Monte Nido & Affiliates Regional Outreach Manager Tamie Gangloff continues to share her journey in advocacy work in part two of her series. Tamie writes about her first experience on Capitol Hill and how you can get involved in eating disorder awareness work as well!
My first time on the Hill was intimidating and I had no idea what to expect. I would like potential advocates <YOU> to know what a day is like. We have a briefing in the morning to discuss what we are asking for. Each time we advocate, our ‘asks’ are different so we are educated about our asks and have materials to give to our representatives at our meetings. You will not be expected to know all of the legislative details, directions around the capitol or where to eat lunch. You are not expected to have a degree in Political Science or know all of the statistics. You will have a team leader, as well as experienced advocates, to help you.
As a team leader, I help my team discover how they can share their experience as it relates to legislation. This is absolutely critical! It is the stories, tears and authenticity that reach our representatives. They meet with many constituents, every day, that have an important cause that requires support. We reach them with our powerful words. We have meetings scheduled with our representatives throughout the day – these meetings are typically with staffers. Staffers are on your representative’s staff that often specialize in health issues. Meetings are brief and to the point and many representatives do not show emotion. It is important to know that they are trained to not show emotion but it does not mean that you aren’t reaching them.
In Fall of 2017, one of our asks, with the Eating Disorders Coalition, was to have a congressionally recognized National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This was met with a positive response from our representatives. We do not always see an immediate result but we do see results. Last week was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and our Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a proclamation declaring February 26 through March 4, 2018, as Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Pennsylvania. The United States Senate has passed Senate Resolution 419, officially designating Feb. 26 – March 4 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week for the first time. This is direct proof that our voices are heard!
When we connect with our representatives, we form relationships with them that have a ripple effect. Locally, Congressman Ryan Costello has attended and presented at the West Chester PA NEDA Walk that I am grateful to lead! We met him in DC during my first advocacy day and he continues to be an incredible support to us locally and in our nation’s capitol.
Our next Advocacy Day is coming up on April 24th! We hope to see you there! If you have any questions about it, I am happy to chat anytime. Together, we can make a difference.
Learn more about Advocacy Day HERE.
Monte Nido & Affiliates Regional Outreach Manager Tamie Gangloff shares her journey to becoming an eating disorder awareness advocate in this week’s blog post. Tamie discusses her personal inspiration for advocacy work and just how to get involved to use your voice as an advocate.
I hope to live in a world without eating disorders. I hope that our future generations have less stigma and better access to care. For me, advocacy is a way I can reach others and help on a much larger scale. Families, those that are struggling and those we have lost, cannot use their voices to ask for change. As a recovered woman and professional in the eating disorder field, I feel responsible to use my voice to advocate for change, to use my voice for those that cannot. I want others to know that being fully recovered is possible and that a life without an eating disorder is a reality. When I am on the Hill or at my state capitol in Harrisburg PA, I am thinking of friends and clients that I have lost, those that still struggle and the families and loved ones that walk this journey with them. I am humbled and honored to be joined by families and those that are in recovery. For those of you that do not feel that your voice is heard – what you have to say is so important and you deserve to be heard. I hope that today, you will take the risk to talk to someone about eating disorders whether it is to ask for help, raise awareness or share the message of hope.
Spring 2015 was my first time at the Eating Disorder Coalition’s Advocacy Day in Washington DC! For many years, the EDC has visited our nation’s Capitol twice per year to ask for legislation for issues including: eating disorder awareness, insurance coverage, as well as a nationally recognized eating disorders awareness week and the re-inclusion of eating disorder questions on youth risk surveys. Over this past year, I have joined a small but mighty team in Harrisburg with NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association). We have been asking for legislation to require schools to send information regarding eating disorder signs and symptoms home to families as well as an opt in for screenings in schools.
Being an advocate is an incredibly empowering experience. Being a part of a larger group brought together with a united purpose can change the world. For many of my team members, attending an advocacy day was the first time they shared their story. Last week, one of my group members was a brave high school senior that had never told her story. She was very nervous and was not sure if she would speak. We assured her that she was not obligated to speak and that, if she chose not to talk, her presence was more than enough. She felt moved to share and did so at all four of our meetings. This definitely had a great impact on our representatives and engaged them in a deeper conversation with us. Afterwards, she said that she felt empowered and that her level of shame had greatly decreased. Shame is something that many, of those with eating disorders, struggle with and I’m so thankful that she had this experience.
At Monte Nido & Affiliates, we save lives while providing the opportunity for people to realize their healthy selves. One of the ways we want to help provide opportunities for individuals to realize their healthy selves is through our Sea Glass Grants opportunity. A Sea Glass Grant aims to support small projects that create, develop or communicate a project that supports eating disorder recovery and healthy self-image.
Monte Nido & Affiliates is delighted to announce that The Garment Project – founded by Monte Nido alumni Erin Drischler – has been awarded the first Sea Glass Grant of $500 to support their mission to provide size free clothing to women in treatment and/or early recovery from their eating disorder.
We are happy to share more about The Garment Project through our conversation with Erin:
Tell me about the process of creating Garment.
