Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Interviews in Recovery - A Conversation with Erin Mandras

Recently, I had the opportunity to e-meet Erin Konheim Mandras, ex-athlete/coach and mom of two, who recovered from anorexia. We decided to interview each other for different perspectives on eating disorder recovery. Below is my interview with Erin - enjoy!

SR: What connection, if any, do you see between your athletic participation and the development of your eating disorder?

EM: I believe that my participation in athletics and soccer significantly contributed to the development of my eating disorder. The competitive component, along with pressures to perform and succeed, are all elements that can lead to an unanticipated disorder, such as anorexia. Also, athletes want to be as physically fit as possible, and with a personality that tends to take things to the extreme, exercise can go too far. 

SR: How did you get motivated to recover? 

EM: I became motivated to recover from my eating disorder far before I actually made any changes. Parts of me wanted to get better and feel better at my lowest point, but the act of changing my diet was too scary, and I just didn't know where to start. My psychiatrist and parents offered me an incentive to gain weight­­ which ultimately became my excuse to start turning my behaviors around. Mostly, I did not enjoy the way I felt and how obsessed I had become with food. 

SR: How did you recover? What helped? 

EM: I, first, acknowledged I had a problem. I just needed to be surrounded by a lot of support, therapy, and medication to slowly alter my thoughts and behaviors about food, my diet, and my body image. Then, my parents, with the support of my psychiatrist, offered me an incentive to gain weight. I had a goal and an excuse to start getting better. Once I began slowly introducing food back in my diet, my body wasn't able to comfortably handle and digest it. So I began added foods that I had already been eating, but in larger quantities. Then, I wanted to get rid of anything that was associated with my eating disorder; that brought me back to the feeling of weakness, obsession, and frailty. This included clothing, shoes, food stored in my apartment, soccer equipment, and more. This helped establish a clean slate involving different and new behaviors. With the combination of all of the support I had while having an eating disorder, the will to want to get better, and an incentive to help get me on the right track, I was able to recover. 

SR: What was the most challenging thing about recovery?

EM: The most challenging part of recovery was seeing the number on the scale go up. I knew it was for my best interest and to regain health, but I couldn't bear seeing it increase. I feared it would go up quickly and uncontrollably, so with this fear in mind, increasing my food consumption was also terrifying. What should professionals know about recovery from a patient’s perspective? Professionals should understand that an individual experiencing such a disorder is a person possessing certain qualities; competitiveness, drive, and motivation. Therefore, if you are able to turn "the truck around and re­route it" by using an incentive (something that individual would have a desire to achieve), then that may be a good start. At the same time, a person with an eating disorder needs to be able to acknowledge there is a problem, and a solution; it will just take time, patience, and the same qualities used to get oneself that low, to get healthy again. 

SR: What message do you have for those who are currently struggling with an eating disorder? 

EM: I empathize with those who are currently struggling with the disorder. Though they may believe they are healthy, fine, and highly functioning, it is no way to live life. It consumes your mind, heart, and ability to give your most to yourself, your loved ones, and the world. Even if you are succeeding in your career, family, and social life, think how much more you would have to offer if your life didn't revolve around the pure focus of food, calories, and scale. Life is too short. If you have a problem, seek help. You cannot do it alone. You need all the support you can get. You can do it! 

SR: Any favorite resources (e.g., websites, books) for those in recovery? 

EM: There weren't as many accessible resources twelve years ago as there are now. I wish I had blogs, like yours and mine, readily available while battling and struggling from my eating disorder. If anything, I would have been reassured that I wasn't alone. That is why I will continue writing, speaking, and connecting with those experiencing similar challenges I faced, and continue to face in regards to food, eating disorders, and body image. I urge people to use my blog as a resource, and to feel free to contact me anytime with questions or concerns. I can relate to many people on many different levels!


You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com

2 comments:

Allmovies Me said...
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Melissa Whatley said...

Hello! I find this so inspiring to read, it really motivates me knowing you've been through all of this. I have just started a blog about my recovery with an eating disorder and I'm finding it helps so much to just write down everything that is happening! Keep up the good work! :D

Melissa xx
http://melissaashleewhatley.blogspot.com.au