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The Importance of Screening for Eating Disorders

Oftentimes, primary providers are the first line of defense against eating disorders. They can be the first to notice the early signs and discover an eating disorder since they see their patients regularly. Identifying these symptoms can help interrupt these mental disorders from developing further. 

In this article, we will discuss the importance of early screening and detection, the warning signs of eating disorders, and what to ask your patients when conducting screenings. 

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Is It Time to Seek Help? 5 Behaviors That Could Indicate an Eating Disorder

You’ve started dodging dinner plans because you’re worried your friends might notice that your eating habits have changed. 

You’ve become hyper-fixated on your body and started working out early every morning to “make up” for the previous day’s eating.

You’ve noticed that your ever-dwindling list of “safe” foods is making it hard to eat a nutritionally balanced diet.

If you see yourself in any of the above behaviors, it may indicate that you’re struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are characterized by a disturbance in an individual’s eating and food behaviors or self-perception. These complex, biologically based illnesses are influenced by environmental, social, and psychological factors. Unfortunately, they are not uncommon, with nearly 30 million Americans experiencing an eating disorder in their lifetime. Knowing the signs of an eating disorder can help you catch it early and get you the help you need. 

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The Role of Body Positivity in Eating Disorder Treatment & Recovery

Our relationships with our bodies are deeply personal, constantly shifting and evolving throughout our lifetimes. If you have lived experience with body image concerns, disordered eating, or an eating disorder, adopting a positive (or even neutral) mindset about your body can feel like an unrealistic—if not altogether impossible—task.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), body image disturbances are core clinical characteristics of many eating disorders. In fact, research consistently shows that body image distortion is the strongest psychosocial predictor of eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors. However, we know each eating disorder experience is unique, and as such, not everyone with an eating disorder may experience body image issues. For example, the food disturbances we see among those with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) are not motivated by distorted body image or body dissatisfaction.

A primary goal of eating disorder treatment is reaching a place of body appreciation and respect. While there’s no single “best” approach to improving body image, cultivating body positivity can play a powerful role in facilitating eating disorder treatment and lasting recovery. Through awareness and active practice, those in recovery can experience a new, more accepting relationship with their bodies.

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Announcing Expansion of Adult Inpatient Programming in Durham, NC

Veritas Collaborative is thrilled to announce that we are adding a 12-bed inpatient unit for adults at our RTP Eating Disorder Treatment Center in Durham, North Carolina. With this expansion, we will address the growing demand for specialized adult services within the state. The existing Douglas location in Durham will continue to serve 25 residential patients, making 37 adult beds available across sites to patients in need of these higher levels of care.

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Accanto Health Appoints Dr. Tom Britton as Chief Executive Officer

Accanto Health, the parent company of The Emily Program, Veritas Collaborative, and Gather Behavioral Health, is excited to introduce Dr. Tom Britton as its new Chief Executive Officer.

A seasoned healthcare leader with over 30 years in the behavioral health sector, Dr. Britton brings a wealth of expertise and a deep-seated desire to help individuals find their way to a life of recovery. In this new role, Dr. Britton will oversee ongoing efforts to enrich our evidence-based services, expand our program offerings, and solidify our reputation as preeminent providers within the field of eating disorder specialty care.

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5 Recovery Lessons From 5 Years of Peace Meal

Our Peace Meal podcast is five years old! Since January 2019, we’ve had the honor of sharing personal stories and expert insights that inform, inspire, and support listeners on the journey to eating disorder recovery. Join us in marking this milestone by reflecting on key takeaways from five years of episodes. Hold these lessons close as you, your loved one, or your patient navigate the path toward healing.

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Staff Spotlight, Stephen Powell

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Stephen Powell, MD (he/him). I am a family medicine physician working in the adult unit at Veritas’ eating disorder treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia.

What does a typical day look like for you at Veritas Collaborative?

A typical day consists of morning team meetings, planning for the day, reviewing labs and charts, seeing patients, contacting families, attending administrative meetings, and learning new eating disorder medicine from literature.

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A Non-Diet Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the start of a fresh new year, which, for many, signals the kick-off of “resolutions season.” There is nothing fundamentally wrong with using the turn of the calendar as an opportunity for self-reflection and goal-setting. However, if your intentions for 2024 hinge on diet and weight loss, they’re likely to do more harm than good. 

