Lindsey Schwartz and Texas area clinicians participate in the NEDA Walk to raise understanding for eating disorders.

Community Connection: Understanding the Mind-Body Battle of Eating Disorders with Lindsey Schwartz

In a world where societal standards often dictate beauty norms, Lindsey Schwartz stands as a source of understanding and support, especially for those battling eating disorders. Through her deep-rooted connection with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), Lindsey has become a driving force in raising awareness and providing support to those affected by these often-misunderstood mental illnesses.

“What I wish people understood about eating disorders is that the mind is stronger than the body,” she said. “Eating disorders don’t just take over your eating habits; they dominate your entire life, every thought, every action. They’re a severe mental illness and shouldn’t be underestimated.” 

Lindsey grew up as a dancer, living in a world where “thin is beautiful and celebrated.” Body types were constantly being evaluated and – at times – criticized. This experience led her to pursue a Public Health and Physician Assistant (P.A.) Studies degree.

She completed her elective clinical rotation at the University of North Carolina, where she was the first P.A. student they had in the eating disorder program. She initiated conversations with the chair of the child and adolescent program directors to create this rotation opportunity. Through this involvement, Lindsey witnessed firsthand how the disease can be all-encompassing and how it impacts both the patient and their family. She went on to complete her thesis with a large recovery center looking at the impact of social media on eating disorder recovery.

Nearly 29 million people in the U.S. will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives, NEDA estimates. Most of those people – 95% – are between ages 12-25.

“So many people suffer silently and alone,” she added. “They privately struggle with emotions, stressors or traumas by over or undereating. It’s a means of taking and being in control. To fully recover, the individual must learn how to cope with anxiety and depression, as well as manage their perfectionism.”

Proper treatment for eating disorders involves a multidisciplinary approach. Dietitians or nutritionists create personalized meal plans to restore balanced nutrition and a healthy relationship with food. Physician assistants (PAs) like Lindsey monitor physical health, manage medications and coordinate care between providers. Therapists offer cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or other modalities to address underlying psychological factors like distorted body image and low self-esteem. 

By combining the expertise of dietitians, P.A.s and therapists, individuals can significantly increase their chances of recovery, leading to improved physical health and overall well-being.

Lindsey’s Community Connection with NEDA

Lindsey’s affiliation with NEDA stems from its commitment to providing a source of information for those seeking to understand eating disorders better. As a neutral third party, NEDA doesn’t provide direct care but serves as a bridge between those in need and available resources. They offer screening tools, a directory of providers for all levels of care and body positivity programs to allow people to connect virtually.

“I appreciate that NEDA meets the individual where they are with a gentle approach,” she said. “There’s no pressure or judgment. Instead, they offer encouragement, hope and partnership. As a provider, that’s also my goal, so I feel like NEDA, our patients and I make a great team.”

Lindsey and Family Care Center employees throughout the Austin area teamed up for this year’s NEDA Walk in Austin, and they were recognized as a Top 5 Team Fundraiser. We’re proud of their teamwork and commitment to the community. Thanks to all who participated!

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