New center tackles eating disorders
February tends to be the time of year when people are hitting the gym in anticipation of bikini season, trying to shed extra pounds gained over the holidays, or indulging in Valentine's Day chocolate.
Those are common things, but for people with eating disorders, it's a year-round battle.
Feb. 21-27 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
According to the Academy for Eating Disorders at www.aedweb.org, approximately one in 20 young women has an eating disorder. It's estimated between four and 20 percent of young women practice unhealthy eating patterns of dieting, purging and binge eating.
There are different forms of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and obesity.
The Woodlands Eating Disorder Center, which recently opened in Panther Creek, is tackling them all.
While there are several practitioners in Montgomery County who treat patients with eating disorders, this is the first center to offer comprehensive, multi-disciplinary care that brings together three main components: individual counseling, family counseling and nutritional counseling.
Kathy Veath, a registered nurse, and licensed and registered dietician, said she is the person people with eating disorders don't particularly want to see.
"The dietician is sometimes the least-favored because food is the patient's control, eating is their control," Veath said. "My role is to help patients get back on track to normalizing their eating.
"Some need to gain weight, others just need to change their behaviors around eating. A lot of what I do is education explaining the basics of what food does to your body."
She said a dietician is strongly recommended for people battling an eating disorder.
"It makes the therapist's job easier because she doesn't want her sessions to be all about 'what are you eating, are you gaining weight?" Veath said. "That's my job."
Kara Merrill, a licensed professional counselor, works with the entire family.
"Eating disorders can turn the whole family upside down," Merrill said. "It's similar to when someone is an alcoholic everybody walks on eggshells to not upset that person."
Merrill said what the family thinks of as helping can sometimes be enabling.
"I usually encourage parents, when it comes to things like discipline, to not treat her like she's an anorexic. Treat her like she's your daughter. If the family is catering to the person, that person doesn't have a reason to change."
Merrill said family members are eventually brought together for therapy, usually after the first session or two. Siblings may be included.
"With individual therapy, we feel it's important, especially with the teenagers, for them to feel like they have someone who is an alliance with them, that this is their safe place to share openly," Merrill said. "Family therapy does the same thing in that parents can share openly."
In March, Merrill is launching a Body Image group for high school girls, a population with the greatest need, she said.
Participants must be seeing an individual therapist in order to attend the group.
"That's because body image is only a portion of the problem," Merrill said. "They need to be going more in-depth on the other aspects of eating disorders."
That's where Clinical Psychologist Dr. Deborah Michel, comes in.
Michel said eating disorders are not even about food or weight.
"There are underlying reasons for eating disorders, but there's no single reason why an individual develops it," Michel said. "It's as unique as each individual."
Michel said some contributing factors are genetic vulnerability, emotional stressors and individual personality characteristics.
The goal of psychotherapy is to uncover the issues that are contributing to the maintenance of the eating disorder, she said.
Michel will refer patients to a psychiatrist if she feels there is a need for treatment with anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications.
Michel's goal is to grow the center by eventually offering an intensive outpatient program that would involve approximately 10 hours a week of therapy.
Michel is also embracing a community service aspect, by getting into schools to talk to kids about eating disorders. The center is also offering free eating disorder screening sessions the last week in February.
Want to go?
What: Eating disorder screening session
When: Monday Feb. 22 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday Feb. 27 from noon to 2 p.m.
Where: The Woodlands Eating Disorder Center, 4840 W. Panther Creek, suite 201
For more information visit http://woodlandsedc.com or call 281-465-9229
By the numbers:
0.3 1 percent: young women who have anorexia nervosa, which makes it as common as autism
1 3 percent: young women who have bulimia nervosa
4 20 percent: young women practicing unhealthy patterns of dieting, purging and binge-eating
*source: Academy for Eating Disorders www.aedweb.org
What is anorexia nervosa?
- characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss
What is bulimia nervosa?
- characterized by a secretive cycle of eating large amounts of food and then getting rid of it through vomiting, using laxatives or over-exercising
What is binge-eating?
- characterized by periods of uncontrollable eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full
*source: National Eating Disorders Association www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
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