Emily Fredrick was 14 years old when her eating disorder began.

“I started restricting (calories), which is better known as anorexia nervosa,” recalled Fredrick, who began modeling while she was an adolescent, prompting her obsession to be thin.

From then on, the disease only got worse.

“At the age of 16, I began working at the country club in high school in the poolside cabana, where I had to prepare and serve food,” she said. “That was the beginning of my bulimia. There was a single-stall bathroom connected to the cabana, so I basically could have my cake and eat it, too. The vicious cycle was on.”

Now 30 — and having spent more than half her life battling eating disorders — Fredrick believes the fight is over.

She credits La Ventana, an eating disorder treatment program in Thousand Oaks and Calabasas that helps people struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other disordered eating issues.

Originally from Dallas, Fredrick came to the West Coast after a drug overdose that nearly killed her, and was referred to the Creative Care treatment center in Malibu. During her stay, she learned that the core problem of her addiction was her eating disorder, and she was referred to La Ventana.

“It all went hand in hand,” recalled Fredrick, who had been using methamphetamines for years to curb her appetite. One night, she added vodka to the mix.

“A guy broke my heart — I felt rejected, abandoned, alone,” said Fredrick, who was rushed to the hospital, where she was revived. “Sooner or later your body will tell you ‘I can’t take it anymore.’ I almost died.”

The experience led to a startling revelation. “I knew I had two choices: I can let this disease get the best of me, or I could get back up and fight.”

That’s when she decided to surrender her life to treatment at La Ventana.

“There has to be a balance,” she said. “A myth when it comes to bulimia is that it will solve all my problems and erase the bad feelings. We need to learn to deal with our feelings by addressing them head-on, not by burying our head in the toilet.”

Fredrick, who came to La Ventana in August and left at the end of January, feels she can hold her head up high today. This time, with the proper help, she thinks she has her eating disorder beat.

“It is such a blessing to be able to let it go, through the help of this program and the strength I am finding from within,” she said.

Defining the ailment

Disordered eating “refers to a broad range of difficulties with one’s relationship with food,” said Susan L. Richter, a certified eating disorder specialist at New Beginnings Counseling Center in Camarillo.

Those difficulties can include “worrying about or feeling out of control with food or weight; negative feelings about one’s body; and preoccupation with thoughts of exercise, dieting, bingeing or purging,” explained Richter, who also is a member of a local committee working to promote National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association, the 23rd annual event runs today through Saturday. In Ventura County, activities will include free eating disorder screenings, panel discussions and a candlelight vigil (see accompanying box).

The biggest myth surrounding eating disorders “is that everyone hates their body — that chronic dieting and critical thoughts about bodies — our own or others’ — are just a normal part of our culture and can’t be helped,” Richter said.

Actually, these are warning signs of developing an eating disorder, she said. “Children who grow up surrounded by these messages or behaviors have a greatly increased risk for developing an eating disorder.”

Health risks

Anorexia nervosa is the No. 1 cause of death among all psychological disorders, Richter said, “and millions more suffer from emotional overeating that leads to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

“Obesity is an epidemic and getting worse especially among children,” she said. “Unfortunately, our quick-fix mentality of pushing dieting or gastric bypass surgery tends to exacerbate the problem unless the underlying eating disorder issues are addressed first.”

Eating disorders are not about the food, “but about underlying issues and feelings,” said Candy Bartole, clinical director of La Ventana.

Most people still think of eating disorders as a women’s disease, but at least one out of every 10 people with an eating disorder is a male.

According to Bartole, “one in four preadolescent cases of anorexia occur in boys, and binge-eating disorder affects females and males equally.

“Like females who have eating disorders, males have a warped sense of body image and often have muscle dysmorphia, a type of disorder characterized by an extreme concern with becoming more muscular. Some males with this disorder want to lose weight, while others want to gain weight or bulk up.”

Also, like women, men are susceptible to the cultural and media demands for perfect bodies, Bartole said.

Psychological factors that might cause a person to develop an eating disorder include low self-esteem, perfectionist tendencies, depression, anxiety, anger or loneliness.

Interpersonal factors known to fuel this disease include family disharmony, a history of being ridiculed based on size or weight, and a history of sexual and/or physical abuse.

Scientific causes might play a role as well.

“Researchers are still examining potential or biochemical causes of eating disorders,” said Bartole. Studies have found that some sufferers, for example, have imbalances in certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite and digestion.

How and why

Helping people address how and why they eat is critical for long-term success, Richter said. Therapists and other professionals who specialize in eating disorders can help people “develop specific skills needed to feel better without using food,” she said.

Group therapy, Richter said, “can also be an effective and economical addition to traditional eating disorder treatment.”

La Ventana has a professional staff composed of licensed therapists and registered dietitians, many of whom have overcome eating disorders themselves.

