GAINING:
The Truth About Life
After Eating Disorders

Essays, Articles, & Nonfiction Works
by Aimee Liu

RESOURCES
These treatment facilities offer specialized programs for eating disorders, including men and women over age 21.
Discover the many ways others are using their voices, talents, and passions to turn suffering into creativity and hope.
Links to websites and organizations that provide information and referrals.
References cited in GAINING
Books
How do anorexia and bulimia impact life AFTER recovery? GAINING is one of the first books about eating disorders to connect the latest scientific insights to the personal truth of life before, during, and especially after anorexia and bulimia.
"I've read countless books about eating disorders, but I've never seen one like this. Combining the professional wisdom of leading experts with personal experiences from women and men all over the globe, this book fills a gap on the recovery bookshelf. Anyone who has been touched by an eating disorder needs to read this."—Jenni Schaefer, author of Life without Ed
America's first memoir of anorexia, and one of the earliest books about eating disorders, originally published in 1979

Newsletter

HOPE/FULL CREATIVITY AND ACTIVISM

July 28, 2007

Dear Friends,

In the course of writing GAINING I came to believe that three of the defining aspects of a truly healthy human being are creativity, compassion, and generosity. Making art, feeling kindness toward others, and giving back to the world are all signals of hope.

I recently received an announcement from a young woman who, in just these ways, serves as a beacon of hope. She is launching a project in which you might want to participate. She has a line of hope-filled clothing that you might find supportive, and through which we all can support NEDA.

I’ll let Erin’s announcement tell the rest.

ALWAYS be well!!
Aimee
www.gainingthetruth.com
________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release Contact: Erin Kroll
July 13, 2007 (207) 615-2283

Picture Imperfect
Maine photographer paints a more
hopeful picture of eating disorder recovery


July 13, 2007

PORTLAND, ME- Photographer, Erin Kroll, has a lot in common with the images she captures. A sense of stillness and depth lights her eyes as she speaks about her battle overcoming anorexia and how courage came unexpectedly through the lens of a camera.

Eating disorders, like anorexia, are serious illnesses with a biological basis that are often influenced by emotional and cultural factors, making recovery even more difficult. "There is so much silence and shame around eating disorders in our culture." says Kroll. "When I was sick I just wanting to literally disappear, a wanted to be invisible." And Kroll isn't alone, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, nearly 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life-and-death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder. Without recovery, Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

Kroll speaks candidly about her struggle, with the same tender grace that comes across in her work. It's from this authentic and vulnerable place that she inspires. "I stopped shooting when I stopped eating", says Kroll, "I didn't touch my camera for two years. I was consumed by fear, anxiety and self-doubt…I starved myself of everything that could possibly make me happy and fulfilled. My eating disorder pulled me away from myself and all the things that gave joy and meaning to my life. Unfortunately, photography was one of them. There was no passion, no purpose, and no voice. I was totally empty. "

Kroll says that her road back to health began with wanting to be more than empty. "People always ask me how I was able to 'let go', I don't really have this elaborate answer." Kroll mentions that it is common for people with eating disorders to contemplate recovery. Tragically, the majority of those who suffer continue to be affected throughout their lives. "There's no such thing as shotgun recovery," says Kroll. "There is no external cure, no pill, no self-help book that can free someone from the illness that they have created. In the beginning, I put my recovery in the hands of someone else. It was exactly like riding shotgun off a cliff with no one at the wheel. I crashed horribly."

“In the end, we are each responsible for our own wellness. Loved ones can encourage and validate, but they to have to learn to let go, they can't save you if you don't want it and you have to want it- you have to want to get better! You have to think about what you've lost and decide what you want recovery to mean for you. I was sick and tired of just existing, of being completely defined and governed by my eating disorder. I wanted the things it took from my life; I longed for fullness. Most importantly, I wanted to live! I saw a glimmer of something more in me and that was enough-I truly wanted to get better."

