MEN of F.E.A.S.T.

By Judy Krasna

F.E.A.S.T. (Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment for Eating Disorders) debuted a new support service that has been steadily gaining popularity in the short time that it has been running. This unique and innovative service is aptly named “Men of F.E.A.S.T.”

Men of F.E.A.S.T. is a group designed to activate, educate, and motivate men in caring for themselves and becoming more supportive and effective as caregivers, team members, and partners in the ongoing treatment of eating disorders. Men of F.E.A.S.T., led by F.E.A.S.T. volunteer Kevin Dunn, meets on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. The instructive portion of each session is recorded and shared on the F.E.A.S.T. website so that those who cannot attend the group can still benefit from the educational content. Following a short presentation focused on the topic of the session, participants share their own experiences, frustrations, and difficulties with each other, and are offered skills-based advice, support, and guidance by others in the group.

Kevin Dunn explains that at times, some men may move away from the role of caregiving and effective partner support because they become overwhelmed, disempowered, and fearful. They don’t have the practiced ability to communicate those emotions using skillful means or words, which causes them to drift away from where they are most needed. Men of F.E.A.S.T. has the potential to bring them back.

Kevin continues by stating that Men of F.E.A.S.T. is about men learning how to appropriately support their partners and their children. It is a clarion call to all men; their fears, their insecurities, their doubts, their anger, their ego, and their pride are all part of a thin veneer. Men of F.E.A.S.T. helps remove the veneer so that the men in the group can do the work that needs to be done to support their child’s recovery.

What makes a group of men different than a mixed parent group? Kevin believes that men often see themselves as fixers. They were raised to be tough and to not show emotion. They are at a loss when a loved one is diagnosed with an eating disorder they cannot fix. Many times, this frustration and fear comes out as anger, which frightens their partners and can result in men feeling stifled. Men of F.E.A.S.T. provides a platform for men to get their “fear” out there where it can be exposed, dissected, and discussed, while offering skills that teach men more productive ways to deal with their emotions and to help their families.

Kevin says, “Many men experience fear (displayed as anger) when they don’t see a way to apply their current skills, which are effective in other life pursuits and challenges, to “fix” the eating disorder. They don’t see a path toward effectively prompting re-feeding, bringing about weight gain, and obtaining behavioral compliance from their loved one…or, similarly, they experience a different type of fear (i.e., no one sees or understands my suffering) when their own eating disordered thoughts and behaviors (e.g., severe weight loss, hyper-focus on muscle toning, or excessive exercise) are met with societal or clinician approval. These fears, based in not seeing an effective path forward, and combined with an inability to express their own emotions or support their loved ones’ distress, remove men from being supportive caregivers and accessing help. The Men of F.E.A.S.T. shine a light on this path and offer skill-building and support for men seeking help on the journey.”

F.E.A.S.T. is a global organization, which means that Men of F.E.A.S.T is open to fathers and partners from all different countries and cultures.  There are many types of personalities represented in the Men of F.E.A.S.T. group, which makes for robust discussion and a hearty exchange of ideas.

Keeping in line with the mission and principles of F.E.A.S.T, Men of F.E.A.S.T. is a peer support and skills-building group that is run by parents for parents. The topics for the sessions are carefully chosen to best serve the Men of F.E.A.S.T. community. Some of the topics that have been covered to date are Distress Tolerance, Magic Plate/Broken Record, Validation, and Self Care.

For more information about Men of F.E.A.S.T., please contact Kevin Dunn at kevin@feast-ed.org.

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