S1 Ep2: Megan Bray
When I attended a fundraising evening for a Sunshine Coast-based charity that is working to build the country’s first live-in rehabilitation facility for people living with eating disorders. The charity is called ended. While I was chatting to people around the room, more than one person suggested that I speak with a woman called Megan Bray and that she had an incredible story to tell.
Not one to miss an opportunity, I introduced myself to her and teed up this interview to uncover how she is using her own eating disorder lived experience and her qualifications as a dietician to provide a holistic treatment method to save others.
Watch the interview by clicking on the video above, or you can read the video transcript below:
Roxanne – Hello, everyone there. It’s Roxanne McCarty-O’Kane from The Phoenix Phenomenon. Thank you for joining us again today. With me, I have Megan Bray, who is a qualified dietician and co-director of FMB, which stands for Food, Mind, and Body.
Now Megan’s here with me today to share her journey through an eating disorder, how she’s worked through that, come out the other side, and now she uses her past experience and all of the wealth of knowledge she has gained to help other people to navigate their journeys and to come out the other side.
So thank you so much for joining us today, Megan. I appreciate your time.
Megan – No, thank you very much for having me. It’s exciting.
Roxanne – (laughs) Excellent. So Megan’s actually off to one of her conferences this afternoon, so we’re lucky to nab her before she jumps on a plane. So yeah, so Megan, tell me a bit more about your role at FMB and what it is that you do there. I’m very interested to hear more about your non-dieting techniques that you are a firm believer in.
Megan – Yeah, so I’m what you would call a non-diet and eating disorder dietician. So in the practice at FMB on the Sunny Coast, we specialize in working with people with an eating disorder, but also people who are just trying to heal their relationship to food.
And typically, when people think of a dietician, they think of someone who prescribes meal plans. They might talk of food as good and bad.
Ultimately, what a non-diet dietician does is take away all of those rules, and helps people kinda come back to their body, and listen to their hunger and their fullness, and understand that all foods can have their place in a healthy diet, and kinda cut through some of the crap that (laughs) there exists in the media.
And it’s kind of about bringing food back to basics, and simplifying it so people can live long, healthy lives that aren’t overrun by food fear.
Roxanne – Wonderful. And tell me about the journey that led you to, I guess, taking that tact with your work, ’cause I don’t imagine that would be the traditional mode of teaching when you study.
Megan – No, no it is not. So I never intended to be a dietician. And the reason for that is because I have a lived eating disorder experience. So during the time that I was getting well, it was very common and I think it still kinda is, to tell people who have that experience not to go into the field of dietetics or psychology, because it may be triggering for them.
So I was always told that when I was a teenager. I actually went in to study an economics degree, and I thought I was gonna be a lawyer and all kinds of different stuff. And after a few years of realizing that that was totally unsatisfying and I’d actually come through my own out of recovery journey, I just got to this point where I thought, you know what? Actually, I would really like to go and learn about how to just help people not be so stressed about food.
Roxanne – Sure.
Megan – And so I actually thought that dietetics teaches you. As it turned out when I got in there, it was kind of a little bit different, and it was a little bit more prescriptive.
And actually, I can understand now why people say it might be triggering if you’ve had an eating disorder. I remember thinking that I was gonna be the person that kind of developed the non-diet approach.
As it turns out, it’s been around for a couple of decades now. So I was really vocal in my studies about this is the road I wanna go down. Please help me connect. And I was introduced to kind of the people and the concepts, so non-dieting, something termed health at every size, and eating disorder work.
And ever since then, I have just been absolutely focused on that being my career through mentoring, and supervision, and obviously now the work that I do.
Roxanne – Yeah, absolutely. And you find, I guess you’ve been working with a number of clients now over the years, putting it into practice, do you feel that it’s a more natural way for people to look at food rather than having the dos eat, don’t eat, cut these out, switch that out? Is it a bit more of a natural flow for people to take on?
Megan – Absolutely. People come to a dietician historically and kind of assume that they’re the food police, and we tend to see is that people don’t want to come and see a dietician, and don’t want to be honest.
And the reason for that is because nobody can stick to a meal plan. I think about myself, and if someone told me, you have to eat this on this day of the week, I’d be like, what if work runs late? Or what if my friend flies in from another city and I wanna go out for dinner with them?
