Last Thursday I flew out to Tulsa, Oklahoma to attend a professional site visit at Laureate to tour their eating disorder treatment facility. This is not a sponsored post. I just think there is A LOT of stigma around eating disorder treatment centers (Thanks so much Netflix!) so I thought I would let you in on what a treatment center is like. I also wrote a post a while back when I visited Veritas in Raleigh, North Carolina if you want another view of a treatment center.
I arrived to the hotel, unpacked, and watched Chopped until it was time for dinner. We all met downstairs while we waited for Laureate staff to arrive to take us to dinner. I immediately hit it off with a girl who is a mental health counselor at an Intensive Outpatient (IOP) Clinic in New York. Hi Becky! I am always wanting to go to different conferences and things so it is cool to have someone to meet up with at future events. There has been this body image workshop by Marci Evans and Fiona Sutherland that I have been dying to go to. I also want to go to International Association of Eating Disorder Professional’s (IADEP) symposium one day.
We ate dinner at McGill’s where I had filet, garlic mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and failed to take a picture. After dinner we went back to the hotel room and Matt came by and we watched some TV until I went to sleep.
The next morning I had breakfast at the hotel. Laureate staff had told us they would be having breakfast from Panera such as bagels, yogurt, and fruit, but I was really hungry when I woke up that morning so I decided to go ahead and eat at the hotel. I had oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I also had two boiled eggs. Matt came and ate breakfast with me before I left for the morning. He has some scrambled eggs and cheesy potatoes with peppers and onions, and an orange.
I later had a yogurt parfait, orange juice, and of course some coffee! We had a couple presentations before we headed out for a tour of the facility. The first presentation was from their medical director of the program and it was on Modern Understanding of Eating Disorders. He is doing a ton of research about neural circuits and eating disorders. He is even doing a flotation study to body image. Super interesting stuff. We learned how Laureate got started. Laureate is actually owned by the owners of Saint Frances, one of the best hospitals in Tulsa. The owner’s daughter had schitzophrenia and there were no mental treatment centers for her to be treated at. They built Laureate since there was no mental health treatment in Oklahoma at the time.
There is SO much research about obesity. However, there is little research on eating disorders. However, but when we take a health at every size approach, we know that the BMI does not amount to much when we are focused on individual health. It was meant to be used for classifying populations, not individuals. One of the things that I like about Laureate is that they use a health at every size/intuitive eating approach and this carries on into their nutrition department as well.
The main thing that I took away from this lecture is the importance of a TEAM approach in the treatment of eating disorders. My boss and the clinical director of DECC always says “it takes a team,” and that it truly does! Without the patient being at 90% of their ideal body weight, medications won’t work properly and therapy will not work as well either. Therapy may be going well, but without proper nutrition, the patient could still lose X number of pounds because cognitively they are not all there. He talked a lot about the neuropathways and reward systems in the different eating disorders which I found fascinating, but I won’t bore you all with that LOL.
I really enjoyed the dietitian’s lecture. Unlike Veritas, they do not have a levels system in which patients move up as they progress and have more privileges. However, they do have different tables for beginners, intermediate and advance and these range from less structured to more structured. As far as the menu goes, they progress from non-select to menu select to self-select/serve. In the non-select the RD picks what the patient is eating. In the menu select, they are literally choosing off a menu. I wish I could have taken a picture of it because it was so neat. It had a list of exchanges for proteins they could choose as well for starch and fat. The menu is a thirty day cycle of lunches and dinners. The self-select is literally what it sounds like. They are plating their food themselves. However, there is the head chef and a RD there observing to make sure that they are getting what they are supposed to. They do utilize the exchange list for their meal plans like the majority of treatment centers do. They DO NOT use measuring cups, label reading, or calorie counting.