Garment was created from about two years of conversations between [my partner] Jordan and myself. I have worked in retail for the past decade and have always been interested in fashion. Jordan is a documentarian at an advertising agency. Our careers have given us knowledge and experience that helped us to create something innovative and truly necessary. Once we had our concept worked out, we started to talk to friends in the non-profit space about taking next steps and making this idea a reality. Jordan and I have been learning as we go, but we make a great team.
How has Garment helped you in your recovery journey?
Garment is a constant reminder of the progress I’ve made in my own recovery. The initial idea came to 5 years before we could make it a reality. I worked through my issues of always wanting to be the caretaker for other people like my mom or my friends but never taking care of myself. As I began to devote more time to my self-care, I was able to become more confident in myself and my abilities. Now I am able to truly help people in a bigger, healthier way.
Who is Garment?
Garment is me, someone who is living a recovered life, and Jordan, who has spent the past few years learning how to be a great support person for recovery. Both of us have a passion for helping others and are devoted to solving a problem that hasn’t been addressed for others in the past.
What feeling do you most associate with Garment?
Pride. I’m proud of the organization. I’m proud of the work I accomplished in my recovery to get here. I’m proud of the relationship Jordan and I share and the bond we’ve created by working together on something that we love. The small setbacks we’ve faced leading up to our launch would have sent me on a downward spiral just a few years ago. It is empowering to take pride in something that once gave me so much shame.
Walk me through the Garment Experience.
Garment has relationships with treatment centers across the US. When a woman is reaching a point in her recovery process where our service would be most helpful, her treatment team will start to communicate some helpful info to Garment. With that style, personality, and measurement detail, Garment creates a unique shopping site for each individual. From there, our new friend can pick out items that she likes, we’ll box them up and ship them right to her.
How and where do you get your clothing and accessories?
Garment has been building relationships with retailers across the US to ensure that we have an inventory with enough variety to fit anyone’s style. There are so many retailers that are acting philanthropically with their items after a certain season has passed, when items have gone on sale, etc. Garment has been fortunate enough to be in contact with incredibly generous people at both national retailers as well as smaller boutique shops. We take boxes of new, never worn clothing in all shapes, colors, styles, and most importantly, sizes. Eating disorders do not target certain body types. We want the women we serve to see more options from Garment than they’d otherwise be able to find in most stores.
What is your favorite part of the day-to-day start-up process?
My favorite part of the day-to-day startup process is working side-by-side with Jordan. It is incredible to see what we are capable of doing when we work together. He constantly impresses and surprises me with his talent and attention to detail.
How can people get involved?
The Garment Project has already seen such an encouraging response and we know that it’s all because of people talking. The best thing anyone can do for The Garment Project is to talk about it. Talk about eating disorders. Talk about mental health, about resources for help, and about supporting anyone around you who is struggling. We encourage everyone to continue our conversation on social media and via email. Donations to The Garment Project can be processed on our website.
What advice would you give to someone in their recovery who has a dream?
Recovery was uncomfortable work that took dedication, acceptance, and time. It was not easy, and yet it is so worth it. Recovery is possible for everyone. A few years ago, I could not say that sentence out loud, let alone believe it true for myself. I am now living a life free of the eating disordered thoughts and rules that once consumed me. Although each person has a different story and struggle, it is truly possible to live a fully recovered life, free from your eating disorder.
What are your hopes and dreams for Garment?
Our hope is that Garment can reach women and eventually men too on a global scale and spread confidence through fashion. We want to become a resource for the millions of women and men who are working hard to recover.
Oliver-Pyatt Centers Medical Director/Chief of Psychiatry Molly McShane, MD, MPH has played an active role in advocating for Eating Disorder Legislation. Along with her fellow Eating Disorder Coalition board members, Dr. McShane has met with Congress numerous times in an effort to pass the Anna Westin Act of 2015. In this week’s blog post, she shares her personal experience as an EDC Board Member and gives important information about the recently passed Eating Disorder Legislation.
I sat on the edge of my seat in the United States Senate gallery awaiting the vote count for the 21st Century Cures and Mental Health Reform Act of 2016. I was privileged to join my fellow board members of the Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC) in witnessing the historic passage of the first ever eating disorders legislation. The EDC has been advocating for eating disorder legislation for years. Oliver-Pyatt Centers (OPC), along with Monte Nido Programs and other leading eating disorder programs and advocacy organizations throughout the country sponsor the EDC in its mission to advocate at the federal level for treatment of and training in eating disorders. OPC is an “Executive Circle” member, the highest level of membership, of the EDC. As OPC’s Medical Director, I am so proud that our organization makes sponsorship of the EDC a top priority annually. Since joining the EDC Board of Directors in 2015, I have travelled to Washington DC many times to meet with members of Congress and their staff about the Anna Westin Act of 2015.
The Anna Westin Act was named in honor of Minnesota-native Anna Westin who struggled with Anorexia Nervosa for five years and lost her life due to the illness at the young age of 21. Since her death 17 years ago, Anna’s mother, Kitty Westin, has fought tirelessly for eating disorder legislation as an EDC board member so that no parent has to experience what she went through. After the Senate passed the legislation, our team of advocates cheered, hugged and cried in front of the Capitol building. Kitty, an extremely loving extrovert, appeared calm and relieved. She told me she finally feels at peace.
