Lewis said that by the time people started to tell her she looked unhealthy it was too late. She couldn’t stop herself from restricting food and exercising too much. Eventually, she collapsed, was taken to the hospital and was taken out of college.
“It was very different 20 years ago. There were no treatment centers,” she said. “I struggled on my own to get through it. My family struggled on their own with it.”
Eventually, with the help of therapy, she was able to realize she was focusing on her weight rather than dealing with the issues that were truly bothering her, such as a fear of having to grow up and fit in.
At 26, Lewis was on a balcony that collapsed and broke the bones in her face. The life-changing event sent her back to graduate school, where she quickly realized she wanted to focus on helping those with eating disorders.
Lewis met her co-owner, Wyman, the dietitian who works with people with eating disorders, about three years ago. One day at dinner, she told him about her plans to open a center. By the end of dinner, they were partners, as Wyman was excited by the idea of group therapy and being able to help more people with their nutrition, said Lewis.
“Clients adore him. They feel so safe with him,” said Lewis.
Lewis lived in California for 17 years before returning to Massachusetts and opening a practice about two and a half years ago. She just completed the Department of Public Health survey that allows the new Eating Disorder Center of Andover to be a licensed facility.
Lewis believes that, because she can speak from personal experience, her clients can feel confident she understands, and that they can succeed.
“I wasn’t afraid of dying of an eating disorder. I was afraid of living [as I was],” she said. Medical scares or people yelling at those with eating disorders won’t change their behavior, said Lewis. But, day by day, people can learn how to deal with it.