Listen: Alison* chats to Laura Bennett.
Six years into her recovery from food addiction, Sydney woman Allison* is passionate about giving hope to people with food-related disorders that they can recover.
Although food addiction and eating disorders are some of our society’s most taboo mental conditions, awareness and understanding are growing, and so are the options for support and recovery. In Allison’s case, it was a 12-step program with Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA) that gave her breakthrough.
While there are many paid psychological and live-in services available, free support groups like FA help people who might not have the finances for long-term counselling.
FA’s 12-step based program is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model, and much like AA it meets regularly and for free in small groups all around the world.
The organisation helps people with any food-related condition – including food and body obssession, bulimia, obesity, over-eating or under-eating, and anorexia. The weekly meetings are designed to help people in their journey towards recovery.
“I spent years trying to find a diet or the solution to help me get thin. The only thing that could give me relief [from food addiction] was God or a higher power.”
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There are several FA groups that meet around Sydney’s suburbs. Allison encourages anyone who is struggling with a food addiction or disorder and might be considering the group, to come along.
“I haven’t engaged in overeating for over six years because of this program,” she said. “Freedom from food addiction and body obsession is absolutely possible. If you’re curious but maybe a bit afraid, these sessions are a good chance to check it out.”
Allison adds that while the group is not aligned to any one religious belief, the spiritual component in the 12 steps is very significant to the program, and was the key to her recovery.
“It’s about developing a relationship with a higher power of your own understanding,” she said. “I spent years trying to find a diet or the solution to help me get thin. The only thing that could give me relief [from food addiction] was God or a higher power.”
Everyone is welcome at FA meetings, including teens and adults, both those with food related disorders, and their friends.
Government to Quadruple the Rebates for Eating Disorder Counselling
There’s good news for those who opt for counselling with psychologists for their eating disorders: the Federal Government has just announced a major increase to its support. From November 2019, Australians with severe eating disorders will be able to access up to 40 counselling sessions with a psychologist every year, with a Medicare rebate.
That’s four times the current limit of 10 sessions. In addition they’re also increasing the number of rebates for dietitians, offering up to 20 appointments.
President of the Australian Psychological Society, Ros Knight, is thrilled with the news.
She says cognitive behaviour therapy counselling (CBT), which challenges thinking patterns, is the most affordable treatment – but research shows the current allowance is not really not enough to tackle complex eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa.
“Evidence shows at least 20 sessions of treatment are needed, and in severe cases at least 40 CBT sessions are needed to restore healthy eating attitudes and behaviours,” she said.
* Not her real name.
- Food Addicts Anonymous has regular, weekly FA meetings all around Sydney. For a list of support groups around Australia visit the Meeting Finder page of the website.
- The Butterfly Foundation is a Sydney-based organization a range of services including support groups, recovery programs, intensive treatment, and a national helpline on 1800 33 4673.
- Shape Your Mind is also a specialized organization based in Sydney offering a wide range of services and information, contactable on 9230 0786.
- Psychology Today has listed a number of Sydney based psychologists offering help for eating disorders.
- Wesley Eating Disorders Centre at Ashfield is run by Wesley Mission, along with a range of other information and services they offer to address eating disorders.