Say Yes to Life: The Road Back From Eating Disorders, by Andrea Hartley

Andrea Hartley

Andrea Hartley

Shannon Cutts, who is recovered from an eating disorder believes that the key to beating this disorder is relationships, because it was through being mentored that she recovered.  For this reason,  she founded MentorCONNECT, a national community where mentors and mentees connect to experience the power of caring, “I recovered with the help, love, insight and support of a series of mentors. None of these mentors were particularly knowledgeable about eating disorders per se, but all were quite adept at creatively figuring out how to overcome tough challenges in life – and they guided me to learn the same”,  Cutts said.

Shannon Cutts

Shannon Cutts

Cutts has also written a book, Beating Ana, where she shares how she broke free from her 15-year battle with “eating-disordered thinking and living”.  She gives the reader an opportunity to participate along with 5 of her mentees in taking self-quizzes, doing short exercises and using motivational affirmations that are “designed to give those suffering with eating disorders the courage, support and tangible skills to say “no” to eating disorders and say “yes” to life.” MentorCONNECT conducted a research survey in partnership with Texas A&M university in 2010. Research results indicated that eating disorders recovery mentoring in the way MentorCONNECT offers it provides exactly the type of support it is intended to provide – non-medical, non-clinical, peer-based community recovery support. “This type of support now appears (at least if we can judge by the growing popularity of ‘mentoring’ terminology and focus in eating disorders circles) to be increasingly valued as an essential part of the complete treatment team. We view mentoring as the “missing link” in recovery for precisely this reason – in addition to competent, caring, qualified medical and professional treatment, people who are recovering from a serious disease tell us that they need to be able to believe that they too can recover. This is what mentoring provides that nothing else can – the opportunity to actually talk with someone else who has successfully recovered from the same or similar type of disease.” Cutts said. ” I always tell people “If I could recover, you can too – remember, there is always something else you can do to save your own life.” On MentorCONNECT we say ‘relationships replace eating disorders’ – meaning that the more supportive, caring relationships you have in your life, the less room and need you will have for the eating disordered thoughts and behaviors.  Finding a ‘key to life’ – something in life you want MORE than the comfort and structure the eating disorder thoughts and behaviors provide – something you are even willing to give up that comfort and structure to obtain (be it having a child one day, opening your own treatment center, getting married, hiking the Himalayas – whatever it is) is also key to achieving sustained recovery.”

Arielle  Bair of Lehigh valley who shares her compelling story in the From the Heart column wants those struggling and their family to know that there is hope. “I was an anorexic teen but today I am completely well.  Just because you are struggling now, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be struggling your whole life, ” she said.    Arielle, who leads a National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders, Inc.® (ANAD) group says that some of the warning signals of teens who are struggling may be a weight gain or loss or a reluctance of the teen to eat with others. (Read her whole story here)

Andrea Smeltzer

Andrea Smeltzer

Andrea Smeltzer, of northern California was unable to find the help that she needed. After 13 months of bulimic behaviors, she died in 1999 at the age of 19. Andrea was multi-talented in the arts as an opera singer, dancer, poet and jewelry maker.  She spoke Spanish and German, in addition to her native English.  She was president of her high school’s Amnesty International a group and activist for human rights.  At Pitzer College she was awarded the  Fletcher Jones Scholarship and was majoring in International Business and Politics.  After her death,   Her mother, Doris Smeltzer, founded Andrea’s Voice Foundation to educate others about eating disorders.

Although there are several types of eating disorders which are  described on Andrea’s Voice Website, this excerpt describes the three most common:

“Eating disorders — such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder — include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males.

ANOREXIA NERVOSA is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Symptoms include:

• Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body

type, age, and activity level

• Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat”

• Feeling “fat” or overweight despite dramatic weight loss

• Loss of menstrual periods

• Extreme concern with body weight and shape

BULIMIA NERVOSA is characterized by a secretive cycle of binge eating followed by purging. Bulimia includes eating large amounts of food–more than most people would eat in one meal–in short periods of time, then getting rid of the food and calories through vomiting, laxative abuse, or over exercising.

Symptoms include:

• Repeated episodes of bingeing and purging

• Feeling out of control during a binge and eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness

• Purging after a binge, (typically by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, diet pills

and/or diuretics, excessive exercise, or fasting)

• Frequent dieting

• Extreme concern with body weight and shape

BINGE EATING DISORDER (also known as COMPULSIVE OVEREATING) is characterized primarily by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge. People who overeat compulsively may struggle with anxiety, depression, and loneliness, which can contribute to their unhealthy episodes of binge eating. Body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity.

OTHER EATING DISORDERS can include some combination of the signs and symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, and/or binge eating disorder. While these behaviors may not be clinically considered a full syndrome eating disorder, they can still be physically dangerous and emotionally

All eating disorders require professional help.”

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You may also be interested in:

EDNOS: Most Dangerous, Unheard of Eating Disorder

Be a Part of the Future of Eating Disorders Treatment!

Become an Eating Disorders Mentor

From the Heart: Arielle L. Blair

Breaking Free from Unhealthy Internal Dialogue

Neuroplasticity: The Way To Greater Health And Well-being

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Also, the following links will provide helpful information on treatment:

You can help someone who has an eating disorder by helping MentorConnect.  Click here to find out what you can do. http://www.mentorconnect-ed.org/mcgive

Andrea’s Voice.org