This rigid way of thinking around food doesn’t necessarily allow for life. And when you practice from the non-diet approach, it’s this really kind of non-judgmental, really honest way of kind of looking at food.
And I find that clients are just like, ah, what a breath of fresh air.
Roxanne – Yeah. (laughs)
Megan – Like I have cake, and wine, and also I can learn how to nourish my body in a better way as well. ‘Cause I think we think that having fun with food or enjoying food is mutually exclusive to health, and that’s actually the total opposite of what it is.
So I definitely find that while it takes people a while to get to it, ’cause I think we’re raised in this culture of no, no, you have to have good foods and bad foods, but you don’t watch yourself, then you’ll blow out, or whatever.
So it does actually take people a while to kind of come around to thinking, hey, maybe I can trust my body in this. And that, it’s something that really, really gels.
Roxanne – Perfect. And like you said, it is that thinking of food. My son’s at kindy right now and they’ve just had a whole unit on food. And it’s good food, sometimes foods and don’t touch at all foods.
Megan – Yeah.
Roxanne – And so they’re kind of, they’re getting that in their mind at such a young age. And I guess if you were to take the reins of the food education system, what would be your ideal way of teaching people of all ages about food?
Megan – Yeah, so I think it is really age-dependent. So for example, kids of probably your kid’s age actually don’t have the cognitive capacity to understand what a sometimes food is. So often they then just put that in bad food, ’cause that’s kind of where their brains are at in terms of this is good, this is bad.
And we don’t understand the complexities of that at that age. So for younger kids, I’m always encouraging them to play and to explore, to be able to taste lots of different flavors,to we oughta get in the kitchen and use their hands.
And then that kind of sets them up as they reach their early teens to start to learn some of the basics around kind of food and health.
And it would be, for me, it would be teaching people that all food has its place in a healthy diet. And when we come back to our bodies and listen to our hunger and our fullness, and we kind of understand the role of all of the food groups, and eat all of those every day, we do notice that things balance out over time.
And I be my approach, is just kind of really, really simplifying it and letting people’s bodies lead the way. I also think skill-building is really important. Like if you’re gonna cook a nourishing meal for someone, you actually need to know how to purchase food, and chop up that fresh food, and get in a kitchen.
And I think that is certainly something that we see lacking sometimes, is skills to make tasty, nourishing food.
Roxanne – Absolutely. And I guess as you’re coming, getting to the older children, higher primary school, early adolescence, when we have that mindset of good food, bad food, that can sometimes lead to dieting in pre-teens, I’ve heard. And also that could then be a trigger for those who are predisposed to eating disorders, which is really, really dangerous territory, isn’t it?
Megan – Yeah, so they say that sort of 35% to 50% of adolescent girls experience body image concerns. And I believe up to 85% have dieted by the time they’re 17.
Roxanne – Wow.
Megan – And self is the biggest risk factor for an eating disorder. So instilling these good versus bad foods really does set people up to diet. And then dieting, yeah, can set people up for an eating disorder.
And the other interesting outcome of dieting is actually weight gain over time. So because dieting disconnects us from our body and labels food as bad and untouchable, but then because we’re only human, we’re gonna consume it eventually, what tends to, people then cycle through diets, gaining, and gaining, and gaining weight over time.
So I always think dieting leads to kind of two outcomes I think you never really intended it to have.
Roxanne – Yeah, absolutely. And I guess looking at your personal journey, can you tell us a little bit about sort of what unfolded for you and how young you were when the eating disorder settled in?
I just wanted to clarify with people that I have done a fair bit of research into eating disorders recently. And what surprised me is that it is a mental illness.
So I know that that’s one of the biggest misconceptions out there, is that while it manifests itself in eating behaviors, it is actually a severe mental illness. So yeah, just wanted to clarify that for our listeners.
Megan – Yes. And it is a really important point to get out there. So eating disorders are 40% to 60% genetic.
I do that with my clients all the time. We draw their family tree and it’s like there’ll be anxiety, there’ll be depression, there’ll be addiction, there’ll be eating disorders. And I think that’s really important for people living with it to know that it’s not, and the wider population, it is not something we choose.
It is part of our DNA. So for me, I guess I was always kind of an anxious kid. Very happy, very outgoing, but kind of in the back of my mind I always felt like I maybe wasn’t good enough, or should be doing something a little bit differently.
