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Not On My Own: Eating Disorder Recovery in Context

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Title: Not On My Own: Eating Disorder Recovery in Context
Author: LaMarre, Andrea
Department: Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
Program: Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
Advisor: Rice, Carla
Abstract: Eating disorder (ED) recovery is ill-defined in the research and clinical literatures; the voices of those with lived experience of eating distress are largely absent in recovery configurations. Recovery model proponents argue for person-centered conceptualizations of recovery that attend to systemic constraints. However, biomedical perspectives continue to dominate the way ED recovery is configured. In this dissertation, I take up the question of how people who have experienced distress around food and body and their supporters understand the possibilities, processes, and outcomes of “ED recovery” within a contemporary anglo-Canadian context. I explore barriers and facilitators to recovery, and how systems might better support people in recovery and supporters as they work together to assemble a sense of greater embodied ease. I consider how self-representations of recovery are received by healthcare providers. I conducted a feminist, new materialist thematic analysis of interviews with 20 people in recovery and 14 supporters (chosen by those in recovery). Five of these participants made digital stories (short films) about their experiences, which were screened with 22 healthcare providers, who responded to qualitative pre/post questionnaires about ED recovery. Participants in recovery explored feeling misunderstood, misrepresented, and mistrusted as they navigated systemic constraints and dominant cultural norms about relationships with food and body, as well as those issued for “how to be recovered”. Surveillance featured in participants’ accounts of both treatment and recovery; more positive experiences of recovery were found amongst highly attuned supporters. Supporters described living at the intersection of their loved ones’ distress-inducing relationships with food and body. Healthcare providers reported feeling underprepared to treat EDs and expressed a desire for more artistic, person-driven representations of recovery such as the stories they were shown. Participants’ narratives encapsulate interweavings of time, relationality, and space as they enact and perform their recoveries in a matrix of instructions about bodily behaviours. Implicating new materialist, feminist theoretical frameworks complicates a singular, linear, and choice-based logic of recovery. The multiple versions of recovery articulated by participants reveals the need to engage with uncertainty to promote recoveries that do not rely on dominant imperatives to be self-managing subjects.
Date: 2018-06
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