Kroll's journey led her to the New England Eating Disorders Program at Mercy Hospital in Portland . "I was reluctant and terrified, but I was out of options. My life was spinning out of control. My body was shutting down. I knew I had surrender fully to recovery and I needed to be in an intensive treatment program to do it. The months I spent at Mercy were the most challenging and rewarding in my life!" Kroll explains that combined with intensive group therapy, weekly art therapy sessions helped her reclaim her voice and rekindle her creative spirit. Slowly she began to shoot again.
"I felt like I was seeing everything for the first time. I felt more connected with the world around me, more patient and open. I felt alive. Each click of the shutter was a moment to celebrate life. It was amazing."

Celebrating life and exposing unexpected and often overlooked beauty is a common theme in Kroll's photographs. As she works to cultivate her own inner beauty and self-worth, she strives to capture in her work, what she calls the aesthetic of imperfect, "It's not easy" she says, "photography, by nature, can be such a superficial art. I find the more I appreciate myself, the more I am able to draw substance and soul into my images."

Drawing inspiration from Zen Buddhism, eastern philosophy, surrealism and the graphic design, her photographs convey a subtle but important message,. "I spent years chasing the impossible dream of 'perfect' and it nearly killed me.”I was unable to grow as an artist. I was always trying to create the perfect piece, take the perfect shot, and wait for the perfect light, use the best equipment. It just wasn't happening. I continued to feel like a failure. Failure doesn't exist in an imperfect world. Until I learned to let go with grace and dignity and accept imperfection, I simply could not appreciate the authentic beauty within and around me."

In a little less than a year, Kroll has transformed her life and the lives of those around her. Last winter, she launched Pink Dragonfly Clothing, an inspirational t-shirt company that supports eating disorder awareness and education. Seeing a tremendous need for Eating Disorder Outreach in her community, Kroll has set out to establish a non-profit that will offer free, recovery-based, support services and educational programs in Southern Maine . Kroll hopes to be able to offer the model nationally in the future.

"Anorexia starved my spirit and silenced my voice. For fifteen years I hid my illness from the world and myself. I lived in shame, secrecy and denial. Picking up my camera again, returning to my creative roots, has freed me from the silence. Now all I want to do is engage, educate and inspire." In a media culture that is overrun with harmful images, icons, and ideals of beauty, Kroll says that as a photographer contributing to the media landscape, she has a responsibility to produce work that inspires hope and represents courage.

"Somehow, it's become socially expectable and expected of artists, especially photographers, to document tragedy suffering and the grotesque, as a means to validate authenticity in the image and human experience. I am not discounting the value that painful imagery have in our media , and I'm not denying the existence of suffering, I just want to people to understand that there is another side to it all, another story to tell."

Telling the 'other side of the story' is exactly what Kroll is doing with her latest project, Hope/Full: The Warrior Portraits. As traveling interactive photography exhibition with a companion book, Hope/Full will tell the inspirational story of people who have recovered from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, celebrating the fullness they have found in health, their passion for life and the people they have touched along the way.

While still in the early stages of production, Kroll says that she has already received requests from people across the country eager to sit for portraits or support the project, but she says that many more are needed. "There is strength in numbers. The more representation and diversity I can bring to this project the more powerful the message will be." She encourages anyone who is interested in participating to contact her. In bringing the exhibition into communities and schools Hope/Full will engage a new dialogue about eating disorders, self-esteem, and body image, " one you won't find in the media or popular culture" says Kroll, and inspire hope in those still suffering in silence and solitude.

# # #

Resources & Information

For more information about Hope/Full: The Warrior Portraits Project call 207-615-2283 or email Erin Kroll at erinkroll@yahoo.com or visit www.erinkrollphotography.com

Body Positive Outfitter, Pink Dragonfly Clothing Co supports self-esteem and eating disorder awareness, helping fund research and educational programs. Visit www.pinkdragonfly.org for more information
About the Artist:
Portland native, Erin Kroll spent the majority of her childhood scribbling crayon on her bedroom walls. Naturally, a camera seemed like a better alternative. Kroll studied photography and design at the Harrow School of Communications and Creative Industries at the University of Westminster in London . She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Goucher College in Towson , Maryland . In 2004 she returned to Maine to pursue a career in marketing and advertising. When not looking through a camera lens, Kroll enjoys traveling, exploring the Maine outdoors, and giving back to her community.


