possible, it’s also worth every effort. Whether you’re involved with a whole treatment team, simply seeing one therapist, using an alternative support system, or going it alone – recovery is possible, real, and wonderful.

I know this, because I’m a recovered individual myself. It wasn’t always an easy path. I worked hard, used support, created support I didn’t already have, and kept climbing.

You can read the full post here.

Arielle’s post echos some of my sentiments from last time – that recovery is a meal to meal, day to day process that takes time and energy. Sometimes it feels awful, sometimes it’s difficult, and sometimes that’s discouraging. But, as Arielle wrote: not only is recovery possible, it’s worth every effort.

Like this post? Stay up to date by ‘Liking’ my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter or Tumblr, subscribe via email, or just leave me a comment to let me know what you think! 

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 5

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. 

Today’s post comes from Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia, who also started this whole conversation that turned into a whole series across multiple blogs. She also did most of the organizing and recruitment, so big thanks for that! What I love about these kinds of collaborations online is that Anne-Sophie is based in Switzerland! Along with one of our UK-based contributors, we’ve got an international group writing about recovery.

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