ANNE White knows from personal experience that people with an eating disorder can turn their life around.
So now, she is using that belief to help people suffering with all types of eating disorders through her counselling service, Pathways for Recovery.
Anne, 57, of Longlands, Worthing, said her problems with food stemmed from her difficult childhood, but it was only once she was in her forties that she finally was able to address them.
She said: “I found a professional counsellor who was willing to cheer, guide, and accompany me.
“Most importantly, I gradually learned how to deal with emotions, both negative and positive ones, in healthier ways. Although a journey of several years, it was life-changing for me and for those closest to me.”
And it was that journey that gave her the idea to become a counsellor herself so she could help others in the same situation.
First, she went to Chichester University to do a degree in general counselling, and then she got a specialist qualification from the Centre for Eating Disorders.
She worked for the NHS for a number of years, but last summer decided to start her own practice, which she now runs from an office below her home.
Anne, whose problems started when she was in her teens said she never became “fully anorexic” or “dangerously underweight”. But, she said she had a kind of compulsive eating disorder, where she rigidly had to follow diets and watch what she ate.
Anne said: “Eating disorders are funny things. They are almost transdiagnostic, as people who are anorexic can become bulimic next.
“What I try to do with people is understand some of the things that precipitated the condition in the first place.
“It is also important to know why this particular person was predisposed to developing an eating disorder.
“Then, it is vital to address the cognitions, emotional patterns, and behaviour that currently maintain the condition.
“In addressing all of these areas, the sufferer may gradually discover new ways of making sense of life apart from their eating disorder.”
Anne said she sees both men and women of all ages, but a group which was seeing a growth in the number of people suffering eating disorders was middle-aged women.
She said: “The perception of people with eating disorders shown on the TV is usually that it affects mostly teenage girls, but it’s appearing a lot more in middle age now. It’s because of the fact that in our society nowadays, you have to be young forever. You have to have the body of a 25-year-old which is obviously unrealistic for most people.”
Anne uses a variety of techniques to help people, including building up their self esteem, tackling any issues with assertiveness and using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but said she thinks people never fully recover from an eating disorder. She said: “I think people will always have an awareness of the problem they had, but if they can keep stress at bay using the things they have learned, then they can manage it ok.
“I have a collaborative working relationship with the people I counsel. It’s 50/50 and is very much a doing therapy, so you get out of it what you put in.
“I find my work rewarding and I am passionate about helping people come to a place of body acceptance.”
For more information about Pathways for Recovery, contact Anne on 07906 745905 or visit www.pathwaysforrecovery.co.uk.