Eating Disorder Treatment Center Hand in Hand With the Weight Loss Industry

The eating disorder community is strident in its universal opposition to weight loss companies, the “toxic diet industry,” and any and all other vestiges of the health and wellness industry. That position is an absolute and has existed for over a decade.

In 2012, women in the United Kingdom, negatively impacted by weight loss programs sold by diet companies organized a demonstration outside Parliament to, “… hit back at the multimillion-pound industry for “wreaking havoc with appetites and lives while it builds huge profits”. That protest had been organized to coincide with representatives of the diet industry giving evidence to an all party parliamentary group inquiry into the causes and consequences of body image anxiety. Persons attending the protest brought diet plans, slimming magazines, calorie counters or anything else associated with dieting and “ditched them in hazardous waste bins at the heart of the demonstration.”

In 2012, when the CEO of Jenny Craig was invited to give a keynote speech at a large conference in Australia, over 145 international health experts signed an open letter calling for the CEO of Jenny Craig to be removed as keynote speaker. The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), and the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) both made public statements calling for Jenny Craig’s CEO to be removed.

In 2013, NEDA released information demonstrating that changing eating and exercise behaviors can lead to disordered eating. In fact, NEDA estimated that 35% of dieting becomes obsessive and 20 – 25% of those diets turn into eating disorders.

Some health resources link chronic dieting to heart disease and other physical ailments. Some studies show that those people who experiment with dieting are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. These resources estimate that those who practice restrictive eating are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder.

In 2019, more than 111,000 people signed a Change.org petition asking for the removal of the Kurbo app. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside WW headquarters in New York to deliver the petition.

Many of the eating disorder residential treatment centers also issued strongly worded statements opposing diet culture and the diet industry.

Castlewood Treatment Center/Alsana stated:

“Diet culture is a thief of health, life, and joy that lives in comparison, not truth; it is a food and body belief system that has saturated western society. It leads to food-distrust, body-distrust, body marginalization, and oppression.

We push back against the $73 billion diet industry that profits off peoples’ desire for weight-equating health, belonging, and acceptance while selling something inherently defective and harmful.

These hurtful assumptions and oppression lead to poor mental health, shame, increased insecurity, potential eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.

At “Alsana,” we fight against weight stigma by celebrating body diversity and, through structure and intuitive eating principle work, offer a pathway towards the internal body and food trust.

We celebrate body diversity. We believe all bodies are good bodies, independent of size, shape, gender, physical ability, race, age, et cetera. We strive to ensure a body-inclusive, body-celebrated environment through our language, shared spaces, and relational approach to body discussions.

Diet culture has compromised one of our most sacred relationships: the one we have with ourselves. Many of us have lost trust in our bodies, and our ability to make mindful, nourishing (mentally and physically) food choices. Being bombarded with mal-adaptive, external systems of food rules and perpetuates this distrust, and we must push back to find peace.

Diet culture is designed to ensnare.”

This incredibly strong viewpoint expressed by Castlewood Treatment Center/Alsana is direct, uncompromising and to the point.

But imagine, if you will, that that strong statement issued by the Castlewood Treatment Center/Alsana was a façade, was merely just another mask to hide an insidious money-making scheme.

We know that “Alsana” is merely a fictitious name. Riverside, the parent company of, and through, Castlewood Treatment Center, LLC owns all rights to that fictitious name.

We also know that Castlewood Treatment Center, LLC is owned by The Riverside Partners, LLC a private equity firm. Riverside pours money into Castlewood and expects a reasonable rate of return. As such, this surely means that Riverside stands behind “Alsana’s” position on diet culture since it owns Castlewood/Alsana. But, what if Riverside, the entity which owns Castlewood/Alsana not only did not support opposition to the toxic diet culture, but owned an aspect of the weight loss industry?

What if Riverside profited from the weight loss industry by owning, and receiving profits from a diet, weight loss or health and wellness company?