Since the bill’s introduction, the Anna Westin Act has received the support of 101 Senators and Representatives, including 36 Republicans and 65 Democrats, making it the most bipartisan legislation in eating disorders history. The legislation that passed on December 7th contains key provisions from the bipartisan, bicameral Anna Westin Act, including clarification of the existing mental health parity law to improve health insurance coverage for eating disorders and life-saving residential treatment, early identification of eating disorders training for health professionals, and enhanced information and resources to help early identification of eating disorders by the public.
The historic bipartisan legislation passed the House of Representatives on November 30th with a 392-26 vote and passed the Senate on December 7th by 94-5. The bill reached President Barrack Obama’s desk the following week and was signed into law. This legislation will help to early identify and improve access to treatment for the 30 million Americans experiencing an eating disorder in their lifetimes. This would not have been possible without the support of our staff, patients and their families who participated in calling and emailing their Representatives and Senators and encouraging them to vote for this mental health reform. Florida Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-D) and Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-R) were instrumental in fighting for the eating disorder legislation. The EDC board members visited both of their offices in Washington on December 6th, in order to thank them in person for their tremendous support.
Clinical Director of Intensive Outpatient and Transitional Living Programming at Oliver-Pyatt Centers Jamie Morris, MS, LMHC shares her dedication and speaks to the passion all of us at OPC have for eating disorder treatment, recovery and the ever-present need for increased support of those struggling with eating disorders and their families on the path to recovery.
I must admit when I was asked to write this post, I found myself questioning, “how do I inspire others in a few paragraphs to care about the #MarchAgainstED?” As I reflected on what motivates me to engage in various advocacy efforts, I thought of the quote by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, “Go set the world aflame.” Within my role as a clinician, I have the opportunity and responsibility to promote social justice and advocate for individuals and families impacted by eating disorders. This sense of responsibility, desire to make a difference, and belief that unifying voices foster change are what have inspired and motivated me to participate in the #MarchAgainstED and advocacy efforts at the federal level.
Both within and outside of the treatment center setting, individuals and families are facing the devastating news that insurance will not cover the clinically-recommended treatment they need. The impact of these determinations is vast. And for some, the result of these determinations has led to an outcome that we all hope we never have to experience — the death of a loved one or individual we have treated. Some sit complacently in response to learning about these stories of social injustice. Some become angry; some apathetic. And for some, it ignites interest and passion as well as a desire to change the present reality.
The #MarchAgainstED is one way that we, at the Oliver-Pyatt Centers eating disorder treatment program, believe we can honor our interest, passion, and desire to change the present reality. We recognize this march as an event that unifies voices, but also a call to advocate for social justice. #MarchAgainstED provides a platform for us to do extraordinary things in promoting the reduction of stigma, shame and discrimination associated with eating disorders.
At Oliver-Pyatt Centers, my colleagues and I recognize we have the honor and privilege of working with individuals and families who have been deeply impacted by these devastating illnesses. We consult on how we can do better and be better for the individuals we serve. We consider how we can support the community engaged in prevention and advocacy efforts, and support and encourage our team members’ participation in these various efforts. Participation in the #MarchAgainstED is one way we can do better and be better for those affected by eating disorders. We believe it is important to be at the table and have a voice when lawmakers are considering their role in improving access to treatment and prevention services.
We are excited about that the collaboration between Mothers Against Eating Disorders (MAED), The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) and treatment centers throughout the country and feel hopeful this collaboration will improve the climate in the eating disorder community. We believe full recovery from an eating disorder is possible when effective treatment is provided and strive to genuinely connect with each individual, to address the core issues driving the eating disorder, and to provide the tools needed to live a meaningful life.
For more information and to register for the upcoming #MarchAgainstED, visit here.
Thank you to team contributor, Primary Therapist Jamie Blosser Morris, MS, LMHC, our participating Oliver-Pyatt Centers team members, and the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness for hosting the 4th Annual celebrating everyBODY walk for eating disorder awareness. We look forward to seeing you all at the event!
On Saturday, February 28th, Oliver-Pyatt Centers’ staff, alumni, and supporters will be participating in The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness 4th annual celebrating everyBODY: a walk for eating disorders awareness. We are excited to join The Alliance and the community at large in spreading the message of hope and recovery in South Florida!
All proceeds raised at this community event will directly fund the preparation, printing, and distribution of the Florida Eating Disorder Referral Guide. The purpose of the guide is to expand access to care for those struggling with an eating disorder and to provide thorough and easily accessible referrals to healthcare practitioners who specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. These invaluable resources have aided professionals across the state in aftercare planning and have supported in broadening our referral network.
We are so proud and honored to support this event. We believe that recovery is possible when individuals and families have the opportunity to access and receive treatment. And we believe that recovery is sustained with a strong community of support and care. These are a few of the reasons #whywewalk. We hope to see you all at the event next Saturday!
Participate, donate, and promote the event through social media here.
Date: Saturday, February 28, 2015
Time: Registration begins at 9:00 am, Program begins at 9:30 am
Location: The Pond Apple Pavilion, South County Regional Park, Boca Raton, FL
Distance: One mile
Adult (18 years +) $20.00
Child/Student (Under 18 years) $10.00
First 650 participants registered will receive event t-shirt* and gift bag. Pets will receive a bandanna with registration. *Requested t-shirt sizes cannot be confirmed after 2/5/15 per production order cut-off date.
