17 Nov 2022

New eating disorder centre already 'overwhelmed' with interest

From Nine To Noon, 9:32 am on 17 November 2022

A new residential centre for people with eating disorders – set to open next April – already has a lengthy waiting list.

Recovered Living NZ founder Kristie Amadio had a severe eating disorder herself but says she was unable to get the care she needed in New Zealand.

She tells Kathryn Ryan the not-for-profit centre, located just north of Christchurch, has already been overwhelmed with enquiries.

 Kristie Amadio / The Recovered Living NZ centre  Photo: supplied

Amadio was able to purchase the Recovered Living NZ facility, which was originally an 8-bedroom home, with the help of other benefactors.

“When I first saw it I just thought it's not a hospital, it's a home. And to me that's really important that people are able to come here and really mimic their home environment so that when they go back to their regular lives, they've had an experience of what it's like to be in recovery, and they can take that home with them."

Recovered Living has been approved to take up to 12 clients at a time, she says, who'll each stay for a minimum of four weeks.

The programme is based on Amadio's experience at a residential eating disorder centre in Los Angeles - which cost nearly $2000 a day.

The typical length of stay at such a facility in the United States is two to four months, she says.

“What [staying for that length of time] did is it gave me a chance to not just have a taste of recovery, but to really integrate it so that when I went home, I could just replicate it.”

Every client at Recovered Living NZ will see a therapist three times a week, a dietician twice a week and have the option of group therapy sessions.

“They're really getting a robust program and will be able to look at recovery from every aspect of their life. It's not just about the food, it's about so much more than food.”

The cost, which is less than you'd pay in the US, is $850 per day.

"In America, at the time that I went, it was $2,000 a day, which is jaw-dropping. But it got to the point where it was either paying for a fancy funeral or it was paying to try and set [up] my own life.

“We are not-for-profit and the price that we've managed to come up with to be able to cover our costs is $850 a day.”

Recovered Living NZ is not, Amadio emphasises, a hospital.

“We're not here to medically stabilise anybody, if somebody needs to be in hospital then they need to be in hospital. What Recovered Living NZ is really about is helping people with psychological healing and behavioural change. So anyone that has an eating disorder, or that's struggling to make progress in an outpatient setting.”

Putting together a multidisciplinary team was key to the philosophy behind Recovered Living NZ - a doctor, a psychiatrist, a therapist and a registered dietician will together provide wraparound care.

“Many clients that I see in an outpatient setting, they might have a therapist but can't find a dietician, or they have a doctor, but the doctor doesn't specialise in eating disorders. So, I'm really hoping to bring that expertise into one place.”

Amadio's own experiences at the US facility shaped the Recovered Living NZ approach.

“So many of the staff in America were recovered from their own eating disorder. And I'd never met anyone before that had been recovered.

“And it was such an enigma to me to think this, really. This person once had an eating disorder but now they're eating pizza with me, like how to reconcile that in my mind.”

Food shopping and kitchen skills formed part of Amadio's treatment in Los Angeles.

“That was really important for me in the States, being able to practice grocery shopping, prepping a meal.

“I think one of my favourite stories... I was 27, I think, when I went to treatment in America and I didn't know if garlic was meant to be in the fridge or in the cupboard.

“Simple things like that, as a 27-year-old, I felt so ineffective in the kitchen and I was embarrassed about that.”

Sharing and practising life with people who understand her challenges was a powerful healing tool, Amadio says.

“I think without that practical experience of the food, of socialising around food, I don't think I would have come home recovered.”