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Biting Anorexia by Lucy Howard-Taylor

rainbowrecovered:

Thank you to the wonderful Celeste for this review of Biting Anorexia by Lucy Howard-Taylor. If you feel you would like to contribute a review, even if it’s to a book that we’ve already reviewed, please send us an email at rainbowrecovered@gmail.com

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This book was incredibly hard for me to read, and even harder for me to review. As a student of the University of Sydney myself (in fact, I purchased the book at the chancellor’s bookfest in my first year) I found it impossible not to read myself into the text, not to see myself in the protagonist’s actions.

As so many texts on Eating Disorders are, Biting Anorexia is a memoir. Covering Howard-Taylor’s first year at university, it also details her first steps in recovery. Split into three sections, it shows her movement from the depths of her eating disorder, into her first attempts at recovery, and through to a more stable existence without her ED. “The Black”, the first section, looks back at her time in high school, where she sees her eating disorder as being at its worst. This then gives way to “The Gray”, which forms the majority of the book, and covers the summer before her first year through to the summer before her second year. During this time, Howard-Taylor sees herself as being “in recovery” or “trying to recover”, but is still acting in a disordered manner, and succumbing to a number of destructive behaviours. Finally, the memoir concludes with “The Light”, which, rather than the rest of the book, which insists on looking back and speaking in reference to the past, looks forward, and considers possibilities for the future.

One of the things I found most frustrating about this memoir was Howard-Taylor’s refusal to understand, or critically examine, the ‘disorder heirarchy’  that she finds herself victim to. Diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, and claiming it as ‘her disorder’ to the extent that it functions as the title of the memoir, Howard-Taylor is predominantly suffering from Bulimia Nervosa during “The Gray” – she details the specifics of an number of binging and purging experiences, and mentions it in passing with great frequency, but never says the word “bulimia.” Seen as a ‘dirty word’ in some anorexic communities, it is hard to read Howard-Taylor as not trying to hold onto her ‘perfect diagnosis’ of anorexia in this section. Her refusal to engage textually with the shifting dynamics of her eating disorder, or with the triggers for her binging and purging makes the text a problematic read for one attempting to better understand their own eating disorder or eating disorders more generally. In addition to this, it adds to this hierarchy, given credence ‘from the horse’s mouth’, so to speak, and I take great issue with this, as it is not helpful to any kind of mental health or eating disorder advocacy.

A further difficulty I found with the novel is Howard-Taylor’s meta-textual dynamics. The text is interspersed with her poetry, prose, diary entries, and emails. The reproduction of these, without critical commentary, makes it difficult for a reader to ascertain whether or not she is subscribing to the views she purports to present in these meta-texts, some of which are clearly heavily influenced by her state of mind and the severity of her disorder at the time of writing. Without critiquing statements made in this mindset, and reproducing them in a recovery-positive text, is implicitly stating that these thoughts and feelings are themselves positive, which is not the case.

Trigger warnings: explicit discussion of restriction, binging, purging, depression, anxiety and suicidality. I would not recommend that anyone not in a positive place, or not confident in their recovery read this book. I would also recommend that those in a position similar to myself – Australian undergraduate university students, or those in their final years of high school, avoid this book where possible. Whilst some of the material is interesting, and it can pique self-reflection, the manner in which it is presented is too problematic for me to recommend it.

Book Review: The Pursuit of Perfect - Tal Ben-Shahar

rainbowrecovered:

What’s it about: Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, discusses that the pursuit of perfection is the number one obstacle to finding happiness. The book uses research in the field of positive psychology, including principles taught by Ben-Shahar in his course at Harvard University. The author demonstrates an optimal way of thinking about failure and success. Included in the book are self-reflective exercises, mediations, and ‘time-ins’ to help discover what you really want out of life.

Trigger warning: none

Final Thoughts: I read this book a few years ago, and I remember it having a profound impact on me at the time. My former boss actually recommended I read it, and it really forced me to challenge some of my perceptions about perfectionism and myself. In fact I found it so useful I ended up purchasing myself a copy. As many people battling eating disorders label themselves as ‘perfectionists’ I thought that this would be a worthwhile book to review (and recommend)

Book Review: an apple a day - Emma Woolf

rainbowrecovered:

What’s it about? At the age of 32, journalist (and niece of Virginia Woolf) Emma Woolf makes the decision to recover completely from anorexia. After a more than ten-year battle with the disease Emma dreams of leading a happy life with her partner and having children. The book chronicles her journey to recovery.

Trigger warning: this book discusses Emma’s weight and intake to a great extent. If you are triggered by this then I’d suggest you avoid this book.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. Emma Woolf writes beautifully, although at times I felt the book ‘skimmed the surface’ of her recovery a little. I felt it could have been a little ‘grittier’ and really sunk its teeth into the struggles associated with recovery. The overall tone of the book is very positive and very pro-recovery, and doesn’t glorify her eating disorder in the way that some other books I’ve read do. I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

Book review: Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch

rainbowrecovered:

What’s it about: Intuitive Eating encourages readers to move from  emphasis on diet and regulation and rules and regulation surrounding eating, to a focus on nurturing your body and helping your body find the weight you were meant to be. Intuitive Eating gives instruction on how to honour hunger and feel fullness and to reject the diet mentality. Both authors are registered dieticians, and the entire focus of the book is achieving a more positive relationship with food. Intuitive Eating helps readers identify which of the three types of eaters they are, and to LISTEN to their body. Intuitive Eating opposes calorie counting and restriction, on the basis it will lead to binging and unhealthy relationships with food.

Trigger warning: encourages natural weight loss (which shouldn’t happen if you’re underweight). Some discussion of height/weight.

Final thoughts: Intuitive Eating is a book that has A LOT of hype in the recovery community, and for good reason. With chapters such as ‘challenge the food police’ and ‘cope with your emotions without using food’ much of the material contained in Intuitive Eating can be extremely beneficial for those recovering from EDs. I found the book thought-provoking at times, but for me it wasn’t the holy grail of recovery that it is for other people.

For those just commencing their recovery journey Intuitive Eating is likely to be entirely too confronting. However, for those who have progressed to achieving a healthier body weight, and are normalising their intake, Intuitive Eating can be a useful tool in the journey to recovery. The ten principles of intuitive eating are well set out, providing small, manageable challenges.

Intuitive Eating provides an addition perspective on eating disorder recovery and normalisation/optimalisation of one’s relationship with food. It is not a substitute for therapy (be it from a doctor, psych or dietitian), but it is a useful guide for those on the journey to recovery.

ivoryunknown:

my happy list

ivoryunknown:

my happy list

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Hello, I've been fighting Binge Eating Disorder for about a year, before that, I lost about 26 kg and gained it all back, I study psychology and I've read the book Brain over binge, and after seeing a psychiatrist the BED is relatively under control, I also have some social anxiety issues and my dr. said there's a link between the 2, so he subscribed me Zoloft for a year, saying that given my case it'd work perfectly, but it scares me, have u had experience with medication? Would u recommend it?

Anonymous

Both Tess and I have been on medication. 

You need to work with your doctors and treatment team, rather than asking advice from strangers on the internet. I am not comfortable with dishing out advice about medication on anonymous. I think it is something that is highly personal: some medications work well for some people and not others, and so forth. Some times it is a matter of trialling different approaches to treatment and determining what is best for you. Again, I emphasise, this is something that needs to be discussed with your team, in particular your psychiatrist and/or GP. 

We can talk more off anonymous if you like, but I am very hesitant to give out advice about medication in a public way. I hope you understand. 

Best wishes,

Madeline

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