And I was always a super perfectionistic, people-pleasing kid as well. I just wanted to do right. And I wanted everyone to be proud of me. And I think that kind of set me up as I got older to just soak in everything society was saying to me.
Roxanne – Right.
Megan – And I never totally felt comfortable in my body either. I was one of those kids that, I’ve honestly been the height I am now, which is 5’10”, since I think I was in primary school. I was just one of those kids that shot up and then I always felt huge.
And I think I really internalized that. And then kind of like nail in the coffin, my parents separated when I was about 11, 12. And so to be anxious, perfectionistic, not feeling good enough, not necessarily knowing my place in the world, feeling out of control or not comfortable in my body, and then kind of the two and I’m an only child, so the two people that I looked up to just parting and not agreeing on anything, I just remember feeling like nothing was stable.
And I actually have no idea how an eating disorder kind of presented itself as my coping mechanism. It’s honestly just something I fell into. I kind of remember thinking I don’t like myself, maybe I should change myself and I started kind of restricting my food.
And then that kind of led into binging and then ultimately purging. And the frustrating part about this process, too, is that I was losing weight and I was actually getting a lot of positive feedback. ‘Cause I was a bigger kid, but I was a strong, athletic netballer. I was always a sporty kid.
But as I started losing weight, no one kind of said, hey, this is weird. You’ve always been a strong, athletic kid and now you’re kind of just wasting away. What’s the go?
It was kind of, it was all complimentary, complimentative. And that kind of really gave fuel to it. And it was also something I felt like I could control, seeing a number change or seeing my food change. But ultimately, I just hit a point kinda after a year where I realized that I was very physically unwell.
And by that stage, it was obvious. The people around me, they did reach a point that it was, people knew something was wrong. I must admit, though, it took a very long time for that to happen. And I guess that’s something I put out there into the open.
So if you think that someone is struggling, say it early. If you’re wrong, but you might actually do a really good job at intervening before things have gotten too out of hand. I was really, I guess, lucky that my mum’s a nurse, and she’s fairly proactive and pretty nonjudgmental with this stuff.
So I certainly heard kind of families that really struggle with this diagnosis. And I know my dad did, since it’s very unfamiliar to him. But my mum was kinda like, all right, we have this illness, we have this diagnosis, let’s get it to the relevant kind of treating professionals.
Roxanne – Right.
Megan – Yeah. Unfortunately, it was still kind of where people didn’t really pick up on kind of some of the cues. And definitely saw GPs that kind of said, “Oh, just if you just gain weight, it’ll be fine. If you just eat more.” And it’s like, I know, but it’s kind of not the whole picture.
Roxanne – Yeah, that’s it. So was it your mum who stepped in to I guess set you on the road to recovery? Or did you yourself go, right, I need to talk to someone about this?
Megan – It was kind of my mom and my friends, and also my netball coach. So again, being someone who always played netball at a pretty high level, my sporting performance was just starting to fail. And it just became obvious, so pretty much everyone said, look, something’s going on here.
And I’d also told friends who then kind of communicated with my mum about it. So the weird thing about eating disorder is sometimes they make you forget what you’re experiencing at your worst. So I must admit, some of that was a bit hazy for me, but I know now that it was my mum and my friends that really kinda stepped in.
Roxanne – Okay. And how did you react when they did decide to get proactive, and to help you, I guess, to start that recovery process? Were you kind of resisting? Or did you in your own mind think, no, I can do this, let’s go? ‘Cause you would’ve been, what, 12, 13, 14 at that stage?
Megan – Yeah, so I was about 14, 15 by the time it got really noticed. I was both. I was like oh, my God, thank God, someone’s gonna help me. ‘Cause I knew I was struggling, and I knew it was wrong and I knew that even though it had presented itself as a coping strategy, all I was doing was feeling worse over time.
But then I was like, I don’t want people to touch this, because if they’re gonna take away my coping strategy without giving me something else, that’s not okay either. So I could understand that I needed the help and I did genuinely wanna get better. But I also, too, was like, as long as I don’t have to gain weight.
As long as I, (laughs) as long as I don’t have to eat these foods. So I was still kinda bargaining with the whole process of recovery.
Roxanne – Yeah, yeah, absolutely. ‘Cause I’ve spoken to other young ladies who have lived with eating disorders and they kinda describe it as you almost have a split personality. So there’s your normal healthy self, and there’s your, they call it your ED, or your ED self.
