U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, Linden Oaks at Edward target schools to help prevent eating disorders.
Proposed Bill Could Help Prevent Eating Disorders in Students
By Mary Ann Lopez
The house tour was like any other that might be given to a first-time visitor.
Welcomed at the door there was the walk from the kitchen to the living room, and after admiring the view, a stop at the bedrooms and then the walk to the basement and back up again.
Nothing in the home was out of place. The dog was behaving and people were chatting in the kitchen.
The only difference was that the visitor was U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, (R-IL) and the tour was of Arabella House, a residential treatment facility in Naperville that for the past four years has temporarily housed women recovering from eating disorders.
"We are trying to combat the relapse rate," said Maria Rago, psychologist and clinical director of the Linden Oaks at Edward Eating Disorders Program, about Arabella House. "Sometimes when people go to the hospital they come back and don't have what they need to keep going when they are back at home."
Arabella House allows the women to begin the transition, she said.
"At Arabella you are making your lunch; they are living a normal life," Rago said.
The treatment facility is part of the Linden Oaks at Edward Eating Disorders Program.
Last week Biggert met with a contingent of eating disorder experts at Linden Oaks-including Rago-before touring the home, located near the Edward Hospital campus.
Biggert's visit was tied to her introduction of a bill, H.R. 36, earlier this year that would expand the uses of the Innovative Education Strategic Block Grant program. It would allow the inclusion of programs aimed at awareness and prevention of eating disorders, including role modeling, teacher training and mentoring, according to a news release.
Amy Shane, 28, of Aurora and one of the residents at Arabella House, took Biggert on the tour, pointing out the rooms that the women share and most notably some artwork decorating the ceiling in the basement.
During the tour, Shane explained to Biggert that before a resident leaves the home, she creates a lasting piece of artwork and leaves her mark on the home. The ceiling is almost entirely covered with artwork and soon the artwork also will adorn the walls.
Currently there are four women living at the home, Shane said.
Along with the four residents, there is a therapy dog, Logan, that lives at the home. Edward is proponent of the use of therapy dogs, and Rago said the residents enjoy caring for him. The dog, in return, provides unconditional love.
Biggert explained her drive to introduce the legislation during the round-table discussion. While her daughter was in college, her daughter's friend, a very athletic student, was injured and couldn't participate in sports.
The friend lost weight and, after being told she looked good, she continued to lose weight. The woman became anorexic and eventually was forced to leave school.
The woman found help and recovered, however, and if Biggert's bill passes, she believes there would be more awareness to prevent both boys and girls from going undiagnosed and untreated.
"I want the awareness directed to eating disorders and the grant funding directed to eating disorders," Biggert said during the round-table discussion at Linden Oaks.
"Congresswoman Biggert was so kind and responsible to consult with eating disorder experts," Rago said.
Meeting with the experts should ensure that the bill is well thought out and considered how students might benefit most.
Although trying to create a program to help prevent eating disorders in students is admirable, there have been instances when students learned about throwing up in a health class and, as a result, tried the behavior, Rago said.
"Whenever you educate you have to be careful," she said.
Rago said that Linden Oaks recently completed work with the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) on school guidelines, which were offered to Biggert as a guide.
"We are hoping for some early detection because the earlier you detect it the more likely you are to help cure it," Rago said.
If programs were offered in the classroom and if there was more awareness, Rago said there might also be more openness to talking about eating disorders.
"People make fun of people with eating disorders even though it is something that everyone could understand because people are so worried about their looks and their weight," she said.
A few of the signs someone may have an eating disorder:
--Becoming more health conscious about food. People take it as positive but it could turn into an eating disorder.
--Becoming more obsessive about eating and exercise.
--Isolating from others.
--Mood changes - appearing more depressed, anxious or shut down.
Eating disorder statistics:
--Almost 50 percent of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.
--Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment.
--Only 35 percent of people who receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders.
--Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder) in the U.S.
--Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services