Michelle, who requested her last name be withheld, was struggling emotionally when her issues with food began. Just 10 years old, her twin sister was battling cancer. Michelle felt like she couldn’t control anything, except her caloric intake.
When she was 14, the Hartford-area girl lost an alarming amount of weight, dropping to 96 pounds. “I was in the car with my mom and I said, ‘Oh I feel so fat right now,'” she remembers. “That was the turning point.” Diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, she turned to Walden Behavioral Care (waldenbehavioralcare.com), which recently opened a clinic in Guilford, to serve a new population of people with eating disorders — including adolescents who need help along with their parents.
“It’s really been an exciting opportunity for the shoreline. No eating disorder services previously existed there,” says Rebekah Bardwell Doweyko, Walden’s assistant vice president of clinical operations for the Connecticut region. “We take the control over food away from the adolescent and give the control back to the family where it belongs.”
This family-based treatment is practiced in the new clinic’s Nourishment Room. Parents prepare and plate food in a kitchen with support from staff who help them manage emotions and stress. “It’s very difficult to live with a child with an eating disorder,” says Doweyko.