Don't call Laura Susanne Yochelson an anorexia survivor

A young, up and coming author discusses her writing process and why talking about eating disorders is important. Photo: Balboa Press

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2013—In late 2012, 23-year-old Laura Susanne Yochelson published her first book, “Sick: In the name of being well, I made myself sick“ and has been on a campaign ever since to bring awareness and understanding of eating disorders to anyone willing to listen and understand.

Yochelson, an American University graduate and a Washington, DC local, struggled with anorexia nervosa for more than seven years between the ages of 13 and 20.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, approximately half a million American teenagers suffer from an eating disorder or disordered eating. Less than one fourth talk to professionals about their struggles with weight and food and nearly five percent of sufferers die from comorbid-related conditions. In addition, suicides are significantly high for those suffering specifically from bulimia nervosa.

Although most people who struggle with or have struggled with an eating disorder fear talking about the condition due to shame and stigma, Yochelson proves she is not like most people. I sat down with the author to find out more about her writing process and motivation to write, how she is spreading awareness and whether a second book can be expected.

Paula Carrasquillo: Why write a book in the first place?

Laura Susanne Yochelson: I felt called. My grandmother loved painting, so I took an art class to learn how to paint. I quickly realized that painting became like a new language for me, a new way to express myself, and it was not an easy language for me to learn. Understanding this made me realize that I loved to write and had a talent for writing. I decided to use my words and my writing to express myself and tell my story.

PC: What is the main message behind Sick?

LSY: Eating disorders (ED) are a problem. They are real. There are ED statistics, but the people behind the statistics are real. I want to expose and explain the internal landscape of my crisis with identity. I was labeled, and labeling confuses people. I also want to make it clear that I am not a survivor. I was never attacked. I explore many aspects of the disorder beyond body image and acceptance, which are the common and most understood causes. There is more to eating disorders than what most expect.

PC: Who do you hope to affect the most with your book?

LSY: In addition to those most at risk of developing an eating disorder, everyone from parents to coaches could benefit from my book. I provide necessary insight into what signs to look for and the types of conversations to have with children and young adults to help prevent an eating disorder to start, progress and continue.

PC: What was the most difficult part of writing your story?

LSY: Every part of my story was difficult to write in its own way.  As I wrote, I mourned my childhood. I realized through writing that there was no perfect time in my life and that I can’t and don’t want to go back to the “old” Laura. If I had to choose the most difficult part to write, however, it would the chapters detailing my experiences as a first-semester freshman in college. During that time at American University, I was back on the East Coast driving by the home of my early childhood, crying as I recalled my earliest memories. Writing about this took me back, and I cried all over again.

PC: What part of your book did you enjoy writing the most?

LSY: Chapter 25. I loved living in the gated community when we first moved to San Diego from the East Coast when I was 12. I had visions of being the all-American California Girl and having sun-kissed skin, a busy social life and even boyfriends. I had many expectations that were all lost due to pressures in school and at home.

PC: In what ways are you promoting your book?

LSY: Locally, I have been a guest speaker on a number of campuses. I have spoken in front of college students enrolled in women’s studies courses at American University and The George Washington University. My book is also a part of the Women’s Studies curriculum at Montgomery College where I have spoken with groups of students on two occasions to date. Here is a list of upcoming events:

17 April at 10:00 a.m. – Book presentation for Community Based Block Counseling Program at San Diego State University

25 April at 2:00 p.m. – Hay House Radio prerecording for my segment on “Bright New Voices”

27 April from 12 noon – 2:00 p.m. – Book talk + signing + Q&A on eating disorders at Transform Holistic Healing and Wellness in Takoma Park, Maryland

4 May from 12 noon – 2:00 p.m. – Signing books at Athleta Georgetown; yoga + body image workshop in the works for 10:00 a.m. that morning

7 May  – invited to participate in Hay House blog tour for international best-selling author Eldon Taylor’s I Believe: When What You Believe Matters

PC: Do you foresee writing a second book?

LSY: I recently began writing a fictional tale based on my personal experiences with relationships and the dynamics between empathic vs. non-empathic individuals. It’s an expanded and more in-depth look at the dynamics behind one of my relationships touched on in Sick.”  I think many will be able to relate.

Order a copy of Sick and learn more about Yochelson on her blog.


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Paula Carrasquillo

Ms. Carrasquillo lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area. She earned a master's degree in communication and adult education from Regis University in Denver, Colo. and a bachelor’s degree in English from Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md. In addition to her column for The Washington Times Communities, Ms. Carrasquillo contributes and edits stories for various online outlets including Elephant JournalPaula's Pontifications, and Places to Yoga. She also works as a Web editor and analyst for a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Bethesda, Md. In May 2012, Ms. Carrasquillo published her first novelette, Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Visit her online portfolio to learn more about her education, career experiences, and her next book.

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