The program offers day treatment as well as an outpatient evening and after-school program, with living accommodations available to clients like Fredrick who attend the day treatment program.

“The program consists of therapeutic eating, where all of the clients eat together at lunch and snack time,” said Fredrick. Nutritionists check meals to make sure each client has met his or her individual meal plan.

Through group therapy sessions three times a day, Fredrick said, “I have learned so much about the history of my disease,” including the influence of family dynamics on her disorder and the importance of involving family in treatment.

La Ventana also offers art therapy, stress reduction and process groups.

“The therapists here coach us on how to get to the real stuff that causes the eating disorder,” Fredrick said. “The eating disorder is just a symptom.”

Relapse part of recovery

Recovery takes time, and relapse is normal for people with eating disorders, Bartole said.

“Emily has been walking the recovery trail on and off before she got to where she is,” Bartole said. “She’s one of the miracles because she’s been working really hard. She’s one of the lucky ones. But the bottom line is not to give up. It takes a lot of practice for someone with an eating disorder to get better.”

Plus, Bartole said, “because you have to eat three times a day, you have to practice the food. It’s different from drug and alcohol addiction, because you can put those away. It really takes a good four to seven years for recovery.”

Long after she leaves La Ventana, Fredrick will remember the giant words by Ralph Waldo Emerson painted on the wall in the common room where clients gather at mealtime: “What lies behind us and lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”

Fredrick now works as a client supervisor at Passages Addiction Cure Center in Malibu, and plans to go back to school to become a therapist specializing in eating disorders.

“I am in touch with myself on a spiritual, emotional and physical level today that is so deep,” she said. “I have been cured from my eating disorder. I devoted my life to treatment and was determined to get well and I will never look back.”

Free help is available

The following free events are planned in Ventura County as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week:

- A Q-and-A session for family members and friends of people with eating disorders led by Candy Bartole, a marriage and family therapist and clinical director of La Ventana Eating Disorders Programs, is slated from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday at La Ventana, 275 E. Hillcrest Drive, Suite 120, Thousand Oaks. For reservations or more information, call 777-3873.

- A community candlelight vigil to celebrate recovery will take place 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at New Beginnings Counseling Center, 155 Granada St., Suite N, Camarillo. For more information, call 987-3162 or visit http://www.nbcounseling.net.

- A screening of “Beauty Mark: Body Image and the Race for Perfection” and panel discussion will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at CSU Channel Islands in Camarillo. “Beauty Mark,” say the film’s creators, “is for anyone who has ever felt invisible because they didn’t conform to our culture’s impossible, unhealthy, abnormal beauty standards.”

This documentary about self-image tells the story of psychotherapist and former triathlete Diane Israel, who stopped competing when she collapsed from anorexia. Included are interviews with models, inner-city teens and other athletes, and insights from “The Vagina Monologues” playwright Eve Ensler and “The Beauty Myth” author Naomi Wolf.

After the film, La Ventana’s Bartole, New Beginnings therapist Susan Richter and registered dietitian Karen Decker will discuss how to maintain a healthy weight without dieting, getting comfortable in your body, and helping others who struggle with food and weight issues.

The screening and discussion will take place in conference room 1360 on the first floor at CSUCI’s Broome Library, 1 University Drive. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Parking is $6.

- Eating disorder screenings will be available through Saturday at New Beginnings Counseling Center. For an appointment, call Robert Bennett, marriage and family therapist intern, at 535-0016.

- For more information about National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

— Karen Lindell

Getting help

- For referrals to eating disorder treatment programs, therapists and support groups, call the National Eating Disorders Association at 800-931-2237 or visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

- La Ventana, with locations in Thousand Oaks and Calabasas, treats individuals struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other eating issues. The treatment center offers a partial hospitalization program, also known as day treatment, as well as intensive outpatient programs.

La Ventana accepts most major insurance plans, and can assist clients in obtaining loans. Clients can choose to live in La Ventana’s residence or commute to attend programs while living at home.

For more information, call 888-528-3682, visit http://www.laventanatreatment.com or e-mail info@laventanatreatment.com.

By the numbers

- For women ages 15 to 24, eating disorders are among the top four leading causes of burden of disease in terms of years of life lost through death or disability.

- Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest overall mortality rates and the highest suicide rate of any psychiatric disorder. The risk of death is three times higher than in depression, schizophrenia or alcoholism and 12 times higher than in the general population.

- Up to 10 percent of women with anorexia nervosa may die due to anorexia-related causes. Early recognition of symptoms and proper treatment can reduce the risk of death. Deaths in anorexia nervosa mainly result from complications of starvation or from suicide.

- Health consequences from all eating disorders such as osteoporosis (brittle bones), gastrointestinal complications, and dental problems are significant health and financial burdens throughout life.

