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Friday, March 2, 2018

Newport News: #MealAsMedicine, Teen Rehab

Newport Academy believes in the superpower of healthy food.
The press lunch drew writers and psychologists and psychologist/writers,
such as the bearded fellow on the left. Please notice the party favors--lovely little burlap pouches
that held sandalwood mala beads handmade in Nepal for Newport Academy.

I've been to many press events and media launches, from seeing sultry Catherine Deneuve in the 1980s at the French Embassy [to celebrate her new fragrance] to nibbling on button-size cupcakes with Lilly Pulitzer execs at the LeSportsac store in SoHo the year the bag company rolled out floral Lilly patterns. I bought a crossbody that night, and still love it. [It's machine washable.]

Whether working on staff or as a freelancer, my Inner Marketer has always loved these parties. So clever, the way the PR firms pull off events and deliver the message. Jane Cosmetics once took a busload of magazine beauty editors to Gurney's in Montauk in the Hamptons for spa treatments and a lobster dinner [I, the Lifestyle Writer, went by default]. I tasted my first fabulous Better Nutter [big exquisite PB sandwich cookie by Thomas Keller] from Bouchon Bakery at a press event for Samsung when it had a big space in The Shops at Columbus Circle, where the bakery still is.

So there I was Wednesday in NYC at a press lunch for Newport Academy, a place that treats teens with substance abuse problems, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and more. It's a rehab facility with locations in beautiful areas such as Newport Beach, California and Litchfield County, Connecticut. 

I had/have looming work deadlines, should have sat at my desk to write but something about this invitation intrigued me. My own beloved daughter, Figgy, dealt with an eating disorder starting in high school that could have taken her tender young life. Dan and I, but mostly Fig, I think, had to do hard work to fight that--with a team of experts. Fig is thriving now at 22 as a biology major at Montclair State. We are very proud of her and she is very proud of herself. So when Newport Academy press releases pop up in my in box, I find it hard to click "delete" before reading them.

I took notes. I met many Newport A. staffers, who wear preppy navy blazers with the academy emblem. If you check the website and "meet the team," you will see the blazers, sweaters and shirts. I like them. Jamison Monroe, Founder and CEO, told us from the head of the farm table that he had abused his Adderall and Ritalin through high school and college and that it was a "dark time for my family and me." His family sent him to several residential places. So he understands.

