Mentors for Overcoming Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are commoner than many of us realize. Statistics show that 9% of women suffer from anorexia in the developed world. Bulimia is less prevalent, with an estimated 1.5% of women suffering from this illness. Binge eating can be found in 3.5% of women are binge eaters.
If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome an eating disorder, having a strong, female mentor could make all the difference. A 2014 study by Professor Mariasol Perez of Arizona State University found that having a mentor improved treatment compliance rates in women recovering from eating disorders. Participants in the study reported improved quality of life and better family relationships as a result of mentorship interventions.
According to Perez, there are several advantages to mentees in such a relationship: “First, the fact that someone is willing to volunteer and take the time to assist a mentee is very powerful and meaningful to the mentee. Second, the ability to have someone to troubleshoot problems and have additional accountability in-between treatment sessions is also very valuable to mentees.”
How Mentoring Works
There are several ways in which a mentoring relationship can be maintained. Perez uses the example of Mentor Connect, an international non-profit organisation that links recovered eating disorder patients with those striving to overcome their disorder. In this model, according to Perez, mentors and mentees commit to “approximately 1 hour a week of contact but the contact can be across any medium (text messages, emails, phone calls, etc.). The mentor and mentee set up a contact pattern that works best for them.”
However, it is important to note that having a mentor is a supportive intervention rather than a replacement for treatment. Knowing that you have someone to turn to when the going gets tough is positive for anyone, and if you are overcoming an eating disorder, knowing that your mentor has been through the same process encourages you to be more open about the difficulties you are experiencing.
This said, a mentor need not have experienced recovery from an eating disorder themselves, but should nevertheless be willing to take time to find out what obstacles their mentee faces and be ready to respond in a non-judgemental and supportive way when confronted with the concerns or problems of their mentee.
You are not Alone
For those who suffer from eating disorders, knowing you’re not alone in your battle to return to health is important: “Get connected with others. There are people that surround individuals who are going through the recovery process, including strangers, that are willing to give their support and motivate those who suffer from eating disorders to not only continue the recovery process, but to thrive as well,” says Perez.