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

turning pain
to
COMPASSION,
POWER,
& PURPOSE

"The 3 Ps" Aimee Liu 2005

This page is dedicated to the idea that true recovery can be defined as
REstoration + disCOVERY.

True recovery -- FULL recovery -- unleashes the power, passion, and purpose that disorder suppresses. This page honors those who have achieved full recovery and are turning their power, passion, and purpose to creative pursuits that help others.

Aimee is currently in touch with artists, musicians, and community activists who have histories of eating disorders and whose current work embodies this idea of "power, passion, and purpose." More links to their websites will appear here soon.

If you have a web address you would like to see listed here, please send the link with a brief bio and description of your work or project to
gainingcontest@​gmail.com

Now check out the links we have so far!


L.A.-based designer Karin Collins originally started making her SpoonFed Art pendants as a very personal art-oriented therapy to overcome a serious eating disorder she'd been battling for almost 20 years. Karin is entirely free of her eating disorder now, and she continues to contribute to and spread awareness of the National Eating Disorders Association to keep the focus of her SpoonFed Art business on the reason it was started - to help heal.

Peach Friedman is an Eating Disorders Educator and Personal Fitness Trainer specializing in Women's Health and Wellness Fitness and Compulsive Exercise/​Exercise Bulimia: "I use a supportive, compassionate approach to help my clients learn to use exercise as self-care rather than punishment. Body awareness exercises are an important part of learning to "listen to the body," so that the client can begin to modify exercise routines based on individual needs and desires. I provide recommendations, guidance, and education for physical fitness and well-being. As treatment for an eating disorder, my work is best used in collaboration with a larger treatment team, including a therapist."

Kaiulani Kimbrell is a musician who writes: "In my experience, the Eating Disorder is a disease of the mind that infects everywhere... but when met with the intention to learn and heal, this 'infection' can become the greatest ali to joy and self-realization. It is my hope and honor that I can give back the serenity I have been given and and stand as a mirror of hope and possibility for those still suffering."

Jess Weiner is America’s "Queen of Self-Esteem." For over 13 years, she has been on the front lines of women’s issues with visits to the boardrooms, classrooms and living rooms of women and teens around the world. With a refreshingly candid and engaging personality, Jess is often asked to serve as a communicator, moderator, and inspirational guest where traditional doctors, clinicians, and counselors are not.

A singer/​songwriter from Nashville, TN, Jenni Schaefer uses music in her outreach efforts to help others struggling with eating disorders. She also incorporates humor into her work as a speaker and writer. Even though the topic of eating disorders is very serious, she finds that humor provides a hopeful light and adds a fresh perspective. Jenni is the author of LIFE WITHOUT ED.

Girls Write Now is a non-profit organization that matches NYC high school girl writers with professional women writers in many genres. Girls Write Now provides a safe and supportive environment where girls can expand their natural writing talents, develop independent creative voices, and build confidence in making healthy choices in school, career and life.

Sarah Herrington is a NYC-based poet and fiction writer. Connecting with the lineage of women writers, Sarah often explores beauty images, body issues, and what it means to be female. Her 'zine, Brains and Beauty, is featured in Barnard University's Zine Library. Her poem "Billboard Girl" appears in the anthology "Bowery Women," and her poemvideos have a cult following on YouTube. Sarah is currently working on a young adult novel titled, The Appetite Year. Dedicated to encouraging young women's authentic voice, Sarah teaches and mentors with the organization Girls Write Now.
In the course of writing GAINING I came to believe that 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.

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

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