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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!

Weight Stigma Awareness Week

Scrabble spelling the word learn

September 23-27, 2019 marks Weight Stigma Awareness Week (#WSAW2019). The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) started Weight Stigma Awareness Week to help the entire eating disorder community understand why weight stigma should matter to everyone, not just those in higher-weight bodies. 

What is Weight Stigma?

Weight stigma is the judgment and assumption that a person’s weight reflects their personality, character, or lifestyle. For example, the common stereotype that people in larger bodies are lazy is an example of weight stigma. Weight stigma also plays out in other ways, such as a lack of proper accommodation for larger bodies on airplanes or in public seating spaces. 

Not only is weight stigma a cruel form of bullying, but it is also inaccurate. Medical studies and scientific evidence have shown that all body sizes can be healthy. Read our blog about body diversity to learn more about why health isn’t size-specific. 

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Shannon’s Story

Shannan Callahan lifting weights

Shannon Callahan is a full-time public defender who in her work, gives a voice to the voiceless. In her spare time, Shannon enjoys using her voice, as part of the GRRRL Army, to help teach women non-judgment, to understand and embrace that we have a positive impact on the world, and to further the global revolution of body acceptance.

I grew up with a mother who didn’t love herself or her physical appearance, so naturally, I learned what I was taught, I learned what I saw. I was parented but not shown love or nurturing. I grew up being told what I could and couldn’t eat and what I should and shouldn’t eat. I grew up being told things like, “you don’t get to leave the table until you drink all of your milk, this isn’t a restaurant; you eat what you’re given or you don’t eat at all…” I was never taught what balance and moderation were nor was I given the tools for a healthy relationship with food. If I ever asked why I was met with “because I said so” or “because I’m the parent.” I grew up without choice.

It all started with I was 11. I think I so desperately sought connection with my mother that I would do anything to bond or spend time with her. I wasn’t going to get that connection from my father who, I found out at 19 when I overheard a conversation my mother was having, didn’t want me and resented me for just being born; for existing. The way I was able to connect with my mother was through dieting and weight loss. When I was 11, she introduced me to the Atkins diet. This type of diet fed my perfectionism; I had to do everything “right” or not do it at all. If I did not I failed. This applied to everything I did: school, sports, dieting.

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How do I Provide Comfort for my Child in Treatment?

Mother and daughter

Starting eating disorder treatment can be scary for the individual affected—but it can also be a stressful time for parents. When your child experiences a negative food/body relationship, you may struggle to understand why. Their behaviors may seem perplexing and leave you feeling frustrated, afraid, and sad. The Emily Program understands that it’s difficult to watch someone you love struggle with an eating disorder. It’s also difficult to know how to comfort them.

What Will Happen When My Child Starts Treatment?

Eating disorder treatment is a new experience, and like all new things, it can be scary at first. Prior to starting treatment, your child’s eating disorder behaviors may increase due to the stress and fear of starting treatment and confronting the eating disorder. Your child may experience dread, anger, anxiety, or depression. They may also experience relief upon knowing that they are on the road to recovery. All of these feelings are normal. 

For parents, it’s important to be aware and present in the days or weeks before treatment. Make sure to check in with your child about how they are feeling or if they could use any specific support. Reassure them that treatment is a good idea because it will help them to live their best life. Be vocal about your support and be present when they share with you.

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Episode 17: Abbie’s Recovery Story

Girl overlooking the beach

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 Abbie Scott. Abbie suffered from an eating disorder during her youth, continued on to pursue recovery, and now helps others who have struggled in her career as a registered dietitian.

Episode show notes:

Abbie Scott is a Registered Dietitian at The Emily Program’s Anna Westin House in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She is passionate about eating disorder prevention, yoga, and helping others develop positive food-body relationships. In addition, Abbie holds her 200-hour registered yoga teacher certification and has completed multiple trainings on the intersection of yoga, food, and body image.

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The Sticks and Stones of Eating Disorder Recovery

Rock stack

*By Lisa Whalen

*Some guest blogs may mention eating disorder behaviors or thoughts. Keep in mind that everyone has a unique road to recovery and that this is one person’s story.

“I didn’t know you had an eating disorder,” a coworker I’ll call Jane said when she learned that I’d written a book about my recovery. “You don’t look like you do. I’ve always thought you look… normal.”

Ouch.

Before I completed treatment at The Emily Program, Jane’s comment would have boomed in my head and created an echo that followed me everywhere. It also would have sent me careening back into the starvation and compulsive exercise that had hijacked my 20s due to my need to be anything but normal. Back then, I’d equated “normal” with “average” and was terrified of being average. Who will love, respect, or want me if I’m just average? I’d wondered. So I’d wanted to be much more than average: I’d wanted to be perfect. Being perfect had included being thin, tiny, and delicate—a butterfly among birds.

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Navigating Campus with an Eating Disorder

School campus

College can be a particularity triggering time when you’re living with an eating disorder, and navigating school with the illness can be incredibly challenging. With school comes freedom, new experiences, homework, stress, group meals, and more. All of these can cause additional strain on recovery, which is why it’s important to be mindful of your recovery. Despite these challenges, there are certain things you can do to prevent relapse and encourage recovery.

How to Successfully Navigate Campus in Recovery

Start Treatment

Living with an untreated eating disorder is extremely dangerous and stressful. Unfortunately, if left untreated, the illnesses often progress over time. Due to their worsening nature, it’s essential to get eating disorder treatment as soon as possible. We know that starting treatment, especially in the midst of school, is extremely challenging. However, some eating disorder treatment centers are able to provide a treatment plan to fit into your life. If you are concerned about the time commitment, know that treatment centers like The Emily Program can work with your schedule to ensure you get the care you deserve. By starting treatment, you can ensure a successful school year where you can focus on school instead of food, body, or image. 

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