Heeding the Call for Inclusion in the Eating Disorder Recovery Community

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On Saturday, May 12, 2018, eating disorder treatment professionals, researchers, individuals affected, family members, educators, and activists came together for NEDAcon Philadelphia at Drexel University. This wonderful conference focused on educating attendees about the diverse experiences of people recovering from eating disorders and inspired a vital call to action for inclusion of marginalized groups in the recovery community. 

The conference presenters powerfully impressed how all connected to the recovery community play an important role in expanding the conversation and representation of who exactly suffers from eating disorders. Exceptional professionals, including Colleen Reichmann, PhD; Ivy Felicia; Samantha DeCaro, PsyD; Hallie Espel-Huynh, MS; and Rebecca Berman, LCSW-C, CEDS, MLSP, spoke on how and why the intersectionality of eating disorders and all body sizes, races, abilities, genders, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, ages, and other behavioral and mental health conditions must be valued, respected, researched, and represented.*

A major takeway for me from these presentations was the truth that we can't for wait for the media to change these messages; rather, we, the recovery community, must empower ourselves to lead the way and educate others by using our voices and paving avenues for healthcare, research, and professional outlets to exponentially raise the bar for access to care and overall education about underrepresented groups in the eating disorder community. What a necessary and powerful call to action! And it was personally thrilling and humbling to be in the audience, learning from so many wise voices and feeling moved by others' experiences that were so unlike my own, due to my many priveleges. 

 The presenters on the NEDAcon Self-Care Panel from left to right: me, Stacey Lorin Merkl, Nikisha Bolden, and Shalini Wickramatilake Templeman. 

The presenters on the NEDAcon Self-Care Panel from left to right: me, Stacey Lorin Merkl, Nikisha Bolden, and Shalini Wickramatilake Templeman. 

I had the true honor of not only attending NEDAcon, but also moderating a recovery panel on self-care and maintenance. The three women on my panel were brilliantly brave and inspiring, each sharing stories of struggle and victory, pain and healing. Their backgrounds, eating disorders, and pathways to care were all very different. They shared how their marginalized or otherwise non-typically represented personal experiences affected their identity before, during, and after treatment. And they spoke with such courage and confidence about what self-care means to them and the daily steps they take to sustain and support their recoveries. Each offered a message of hope for attendees, including family members.

In their own unique ways, the women on my panel and the people who shared about their challenges in recovery on a panel moderated by Brian Pollack, LCSW, CEDS, are actively advocating for wider acceptance of eating disorders in their communities. They are also raising up their own voices and those of others to create awareness and prevention of eating disorders. They are out in the world every day, owning their recoveries and purposelfully helping others do the same through their example and steadfast commitment to gathering up all the bodies and voices of the eating disorder community, uniting them, and assuring them of their worth and worthiness of care, recovery, and humanity.   

Today, I am filled up with gratitude for the brilliant, brave, and inspiring individuals who shared their stories and showed up for themselves in such empowering ways at NEDAcon. It was an unforgettable day for me, one that has sent me on my way to new explorations and learning about intersectionality and eating disorders, and a quest to seek out the voices and stories of those who are willing to share and be a part of educating me and the world.   

As such, I have 5 action items on my list from NEDAcon. I share them here with the hope that you, too, will join me in these actions and that they may even inspire other steps for you to share with me and the recovery community. 

  1. Diversify my social media newsfeeds so that I am learning from/about other groups' experiences, the challenges they face, and have an understanding of what they value. I will then share/include their posts in my community and amplify their voices in my work, so that they are being heard and seen in my small corner of the recovery community. 
  2. Connect with experts and leading voices with different backgrounds than myself and ask questions about their life experiences so that I am best able to serve my yoga therapy clients and represent the entire recovery community in my speaking and writing. 
  3. Be mindful of images I post. Seek out images that represent a variety of body sizes, races, abilities, genders, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, and ages.
  4. Be mindful of the words included on my posts, so as to not unintentionally perpetuate fat phobia or other damaging and insensitive cultural and social messages.
  5. Share others' voices on my blog to promote inclusion as well as provide space for individuals to tell their story. 

To that last action item, if you would like to share your story of recovery on my blog, I would love to hear from you. Individuals of all body sizes, races, abilities, genders, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, and ages are invited and welcome. Your story holds more inspiration than you realize, and the recovery community is hungry for inspiration, motivation, healing, and empowerment. If you are interested in sharing your story on my blog, let's connect.

Thank you, National Eating Disorder Association, for such an excellent day of sharing, learning, and ultimately, healing. You have my commitment to practice inclusion and encourage others to do so as well. We don't recover alone; it often takes a village. Let's do this together to make sure no one is alone on their personal healing path.  

*Other presenters at NEDAcon included Melinda Parisi Cummings, MSEd, PhD; Sam Tryon, RD; Steven Crawford, MD; and Laura Cipullo.