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There is life beyond your eating disorder—and you deserve to enjoy every minute of it.
Johanna S. Kandel, founder and executive director of The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, struggled with her eating disorder for ten years before finally getting help. Now fully recovered, Kandel knows firsthand how difficult the healing process can be. Through her work with The Alliance—leading support groups, speaking nationwide and collaborating with professionals in the field—she's...
There is life beyond your eating disorder—and you deserve to enjoy every minute of it.
Johanna S. Kandel, founder and executive director of The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, struggled with her eating disorder for ten years before finally getting help. Now fully recovered, Kandel knows firsthand how difficult the healing process can be. Through her work with The Alliance—leading support groups, speaking nationwide and collaborating with professionals in the field—she's developed a set of practical tools to address the everyday challenges of recovery.
I'm not a psychiatrist; I'm not a psychologist or a therapist or a nutritionist or a doctor of any kind. But I have been an anorexic, an exercise bulimic and a binge eater, and if either you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, I can honestly say that I know what you're going through— maybe not the day-to-day details, but certainly the physical and emotional landscape of your struggle.
Perhaps one of the most important and startling things I learned both during my ten-year battle with an eating disorder and during my recovery is just how much ignorance, misinformation, fear and stigma are still attached to eating disorders even in the midst of the so-called information age. The entire time I was struggling and during my recovery process, I never knew anyone who had successfully recovered from an eating disorder. Truthfully, I didn't know if recovery was even possible. All I knew was that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I decided to seek help.
As I began my own journey to recovery, I vowed to myself that if I were given a second chance at life, I would do everything in my power to dispel some of that darkness and bring eating disorders awareness and information into the light. I strongly believe that no one should have to struggle with or recover from an eating disorder alone.
Eighteen years ago, when I first began to develop my eating disorder, I had no idea how many people had the same terrible disease. I honestly believed I was one of the very few. But here are the facts: according to the Eating Disorders Coalition, today, in the United States alone, approximately 10 million women and 1 million men are struggling with anorexia or bulimia, and 25 million people are battling binge eating disorder. Eating disorders do not discriminate; they affect men and women, young and old, and people of all economic levels. You need to know that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate—estimated to be up to 20 percent—of any psychiatric illness. And only one in ten people with an eating disorder receives any kind of treatment. Those figures make me sad and are, quite simply, unacceptable.
As I began to recover and find my strength, I kept the promise I had made to myself all those years ago, and in late 2000 I founded the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness in my hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida. The Alliance is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent eating disorders and promote positive body image by advancing education and increasing awareness. To this end we do community outreach through talks at schools, we provide educational programs about eating disorders to therapists and other health-care professionals, we lead support groups for people in recovery and we do whatever we can to convince government officials that eating disorders ought to be a health-care priority. For specific information about the Alliance, see page 215. I believe we are fulfilling that mission with each person we are able to reach and inform that he or she is not alone and that recovery is possible.
I know how difficult the recovery process can be, but I want you to know that it is possible to get better—and it's definitely worth it! We all trip and fall along the way. But recovery is not about the trips and falls; it is about what happens after you pick yourself up. It's about getting back on your feet, dusting yourself off and moving forward, because that is how we learn. Realistically, neither life nor recovery is ever going to be a fairy tale, but we do have the power to create our own version of a real happily-ever-after.
Give yourself permission to imagine your life beyond your eating disorder. You will get to be present in every moment; you will get to feel; you will get to laugh. You deserve the freedom to live every aspect of your life.
Eating disorders can be very strong—mine spent years telling me all the things I couldn't, shouldn't or wasn't good enough to do. That negative voice isn't going to go away overnight, but there are many tools available to you as you recover to make that voice smaller and softer, and you need to gather and use every one you possibly can. This book is one of the tools you can use to free yourself from your eating disorder once and for all. As you read it, I hope the voice you hear in your head will be healthy, supportive and powerful enough to drown out whatever doubts you may still have about your ability to recover. I've gathered the tools that I offer here through many years of working with eating disorder practitioners, in support groups, walking next to people on their journeys to recovery and by becoming aware of what has helped others. And I hope that these tools will be as useful to you as they have been to me and to so many others. I'm sure some tools will be more useful to you than others, and that's okay. I wouldn't expect it to be any other way. The idea is simply to be willing to try, and if one thing doesn't work, try something else. Just don't stop trying.