Source: Academy for Eating Disorders

© 2010 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
Your Subtitle text

Maintaining order and creating

Program helps conquer eating disorders

Emily Fredrick was 14 years old when her eating disorder began.

“I started restricting (calories), which is better known as anorexia nervosa,” recalled Fredrick, who began modeling while she was an adolescent, prompting her obsession to be thin.

From then on, the disease only got worse.

“At the age of 16, I began working at the country club in high school in the poolside cabana, where I had to prepare and serve food,” she said. “That was the beginning of my bulimia. There was a single-stall bathroom connected to the cabana, so I basically could have my cake and eat it, too. The vicious cycle was on.”

Now 30 — and having spent more than half her life battling eating disorders — Fredrick believes the fight is over.

She credits La Ventana, an eating disorder treatment program in Thousand Oaks and Calabasas that helps people struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other disordered eating issues.

Originally from Dallas, Fredrick came to the West Coast after a drug overdose that nearly killed her, and was referred to the Creative Care treatment center in Malibu. During her stay, she learned that the core problem of her addiction was her eating disorder, and she was referred to La Ventana.

“It all went hand in hand,” recalled Fredrick, who had been using methamphetamines for years to curb her appetite. One night, she added vodka to the mix.

“A guy broke my heart — I felt rejected, abandoned, alone,” said Fredrick, who was rushed to the hospital, where she was revived. “Sooner or later your body will tell you ‘I can’t take it anymore.’ I almost died.”

The experience led to a startling revelation. “I knew I had two choices: I can let this disease get the best of me, or I could get back up and fight.”

That’s when she decided to surrender her life to treatment at La Ventana.

“There has to be a balance,” she said. “A myth when it comes to bulimia is that it will solve all my problems and erase the bad feelings. We need to learn to deal with our feelings by addressing them head-on, not by burying our head in the toilet.”

Fredrick, who came to La Ventana in August and left at the end of January, feels she can hold her head up high today. This time, with the proper help, she thinks she has her eating disorder beat.

“It is such a blessing to be able to let it go, through the help of this program and the strength I am finding from within,” she said.

Defining the ailment

Disordered eating “refers to a broad range of difficulties with one’s relationship with food,” said Susan L. Richter, a certified eating disorder specialist at New Beginnings Counseling Center in Camarillo.

Those difficulties can include “worrying about or feeling out of control with food or weight; negative feelings about one’s body; and preoccupation with thoughts of exercise, dieting, bingeing or purging,” explained Richter, who also is a member of a local committee working to promote National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association, the 23rd annual event runs today through Saturday. In Ventura County, activities will include free eating disorder screenings, panel discussions and a candlelight vigil (see accompanying box).

The biggest myth surrounding eating disorders “is that everyone hates their body — that chronic dieting and critical thoughts about bodies — our own or others’ — are just a normal part of our culture and can’t be helped,” Richter said.

Actually, these are warning signs of developing an eating disorder, she said. “Children who grow up surrounded by these messages or behaviors have a greatly increased risk for developing an eating disorder.”

Health risks

Anorexia nervosa is the No. 1 cause of death among all psychological disorders, Richter said, “and millions more suffer from emotional overeating that leads to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

“Obesity is an epidemic and getting worse especially among children,” she said. “Unfortunately, our quick-fix mentality of pushing dieting or gastric bypass surgery tends to exacerbate the problem unless the underlying eating disorder issues are addressed first.”

Eating disorders are not about the food, “but about underlying issues and feelings,” said Candy Bartole, clinical director of La Ventana.

Most people still think of eating disorders as a women’s disease, but at least one out of every 10 people with an eating disorder is a male.

According to Bartole, “one in four preadolescent cases of anorexia occur in boys, and binge-eating disorder affects females and males equally.

“Like females who have eating disorders, males have a warped sense of body image and often have muscle dysmorphia, a type of disorder characterized by an extreme concern with becoming more muscular. Some males with this disorder want to lose weight, while others want to gain weight or bulk up.”

Also, like women, men are susceptible to the cultural and media demands for perfect bodies, Bartole said.

Psychological factors that might cause a person to develop an eating disorder include low self-esteem, perfectionist tendencies, depression, anxiety, anger or loneliness.

Interpersonal factors known to fuel this disease include family disharmony, a history of being ridiculed based on size or weight, and a history of sexual and/or physical abuse.

Scientific causes might play a role as well.

“Researchers are still examining potential or biochemical causes of eating disorders,” said Bartole. Studies have found that some sufferers, for example, have imbalances in certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite and digestion.

How and why

Helping people address how and why they eat is critical for long-term success, Richter said. Therapists and other professionals who specialize in eating disorders can help people “develop specific skills needed to feel better without using food,” she said.

Group therapy, Richter said, “can also be an effective and economical addition to traditional eating disorder treatment.”

La Ventana has a professional staff composed of licensed therapists and registered dietitians, many of whom have overcome eating disorders themselves.

