Recently, a woman called me to tell me how her daughter was doing great recovering from an eating disorder with the help of a book called 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder. She said her daughter had recently gotten out of residential treatment and was using the book as a tool for progress. The woman wanted me to pass the news along to the author.
As luck would have it, I actually know the author Carolyn Costin, the founder of Monte Nido Treatment Center in California. We've traveled across the country together speaking at screenings about body image issues. I called Carolyn to talk to her about her new book.
Q. Carolyn, you have written a few books, what makes your newest book, 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder a self-help book?
A. This book gives specific strategies and assignments that have successfully helped countless people with eating disorders reach full recovery. The book is full of inspiration by people who have recovered, including myself and my co-author, Gwen Grabb, a former client of mine who also became a therapist
Q. What's the essence of some of the keys to recovery in your book?
A. The first key is about hope, patience and motivation. It is difficult to recover from an eating disorder and even if you get motivated to get better, that motivation comes and goes as things get hard or frustrating or scary. Even though it takes time, full recovery is possible and we make sure readers know that.
The second key is about learning to distinguish between what I call the "eating disorder self" and the "healthy self," and then helping people learn how to strengthen the healthy part of them that is in there somewhere. It is each person's healthy self that will heal their eating disorder.
One way we teach people to access the healthy self is to ask them what advice they would offer someone else in the same situation. For example, someone with an eating disorder might think , "I ate ice cream, I don't want to get fat so I have to throw it up." If you ask that same person, "What would you say to your 7-year-old sister or niece, if she said the same thing." The person usually knows exactly what to say.
In the third key, "it's not about the food," the reasons that can contribute to an eating disorder are explored. A variety of risk factors have to come together creating the perfect storm, including a person's temperament, the cultural pressure to be thin and a variety of psychological stressors.
Key four teaches readers to "feel your feelings, but challenge your thoughts." This key explains how feelings are our bodies' response to our thoughts. We help people learn how to challenge cognitive distortions, and allow feelings without being overtaken by them.
Even though key three is "it's not about the food," key five explains how actually "it is about the food." After all, it is an eating disorder. Even though other issues may contribute, if you do not heal your relationship with food, you will not recover from an eating disorder.
Key six is about "changing your behaviors." This key describes how to go about changing behaviors -- not just overt ones, like purging, but others that are problematic for a person trying to recovery from an eating disorder, like weighing, body checking and in some cases even exercise.
Key seven is all about the need for relationships and the importance of "reaching out to other people, rather than the eating disorder." Over time, a person with an eating disorder starts to rely on their eating disorder rather than other people. When you can call a friend rather than binge, when you can ask someone to eat with you so you don't skip dinner, when you can turn to your boyfriend rather than purge, you are healing. Eventually the idea is to reach out to others to deal with all kinds of things not just to prevent eating disorder behaviors.
The last key was the hardest one to write, and should be a whole book! Key eight focuses on the idea of "finding meaning And purpose." The first seven keys are about what people are recovering from. Key eight is what they are recovering to. In this key, we try to give people a taste of how we both work as therapists in the area of spirituality or soul. We try to show people a glimpse into how we see the world as sacred and help each person begin to realize that he or she has an ego and a soul and that the ego part has gotten out of control.
Q. The book sounds great. Do you think people with an eating disorder can buy the book and get better?
A. Good question. This book is not a substitute for appropriate clinical treatment. In fact, I was hesitant to write this book because I know eating disorders are complex and often require complex treatment approaches. However, Gwen and I tell readers to use this book as an adjunct to therapy and not as a substitute. Having said that, we are now hearing from people that the book is helping them get better and teaching them strategies they are using to do so.
Carolyn Costin is the clinical director of Monte Nido Treatment Center in Malibu, Calif.
For more by Darryl Roberts, click here.
For more on eating disorders, click here.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders helpline at 1-800-931-2237.