Living with an Eating Disorder

Posted: 11/10/2019

A resource for hearing and validating before shifting the focus to recovery.




What does it feel like to live with an eating disorder? What does the ‘eating disorder voice’ say and how do we challenge those messages? What supports recovery and what gets in the way? How can we help reduce the isolation and shame surrounding eating disorders?

These are some of the questions that are guiding the current development of a set of cards called Eating Disorders & Other Shadowy Companions.  Due for release early next year, this resource is for people living with an eating disorder and those who walk alongside them—family, friends, counsellors, teachers and health professionals.

The lead author is Danni McDougall, an art therapist and senior mental health practitioner.

‘Many people say that having an eating disorder is like being stuck in a prison of your own mind that feels impossible to get out of. I believe that this experience needs to be heard and validated before the focus can shift to recovery,’ says Danni.

‘An eating disorder is an illness, like a broken leg. No-one feels shame about breaking a leg or how long it takes to heal. In creating these cards I wanted to open up conversations about what it’s like to have an eating disorder, and challenge some of the isolation and shame that people living with eating disorders often feel.’

The artist for these cards, Fiona Mansfield, has brought to life three characters to help express the breadth and depth of living with an eating disorder. You will meet Ed, the Eating Disorder Monster. Ed is not demonised for this character came into being to serve a purpose, but now causes havoc and takes up way too much space. You will also meet Reggie, the Recovery Rhino. Reggie is larger than life too. More than up to the task, Reggie is a steadfast source of nurturing and solace. And at the centre of it all is Bird. Bird is you, me, your brother or sister, mother or father, friend or colleague. Bird is the one living with an eating disorder.

These three quirky characters are accompanied by a question on every card to gently open up hopeful possibilities, if they are wanted.

Because these cards depict what happens in our mind and lives when we are under pressure, they can also be used to describe living with other ‘shadowy companions’ like addiction, depression and anxiety.

We will let you know when Eating Disorders & Other Shadowy Companions is nearing release.

12 responses to “Living with an Eating Disorder”

  1. Kas Pitkin says:

    Living with an eating disorder and working in mental health I am deeply touched by your approach to supporting people suffering and recovering from such an intense disease. I would love to connect more with you and hear what you are doing as this is an area I have worked in before and would like to more so.

  2. Anne Masel says:

    Hi, these cards sound terrific I would like to purchase them when available.

    • Chris Cain says:

      Hello Anne, the card set is still in the development phase, the cards are finished but the booklet is still to be written. We are looking at a Feb 2020 release date at this stage, but will certainly be keeping everyone updated through our newsletter and social media

  3. Simone says:

    Looking forward to this release!

    • Chris Cain says:

      Thank you Simone, we have had great feedback on these cards so far, look out for their release next Feb!

  4. Rachel Spence says:

    I work in this field, coming from a place of lived experience through my daughters 8 year battle to full recovery. We are the founders of ISR – Identify Separate Release , and I am interested in your cards.

    • Chris Cain says:

      Hello Rachel, thank you for your interest in the cards, there is so much passion around this subject, we have been blown away with the interest shown so far. If you would like to connect with us around your work in this field, we would love to hear from you. You can email Karen is our managing editor and one of the people working on the cards and she would love your feedback.

  5. Kathy says:

    Hi I am Kathy and I know a few people who would love this resources. Can you let me know at when they are released and how to purchase.

    • Chris Cain says:

      Thankyou Kathy, I have sent you an email regarding your interest. The cards are available to pre-order on our website now, just click search and Eating Disorders to find them

  6. Heather says:

    Do these cards cover those that eat continuously and hide what they are eating and are slowly putting on weight.

    • Georgena says:

      Dear Heather,
      Thank you for this question.

      The cards cover experiences that people report having in relation to any form of disordered eating, including what you have described. We haven’t made them specific to a particular eating disorder because even though everyone is different and unique, there many feelings that people have in common such as shame, the pressure of secrets, feelings of isolation and pain, overwhelm, fear and loss of control. The cards also depict the ‘eating disorder voice’ (that internal voice of criticism and judgement that most people are familiar with to some degree) whatever form of eating disorder the person may be experiencing. The cards can also be used for acknowledging the moments of hope and possibility that can also emerge from time to time. Because of these commonalities in people’s experiences, many of the cards can also be used for talking about other forms of mental unwellness including addiction, anxiety and depression. Please feel free to give us a call if you would like more information about the cards.


  7. Merridy Galton says:

    Saw these cards at an ed group i attend. Thats why i have ordered them myself. I think they are very good.

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