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Wellness

What I’ve Learned At The National Eating Disorders Association Conference

One of the most difficult things in life is the struggle to understand when you are actually satisfied. This is what my colleague Marlon Sullivan, PhD, called “comfort food.”

The National Eating Disorders Association conference this year was incredible. I was truly touched by all who participated. There are many reasons why people can lose their temper, feel depressed, lack confidence or lack motivation. The sad fact is these symptoms can come and go, and you never know when someone may have a mental illness that can make them do these things. At this conference, many people told their stories, their battles, what has helped them and what has hurt them. But the thing that stood out to me most is the compassion. It was obvious the people here feel what people like me go through every single day. I was also surprised to see how people at the conference were able to talk openly about their thoughts, feelings and illnesses. And that in itself is an amazing miracle. I am so grateful and excited to see more of this happening and hopefully spreading to other areas of our culture.

The conference organizers are also doing great work to spread awareness. Each year they hold something called the “National Eating Disorder Awareness Week,” where they take the top three eating disorder topics and turn them into events. People can show up and get education, get support or volunteer to help out in their area. They also give away awards to people who want to do something good for others. They’re also running a lot of cool eating disorder awareness training programs, so all you need to do is look for it on their website.

What would I like our world to see more of? I would like to see more of the people on this panel. Some of the most emotional, vulnerable, self-critical, and angry people I’ve ever discussed an eating disorder with had great things to say about their treatment. To see all of them standing up and saying they are okay and they’re okay being who they are was heartbreaking. There’s always more work to be done. This isn’t easy; we all remember, in fact, how difficult it is for people to get to this point. It’s just a matter of giving people permission to tell their stories. This isn’t easy. We all remember, in fact, how difficult it is for people to get to this point. It’s just a matter of giving people permission to tell their stories.

But how might one encourage someone to be vulnerable to themselves and allow themselves to be more open to others? Here’s a simple idea. Just be yourself and do what you want and have fun. I think most of us have done this before in some capacity, so we know how to do this.

What might help you see the best in yourself is to not make decisions about what you’re eating based on what’s easy or what’s popular. If someone is so concerned about being thin that they can’t stand to be around anyone who’s overweight, take the time to get informed about why they don’t trust they’re making the right decision. Then take the time to understand how you might not be able to do this, or maybe, it won’t be good for them to do this, as well. As my colleague Dr. Ellen C. Shaffer says, “There is not a single successful, healthy body type for all people.” There is not a single successful, healthy body type for all people. There is a spectrum of shapes and sizes, and this range of bodies is not the same everywhere, and we need to be honest that this isn’t always the case.