How Far Will I Go For Eating Disorders?

June 2, 2010 Laura Collins

I'm off to Salzburg, Austria soon to attend and speak at an Eating Disorders conference. I've lost count of how many I've attended now, but this is the longest distance I've traveled to one.

globeI didn't know what to expect the first time I attended one of these events. I'd been to plenty of conferences before in other fields, like education and the travel industry and journalism, but this seemed different. Plus, I'm neither a patient myself nor am I a clinician and at first, I felt neither welcome nor legitimate. As a parent in a field where we were once anathema, I also had a chip ready to put on my shoulder if needed!

What would people eat? What should *I* eat? Would there be visibly ill people? Would I understand the technical language? Would things I had written make people angry enough to confront me? I was filled with nervousness.

What I found was that eating disorder conferences are both normal and unique. Normal in that people are just like they are anywhere: a mixture. Unique in that this is a field with no clear center: eating disorder specialists come from many fields and the only thing that everyone has in common is an interest in the topic. There is no common language or training or background.

People Ate Normally; So Did I

People ate normally. I ate normally (though self-consciously at first, fearing people would scrutinize my consumption for signs of pathology). There were visibly ill people, but I soon realized that eye-catching symptoms are meaningless when most suffering goes on invisibly. I didn't understand all the technical language but each opportunity to listen to these intelligent speakers helped more than anything I read elsewhere. No one confronted me, either. Then, because no one had any idea what I had written. Now, because people are too polite to say things to me directly unless I bring it up first - though second-hand and in writing I do hear plenty of critique.

I look forward to eating disorders conferences now because I have come to respect and enjoy so many people in the field and nothing replaces spending actual time in hallways and over a beer and eating together. This is especially true with those of very different perspectives on the illness. Email with friends is one thing, but email arguments are rarely helpful. I also find, doing so much of my work and networking online, that meeting someone once in person can lead to much more meaningful communication later. There is a level of human trust, and a care that one takes with real people.

Sound of Music Tour

So, I won't be taking the Sound of Music tour, but I am looking forward to enjoying a new city with old friends - and making a few more.

APA Reference
Collins, L. (2010, June 2). How Far Will I Go For Eating Disorders?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Laura Collins

June, 2 2010 at 4:36 am

I am so glad you will be there, Laura, advocating for family involvement in treatment, and for the use of evidence-based treatments for sufferers of these deadly illnesses. Thank you for being willing to cross oceans to continue your valuable work.

June, 5 2010 at 1:25 am

Enjoy! And do let us know about the highs and lows of this conference. The programme and the venue both look great.

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