The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness was founded by Johanna Kandel in 2000 to increase worldwide awareness about eating disorders. The nonprofit organization provides resources and programs “aimed at outreach, education, early intervention, and advocacy for all eating disorders” and is headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida.
What are eating disorders?
The National Institute of Mental Health describes eating disorders as “serious and often fatal illnesses that are associated with severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions.” Those struggling with eating disorders may obsess over food, body shape, and the fear of gaining weight.
An Eating disorder is comprised of psychological and biological causes, and is not a “lifestyle choice”. Research has shown the majority of people diagnosed with an eating disorder also have at least one co-occurring anxiety disorder.
One study on “Anxiety and Disordered Eating” published in Cognitive Therapy and Research found that “approximately 65% of patients with eating disorders meet criteria for at least one anxiety disorder which tends to predate and to persist beyond remission of the eating disorder.” The most common co-occurring disorders are general anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, PTSD, or substance use disorder.
Although they are often diagnosed in teens or young adults, eating disorders can affect people of any age, gender, ethnic background, economic class, and body weight. It’s estimated that approximately 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder during their lifetime. Data compiled by the Eating Disorders Coalition warns, “Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.”
The most commonly diagnosed eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Less common eating disorders include pica, rumination disorder, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. Any eating disorder has the potential to be life-threatening, but all are treatable.
The Alliance’s Mission
The Alliance works to overcome the stigma and misinformation surrounding eating disorders and to help connect those seeking help with recovery resources. Increased public understanding can help people suffering from an eating disorder overcome shame and secrecy and ultimately reach out for help. The more loved ones learn about the reality of eating disorders, the more they are able to offer valuable support during the recovery process. With their national, interactive database and comprehensive outreach services, The Alliance “gives hope to more than 5,000 individuals in crisis every year.”
The Alliance offers a variety of services and programs designed to educate, support, and advocate for those touched by eating disorders, including:
- Educational presentations to schools, healthcare providers, hospitals, treatment centers, and community agencies to raise public understanding about eating disorders and available treatment services. The earlier an eating disorder is identified and treated, the more successful the outcome.
- Free, clinician-led weekly support groups for those struggling with eating disorders and their loved ones. The Alliance is the only national organization providing free, clinician-led support groups. Support groups are a valuable component of recovery, allowing members to share personal stories, coping strategies, resources and encouragement. Support group members often feel less isolated, anxious, or overwhelmed when associating with others who understand and empathize. As a result, they may be more motivated to seek and continue treatment. “The support of peers and friends is also crucial in engaging and supporting individuals in recovery,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Local support groups can be found in Florida and several other states.
- Support and referrals for treatment centers and practitioners through the free help-line and comprehensive referral website. Those seeking treatment options can search the national database using criteria like zip code, populations treated, accepted insurance plans, treatment modalities, and levels of care offered. More advanced filters can also be applied, including comorbid diagnoses, nutritional philosophies, and the number of desired treatment sessions per week.
- Advocacy for eating disorders and mental health legislation. Committed to the improvement of education, outreach, treatment, and research of eating disorders, members of The Alliance travel to Washington D.C. and state capitals, advocating for improved understanding of eating disorders and better treatment options. The Alliance encourages community participation through letter writing campaigns, phone calls/emails, and training other advocates to be voices for change. The Alliance is a proud member of the Leadership Circle of The Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC).
- In August 2017, The Alliance opened Psychological Services, offering direct, low-cost, life-saving treatment to the at-risk population of underinsured and uninsured adults in Palm Beach County, Florida. Treatment costs are low, and no one is denied treatment due to a lack of funds. Treatment sessions are not limited in frequency or duration but are provided on a case-to-case basis. The Alliance hopes to expand these services.
Southern Smash joined forces with The Alliance in July 2019. It provides a forum for those impacted by eating disorders to “share their stories of recovery and hope, a place where people can show up and know that it is okay to NOT be okay.”
Contact Turning Point of Tampa
In 1989, Turning Point of Tampa developed their nationally recognized Eating Disorders/Food Addiction Program for clients with Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, and Anorexia Nervosa. This comprehensive program uses a 12-Step based treatment approach to focus on and treat food as an addiction.
At Turning Point of Tampa our food addiction treatment plan includes:
- Individualized food plans
- Individual and group counseling
- Body image groups
- Meal planning, food shopping, and meal preparation
- Nutritional education
- Balanced exercise
- Development of assertive communication skills
Contact The Alliance
Eating disorders are serious but treatable diseases. Successful treatment approaches address both the eating disorder and any co-occurring disorders simultaneously. Therapeutic plans often include individual and group therapy, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, nutritional counseling and family counseling.
Turning Point of Tampa’s goal is to always provide a safe environment and a solid foundation in 12-Step recovery, in tandem with quality individual therapy and groups. We have been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987.