Posted by pauline 17 Comments

I am so thrilled and honoured to have Jenni Schaefer & Dr. Jenny Thomas on the blog for this week’s guest interview. Jenni & Jenny have just launched their brand new book “Almost Anorexic“.

 

Almost-Anorexic-web

Almost Anorexic is a book for and about all the people being borderline with disordered eating. Too often these people are not diagnosed and are not getting the help they need because they are still at a “normal weight”. (I actually hate these words because I know there is no such thing as a “normal weight”, everyone is so different…).

 

So far, weight and measurements were playing an important role in the diagnosis of an eating disorder. However, everyone having experienced struggles with food, knows that extreme thinness is not something required to be stuck in destructive behaviours and be in need for help.

 

When you are sick, this situation doesn’t help you to see your problem objectively at all. I definitely know what it means to be stuck like that and I’ve seen many people being there too. Throughout this work, Jenni & Jenny are spokespersons for millions of amazing people in this situation. Their work is so important, I can’t recommend it enough…

 

Jenni, could you please explain your experience with eating disorders a bit more?

 

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At the young age of four-years-old, I heard a voice in my head that said, “You are fat. You aren’t good enough.” That voice was my eating disorder (aka “Ed”). Not until I was 22-years-old did I learn that I didn’t have to listen to Ed anymore. I began my long recovery journey.

 

Even though it felt like a two-steps-forward, three-steps-back process for a while, I was actually making progress.

- Jenni Schaefer

With encouragement from others, I even started to see that full recovery was possible.

 

Ultimately, I wanted to share that message of hope with others. I wrote my first book, Life Without Ed, followed by Goodbye Ed, Hello Me several years later. And now I am thrilled about Almost Anorexic! I have a lot of fun writing and speaking.

 

Jenny, could you please explain a bit more about your work?

 

Jenny-Thomas-almost-anorexic

When I tell people on airplanes or at parties that my research focuses on eating disorders, they often respond, “I wish I had a touch of anorexia.” But one of the things I’ve learned as Co-Director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital is that for every person who has anorexia nervosa (a life-threatening psychiatric disorder), eight more struggle with subthreshold symptoms.

 

For every person who has anorexia nervosa, eight more struggle with subthreshold symptoms.

- Dr. Jenny Thomas

In fact, my research suggests that almost anorexia can be just as dangerous and impairing as anorexia nervosa. Sadly, many individuals with almost anorexia never get treatment because they don’t fit the specific criteria for anorexia nervosa described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

 

That’s why we wrote the book Almost Anorexic — to encourage people not to let the number on the scale to prevent them from seeking help!

 

Personal note: “Yeah! I LOVE that!”

 

Can you explain a bit more about your new book, “Almost Anorexic”?

 

Almost Anorexic is meant to provide hope, help, and validation to those who restrict, binge, purge, or battle poor body image – regardless of what their official clinical diagnosis may (or may not) be. Subclinical eating disorders like EDNOS (now called OSFED in DSM-5) can be just as devastating as more well-known eating disorders.

 

Unlike what many people think, the grey area between normal eating and an officially recognized eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder is home to a great deal of pain and suffering. We call this grey area almost anorexia.

 

Those who suffer may not believe that they deserve help, but, in fact, they do!

- Dr. Jenny Thomas

And, importantly, empirically-supported therapies exist that can help people reach a full recovery.

 

So many people are in this specific situation. Do you have specific numbers?

 

While only 1 in 200 adults will struggle with full-blown anorexia nervosa, at least 1 in 20 (including 1 in 10 teen girls) will exhibit key symptoms of one or more of the officially recognized DSM eating disorders - anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. (These estimates come from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, which interviewed thousands of adults in the United States).

 

With “Almost Anorexic“, you are giving some tools and information to people suffering from this situation. Do you also wish to reach the medical & governmental worlds? Do you think things are going to change?

 

 

We would love to increase awareness about subclinical eating disorders. Our hope is that more people will reach out for help and also that more assistance will be readily available for those who suffer.

 

Yes, we have already gotten some feedback. We are grateful to have heard many positive comments about Almost Anorexic (and even received some nice notes) from those whose lives have been touched by eating disorders!

