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The Truth: Suffering With an Eating Disorder During Thanksgiving

Using our coping skills while suffering with an eating disorder can feel more difficult during the holidays, especially during Thanksgiving. This is the holiday that we envision in our minds that revolves around a lot of food and a lot of mentally tough choices we feel we have to make involving what and how much we eat. Thanksgiving is not easy while suffering with an eating disorder. The coping skills that we use daily can feel so much harder when we know we have so many people sitting around us. We feel that everyone is watching our every move; what we eat, how much we eat, and what our bodies look like in our Thanksgiving dinner outfits. Getting seconds could feel so easy to anyone else, but when you’re suffering with an eating disorder, you have a back-and-forth battle with the thoughts in your head. These thoughts want you to believe that you’re going to need to intensively work out for hours just to burn off the single plate you had at diner. These thoughts tell you that instead of getting up for seconds, you need to calm it down with how much you’re eating. These thoughts tell you that everyone around you is observing how your body looks in the outfit you chose to wear, so you probably shouldn’t fill up anymore on dessert. 

These thoughts are mentally draining and they are cruel.

This is the ugly truth about suffering with an eating disorder during the day we are supposed to be relaxed and grateful. We should be enjoying this time with our family, friends and loved ones, but instead, we are battling with the demons of our disordered eating thoughts.

We ask that you be patient with us. We ask that you please not pressure us. This is difficult for us. We ask that you love us for who we are. We are struggling, and we fear judgement. We fear this day. 

If you’re speaking to us, please remind us that you support us. If we look like we are struggling, please help us take a little breather. A 5 minute break away from the dinner table can feel like a minor part of your day, but this break could actually be the highlight of our day, allowing us to disregard any of our negative thoughts. Bringing our thoughts back into the present can feel impossible sometimes, but with your assistance, we can feel that we belong again. Going around the table and asking everyone what they are thankful for helps us remember to be mindful and thankful for all that we have and get to experience in life. It may sound simple to anyone else, but to us, this fuels our positive thoughts and helps us take this day in stride. 

Allow us to get through this day at our own pace. We are so thankful for your support, even if it may feel unnoticeable to you when we are struggling. We are brave warriors battling through recovery every single day.

Finding Beauty in Our Imperfections

Releasing Perfection for a Better Life Through the Ancient Japanese Philosophy of Wabi-Sabi

In our world, we live fast-paced, sometimes highly stressful lives. Judgment and the desire of meeting society’s standard of perfection is something many of us may struggle with. Living by the teachings of the ancient Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi can change our perspective on life, helping us find the beauty and appreciation in imperfection.

“Even when petals have flaws, all you see is a beautiful flower.” -Adrianne Elizabeth

Wabi-Sabi is an elegant philosophy that promotes a more connected way of living. Living a lifestyle the Wabi-Sabi way, one is more connected to nature, and thus, better connected to our truest inner-selves. Wabi-Sabi allows us to search for the beauty in imperfection by accepting what is flawed, impermanent, and incomplete. Perfection is unattainable by accepting this philosophy into our lives. Impermanence becomes the elusive beauty of life.

What is Wabi?

The term, Wabi, refers to living in tune with nature, paring down to the essentials, so that each object and moment are appreciated in it’s fullness. Open your heart, appreciate simplicity, detach from materialism, and you will experience spiritual richness.

What is Sabi?

The term, Sabi, refers to the concern of the passage of time. The passage of growth, age, and decay manifests itself into the beauty of an object. Beauty lies from beneath the surfaces, underneath the cracks, imperfections, and wrinkles.

Together, Wabi-Sabi promotes the thought of, “Accept what is, stay in the present moment, and appreciate the simple impermanent stages of life.”

Freedom is found through acceptance of what is. Surrender to the gravity of the situation, giving gratitude to all that is. Nature is always changing, therefore it is not perfect, and nothing can be absolutely complete. Perfection is a state of completeness. So, why do we put our body through such shame in attempting to sculpt it to perfection, not eating enough, over exercising, or disregarding the importance of nourishment? The attempt to achieve a perfect body is just one blurring out the understanding of what perfection truly is. The desire of looking younger is very popular as well with the usage of many different anti-aging products. What’s forgotten about is ageing with the passage of time is beauty itself. With imperfection, we should not compromise it, we need to accept the imperfections because that is the true nature of life. Just as nature is, life is fragile and temporary, so allow yourself to accept what is and find the love in the imperfections.

