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The Appeal

Posted Mar 01 2009 12:00am

I have spent the last few weeks traveling so far, so fast, that I would often wake up in a new city and not remember what day it was, where I was, or why I was there. I love my work, love to speak to people about eating disorders and my recovery, but even I just need a break sometimes, so during one point in my journeys, I popped into a small airport book stand to pick up some "light reading".

My eyes landed upon a longtime favorite...the John Grisham novel. This one was called "The Appeal". Perfect, I thought to myself. This will be just the thing for a little r&r before my next event.

I paid, pocketed the receipt, and wandered out into the terminal to find my gate. Locating it, I happily settled down to read......but not even two chapters later, I wondered if I had misread the title, or, perhaps, the author.

I was reading about eating disorders. In a John Grisham novel.

The main bad guy character's wife, Brianna, appeared to have an aggressive case of anorexia. It was clear to me that Mr. Grisham had not taken his character development lightly...it was obvious he had done his homework, and the portrait he painted of Brianna and her close friends hit the mark.

Beyond that, I was amazed at how Mr. Grisham portrayed the worry that Brianna's husband felt for her. Her husband was not a good man. He didn't love easily or well. He did bad things to good people for money. And yet, when he looked at his wife, he worried (and I quote): "wasn't she paying a price for all this aggressive starvation?"

John Grisham didn't glamourize eating disorders, as the media and pop writers often do. He simply introduced the disease as a part of mainstream culture that it is today - often overlooked, frequently accepted and even endorsed, but nevertheless worrisome, dangerous, serious, and all too real.

You can read for yourself and come to your own conclusions (and I would love to hear what you think) but to my mind this speaks volumes for where we as a society are headed in the awareness, education, intervention, and prevention of eating disorders now and in years to come.

Let's take another similar example as a case in point - twenty years ago people who suffered from alcoholism were sidelined, marginalized, misunderstood, mistreated, and generally ostracized.Yet today, the network of support groups to help those who suffer from alcoholism is one of the largest - if not the largest - in the world.

We are next.

And I am so excited to see what we can accomplish together in months and years to come by paying it forward, sharing our stories, supporting writers like John Grisham who put the information out there to mass audiences in a way that gently legitimizes our public struggle and secret pain, and doing our part to eliminate eating disorders, one life at a time.

p.s. The Eating Disorders Coalition has begun an aggressive campaign to lobby for passage of the FREED Act (Federal Response To Eliminate Eating Disorders). This Act is comprehensive eating disorders legislation for promoting research, treatment, education, and prevention programs. Talk about an "Appeal" of the highest order - and I encourage us all to do whatever we can to help and support the EDC in their efforts!

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