Ronda Cannon is Alsana’s regional executive director of the southeastern United States. She’s been with Alsana since 2013 and is an invaluable asset to our team. We are excited to highlight her work and life in our Alsana staff spotlight series!
Out of everything you could do for work, why have you chosen to help those struggling with eating disorders?
I worked as a research assistant for Lori Irving, PhD while I was at Washington State University. Her area of focus was Hope and Eating Disorders. Lori was an incredible mentor, and friend. She suffered from anorexia during her high school and collegiate years before she started on her own path to recovery. After I graduated, Lori called me one day, so excited, to tell me that she was going to have a baby. We were both elated. And then one day, I received another call; one telling me that Lori had passed away during her 8th month of pregnancy. Even though her doctors told her that her body was strong enough to carry the baby to term, her years suffering from anorexia had done so much damage that her heart gave out. So I have felt what this terrible disease can do, how it can rob you of life (2 lives, McKenzie, the baby, lived for 24 hours before she passed away too). I feel that Lori still lives inside me and that in a way, I am carrying out her work, our work.
Why do you work for Alsana?
I believe strongly in the value of teamwork and in working with other people towards a common goal. So when an opportunity arose to join forces with a well-established ED treatment program and start a PHP/IOP program in Alabama, I jumped at the chance. And 5 years in, I still love my job. Everyone shares the same vision and is dedicated to the mission. This truly creates a family environment where everybody is there for each other. This experience, as an Alsana team member, has brought me a tremendous amount of professional (and personal) growth, development, and satisfaction.
What three words would you use to describe treatment at Alsana?
Holistic. Supportive. Empowering.
Where are you from?
Yuba, Wisconsin, population 72. Still proud of the Badgers, even though they are currently unranked. ☹
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
Stand up for what you believe, don’t hold in what you’re feeling, and don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind.
What would you tell a client on their first day in treatment?
Eating disorders are mental illnesses that are caused by a combination of biopsychosocial factors, they are not choices. It’s not your fault that you developed an eating disorder. You are not weak for struggling. You are doing the best you can right now. We are here to help, to walk beside you.
How do you help individuals struggling with eating disorders?
One of Alsana’s most important guiding principles is “clients first”. At the heart of this principle is the deep belief that if I consistently do right by my client, I too will be rewarded. This process begins with trust and a state of mindfulness, of paying attention and being open to a client’s issues and situation, as well as to a client’s concerns, desires, and fears. Consistent focus on the client’s best interests leads to collaboration with the clients and fosters acceptance of recommendations.
What’s your favorite movie quote?
“Do or do not. There is no try.” –Yoda, Jedi Master (A simple lesson in commitment and the power in giving something our all—not just giving it a try.) Side note: All my pets since 1977 have been named after Star Wars characters, the greatest movie franchise in existence.
Where is your favorite place on earth?
Paradise Island, Bahamas
(It’s better in the Bahamas.)
What is the most important thing you can do to help someone with an eating disorder?
I think that the most important thing that I could do would be to listen without judgment. Show them that I care by asking about their feelings and concerns—and then truly listening to their answers and validating their feelings. Simply letting them know that they’re being heard, even if I don’t completely understand what they’re going through, is so important.
What do you believe is the most common motivator for healing?
Yourself. Self-motivation. Where your drive comes from within and pushes you to achieve for your own personal reasons.
What do you think is the worst part of living with an eating disorder?
The thoughts in your head, the negative self-talk, feeling that you are somehow bad or damaged.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love being able to witness this journey for our clients… from the very beginning of his/her experience to the end; to watch as the road to recovery unfolds. To see that spark of hope ignite in their eyes – it is an unbelievable honor.
What’s your favorite hobby?
Taking long walks on the beach (Orange Beach, Alabama that is – where you’ll find the best beaches in the continental United States) and feeling the sand between my toes.
What words of hope/encouragement would you give someone struggling with an eating disorder?
I have a quote taped to the back of my computer, positioned so that anyone sitting in my office can read it: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” –Robin Sharma
Making the decision to reach out for help is so difficult but it will always be viewed as a sign of courage and strength, not weakness.
What do you do on the weekends?
Spend time with friends and family, sit in nature with no one around just to feel the sunshine on my face, travel, listen to music, go to the theatre, lose myself in a good book.
What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?
GHOST, Memphis, Tennessee
You just got home from a camping trip, and you’re tired, hungry, and dirty. In what order do you eat, sleep, and shower?
Unable to answer as I would never even consider going on a camping trip. I would be looking for the nearest Marriott.
“Let your light shine” is a foundational principle of Alsana’s culture. We expect employees to come as they are and bring their whole selves to work, just as we want our clients to feel comfortable bringing their whole selves—exactly as they are—to their eating disorder treatment.
Alsana’s staff spotlight series highlights the way our employees let their light shine and the unique attributes only they can add to our clients’ recovery experience.