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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 (blog@emilyprogram.com) and ask how you can become a contributor!

Ariel’s Story

A female hiker in the woods

**Content warning: This is one person’s story. Everyone will have unique experiences on their path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

By Ariel Selwyn

Professionals say that an eating disorder is often a combination of genetics and an environmental trigger. At 18 years old, in fall 1997, I broke up with a boyfriend of 1½ years. That breakup was the trigger to an eating disorder that would go on for 22-plus years. At that time, I was very sheltered and I don’t think I even knew what an eating disorder was.

When you are suffering with an eating disorder, you need support. Unfortunately, my mother and stepfather told me the eating disorder was a sin in my life, which caused more guilt and shame because I couldn’t fix it. If it was a sin, why couldn’t I stop? My father and stepmother never spoke to me about it. They obviously saw that I was struggling but never said one word. Not one of my four parents got me professional help, which is what I desperately needed.

If you have a loved one struggling with an eating disorder, it might seem like they have become a completely different person. That’s because their time and energy goes into protecting the eating disorder. Part of their brain is still logical and wants recovery, but part of their brain is overtaken by the eating disorder and is scared to let it go. The eating disorder changed me. I became more rigid and less flexible. The only thing that mattered was the eating disorder and protecting it.

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Staff Spotlight, Shauna Duffy

Shauna Duffy

TEP: Tell us about yourself!

Shauna: I’m Shauna Duffy, LSW, Eating Disorder Technician (EDT) Manager at Cleveland Heights Residential. I’ve been with The Emily Program for 5 years.

TEP: What is a typical workday like?

Shauna: There is no typical day at Cleveland Heights Residential, which is why I love it.  The unpredictable nature of what we do keeps all of us growing, stretching, and learning.

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Practicing Mindfulness in Life and Eating

A woman practicing meditation

Most mornings before I get up, I make a point of listening to a guided mindfulness-meditation tape (1). Each time I repeatedly try to focus on my breath as instructed, following it as it flows in and out of my body. Sometimes I can keep my focus on my breathing for several breaths but not much longer; then my mind wanders off…. to the day ahead, the night before, somewhere, anywhere but where I am, right there, in that moment with my body and with my breath.

Why, you might ask, repeatedly go through something I find so difficult to do?

Because I have seen the positive differences it has made in my life. Being able to pay closer attention to whatever I am working on. Being better at really listening and hearing what others are saying. Being less automatic in my responses and being more fully present to what is happening as it is happening. I am not much more than a novice at this, but I have learned how mindfulness can be helpful in life in general and more specifically in the areas of food and eating.

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Episode 31: The Eating Disorders Coalition with Chase Bannister

A lawmaker at podium with mic

Episode description:

Chase Bannister, MDIV, MSW, LCSW, CEDS, is the president of the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action (EDC), the federal advocacy organization that advances the recognition of eating disorders as a public health priority.

In this episode of Peace Meal, Chase describes the EDC and its members, its mission and goals, and how it engages in eating disorders education and advocacy. He emphasizes the importance of community, strategy, and persistence in advocacy, as well as the immense power we have as constituents. He then explains two of the EDC’s current policy efforts, the Nutrition CARE Act and the SERVE Act, and offers easy ways we can get involved.  

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Navigating Summer in Eating Disorder Recovery

A family picnic

Many travel and event plans have changed, but the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped summer from coming. It’s officially here—and with it, so are socially distant picnics, cookouts, and barbecues. For those struggling with eating disorders, summertime eating and dressing can be stressful and anxiety-provoking. Warm-weather celebrations often exacerbate worries about food and our bodies, making recovery challenging and complex. But it’s not impossible.

With a commitment to yourself and continued healing, you can maintain eating disorder recovery and participate in this season’s celebrations. Here are some tips for surviving summer with an eating disorder.

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Eating Disorders in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community

A heart made from hands set with a rainbow filter

Eating disorders are disproportionately common in segments of the LGBTQ community. Disproving the myth that these illnesses impact only straight, cisgender people, research and personal accounts show that all sexual and gender identities are affected—and sexual and gender minorities perhaps even more so than non-LGBTQ people.

The LGBTQ acronym encompasses several distinct sexual and gender identities. It is an umbrella term that represents a group as diverse and varied as non-LGBTQ people, though often treated as a singular group. While we cannot generalize eating disorder experiences within the LGBTQ community—or outside of it—here we explore eating disorders in one segment: those who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB). These terms refer to sexual orientation, while “transgender” refers to gender identity. For more on eating disorders in those who identify as transgender, please read Eating Disorders in the Transgender Community.

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