Check this:
  • Jamison called the philosophy "unconditionally-loved driven treatment." Yes. That is important. Your beloved child may be trapped in a maze of dark walls in her mind, unable to escape. You love her anyway, and always, even if that darkness makes her behave in troubling and scary ways. It is hard. It can be terrifying, truly, for the parents. and of course for the teen. I remember once, our dear Figgy lying on a hospital gurney at a rather rough E.R. near the excellent residential program where she was for around 10 days. "Mommy, promise me you will never leave me," she said. I promised.
  • Newport A. offers equine-assisted psychotherapy, yoga, art, music. I won't lie. It does sound pricey. "Ninety-five percent of the fees are paid by insurance," said Jamison, a blue-eyed native Texan--good-looking in a clean-cut, astronaut kind of way. He has a 1-year-old baby.
  • The food served at Newport A. is pure and healthful. The point is that when triggers like sugar, caffeine and processed junk foods are removed, it "quiets the front part of the brain," so that teens have a better chance at calm and mindful recovery.
  • We also heard from Jeffrey Zurofsky, who co-founded 'wichcraft and masterminded the fabulous lunch. He directs the food programming across all nine Newport A. campuses. He talked about the holistic approach to well-being, the farm-to-table movement [chickens roam, eggs are used for meals] and--the way things are done at dinner. "Serve your neighbor first, you don't serve yourself. You serve the person next to you. And listen when the person says 'I would like less' or 'I would like more.'" [Remember, dealing with eating disorders and healthy balance.]
  • Regarding the mala beads, which I absolutely love and am wearing now with my black, bell-sleeved dress as I work at home, the advice was to take a 108-bead rest before you make your coffee, send a text, etc. The strand is fashioned from 108 beads and the idea is to touch each and breathe in and out, being mindful.
  • Oh, the meal? So good. No alcohol, but iced green tea or refreshing grapefruit spritzer and sparkling or still water. Excellent salads, one with nice shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bowls of lentils and legumes. So beautifully spiced. Lots of fresh, fragrant herbs. And for the meat eaters, large, shallow bowls of chicken [pictured above]. And by that time, I remembered to pass it to the person next to me rather than dig right in. 
  • Dessert? Nope. Also felt cleansing and good. Just a coupla plates of fine dark chocolate bars with nibs, broken into squares. "It's from Seattle. Theo's," said Jamison. Yes, I know my chocolate. Only problem is, now craving the cookbook sold on Theo's site! I also scored a cup of contraband coffee, which was very, very good.
  • I saw a couple of extra pouches of mala beads and the Newport staffer next to me, a kind and pretty blonde named Cara [sp], gave me the nod to take them for my two girls. Punchy and Figgy both loved them. Punch wore hers to school yesterday. And I took them to her therapy appointment on Wednesday afternoon, so Dr. G. could address mindful meditation. Believe you me, all of us in this family can use some mindful meditation.
  • TBH, this whole lunch sparked a healthy dinner-table conversation in my home. While Fig had her pan-browned tofu and her friend, Punch and I had my delicious, healthy version of Silver Palate Chicken Marbella, spinach salad and baked yams, we talked about the philosophy. Figgy said that in her programs, dessert was served--after all, most of the girls were anorexic. So she found the no sugar rule no good. But I get it. As someone often unable to stop with sugar intake, I see that it is related to substance abuse, and I like the idea of clearing the front of the brain for mindful thinking. Below, our beautiful Figgy pictured on Christmas Day in Belfast, Maine and my Dad, a chemist in the lab in the late 1940s. Turns out Fig loves studying science just as her Grandpa [and Grandma, my mom] did.

Food for thought. All food for thought. I spent quite a while writing this, but I think the time investment was important. The topic is real.

Good day to us all.


  1. Lordy, my breath caught when I saw this title, but whew, a
    Third party experience. I have my issues! It is hopeful to me that we learn so much about treatign addiction/ mental health, but incredibly sad that it is available to so few. Alos agree that it is good for all of us to realize the price paid by general processing of food and our specific tendencies to stimulate/calm with caffeine, sugar, carbs. We all need more mindfulness in lieu of frenetic activity!
    Great post, thanks!

  2. really good post, Alice. As you both (Liz and you) know, we too have had our issues with a troubled young daughter (though we didn't have addiction issues). While we didn't end up with a rehab program outside the home, we ended up crafting a rehab program of sorts inside the home for about 3 months, supplemented with wholesome meals, activities (classes in tennis, yoga, art) and intensive therapies (day program, 2 weekly psyh med/talk therapy). And... it was only because we had the space, time, flexibility and resources to make it so. Appalling to think about those without even a half of what we could offer our kid. BUT...mindful meditation as such not a piece of that mix, though glanced at via yoga (and a perceptive yoga teacher) and therapy. Now, daughter has been doing more of that and it's really helping. F is also taking a class in it and I think before the calendar year is out, I may enroll in something too.

  3. and just to be clear, not appalled at families without resources, both $ and access and cleverness, but appalled at the lack of help for them.

  4. Liz and Nan thanks for your thoughts. Yes you are right, sad that care not accessible to many. I highly doubt we could have afforded this but sounds hopeful for those who can. (Even though CEO said 95% of fees covered by insurance, probably not the insurance my fam has. We had to get approval in 3-day increments while Fig was in hospital. It was scary because we thought more days would be more helpful. Crazy. Yes mindfulness...medicine for all. And another thing, relapses are possible. Scary. Love Alice

  5. Great post, Alice. Love, Lin

    1. Miss you Lin and hope we meet up again soon. Love Al

  6. What a wonderful post! I'm so proud of all of you. Also very touched by the mala beads.

    1. Eileen. I’m feeling proud that you are proud of us! Thank you. Xo