Refreshments will be available for all participants.
Over the weekend, the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) received a formal response from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the Dear Colleague letter regarding BMI screening and surveillance in schools. As quoted by the EDC, “the response is AWESOME!!!” Please see the full article and penned response here.
The CDC listened to the EDC’s call to utilize evidence-based practices to address the childhood obesity epidemic. And, although the CDC states they do not support the use of BMI testing in the prevention of childhood obesity, they realize this testing does occur in some schools and have agreed to provide risk and safeguard information to ensure the wellbeing and protect the privacy and confidentiality of students. Additionally, the CDC continues to stress the need for additional research in this area.
At Oliver-Pyatt Centers, we take advocacy work very seriously and know that you, our readers, also appreciate the magnitude of using your voice to pioneer these much needed changes in government and administration. “The results of our collective advocacy made a huge difference! Together, as a coalition, we did what EDC advocates have been doing so well together since 2000: We noticed a problem; we educated people about the problem; we shared personal stories to highlight the problem; we advocated for change using our power in numbers at EDC National Lobby Day/Virtual Lobby Day; and we respectfully dialogued with the appropriate people to seek out results that are viable and sustainable.” (Eating Disorders Coalition)
We want to join the EDC in thanking each and every one of you who continue to work toward educating others about eating disorder treatment and recovery, providing this much needed care, and advocating for and with those who are striving toward recovery.
We are so proud and impressed of our women and team members alike who participated in sharing their voices so that schools can administer BMI screening without inflicting unintended harm on students. A big thank you to Primary Therapist Amy Sosa, PsyD for leading the following body image group and guiding this all important advocacy activity.
Oliver Pyatt Centers’ (OPC) philosophy of facilitating mindful and authentic living enables women to establish powerful connections to themselves and others. An important component to the recovery process is advocacy and social justice work. Women sometimes develop eating disorders as a way to cope with feeling silenced, unworthy, or unheard. In recovery, OPC believes in the importance of offering a space for women to advocate for themselves and others. Through addressing core issues that drove individuals’ eating disorder and providing a format to challenge such core issues in the social sphere, women can play a role in giving a voice to the silence. This is exactly what OPC did this week.
In light of recent initiatives by the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) to research / raise awareness on the impact of Body Mass Index (BMI) testing in schools, OPC clinicians facilitated activities during weekly Body Image group that centered around ways in which our women are impacted by BMI testing. The group began with a guided imagery in which women visualized a time in which they experienced freedom in their body, a time when negative body image began, and how they currently experience themselves within their body. The women then discussed the experience. Afterwards, facilitators led a discussion on BMI testing. Women were encouraged to reflect on their own experiences of BMI testing by writing down three ways they were impacted by BMI testing. The women then held their writings outward and walked around the room silently witnessing each others’ experiences. There is a lot of power in silently witnessing and being fully present in another person’s experience, and this was no exception. In discussion of the silent witness exercise, women commented that they felt “alone” in their obsession with BMI and that this exercise helped them understand themselves and others in a deeper way. They also commented on a sense of achievement they experienced in being placed in the “low body weight category.” They then discussed ways in which they felt defeated in other areas of their lives, which drove them to look to their weight and BMI as an indicator of success. As an ending to the group, facilitators discussed recent legislation regarding EDC’s initiative to research the impact of BMI testing as well as the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorder Act. Women were invited to write letters to their local congresswomen depicting their experiences with BMI testing and requesting needed change.
You can be a part of this initiative as well. Reflect on ways in which you or loved ones may have been impacted by mandatory BMI testing within schools. We encourage you to write a letter to your local congressman / congresswoman* asking him / her to:
a.) **sign the Dear Colleague letter that Ted Deutch initiated, requesting that the CDC communicate guidance and recommended best practices with the Department of Education, so that schools can administer BMI screening without inflicting unintended harm on students and
b.) **sign as a cosponsor of the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders Act of 2013, HR 2101.
For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and newly introduced Embrace, a binge eating recovery program and Clementine, a residential program exclusively for adolescents girls please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our website, subscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
We are pleased to share an update from the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) Lobby Day held on October 1st; resulting in changes of BMI measurements in schools as per the recommendations of the advocates. Outreach Manager Katherine Swain McClayton writes about her first hand experience.
On October 1st, I attended my fifth Lobby Day organized by the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC.) As a board member of the EDC, we work to carefully craft our efforts and initiatives to have maximum impact and change. The EDC has many irons in the fire, but at our most recent Lobby Day we asked Congressional offices to sign onto a Dear Colleague letter requesting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) examine how BMI testing is administered in schools. The EDC also provided all members of Congress at their meetings a multi-organization fact sheet on the concerns with BMI collection. The ‘Dear Colleague’ letter was initiated by U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida and is addressed to CDC and the Department of Education.
