Eating disorders and spiritual health

NorfolkEDALogo“Struggling with an eating disorder may be part of your spiritual journey,” says the Norfolk Eating Disorders Association and they are organising a training day for church pastoral workers to address the issues. Its Resources Manager Margaret Duncum reports.
In any church congregation, or ministry team you will find people who have issues around weight, shape, eating and low self-esteem as well as others with a friend, colleague or family member who has an eating disorder.  We estimate that Norfolk has more than 6,000 people currently experiencing such problems. 
Norfolk EDA is a local charity open to people of any religion (or none), race, sexual orientation etc. It is not an overtly Christian organisation offering specifically Christian solutions. Having said that, it does have a number of committed Christians on the staff, volunteer and trustee teams, as well as Bishop Graham as one of its patrons. 
Training day for pastoral workers

Norfolk EDA are offering a training day for church pastoral workers in February 2007.
The day will look at :

· Signs and symptoms of eating disorders,
· How to approach someone you think may have one,
· What help is available
· What you can do to help
· Your own feelings around food
· Spirituality and eating disorders

For more information contact Pam Parsons on 01603-665974
As we get to know our clients, we find that the majority of them do turn out to have some spiritual commitment - Christian or other - and/or are spiritually seeking.  We are concerned with the needs of the whole person and do not solely focus on symptoms - eating, depression or other physical or mental problems.
Illnesses such as eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating disorder, are emotional/psychiatric conditions developing from low self-esteem.  They have profound physical effects and are life-threatening – for example, up to 20% of anorexia sufferers will die from the effects of malnutrition or through suicide. Self-hatred inevitably leads to negative beliefs “I am a waste of space” - “I am not worthy of love” -“I don’t deserve food/nourishment/anything good.” This is a “psyche in disarray” needing healing of body, mind and spirit.
Books have been written about medieval saints and holy people fasting to the point of starvation. It seems that food and eating, feasting and fasting, has long had a complex and mystical relationship with spirituality and self-worth.
NorfolkEDAGroupClients who seek us out are invariably in a lot of pain, sometimes of body, but certainly of mind and spirit. Often it is the pain of resisting growth and change and we offer them help and encouragement along a journey of self-discovery. Most are trying to find a meaning to their lives – “Who am I? Who would I be without my eating disorder?” It is very scary country and the “journey from here to here” is the most important voyage any of us will ever make. 
The body needs feeding, the mind needs feeding, the spirit needs feeding, the soul needs… well, that’s a whole big “other” topic for a different discussion, but what it doesn’t need is to be battered by a group of warring factions.    Meditation may be an exercise that feeds the spirit, but it involves discipline of the mind and co-operation of the body in order to “work.” 
Elements of eating disorders get in the way of spirituality, and spirituality has a place in taming the monsters accompanying disordered eating. If the mind is filled with love and the paradoxical reaching inward to the depths of the soul that we need to do in order to reach outward to the universal love (that some call God, and some don’t) – there will be no room left for “monsters.” What monsters? Monsters like self-hatred; obsessive thoughts of food, ritual, cleanliness etc; anger; self-harm; powerlessness; isolation; pain, and other elements of hell on earth.
Norfolk EDA is the local charity set up 30 years ago specifically to do hands-on work with people in Norfolk around anorexia, bulimia, compulsive eating and related problems. This organisation is the only non-profit-making specialist service for Norfolk people struggling with disordered eating. 
We offer help and support to sufferers, carers and professionals involved in treating these illnesses. We receive around half of our funding from the PCT and the rest through grant-giving trusts and donations. 
Our staff and volunteers are trained and experienced in a variety of ways. They include counsellors working practically and/or therapeutically, people who have had first-hand experience of disordered eating - as sufferer, family member or friend - and helpline workers. We are not a clinic or clinical treatment centre, but offer a warm, informal, friendly place where people can feel safe enough to explore difficult and painful issues, knowing they will remain confidential. 
Clients can take part in group meetings, come to our open house sessions or book one-to-one appointments. They can borrow library books or buy our literature - specially written booklets based on Norfolk EDA’s staff, volunteer and client experience. We offer counselling, email and text support, and a self-help CD Rom - Overcoming Bulimia. 
People in West and East Norfolk can access us in King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth, and we also offer sessions at UEA. 
Each sufferer has a network of concerned families, friends, colleagues, professionals and other supporters.  Very few of them will approach their GPs about these problems, many may not realise that they have a problem until, perhaps, they see some of our literature or publicity and suddenly feel they are looking in a mirror. 
What really matters is that we accept our clients as they are – “It’s OK not to be OK” - and take the time to get to know them and respond to their needs as individuals. We take our lead from them and journey at their pace. We are accessible - anyone (over 16 years) can self-refer or come via formal referral from GP or other health worker. Our services are confidential, and we work together with other agencies involved – with our clients’ permission. Involvement with Norfolk EDA is open-ended, we don’t sign people off and shunt them out. 
While we are here people can come and we will welcome them.
Telephone helpline: – 01603-767062 Mon 7-9pm; Tues 12-4pm; Thurs 10am-2pm
Email support:-
Texting support:- 07906-817837 (voicemail on the same number)
1:1 sessions:- face-to-face time with a trained staff member or volunteer to take an overview of your situation and open the doors to all our other services
Booklets & leaflets:- downloadable free from the website, or cost £5 from the Centre (+ £2 p&p if you want them posted to you)
Library:- books about eating disorders & related issues
Open House sessions: - Tues 12-3; Tues 5-7pm; Thurs 10am-4pm – come and chill out, chat, read, do some art work, write a letter etc – volunteers on hand if you want support
Group meetings:- (see website for details)
“Practically Better” - Monday evening group of 7 sessions
Self-esteem group – 7 sessions Tuesday afternoons
Art for All – alternate Tuesday evenings
Outreach sessions in:-(see website for details) Great Yarmouth College, Kings Lynn, UEA
Low-cost Complementary Therapies:- Aromatherapy massage, Reflexology, Reiki; Indian Head Massage
Counselling:- Low-cost sessions with a qualified, specialist counsellor (waiting list)
Norfolk Eating Disorders Association 34 Colegate, Norwich NR3 1BG
Details of these and other services can be found on our website:


Reproduced from the Network Norfolk website. Used with permission.