Despite the aggressive push of January weight loss and fitness ads, your body is not a “project” to be fixed, and your health is about so much more than a number on the scale or an arbitrary appearance goal. Diet culture resolutions are incredibly problematic, especially for those struggling with, recovering from, or susceptible to developing an eating disorder. Dieting is a key risk factor for eating disorders and interferes with the process of developing a healthy relationship with food. What’s more, when striving for an unattainable state (weight loss diets are designed to fail), feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy aren’t far behind.

If you want to adopt a New Year’s resolution, we encourage you to examine your motivations and set your goal with your recovery in mind. Spend some time identifying what’s truly important to you (e.g., learning a new skill, growing your self-confidence, practicing gratitude, making more time for rest, etc.), and disassociate any potential resolutions from weight loss or body size. Use the examples in this blog to inspire your own resolution-setting. Note that some of these suggestions may not be appropriate for everyone; please work with your recovery team or modify the examples to suit your unique recovery needs.

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Voices of Impact — Accanto Health’s EDI Advisory Council

At Accanto Health, we are committed to fostering a culture of acceptance and respect for staff and clients alike. Our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Council, led by an EDI Advisory Council, guides us in upholding these values and enacting meaningful change within our organization and beyond.

Today, we are thrilled to highlight the passion of several members of our EDI Advisory Council. These staff, representing both The Emily Program and Veritas Collaborative brands, are at the forefront of the Council’s work to advocate for change, create safe spaces, amplify marginalized voices, and celebrate diversity and community. Their voices are a testament to the spirit of our EDI Council in action.

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What Are Therapeutic Meals?

At Veritas Collaborative, meals are more than just fuel for the body—they’re opportunities for healing. Therapeutic meals and snacks address fear and anxiety surrounding food and eating, both hallmarks of eating disorders. These supportive meals are a major aspect of our treatment programs, including inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), and intensive outpatient (IOP) care.

We foster a “Can Eat Culture” that embraces the philosophy that “all foods fit.” This approach rejects the restrictive “eat this, not that” mentality of diet culture, calling instead for variety and flexibility with eating. Therapeutic meals and snacks are key aspects of our “Can Eat Culture.” 

Read on to learn what therapeutic meals entail and how they can help pave the way to a more balanced and peaceful relationship with food.

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Happier Holidays: How to Be a Recovery Ally this Season

The “most wonderful time of the year” is often anything but for those battling an eating disorder or working toward recovery. It should come as no surprise that the holiday season is frequently a time for relapse or exacerbation of eating disorder symptoms. After all, the much-beloved traditions and events this time of year are teeming with potential triggers. Increased exposure to fear foods, activities centered around eating, and extended time with family can magnify an individual’s struggles.

For a peek behind the curtain of these illnesses, consider a holiday meal at a relative’s home. Being immersed in a group setting can elicit tremendous pressure for those in recovery, particularly around the holidays when the expectation is to engage in the “normal” food and social activities of the season. Those in any stage of recovery may avoid holiday gatherings altogether out of the fear that every eye will be on them, silently (or not so silently) assessing their appearance, weight, and the contents of their plate. 

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Episode 89: Finding Direction in Recovery with Taylor Humphrey

Episode description:

Taylor Humphrey joins us in this episode of Peace Meal to recount her eating disorder experience and unpack the lessons she learned in recovery. Taylor’s story begins over a decade ago, when her concerns about maintaining her high level of athleticism drove her to form an obsession with “perfect” eating. Connecting with effective, age-appropriate treatment proved a struggle for Taylor and her family. The program she attended in early adolescence lacked proper eating disorder education, which led Taylor to feel disconnected, unsupported, and reluctant in her recovery.

Taylor turned a corner between the ages of 16 and 18 upon connecting with new clinicians who expanded her perspective and made her feel seen and accepted. Today, confidently equipped with her toolbox of recovery skills, Taylor leverages the “gifts” of her struggles to provide direction to young people and their parents going through the treatment journey.

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Staff Spotlight, Amy Laster

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Amy Laster (she/her). I am a Psychotherapist, LCMHC, as well as a Clinical Manager for Veritas Collaborative’s Triangle Outpatient Treatment Center in Durham, North Carolina. I have worked for Veritas for over four years. 

What does a typical day look like for you at Veritas Collaborative?

It’s hard to describe a “typical” day (which is what I love so much about this work!), but my days involve a combination of clinical supervisions, direct patient care, various consultation meetings, milieu management, group facilitation, programming and scheduling management, connections with providers in the community, outreach efforts, and more. 