Megan – Yeah.
Roxanne – And they’re often conflicting. And sometimes ED is just so overpowering that your healthy self is kind of just surrendering almost. So yeah, did it get as severe as that for you, do you think?
Megan – Oh, absolutely. Until I learnt about kind of that, they term it the separation or the more externalization, so the eating disorder versus your true self. The best way I described having an eating disorder was feeling like I was possessed.
I was, things that are totally inconsistent with who I am as a human being. I would lie. I would take food or money from my family in order to kind of binge, and that’s so not me as a person. I was withdrawing from friends. I was just doing so many things that are not me as a human being. And I felt like I had no other choice.
And I think that is what part of recovery is about is being how to identify those two selves, and be doing things that service your healthy self rather than the eating disorder.
Roxanne – Absolutely. And that’s a massive thing for someone in their mid-teens to be taking on. Well, can you tell me about your recovery journey,and what that was like for you?
Megan – Yeah. So I always say I only had an eating disorder for a year, but then I spent the next seven years relapsing. (laughs) It was pretty quickly that I realized I don’t wanna live with this anymore. But it’s really hard to get out of. So I was taken to the GP, but the GP was just wasn’t kinda trained in the area, so that was a little bit of a dead end.
I think one thing that’s really important is getting the person living with the eating disorder understanding just how serious an illness it is, it really is.
Roxanne – Yeah.
Megan – Kind of when you then go to a GP and says, oh, just eat a bit more. Or like, you still must be going through a rough patch. It’s just doesn’t drive home how severe this stuff can be. ‘Cause the average duration of illness is seven years.
Roxanne – Yes.
Megan – But, if you can get in hard and fast when someone’s only had it between one and three years, their likelihood of making full recovery is a lot, lot longer. So after the GP, I was linked in with a psychiatrist. And he was amazing, really. He’s not actually someone who specialized in eating disorders or adolescence, (laughs) but for whatever reason, I just got along with him really well.
And the thing he kinda said to us was, “This is a massive deal.” And my parents were still separated. And he kinda said, “Look, whatever stuff you guys have going on at the moment, we’re gonna need to try and put this stuff aside to band together around your daughter to get through this.”
And he was really, really good at kind of highlighting the things that my true self values. So for me, it’s friendship. Connection for me is really, really, really important. And he kinda was able to highlight what path the eating disorder was taking me down.
So, “You’ve actually lost friends. This path, you’re gonna have to drop out of school soon. “Netball’s already gone, you’ve already lost that. “What is the eating disorder actually giving you?” And he kinda said, “Yeah, you’re gonna have to eat more, and that’s gonna be uncomfortable and your body’s probably gonna change, but reality is you were once a happy person. Anxious, yeah, and we can work on that. But you’ve gotta focus on these things.”
And once he kind of spelt that out for me, I was really able to start working towards recovery. And essentially what happened for me was I flipped from what was anorexia with binging and purging to a point where I was a lot more restored and not really restricting as much.
I still definitely struggled with binging and purging. And I think ultimately what happened was I never actually saw a dietician, so understanding nutrition’s a pretty crucial part of getting through this, because there’s biological price if you’re not eating enough you will have to succumb to.
So when people are undereating, they then are likely to binge. That’s just biology. And then because that was totally not okay for me, that would then lend to purging. So I think not having some of that nutrition knowledge at the start was something that probably just kept me in a more recovered place, but still definitely living with, I guess, what would look like bulimia.
Roxanne – Right, right. Wow. That’s, that’s an incredible journey. And quite a lot of the ladies that I have spoken to have, yeah, been seven to 10 years before they’re able to break free, through, sorry. So it was a seven-year recovery for you? Was that correct?
Megan – Yeah. So like seven or eight kinda years. It’s always hard, because you kinda never know when it ends. But I think for me, once I got that traction around these are my values, I was just constantly trying to pursue connection and values.
But then along the way, I learned I actually have to eat more to then not kind of binge and purge. And it was literally just by trial and error that whole time. And then I did see a psychologist around things like perfectionism, and self-worth, and anxiety management as well.
I think one of the things an eating disorder tells you is that you’re undeserving, you’re unlovable, and unworthy. And in working with that psychologist, I was kind of able to start living my life as if I was innately worthy.
