ANAD lost a legend two weeks ago, and so did the entire eating disorder community. In the midst of ANAD Conference 2019 preparations, we were informed that our founder, Vivian Hanson Meehan, died on Tuesday, September 17. She had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma earlier this summer, and passed away in her home surrounded by her husband and family.
In 1976, hardly anyone knew what an eating disorder was, let alone how to treat it. When Vivian was faced with a family member who started to show eating disorder behaviors, she did not know where to turn. She put an ad in a newspaper describing the behaviors, to see if anyone else was dealing with this concern. She received giant bags of mail in response, (see picture below), and ANAD was born. Vivian took all of the letters that she received, and became a pioneer of eating disorder treatment and support in America and in places around the world.
Originally trained as a nurse, Vivian organized information about eating disorders and provided advocacy for people with eating disorders and issues that concerned them. She started the first eating disorder support group (in her living room!). Vivian organized professionals who cared about this issue and helped them to share what types of care worked best, and shared this with others. She helped people find and obtain access to treatment. And Vivian helped to write and fight for legislation that would help people with eating disorders, including presenting before the U.S. Congress.
In 1984 Vivian received a Presidential Citation for her work as founder and president of ANAD. She was one of only eighty recipients nationally of President George W. Bush’s Thousand Points of Light Award.
Vivian will always be remembered for her passion, dedication and compassion, and for the high standards of care that she helped the eating disorder field obtain. She started the ANAD Candlelight Vigil, wrote the ANAD pledge, and made an impact on thousands of lives. Said one admirer:
“I attended her support group
and she literally saved my life
at a time when there was
nowhere else to turn.”
Vivian’s warm and caring influence will always shine a light in the darkness. It has made sure that no one with an eating disorder has to be alone. Her contribution to the field is beyond measure.
Below are a few pictures that we feel encapsulate her spirit and drive to help others struggling with eating disorders. If you have pictures or stories about Vivian you’d like to share with us, email or call – it would be so nice to hear from you!
Left: When a family member was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, Vivian couldn’t find information or resources on eating disorders. Vivian decided to place a classified ad in a local newspaper looking for others who were searching for information about Anorexia Nervosa. A national magazine picked up on the ad and Vivian was deluged by thousands of phone calls and letters.
Below: A picture of the bags of letters she received.
Right: ANAD originally stood for “Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.” The National Association part was added later, as ANAD support groups spread across the country. But the ANAD acronym stuck!
Below: Vivian and colleagues gave presentations at area high schools to inform students and teachers about the dangers of eating disorders.
Left: Vivian won many awards throughout her lifetime for her leadership and commitment to service.
Right: Vivian worked tirelessly to serve others, provide resources, and do whatever she could for the eating disorder community.