In Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs who Loved Her Back to Life, Kopp writes of her struggle with bulimia. Weaving together memories of her childhood, her father’s struggle with alcoholism and its effects on the family, and her connection to dogs, she writes about her passion for animals and how she, during her darkest struggles, would often feel comfort and feel “seen for the real me” by the shelter dogs she cared for.
It is difficult to find accurate information on the prevalence of number of people who suffer from eating disorders as this struggle often goes unreported. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that up to 4% of females in the United States will have bulimia during their lifetime and 3.9% of these bulimic individuals will die. Of those suffering from bulimia, only 6% seek out treatment. Kopp reports in her book that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Kopp describes her eight-year struggle with bulimia and how it affected her relationships and her own self-esteem and image. At the age of 24, after attempting treatment at a facility, she found a job at the San Diego Humane Society. She continued to struggle with her eating disorder, but found the reciprocal love from the animals not only helped heal them, but also became a healing power for herself and the reason she was able to get up every day in order to care for these forgotten animals.
She details her life through stories of the shelter dogs she encounters and the raw emotions of watching these dogs, who were often terribly abused, show hope and resilience in experiencing each day. Kopp describes that sometimes we each have to take a leap of faith and at other times we take tiny steps. Even those tiny steps take great courage. She realized that it was not the world that made her sick or miserable, it was the way she saw herself in that world. She needed to learn how to take care of herself and find compassion. She found that compassion in the eyes and love from the shelter dogs.
Kopp has a way of describing her suffering and the suffering of the shelter dogs in such a way that you can almost feel the weight of it sitting on your own chest. She describes each animal with care, concern, and empathy that it makes you want to reach out and adopt every dog she encounters. Kopp describes how reaching out when you are struggling is courageous, not weak. She details how bulimia is a devastating illness and how it taught her about the fragility of life and the vital need for compassion. She once told another eating disorder sufferer that people with bulimia are not bad people, but sick people and that healing is a personal journey. The medicine on this journey is whatever reminds you that you want to live and that you are worthy and capable to love.
There are many powerful moments in this deeply moving memoir of one person’s struggle to find love and compassion within herself. Pound for Pound is a great resource for schools, counselors, families, and those who may be suffering from an eating disorder.
Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs who Loved Her Back to Life
William Morrow, October 2015
Hardcover, 288 Pages