Another thing that I already knew, but that she really stressed and I think is important to share is that a lot of the times eating disorders go unnoticed. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. You never know who might be struggling. Health is optimized through behavior change and they also utilize blind weights like Veritas and DECC. She talked a lot about the importance of MNT (Medical Nutrition Therapy) and labs. I won’t bore you all but one thing I did not know and found super interesting is that lipid panel can be elevated when the refeeding process begins. This is because the liver is not processing well. Which then leads to a lot of PCP’s taking certain foods high in cholesterol out of patient’s diets that does not need to be taken out. This person has an eating disorder! However, through continual eating/proper nutrition labs will level out.
They utilize a non-diet approach which is optimal for eating disorder recovery, as well as overall health since there has been SO MUCH research to show that how dieting can be horrible for our health and does not work.
We got to tour the facility as well as their dining hall and meet their head chef. He talked about how before working at Laureate he had never worked in healthcare. He used to be a chef at a country club and serve 27 ounce steaks LOL. He had heard about how hospital food is not the best and had told Laureate that he would take the job as long as he got to cook the way he wanted to. They agreed, but he said that he had to learn A LOT about eating disorders and nutrition including proper portion sizes of proteins!
As he was talking about his job, he teared up. You could truly tell how much he cares about the patients and how much he loves his job. Made me cry too! He talked about how he will mix things up to challenge the patients, but also make the holidays/seasons fun by decorating and having themed meals. He also showed us how they create an example meal of how each patient should have their meal. Like veritas, they have a paper that says the menu item and what exchanges it meets. Depending on their meal plan, a patient may need to add another item to their meal.
They also had these examples that the patients can look at to help them make sure they are getting what they need. I thought these were neat. We had Panera for lunch and then went to tour the Magnolia House.
The Magnolia House is a transition living “halfway house” for eating disorders. This is for patients transitioning to outpatient care and in earlier stages of recovery. Thirty days of care are scholarshipped. This is just for 18+ older. They have to either work/volunteer/go to school for 20 hours each week. Laureate provides breakfast, snack, and dinner each day. They are responsible for lunch groceries and making their outpatient appointments. There are weekly staff meal outings as well as staff led cooking group and peer led cooking groups. One staff supervises meals and process groups. 50-60% patients utilize this and they have even had patients move to Tulsa to access the Magnolia House. Personally, the Magnolia House was one of my favorite parts of the Laureate treatment site visit as I think it is just amazing and would be so beneficial for someone leaving treatment. Because as we know, treatment is SO much different than being on your own back in a diet-focused society. It was also super pretty!
After finishing the tour, we said our goodbyes. Matt and I went to eat dinner. We were going to go to the new Torchy’s tacos in Tulsa but the line was out the door and we were both too hungry for that nonsense. Instead, we went to Café Ole in Brookside. Matt and I went here before for brunch when I lived in Tulsa, and also my dad, myself, and Matt ate here the day I moved back to WV. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. Such a weird feeling. Not knowing what was to come with this relationship with this guy I had been dating a month that I was so crazy about, and moving 15 hours away from. BUT THE LORD has been so faithful and we are SO thankful for that.
We both got enchiladas. Matt got chicken and I got cheese. So good! They made for great leftovers for Matt the next day because we didn’t finish them. After we ate, we went to Trader Joes and visited with his parents.
Trader Joes finds:
So far I’ve used the bagel seasoning on avocado toast. What else do you all put it on?! I am obsessed with it. It is so tasty! They had those cookies as a sample and I had to buy some. They are so delicious.
The next day we ate breakfast and I packed all my stuff to head back to WV. Matt’s sis-inlaw Melissa has been wanting to take our pictures. She is trying to get experience and wanting to eventually open up her own photography business. We were all for it. We met her at a park in Tulsa and got started. Taking pictures was SO fun. Matt and I are so goofy so we had a blast with Melissa.
Towards the end of our photo session, Melissa had said she wanted to take pictures of just me and I was like sure! Matt was sitting behind me on a rock somewhere out of view. At one point, Melissa had told me to face Matt and I turned around and he was down on one knee. I was so shocked and so giggly. Today it has been a week since it has happened and we are just so so so excited! Thank you to everyone on social media & in real life for showing us so much love!!! We truly cannot wait to be living in the same state together. 🙂
What else would we celebrate with?!
The Taco Eating Dietitian