In Japan, broken objects are repaired with gold. The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history, which adds to its beauty. When you are feeling broken, remember this. 

“Put simply, Wabi-Sabi gives you permission to be yourself. It encourages you to do your best but not make yourself ill in pursuit of an unattainable goal of perfection. It gently motions you to relax, slow down and enjoy your life. And it shows you that beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places, making every day a doorway to delight.” -Beth Kempton

Resources: 

Itani, O. (2021, April 24). 5 teachings from the Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy that can drastically improve your life. OMAR ITANI. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.omaritani.com/blog/wabi-sabi-philosophy-teachings.

Jobson, C. (2017, October 19). Kintsugi: The art of broken pieces. Colossal. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/05/kintsugi-the-art-of-broken-pieces/.

Shaireproductions.com. (2012, September 27). Imperfect flower. Flickr. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/shaireproductions/8030295044.

Walther, A. (2021, January 14). What is Wabi Sabi? the elusive beauty of imperfection. Japan Objects. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://japanobjects.com/features/wabi-sabi.

5 Effective Coping Skills for Recovery

5 Effective Coping Skills for Recovery

fortune teller

5 Effective Coping Skills to Assist Your Journey to Recovery

Recovery is a journey. Recovery takes time. Recovery is your journey that you live and control day to day. Throughout this time, life stressors that you may not be able to control come into play and you may feel as if they are acting as a halt in the direction you were headed throughout your recovery journey. Life stressors may include starting back up at school, starting a new job or leaving a current one, an increase in financial obligations, taking care of an elderly family member, moving to a new home, worrying about a touchy conversation you need to have with someone, or even relationship stress. Facing this stress, it feels quite easy to rely on disordered coping skills. However, these disordered coping skills can mentally and physically play a negative impact on recovery. With an eating disorder and partaking in disordered coping skills, one’s eating disorder symptoms could heighten. Practicing healthy coping skills with your eating disorder will aid to the longevity of your wellness and nourishment journey. 

 

Here are 5 effective and healthy coping skills to handle those stressful bumps in the road that life may present in your path while you are on the road to your recovery:

 

  1. Did someone say Self-Care? Make yourself your own priority! Wash your face, brush out your hair, put on a face mask, and hop in that bath tub! Light your favorite candle. Enjoy Mother-Earth and the sunshine she has to offer by taking a walk outside and enjoying some fresh air. Listen to the soothing sound of the rain hitting your windows and meditate for 10 minutes. Get cozy and read a new book. Tidy up your living space, rearrange your closet or organize your dresser. Cook yourself one of your favorite meals or bring out your favorite family relative’s cookie recipe! Allow yourself 7-8 hours of sleep, being well-rested will aid in avoiding triggers.

2. Start a new hobby or activity, or return to one you truly enjoyed in the past. Run to Michael’s, grab a canvas and paint something beautiful, get creative! Start a new DIY project for something that would look great in your home, or something you can give to someone as a gift! Inquire through social media or online for a local book club if you enjoy a great read with people that share the same passion as you. Gather friends and family for a once-a-week game night, such as bowling, roller skating. You could even form a kickball team! Find your passion!

3. Journal it out! Keep a journal handy to write about your day. Write about your daily thoughts, emotions, something encouraging someone said to you that day, three things that you are thankful for.

 4. Recognize the way that you speak to yourself. Whether it be about your body, the food that you eat, or your actions. Write down the negative thought, and for every negative thought, on a separate piece of paper (let’s say a sticky-note) write down three positive thoughts about yourself. Now, throw away that negative thought and remove it from your mind-space as it falls into the trash, crumbled up and left behind. Take that sticky note with your three positive thoughts about yourself and place that on your mirror. Leave it there! Look at yourself in the mirror and read these positive thoughts out loud. Remind yourself how awesome you are. Speak these thoughts into existence to yourself and they will become a part of you! Self doubt and self blame will not cure your eating disorder. Uplift yourself. 

