I discovered an article online - entitled In Fighting Anorexia, Recovery Is Elusive on the NY Times website this morning. The contents, or rather overall tone of the article, were shocking to me. As the title implied the article had a defeatist attitude regarding those suffering from eating disorders and their journeys towards recovery. Ending on the note of one medical professional saying that she felt you would always keep your eating disorder with you.
My first thought was that this was irresponsible journalism as undoubtedly numerous sufferers of varying eating disorders would read this. What would the consequence of that be? As a sufferer of various eating disorders for many years I can tell you what that consequence would be for me if I was not in the place I am mentally at the moment or if I did not have any form of support. In fact, the article despite those aforementioned things did plant a small seedling of the following: if full recovery is not attainable then why continue treatment? Why strive for something being deemed elusive by professionals? Why set yourself up for failure?
This alone was not what prompted this letter. Something I found incredibly distressing was -- the credibility.
The article contained several quotes from various people including medical and mental health professionals, eating disorder activists, professors, and a past eating disorder survivor turned author. If all of these people are contributing to an article that diminishes hope in recovery then why should I have hope? These people know a great deal more. Wondering why they would do this, I decided to investigate further and the results were shocking.
Some journalists cultivate their ideas for stories from their findings, allowing them to form themselves. I do not believe that was the case with this article. In the course of the day I have managed to discuss the article with (or track down the thoughts of) three of the eight persons quoted as well as stumble upon a fourth's views which they posted online. NONE (zero) of those four liked the outcome of the article. I also managed to find the views of someone who was interviewed but whose comments did not make their way into the final article. They had passed along a message of hope within their interview. A few highlights of my discoveries:
Dr. Le Grange via an email correspondence, "I work mostly with adolescents with AN and have a very optimistic outlook when it comes to recovery. In fact, our own work clearly demonstrates that the majority of adolescents fully recover. I am indeed sorry that the NYT writer put my words in a context that would reflect a more somber outlook for this disorder."
author and eating disorder survivor Aimee Liu, "Although it's not clear in the piece, I'm actually a true believer in FULL recovery... am a little concerned, though, that readers will view this article as bad news for those in recovery.... Personally, I absolutely consider myself fully recovered." the rest of her musings can be found via Gurze (http://www.eatingdisordersblogs.com/life_after_recovery/2011/04/index.html)
Kathleen MacDonald, "I think it is very sad when people who are suffering share their story of NO HOPE...they are doing such an injustice to the field, to those who suffer, to those who know someone suffering, etc...and most of all, to themselves."
Johanna Kandel whom was interviewed but not included, "Although I am thrilled that they are profiling eating disorders, I am beyond disappointed and saddened with the overall tone of the article."
Compare these highlights with the overall tone of the article. You would not think they were the same people as the views expressed in the article as a whole (including the title itself) in no way correlate with what I found. I was told by a few people that they expressly made it clear to the author the importance of hope and that full recovery IS indeed possible. By killing that hope or making the issue murky, it could possibly result in the death of some individuals with eating disorders expressly those that have not reached out for help, who are currently struggling, or people who might struggle in the future and stumble upon this article.
This article is a good example of creative liberty going too far. When the end product is a creative cut and paste project eliminating the essence of each of the interviews conducted what is left? Not the views of those interviewed or the truth, but rather the author's views - or what the author thinks will make a hot discussion piece. I can assure you one thing all of her credibility was lost in my mind and I truly think either a retraction, clarification, or second piece (perhaps written by those people whose viewpoints were skewed in this article?) should be printed.
I will also be sending a shorten (150 word) version. This is such poor journalism.
I do think it brings us back to the question that Serra posed before though... what does full recovery look like?
I think the lack of consensus fuels things like this... (not to say what the author of the article did was okay, because of that - her journalistic integrity still leaves much to be desired)
but I also think there will never be a consensus as it looks different for everyone (in my opinion)
also on a happier note:
make sure you go check out my giveaway post asking you why YOU are worth recovery (which I fully believe exists)! Click Here!
EDITED TO ADD:
I'm so glad to see discussion around the NYT article about anorexia recovery.
For the record, I didn't like the phrasing "a bout of anorexia." And I felt the article was way too negative.
Also, I'm pretty sure I didn't say recovery entailed having "absolutely normal" relationships with food. Because who does, in this culture?