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Eating disorders have been exacerbated by pandemic; Oregon foundation funds treatment for those suffering

Calls to the National Eating Disorder Association help line are up 40% since March of 2020. An Oregon City foundation is breaking the stigma and funding treatment.

OREGON CITY, Ore. — “Our boutique is size-inclusive, body-positive, promotes self-love, and just women empowering women,” Julie Allen says.

Allen is on a mission to help us love the bodies we are in. She is the proud owner of Mary Rose NW Boutique in Oregon City and the founder of the Mary Rose Foundation.

“The overarching message in everything that we do, from the boutique to the foundation, is hope,” she said.

Allen battled anorexia and bulimia for 15 years, but her struggle with mental health started even before that.

“It had been a long, long journey of, ya know, self-hate and shame and all those things that go along with an eating disorder,” she said. “And it got to the point in my early 20s that, I knew if I did not decide myself to make a choice to recover, that I was going to die.”

Allen was able to get treatment and fought to save her own life. Now, she’s helping others through their journey.

“We’re taught in our society, especially as women, that we’re not enough, right. This whole idea of diet culture teaches us that to live in a small body means you’re a good person. Like somehow, we’ve attached morals to the size of our bodies,” Allen said. “So, now it is my mission to stop that and just let all women and all bodies know that they are enough, exactly as they are.”

The Mary Rose foundation helps those struggling to pay for the expensive recovery process. Treatment can cost thousands of dollars a day, according to Allen. Even with insurance, it can be inaccessible for many.

“Eating disorder treatment is insanely expensive. My parents took out a second mortgage on their house in order to pay for my treatment when I was growing up and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”  

The fallout of the pandemic has already had an impact on those suffering. It’s taken a toll on mental health overall, but researchers have found that lack of structure, access to certain foods, living in a triggering environment and an inability to exercise are making it especially difficult and dangerous for people with eating disorders.

Calls to the National Eating Disorder Association hotline have gone up 40 percent since March 2020.

“Right now, people who are suffering from eating disorders are having a much harder time, just as anyone is in the pandemic,” Suzanne Sanchez said.

Sanchez is a mental health therapist and licensed counselor.

“They’re dealing with all of this stress, all of the anxiety around what’s going to be happening. They are restricting more. They’re much more attuned to what is happening in front of them with their bodies,” she said.

Now more than ever, Allen’s work through the Mary Rose Foundation, is crucial, telling her story, spreading awareness, and taking away the financial burden of treatment.

“No matter where you are now there’s hope,” she said to those suffering. “And I want you to know that it’s real. And it’s real that you can get better.”

The Mary Rose Foundation is holding its Hope Wins Walkathon, Saturday, March 27. It’s a chance to break the stigma around eating disorders and mental health and help raise money to get people the treatment they need.

For more information visit maryrosefoundation.org.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder call the National Eating Disorder Association helpline at 800-931-2237. Visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information.

CLICK HERE to access an online screening tool that can help determine if it’s time to seek professional help.