It took a really long time, I’ve done some of that stuff. But I started doing things, or implementing boundaries, or as if I was valuable and worthy. And it was odd that kind of just faking it (laughs) somehow meant that I actually got there eventually.
Roxanne – Right, excellent. And so did you say that there was no dietician in your recovery journey at all? Or did you?
Megan – No, I had one session with a dietician, and she ultimately just said like, “This is what you should be eating.” And I kinda was like, “Yeah, I know.” (chuckles) I’m like–
Roxanne – Right.
Megan – That’s probably what a human being should eat. There wasn’t really anyone there to kind of say, this is what you’re scared of, and this is why, and here’s how we’re gonna navigate this together. I just, I don’t know what happened.
And I guess it’s because there’s not that many eating disorder dieticians. And often, dieticians haven’t necessarily done some of the psychological training that goes alongside eating disorder. And I think that, part is having both elements to it.
Roxanne – Yeah, absolutely. And I guess ultimately, is that what was your driver, your catalyst? Once you were recovered, you mentioned you tried a few other study options and they didn’t quite work for you. Was it going back to that lived experience that you made you go, right, I can do this, and this is gonna change so many people’s lives, because I know practically having gone through it myself that what is out there is not necessarily working for everyone?
Megan – Yeah, so I was definitely sure that I would be able to help people just kind of simplify nutrition. But I never were sure that I would go back into eating disorders. I think just because I was a little bit scarred from the fact that everyone said, do not go back into eating disorders.
Always really, really interested in it. And yeah, I have this lived experience and it just kinda made sense to me. And so I was always really fascinated with kind of mental health more generally. And that was where across the duration of my degree, I was always saying, okay, I wanna do the mental health aspect, I wanna do the mental health placement.
And then I kind of thought, you know what, I should really just dip my toe in the eating disorder space while I’m studying and just see what I think about it. And then in my final semester of my master’s, I got a placement at the Eating Disorders unit in Brisbane. And my supervisor there is Shane Jeffrey and he’s just an absolutely legend in the space, and also a legend to begin with.
And I just was listening to his job and the way he spoke about his clients and I was just like, this sounds awesome. And then my research project was to interview some of the patients around their experiences of inpatient admission and particularly, how they felt being weighed on the ward.
And I just still remember this one girl, I walked into her room to interview her and she was just sitting on the floor just crying and she was just an absolute mess. And rather than draw on my dietetic training, I just sort of draw on my human self and I just kinda like sat down on the floor next to her, on the dirty hospital floor.
And we just sat there and we drew a little bit. I didn’t even speak. I even start my interview.And then we just started chatting about herself generally. And I found it easy to relate. And I just remember thinking, this is the kinda work I wanna do. I wanna work with people like this who other people think, how do you connect with these people? How do you? It is definitely an area that when you say you work in eating disorders, people go, oh, jeez, I couldn’t do that. And I thought, if I have the capacity to do this, and I kinda really love it, why wouldn’t I utilize that?
Roxanne – Yeah, absolutely. And I guess looking back at all of the warnings that it might be a trigger for you, did you ever feel that at any moment? Or did you just feel like I found my thing, this is it?
Megan – Never. I never trigger anything this space since my recovery every day. Because I feel that I’m held accountable by my clients. It is not okay if I sit here not practicing what I preach. And not that I’m consciously aware of that, but I know that in the back of my mind, there’s always like, I wanna be a good role model for the people that I see every day. And I also think while I have empathy for my clients, I in no way wanna be back in that place, ’cause I know how much it hurts. And then it’s just a reminder of, man, I wanna help this person get out of that place. I do not wanna go and sit with them in the darkness right now and stay there.
Roxanne – Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And how long have you, I guess, been a qualified dietician for now? How many years do you have under your belt?
