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Book Review: Beating Ana

BOOK REVIEW: Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder and Take Your Life Back by Shannon Cutts (HCI, 2009)

Author Shannon Cutts has created a smart little book in Beating Ana for anyone struggling with eating issues. The theme of the book, which I whole-heartedly endorse, is developing relationships to replace eating disorders. Cutts couldn’t be more on target when she says that we need to “feed our minds and hearts with the empowering stories of others.” To extend the metaphor, the book is a most satisfying meal.

The focus of Beating Ana is on mentoring. Cutts defines a mentor as “one who is recovering who understands and can give hope and support from an insiders’ perspective.” This concept is the foundation of the “Anonymous” organizations and works well for recovering from a host of problems and addictions. As Cutts underscores, it is precisely our isolation and shame that keep us cut off from our authentic feelings and from others. By allowing ourselves to be mentored and by mentoring others, we reconnect with our emotions and reinforce the process of relating to others in healthy ways. Mentoring, as mentor or mentee, provides plenty of practice in being dependent and being depended upon, and forms the basis for turning to people as a substitute for food obsession and addiction.

Through letters and emails of disregulated eaters and her responses to them, Cutts addresses a host of topics, such as feeling powerless around food, taking risks, self-affirmation, fear of food, living your dreams, feeling fat, grieving the loss of eating problems, positive self-talk, rebellion, reparenting the self, and relapse. She uses her own story and the stories of others to create a dialogue between the mentee (writer) and herself as mentor-responder. In each chapter, she also includes useful homework assignments, provides resources, and offers Life Celebration Affirmations.

Cutts, a talented musician, is a triumphant survivor of a 15-year struggle with disordered thinking and disregulated eating, and “founder of MentorCONNECT, a community where mentors and mentees can connect to experience the power of mentoring, and of Key to Life: unlocking the door to hope, an organization that offers events, workshops, concerts, and products and services to facilitate recovery from eating and related disorders.” You can find more information about Cutts and her work at http://www.key-to-life.com/. Her book is available wherever books are sold.