As you read on, you will come upon the stories of many different people from many different walks of life who have recovered from eating disorders, and you will come to see that they have followed many different paths. And just as there is no right or wrong way to recover, there is no right or wrong way to use this book. You might read it from cover to cover, or you might choose to read a few chapters and ponder them for a while. You might even decide not to begin at the beginning but to pick a chapter that looks interesting and read that first. Whatever works for you is the right way.
Lao Tzu, the sixth-century BC Chinese philosopher and father of Taoism, said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Taking that first step toward recovery is really hard, and I admire you so much for taking this first step. You have come so far just by picking up this book. I know that together we can keep moving forward so that you, too, are able to create a new reality for yourself.
Foreword Adrienne Ressler xv
Preface: My Mission 1
Chapter 1 Food Fight 7
Profile in Recovery: Allison's Story 31
Chapter 2 Give Up the Guilt and Reclaim Your Power 35
Genetics-At Least Part of the Answer 36
Make That Information Work for You 40
Nobody's Perfect-Not Even You 41
Change Doesn't Come Easy 46
Chapter 3 Learn to Use All the Crayons in Your Box 49
How Many Crayons Are in Your Box? 50
Getting Comfortable Takes Practice 55
Put In Your Application for Recovery 58
Sinkies and Floaties-What Pulls You Down and What Gets You Through? 60
Don't Fall for the Bait and Switch 62
Chapter 4 Kicking Off the Other Shoe 63
No, the Sky Isn't Purple 66
Knocking Down the Wall 68
Don't Start Out as a Downer 70
And the Real Secret Is 73
Profile in Recovery: Jasmine's Story 75
Chapter 5 From Recovering to Recovered-It's a Process 81
How Long Can You Be Recovering? 82
Each Moment Is a New Opportunity 84
Why Does It Have to Be So Hard? 88
Nothing Is Written in Indelible Ink 90
Remember-You're Still You 92
To Build an Army, You Will Need to Recruit Some Soldiers 94
Your Recovery Affects Others, Too 97
Keep Track of Your Mile Markers So You'll Know When You've Arrived 98
Chapter 6 Beware of Fake Security Blankets 103
Sometimes a Security Blanket Might Not Be a Blanket at All 109
The Danger of Trading One Addiction for Another 111
Never Put All Your Marbles in One Jar 113
Another Way of Looking at It: Diversification of Assets 114
Let Go of the Old to Grab Hold of the New You 116
Profile in Recovery: Jamie's Story 117
Chapter 7 Getting to the Heart of the Artichoke 123
Are You Willing? 124
Try Out New and Better Tools 126
Start with the Outer Leaves 126
Getting to the Core 131
Chapter 8 Laila, Rosie, the Incredible Hulk and Other Powerful Healthy Voices 137
Name Your Voice 141
Change Your Focus to Change Your Mind 143
Sometimes It's Hard to Do It Alone 143
Becoming Self-Considerate: Let Your Healthy Voice Take Care of You 144
Profile in Recovery: Molly's Story 148
Chapter 9 Talking Back to Ignorance 155
People Aren't Mean; They're Just Ignorant 157
We Live in a World Full of Ignorant Messages 159
Sometimes They're Just Worried or Trying to Help 161
Listen with Your Healthy Ears 162
Chapter 10 Bridezilla Meets Brideorexia and Other Triggering Occasions 169
The Madness Begins 171
Going for the Gown 172
Messages from the Bridal Industry and Others 176
Bridezilla or Brideorexia? 177
Stay Focused and Just Say No 179
Whatever the Occasion, Keep Your Eye on the Prize 180
Afterword: re(Define) (Real)ityTM 183
I Define What's Real 184
Recovery Means Steering Your Own Course 186
Me 101 186
Accept the Gift That Is Offered 188
What I Wish for You 190
Getting Help 193
About the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness 215
About the Author 219
Posted January 20, 2011
Excellent information and tips presented in an easy to read format. For young adult and older individuals, this book provides great insights and help such as the drawer analogy for perfectionists. But, for 18 and younger, I would highly recommend Brave Girl Eating, How to Eat with your Anorexic, Give Food a Chance, and Help your Teen Beat an Eating Disorder. These books detail the only evidence-based method, the Maudsley method, that research has proven far, far more effective than traditional talk therapy and the relapse rate for Maudsley is also significantly lower. Google the F.E.A.S.T. Site for more information.
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Posted October 5, 2010
This book is a must-read for anyone struggling or in recovery. I felt that I could relate to Johanna and loved her stories. My favorite is the ignorant stamp! Johanna inspires and instills hope.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2011
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