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UCAN

 

I often, as many other parents of children suffering from an eating disorder, find myself envisioning what the future may hold for our daughter when she is older, well beyond the preparatory stages of ED recovery-maintenance, living a full, healthy and ED-free adult life will be like; especially when there may come a time when she decides upon a life-long partnership, marriage and/or family of her own.

Wouldn’t it be comforting and assuring to know that the care your son or daughter is receiving now will also be available for him/her and their partner-spouse when and if the time comes?

Thankfully some forward-thinking clinicians from the UNC Eating Disorders Program are working to provide just such a program, which is at this time addressing Anorexia Nervosa, and can continue to implement these necessary and supportive elements towards long-term health and maintenance for those who have loved ones suffering.

The UCAN Program

UCAN is a research program funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and is part of the UNC Eating Disorders Program. UCAN aims to help couples work together in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. Couples participate in UCAN over a period of six months and return for follow-up treatment three months after the end of the original six-month period. Your participation in UCAN can help you gain new confidence in facing anorexia as a team and can help us understand how best to involve partners in the treatment of eating disorders.
What Couples Can Expect
Treatment Team
Couples can expect that their treatment will be conducted by trained, licensed professionals from the UNC Eating Disorders Program who are experienced in the treatment of eating disorders.
Comprehensive Assessment
All participating couples have four assessments during which they complete questionnaires and interviews with a clinician, and are videotaped having a discussion with their partner about an anorexia nervosa-related topic.
Comprehensive Treatment
During their participation in UCAN, couples will be randomly assigned (like a coin flip) to receive 20 sessions of either:
• Couples Therapy
• Family Supportive Therapy
In addition, the patient also receives comprehensive treatment for anorexia nervosa from the UNC Eating Disorders Program at no additional cost, including:
• Individual Psychotherapy
• Psychiatry Consultations
• Nutritional Counseling

 

*For further information about registering for the program contact at: UCAN@unc.edu or phone: (919)966.3065

Tula Karras

 

When your child is diagnosed with an eating disorder your life changes- permanently.  There is no looking back (though you do, and weep and grieve for the child you once knew and still know lies underneath the ED just waiting to find his/her way back– and they do!) there is no denying the obvious even when this illness can completely blindside and throw you off your center until you fully understand and grapple with its complexity– and even then you can still be utterly perplexed. 

But you take action, keep your son/daughter safe, provide nutritional sustenance, comfort and support.  You find the appropriate medical care, treatment facilities and resources that will help him/her, as well as yourself,  find their way back to health, well being and continuing to work towards their full recovery– however that needs to happen- you just do it.  We’re parents, Moms&Dads, families, grandparents, cousins, all taking those measures and lending a hand because we love each other and want to see those suffering find their way back to their true selves, living their dreams, passions and finding happiness- not perfection- in what gift of our Lives we have been given.  Life is certainly not an easy journey, and growing up, becoming an adult, raising a family, fumbling through difficulties– these are all illuminating lessons to help bring us back to grace and compassion, wisdom and understanding.

Something within my own inner perspective and thinking is having a bit of a snag though.  Maybe because I know how damn hard it is to wrestle with an illness our daughter was diagnosed with over a year ago.  Knowing how hard she has worked to get to where she is now, how much more persistence and vigilance she will continue to have, especially now that she is fully discharged from the eating disorder program she has been intensely involved with for several months, and facing a culture and society that seems to be ironically having increased insecurities, issues and numbers of individuals (especially within older adult populations) with “disordered eating” patterns and behaviors, which to me on the outside look and behave just like our daughter did prior to her being diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. 

There is this surreal sensation that comes over me when I briefly skim over an article in SELF Magazine that highlights a partnered survey studythat was done in collaboration with Dr Cynthia Bulik and the University of North Carolina that states that “3 out of 4 American Women have disordered eating” and the magazine survey whose participants numbered over 4000, and probably still counting on both the survey, forum and follow up, continue to show an increase in disordered eating patterns and ranges of destructive habits that clearly as Dr Margo Paine boldly states exemplifies, “Dieting is a national pastime for women” and “as a society, we don’t see the problem“.

The survey also goes further into describing additional categories that 6 out of 10 (1 out of 10 have eating disorders) women who are categorized as “disordered eaters” describe themselves into specific subsets:

 

* Calorie Prisoners

* Secret Eaters

* Career Dieters

* Purgers

* Food Addicts

* Extreme Exercisers

 

Of course, none of these descriptors are new.  But while some studies and stats have been pointing towards an increase of younger individuals being diagnosed with eating disorders, which may indeed be on the rise, though it’s always difficult to know whether we are only getting better at earlier diagnosing and intervention; and if some of the outcry and attention to the issue is creating the continued awareness, discussion, research and treatment standards.  But this survey, as some previous others, is showing the age range to be in the adult category of a 25-45 year old female base, and from what I’ve read in some previous studies, this seems to be more consistent and increasing if you are to follow the conclusions.

Yes, I’m perplexed and even angry.  I don’t want to see anyone needlessly suffering with any disordered eating behavior(s) that can have even the subtlest of impact upon ones’ health- period.  But I also have another irritating irk in thinking about the continued impact these findings, if they are showing continued rises in eating-disordered behavior have upon our youth and young adults who are watching, reading, and taking in this information too.  What, if anything does this ultimately translate to and what can be done to counteract this deranged preoccupation with dieting, body-dissatisfaction, and just overkill of the human body? When will the craziness stop just long enough to take a step back, breathe, and find acceptance and compassion for who you are as you are being enough, being worthy– because we all are.

And our kids need us to model and reinforce these strong capabilities and common-sense practicalities.  When I see a book titled: My Beautiful Mommy I think this is a joke, right? But I find that it’s written by a plastic surgeon, and really set on promoting this “upkeep” ideal while cunningly proclaiming under a guise of “help”.  Are we so far gone into our self-absorbed psyches that we are so easily swayed and coerced into finding this worthy of publication to begin with? Apparently so, as the book is being sold and bought, joke or not– some are taking the bait and seem to be biting hard, though not into much that will keep one nutritionally and mentally stable.

Our daughter has to not only find safety, stability and assurance within her home environment, but the world outside as well.  And this rant of a thread I’ve lowered myself to in this post just proves what an apparently obnoxious mother on a mission I am (imperfections and all- silicon free and able to eat minus fear thankfully) to keep my daughter moving towards a healthy, happy and internally sustained recovery and passionately what that means to me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, can this insanity please begin to find it’s way back in the hole from where it came?  Like a fire out of control, can we begin to find some means of putting this insatiable flame to some simmering rational end? Will these studies and polls just continue to bloom, boggle and frustrate so many of us, while invoking the opposite within others to think less of themselves, and to possibly court a potential ED, especially for those who are either biologically, physiologically and/or genetically predisposed and vulnerable?

To continued Health, Strength & Insight for us all.

The news of UNC’s study has been bustling about, but it’s worth posting this fine gem of a quote from senior author and director of UNC’s Eating Disorders Program, Dr Cynthia Bulik: “even a nugget of accurate biological information can influence how health care professionals preceive the illness” -and similarly can change the perceptions of others as well.

Nuggets of Information- Boulders of Truth… “POW!”

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