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Breaking Free from Eating Disorders

Eating is the stuff of life; it is at the heart of family and social interaction. It is something we all have to do every day to keep healthy in body, mind and spirit. It should be pleasurable and problem free. Sadly, for an ever increasing number of people this is not the case. Tastelifeuk is a charity, endorsed by St John's Church, Kenilworth, that believes in breaking free from eating disorders, and rediscovering life in all its fullness.

The Department of Health estimates that there could be 4 million people suffering from some form of eating disorder in the UK (Daily Hansard, 14/2/13). So what does an eating disorder do to you?

A young woman, Amy, shares her experience of having an eating disorder:

"What's it like to be a compulsive, bulimic or anorexic eater? It's hell. It's like reaching for a goal but not ever achieving it or still remaining miserable once you get there. It's like the slow pain of holding your breath for as long as you can until you're about to die and someone forces you back to reality. It's a constant nightmare. It's a feeling of such passionate and determined self-hatred and loathing that every night you go to sleep wondering if it'll ever be worth getting up again. Then, when you have to, you know the next night will be just like any other, unbearable, sleepless and panicked. You want to escape but somehow, by escaping, you lose all sense of direction and assurance, you need your safety blanket, your identity, your eating behaviour."

It was seeing their daughters struggle with issues like these that galvanised Di Archer and Jean Hart into finding out what eating disorders are all about. Discovering that there was very little to help them survive the challenges, they determined to produce resources to fill the gap in support and treatment.

Following much research and guided by Dr Ros Simpson, a GP and medical teacher, the tastelife course was published in July 2013 after extensive piloting. The 8-session, weekly course is proving to be what they hoped for - a helpful and well-targeted resource which produces measurable transformation in people’s lives. This transformation includes many stories of people beginning to taste life again. For example, Jean and Di have worked with a severe anorexic who is now a healthy weight and married with a young child as well as a slowly recovering bulimic who has joined the tastelife team and aims to help others. tastelife is about just that: tasting life.

Uniquely, the course is open to both sufferers and carers, and uses an interactive teaching approach that encourages self-help and equips participants with real understanding and coping strategies. It is non-threatening, educational and puts the steering wheel firmly in the hand of the sufferer. Participants from the courses say,

"Great teaching, very practical and realistic, yet hopeful. The people stories were fab. They show recovery is possible."

"I so appreciated being able to talk together and explore issues openly and honestly for the first time."

"Just to say thanks for tonight's group, it was really interesting, inspiring, thought provoking, and most of all comforting. C's story really struck a chord - notably the part about wanting to be rid of something but, when given the opportunity, fearing the freedom a bit."

"I just wanted to thank you such a well run and thought-out first evening on eating disorders.  I thought it was excellent and very professionally done."

Tastelifeuk is running the tastelife course in the Kenilworth area in February, and also offers training for those who would like to run it in their locality. Tastelifeuk is also launching a new day course for those working with eating disorder sufferers, in order to resource them further in this field.

Please contact Di Archer, a member of St John's, Kenilworth, for further information, or to book on to the next course or see the tastelifeuk website.

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