 

We do think things will change. Many incredible organizations all over the world are working hard to make change happen. Dr. Thomas is very involved with the Academy for Eating Disorders, and Jenni is Chair of the Ambassadors Council of the National Eating Disorders Association. We encourage others to get involved in organizations that support eating disorders awareness, research, and advocacy.

 

Could you please share one of the biggest challenges you met when writting this book?

 

Because Almost Anorexic is part of a Harvard Medical School series on subclinical mental illness, we were on a very tight schedule so as not to delay the release of the subsequent books. Both of us are recovering perfectionists (you know this about Jenni if you’ve read her other books!), so we almost ended up with a really fantastic introduction… but nothing else.

 

To get the book done in the nine months Harvard gave us (kind of like having a baby), we had to stop making teeny word-level edits to portions we’d already written, and to start creating content for later chapters. Good thing we did – the last chapter (“Don’t Settle for Almost Recovered”) is one of our favorites!

 

You can download a table from that chapter that compares “barely recovered” to “fully recovered here.

 

What tip/advice would you give to our readers suffering from this situation to help them start recovery?

 

Get help. Many people struggling with almost anorexia will need professional help. Within Almost Anorexic, we provide very detailed instructions and resources on how to seek help. We even talk about how to reach out to a friend or family member about your problems with food. Getting better means getting connected. Avoid isolation. Tell someone.

 

In Almost Anorexic, we quote author Shannon Cutts, “Relationships replace eating disorders. Period. The End.” We agree.

 

Jenni, what kind of advice would you have wished to get when recovering from Ed?

 

I needed to hear this: Full recovery is possible.

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t hear that in the beginning of my recovery process. However, eventually, both clinicians and those who had recovered themselves began sharing this important message with me. In Almost Anorexic, Dr. Thomas and I encourage people, “Don’t settle for barely recovered.

 

Because fully recovered is possible!

- Jenni Schaefer

WIN 1 COPY OF “ALMOST ANOREXIC”

Share in the comments below why you want this book before July 14. I’ll contact the lucky winner via email to get his/her details & send the book! Good luck ;)

 

 

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This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Cindy says:

    I learned of Almost Anorexic during a tweet chat a few weeks ago and have wanted to read the book ever since the chat. I have BED and am in recovery. I also host a Positive Body Support Group on Facebook for all genders with ED or BDD. I would love to win a free copy!

  2. pauline says:

    Awesome Thanks Cindy!

  3. Jill says:

    Wonderful post. I contacted you Pauline…I live in Canada, 32, underweight, severe IBS, and late late night shameful binges …not exercising due to extreme fatigue and aches, etc…hormones and metabolism and gut a mess…so shamed of these binges every night and fear its too late, that I’m destined to be ruined for life…feeling so alone…hoped to chat with u but u are a busy lady…
    use to be more “disciplined” and orthorexic like…not sure of cause vs. effect, but the sever IBS/mysterious digestion issues, constipation, no exercise, utter fatigue, anxiety-depression etc…whatever the cause or the effect, I’m now binging nightly and at 32 fear how this is truly affecting me…god forgive me is all I can repeat to myself over and over…thank u for your site…found u via mind body green…wish I could afford u or talk with u…feeling alone and destined to gain a ton and forever be a mess :( Forgive me.

  4. Mary says:

    I have really fallen prey to feeling like my “eating issues” aren’t legitimate because they didn’t fit diagnostic criteria. But I struggled nonetheless. I am happy to see a book that sheds light on the seriousness of “almost anorexia” and would really like a copy to study and share with others that struggle.

  5. Jill says:

    I have struggled for years with eating issues but am just now getting help and it’s the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my life because I feel like no one believes that I have a problem. Every day, every meal, I struggle with food, even on my best days. Jenni’s book “Life Without Ed” is a staple in my recovery.

