A Quick Chat with Amy Kuehn from ANAD
In March we worked with ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Assosciated Disorders) as our “Charity of the Month” to raise money and funds for the local chapter. Below you’ll read a quick interview with their resource person, Amy Keuhn, to learn more about this worthy cause.
1. What is ANAD? ANAD stands for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to the alleviation and prevention of eating disorders. They are active with legislation, sponsoring support groups, sponsoring National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, helping to advocate for individuals and families, keeping a state-by-state listing of resource people and treatment providers/centers, etc.
2. What do you do within ANAD? I’ve been a resource person for the state of Indiana for many years which means that I’m available to answer questions and provide information and support to anyone who contacts me. I’ve also done some advocacy work on a state and national level regarding insurance parity along with individual advocacy. In addition, I’ve been leading a free support group since May of 2007. I’ve done some public speaking, interviews, health fairs, and provided information to medical professionals when asked.
3. What is an eating disorder? There are diagnostic criteria for an actual diagnosis, but I believe an eating disorder to be whenever food and weight take a priority in a person’s life to an extent where other areas of the person’s life suffer. For most, thoughts about food and weight dominate their lives. They cannot imagine being able to eat casually. Most people will isolate themselves in some manner in order to protect the disorder which leads to depression. There are many faulty beliefs that are quite commonly shared by most people who have eating disorders, but because there is such social stigma, and because the voice of the disease demands absolute discretion, each person feels desperately alone, constantly striving for the physical perfection which they believe will bring true happiness. However, as the disease progresses, the reality is the opposite as people feel more “outside of the norm” and “damaged” than ever.
4. What can I do if I think someone I know has an eating disorder? Educate yourself. When you talk with the person, expect for them to deny it or become angry. That’s normal. Phrase your statements in the most caring way that you can, focusing on your feelings and concerns. DO NOT make any sort of comment about their appearance and even if they ask you about their appearance, avoid the question. There is no way to make a statement about the person’s appearance because they have an amazing ability to twist it into something that doesn’t resemble what you meant. Saying that they look too think is akin to telling them that they’re doing a great job and to keep up the great work. Telling someone that they’re looking healthier is the same (in their head) as telling them that they’re morbidly obese and should try harder at getting control of their gluttony. Just avoid any comment on appearance. Have some therapists names to give to the person, some eating disorders resources such as helpful websites, and if available, the locations and times of any support groups. Also, get support for yourself. This is not your problem and you can’t recover for them. Be a friend, but practice some tough love; keep your own boundaries strong and you can be a healthy example for them. In my opinion, an excellent book for people who have an eating disorder and for those who are supports is “Eating Disorders for Dummies.” It’s straightforward and does an excellent job of explaining a LOT of things!
5. Where can I learn more? www.ANAD.org, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org, www.bedaonline.com, www.oa.org, www.joyproject.org, www.something-fishy.org. I also lead a support group in Indianapolis and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org