Eating disorders are constantly in the news, and have been for some time now. Yet it’s quite astonishing to note how few people truly comprehend the psychological factors involved in them. Many are quick either to deem an eating disorder a solely physical ailment, or to make a blanket claim such as, ‘It’s the media’s glorification of skinny women that makes people have eating disorders.’ The truth is, eating disorders are heavily psychological, and there is no easy cure.
In Hope with Eating Disorders: A Self-Help Guide for Parents, Carers and Friends of Sufferers, Lynn Crilly tries to make these facts known. In the beginning of her thoughtful book, Crilly tells us why she is so invested in educating the public on eating disorders: “I will never forget the bleak times I faced as a mother, watching my daughter waste away, and how futile and frustrated I felt. These feelings are very often echoed in the faces of the carers I now work alongside, in my newfound career as a counselor.”
Crilly is obviously emotionally invested in her subject. This allows her to write from a place of compassion and empathy, as well as authority. By having gone through the familial trauma of eating disorders herself, Crilly knows firsthand what havoc they can wreak. In this way, Hope with Eating Disorders almost becomes something of a person to talk to in the midst of chaos; a therapist; someone from whom one can gain emotional insight and wisdom; someone from whom one can learn.
One area that Crilly skillfully addresses is how eating disorders affect not just the afflicted, but also the afflicted’s support system—the family. Crilly writes:
If you are a parent, you’ve become accustomed to providing your child with everything they require – physically and, when you can, emotionally. Finding yourself in a situation where, suddenly, you are unable to fulfill this role is incredibly frustrating. For any carer, the feelings of futility and despair as your loved one destroys their health and happiness with an eating disorder are incredibly difficult to deal with.
Unfortunately, this often goes unacknowledged. In many situations, carers of eating disorder sufferers go through a worse time than the sufferers themselves.
Crilly maintains this level of empathy throughout the book. Having been in such a position herself, she knows the realities. She knows both what the sufferer goes through as well as the carers. And as a counselor, Crilly has the knowledge to go along with the history. In this way, she is able to lay out the facts before providing wisdom and advice. For without truly knowing what one is up against, how can one combat it?
Crilly starts Hope with Eating Disorders with a small introduction, giving a brief synopsis of what the book includes. She then moves into discussing anorexia and bulimia specifically, and giving us the facts. After this, she discusses treatments and therapies, provides an interview with an expert, and then moves into some of the more culturally specific areas of eating disorders, including sports, the media and education.
It’s difficult not to recommend Hope with Eating Disorders. It bills itself as a “self-help guide,” and that is truly what it is. It’s a reference. It’s a go-to source for dealing with trauma. It’s, again, something of a therapist for those trying to aid the afflicted.
What Crilly really rams home is how no sufferer can go through this alone. They need someone to step in and get them help. As well, they need someone to empathize. Crilly writes: “By focusing on physical symptoms only, we’re missing the emotional signs. Knowing this is the carer’s greatest ally.” Eating disorders, at their core, are rooted in something psychological. There is something that is forcing the afflicted to go to such extreme lengths. And as Crilly points out, the key to discovering them is twofold: find proper treatment and give adequate support. Only through hope, belief and love can eating disorders be overcome.
Given how close to home this book is for Crilly, I’d like to close this review with a lengthier quote that provides a deeper statement of Crilly’s mission:
One of the most dangerous myths surrounding eating disorders is that they are a life sentence. It is distressing to see people managing their conditions, learning to cope with them on a day-to-day basis, with both the sufferer and their carers resigned to the fact that this is as good as it gets.
Hope with Eating Disorders will show you that full and lasting recovery is possible. It will allow you to see how you and your loved one can free yourselves from the prison of eating disorders and enjoy the liberty of a life that isn’t dictated by food, once more.
Hope with Eating Disorders: A Self-Help Guide for Parents, Carers and Friends of Sufferers
By Lynn Crilly
Hay House Insights: March 19, 2012
Paperback, 280 pages