    I have spent half my life with an eating disorder but am just starting to get help on my own because of this very topic – I was never “thin enough” to be recognized I needed help. And even now, ED still tells me I have to prove that I need this help because I don’t fit the criteria for being anorexic or having problems. I am in a good weight range for my height but I still suffer silently. I have such a hard time reaching out and talking to those even closest to me (family in particular) beacuse I don’t appear like I have an eating disorder. That’s how hard this is for me and ALL of us who fit under this category to get help. I think the single most important message out there about eating disorders is there is a spectrum on which those with EDs lie. Our media loves to glamourize EDs with showing people who are very sick, but the “normal weight” person like you said above doesn’t fit that, yet we are still on this spectrum and hope to get better someday.

    I really look forward to reading Almost Anorexic and adding it to my tools of recovery. Of course, winning a free copy would be excellent :) However I get my hands on the book, I know it will be so important to hopefully living a fuller life.

  6. Katie says:

    I learned about this book from another member of my body image support group at UT. I have never been diagnosed with ED, but now more than ever, am recognizing disordered behaviors in myself.

  7. Shauna says:

    I am now recovered from my eating disorder, but it almost wasn’t an eating disorder. I was convinced I didn’t “qualify” for a diagnosis due to a number of reasons, not the least of which was my age (onset at 38!), and also included the number on the scale (never low enough). Seven years later I am happy and healthy and a therapist working with women and body image, eating disorders, depression and other issues. I know there is so much in this book to share with my clients that can offer them help and hope. I am slowly building a library of resources that I loan out to clients. This book would be a marvelous addition to my collection and could touch so many different people.

  8. elinor says:

    This seems like an amazing book and it is an incredibly inspirational interview. To think that people understand even part of what eating disorders are comprised of truly gives me hope. This is a very difficult and confusing process, and the fact that these two women thought to delve just a bit deeper and explore it’s complexitives is very encouraging. WInning of a copy of this book would mean the world to me.

  9. Ellie Williams says:

    Hi Pauline.
    This post is great.
    There is an increasing number of girls and guys engaging in disordered eating, and like myself I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong because it didn’t seem bad enough, or I wasn’t skinny enough to have diagnosed eating disorder. I think people don’t know the damage they are doing to their mental state when they begin with negative self talk and telling themselves they are ugly and fat and worthless. Those ‘harmless’ thoughts can lead to a prolonged battle through recovery and life and its really sad to see others suffering when they don’t think they are worth getting help.
    If anyone is suffering alone, I have been there like most of us that read Pauline’s blog.
    Once I was in treatment and getting the help I understood how destructive disordered eating really is and that it’s sadly increasing because of society and culture.
    I so wish this could change and more young girls like myself could see through all the superficial factors and really live a full life with focus on important values such as family, and happiness!

  10. Alena says:

    I have never been skinny enough to be qualified for an eating disorder. When I told a few people close to me that I was suffering from one, no one believed me, not even my own parents. I only recently found out that an ED is a mental disorder, and not a number on a scale.
    I am currently in recovery, and have had troubles finding material that relates to my condition, as I am not at all a small person. What is happening on the inside is sometimes so well hidden, and when the person finally decides to come out with what has been happening, it is painful to be told that you’re making it up.
    I am thrilled to know that one day, I will be okay, and this will just be a part of my past.
    “Almost Anorexic” is a powerful title that grabbed my attention, and I know it will be a great tool for me to further my understanding of the illness, and I am very excited to know that, even though I am in the “gray area”, I can still get help.

  11. I have a history of ED, but I didn’t fit into the correct criteria of anorexia nervosa for several reasons. Not fitting into the criteria didn’t make my problem less of a problem. Eating disorders are dangerous whether they fit or not into the DSM-V. Everyone with an eating disorder deserves help and should not be denied help if they are not ‘good enough anorexics’. This book intrigues me and I would love to read it!

  12. pauline says:

    HI there all of you beautiful souls! Thanks so much for participating and sharing your gorgeous answers.
    Our lucky winner is Alena. Congratulations Alena! You will receive the book shortly.
    Thanks to everyone for participating & keep going in recovery, this is the only way to get better. For all of you who have any questions at all, please feel free to get in touch ;)

  13. Thank you for sharing your info. I really appreciate your
    efforts and I will be waiting for your further post thank you once again.

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