Interview with a recovered ED patient Part I

Kendra Sebelius has a BA in Business Economics, her life was all planned out for her. She’s smart and she’s a hard worker, but she also struggled with multiple forms of eating disorders throughout her life. 

I was lucky enough to interview Kendra and hear about her inspiring story and her life. She’s an inspiration to all who battle an eating disorder or struggle with negative body image. She says that through recovery, relapse, and recovery again – she was able to find her life path.

Currently, Kendra helps those who struggle with addictions and eating disorders. She started blogging and tweeting about these disorders and is known as “A Voice in Recovery.” You can find Kendra through Facebook, Twitter, or follow her blog.

Thank you so much to Kendra for allowing me to interview! It was a pleasure and I hope we can stay in touch. 

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JK: Tell me a little about yourself (career, goals, background).

KS: I have a BA in Business Economics. I currently “make my living” by being a Senior Accountant at a consulting company that helps restructure and reorganize companies in financial distress. Whoa – that being said – I am NOT the accountant type 🙂 I set out in early life to have a career where I made money, and have done well at that goal. I also am in recovery from an eating disorder. Well – you could say maybe even more than one eating disorder, I was a flip flopper amongst them all. My birthday is November 5, and I will be 30 and within two weeks will also be two years sober. A little over a year ago I moved across the country after a long road trip visiting all parts of America. I have been through a lot with my addictions, and being in recovery is my greatest blessing I have been given in life. It is through recovery, relapse, and recovery again that I have discovered my life path. My destiny so to speak. My mission in life is to help people who struggle with addictions and eating disorders and help give a voice to the diversification of these disorders. About a year ago I started advocacy and then shortly after started a Voice in Recovery and since then I have become a mentor through Mentor Connect, and will soon be a support group co-leader, and hopefully helping with a study at a nearby hospital on eating disorders. Advocacy, blogging, tweeting, volunteering, is al a “side” passion to me 🙂 I think of it as round the clock, work – but ultimately the most rewarding thing in my life. 

JK: What do you aim to achieve by receiving your PhD in the field of eating disorders?

KS: I am not sure at this point what path my education will lead me. Having a Business Economics degree, I am currently taking night classes when I can and trying to find my path in education. I do not know if it will lead me to a masters of social work, clinical psych, PhD, PsyD, or what, and I am ok with that at this point. I want to help people. Whatever path I am taken on in this journey of life, I will find a way to help people who struggle with eating disorders. I want people to know they are not alone, that their voices matter. I hope to start a book soon sharing voices on those in recovery. There are so many memoirs, and stories of ‘in the disorder’ that I want to show the other side of eating disorders. I want to share what recovery looks like to those who are currently going through it. My aim is to show how diverse the population is, that it is not just Anorexia, and Bulimia that plague people; there are many people with BED, and those in the EDNOS category (hopefully to change with the DSM V). It is not just a white, women issue. It affects men and women, all races, and more needs to be shared from ALL the voices of those in recovery. My aim is to in a way be a vessel and not only support those struggling, but to be one that can share their voices with the public. 

JK: Do you believe the mass media directly affects body image? 

KS: I think it is a hard argument for anyone to say the media has no influence on people. Companies spend millions of dollars on campaigns for exactly this – the ability to influence peoples purchasing dollars. That being said, I cannot say for a fact say the amount of influence it has. Just this week an article came out on various websites, including Jezebel, talking about a British study saying half of girls 16-21 would consider plastic surgery, 95% would like to change their bodies, and 5% of 11-16 year olds would consider Botox (http://jezebel.com/5395999/study-tweens-already-thinking-about-botox). How can we honestly say the media has no influence? I think a main issue with the media is that we compare ourselves to the images we see in print, on tv, in movies, in commercials. Another recent study showed that while people make rapid comparisons, when reminded that real life is not being shown, they are able to look at things with a critical eye, and those comparisons become less relevant (http://www.physorg.com/news169741002.html). That is a powerful study and we as body image, eating disorder, self esteem advocates should have hope that what we do matters!

JK: What do you think people can do to prevent the mass media’s influence on their bodies?  

KS: We are not going to change the media, nor do I think we should. I know many people support governments intervening and banning or labeling pictures that have been photoshopped. I am not of the mindset that a government should have influence over a business. I believe the influence and messages may not change, but I believe we have a responsibility to teach our children to critically think about the messages they receive. I believe friends, social networks, and family has just as much influence over child as do the messages from the mass media. I believe teaching children and teens about the messages, showing the realities of what they are doing can help people start to critically look at messages they receive in the future. Since taking on this journey as an advocate, the more stories I read, the more news I pay attention to, the more I can see through the messages that are being sent. That is why Dove workshops, and other school and community programs are great. 

 I think we need to challenge the stigmas in society, that looks aren’t everything and that there is no one ideal size. I also think its incredible important to spread awareness that diets are unhealthy, do not last, and have a larger hep that more people start to ban “diet” talk. I wish people could see the diet industry is one of the greatest business enterprises of all time! They make a lot of money at peoples expense. Helping to spread awareness of the dangers of dieting will hopefully also make people critically think about how their behaviors may affect the children, friends, and people in their lives. I think parents need to be mindful of diet and weight talk around children. I think this PDF is a GREAT start and sums up a variety of ways people can help build body self esteem: http://nature.berkeley.edu/cwh/PDFs/CCOC_05_PDFs/3D-Real_Kids_All_Sizes.pdf

I think peer to peer education is a great way to help lesson the influence of the media as well. Teens especially, listen to their peers. Creating awareness in this community is critical in the prevention of eating disorders, helping build positive body image, and also gives teens the ability to use their voice. I believe kids and teens have very powerful voices and can create large change in this movement. If you look at whatkidscando.org you will see many things – but this one study shows 11 high school students trying to create a program of education to prevent negative body image and other risk factors for developing eating disorders (http://whatkidscando.org/specialcollections/student_research_action/sehome/Sehomefinalreport.pdf). It is things like this that give me hope that we can and are making changes everyday!

 

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~ by jklein0414 on November 4, 2009.

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