Weekly Feature

2014-09-10 / Lifestyles

Group supports eating disorder recovery


Once “Tina,” whose name has been changed to protect her identiy, had developed an eating disorder, she found it difficult to end the accompanying behaviors.

“Stopping required me to face and deal with the emotions and situations I wanted to avoid or deny,” said Tina, a member of Eating Disorders Anonymous.

Tina’s eating disorder began at a young age as a weight management technique and became both a stress-management tool and way to suppress unwelcome emotions.

Shame, guilt and fear of intervention and change allowed Tina to keep herself in a pattern of destructive behavior and denial.

“I became very good at keeping my self-destructive behaviors secret,” she said. “Unhappily, my disordered behaviors thrived in protection and secrecy. It began to take a toll on my body and mind. And because I did ‘bad’ things, I began to think of myself as a ‘bad’ person. It was hard work to develop the motivation to change.”

She did change. Tina is now part of the local Eating Disorders Anonymous support group, working to help others find the strength to recover.

The group addresses anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder and any combination of these disorders.

The group’s members focused on creating an alternative to fear-based ideas of recovery from eating disorders, Tina said, noting that they advocated combining individual therapy with 12-step work and meetings.

The group meets at 9 a.m. Saturdays at St. Luke Lutheran Church, 900 Maryvale Drive in Cheektowaga, and at 6:30 p.m. every other Thursday at the Hope Center, 781 Maple Road in Amherst.

There are also phone meetings and online meetings available through the main website, www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org.

According to the website, it is important to note that these are support and self-help meetings, not a tool for diagnosis or therapy.

Eating Disorders Anonymous does not diagnose illnesses or provide medical services. For medical services or therapy related to an eating disorder, a physician consultation should be sought.

Tina said the group provides those seeking help with a safe and comfortable environment and the ability to meet others who have eating disorders, with a focus on solutions.

“Solutions have to do with recognizing life choices and making them responsibly,” she said. “Diets and weight management techniques do not solve our thinking problems. EDA endorses sound nutrition and discourages any form of rigidity around food. Balance, not abstinence, is the goal.”

She added that recovery from an eating disorder is a gradual process, which requires motivation and support.

As part of a national support group offering a 12-step program for recovery, Eating Disorders Anonymous is a voluntary, self-supporting organization funded through member contributions. There is no cost to join. The only requirement for membership is a desire to recover from an eating disorder.

Since recovery is strongly dependent on support, Tina said members can volunteer to be part of a phone list to keep in touch with other members between meetings.

According to Tina, there are many misconceptions about eating disorders, including that they are easy to identify, the belief that people rarely recover, that anorexia and bulimia are easy to stop, that eating disorders are a disease of vanity, and that people with eating disorders look in the mirror and see “fat.”

She said common signs of eating disorders include the inability to stop or start eating, feeling guilty and depressed about eating, being afraid to eat, sneaking or hoarding food, obsessing about food or body weight, ritualistic eating, making resolutions about eating but not following through, and spending time thinking about what, when and where to eat next.

“It’s important to know that eating disorders such as compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia are serious and could be fatal, but eating disorders can also be treated,” Tina said.

email: jwaters@beenews.com

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