The goal of this letter is for guidelines to be put in place as to how to collect BMIs in schools with the concern of weight stigma and harm done inadvertently though this practice. BMI is proven to not be an ironclad indicator of health, and furthermore, the way in which this is currently carried out in schools has its share of horror stories. As one advocate told her story, students standing in a line in a gymnasium, and clapping for the person with the lowest BMI is misguided, irresponsible, and dangerous. The Academy of Eating Disorders (AED) issued suggested guidelines for childhood obesity prevention programs in order to avoid such situations in schools.
On October 1st, EDC’s Lobby Day hosted the most advocates and meetings with Congressional offices in its history. The energy was even more palpable than usual. At the lunch hearing, four advocates told their stories as to why we need to alter legislation to change the way eating disorders are researched, seen in the public, and covered by insurance companies and received more standing ovations than ever.
Most importantly, we saw immediate action. The CDC agreed to immediately look at their recommendations for BMI measurements in schools. These updates by the CDC include making changes to the BMI measurement in schools information available on their Healthy Youth webpage; providing targeted webinars on this topic to school boards and other organizations, and adding cautionary, safeguard language to CDC’s BMI tool for school calculator webpage.
Things in Washington, DC do not move at a very fast clip as of late. The Eating Disorders Coalition is proud and excited that the CDC is taking our voices seriously and looking at these changes in BMI screenings. Further victories lie ahead for eating disorders advocates. Yet, this immediate attention and action by our national government gives us hope, excitement, and strength that our work to help all those affected by eating disorders is being heard with louder voices and stronger tones.
For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and newly introduced Embrace, a binge eating recovery program and Clementine, a residential program exclusively for adolescents girls please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our website, subscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Thank you to the Founder of The Foundation for Continued Treatment Nora Eddings for sharing her story and for creating such an inspiring and helpful non-profit organization committed to raising funds for inpatient eating disorder treatment. The foundation works with select treatment centers to identify individuals who are motivated and currently persevering through treatment, but cannot afford to complete it. To learn more about the Foundation please read on below and visit the website here.
This summer I’ve been reflecting on the past, the present, and the sense of gratitude that has become an important part of my life. Just over two years ago I entered inpatient treatment at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. When I began my treatment I thought “I’ll be out of here in 6 weeks, flat!” I had no idea that I would spend almost five months at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, or that my life would change so much. It has not been an easy process and has proven to be more difficult than I ever imagined. However, with the therapeutic tools and new coping skills I learned at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, I am able to stay afloat and continue to take care of myself daily.
I experience much more freedom in my current life. I’m now able to let myself fully experience and manage my feelings without restricting my food intake to cope with them. I enjoy going out to brunch or dinner with friends and I’m able to be fully present in the moment. Being free from focusing on food has enabled me to connect deeper with friends, family, and have more meaningful relationships. My sense of self-confidence is also stronger; I can use my voice to ask for help when I need it, and share my opinions with others. I have also reestablished hobbies that were part of my life before my eating disorder. I oil paint on a regular basis and find great joy in making art. These examples are just a few of the many ways in which my life looks different today.
I reflect on each person who has helped during my journey to good health. I’ve had friends and family write letters and send thoughtful gift packages. They have listened to me talk about my struggles for hours. Even though they had no solutions, they sat with me and shared my burdens. People reached out to my husband while I was away at treatment, and that helped relieve the sadness and guilt I felt from leaving him at home while I was away. I’ve had therapists and treatment team members come up with the most creative and thoughtful tactics possible to help when I was feeling like I could not move forward. Friends and family have prayed for and wept with me. They’ve sacrificed their time, energy, and love. I am forever grateful for each of them, and would not be in a strong recovery without their continual support. The unconditional love they gave has led me to cultivate a heart full of gratitude and the deep desire to help others in need.
While at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, I focused mostly on myself: healing my body and mind, and discovering new things about my personality outside of the eating disorder. I worked to reshape my identity, and learned how to live again. This time was focused on taking care of myself because I needed it! It was often messy and difficult, but it was necessary. I am so thankful that I had the time and space to do this work.
While in inpatient treatment, I saw several peers and friends who had to leave early because the cost of treatment became too difficult to bear. I also saw the treatment professionals at Oliver-Pyatt Centers do everything in their power to work with insurance companies and families in order to allow the patients to stay as long as they needed. Despite their great efforts, at times a patient would have to leave. It was heartbreaking for the patient, the treatment team, and the families. Seeing these experiences gave me the desire and determination to help others acquire the finances needed to complete the treatment they deserve.
This spring, I decided to create The Foundation for Continued Treatment. Through financial donations, The Foundation for Continued Treatment funds individuals in this specific area of need so they can build their own foundation for lasting recovery. With help from some loving family members, we’ve started a non-profit organization whose primary mission is to directly pay for inpatient treatment for those who are already persevering through it, when they need to stay in a comprehensive program longer than their insurance and personal funds allow. The foundation will provide a chance for motivated individuals to get the help they otherwise would not be able to afford.
I’ve learned from my own experience how important it is not to rush the treatment process. The work done at the inpatient level is often a long grueling battle, but I firmly believe good treatment is worth it. I’m delighted to finally be at a place in my own recovery where I am able to give back to others. It is both a privilege and a joy!
