INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN SCUSE
Founder of The Dinner Table Project
A supportive network giving insights into eating disordered thoughts and behaviours
We've long admired your pursuit of Body Positivity and holistic wellness around that.
I know we chatted and we both agree that before we begin it's probably worthwhile being clear on
what an eating disorder is and is not.
Can you offer us your insights please?
Sure. An eating disorder is a serious and complex mental illness characterised by unhealthy eating behaviours, distorted beliefs and extreme concerns about food, eating, body size, shape or weight.
An individual suffering from an eating disorder has very low self-worth and in a counter-intuitive effort to improve that, they then control their food intake - which unfortunately results in harming their body.
This brings about shame, a further lowering of self-worth, and a destructive cycle ensues that often results in depression, anxiety and other significant mental and physical health issues.
All this to say that Body Negativity is a state of mind.
Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice.
They're not about vanity. The behaviours and thoughts become obsessive and consuming. So if you begin to view your body obsessively and negatively that is a sign to reach out for support.
This is so important. Thank you.
Unfortunately, the stats tell us too many Tweens and Teens don't feel 💯 in their own skin - so at RPK we're on a MORE JOY quest to address that.
Please, tell us what triggered your pursuit of this cause
I was 12 years old when I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder and I did not begin recovery until I was 26 years old.
My pursuit of body positivity and holistic wellness was triggered in the hope that through education and awareness, individuals would be less likely to suffer from eating disorders and those that do, would be able to seek help more quickly.
FINDING MY VOICE. SHARING MY PURPOSE
Many of our community have a passion or purpose but perhaps haven't found their voice or their platform for amplifying their voice yet.
Tell us what practical and emotional barriers you had to overcome to get your message out there?
Emotionally I have had to overcome the fear of judgement and associated stigma of sharing my battle with Anorexia.
I was always very secretive around my eating disorder and so to share my story meant accepting the fact that it would be available to all those that knew me.
In a practical sense I have two young children and also work part time and so I had to ensure that I could commit the necessary time to sharing the important message.
Please share a top tip you'd recommend to other young readers to help with their purpose
It’s important to be really clear about the message you are trying to get across. Ensure the message is helpful and not triggering. In my case for example I always need to ensure I am promoting positive body image and associated healthy behaviours.
Of course we HAVE to ask this question: what are you most proud of having achieved in the pursuit of your purpose?
I am most proud that I have had the ability through speaking opportunities on different media outlets to raise wide spread awareness and some insight into the serious issues of negative body image and eating disorders.
The more this topic is discussed and understood the less stigma there will be surrounding the discussion resulting in individuals hopefully feeling more comfortable to seek help.
And has it helped to empower you simply in having a purpose? If so please explain.
Absolutely, my eating disorder for so many years brought me nothing but negativity in so many areas of my life.
To be able to use my experience and turn it into a positive to spread the message of positive body image and shed light on these issues has made me feel like all those years weren't wasted.
YOUR PURPOSE - YOUR FRIENDSHIPS
Did your purpose affect your friendship group or popularity or socially gain you respect in any way?
My loved ones are proud of the work I am doing but really it hasn't affected my friendships or relationships in any way. My eating disorder had a much bigger impact (negatively) on my friends and family than my purpose to spread awareness ever will.
Finally be around people who are good for your mental health and remember
you will never speak to anyone more than you speak to yourself in your head so be kind and treat yourself as you treat those you love most.
EMPOWERED THROUGH PURPOSE
Please offer your best piece of advice to any Tweens unsure if the putting themselves out there is really worth it/ or whether they can even make a difference.
You can absolutely make a difference through leading by example and displaying positive behaviours and messages. It is definitely worth it if you deeply believe in your message and as long as you are doing it for the right reasons and not looking for validation or popularity.
LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE HEALTHY
Please offer your best piece of advice to any Tweens affected by negative body image or eating disorders.
I could write pages on this but I will try and keep it short.
You only get one chance at life and it is too short to be spent at war with your body, always wanting it to be different.
When suffering with an eating disorder or negative body image you will never get to a size or shape you are satisfied with because a smaller body will not help you to feel safe, loved, accepted, liked by others or validated. Self-worth does not come from a number. Weight does not determine the love and joy that you bring to your loved ones or the love and joy that you deserve in your own life.
If you are struggling speak up because there is help available, you are not alone. Recovery is hard but it's much easier than one day looking back and realising you have spent your life being trapped in the prison of your own mind by the eating disorder.
Cover Image Credit thanks to @journey_to_wellness_ via @thedinnertableproject.ed