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After recovering from anorexia, Saffran is reinventing the broken system to treat eating disorders
CEO of Equip Health Kristina Saffran sits down with Bambi Francisco Roizen for the VatorNews podcast.
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Here are some takeaways --
- The catalyst behind Equip was the number of advancements in out-patient treatments that were not making it out of academia and into the commercial world. People were just going into expensive residential care. Any improvements in the system were nothing more than plugging holes in a broken system.
- Anorexia nervosa typically starts at about age 12 and is characterized by fear of weight gain, misconceptions of a person's shape and restricting the body weight. Equip treats 6-24 yr olds who suffer from this disorder. There are five disorders under the umbrella term: eating disorder. Bulemia nervosa (which has an age onset of 18 yrs old) is similar to anorexia with the compensatory purging; Binge-eating disorder (also 18 yrs old onset); Arfid (starts at 5-6 yrs old) and manifests itself through picky eating gone awry.
- How can you tell if a child has anorexia or is just a picky, stubborn eater? It comes down to how much the brain is monopolized thinking about food. If your child is not going to birthday parties because they're afraid of the food being served is a good sign they have some disorder about food.
- Eating disorders have the strongest genetic and neurobiological underpinnings of any mental illness. It's one of the reasons Equip uses family-based treatments. We shouldn't treat disorders as an individual illness but something that involves the entire family and support system. A person may cognitively know that what they're doing is dangerous for them. But they struggle with changing behavior. That's where families can come in and help guide those behaviors so a person isn't struggling alone.
- Another problem with the way our current system addresses eating disorders is to send people away to the highest level of care and the highest intensity of treatment. But in this way, a person is removed from the home environment, where they actually have the best chance of getting better. At the end of the day, a person needs to return home.
- In the brains of people with eating disorders, the brains are not salient toward rewards, but rather consequences. So instead of saying "I'll buy you a car" as a reward for someone doing something good, the better approach is to have consequences. I'm going to give you this meal. You will not get to do what you want to do until you finish the meal. For people with eating disorders, restrictions are calming.
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