Nancy Lystead and Laura Beverly are playing a dangerous game. Both are suffering from anorexia. Beverly -- just 13 years old -- slipped from 105 pounds to near 75 pounds in just one year.
"I was teased when I was younger and I've always been really self conscious and I just decided to do something about it," Beverley says.
This is the beginning of her battle. For 50-year-old Lystead, this could be her last chance.
"I just was in such a state of starvation. I knew I needed help," Lystead explains.
She's been anorexic for 35 years, once weighing just 70 pounds.
"I ended up in a locked psychiatric ward. It was a nightmare," Lystead recalls.
Even though it's hard to stomach a plate full of food, both Lystead and Beverly are taking a new approach to overcome their eating disorder.
"Someone who has anorexia has … has lost the ability to recognize hunger, and they always feel full," says Jo Gallaugher, CEO of Mandometer US in San Diego, Calif.
This clinic doesn't rely on psychiatric drugs or talk therapy. Instead, patients learn how to feel hungry and full. The key to success is this computerized device called the "Mandometer." It's customized for each patient.
"It's measuring two things. It measures the rate at which a patient is eating and it measures the satiety level, so the fullness," Gallaugher says.
"This is Laura's Mandometer and it has 350 grams for her main meals," says Karla Wren, Laura's case manager.
The Mandometer measures how much food is going on the plate, and how much and how fast food is being taken off.
"One of the points of the machine is to retrain their brain, and so we want them to understand, at the beginning of a meal, a normal person feels hungry," Wren says.
Patients also learn how to ease their anxiety after eating a meal. When they've finished eating, patients enter a "Warm Room." This room's temp is set at 108 degrees. The warmth relieves the stress anorexics feel after eating a meal.
Only 10 percent of Mandometer patients experience a relapse five years after therapy, compared to 50 percent of patients on standard therapy.
"They've all given me the opportunity now to step out and make a life for myself," Lystead says. "I have a feeling. I have a real strong feeling that I am going to be healthy."
And for Beverly and Lystead, being healthy starts with learning how to eat again. Beverly has been in the program for six months and is getting ready to return home. Lystead's insurance will only pay for the all inclusive program for a total of six weeks each year. Then it will be up to her to continue eating on her own. Mandometer clinics are used in Europe, but the San Diego clinic is the only one in the United States right now.
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