Enter your e-mail address below to subscribe or unsubscribe from the mailing list.




privacy policy

Read Past Newsletters -
just click the links below:

Anorexia's Red Herring

Too-skinny models may be a factor in spawning eating disorders, but they're just one of many.
By Aimee Liu

Published in the Los
Angeles Times,
September 22, 2006

THIS WEEK in Madrid, heroin chic was prohibited. For the first time, the organizers of a major international fashion show recognized that by showcasing emaciated models, the fashion industry promotes eating disorders. Under pressure from the Madrid government, medical associations and women's advocacy groups, the Assn. of Fashion Designers of Spain finally rejected morbidly thin models.

When selecting models for this year's Madrid fashion week, which ends today, the designers set a minimum body mass ratio (calculated on the basis of height and weight). Their required ratio was 18 — meaning a minimum of 119 pounds for a 5-foot, 8-inch woman. The bar was by no means high. For ordinary mortals, a ratio of 18.5 qualifies as underweight. Even so, five of the 68 auditioning models flunked.

To understand why they flunked, we need to look beyond the fashion industry to the true causes of eating disorders. These include genetic predisposition, temperament, family dynamics and personal trauma. I know; modeling fueled but did not cause my own adolescent eating disorder nearly 40 years ago.

Twiggy was my generation's Kate Moss. I fixated on her at age 13, and by the time I started modeling one year later, I'd dropped 30 pounds. Being skinny became my identity. At 5 feet, 7 inches, I didn't weigh more than 100 pounds again until I was 21.

My anorexia ultimately destroyed my career.

Models were — and still are — paid to make fashions look good, and that meant fitting sample wardrobes. Reigning teen cover girls Shelley Hack and Colleen Corby understood this. In dressing room lunches between shoots, I'd watch them wolf down tuna salad sandwiches while I pretended not to be hungry. They were lucky, I told myself, they could get away with eating. I began to lose jobs when I became so thin that stylists couldn't even pin dresses on me to look right. Still, I felt I couldn't eat.

Like many anorexic models, I was drawn to the fashion world because it reinforced my anorexia. I would be willing to bet that most, if not all, of the runway models disqualified in Madrid fit the same pattern — as do many emaciated gymnasts and ice skaters.

Three years ago, I began interviewing medical researchers as well as middle-age women and men with histories of anorexia and bulimia. I wanted to find out what we know now that we didn't know in the 1970s, when I quit my self-imposed hunger strike. I learned that researchers now are discovering genetic links between eating disorders, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Genes also shape the temperaments of people who are prone to anorexia and bulimia, although the mechanisms for this are still poorly understood.

A landmark 2003 British study found that certain innate childhood traits, such as perfectionism, inflexibility and cautiousness, each increase an individual's risk for anorexia by a factor of seven. Someone like me, possessing all five traits measured in the study, is 35 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than a daredevil who happily wears mismatched socks.

Further, eating disorders are triggered not by pictures of Kate Moss but by sudden or cumulative experiences of intolerable emotion, such as shame or fear. Puberty unleashes a natural tidal wave of these emotions. Adolescence also happens to be the age when rates of sexual abuse soar, academic and social pressures intensify and parents become a source of embarrassment rather than solace. It makes sense that this is prime time for eating disorders. Obsession with weight offers a distraction. Extreme weight loss signals distress.

It also makes sense that rates of anorexia and bulimia spike in middle age, when many women again face emotional turmoil. Women over 30 now make up a full third of residential patients at the Renfrew Center, a Philadelphia treatment facility specializing in eating disorders. Divorce, grief, the empty nest — all can trigger illness if the individual possesses a genetic predisposition.

The onset of eating disorders is like the firing of a gun. Genetics form the gun. Cultural influences such as the fashion industry and familial attitudes about weight then load it. And intense emotional distress pulls the trigger.

Healthier figures on international catwalks may help to disarm the gun. However, of the more than 40 women I interviewed, only a handful had ever paid any attention to fashion. When they started starving, they were asking for help, not admiration. Those models who failed the test in Madrid need treatment, not rebuke.



Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times