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Changing the Landscape One Chat Message at a Time

By Judy Krasna, F.E.A.S.T. Executive Director

At the end of each FEAST webinar, there is time set aside for a Q&A session. Attendees ask questions via the chat box in Zoom, and the presenter answers as many of them as time allows. At last week’s webinar, something very “FEAST” happened that I wanted to share here.

Our webinars are attended not only by parents and caregivers, but by eating disorder professionals as well. I think this is a testament to the quality of the webinars that we offer; both the topics and the speakers have wider appeal than to just our own parent community.

One of the eating disorder professionals who was at the webinar dropped a question into the chat box asking for strategies to address some challenges that he is having with one of his patients. While the question was intended for the presenter, one of the moms in attendance responded through the group chat, offering a solid answer that was well received by the therapist who had posted the question. A discussion ensued on the chat, with other parents chiming in as well.

It was the perfect microcosm of what I think the eating disorder sphere should look like: experts by profession and experts by experience engaging in dialogue and working together to advance treatment.

I think that the chat during the webinar offered an opportunity to showcase the collective wisdom of parents, to demonstrate how deeply we understand eating disorders, and to illustrate how much insight we have into treatment. I loved the interaction and the fact that one parent followed her instinct and jumped in with an answer. It’s what we do at FEAST, we use our own experience to answer the questions and guide the experiences of others.

As parents and caregivers, we have so much to offer not only to each other, but to the eating disorder field as a whole. Our perspective adds dimension. We aren’t “just parents,” we possess extensive knowledge and expertise that can only be gained through lived experience. To me, what happened at the webinar wasn’t “just a group chat message” from one mom to a therapist, it was a window to a world of opportunity promoting collaboration and mutual respect between parents and professionals who interact as equals. It was truly a beautiful thing.

As I go through the Around the Dinner Table forum and the ATDT Facebook page every day, I am struck by the enormous collective wisdom that we possess as a community. I am amazed at how many parents use their wisdom to enlighten others, and at how they manage to offer guidance and support with such empathy, kindness, intelligence, and compassion. It is the sharing of knowledge (so much knowledge!!) offered by parents in our community to one another that gives FEAST the enormous capacity to help those in need day after day, month after month, year after year. You share what you know. It sounds so simple, but the value of this sharing is colossal, and it’s nothing short of life changing—and at times, literally lifesaving.

I think there is a positive shift in how experts by experience are regarded in the eating disorder field. I would love to see more real dialogue between the professional community and caregivers with lived experience. I am thrilled that FEAST is fostering this, even in a small way like a chat during a webinar. It’s these small experiences that lead to bigger change.

As they say, a journey of 1000 miles begins with one step. We live this proverb in so many ways. I think we took a step in the right direction at our webinar last week; and maybe it was a small step, but it felt significant to me.

Keep jumping in with answers, keep sharing your insight, keep being there for others. Let’s keep showing the professionals in the eating disorders field that Q&A flows both ways. Sometimes we ask and they answer. And sometimes they can ask, and we can answer. Sometimes during “ask the experts”, we are the experts. The way that I see it, embracing this reality will make the eating disorders field more potent and proficient, which benefits all stakeholders.

There are still a lot more steps to this journey, but I’m proud that FEAST is doing the work, one chat message at a time.

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