Thank you to our guest blogger Jennie Kramer, MSW, LCSW, Director and Founder of Metro Behavioral Health Associates Eating Disorder Treatment Centers (MBHA) and co-author of Overcoming Binge Eating Disorders for Dummies, for providing us an inside look into eating disorders and why it isn’t your fault. For more from Jennie and her team follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A few weeks ago the news was full of stories about a 12-year-old Texas girl, Alexis Shapiro, who underwent bariatric surgery because a side effect of brain surgery had caused her to gain a great deal of weight due to insatiable hunger. It was a heartbreaking story for many reasons and of course we all hope she does well, loses her weight, and is able to put her emphasis on a full, healthy, and productive life.
However, as a therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders, one thing struck me about this particular story – the massive outpouring of interest and sympathy directed toward this young girl’s plight because people were so horrified that she had gained all this weight … through no fault of her own! Her obesity was apparently caused by surgery that she needed to save her life. If only everyone could understand that an excessive weight gain or weight loss is never one’s fault. Rather, it is more accurately described as a disorder – an addition if you will – with a plethora of contributing factors.
The common misconception is that that people who allow themselves to become severely overweight or obese are lazy and lack willpower. It’s odd that few people see anorexia or bulimia in that way – but the truth is that no eating disorder is about a lack of will. All eating disorders develop from a complex combination of addictive tendencies, environmental factors, neurobiology, learned behaviors, family culture, some inheritability, and many other factors too. Identifying, examining, understanding, and then addressing these multiple factors takes time and resources and we’re making good progress on that front. But there is still an awful lot of judgment going on here, which is not only unkind and inaccurate, but also unproductive.
There seems to be an overwhelming popular belief that if you are a binge-eater or an emotional eater or a compulsive overeater, (and the three are quite different), then it is your fault. Research is pointing to all manner of root causes of obesity, everything from having been a victim of some form of abuse as a young child (which recent studies suggest brings permanent changes to brain structures) to chemicals used in the packaging of food and drinks to socioeconomic factors. In addition, emotional issues underlie and drive all addictive tendencies and must be addressed at their root causes in order to effect permanent changes.
MYTH BUSTER: Not all binge eaters are overweight or obese, though many are. Though difficult, it is possible to overcome binge eating (and other eating disorders) with treatment – but the challenge is intensified when you add to it the stress of being stigmatized by excess weight, which can be devastating. In a culture that worships unrealistic body images and thinness – where even a normal-sized body feels like a challenge to overcome – it’s painful to feel constantly judged.
Binge eating is a bona fide disorder, with emotional, physical, social, genetic, and neurobiological triggers, the symptoms of which can lead to excess weight that is often on full display for all the world to see. It is not a weakness or a character flaw or evidence of poor judgment – yet much of the world (including some physicians!) consider it all of those things.
In fact, Glamour Magazine and The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness recently did an undercover investigation to learn how likely doctors are to recognize eating disorders in patients who described telltale symptoms (read the full article here.) Seven young women visited doctors around the country for physical exams and told the doctors about problems typical for people with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder – only one doctor raised the possibility that an eating disorder might be at play.
Organizations like BEDA and NEDA are doing their best to educate people on all levels – including governmental – on this important issue. We can all do our part, too, by sharing information and understanding at every opportunity. In so doing, we can contribute not only to the healing of people with binge eating disorder (and other eating disorders) but also to our society. We will all benefit from living in a kinder, gentler, and less judgmental world.
In 2012, almost nine times more people died from eating disorders than from breast cancer (300,000 ED deaths / 34,000 BC deaths) yet less than one dollar per person per year is spent on researching eating disorders by the NIH as opposed to almost 300 dollars per person spent researching breast cancer. Additionally, according to NIH, the prevalence of eating disorders is 10 times that of breast cancer.
As a breast cancer survivor, I am grateful for the dollars spent and the incredible gains made in this field in recent years. However, as a Psychologist who treats individuals with eating disorders, I am dismayed at the serious lack of interest in eating disorders; a more fatal disease. Why such an incongruence? The answer may be in large part due to lack of awareness and myths related to why a person develops an eating disorder. The vast majority of these people do not wish to have an eating disorder, do not choose it, cannot just get over it, are not raised by bad parents, are not selfish (in fact they doubt their self-worth in the face of overwhelming evidence), are not only young white girls and CAN fully recover.
The truth is that people who develop eating disorders are typically born with differences in their brain chemistry which increase their sensitivity to stimuli. This sensitivity produces a heightened awareness of their own experiences and of those around them which generally leads to harm avoidant behaviors such as perfectionism, social avoidance and eating disorders. The parents of these individuals often describe them as having been sensitive and perfectionistic since a very early age. The young women afflicted with eating disorders are among our brightest and most talented individuals. They are generally selfless and extremely caring. Given the statistics, you know someone who has an eating disorder! With a mortality rate estimated at about 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death among females aged 15-24 in the general population, drastic measures should be taken quickly.
Although there have been amazing strides and developments in the understanding and treatment of breast cancer in the last 20 years, I have seen much less development in the understanding and treatment of eating disorders. If awareness of these truths is raised, increased funding for research will eventually follow and romanticizing thinness may diminish.
