This Girl Rising: online self-help eating disorder program fills gap
By Michelle Southern and Jennifer Hamer
Two Australian-based women, Michelle and Jennifer, have created an online self-help eating disorder program to help address gaps in accessible and adequate treatment and care. Michelle and Jennifer bring first-hand understanding to the fore — their lives, studies and careers have been shaped through their experience with an eating disorder.
Michelle’s story – loving life more than my eating disorder
I lost my childhood to anorexia and bulimia. From seven-years-old, I began hearing ‘voices’ in my head, giving me rules and rituals to complete. I washed my hands until they bled. At 11-years-old, at a dancing concert, my best friend’s mother commented that we both needed to lose weight, as we had ‘thunder thighs’. This criticism introduced me to the world of dieting and superficial beauty. I felt like everyone was always looking at me. Judging me. Staring at my ‘thunder thighs’.
I started a diet and my life spiralled out of control from there. Within 10 months, I was admitted to hospital with anorexia. The next four years of my life revolved around hospital admissions, weight restoration, being a day patient and inevitably, relapsing. Throughout this time, my eating behaviour, fear foods and thoughts were not addressed, and I wasn’t shown ‘how’ to live. After four hospital admissions over a five-year period, change finally took place. I’d started working, had a boyfriend and for the first time in my life, I started loving something more than I loved my eating disorder – life!I had opened myself up to love – both giving and receiving love, and discovered that life was exciting with so many adventures ahead of me.
Jennifer’s story – finding the courage to leave anorexia behind
For 16 years, anorexia held me tight. I thought she was my best friend. How could I ever let go? Anorexia filled my life with destruction, isolation, pain, suffering and loss. I realised anorexia was not my friend. I wanted the joys I had once experienced back. Becoming excited in anticipation of birthday cake, opening my lunchbox to discover what was inside, and moving my body intuitively without any thought of weight or appearance. Such realisations weren’t enough for me to find the courage to leave the illness behind. I was scared to let anorexia go. After all, anorexia helped me to feel in control, empowered and good enough in a world where I never felt good enough.
I couldn’t see a way out… until I hit rock bottom and was admitted to inpatient treatment. I had two options: to give into anorexia and let the illness take my life, or to choose hope and recovery instead. I chose hope, embarking on my journey to recovery and finding my ‘why’. My ‘why’, which I struggled to understand throughout my recovery, was about falling in love with the person I am, knowing I am good enough for this world just as I am. Recovery was and is a choice. A choice I make over and over again each day. I know this was the best decision of my life. You can read more about my personal story here.
This Girl Rising – creating an online self-help eating disorder recovery program
Through their own personal experiences, Jennifer and Michelle learned their illness was never truly about food or exercise. Understanding one’s self-worth was the path to freedom. On several occasions throughout their recovery, both Jennifer and Michelle felt like they would never be able to recover. Recovery felt too hard, and habits too ingrained. Positive change seemed out of reach.
At the heart of This Girl Rising, is the belief that everyone impacted by an eating disorder deserves to recover and live life to its fullest. Jennifer and Michelle have identified that a major barrier to recovery in Australia comprises extensive waiting lists and lack of access to treatment. Additionally, many people never experience full recovery because the deep roots of their eating disorder may never be addressed in standard treatment programs.
Inside the program: a journey of self-discovery
Across 20 self-paced modules, This Girl Rising aims to address the root cause of one’s eating disorder, drawing on Jennifer and Michelle’s knowledge as experts, both by experience and profession. Each module provides education, guidance, support, and recovery tips, which are based on evidence-based research and over 25 years’ worth of combined lived experience. People can access the course remotely on a computer, tablet or mobile device 24/7 and at an affordable cost. Tasks and activities end each module, in addition to the opportunity to reach out to Jennifer and Michelle for optional one-to-one coaching, support, or guidance.
Who is This Girl Rising ideal for?
- Those in recovery from an eating disorder
- People experiencing disordered eating and/or body image issues
- Those who are seeking to heal their relationship with themselves by improving their self-worth
Increasing your quality of life through the course
People who complete This Girl Rising will be working towards a newfound love for themselves and understanding their ‘why’ in recovery. The course is seen as a complementary tool in the treatment of eating disorders. That said, working through this course, alongside outpatient or inpatient treatment, will help to equip participants with strategies and tools to navigate their way through their unique recovery journey. Additionally, people are armed with the strategies that will help them to reject diet culture, as well as tools to change their mindset about food, exercise, their body and themselves. Importantly, participants are given the opportunity to rediscover their self-worth and body acceptance, without needing external validation.
Jennifer and Michelle guide you throughout your journey
Michelle is an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach based on the Gold Coast and works with clients all over Australia. She studied through the Carolyn Costin Institute in the USA and was mentored by Carolyn, a renowned clinician, author and speaker in the eating disorder field.
Jennifer is a PhD candidate at Griffith University in the field of eating disorders in athletes. Prior to this, she completed her master’s degree in eating disorders and clinical nutrition.
Both Michelle and Jennifer see the future of improved eating disorder treatment, lying in greater collaboration between experts with personal experience (mentors), patients, their treatment team and families. They believe This Girl Rising can play a pivotal role in this collaboration.
Click here to learn more about This Girl Rising.
Michelle Southern is an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach based on the Gold Coast and works with clients throughout Australia. She graduated as a Recovery Coach from the Carolyn Costin Institute in 2020. Michelle has lived experience with anorexia and bulimia. Her 12-year battle stole her childhood and nearly took her life. Michelle’s life mission is to help and inspire women to live a life free from their eating disorder. To support and nurture women throughout their recovery journey, being beside them as they face their biggest fears and learn to change their behaviour. Watching clients transform their lives and become the confident, beautiful, euphoric woman they were born to be is the constant, biggest highlight of her career.
Jennifer Hamer is a PhD candidate at Griffith University in the field of eating disorders in athletes. Prior to this, she completed her master’s degree in eating disorders and clinical nutrition. Jennifer’s passion is driven by her 17-year journey with an eating disorder, which robbed her of a career as a professional athlete and almost took her life. Jennifer is a passionate eating disorder advocate, author and speaker, inspiring others to break free from their eating disorder, reject diet culture and help women to see themselves for who they truly are. Jennifer uses both her personal experience and academic expertise to support individuals on their own journey to recovery.