Recovery from an Eating Disorder is hard. It takes a lot of dedication, perseverance and, often, a team of professionals. This can typically include psychiatrists, psychologists, dietitians, nurses, social workers and even occupational therapists who all have a unique role to play in guiding a person on the road to recovery.
Many of these professionals work within the confines of scheduled appointments. While these appointments are integral, the vast majority of the recovery process happens in everyday life, beyond the four walls of a therapists of dietitian’s office. In fact, this is when many people in recovery need the most support. It is one thing to agree to a plan in a one hour scheduled appointment, but completely another to actual follow through with the stressors and pressures of everyday life.
In recent years a new field of Eating Disorder support professionals has opened up to fill that gap. Mia Findlay is an accredited Eating Disorder Recovery Coach based out of Sydney, Australia. She suffered with an Eating Disorder for six years before starting her recovery in 2013 and has now been fully recovered for six years. Findlay started off as an advocate, using her very successful YouTube channel called, What Mia Did Next, to raise awareness for Eating Disorders, speak out against diet culture and promote body neutrality and acceptance. Through her channel she also became an ambassador for Australia’s leading Eating Disorder charity, The Butterfly Foundation.
Findlay says that it was through her work with the Butterfly Foundation that she found her way into the recovery coaching field. After speaking on a panel, a couple of mental health professionals asked her if she worked in the recovery space for a living. At the time Findlay was working and finance and was finding her passion and drive in her advocacy work, never thinking that she would be able to make it a career. “They made me aware that coaching had opened up as a field, much like in sobriety and addiction treatment,” she says. “That’s been a really important part of that model for so long, and it’s only recently been adopted in Eating Disorder treatment.”
Findlay did some research, and, after doing some general coaching courses found the Carolyn Costin Institute coaching certification, which focused completely on training Eating Disorder coaches. “It was incredible, and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to go into the coaching field,” she says. “I just loved the concept of it because it was using my lived experience for something really constructive.”
Findlay has now been running her business as a recovery coach, called Beyond Body (https://www.beyondbodycoach.com/), for 2.5 years. She says she often works within a treatment team, usually with a psychologist and/or dietitian. “I’m kind of like the last step in the chain,” she says. “[My clients] are given all this great direction and information and understanding of their eating disorder and we actually turn that into actionable goals.”
Findlay sees clients on a weekly basis where they make very specific and flexible goals to help them move forward on their path to recovery. For example, if a client is consistently pushing off eating breakfast in the morning, she will help them set a goal to have breakfast 40-60 minutes after they wake up in the morning and implement it 3-5 days in the week. “It’s really flexible. We want to get away from that black or white thinking and that perfectionistic type of goal setting,” she says. “It’s more about trying to learn and get data out of how their eating disorder responds when we set these goals and we’re working on them.”
Findlay also encourages her clients to reach out to her via email of WhatsApp if they are having a hard time between sessions. “We’re strategizing in real time when difficulties pop up,” she says. For clients she sees in person, she also helps with things like grocery shopping, clothes shopping, going out to meals and cooking at home. “We’re trying to help them recover in the real world,” she says. “It’s really working on their resilience and helping them see that they can survive things that feel impossible to do.”
Findlay’s approach is very specific to each of her clients, who often have very different needs. Some may need to work on things like calorie counting and getting off the scales, while others may be struggling more with their relationship with exercise and movement. “There’s not like a formula or a set program or anything,” she says, noting that she does use the 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder by Carolyn Costin with all her clients.
As beneficial as recovery coaching can be Findlay admits that they whole coaching field can be a little bit of the “Wild West” because it is not a protected title like other healthcare professionals. Firstly, she would recommend people make sure that any coach they hire is actually fully recovered. “I even had one yesterday sent to me who is actively recovering and also coaching, which I just don’t think is a responsible avenue to take,” she says. “It’s really important that you are able to demonstrate what [your clients] are aiming for.”
From Findlay’s perspective another important thing to look for in a recovery coach is proper accreditation. She says there is a huge difference between having a general coaching certification and one that is specific to Eating Disorders. “The difference in your preparedness, quality of your coaching and yourself as a professional is just worlds apart,” she says.
Findlay says being able to use her lived experience to help others with Eating Disorders is one of the most rewarding things about being a recovery coach. “The fact that I am able to help other people out of the same trap feels almost like a big middle finger to my Eating Disorder,” she says. “To have connection and purpose come out of that is incredible.”
Like many recovery coaches Findlay works with people all over the world. Sarah Rzemieniak (https://sarahrzemieniak.com/) is another Carolyn Costin Institute-certified Eating Disorder recovery coach, based out of Vancouver, Canada who also works with clients worldwide. Meg McCabe (http://www.meg-mccabe.com) is another a Carolyn Costin-trained Eating Disorder recovery coach, based out of Denver, Colorado.
Recovery coaching is still an up and coming field but if you are looking for a coach be sure to check out Findlay, Rzemieniak or McCabe’s websites for more information about what they offer.