We want to thank our esteemed guest blogger, Linda Paulk Buchanan, PhD. Dr. Linda Buchanan is the founder and Clinical Co-Director of the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders, an Intensive Outpatient and Day Treatment Center for individuals with eating disorders. The center was founded in 1993, over 20 years ago and has grown to provide treatment not only in its original location in Dunwoody but to two satellite offices in Alpharetta and Decatur. Dr. Buchanan received a masters degree in Counseling from Georgia State University, a masters diploma in Christian Counseling from the Psychological Studies Institute and a Ph.D. from Georgia State University in Counseling Psychology. She has published two chapters on her model of treatment of eating disorders which have been used as texts in a local doctoral program for Clinical Psychology students. Additionally, she has published four research articles on the treatment of eating disorders including two outcome studies of the treatment provided at Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders. She has been married for 30 years and is the mother of two teenaged boys.
The power of community can sometimes save a life. Please take some time to read this recent article, featured in USA Today, to learn how a group of strangers at a YMCA stepped in and successfully intervened, leading a young woman to treatment for anorexia and compulsive exercise.
The daily messages and positive images are everywhere. Exercise is good, lots of exercise is better, and extreme exercise will turn your body into an exquisite machine. From spin class, to triathalon training, to hours at the gym, obsessive exercise is not only commonplace, it is highly celebrated in today’s society. More is more.
Except when it’s not. Increasingly, the compulsion around extreme exercise is having dangerous and damaging impacts: physical exhaustion, serious musculoskeletal injuries, dire cardiovascular complications, severe psychological disturbances, and withdrawal from work and relationships. The obsession to continue exercising in the face of these serious health risks can result in long-term harm and even death.
At Oliver-Pyatt Centers in South Miami, Florida, we are treating more and more women—elite and civilian athletes alike—who, even though they have become gravely ill, are terrified at the prospect of cutting back on their hours and hours of exercise. Founder and Chief Medical Officer Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS, says, “Excessive exercise is all too often reinforced by society at large. But for a person with exercise addiction, what was once a healthy habit becomes a potentially deadly one.”
Returning each woman safely to her sport and exercise can be a delicate process of healing both body and brain. Like injuries on the field of play, the rehabilitation process must carefully build emotional, physical, nutritional, and behavioral strengths and take the necessary first small steps. Slowly but surely, movement and exercise are reintroduced with a focus on mindfulness—learning how to be acutely aware of all of the emotional and physical aspects of exercise and the pitfalls of highly repetitive activities.
Our nutrition, clinical, and medical teams work closely with each woman to address her unique, intense psychological and physical relationship with movement. At the appropriate time, our clients are provided the opportunity to mindfully reintegrate movement back into their lives, beginning with outdoor walks and yoga, then advancing to dance classes, individualized movement challenges, and exercise passes. Each step in our client’s relationship with exercise and movement is carefully monitored and guided by her team at Oliver-Pyatt Centers to allow her to forge a new relationship with exercise in body, mind, and spirit.
We are honored to support the upcoming 2014 Best Buddies Friendship Walk on April 26, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“The Friendship Walk is the latest and greatest life-changing movement created by Best Buddies. Since 2009, more than 40,000 participants have walked in over 22 states, and raised over 3 million dollars for Best Buddies. Ultimately, the Friendship Walk changes lives, as participants walk for inclusion, friendship, leadership, and opportunity for people with and without Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD).
Over the years, our walks have made a profound impact in communities nationwide, especially for individuals with IDD. Every Friendship Walk promotes an atmosphere for new friendships, promising opportunities, and most of all, inclusion for all people. This is where you can make a difference! You can make new friends, create opportunity, and promote community inclusion simply by participating in this year’s Friendship Walk. Walk for inclusion. Walk for friendship. Walk for a better community.
Proceeds from the walk play a fundamental part in funding our state programs which provide one-to-one friendships, leadership development and integrated job opportunities for individuals with IDD. These programs can be found in all 50 states and will create promising opportunities for over 350,000 people this year. None of this is possible without the help of generous donations from people like you. Thank you for considering a donation to Best Buddies. Your generosity will create life-changing possibilities.” – Best Buddies
There are so many options to support this wonderful organization, including signing up, sponsoring a walker/runner, donating, or volunteering. Oliver-Pyatt Centers will be supporting our team member, Gabriella – you can support her here! Click here to find Best Buddies in your area.
We are honored to be participating in NEDAwareness Week. The theme this year, “I Had No Idea” aims to bring awareness to the significant impact eating disorders can have on individuals, couples, families, and communities. “Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions that affect both a person’s emotional and physical health. In the United States alone, 30 million people will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. These conditions affect all kinds of people and don’t discriminate by race, age, sex, age or size.” – National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA)
We invite you to join us in participating in this inspiring and eye-opening week. There are many ways you can “get in the know,” including:
On Saturday, February 1st, The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness will be hosting the 3rd Annual celebrating everyBODY: a walk for eating disorders awareness in Boca Raton, Florida. My colleagues and I are excited to join in what is sure to be an inspirational and beautiful morning! We are walking to support those working towards recovery, to promote awareness of eating disorders, and to spread the message of hope and recovery. We are also walking to show that we care, to break the silence, to challenge the shame, and to offer hope.
