One Life: Hope, Healing and Inspiration on the Path to Recovery from Eating Disorders
by Naomi Feigenbaum
Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009
When I had the opportunity to review “One Life: Hope, Healing and Inspiration on the Path to Recovery from Eating Disorders” by Naomi Feigenbaum, I did so with both interest and fear. I am a recovered anorexic myself. It’s been nearly twenty years but I can still remember the feelings associated with that period as if it were yesterday. From this vantage point, I was able to fully appreciate the struggle Naomi went through. She has written a powerful book detailing her experience of recovery at an inpatient treatment center. She has done so in a positive way, trying to help those who may follow in her footsteps. As she states, “It is my hope that the description of factors common to all eating disorders, as well as the skills I have learned to deal with them, will help other women gain the hope, courage, and confidence to give up their own eating disorders and to fully recover.”
The title of this book “One Life” comes from a statement that one of Naomi’s therapists makes, “You only have one life; don’t waste it on an eating disorder.” Each chapter in the book corresponds to one week of her treatment. Naomi begins each chapter with a skill for recovering anorexics to work on. She lists the skill, how to use this skill, and when to use it. The skills run the gamut from Being Honest to Using Your Voice to Reaching Out to Others and Relinquishing Control. These are useful skills for everyone to have.
Naomi is to be commended for her honesty and willingness to share. A powerful passage comes towards the end of the book when she finally realizes the reason for her eating disorder, “I was afraid of life. I was afraid of confrontation with others and not getting what I needed, so it was easier not to ask. It was difficult to cope in healthy ways and far easier to resort to attention-seeking behaviors and forcing others to take care of me. Life is full of challenges. It was easier to sink into non-existence, comforted by the familiarity of the eating disorder I had known for years.”
“One Life” should be required reading for anyone touched by an eating disorder. I would particularly recommend it for parents who have a child struggling with an eating disorder. It provides a valuable window to what is going on in the mind of someone struggling with this. Thank you, Naomi, for writing this book.
Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur