ideological hygiene

It's impossible to be a purist on eating disorder information, I find. It's too rich and complex a topic. If you want to only read, recommend, spend time with, and be seen with those whose beliefs align completely with your own you are likely to spend your high-minded time in a corner alone. Plus, it doesn't bring about change.

It's sticky, though. I'd like to "fall on my sword" on any of a number of ideological sharp points, but I'd be dead in so many horrible ways. I sometimes picture taking all of the people and thinkers in the eating disorder world and herding them into chalked off areas like "don't blame families," "use the term brain disorder," "don't use average BMI as a recovery marker," "worry about the word 'prevention' in EDs," "don't believe in an 'obesity crisis'," "understand and believe in using evidence where available," "give individual parents the benefit of the doubt on their parenting," "believe re-feeding is the first best medicine for eating disordered thinking," "consider clinicians consultants rather than bosses on the treatment team," "actually USE these beliefs in clinical practice," "use the word anosognosia," and "love Laura Collins." I dream of the day that I could make an circle that includes all of the above and there'd be anyone in it. But there ain't.

In advocacy work, this is okay, because I can continue to try to herd allied cats together, and keep learning and changing myself. In fact, as soon as I don't think I need to do that I get to go back to regularly scheduled life, and paid employment.

In helping parents, however, this lack of ideological hygiene is perilous. I quail at recommending ANY treatment provider because I feel every family has to do their own homework on which set of beliefs and methods is best for their situation - as none of them are the same and none of them even include all the same elements - some of my favorites actually do mutually exclusive stuff. Some of my favorite books on eating disorders include information I wish I could mark out with a black pen and annotate "ignore this part! nothing to see here!" Yet I DO want parents to read those books for the elements that are essential and found nowhere else. I do want parents to go to those providers instead of the wilderness of well-meaning but demonstrably harmful ones instead.

Parents: there is no Yellow Brick Road here. We're still coming out of the Dark Ages and even some of the finest thinkers disagree with one another. Our job is to light the path for OUR family with our own compass of good information and good judgment and the trust our children have in our loving protection.


  1. This piece is a great explanation for why you continue to remain my hero, mentor and friend. The ultimate key to growth and awareness is knowing that you must be wise enough to realize there is much to learn and that knowledge doesn't fit into a neat little box that remains unchanged. You helped me keep my mind and scope of believe and learning open. Even with the risk that I might have to change some of my beliefs. You rock my friend!

  2. I see it more as a mathematical diagram with lots of circles overlapping. I am right beside you in the very middle, where they all overlap, cheering you on (and loving you!)

    Perhaps the way forward is for parents to lead the way, because we can incorporate all the overlapping circles, without exclusion, because our academic reputations or past training don't burden us with preconceptions.

    A bit like a complicated recipe - some people will leave out the garlic, others will add more salt, double the sugar, exclude carrots, add more water but the end result, if done with calm, loving care is delicious all the same.

    Enough analogies.


  3. Enough analogies? I've been thinking of hundred's all day! Thank you for this Laura and for all the work you do.

  4. You can never be too rich, have too many analogies, or too many friends!

  5. I'm in that circle, Laura, and I know I'm not alone.

  6. Charlotte , I love analogy and while we alter the processes to our tastes, i.e. Needs, the main ingredients remains constant .

  7. Yes, even potentially helpful resources (providers, books, organizations) can't be categorized as "black or white", perfectly helpful or useless.


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