NEDA walk to raise awareness of eating disorders

— In a little building at the center of the village of Liverpool, there’s a quiet revolution going on.

Jodie Wilson, executive director of Ophelia’s Place, and Mary Ellen Clausen, founder of the center, are working to change the world’s concept of beauty and providing a safe haven for those struggling with and recovering from eating disorders and their loved ones. The center operates numerous support groups (a newly added adolescent and family group is running this summer), in addition to an intensive outpatient program run with the aid of The Upstate New York Eating Disorder Service (unyeds.com).

“Part of our mission is about changing the conversation around beauty and health, challenging society’s narrow definition of those terms, and looking at how that drive for perfection leads to the negative attitudes and behaviors that often develop into eating disorders,” Wilson said. “I often see people channeling their dislike of themselves into a dislike of their physical bodies. We often believe that by changing our bodies, we can change how we feel about ourselves. How sad that we spend countless hours worrying about a number on a scale or the size of our clothing, when we can be connected to the larger community in a way that gives our lives meaning and purpose.”

Wilson knows all too well the high toll an eating disorder (ED) can take; she’s a survivor, one of millions across the nation. Clausen knows it, too; she founded Ophelia’s Place after watching her two teenage daughters, now grown, struggle with ED. 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. Unfortunately, those figures are woefully out of date; they come from a study done in the mid-1990s.

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