Amy's Heart is dedicated to providing eating disorder education and prevention programs in the community while helping those struggling with an eating disorder access needed treatment.
Heighten awareness and provide community education regarding eating disorders through public speaking, visiting local schools, colleges, organizations, and through our website.
Implement prevention programs within our schools and provide independent workshops that focus on positive body image and increasing self-worth to help.
Help those that are struggling to access specialized out-patient care due to cost through financial scholarships.
Be a steady source of support for those that suffer from eating disorders.
Having struggled with an eating disorder for almost three decades, I experienced the myriad of behaviors and the ebb and flow that can occur with an eating disorder over this length of time. Like many with eating disorders, I did not fit neatly into the well-defined box of one particular diagnosis.
I was first medically diagnosed in 1982 while hospitalized for an unrelated illness. There was little information regarding eating disorders at this time, and the doctor was so dismissive with his diagnosis that I did not feel it was something that warranted concern. Four years later, while seeking professional help for depression, my eating disorder was again acknowledged. The therapist said there was no need to address the eating disorder directly, as my depression improved, the eating disorder would disappear. It did not.
After reaching a point of physical crises in 2002, I again sought help, this time from a team of eating disorder specialists. After almost three months of inpatient treatment and two and a half years of intensive outpatient treatment, recovery was finally in my grasp. I have been recovered since 2005.
Once healthy, I began to give back the support that I received during those years of struggle. I returned to an online eating disorder recovery site, where I had once been a member and became a moderator. Without the encouragement of members and moderators of that site, I would have never found the courage to reach out for help again. Supporting others by sharing my story, struggles, and challenges left me feeling that I had found my purpose, and I remained a moderator for seven years.
Moderating the website allowed me to talk to women and men from all over the world, all ages, races, and ethnicities. I heard inspiring stories of recovery and painful stories detailing the lack of help, financial limitations that prevented accessing support, and the frustration of insurance companies denying treatment. I also heard the pain of sufferers dealing with the underlying issues that fueled their eating disorder, as well as the fear and pain of friends and family members who did not know how to help their loved ones. It allowed me to see first hand that eating disorders do not discriminate, and regardless of the type of eating disorder, the suffering it creates is universal.
It is my goal to use the lessons I learned as an eating disorder survivor, and the sadness and helplessness I experienced losing a loved one to an eating disorder, to help others in a way that allows them to begin their own journey of recovery.
Founder, Amy's Heart
Amy Claire Fontana was a dear friend and one of the most loving people I have had the honor of knowing. She had the heart of a giver and spent much of her life finding ways to help others. Her quick smile, contagious laugh, and generous spirit made Amy unforgettable to any who were lucky enough to meet her.
Amy grew up in West Monroe, Louisiana, where she was a top student and athlete. After high school, she received a degree in speech and communicative disorders from ULM, and her Master's Degree in Social Work, graduating at the top of her class from LSU.
After receiving her Master's Degree, Amy worked as a forensic social worker on capital murder cases. She would fearlessly go alone, sometimes into the worst neighborhoods, to gain a better understanding of life events that helped create the person these defendants had become. Her findings would help facilitate a life sentence rather than the death penalty for the accused. In doing so, she began to see a bigger picture of the person they could be and often would continue to communicate with them once imprisoned, sharing her faith and her belief in redemption.
This job led her to volunteer for Amnesty International, where she began to share her experiences and worked diligently to abolish the death penalty. She had several articles published on this topic and often talked about one of her proudest moments, meeting Sister Helen Prejean.
After a move due to declining health, Amy continued to work in her field of social work, helping those with addictions, depression, and other mental health issues.
I met Amy while in treatment for my eating disorder in 2002. Amy was also in therapy while pursuing her Master's Degree at LSU, and we became fast friends. Amy had been a healthy, happy, athletic young woman in her undergraduate years. The stress of a dysfunctional relationship and subsequent expectations to maintain a particular image, both socially and physically, had left her trying to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression through eating disorder behaviors.
While in treatment, we both became healthier, working hard toward recovery. Sadly, despite doing well behaviorally, Amy grew physically weaker. Her compulsive exercise, food restriction, and abuse of diet products had caused irreversible damage to her heart and body in the few short years she had been ill.
Countless doctors searched for the cause of her continued physical decline, but few could agree on why her body would not recover. Autoimmune issues, muscle weakness, and unexplained organ failure became her norm until she was no longer able to work. With the loss of her job came the loss of medical insurance and the loss of access to the level of medical care she required.
Amy passed away alone at her home on February 14, 2012, at the age of 37, leaving behind the love of her life, her son. In our last conversation, just a week before her death, Amy was still talking about the day she could return to doing the work she loved, helping others.
Those that loved Amy understand the gift the world lost with her passing. The many lives that could have been touched by her love of helping others see their worth. I know if she were still with us, she would be educating others on the danger of eating disorders and the amount of physical damage they can produce in a short period. I could think of no better way to honor Amy's memory than to help others in her name.