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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.


Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.

As I think back on patients I've worked with over the years, many of the young women in their mid-twenties who suffered from serious and extreme forms of anorexia or bulimia came to me because someone who loved them found me. I have been "found" by mothers, sisters and friends.

These people find my writings on the Internet and read them thoroughly. They send my writings that seem most relevant to the person they love. They speak to the person they love and impart their love and great concern. They suggest, beg or plead for the person to contact me.

The first call I receive from that person is a call bolstered by the love around her. She's read what I've written. Perhaps I've spoken with her mother or sister or friend prior to her calling. She knows she has love on her side supporting her move toward recovery. She's scared but hopeful. She is ready to risk trusting and making her moves toward a better life.

Desperate children look for safety in pro-ana sites. It sounds strange to say that, I know because they are helping each other kill themselves on a self-destructive course of starvation. But they don't want to die. They want to be safe.

They want to be free of their terrible fears and anxieties. And they believe that by being dangerously light and slight that they are almost non-existent, which is the ultimate place of safety.

In PBS Frontline World, Lucie Schwartz writes a moving picture of her discoveries in researching pro-ana sites and blogs. In her article, "Outlawing Ana: French lawmakers battle eating disorders," she describes the voice of a young girl, active in pro-ana, isolated in her pain and who is trying to save herself on her own as she thinks is best.

She, like other pro-ana girls and women, doesn't seem to realize, or perhaps at some level they do, that their reasoning ends with a belief that the truly ultimate place of safety is to leave this world. To be in "no place" is better than to be in this terrible "someplace."

They work to get so small they disappear. And they call this tiny place beauty. Perhaps it is beautiful to them because safety and freedom from the pain that haunts or stalks or surrounds them seems beautiful. But "no place" is death.

Adult women are also in the ranks of pro-ana philosophy and for similar reasons. If thin is power, then very thin is more power, and emaciation is ultimate power. Yet, they do not seek power over other people. They do not seek to dominate.

Their goal, like that of the young girls, is to be so perfect in their attempts to be tiny that they are beyond harm. They are beyond criticism. They are safe at last.

I've heard women say that they wanted to become so light that they were "pure spirit." They attempt to achieve this goal by separating spirit from body. Perhaps this is why they see a fat body when they look at their reflection in a mirror. Any body at all would be a block or barrier or prison to the bodiless spirit they wish to release.

Eating food that puts weight on the body and nourishes brain cells will help to clarify some of the distorted thinking. But eating food is what they try to avoid at all costs.

When an anorexic woman's fear is so great that her anorexia is not soothing her and she has some trustworthy, loving people in her life who support her recovery, she has a chance to begin her steps toward living in a healthier way. Both seem to be needed for therapy to begin.

Is your family trying to steer you toward recovery? Are you trying to help a friend or family member get into recovery?

What's your story?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.

She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of the Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder

Appointments are virtual.

For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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