National Eating Disorders Association
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Ashtyn

For a holiday that surrounds itself around a feast, it can get pretty overwhelming. But I know that I can get up, take a breather, call my therapist or dietician and leave a message, or do some other skill that I’ve learned during my journey towards recovery.  This year will be one of the first holiday seasons in a long time where I - Ashtyn- am at the table, around the Christmas tree, singing at Church…and not my eating disorder. There will be no compensating and “saving up” for the feast; there will be no forced eating.

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Family members play an integral role in supporting their love one's recovery. During the Friends & Family Kick-Off Dinner to open the NEDA Conference last week in San Antonio, TX, this idea was thoroughly explored through a "Friends & Family" panel discussion.

The event was emceed Thomas P. Britton, DrPH, LPC, LCAS, ACS, CCS  from CRC Health Group and the panel was moderated by NEDA Ambassador and author, Jenni Schaefer, and featured individuals in support and treatment roles:

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This week, Time published an online article entitled in its “Ideas” section, “My Mother Told Me I Was Fat, and It Was the Best Thing Ever” in which author Charlotte Alter recounts a conversation her mom had with her at the age of twelve about losing weight.

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WordPress has a number of interesting features for bloggers who use its platform.  One of them is the ability to track how many people visit your blog every day and what posts they look at.  Recently, I noticed that an entry I re-posted on Facebook the other day, “A Little Girl, A BIG Red Balloon And A Radiant Reminder of What Being ‘Beautiful’ Is Really All About” , continues to attract lots of attention even though I first posted it more than 3 months ago, which is what prompted me to re-read it myself late Wednesday afternoon.  I s

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EATING DISORDERS ARE FAMILY DISORDERS

Eating disorders are family disorders. Keynote speaker at this year’s National Eating Disorders Association Conference, Dr Thomas Insel, spoke from the heart.

The Federal government shutdown meant he could not speak as director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) so Dr Insel, the father of two children born in the late 1970s, spoke as a parent.

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A few months ago, my 19-year old happy, healthy, anorexia-free son handed me a “thank you” card. Inside, Ben had written that his eating disorder had been “a struggle fought together not against each other”. He wrote that I was “a shining example to the world that love can overcome anything” and that “we would not be here today in such a state of contentment” if it had not been for my “sheer strength of willpower and motherly love”. Finally he thanked me “for being the one that never gave up”.

Well, the floodgates opened and I wept buckets!

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I was five when a relative explained to me how babies were made. If a couple prayed about it, she said, presto! The proverbial bun in the oven. Throughout the rest of kindergarten, I feared that God would confuse any infant related thought I had with prayer and insert a wee one in me. For years, my “privates” were areas “down there” no one spoke of, and sexuality was an enigmatic, hush-hush topic reserved for moms and dads. Not until taking a college sexuality course in my early twenties did I truly grasp the details of my sexual anatomy and just how valuable such understanding is.

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Today, I would recognize the signs: the 11 year old girl in the sixth grade class spending her entire recess and lunch-break running in the schoolyard and doing circuits in the gym; every day, exercising more; the same girl continuing to get top marks with her school work, always punctual, eager to please, but becoming withdrawn; her bubbly personality disappearing; she is not eating her lunch – she offers it to her playmates. She keeps only the apple and eats this very, very slowly, one nibble at a time.

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“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”  — Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

Since I began speaking publicly about my personal eating disorder battle, I’ve encountered many individuals enduring similar challenges. One of the first was a man whose 22-year-old daughter, Katherine, was severely ill with anorexia. “She won’t eat,” he wrote me in an email. “Her mother and I feel helpless.”

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Itʼs been a year since my sister Anne succumbed to the anorexia that plagued her life, off and on for nearly 25 years. Iʼve learned a lot about her illness and why she suffered from it for so long. I share my story to reach out to others who have a loved one struggling, or may be concerned about someone in their life, to encourage them to become as educated as possible and be an advocate for awareness about the seriousness of these potentially life-threatening illnesses.

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