Wouldn’t that necessarily mean that Riverside, the owner of Castlewood/Alsana, not only makes a profit from people suffering from eating disorders but it also makes a profit from an industry contributing to the proliferation of eating disorders?

Wouldn’t that also necessarily mean that Riverside could be contributing to increasing the patient population at the eating disorder facilities owned by Riverside? So, hypothetically, Riverside has covered its bases on both ends by creating a revolving door of patients, treatment, recidivism … patients, treatment, recidivism … ad infinitum.

The Reality

On May 21, 2019, Riverside announced it acquired an entity known as “Naturally Slim” based out of Dallas, Texas. “Naturally Slim” is a leading digital weight loss platform focused on helping participants reduce Metabolic Syndrome, lose weight and lead healthier lives. Riverside Managing Partner Suzy Kriscunas stated, “Weight gain has become a nation-wide epidemic, affecting more than 70% of adults. Naturally Slim’s services not only assist in weight loss, but also reduce the factors that contribute to high-risk diseases.”

Riverside Partner Steve Burns stated, “During our investment, we plan to expand Naturally Slim’s customer base, payor network and product capabilities, …” [emphasis added]

In order to better market “Naturally Slim,” Riverside changed “Naturally Slim’s” name to … Wondr Health. On Wondr Health’s website, it states, “Expect the Naturally Slim you know and love with a renewed vision and recommitment to our mission. And clinically proven results remain the core of our program, as they have been for the past 15+ years. 

A Director at Wondr Health disclosed its true intention, “This is a turnkey program that is easy to implement. The ROI [Return of Investment] is well worth the investment.” [emphasis added]

Prior thereto, on August 5, 2008, The Riverside Company acquired Results Weight Loss.  Results Weight Loss provides various weight loss plans. Riverside sold Results Weight Loss in 2011.

To yet be fair, how do we know that Riverside is directly involved in the operations of the Castlewood/Alsana entities?

First, Riverside incorporated an entity known as “Castlewood West, LLC” in California. That was done so that Riverside could operate the five (5) La Ventana Treatment Centers Riverside acquired.  In a contract between Castlewood West and the County of Alameda, Castlewood West represents that, “Castlewood West, LLC … provide(s) intensive outpatient treatment (IOT), partial hospitalization (PHP), and residential treatment specifically tailored to the needs of adolescents and adults with serious eating disorders (EDs). Clients referred to Castlewood West will be placed in their residential treatment center located in Pacific Grove, CA.”  

The members [owners] of Castlewood West are disclosed in corporate documents filed with the California Secretary of State. The members of California West are:

NameDesignationCompany
   
John McKernanPartnerRiverside
Loren SchalchetManaging PartnerRiverside
Jennifer SteinerCEO (Former)Lightfully Behavioral
Robyn WalshPresidentRiverside
Peter ZuckerBoard Member Exec. Chair of BoardRiverside

The only person listed who is not an employee or former employee of Riverside is Jennifer Clute Steiner (Castlewood’s past CEO).

So, we are left with 5 persons, none of whom are medical doctors, 4 of whom are employed by Riverside overseeing the providing of eating disorder care and treatment.

Which leaves us with two very simple mathematical equations which both lead to the same outcome:

Riverside + Castlewood/Alsana + eating disorders = RIVERSIDE PROFIT

Riverside + Naturally Slim/Wondr Health + weight loss industry = RIVERSIDE PROFIT

Imagine, Riverside has created a world in which eating disorders and the diet industry can walk hand in hand to collaborate, to achieve a common purpose, a common goal … and that is, the manifestation of greater profits for Riverside. Kumbaya My Lord!

I have not said, and will not say, “Do not go to Castlewood/Alsana.” That would be inappropriate. Parents and people need to do their own research but deserve all facts, information, transparent truthful information to enable them to make the best, potentially life-saving decision possible.

I can however say, with apologies to Zuzu, the daughter of George Bailey in the iconic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Look Daddy, teacher says, every time a person goes to Castlewood, an Angel loses its wings.”

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