How to Start an Eating Disorders Anonymous Group
There’s a straightforward plan on starting an Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA) group available online, but before we cover that, there are a few issues you need to think about. The first is recognizing the real power of a support group comes from face to face interactions. There’s simply no substitute for telling your story to others and listening to their stories in return. Eating disorder recovery is helped the most by accessing the understanding only another with shared circumstances can provide. Keep that in mind. That’s a worthwhile goal.
Do your homework
Ideally, you’ve already participated in an EDA group, hopefully both online and offline. And you’ve already learned how their program works and are familiar with the literature.
The next bit of homework is to talk to any groups reasonably close enough so that you can attend a meeting. After the meeting, talk to the group leaders and find out how they got their group off the ground. If possible, get contact information from them and permission to ask questions later. This will become your go-to resource, so write things down.
Think about your own motivations
Ideally, you feel a drive to give back to a community that has helped you and others. But you need to figure out how to fit this new commitment into your life and have enough motivation to get you through the frustrations. For example, starting a group almost always entails several rounds of promises not kept. For whatever reason, people will be enthusiastic while talking to you and then not follow through. Expect this.
What will sustain you and keep things moving forward is your own motivations. Now is not the time to be lukewarm or shy.
Find community support
There are many people in your community who will be willing to help you get your group started. These range from people who have been touched, either directly or indirectly by an eating disorder, through to the professional counseling community who see support groups as a useful adjunct.
You’ll need a scheduled meeting place at low or no cost. That means a building somewhere and this is a major hurdle to setting up a successful group. Churches and community centers are good starting places. Libraries and other government buildings will also sometimes have free space available. This will be the life’s blood of your meeting, so make sure you don’t abuse any relationship you are able to develop. Keeping things clean and sticking strictly to any rules is a must.
The Eating Disorders Anonymous website has a starter kit available. It is free online and cheap to get a mailed version. It contains useful tips and brochures you can hand out to help publicize your meeting. Another good way to publicize it is to put up notices on community bulletin boards, both online an off. You can also request an entry in community newsletters and church bulletins.
To make the best start possible, you will have to talk to a lot of people. Some will be very nice and encouraging, others won’t. But to be taken seriously, you’ll need to know the basics of both the program and how to talk about eating disorders in general. And this takes us back to the first step above – do your homework, and you can make it work.