Updated: Apr 21, 2020
This past weekend I went to the NEDACon (National Eating Disorders Association Conference) to volunteer in Seattle! Seattle was amazing, and I’ll do a recap of everything Seattle in the next blog post, but for now I’ll give you everything NEDACon and an update on all the amazing conversations that we had.
I’ve been attending NEDA conferences since 2015. In 2015 I went to San Diego for the NEDA Conference, fresh out of recovery. I traveled alone, excited and determined to make my mark. I was in an amazing place and met so many people with whom I related to and it ignited a passion inside. I knew one day I wanted to be a part of everything behind the scenes whether that be a therapist, researcher, educator, dietitian, nutritionist, the list goes on. While I’m still on this path of figuring it out, I love being along for the ride.
Every year I jump at the opportunity to attend a NEDA event, whether that be a walk or a conference. This year I called up one of my oldest friends to accompany me, we jumped on a plane, and off we went to Seattle.
The NEDACon started off with a great seminar called “Falling Through the Cracks: What Gaps Do We Have in Treatment Due to Lack of Research?” Basically the bottom line came down to the fact that all eating disorder research focuses on weight. Weight is the central component of research, when in reality it plays such a small role in treatment. In a few posts back, I talked about eating disorder myths- it’s a myth that someone has to be underweight to have anorexia, same as it’s a myth that someone overweight has binge eating disorder. All the research points to myths just like the one above. The gaps present are the fact that research is focusing on all of the eating disorder myths we see circling around today. To know about some of the eating disorder myths we see, check out my post here!
The second seminar was “Join the Rebellion: How Health and Every Size Can Help Liberate Yourself from the ED Empire.” I LOVED this seminar. The speakers associated diet culture with Darth Vadar/The Dark Side. That is so true. It’s the best thing I’ve heard. Diet culture is the worst. The Health At Every Size approach is one that promotes an alternative of weight-centered approach to treating clients, it promotes size acceptance and diversity of body shapes and sizes, fights to end weight discrimination, and lesson cultural obsession with weight loss and thinness.
Basically we need to fight against diet culture and all the dieting, calorie counting, weight obsessed norms we’re all used to seeing and *most likely* participating in. We need to be more accepting of all body sizes and realize there is more to a person than meets the eye. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and we’re not going to become more accepting if we continually feed into diet culture and a thin/beauty ideal.
Another one of my favorite seminars (okay they were all my favorite) was “Divesting from Perfectionism.” This one was powerful. Our speaker gave us an exercise. She had us create a list of all things our ideal self would do. For example- “be more organized” “drink more water” “exercise 5x week” “be better at communicating with old friends” the list literally could go on. We then reflected on this list and how it made us feel. For most, we were overwhelmed and exhausted just looking at the list. It all seemed too much and the speaker asked us, “can you see yourself in this list? Is there any room left for your true, authentic self?” It was fucking powerful. But no, not really. This list is a curation of my ideal, perfect self. Something unachievable, but not in a bad way. If I were this ideal, perfect version of me- there would be no room for growth. No way for me to build and expand and become a better person.
After reflecting, we rewrote our list but this time being kind to ourselves and giving ourselves grace. Looking at the list again- if felt liberating. It made you realize that you already are this person on the re-created list. You are the best version of yourself, because everyday you have the opportunity to work harder. Do better. You’re a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. That’s all that matters. Bottom line- who asked you to be perfect? Think about that one.
Our last seminar was “Ask the Doctor: Navigating the Healthcare System.” This one hit home. If you’re in the eating disorder community, it’s no surprise that many times our primary care doctors or pediatricians miss the mark with eating disorders. Nothing personal- but medical school/nursing school does not give adequate education on eating disorders. It covers the very basics, hardly enough (not enough) for a professional to recognize the signs of an eating disorder. Growing up, I was always praised for weight loss by my pediatrician, and when I ended up in the hospital because of anorexia, I had five male doctors bombard my room asking me why I couldn’t just eat, why my weight was so low, why was I dehydrated, can’t I just “fix it.” The list goes on. My roommates were livid and as nursing students at the time, were shocked the doctors conducted themselves in such a manner.
The seminar was very helpful in providing tips on how to have an effective dialogue with your PCP on topics about weight, eating disorders and mental health. It can be difficult to navigate and pretty intimidating- but another bottom line: you know your body and mental health better than anyone so stick up for yourself and be confident in having an educational conversation with your provider. You’re an expert on yourself.
Overall--- the conference was amazing. Each year I meet so many strong individuals who have overcome so much. All of the seminars were so diverse and each piece I was able to connect with on a personal level. All the speakers were so powerful and passionate. Eating disorders suck- bottom line. Okay I promise I’ll stop saying that. But it’s an important fight because it affects so. many. people. Whether you’ve had an eating disorder or not I’m sure you’ve been affected by diet culture and some unattainable beauty ideal or caught up in trying to achieve an idealized version of yourself that takes away from you focusing on who you really are.
Visit the NEDA website for more resources and learn how you can get involved!
List of speakers from the conference:
Carol Dworaczyk, MA
Heather Hower, MSW, LICSW, QCSW, ACSW
Christine Byrd, LMCHA
Adris VanMeerten, LMHC
Erin Harrop, MSW
Aaron Flores, RD
Hilary Finavey, MS, LPC
Dr. Lisa Erlanger
Virginia Newman, MS, RDN, CD