This annual walk is a reminder of the power of hope, community, and connection in the recovery process. It calls us to get out and show up for the individuals and families that have lost hope and are suffering. It calls us to be advocates outside of our offices. On a personal level, the walk reminds me of the incredible strength and courage of those that struggle with eating disorders and those that support them in their recovery. This is an event that unifies the community and empowers individuals to believe recovery is possible.
The event will be held at The Pond Apple Pavilion, South County Regional Park in Boca Raton, Florida this Saturday, February 1st. Registration begins at 9:00am and the walk starts at 9:30am. We hope that you will join us at the walk and join our team —“Team OPC”! Click here to register.
Thank you to our team contributor, Primary Therapist Jamie Blosser Morris, MS, LMHC for her coordination of this awesome event within the OPC community! Make sure to say “Hi” when you see her and all of our “Team OPC” participants on Saturday.
We are pleased to share a guest blog post from our Manager of Aftercare Planning Katherine Swain McClayton, MPH. Katherine is on the board of the Eating Disorders Coalition and is excited to share, first hand, the recent change in parity rules, decided upon last Friday, November 8th.
Last Thursday I was in Philadelphia for the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) annual Board Retreat. We discussed policy goals, upcoming lobby days, special events, fundraising, and other important goals to further develop the EDC’s mission of advancing the recognition of eating disorders as a public health priority through advocacy. There was talk of the guidelines for parity coming out soon, but many felt “we will believe it when we see it.”
The mental health field was surprised and excited to receive the rules on parity that came out the next day, last Friday, November 8th. The rules on parity are a big win for mental health, especially residential treatment for eating disorders and substance abuse. It looks promising for fair, responsible coverage for mental health services.
First, a little history: In 2008, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was passed by Congress. This law requires health insurance to cover both mental and physical health equally. MHPAEA states that you cannot put limits on mental health services that are different from physical health. The 2008 MHPAEA law was an expansion on the original mental health parity law, passed in 1996, to include language for those facing addiction problems. MHAPEA also states there cannot be higher co-pays and deductibles for mental health and substance abuse than for physical health issues.
Specifically to eating disorders, MHPAEA is a historic moment for paving the way for increased comprehensive access to treatment. Regarding residential treatment coverage, it does not state verbatim that residential be covered, but uses the language that a plan covering “post-acute care services” must also cover residential treatment for mental health. For instance, if one’s plan covers residential rehabilitation after an accident for physical injuries, it must also provide comparable residential treatment for eating disorders. The Eating Disorders Coalition has fought for fair coverage within plans between mental and physical health. This regulation explicitly clarifies this, which is incredibly significant.
I believe the rules on parity are an icebreaker in the constant battle that mental health care has to wage for a voice, coverage, and fair treatment not only in making sure individuals can receive care, but in our everyday society. I remind people when I advocate, or just in casual conversations, that the brain is a big and important organ in the human body, yet I feel it can be treated as a second-class citizen. Mental health issues are not a choice, they are not something to be “snapped out of” or “gotten over.” Mental health struggles are to be carefully and skillfully considered, treated, monitored, and understood. I feel very fortunate to use my voice on behalf of Oliver-Pyatt Centers and all the women, families, and people I meet in advocating as a Board Member of the Eating Disorders Coalition.
To become involved and for further reading, please visit the following sites:
Join us in supporting a cause that is very close to our hearts: the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) 3rd Annual Weight Stigma Awareness Week (WSAW) from September 23 – 27, 2013. WSAW attempts to increase awareness of the pervasiveness and destructive nature of weight stigma, and to provide effective strategies for combating it.
We are pleased to share an excerpt from Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt’s blog post for this outstanding event below. For full reading and to learn more about BEDA’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week, please visit here. For more information about Wendy and Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please visit our website.
Our culture places significant importance on our appearance, and we experience pressure to be unnaturally thin. Low body fat is equated with “fit,” which is somehow then tied in with “better,” or maybe “more worthy” or more “in control.” Society tells us that dieting (defined as restricting our calorie intake, and ignoring inner cues) is the way to be thinner, fitter, and healthier. In fact, in our culture, hunger is viewed negatively; we pay money for drugs to suppress our appetite! We are bombarded with food and we don’t know what to do about it. The grocery store line says it all. On the right, there are the Cokes, Sprite, M and Ms, and other candies; and on the left, the airbrushed models with fake bodies and smiles that stare at us, leaving those who are vulnerable with a feeling of inadequacy and shame. The thinking is, “Somehow I will be better, do more, and be more lovable if I am thin.” So we diet and restrict. And our intentions are good.
The “war” on obesity is one of those situations where the concept, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions,’ comes to mind.
Binge eating disorder (BED) patients live in a culture which shames them on a daily basis (if they are among the 70% of BED patients who are labeled as a larger size, overweight, or obese). And the attack on the larger size person in our society places enormous pressure on those who happen to be bigger, to diet and to restrict their caloric intake. A quote a patient once told me she heard from a doctor was, “You are fat every day, so you should eat less every day, and exercise more every day.” This statement, (which sadly rings true of what the medical community and society tells heavier people each day), may be well-intentioned, but I would argue does not pass the test of “First do no harm.” It’s time to talk about it.
(c) Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS, All rights reserved.