Content Warning: this post discuss eating disorders.
Tell us a little bit about Uncovery and why you decided to create this wonderful organisation.
Uncovery is an eating disorder coaching service that supports anyone aged 16 and above seeking to improve their relationship with food, and make peace with their body, through a range of recovery support services.
Uncovery was developed in response to a growing need for more eating disorder support throughout Australia, and was fuelled by my own lived experience. Several years ago I went through the challenge of navigating my own recovery, and found it incredibly difficult to access support services that could guide me through every day living situations. Unfortunately, Australia is still playing catch up when it comes to adequate eating disorder treatment and support. With an intense desire to make sure no one else felt alone on their recovery journey, I knew I had to find more solutions. Through working at an incredible treatment centre in New York City, as well as training with the Carolyn Costin Institute, I was inspired to bring these ideas home and begin curating a service that would change the way we support those in recovery.
A key feature of your org is connecting through personal experience – what role does your own experience play in Uncovery?
Lived experience is at the heart of who we are, and how we practice. It is a profound tool, that if used appropriately, has the ability to help us relate, empathise and connect with one another. Lived experience not only helps us to connect with, and encourage our clients, but shows them that no matter how far away recovery feels, we are living proof that it IS possible. Recovery is often a subjective process, that involves a lot of patience and hope, and creating a fulfilling and rewarding life. This is a big part of what we focus on.
My own lived experience not only drives me to create change in the eating disorder field, but it has also informed the way I have developed the services we provide. In saying this, it is very important that lived experience is not the only thing that guides the work we do. We use it as the connective tissue and inspiration, but our extensive training guides our principals.
We also believe that recovering from an eating disorder is a gift, and that gift can be transformed into a tool that can help others.
I hear you’ve spent some time training in America! What was your experience like and what were some important learnings you took away?
Yes! I was fortunate enough to spend six months working and training at BALANCE eating disorder treatment center in New York City as both a recovery coach, and a Residential Treatment Liaison. I was guided and mentored by Melainie Rogers, Founder and Executive Director of BALANCE, who also happens to be a fellow Australian, and also recovered. With this, I had the opportunity to really immerse myself in their programs, as well as travel around the country creating relationships with other treatment centres. Not only did this open my eyes to what was possible for Australia, but it allowed me to begin gathering information and inspiration for Uncovery. After co-facilitating support groups with Melainie, spending time with those in treatment, as well as learning from professionals in the field, I found a common thread that ran through my research and work in the USA. I realised the most valuable tool I held was my lived experience, and that was something that can’t be learned in a text-book, and this is incredibly empowering.
I discovered that simply having access to someone recovered plays a pivotal role in recovery by providing both hope and motivation, and the belief that recovering from the eating disorder is possible. This is what has guided the development of Uncovery.
What is eating disorder coaching and how do these services work?
Eating disorder coaching is an exciting and innovative approach to supporting individuals with the practical side of recovery. We work closely with our clients and their treatment team (psychologist, dietitian etc) to establish and implement recovery goals in their day-to-day lives. We do this through a range of tailored services such as Recovery Coaching, Meal Support, Grocery Shopping and Cooking. All of the services are individualised and can be accessed face-to-face in Melbourne, or via secure video conferencing worldwide.
Recovery from an eating disorder requires us to challenge old beliefs and behaviours around food, and to create and implement new ones. This can be especially challenging when we are left to our own devices and need to learn and implement new healthier ways of living. Our services are unique as we have the ability to be adaptable and flexible to our clients’ needs. For example, eating in a public place may be a really challenging task for someone in recovery, but eating in restaurants is something we need to learn in order to find freedom. A coach is trained to develop goals in conjunction with the treatment team using individuals’ meal plans. We will discuss this with our client, identify what their fears and challenges are, and gently guide them through the meal. Having goals is a really important part of what we do; it helps us to establish where progress is being made, and what we need to work on. Gentle exposure gives our client the opportunity to challenge their food rules and fears in a safe and supportive environment with guidance from someone who understands how they might feel. It is these small steps that create the biggest change.
We focus on supporting the individual through the behavioural changes needed for recovery, whilst equipping them with the skills and tools so they can better understand their own triggers and needs. You can learn more about our services here.
‘Uncovery’ is an interesting spin on the word ‘recovery’. Can you tell us more about this?
Recovering from an eating disorder asks us to do more than just eat normally again. For most, recovery is a much bigger process. It involves a lot of challenges, resilience, patience, hope, open-mindedness, overcoming obstacles, acceptance, self-compassion – the list goes on. So really, it is a process of self-discovery. When we look at recovery in this way, we are actually practicing these skills and gaining a lot of strength and wisdom from our experience. Uncovery goes beyond recovery. When I look at my own lived experience with an eating disorder, when I recovered, I didn’t feel like I was back at baseline. I certainly wasn’t the same person I was before the eating disorder as I had learned so much about myself from the process. The word recovered never sat well with me. I do identify with the term recovered, which is why you will see that I have used the word interchangeably. However, I believe I am so much more than I was before, therefore recovered doesn’t seem like enough. Thus, I decided Uncovered gave more respect to my experience and who I am today. I believe that we can look at adversity through a different lens, we are able to learn so much more through the challenge, and come out the other side much stronger. I arrived to the name Uncovery, as I believe it is not a destination, but rather an ever-evolving process.
What key piece of advice would you give to someone suffering from an eating disorder?
Oh, there are so many! It is completely possible to get well and arrive to a place of freedom, and you don’t need to do it alone. If you are human, you need people, it is just a fact of our species. Reaching out to a friend or family member if you need support is so important. Remember, you don’t need to feel ready to let go of your eating disorder in order to begin the process. Motivation will fluctuate, that is normal. Some days you won’t want a bar of recovery, and that is okay. But remember, that the only ones who don’t recover, are the ones who give up. Recovery is not a mountain, it is a path. There may be some bumps in the road, and unforeseen twists, but as long as you are putting one step in front of the other and trusting in the process, you will find your way through.
What advice would you give to someone looking to support a friend or loved one through their disorder?
Eating disorders can be incredibly isolating, so encourage your friend or loved one to reach out and stay connected to others; this will help them to know that they are not alone. Be careful to not make assumptions about them in regard to their physical appearance as eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Avoid conversations about dieting, food, weight or appearance, and focus on what qualities and strength you admire about them. Help the individual to see that they are not defined by their eating disorder, and that they deserve support, regardless of how unwell they are. Most importantly, do not place blame on the person or the family for their condition, but rather seek out support services that are qualified to help.
Olivia offers free 15-minute initial consultations which can be booked through the contact page on the website.
You check out the Uncovery website here and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Olivia is a Certified Eating Disorder coach, And founder of Uncovery. Through her own lived experience with an eating disorder several years ago, she experienced first-hand the lack of compassionate support, guidance and care available for those living with an eating disorder in Australia. After working and training in the USA, Olivia was inspired to develop services that are accessible for those in recovery.
You can learn more about the different types of eating disorders and how to get help on our page Eating Disorders.
You can also find a list of more support services here.