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Maria Rago might not seem like the likeliest candidate for a Good Eating award: She's clinical
director of the eating disorders program at Linden Oaks Hospital, and runs her own clinic, Rago and Associates, in Naperville. She gets our attention because her Real Meals program brings together two unexpectedly compatible groups of hungry locals and helps them get the food they need.
The Real Meals programóin which patients go shopping, prepare food, cook it, serve it, and then sit and eat it with homeless-shelter residentsócame about when Rago wondered: "What if we brought together people who fear food, people who purposely refuse it or binge and purge" with people who have no food at all?
"If you lecture people, it doesn't work. . . . But this is experiential," she said. Such an act "would be good for all of us" in redirecting our focus, she added, but in this case it can lead to the first steps of freedom from the prison of obsession and self-absorption.
Rago's program, which has been in place for about six years, has been used in the treatment of more than 400 eating-disorder patients, but also could be used, she says, in other therapies.
"It has a lot to do with the healing power of nutrition and the emotional aspects of food," she said.
Rago and Associates,
525 S. Washington St.,
November 4, 2008