For individuals with a lived experience of eating disorders, disordered eating and/or body image concerns, and the people who support them, the process of recovery is often less about reaching a finished and final state of being, and more a continual journey unique to them.
Yet, although our individual stories may differ, our determination to challenge the judgment, stigma and false perceptions around eating disorders and body image issues unites and brings us together, on the path towards greater understanding and awareness of eating disorders in our community.
Butterfly Pathfinders is a motivational speaker’s program designed to amplify the diverse voices of people with a lived experience of an eating disorder or body image concern, as well as those who provide support and care to someone they love.
Sharing one’s story is an empowering tool that can be used by both the individual, and others, to help break down the stigma surrounding eating disorders and body image concerns. Eating disorders are isolating, and so feeling heard or listened to may help to establish a sense of connection and help others in navigating their own path.
Eating disorders also do not discriminate and can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, and sharing a diverse range of experiences is essential in bringing this awareness to the public. Finally, sharing stories also encourage help-seeking behaviour, a vital step towards healing.
“Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others” – Peter Forbes
Applications to join the Butterfly Pathfinders program has now closed for 2022. Please check back in the New Year for updates on when and how to apply.
Butterfly Pathfinders openly share and reflect on their experiences by telling their unique stories, to deliver messages of hope and recovery and to creating new ways of engaging with and understanding life in a safe and supportive non-clinical environment.
Butterfly Pathfinders are available to provide lived experience insights on eating disorders and body image for media requests, speaking opportunities and events. This service is free of charge, however we would greatly appreciate any donations or fundraising efforts to ensure we can keep providing our advocacy and work to those who need it most.
Although over 1 million Australians are living with an eating disorder in any given year, experiencing one yourself can feel extremely isolating. Unfortunately, only 23.2% of people with eating disorders seek professional help. Stigma and shame are the most frequently identified barriers for accessing treatment. Other factors include negative attitudes towards seeking help, feeling helpless, lack of encouragement from others and lock of knowledge about help resources.
The purpose of Butterfly Pathfinders is to educate, support and encourage people to seek the help they deserve through powerful storytelling. Eating disorders can be extremely isolating however they cannot survive in darkness. Butterfly Pathfinders want to bring their experiences into the light to help other people pave their own path towards healing.
Founded on the principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful, Butterfly Pathfinders create a crucial space where anyone in attendance in need of support can find affiliation, make a real connection and feel a sense of hope that can come out of the experience of truly belonging.
Eating disorders do not discriminate. The reality is that they can impact anyone regardless of gender, age, race or socioeconomic status.
Additionally, numerous types of eating disorders exist, making it even more important to share a diverse range of stories. In Australia, of those living with eating disorders, 47 per cent have Binge Eating disorders, 12 per cent have Bulimia Nervosa, three per cent have Anorexia Nervosa and the remaining 38 per cent have other eating disorders.
Butterfly Pathfinders are a diverse group of individuals with a diverse range of experiences, reflecting the diversity of eating disorders and body image issues. This is because more diversity in stories equates to more Australians feeling as though their own experience is reflected. This in turn encourages help-seeking behaviours, which is essential to overcoming eating disorders and body image concerns.
Butterfly Pathfinders have also presented to many different communities, to spread awareness for eating disorders and body image concerns Australia-wide. These presentations are tailored to the needs of the audience, in line with the experience of the Pathfinder to generate support and encourage help-seeking behaviours to a diverse audience.
This is fundamental in encouraging help-seeking behaviours and spreading the importance of prevention strategies, as research has found that individuals from certain communities such as the LGBTQIA+ and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities tend to be at greater risk of developing disordered eating behaviours.
Butterfly Pathfinders engage in an array of opportunities including:
Every time we share our story, or more generally talk about eating disorders and body image issues, there is an opportunity to help to break down stigma, debunk common myths, and educate the audience.
Unintentional use of unsafe or misleading language could potentially trigger someone into harmful thoughts and/or behaviours. Therefore, you should avoid the use of language which places passive judgement (for example ‘obese’ and ‘skinny’/‘thin’), and not include specific behaviours, especially not accompanied with quantifiable figures. For more information about this, please utilise the resources below.
The language used must be chosen carefully, sensitively, and accurately. Language in the mental health sector, and specifically around eating disorders, continues to evolve. The Butterfly Pathfinders are across the latest language trends to protect the community and individuals to whom they are speaking to.