The Emily Program, a nationally recognized eating disorder treatment program, has come to Woodbury. And when more children and adolescents in the United States live with eating disorders than diabetes, the availability of effective treatment is essential. The Emily Program has locations in St. Louis Park, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. The addition of a Woodbury location offers easier access to treatment for an increasing number of people in need.
The Emily Program offers a range of treatment options to treat all eating disorders. The Woodbury location offers individual outpatient therapy, nutrition counseling, body image groups, art therapy groups and family groups.
A common misconception is that only teens from wealthy suburbs develop eating disorders. The truth is, eating disorders don’t discriminate. Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and combinations of these eating disorders affect people across age groups, genders and socio-economic circumstances. The Emily program has treated patients as young as 8 and as old as 72. Recently, program therapists have seen an uptick in the number of middle-aged women dealing with eating disorders as well as more compulsive overeaters seeking treatment.
Jillian Lampert is a senior director and clinical nutritionist for the Emily Program. She says, “Eating disorders often begin quietly and slowly. Many people diet and talk about their bodies. So it can be difficult to discern extreme versions of typical behavior.”
Although any age person can develop an eating disorder, they manifest most commonly during adolescence and are often traced to phases of brain development, transition or socio-cultural impact. Kids who are genetically more apt to be obsessive and detail oriented are at higher risk. “But kids don’t consciously say, ‘I’m out of control and will therefore control my food,’” Lampert says. “But they may develop unhealthy habits and patterns that become reassuring to them. The Emily Program teaches better coping skills.”
Emily Program participant Katie Bird remembers first thinking she was fat at 7 years old. “I come from an athletic, competitive family,” says Bird, who sought some way to prevent ever becoming overweight. She began abusing diet pills in junior high school, and by high school, Bird was exercising excessively and severely restricting her food intake.
“I was struggling emotionally but didn’t think I had an eating disorder,” Bird says. Her illness improved with help from a University of Minnesota psychologist. But when Bird’s first child was born, she slowly relapsed in an attempt to shed baby weight, as she didn’t have time to take care of herself and the weight loss crept up on her.
Bird’s psychologist connected her to The Emily Program. There she underwent intensive outpatient therapy, intensive day treatment and residential treatment. That was six years ago. Bird is now healthy, has two children and is vigilant about her recovery. “I’ve learned the importance of positive body image and a positive relationship with food,” says Bird. “I cook and our family goes out to dinner. I now understand that food is like medicine necessary for a healthy body. I can now partake in social events without wasting energy worrying about what I eat.”
Lampert supports the idea of being in tune with body signals, knowing when you’re hungry and when you’re full. She’s not a fan of counting calories or using food as a reward for children. “Eating shouldn’t be a math problem and dessert shouldn’t be magical,” says Lampert. “Food is part of life, neither good nor bad. When we label foods as bad, people might eat them in secret or overeat forbidden foods. Instead, Lampert emphasizes moderation and less obsessive talk about weight.
Recovery is Possible
Behavioral Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder:
- Changes in attitude about food or weight
- Suddenly refusing to eat certain foods
- Excessive exercise
- Isolation around mealtime or making excuses not to eat
- Avoiding food environments
- If you’re concerned that you or a family member may be suffering from an eating disorder, The Emily Program offers an assessment. For education and prevention, The Emily Program Foundation offers presentations on topics like body image and the media.
The Emily Program
576 Bielenberg Drive Suite 250