A Restorative Experience

Mae Lynn Reyes reading from Aimee Liu’s book

I have been participating in the International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED), the official meeting of the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) since 2003, enjoying the passion for research and the academic world. A new refreshing experience was the 2011-ICED fundraiser gala in honor of Aimee Liu’s new book “Restoring Our Bodies, Reclaiming Our Lives.” This is only the second time that the AED has included a fundraiser gala in the program. The first gala was in Boston in 2002, organized by Cindy Bulik and Anne Kearney-Cook. That gala raised enough to fund the AED clinical and research scholarship fund through 2011. This year’s gala was designed to pick up where that one left off. To do so, Aimee Liu graciously donated all of the profits from her book to the AED, and Donna and Randy Friedman underwrote the event to maximize funds that could go to the scholarship program.

Cindy Bulik and Steve Wonderlich emcee the event

In the academic world, we are accustomed to the familiar process conducting scientific research, analyzing results, and then disseminating them to the scientific and clinical community to assist with diagnosis, treatment or understand of eating disorders. Knowledge is, however, a multilevel and reciprocal process that is enriched by both objective and subjective experiences. There are multiple “ways of knowing”—each perspective is valid and critical to a comprehensive understanding of eating disorders. The author, Aimee Liu heroically collected personal stories from patients recovering from eating disorders and her book offer them a platform to share their recovery journeys. As scientists, we often hear voices of those in recovery as expressed through our data—frequency distributions, t-tests, regressions—although critical to advancing knowledge, alone this “way of knowing” leaves a distance between the researcher and human experience.  There are moments when it is good just to listen, with the only goal of listening with an open heart.

Cindy Bulik and Steve Wonderlich were the emcees for the evening which was attended by people with eating disorders, families, clinicians, researchers, and AED past, present, and future leadership. The gala included a performance by Jenni Schaefer from her new CD, phoenix, Tennessee, and I had the honor of being one of the readers of the passages from the

Jenni Schaefer and Tamara Noyes capture the crowd


It was heartwarming to see the AED provide us with the opportunity to truly listen to the voices of recovery. I was fortunate to have been part of this experience and look forward to the next event that reminds us why we do the work we do.

~Mae Lynn Reyes, PhD