Hot off the Press: Eating Disorders & Other Shadowy Companions

Posted: 23/01/2020

We are delighted to let you know that, at last, there is a resource to have conversations about eating disorders—Eating Disorders & Other Shadowy Companions has just hit the shelves!

The lead author, Danni McDougall, is a social worker and arts therapist:

‘I’ve been saddened to discover that despite all the community education and awareness-raising that has occurred, there is still a lot of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding eating disorders, even among the medical profession.

‘I believe Eating Disorders & Other Shadowy Companions is a resource that can help educate family, friends, health professionals and the general community about eating disorders.’

Guided by three quirky characters—Reggie the Recovery Rhino, Ed the Eating Disorder Monster, and Bird—this set of 40 cards encourages young people and adults to bridge the shame and isolation of living with an eating disorder by sharing their experience with the people around them.

During the development of the cards, we asked several professionals in a range of fields—psychologists, dieticians, social workers, arts therapists, teachers, academics—to trial the cards.

After using the cards, arts therapist, Pam, said:

‘I love the characters. Seeing Ed represented this way helps me understand the pull towards him and why he is hard to let go of—he provides comfort. The images are powerful and their simplicity means there is space for conversation. They have helped me understand what it is like to experience an eating disorder on a different level.’

Each card features a gentle question, inviting people to reflect on what it feels like to live with an eating disorder. While this card set deeply honours the naming and acknowledging of pain, it also encourages people to cultivate the territory of hope by reflecting on, and talking about, what recovery may look and feel like for them.

As dietician, Vanessa, says:

‘They are so useful because instead of going straight into the recovery space they stay with where the person is at and they don’t pressure them to do something they’re not ready for. I think they will help people express what they are going through in a different way, rather than just relying on words. They have the potential to help people feel less alone because the cards represent what the illness is like and the connection that is needed by people suffering with these illnesses.’

A social worker added, ‘The cards do such a great job of holding the experience and staying with it. They acknowledge the pressure people with eating disorders experience without being overwhelming. Having this acknowledged within the cards will be valuable for people experiencing eating disorders as their experience is seen.’

While the cards have been designed to be used primarily with people experiencing an eating disorder—any eating disorder—they can also be used to have conversations about body image, ideals of beauty, the impact of the media on our sense of identity, dieting and our relationship to food. They can also be used to talk about other ‘shadowy companions’ like anxiety or depression.

As psychologist, Adrienne says:

‘I like how they are gender neutral and open to be used to people of any age. I think there is so much body obsession and weight focus in society that people who don’t have an eating disorder will also find them helpful. They relate to other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, trauma.’

Eating Disorders & Other Shadowy Companions includes a comprehensive booklet of suggested activities and tips for creating safe and inclusive conversations in a range of settings; one-on-one sessions with counsellors, psychologists or other health professionals, with families around the kitchen table, in secondary and tertiary settings, within family and community services, workplaces and groups.

Academic and arts therapist, Nona, says, ‘I used to work in an eating disorder unit and will tell colleagues about the cards as they will be beneficial to use. I’ll also recommend them to others to use in their work.’

Dietician, Vanessa, comments, ‘I think they will be great to use with patients and lecturing at university to help students, especially dieticians, understand eating disorders on a different level to their theoretical understanding.’

Feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss the ideas for using Eating Disorders & Other Shadowy Companions in the booklet (or any other ideas you may have for using the cards).


 Eating Disorders & Other Shadowy Companions
 CAT NO: 4630
RRP: $54.50 inc GST



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