The importance of eating disorder support groups

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COLUMBIA - Any task, no matter how difficult, can become a little easier with the right help. For many people with eating disorders, fighting their illness is the hardest thing they have ever done.

Danielle Woods, a registered nurse and spokesperson for the McCallum Place Eating Disorder Treatment Center, said creating a support group is one of the most important strategies to combating an eating disorder.

Woods said eating disorders can make people feel very alone and isolated. She said seeking fellowship with other patients can give people encouragement when they need it most.

"It is so important that you have a support group," Woods said. "Perhaps a therapist, and people you can talk to."

Shanda Weathers, an eating disorder survivor, said she often struggled with guilt and loneliness related to her illness. She said, for her, finding a support system made a huge difference.

Woods said seeking treatment can also be hard for the loved ones of a patient. She recommends family and close friends join in on the discussion.

"Make sure you are hooked into a treatment team," Woods said. "That includes the person who is suffering, and their loved ones."

Weathers said she wants to remind families that having an eating disorder is not a choice. She said people need to be patient, and understand the internal struggles associated with the illness.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, McCallum Place in Columbia offers a free support group. The group meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 pm. Each meeting is held at the McCallum Place's Columbia branch on 3215 Wingate Court, Suite 100. No registration is required.