A panel this month sheds light on a growing problem.
by Katy Nelson . photos by Beth Ellen
In the mid-‘90s, when Dianna Goodman’s eldest daughter, Sarah Vance, developed an eating disorder in the ninth grade, it was difficult to find help. Goodman, an Asheville native and retired teacher, looked around for books on the subject, or for health providers specifically trained to treat eating disorders. “It was all new—people just didn’t know,” Goodman says. Out of this isolating experience, she knew one thing: “We don’t want that to happen to other families.”
So, in 2004, Goodman founded T.H.E. Center for Disordered Eating (the T.H.E. stands for Treatment, Healing and Education). Ever since, she has been a quiet force behind T.H.E. Center’s weekly support group for women and men in recovery from eating disorders. Weekly meetings are still the cornerstone of T.H.E. Center, which has an office in the Central United Methodist Church’s Haywood Street campus in downtown Asheville. T.H.E. Center, led by director April Pryor, survives on grants and private donations and has a lending library of more than 90 books on disordered eating. Pryor, a licensed professional counselor, advises families about local healthcare providers and national treatment centers.
This month, the center presents a free panel at UNC-Asheville’s Sherill Center, the new campus wellness facility. Laurey’s Catering will provide a meal for registered attendants, thanks to a grant from the Eating Recovery Center of Denver, Colorado.
The event kicks off T.H.E. Center’s new support group for families. Local therapist Jane Lawson will moderate a large panel, which includes psychiatrist Harold Elliott; nutritionist Elizabeth Pavka; T.H.E. Center’s support group leaders Heather Wingert and Michelle Mendez-Youell; along with families who have dealt with eating disorders, including Kacey Cramer and her husband, Michael, and Susan Sinyai and her daughter Corey Sinyai Dingess.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 24 million Americans, or nearly eight percent of the population, have an eating disorder, which can include anorexia, bulimia or binge eating. NEDA’s CEO, Lynn Grefe, tells VERVE those are just the ones we know about. Not all disorders are easy to diagnose. “We know the numbers are going up. We’re looking at close to ten percent of the population,” she says, noting that eating disorders are the deadliest of all mental illnesses.
Five years ago, Corey Sinyai Dingess moved home to Asheville from New York City, where she was working hard as a personal trainer. She was 24, bulimic, and not functioning well. “I needed to come back to reality,” she says. Dingess called her parents in North Carolina, moved back in with them and “made my job getting healthy,” she says. The seeds of Corey’s bulimia, she says, were sown when she was a teen, but the disorder didn’t manifest until college. “I was always aware of my physical self,” she says, believing that she wasn’t even “good enough” to be anorexic. Back in Asheville, her treatment included private therapy sessions and T.H.E. Center’s support group.
Now 29 and married, Dingess is a Pilates instructor and personal trainer at Happy Body on Hendersonville Road in South Asheville, where she teaches clients to replace negative thoughts about their bodies with positive ones. She hopes sharing her story at the Voices of Hope panel will foster a community conversation about how disordered eating affects everyone. “We all emotionally eat,” Dingess says. “The center does such good things. Only more can grow from it if people become more aware.”
Voices of Hope: a Conversation with Parents about Eating Disorders, takes place September 8 at 6pm at UNC-Asheville’s Sherill Center. Presented by T.H.E. Center for Disordered Eating, located at 297 Haywood St. in Asheville. 828-337-4685 or www.thecenternc.org. More info: www.NationalEatingDisorders.org.