Megan – No, it’s only I think about 3 1/2. – Okay, yup, yup, excellent. So I guess in that time, have you had many, I guess, regular clients? And how have you seen them improve in that space of time? Going back to your experience, knowing that it took you seven years or a little bit longer, do you feel like this approach is, I guess, getting them forwards in leaps and bounds? – Yeah, so this is another thing I love about this space, is you get to see your clients for years. It’s just such a privilege to sit with the same people week after week after week. And I guess I’ve been really lucky in that some of my clients, I am their first point of intervention. So it’s an adolescent whose mom’s kinda worried, and they’ve been displaying behaviors for maybe just two months, and the first thing they did was look up a specialized professional, and they kinda land in your clinic. And to me, that is just an absolute miracle. ‘Cause you have people that are in and out within kind of six to 12 months. And like, I got an email just last week from a mom that said, hey, I just wanted to check in. It’s been nearly two years, and everything is all good. And I’m so grateful that we kind of connected with you. And that really beautiful stories. Of course, that’s other people I work with who are a lot more chronic and enduring in their illness. And I had seen them for two to three years, and we are still doing lots of hard work, and they’re not yet recovered. I hold hope for all of them. And they make progress. We talk about this in the clinic all the time. I know the stats are bleak with eating disorder recovery, but that’s kinda not what we see in our practice. We see people making really, really progress. And take time, because there’s sometimes, some people are really, really complex. There might be trauma. There might be very severe depression. There might be some other comorbid illnesses which complicate things. And yeah, that troubles our treatment. But it’s really hopeful. Lots and lots of people get well.
Roxanne – Yeah, that’s amazing. And I guess, the other thing I wanted to point out, too, and also to talk with you about, is that obviously the majority of people living with eating disorders are women, and quite often young women. But there are cases where they have been onsets, late onsets in their 40s, and maybe even later. And also, men can succumb as well. So I was curious to see, I guess, your demographic, what your patients are like, I guess. Are they mostly the young ladies? Or are you seeing a bit of a cross-section there?
Megan – Yeah, definitely a bit of a cross-section. They for sure are predominantly female, kind of age 17 to 30. That is definitely the majority. But I do have a lot of women in their 40s and 50s, and a few men as well. So it certainly doesn’t discriminate, that’s for sure.
Roxanne – Yeah, and I guess, yeah, there are quite a lot of, I guess, misconceptions and misinformation out there, and I just wanted to see if there were any that you wanted to set straight for those who are listening or watching at the moment?
Megan – Yeah.
Roxanne – So make main points that have been a bit of a bugbear for you, perhaps.
Megan – My biggest bugbear is that people living with eating disorders are underweight. 70% of people living with an eating disorder will look like they are average or large-sized. And this is such a barrier to people receiving treatment, because they think, oh, I can’t possibly have an eating disorder, because I don’t fit the mold of the stereotype we see. And then also even when they get in treatment, they’re like, oh, I don’t know if I deserve to be here, because I’m not thin enough. And it’s like, your eating disorder is valid irrespective of your weight, shape, and your size. And it is no less severe based on your BMI. So that’s probably the one that’s absolutely paramount to me for people to understand, both people living with it and service providers as well. Historically, that criteria which we measure the illness by, and I think it really does a disservice to
Roxanne – Absolutely, absolutely. And I guess looking forward now, was there, I guess, where do you see yourself heading with your career? Are you having any future goals that excuse me, you’re hoping to kick?
Megan – Too many. And this is the thing, I’m excited to be in this industry for the next five decades plus, because there’s so much work to be done. For me, I really, and I started doing some presentations in schools to kind of like your middle school senior kids, girls at the moment, but we’re looking to branch into co-ed. I think that’s really important, because if you can kind of help people develop healthy relationships with food when they’re young, it’s my hope that we don’t have to go through this with many people. And not just eating disorders, just the merry-go-round of dieting that people experience. It would be really awesome to think that people have these kind of healthy frameworks around nutrition, and they can spend their lives focusing on curing cancer, or being a really great friend or partner, rather than the latest diet, or whether sugar is bad for you. I would also like to do some research in this space, particularly with the role of the dietician. It’s not something that is necessarily used in every area of eating disorders, and I think that’s a real shame, because ultimately the scariest thing is malnutrition that’s associated eating disorders. That can kill people. And I think sometimes not having a dietician in the space really misses the severity of that. And also, some behaviors are maintained purely because of that physiological drive. And I am a really big advocate for a multidisciplinary team where you have specialists, psychologists, psychiatrists, dieticians, coaches, GPs, and you’ve got this holistic framework that we can use. So they’re probably my two biggest focuses. But I imagine they will take up some time.
Roxanne -Yeah, absolutely. And I guess looking at the holistic framework, where are we kind of sitting, I guess, with that at the moment? Do you feel like the industry is, or the industries are starting to pull together a little bit more? Or is that still something that needs a lot of work?