The program offers day treatment as well as an outpatient evening and after-school program, with living accommodations available to clients like Fredrick who attend the day treatment program.

“The program consists of therapeutic eating, where all of the clients eat together at lunch and snack time,” said Fredrick. Nutritionists check meals to make sure each client has met his or her individual meal plan.

Through group therapy sessions three times a day, Fredrick said, “I have learned so much about the history of my disease,” including the influence of family dynamics on her disorder and the importance of involving family in treatment.

La Ventana also offers art therapy, stress reduction and process groups.

“The therapists here coach us on how to get to the real stuff that causes the eating disorder,” Fredrick said. “The eating disorder is just a symptom.”

Relapse part of recovery

Recovery takes time, and relapse is normal for people with eating disorders, Bartole said.

“Emily has been walking the recovery trail on and off before she got to where she is,” Bartole said. “She’s one of the miracles because she’s been working really hard. She’s one of the lucky ones. But the bottom line is not to give up. It takes a lot of practice for someone with an eating disorder to get better.”

Plus, Bartole said, “because you have to eat three times a day, you have to practice the food. It’s different from drug and alcohol addiction, because you can put those away. It really takes a good four to seven years for recovery.”

Long after she leaves La Ventana, Fredrick will remember the giant words by Ralph Waldo Emerson painted on the wall in the common room where clients gather at mealtime: “What lies behind us and lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”

Fredrick now works as a client supervisor at Passages Addiction Cure Center in Malibu, and plans to go back to school to become a therapist specializing in eating disorders.

“I am in touch with myself on a spiritual, emotional and physical level today that is so deep,” she said. “I have been cured from my eating disorder. I devoted my life to treatment and was determined to get well and I will never look back.”

Free help is available

The following free events are planned in Ventura County as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week:

- A Q-and-A session for family members and friends of people with eating disorders led by Candy Bartole, a marriage and family therapist and clinical director of La Ventana Eating Disorders Programs, is slated from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday at La Ventana, 275 E. Hillcrest Drive, Suite 120, Thousand Oaks. For reservations or more information, call 777-3873.

- A community candlelight vigil to celebrate recovery will take place 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at New Beginnings Counseling Center, 155 Granada St., Suite N, Camarillo. For more information, call 987-3162 or visit http://www.nbcounseling.net.

- A screening of “Beauty Mark: Body Image and the Race for Perfection” and panel discussion will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at CSU Channel Islands in Camarillo. “Beauty Mark,” say the film’s creators, “is for anyone who has ever felt invisible because they didn’t conform to our culture’s impossible, unhealthy, abnormal beauty standards.”

This documentary about self-image tells the story of psychotherapist and former triathlete Diane Israel, who stopped competing when she collapsed from anorexia. Included are interviews with models, inner-city teens and other athletes, and insights from “The Vagina Monologues” playwright Eve Ensler and “The Beauty Myth” author Naomi Wolf.

After the film, La Ventana’s Bartole, New Beginnings therapist Susan Richter and registered dietitian Karen Decker will discuss how to maintain a healthy weight without dieting, getting comfortable in your body, and helping others who struggle with food and weight issues.

The screening and discussion will take place in conference room 1360 on the first floor at CSUCI’s Broome Library, 1 University Drive. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Parking is $6.

- Eating disorder screenings will be available through Saturday at New Beginnings Counseling Center. For an appointment, call Robert Bennett, marriage and family therapist intern, at 535-0016.

- For more information about National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

— Karen Lindell

Getting help

- For referrals to eating disorder treatment programs, therapists and support groups, call the National Eating Disorders Association at 800-931-2237 or visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

- La Ventana, with locations in Thousand Oaks and Calabasas, treats individuals struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other eating issues. The treatment center offers a partial hospitalization program, also known as day treatment, as well as intensive outpatient programs.

La Ventana accepts most major insurance plans, and can assist clients in obtaining loans. Clients can choose to live in La Ventana’s residence or commute to attend programs while living at home.

For more information, call 888-528-3682, visit http://www.laventanatreatment.com or e-mail info@laventanatreatment.com.

By the numbers

- For women ages 15 to 24, eating disorders are among the top four leading causes of burden of disease in terms of years of life lost through death or disability.

- Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest overall mortality rates and the highest suicide rate of any psychiatric disorder. The risk of death is three times higher than in depression, schizophrenia or alcoholism and 12 times higher than in the general population.

- Up to 10 percent of women with anorexia nervosa may die due to anorexia-related causes. Early recognition of symptoms and proper treatment can reduce the risk of death. Deaths in anorexia nervosa mainly result from complications of starvation or from suicide.

- Health consequences from all eating disorders such as osteoporosis (brittle bones), gastrointestinal complications, and dental problems are significant health and financial burdens throughout life.

Source: Academy for Eating Disorders

© 2010 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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