Meet our new Ambassador – Hugh van Cuylenburg

Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA) is proud to announce 

Hugh van Cuylenburg as our new Ambassador.

Founder of The Resilience Project, Hugh van Cuylenburg, is uniting with leading charity to raise awareness and funds in support of families and carers.

The bestselling author  has joined forces with Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA) as an Ambassador to highlight the ripple effect eating disorders have on families and carers.

The co-host of the popular podcast, The Imperfects, will work with the charity to break down the stigma associated with eating disorders, which affect an estimated one million Australians, and start a conversation about what can be done to support not only those with disorder eating, but also their families and carers

When Hugh’s younger sister developed anorexia nervosa his family was deeply impacted, so he welcomed the opportunity to partner with the only national charity dedicated to supporting families and carers of a loved one with an eating disorder.

“I wish so much this were available when my family was struggling because, I don’t reckon we coped too well with it,” Hugh said.

EDFA has seen an increase in the number of  family members and carers desperately seeking support and services as they try to help their loved ones. Eating disorders and disordered eating together are estimated to affect over 16% of the Australian population. Alarmingly, as a result of COVID-19, the number of people seeking treatment for eating disorders has risen 40%. 

Hugh experienced first-hand how eating disorders impact the whole family with long lasting effects and recalled the challenges he and his family encountered as they grasped to understand anorexia nervosa, a mental illness that has a mortality rate 5 times higher than the general population. 

Hugh remembers coming home after his sister was admitted to hospital and witnessing pain and severe sadness around the dinner table. His parents were crying – he and his little brother were sad and terrified. It was at that moment that Hugh realised his family was ‘broken’ and wondered how they would ever mend.

“I remember getting home that night from the hospital and sitting there around the dinner table with mum and dad and my brother Josh. I had this feeling for the first time in my life. . . I didn’t feel happy and my family were no longer happy,” said Hugh. 

“The focus was on my little sister Georgia, to try and get her better, but I remember having a really strong sense of wishing I knew what I could do to help my mum and dad or my brother or myself to get through it.”

Hugh decided it was his job to make everyone happy again, which led him on a pursuit around the world, teaching in in the far north of India, volunteering and living at an underprivileged school in the Himalayas. 

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It was there that he discovered resilience in its purest form. In this desert community, there was no running water, no electricity and no beds; everyone slept on the floor of their hut. Despite the fact these people had very little to call their own, he was continually blown away by how happy they were.

He learnt from this village that practicing Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness leads us to a happier more fulfilling experience. Once he realised the three principals were also evidence-based, he decided to share these simple and highly effective wellbeing strategies in a program for schools. 

A decade later, having worked with over 1,000 schools, it turns out it wasn’t just schools that wanted to hear this message! He is grateful to work with teachers, students, parents, workplaces, community leaders and sporting clubs every day.

Inspired by this experience Hugh returned to Melbourne and commenced working on his own program for schools. ‘The Resilience Project’ was born. Having completed his post graduate studies, looking at resilience and wellbeing, Hugh has developed and facilitated programs for over 900 schools Australia wide.

In 2015, the National Rugby League asked Hugh to run workshops at every club in the competition. Since then, he has worked with the Australian Cricket Team, the Australian Netball Team, the Australian Women’s Soccer Team, The Jillaroos and 10 AFL teams. 

Beyond the team environment, Hugh has been lucky enough to work one on one with individuals such as Steve Smith, Dustin Martin and Billy Slater. He currently works closely with the Port Adelaide Football Club.

In addition to his work in schools and elite sport, Hugh has presented to over 500 corporate groups as a keynote speaker and developed comprehensive programs for a range of workplaces across different sectors.

EDFA hopes Hugh’s popularity and far-reaching influence will help us get the message out to families and carers supporting loved ones with an eating disorder that they are not alone.

If you are worried someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, you are not alone. Head to the Feed Your Instinct website, or one of the organisations listed on our parents pages.

Become a member of EDFA for $25 per year (Australian Carers Only)

EDFA is a proud not for profit, volunteer run organisation. 

We invite you to be part of a revolutionary peer support group making positive changes in the Eating Disorder space. Strength in numbers means we are able to affect change and have the collective voice of the carers recognised.

We provide opportunities to connect with other parents and carers who share your experiences… helping you to feel less alone and isolated.

Yearly membership is just $25.

Membership gives access to:

 – Access to a range of resources in our Member Only section of the website including Educational Recordings, Member Recommended Clinicians and Services, and more.

 – monthly state-based strive carer support groups

 – twice monthly education sessions

 – monthly sibling support group

 – quarterly strive support groups for carers of people with ARFID,  Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, as well as a group for male carers

 – discounts to eating disorder events and conferences. 

 – daily online support through our strive Facebook page and the opportunity to connect, share, learn and ask questions is another benefit of being part of our EDFA community.

Your membership helps EDFA with ongoing costs of running a not-for-profit organisation, and importantly, shows Government that families value, need and believe in this type of lived-experience support. Strength in numbers helps EDFA lobby as the collective voice of carers for  better services, treatments, access to expert clinicians and specialised ED units, to help our loved ones in their recovery journey and to acknowledge the impact of an eating disorder diagnosis on the entire family unit