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How to Talk to Your Adult Child About Their Eating Disorder

Perhaps you’ve noticed some differences in your adult child’s behavior. These changes are mostly related to their eating and exercise habits, but extend to their general demeanor. 

Maybe they push their food around on their plate without eating much of it. 

Maybe they can’t seem to stop talking about their new diet and exercise regimen.  

Maybe they deliberately avoid family gatherings that involve food. 

Approaching your child about these behaviors may feel daunting. You might worry about upsetting them or creating distance in your relationship. While you understand that they are now in charge of their own health decisions, you are deeply concerned about their well-being. The situation is undeniably distressing. Though you cannot force your adult child into seeking help, your support, empathy, and guidance can empower them to take that crucial next step. 

Read on to learn some helpful tips on initiating a conversation about eating disorder treatment with your adult child. 

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Post-Treatment: Maintaining Progress and Preventing Relapse in Eating Disorders

Discharging from treatment is a significant milestone—a testament to your eating disorder patient’s hard work and progress in recovery. While this is often a cause for celebration, there is still more healing to do. Providers like you play a key part in guiding these patients toward long-lasting freedom and stability.

As your patient continues their journey toward recovery, they will undoubtedly face a variety of triggers, both new and old. In fact, transitions themselves are a risk factor for eating disorders, and the transition from treatment to “normal life” is no exception. Stepping back into everyday life can also bring forth a set of challenging situations, including inappropriate comments from others and diet culture pressures.

Read on for strategies and insights that will empower you to guide your patients in facing these challenges head-on.

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Episode 88: Seeking Help for a Child’s Eating Disorder with Aronson Kagiliery

Episode description:

Aronson Kagiliery joins Peace Meal to share her family’s journey of finding the right eating disorder treatment for her teenage daughter with anorexia. After exploring local options, she shares, her family ultimately traveled to pursue care at Veritas Collaborative. Most helpful to Aronson’s experience at Veritas were parent programming and weekend sessions, which affirmed that her daughter’s eating disorder was not her fault. She then offers insight on prioritizing treatment above a child’s other commitments, as well as providing support outside of treatment by refusing to let the eating disorder rule.

Reflecting on her daughter’s treatment and recovery, Aronson reflects on the importance of self-care and attending to her own needs—something she wishes she had done more. She describes what gradual healing looked like for her daughter, including the signs she knew her daughter was getting better. In a particularly touching moment, Aronson recalls her daughter sharing that she has days where she doesn’t think once about her eating disorder, a reality they never imagined was possible. To close, Aronson graciously shares words of wisdom for other parents supporting a child with one of these illnesses.

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How to Help Patients Navigate the Holiday Season in Recovery

With the abundance of food, shared mealtimes, and large social gatherings, the holiday season can be immensely difficult for anyone living with or recovering from an eating disorder. Even as we shift into a more “normal” routine after pandemic-related disruptions, we continue to witness the impact of the last few years on people with eating disorders.

According to Hilmar Wagner, MPH, RDN, LN, CD, there are four key aspects of successfully navigating the holiday season while in eating disorder recovery. His method for a successful holiday is called P.R.E.P., which you can use in your work with your patients to support them this holiday season and beyond.

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Staff Spotlight, Christina Toliver

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Christina Toliver (she/her), and I am a Phone Intake Therapist for Accanto Health, the parent company of Veritas Collaborative and The Emily Program. I am a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate in North Carolina. I have been with Accanto for seven years!

What does a typical day look like for you at Accanto Health?

A typical day for me consists of assessing the level of care and clinical appropriateness for patients at our sites. I work with patients of all ages, their communities of support, and referring providers to ensure a seamless and swift transition into our care.

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The Power of Group Therapy in PHP/IOP Treatment

Living with an eating disorder is often an isolating experience. The constant battle with intrusive thoughts, maladaptive behaviors, and overwhelming emotions can make people feel trapped within their own minds, detached from the world around them.

The path to healing lies in reaching out and nurturing meaningful connections with others. At Veritas, we use a multidisciplinary approach, combining the expertise of professionals from various fields to address the physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of the disorder. In addition to individual sessions with medical providers, dietitians, psychiatric providers, and therapists, group therapy is a pillar of our treatment. It is incorporated across our continuum of care levels, including our partial hospitalization (PHP) and intensive outpatient (IOP) programs.

Read on to learn the power of group therapy in Veritas Collaborative’s PHP and IOP programs.

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