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There’s Help. There’s Hope! The Emily Program is a warm and welcoming place where individuals and their families can find comprehensive treatment for eating disorders and related issues. This blog is a place for us to share the latest happenings at The Emily Program, as well as helpful tidbits from the broader eating disorder community. Subscribe via RSS to receive automatic updates.We want to hear your story. Email us and ask how you can become a contributor!

Episode 15: Hannah’s Recovery Story

Hannah Johnson

Episode description:

Peace Meal’s Recovery Series aims to share stories of those in eating disorder recovery in hopes of starting conversations, breaking stigmas, and encouraging healing. On today’s episode, we talk to Hannah Johnson. Hannah developed anorexia during high school and found that it was exacerbated by society and stress. Hannah shares her recovery story and words of wisdom to those currently in treatment.

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Can how we were Raised Contribute to Developing an Eating Disorder?

Parents holding toddler's hand

Eating disorders are complex and serious illnesses that can cause serious harm to the individual afflicted. Characterized by a disturbance in an individual’s self-perception and food behaviors, eating disorders are biologically-based brain illnesses that are affected by environmental, cultural, and psychological factors. A key aspect of eating disorders is their complexity and the questions surrounding them—what caused my eating disorder? Will I get better? Do other people experience this?

Environmental Factors

There are certain environmental factors that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder including diet culture, the media, and peer judgment. Diet culture is a series of beliefs that idolize thinness and equate it to health and wellbeing. Diet culture manifests in less obvious ways, too, and can be seen in the way that menus portray “healthy” options as superior or how the typical chair size is made for someone thin. These diet culture consequences can plant the idea, at a young age, that thinner is “normal” and something to strive for, which can lead to disordered eating later in life.

The media is largely problematic in its portrayal of the idea that thin is superior. From the majority of celebrities and actors being thin to weight-centric TV shows like “Biggest Loser,” it’s no surprise that society gets the message that skinny is better. This media messaging infiltrates daily lives. There’s billboards of new diets, commercials promoting gym memberships to get you in beach body shape, and reality TV featuring only the thinnest of stars. When faced with this negative messaging daily, individuals can feel intense pressure to “fit in,” leading to dieting, appearance dissatisfaction, and eating disorders.

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How can Gyms and Coaches Recognize an Eating Disorder?

Student Athletes

Eating disorders are brain-based illnesses involving food and body that are severe and can become life-threatening. These illnesses typically involve food restriction or overconsumption, body image issues, and altered food behaviors like eating in secret or skipping meals. Eating disorders also frequently include compensatory behaviors like overexercising, which puts gym and coaches in a unique spot to catch eating disorders. In order for gyms and coaches to successfully recognize and address eating disorders, they must first be aware of their common signs and symptoms.

Eating Disorder Signs and Symptoms

Eating disorders are serious illnesses that affect eating habits and desires and cause severe distress about food, weight, size, and shape. Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of their gender, race, age, or any other demographic categorization. The five types of eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, OSFED, and ARFID. Signs and symptoms of eating disorders that gyms and coaches may be able to spot include:

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Getting Ready to go Back to School with Confidence

Teen with school books

Getting ready to go back to school is a stressful time for everyone, but for those struggling with eating disorders, it can be anxiety-inducing, hectic, and overwhelming. From new schedules to managing meal plans in a new environment, the change from summer to school can pose new challenges. By planning, practicing, and getting support, those in eating disorder recovery can get back to school with confidence.

Back to School Planning

Being prepared for key situations at school can be extremely beneficial in eating disorder recovery. Situations that are helpful to plan for include snack breaks, lunch, dormitory meals, and stressful moments like tests or debates. For food-related moments during school, the most important thing for those in eating disorder recovery is to stick to their meal plan.

In elementary, middle, or high school, those in recovery can pack lunches that work for their meal plan or they can look at the lunch menu the day before to plan what they will eat the following day. Knowing what meals will come at school can alleviate stress and allow individuals to plan for their meals and stick to recovery. For those in college, dormitory food and eating food in a large cafeteria can be a source of stress. Before going to college, it may be helpful to think of what your meals will look like. Some colleges even allow non-students to eat at their dormitories and cafeterias–if your college offers this, it may be helpful to eat a meal there prior to the start of school.  That way, you can start school knowing what to expect.

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