Megan – I think it’s definitely on everyone’s radar, the importance of communication and banding together. ‘Cause one of the things we say in eating disorders is that not only does everyone need to be on the same page, they need to be on the same page, the same sentence, on the same word if things are gonna work. Because eating disorders are excellent at kind of confusing the whole team, and kind of essentially what we term splitting. Good communication is important, and I think sometimes what gets in the way of that is actually just a practicality. You’re busy seeing clients day-to-day, and picking up the phone and getting on to a psychologist or a GP can be really, really challenging. So for example, we’re now kind of taking up a space where there is a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and exercise physiologist, and myself specializing in eating disorders. And I think we’re seeing more of that pop up, which is really, really awesome. People are moving more to the holistic side of things, but again, we could work on it. And I think the other important thing is the communication between inpatient and outpatient. So it’s that continuity of treatment is essential to going from inpatient to your community team really should be kind of an easy, slow process. And I think what happens at the moment is that we see, Hi. For inpatient and outpatient teams to be communicating, because if you’re transferring from hospital to community, at the moment sometimes it’s not excellent handover, or there’s a bit of a gap between discharging that first appointment. And hospital, you can get awesome traction around kind of some of the eating and dealing with the nutrition side of things. And such a risk when you go home for that to drop away. So even that communication between those two sectors is super important.
Roxanne – Absolutely. And I guess it’s another wonderful thing to see that the federal government is starting to inject a little bit of funding into trialing programs across the state and also into the first endED Butterfly House here on the Sunshine Coast. Which I understand is going to revolutionize it, because patients, people living with eating disorders can go in there, and they have that round the clock, 24/7 access to this holistic team of professionals to help them. And I imagine that will just change the face of treatment here in the country.
Megan – Yeah, and that is a real gap at the moment. Ultimately, if someone goes into hospital at the moment, they can either have a medical admittance, so that’s just where you got people looking after their kind of medical concerns. And they might also have a mental health admission, a psychiatric admission. But often, it’s not necessarily in that holistic environment where they are able to engage in activities that will kind of bring joy and provide meaningful connection. And I think that kind of in between step is really, really needed. Recovery really does happen kind of in the community environment. As much as you learn in hospital, it’s kind of a stopgap before doing the hard work at home.
Roxanne – Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I didn’t wanna keep you for too much longer, but I just wanted to ask you, I guess, what your top tips would be for those who might have some concerns about someone that they love, they feel that they may be struggling with an eating disorder, but they haven’t, I guess, sort of connected with them personally yet? What would be your advice for the first steps to take?
Megan – My first step would be get in touch with a specialized service. So for example, in Queensland, we have EDA, the Eating Disorders Association, who they are kind of the carer support group, one government organization in Queensland, or endED, for example, and they would have a list of health professionals. You can also look online for just eating disorder specialist. I would just be recommending get in touch with specialized team. ‘Cause the reality is you can’t do everything for your loved one. You can’t find a specialist GP, and know what the evidence-based treatment for an adolescent is. That’s the role of the team. And so if you can get in with the right people, they’ll know where to direct you. I would say, act quick. I know that it is hard, and I know it is uncomfortable, and I know that we wish that we didn’t have to go through eating disorders. But if you are worried, act fast. And I often have to ask parents to do super uncomfortable things. They’re making their, feel anxious six times a day by encouraging them to eat. And it can be really tough to see your child in that amount of distress. But knowing is it’s really, really worthwhile in the end. And if you’re dealing with an adult, similar sort of thing, approaching them, and kind of encouraging them to get specialized treatment.
Roxanne – Absolutely. Thank you very much for that. And we will put some links below for everyone who wants to just do a quick click-through. We’ll list the websites and the contact numbers for those organizations you’ve just suggested to make it nice and easy for everyone. So yes, I just wanted to see if there were any other, I guess, gems, or pearls of wisdom that you wanted to leave with our listeners and our watchers today.
Megan – Just the one that recovery is 100% possible. There is hope for every single person to make a full recovery, and to live completely free of their eating disorder.
Roxanne – Excellent. Well, thank you so, so much for sharing your story with us today, Megan. It’s been really awesome having you on.
Megan – Thank you. I loved it. Thank you very much