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A Civil War in the Mind

by Naomi Gesinger

Most people think that eating disorders are almost impossible illnesses to cure. These diseases boast an alarmingly high The Secret Language of Eating Disordersmortality rate, claiming four to ten percent of victims and leaving those who survive with permanent organ damage. In addition, eating disorders bring hopelessness and despair to not only victims, but also their families and caregivers. However, in her groundbreaking book, The Secret Language of Eating Disorders, author Peggy Claude-Pierre offers a ray of hope in the darkest of landscapes.

Having successfully cured her own two daughters of anorexia nervosa, Claude-Pierre felt compelled to help others and thus founded the world-renowned Montreux Clinic in 1988. The Secret Language of Eating Disorders outlines the clinic's unique program based on Claude-Pierre's perceptions of and experiences with eating disorders. The crux of her philosophy is that the victims of eating disorders, very often the most selfless of people, are overwhelmed by an extreme negative perception of themselves. The ongoing "civil war in the mind" between the actual and negative mind convinces the sufferer that she is worthless, selfish, and deserves to die. At Montreux, the negative mind is nourished with positivity; victims are furnished with love and made to feel worthy. Food, never forced upon the sufferer, is gradually introduced in non-threatening ways.

Peggy Claude-Pierre challenges the more commonly held theories on anorexia and bulimia, claiming they are misconceptions that keep sufferers in a state of hopelessness. She doesn't believe that victims necessarily come from broken homes, have been abused, or are merely crying out for attention. Unsurprisingly, Peggy Claude-Pierre has her critics.

While many regard her as a "saint," others see Claude-Pierre as a "witch doctor." There are no statistics reflecting Montreux's success rate and there is no long-term proof that patients remain cured. Because Claude-Pierre holds no advanced degree and a majority of her staff lack formal training, many doctors see her as naive for believing that eating disorders can be reversed. But despite criticism, many families see Montreux as their last chance and many patients are brought back from the brink of death.

Perhaps the final testament to Montreux is the letters and poems from cured victims. One former anorexic says: "Life is definitely worth living, and now I know how much I have to offer this world, to the people around me, as well as to myself." The Secret Language of Eating Disorders is an important book, offering help and hope for these cruel illnesses.

Naomi Gesinger writes reviews and articles for Amazon.com.


The Human Nature Review
Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

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