I recently read an advance copy of Living FULL: Winning My Battle With Eating Disorders by Danielle Sherman-Lazar. Particularly as a mom of three daughters, at times this book was difficult to read. (Yes, I know boys have eating disorders too, but girls seem more susceptible.) Despite this, I believe that this book should be on every family’s bookshelf. Written as a narrative from Danielle’s younger self, interspersed with excerpts from a blog she started while in recovery, it will help both individuals in the depths of an eating disorder and their parents feel that they are not alone.
In a straightforward way that disallows judgments or excuses, Sherman-Lazar lays out how she felt about herself and food and clearly shows that her eating disorder controlled her. Her battle began at an early age and she suffered for years before finally acknowledging she needed help at age 26.
This is not an academic book on anorexia and bulimia (she was diagnosed with both), but a brave recounting of a young woman’s journey. Seeing life through her eyes can help other parents realize this can happen in any family. It is apparently quite easy for a teen to avoid eating or to “cleanse” their body without parents noticing. (Though as a parent, I see that there are some signs that would indicate we should pay closer attention as well as yet another reason to keep the lines of communication open during the turbulent teen years.)
While not explicitly stated, the point is made that (as is true for any addiction) a person with an eating disorder needs to want help for it to be effective. While the story is told from her point of view, Sherman-Lazar shows how her parents waited in the wings, immediately swooping in when she called for help, possibly fast-tracking her recovery. Once begun, she doesn’t sugar-coat her recovery and is honest about the struggles. To help others better understand the process (whether they themselves or a loved one is undertaking it) the book also includes some of the Food & Feelings Journals she was required to keep as part of her Maudsley recovery. Here she not only lists what she ate, but how she felt, about the food and herself.
In the book, we learn it takes five to seven years to recover fully from anorexia. Before hitting this milestone, Sherman-Lazar became pregnant; she also briefly shares her thoughts and mental struggles (as well as some tips about what helped her) of this period of her life and suggests that being a mom (a long-held goal) helped her progress as she was determined to have healthy children and do her best to ensure they grow up with healthy body image.
While the details are frightening at times, we are left with hope and the sense that, while not guaranteed, full recovery is possible.
You can read more about Sherman-Lazar and her life in recovery at Living a Full Life After ED.
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