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MidWeek Staff

Hope And Healing For Eating Disorders

By Dr. Anita Johnston, Co-Founder/Director, ‘Ai Pono Eating Disorders Programs

“Cindy” struggled daily with bingepurge episodes and horrific thoughts about her body, barely able to continue with her public relations job. Finding her way to ‘Ai Pono, an organization that offers care programs for individuals with various eating disorders, she began to unravel the hidden emotional reasons behind her food and weight obsessions. Her disordered eating behaviors ceased after six months, and within a year she no longer struggled with a negative body image. Today, she runs a successful consulting business in San Francisco. Her eating disorder is a distant memory, although she now coaches others by using many of the same life skills she learned during her recovery process.

The story of ‘Ai Pono Hawaii began in 1982 when I was supervising a student who was studying the incidence of eating disorders in Hawaii for her psychology doctoral dissertation. We, along with a social worker who had led her own recovery because of a lack of treatment options in the Islands, agreed that “there ought to be a treatment center here.” We soon realized that we needed to create it. So we did. Thus began the Anorexia & Bulimia Center of Hawaii (ABC).

If you build it, they will come and come they did! Individuals of all ages, sizes, genders and ethnicities with a full range of disordered eating issues showed up (including anorexia, bulimia, yo-yo dieting, compulsive and binge eating). In 2001, ABC spawned ‘Ai Pono Hawaii, the Honolulu-based centerpiece for a set of evidence-based, intensive outpatient programs for eating disorders.

‘Ai means to eat or nourish, and Pono means with ease, naturally and in perfect order and wholeness. Our programs provide a supportive environment for those struggling with food, eating and weight issues by teaching tools necessary for healthy living and for gaining insight into eating behaviors without interfering with jobs, families and school. The ‘Ai Pono philosophy is that complete recovery from disordered eating is possible and that these disorders no longer have to remain a central feature in one’s life.

Throughout the Mainland, others now use the model we created in Hawaii. It is considered the gold standard treatment of choice, putting Hawaii on the leading edge of eating disorder treatment. To date, more than 350 individuals have received treatment through the ‘Ai Pono programs.

‘Ai Pono Hawaii is located at 1188 Bishop St., No. 2412 in Honolulu. To learn more about ‘Ai Pono, call 5401001, visit aipono.com or email treatment101@aol.com.

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