Your everyday thoughts are consumed by what to eat, when to eat, how to stop eating, how to eat at all—the list goes on. You are feeling completely alone—no one seems to understand this incessant struggle. How refreshing would it be if you had someone in your life who “gets it”? Recovering from disordered eating is hard and possible. However, clinical support, whether through a therapist or dietitian, is not the optimum solution on its own. In recent years, incorporating a Peer Supporter into the treatment team has become key to maximizing progress made inside the clinical setting, minimizing the chance of relapse, and achieving long term recovery.
What is a Peer Supporter? A Peer Supporter is someone who has overcome their own disordered eating and now wants to give back. They are extensively trained to support Mentees, folks who are working towards recovery, by actively listening, validating feelings, and sharing anecdotal experiences to provide encouragement throughout the recovery process.
Ann Hull Kuster has been in the disordered eating treatment world for over 20 years and has seen the importance of peer sup- port during recovery first hand. Having struggled with her own eating disorder in the past, Ann “appreciates the value of being around others who have been where you are, who can remind you that you are not alone.” As the Executive Director of Hull House Real Recovery (HHRR), a not-for-profit organization offering disordered eating peer support services, Ann and her team have worked hard over the past two years to extend HHRR’s services to anyone in need. Her team of trained Peer Supporters meets with Mentees on a weekly basis to provide them with individualized guidance. In the words of Peer Supporter Lorna B., peer supporters “help remind us that the future is expansive and bright.”
Offering in person and virtual services such as mentorship, grocery shopping, and meal support, HHRR is quickly gaining popularity. Our current Mentees range from age 10 to 65 and have a wide scope of disordered eating experiences and struggles. Mentoring others helps HHRR’s Peer Supporters stay motivated in their own remarkable recovery stories. Peer Supporter Mary M. is “proud to say [she] had an eating disorder because of how [she] can use [her] story today for good…to empower and help someone else struggling with the same thing.”
HHRR’s mission is to provide Accountability, Connection and Love to those struggling with disordered eating. They match their Peer Supporters with Mentees based on many factors, including disordered eating experience, age, and relevant identities to ensure maximum comfortability for the Mentee. “Our mentor, Tori B., provides us with meal support as well as friendship and guidance for our daughter. We are truly thankful to have her” said the parent of 10 year old Katelyn M. Tori has been mentoring Katelyn for the past six months and believes that “having someone a few steps ahead of you who can understand and relate to you is life changing.” HHRR’s Peer Supporters do “get it.”