Recovery Is Possible: An Interview With Hanna Kuyper

You don't have to feel trapped anymore.

Posted Jun 07, 2018

Used with permission
Source: Used with permission

When I decided that I wanted to hire someone to work with me in my new group practice, The Eating Disorder Center, I received many applications and conducted a lot of interviews.

After I interviewed, Hanna Kuyper, I knew immediately that she was the person who I wanted to hire. I asked her to do a "role-play" session with me and she completely  knocked it out of the park! I almost offered her the position on the spot. 

Hanna is compassionate, smart, kind, and highly knowledgeable when it comes to helping people to recover from eating disorders and body image issues.

I was so excited to do an interview with my amazing new contractor, Hanna Kuyper, eating disorder recovery coach, who works with people worldwide via video (Zoom). 

Jennifer: Tell me a little bit about yourself and what fueled your interest in helping people to recover from eating disorders?

Hanna: Well, the most important roles in my life are as a mama and a wife. I have been married to my husband for four years and we have a sweet one year old. I am just finishing up my Master's degree in Counseling Psychology with a speciality in Eating Disorders and Body Image. I previously served on the board of the nonprofit, Body Revolution, dedicated to advocating for those with eating disorders. In 2015, I opened my own studio iamwell, a community dedicated to helping women create a healthy relationship with food and their bodies I also created and ran women's groups that focused on body image, self compassion and intuitive eating.

I am beyond passionate about helping people to recover from eating disorders and body image issues. I personally struggled with an eating disorder and now being on other side and being recovered, I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than helping people in their journey. Feeling true freedom in my own life fuels me to help others experience the same. When you have struggled with an eating disorder for so long you don’t always know that there is a life outside of your disorder. However, there is SO much you get to experience as you leave your eating disorder behind and step into your true self. It is such an amazing thing.
 
Jennifer: What would you say are some common misconceptions when it comes to eating disorders?
 
Hanna: Through my time in this field and also struggling with my own eating disorder in the past, I have come to learn that there are a lot of misconceptions and lack of awareness when it comes to eating disorders. Some of the misconceptions I hear are

1. Eating Disorders only affect a certain population

Eating Disorders can affect anyone from any population. I think we have this bias that only white, middle class, thin females are affected. When in reality it’s males, females, people in higher weight bodies, people involved in particular sports, individuals experiencing high levels of stress, adolescents, adults and everywhere in between. Eating disorders affect a wide range of individuals and you cannot determine that based on someone's appearance.
 
2. Eating Disorders aren’t serious

There is still a lot of work to do in the community to educate on what Eating Disorders are and just how serious they are. Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate over any other mental illness. They are more than a diet gone too far and more than telling someone to ‘just eat more’ or ‘just eat less’.  Which brings me to my next point……
 
3.  It’s all about the food

This is a tough one because although it is about the food, it’s also not about the food. There’s a strong relationship to trauma and the development of eating disorders as well as genetics, perfectionism and other personality traits. Eating disorders are complex and a lot of the time a coping mechanism for something much deeper that needs to be worked through.
 
Jennifer: How would you describe your approach as an eating disorder recovery coach?

Hanna: As a coach I am very action focused while still holding compassion for my clients. I tailor each session based on clients individual needs and enjoy setting goals and utilizing effective strategies. I create an atmosphere where clients can be vulnerable and feel safe to grow and challenge themselves. I like to be authentic and provide a space for my clients to do the same. Every person's journey is different but going through my own journey in the past allows me to walk alongside my clients with a compassionate heart  knowing they have the ability to overcome this illness and fully recover.
 
Jennifer: Do you subscribe to a health at every size approach?

Hanna: I am a strong believer in health at every size. Unfortunately we have a stigma around body size and shape and think that thin=healthy and larger body=unhealthy. Health at every size encourages embracing body diversity and respecting the idea that we are all unique and different. It's also important to note that your body size says nothing about your worth or value as a person.
 
Jennifer: For those who don't know about your role as an eating disorder recovery coach. What is eating disorder recovery coaching?

Hanna: Eating disorder recovery coaching is a powerful added support to therapy (or may be appropriate as a stand-alone service for those who are struggling with disordered eating, body image issues, or are further along in their recovery). If a client is working with other professionals, I am happy to collaborate with them. Many individuals in recovery benefit from having more support than a once-a-week therapy session, and a recovery coach can be a great addition to a treatment team.

Recovery coaching is present-focused and action-oriented. I love setting goals with clients and helping them to take steps in their recovery. When you work with me as an eating disorder recovery coach, it includes weekly video sessions via Zoom, as well as email support between sessions. This can be incredibly helpful for those who are struggling and in need of additional support.

I love being an eating disorder recovery coach, because I am able to work with people all over the world! This helps me to reach people who might not have much access to support in their communities. 
 
Jennifer: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges and most rewarding aspects of your job?

Hanna: My biggest challenge is that I want to change the world! Ha! I have so much passion for this area that I have to remind myself to take it one step at a time. There is so much education that needs to be done and so many more resources that need to be offered it could be an endless job. Being able to connect with like minded professionals that want to make a change and create a shift has been so fun and encouraging.

There is no way I could answer what the most rewarding part of this job is because there are SO many. Having the honor to be able to walk alongside someone in their recovery journey is amazing. Seeing an individual gain their life back is incredible. I couldn’t imagine working in any other field.
 
Jennifer: How is your life as a recovered person different from your life in an eating disorder?

Hanna: There is so much freedom. I am able to explore who my authentic self is, what my beliefs are and what I value. My life is now full of things I truly value like family, relationships, connection, adventure and so much more, including good food!
 
Jennifer: What is one piece of advice that you would give someone who is struggling in their recovery?

Hanna: Allow yourself to go through the process. When I first started my recovery journey I thought that every slip up meant I had to start over again. It was exhausting and I felt like a failure. My (at the time boyfriend) now husband told me in one of my self pity moments that I was allowed to make mistakes. I was allowed to struggle. I was allowed to not be perfect. It sounds so simple but really giving yourself permission to go through the process is empowering. Often individuals who are struggling with an eating disorder have a tendency to think in black and white terms. Recovery is not black and white. Recovery is messy, complicated, confusing and sometimes exhausting. However, every day we show up we grow a little more. Eventually those small victories, the small growing pains, the small changes we don’t even see happen….they turn into recovery.

Work with Hanna: Click here to learn more and to book a free 15 minute phone consultation.

​Follow Hanna on Instagram: hanna_kuyper


The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. We also offer therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney,  Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com