The National Eating Disorders Association will host its first Syracuse-area walk on Sunday, Aug. 26 in cooperation with Ophelia’s Place.
Liverpool Jodie Wilson-Dougherty is one of the lucky ones.
Wilson-Dougherty fought an eating disorder and won. It’s a battle she and Mary Ellen Clausen have in common; Clausen was in the trenches with her two now-grown daughters during their teen years, and it was their struggle that inspired her to found Ophelia’s Place. When Clausen stepped down as executive director earlier this year, she handed the reins over to Wilson-Dougherty.
“I had come to a place where I could see that although I did not die from my eating disorder as many do, I also had not lived,” Wilson-Dougherty said. “And I so wanted to live a life with purpose and meaning. Don’t get me wrong, my life is very blessed. Even throughout the struggle with my eating disorder, I had a wonderful family! But I knew full recovery was possible, and wanted others to know that as well. I loved the work that Mary Ellen was beginning to do in our community and it just made sense to partner with her.”
Indeed, Wilson-Dougherty was lucky to survive; eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and they are characterized by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental illness. The peak onset of eating disorders occurs during puberty and the late teen/early adult years, but symptoms can occur as young as kindergarten and as late as middle age. More than one in three normal dieters progresses to pathological dieting. The most quoted study on the subject states that nearly 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. are battling eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, while millions more suffer from binge eating disorder. Those figures come from a study done in the mid-1990s.
In her months at the helm of the Liverpool-based center focused on improving body image, discussing a new concept of beauty and providing a safe haven for those struggling with and recovering from eating disorders and their loved ones, Wilson-Dougherty has carried on Clausen’s work and added many of her own ideas, including numerous support groups (a co-ed group will be joining the lineup this fall), a Coffee Talk series and more.