Here’s part two of my interview with Julie Parker, a counselor who works with people with eating disorders and author of the recently published must-read My Recovery: Inspiring Stories, Recovery Tips and Messages of Hope from Eating Disorder Survivors. It’s a hopeful and inspiring book filled with valuable insights for recovery.
Below, Julie reveals the biggest myths about eating disorders, how family members can help, the one thing that surprised even her while creating the book and much more.
(Here’s part one of our interview.)
Q: What would you say are the biggest myths about eating disorders?
A: Unfortunately, like so many mental illnesses, there are a lot of myths about eating disorders. But I think the one that always concerns me the most is the belief that people bring them on themselves; and that [eating disorders] are not dangerous or only when someone is very underweight.
People who experience eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and you cannot necessarily tell if someone has an eating disorder simply from looking at them.
Eating disorders are serious, life threatening illnesses and anyone experiencing them deserves bucket loads of love, support and connection. No one brings this illness on themselves. No one.
Q: How can family and friends help a loved one struggling with an eating disorder?
A: Just being there for someone and understanding that like with so many recovery paths from a serious illness, there will be steps forwards, backwards and sideways, is key.
Recovery from an eating disorder for many is very challenging and difficult, and the pain of seeing someone so unwell can take a great toll on many carers, families and loved ones. So it’s vital they exercise great self-care as well.
I think if I was to pinpoint one major thing that loved ones of someone with an eating disorder can do to assist them it would be to have hope.
Believe in the person you love and want to see recover. Believe it is possible for them, no matter how many of those steps sideways and backwards they may take, and share this with them constantly. Because it genuinely is true and the stories in My Recovery are a testament to this.
Recovery is possible for everyone.
Q: Did you learn something new yourself about eating disorder recovery after interviewing the individuals featured in your book? Anything that surprised you?
A: I learned so much from writing this book. Mostly I think about the human spirit. So often we let such small things drag and get us down and when I listened to and learned about these amazing people and their tenacity, courage and willingness to keep holding on in the face of incredible adversity, it affected me deeply as a counsellor and coach and as a person as well.
I don’t mind admitting that I shed more than one tear in their presence and many times since, in helping to bring their stories to life.
While I had always had the somewhat loose belief that genuine recovery from an eating disorder was possible for everyone, in truth I had probably not been fully certain of that for some. I no longer believe that.
When such extraordinary people relayed to me experiences of being severely mentally and physically compromised, of having a broken and gaping wound where their hearts were, not to mention months and sometimes even combined years in hospital – and to know they got well – really well – was revelatory to me.
I now believe with absolute certainty that recovery from an eating disorder is possible for all — and nothing will ever sway me from that belief after spending time with these incredible people, some who were once so sick to the point of near death and are now living whole, happy, blessed and beautiful lives.
Even just writing about it makes me emotional and unbelievably grateful for having had such a life experience of spending time with them. They have touched my life forever in a very profound way. And I just know they are going to do that for everyone who reads their stories as well.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about My Recovery or eating disorders in general?
A: One of the things I am so proud about in My Recovery is that it contains no mention of weights, calories or extreme ritualistic behaviours. I, and all the survivors in the book, wanted My Recovery to be something that would, as far as possible, not trigger others in their recovery path or make them feel as if they had to compare themselves to anyone else’s journey.
Many times I have had those in recovery tell me that while they have been fascinated and wanted to connect with the stories of others – that they found it very hard to read about things such as what someone weighed or the calories they were consuming without then turning that information on themselves.
For anyone who reads My Recovery they will soon realize that that type of information is not necessary to convey the pain and reality of what it is like to be living with an eating disorder; and that in fact, those things are merely the surface result of much deeper issues that are crying out to be addressed, supported and loved.
I’m also thrilled that all profits from My Recovery are being donated to The Butterfly Foundation, Australia’s largest charitable foundation supporting people with eating disorders and negative body image. I love the fact that these stories of courage and triumph are now going to help others who are still struggling and need extra support to either continue their recovery path or begin it.
More About Julie Parker:
Julie Parker is a certified coach and clinical counsellor for women who want to shine with passion, confidence and unshakable self-respect – and take magnificent strides towards beautiful bodies, beautiful businesses and beautiful lives. Through 1:1 sessions, both in person in Melbourne and virtually around the world, Julie’s clients sift through their dreams, set crystalline goals, dissolve limiting beliefs and celebrate their successes as they begin to live their song. AtBeautiful You, Julie shares inspiring images and empowering words to help women cherish their bodies and claim their brilliance. Her first book My Recovery: Inspiring Stories, Recovery Tips and Messages of Hope from Eating Disorder Survivors is available worldwide in print and e-formats at Momentum Books. All proceeds from My Recovery are being donated to The Butterfly Foundation.
Thanks so much to Julie for sharing her beautiful words and book with us! Don’t forget that Julie is generously giving away two copies of My Recovery. Enter to win here!