Partners in Change Round-Up: ANAD, FEDUP, and Project HEAL

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Our field is Seeing the Change because of the collective action taken over the last twenty years by many individuals and organizations. In celebration of the organizations that have helped pave the way for eating disorder treatment, research, and advocacy, and who strive to push the field to continue to grow and change for the better, we have gathered some reflections and perspectives from just a few of the many organizations who have played a role:

ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders)

“When ANAD first began 45 years ago very few people even knew what eating disorders were and treatment opportunities were sparse. ANAD brought the voices of those with eating disorders, their family members and, professionals together to create recovery communities, promote awareness and respect for people with eating disorders, and even fight for legislation. Peer support has always been a driving force for ANAD. Today people are more knowledgeable about eating disorders and there are many treatment options available. But there is still a huge need for ANAD’s grassroots peer support services, where people in recovery lead support groups, are mentors, volunteer on our helpline and share the gifts from their lived experience with those who are still working to recover. Today, together with NEDA and other eating disorder organizations, we work together to let the world know that recovery is possible, and that those who have struggled with eating disorders should be honored for their strength. ANAD, NEDA and other eating disorder organizations have worked together for decades to fight back against a society that values disordered eating and diet culture. As ANAD & NEDA try to make the world safer for people with eating disorders, disordered eating, and body image concerns to accept themselves and normalize their eating, we improve life for everyone.” – Maria Rago, PhD, Board President of ANAD

Maria is the board president of ANAD, and clinical director and founder of Rago & Associates. She has extensive experience in individual, marital, and family therapy, eating disorders, supervision, and professional consultation. Maria’s leadership has been important across inpatient, outpatient, and residential settings. In 2012, Maria was awarded ANAD’s Vivian Meehan Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in her service and her commitment to helping people with eating disorders and their loved ones. She helped start some of ANAD’s most memorable programming, such as candlelight vigils and Recovery Night meetings. Maria has been a passionate and outspoken leader on the topics of eating disorders, obesity, and body image, and has spoken across the country and in Europe to help change people’s views and assumptions on those topics. Her book, Shut Up, Skinny Bitches (2010), encourages readers to love food and their bodies.

FEDUP – Fighting Eating Disorders in Underrepresented Populations

“The murder of George Floyd in 2020 served as a catalyst for change in nearly all industries. The eating disorder field’s commitment to DEIB work was certainly strengthened by an explicitly Pro-Black culture shift AND there is a lot more work to be done. Sustained change is not for the weak of heart and is absolutely necessary. My hope is that eating disorder organizations build on their strengths, take regular inventory of their shortcomings, and understand that diversity and inclusion cannot happen without equity. People with non-dominant identities need to be hired at every level of an organization’s structure. Consultation should be sought when applicable and clients need to be listened to. For too long, clients who raise concerns over the quality of their treatment have been deemed ‘non-compliant’ rather than organizations acknowledging that they are demanding clients adhere to treatment protocols built for people who do not share their identities. FEDUP offers training and consultation for eating disorder providers in gender-affirming eating disorder care. We provide direct support resources to trans+ and intersex people with eating disorders. “Our ask is that the eating disorder field continues to engage in critical learning/unlearning not just in their professional lives, but also in their personal lives. How can eating disorder providers administer care if their commitment to DEIB is siloed? Changing hearts and minds requires full commitment, and we hope all eating disorder providers join us in this critical work.” – Scout S., FEDUP Collective

“FEDUP is a collective of trans+, intersex, and gender diverse people who believe eating disorders in marginalized communities are social justice issues. Our mission is to make visible, interrupt, and undermine the disproportionately high incidence of eating disorders in trans and gender diverse individuals through radical community healing, recovery institution reform, research, empowerment, and education.”

Project HEAL

“The eating disorder field has evolved a great deal over the last twenty years. Thinking back to the early 2000s, there were dramatically fewer treatment providers, insurance coverage was even more impossible than it is now (because the Federal Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 had not yet been passed), and the stereotypes of what eating disorders “look” like was even more narrow than today. Some great research has since been conducted (albeit not nearly enough), and we’re beginning to better understand what causes eating disorders, how to treat them, and how eating disorders disproportionately affect people with marginalized identities. It’s so important to look at it with a long-term perspective and see how far we’ve come, because day to day, we at Project HEAL are painfully aware of how far we have to go. As the leading eating disorder nonprofit focused on eliminating barriers to treatment access, we’re inundated with heartbreaking stories how inequitable, discriminating, and inaccessible eating disorder treatment remains in 2022. What buoys us is that change is happening. Infuriatingly slow at times, disjointed at times, and often inadequate – but we are seeing change. We’re grateful to our equity-minded HEALers Circle partners – eating disorder providers across the country who generously donate their care or offer sliding scale rates to those who can’t otherwise access care. We’re grateful to NEDA for helping fund Project HEAL’s Barriers to Treatment Access Study, so that we can finally have a clear picture of all that stands in the way of tens of millions who are ready to heal but unable to access care. And above all, we’re grateful to the individuals who are struggling with eating disorders today – who are rising up and using their voices to change the global conversation about food and body, who are daring to ask for help despite hearing a loud “no” everywhere they turn, and who are coming together despite the often overwhelming feeling of brokenness at both the individual and systemic level. When we think about the many systems that are dysfunctional in this country, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the chasm between what is and what should be. But when Project HEAL thinks about the eating disorder treatment landscape, we see the future. Even on the darkest days, we know that we’re on our way to a world where everyone with an eating disorder will have the opportunities and resources they need to heal. As humans, without an imagination for the future… without a whisper of hope that we might just get the thing we most need, want and deserve… we are lost. So we must diligently nurture our imagination for the future. A future where eating disorders are easily detected, readily understood, and affordably treated. A future where people with eating disorders feel safe and seen. A future where an eating disorder is neither a life sentence nor a death sentence. And if hope feels too hard for you today, please know that there are a lot of people you’ve never met holding and sustaining that hope for you. We’re building that world right now. Hope for accessible and affirming eating disorder healing is not a fantasy – it’s realistic and it’s coming.” – Rebecca Eyre, CEO, Project HEAL

Rebecca Eyre (she/her) is the CEO of Project HEAL, the leading national nonprofit focused on equitable access to eating disorder support. Project HEAL offers direct services to people who are unable to access treatment, providing free treatment, assessments, cash assistance, insurance navigation support, and community education. Rebecca is a licensed mental health therapist who has been treating individuals with eating disorders for over a decade, and she’s a vocal advocate at the intersection of eating disorders and social justice.

These organizations represent a snapshot of those who have contributed to the progress we have made and those helping to shape the future for the field of eating disorders. This #NEDAwareness Week, we recognize progress in this field is not possible without strong leadership from the many changemakers who have paved the way for what is to come. Thank you to those featured here, as well as the many others missing from this page who have played—and continue to play—a critical role.