5. Reach out and lean on the community you have built around yourself of friends, family, loved ones, and others going through their own road to recovery. Associate yourself with those that you can trust. These people can help carry you throughout your journey when times don’t feel as easy or fair as they should to you. Allow them and involve them in your healthy coping mechanisms. You will be able to rely on these people when you allow them in, giving them your trust and them giving you theirs!

 

 

Sources:

3 tips for coping with triggers in Eating disorder recovery. National Eating Disorders Association. (2018, February 21). https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/3-tips-coping-triggers-eating-disorder-recovery. 

About eating disorders. Eating Disorder Foundation.org. (n.d.). https://eatingdisorderfoundation.org/learn-more/about-eating-disorders/coping/. 

To cope with stress, Try Learning Something new. Harvard Business Review. (2019, November 26). https://hbr.org/2018/09/to-cope-with-stress-try-learning-something-new. 

 

Equity for All

We believe in Equity in Treatment for all.

Prosperity Eating Disorders and Wellness specializes in the treatment of eating disorders while offering evidence-based, comprehensive, individualized treatment to all ages, genders, and eating disorders.  Our goal is to help sufferers find a full recovery by meeting their psychological, nutritional, emotional, and relational needs throughout Virginia.

Weight Stigma

Weight Stigma

Weight stigma is any bias, discrimination or stereotyping related to an individual’s weight. It supports the misconception between worth, value, and competence in regards to weight. Research has idealized weight loss and living a ‘healthier’ lifestyle due to the promise of improved overall wellbeing. However, is that really the case? Continuous societal pressure to change and reform the body, in order to fit the standards of research, can cause behavioral changes that have been linked to poor metabolic health and increased weight gain. Weight stigma can be especially harmful when exposed to children at a young age. Children who are perceived to be overweight by loved ones are two times more likely to form irregular and poor relationships with food and self-regard. As these relationships continue to develop, they can become a part of a child’s identity and the cycle of dieting continues. These influences can begin with as little as a comment from a stranger on food choices, or weigh-ins in public schools. It is our responsibility as a member of the community to prevent these influences from causing further consequences. 

While it can be hard to take weight loss out of the picture completely, it does allow the potential for a life of freedom. This does not mean ignoring your body completely, but rather learning to respect and appreciate your present self. Accepting your body entails taking care of your health, both physical and mental. This is a crucial part of making peace with your body, and is the stepping stone for making peace with food, thus supporting one to become an intuitive eater. 

Those who experience weight stigma have been shown to be at an increased likelihood of developing psychological and behavioral issues. Some of which includes depression, body dissatisfaction, and binge eating. This is exacerbated by a culture that idealizes thinness and inundates the public with fatphobic messages. When these fatphobic messages are internalized, individuals can experience self-stigma. Self-stigma has been found to have a strong effect on overall mental health due to the acceptance of weight stigmatized statements as being true for themselves, making it increasingly difficult to challenge these messages.

Unfortunately, healthcare professionals are often guilty of perpetuating weight stigma in their practices. Thus many individuals in larger bodies who choose to seek care often find themselves being treated differently due to their body size. It is important that, as providers, we continue to explore our role in ending weight stigma and work to provide compassionate, unbiased, weight-inclusive care.

We each come in our own shape and size, similar to the unique ridges and whorls that make up our fingerprints. We wouldn’t expect someone who is 5’10 to someday be 5’5. Therefore, why do we assume we must shrink or shape our body to be a size that it shouldn’t be? Spending your life trying to control your weight is essentially a constant attempt to be someone else. We must be kind and accepting of ourselves and who we are meant to be. It can be a slow process to accept a body that has been labeled as ‘not good enough’ but quitting won’t speed it up. 

References:

Emmer, C., Bosnjak, M., & Mata, J. (2019). The association between weight stigma and mental health: A meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews, 21(1). doi:10.1111/obr.12935

Puhl, R. M., & Heuer, C. A. (2010). Obesity stigma: important considerations for public health. American journal of public health, 100(6), 1019–1028. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2009.159491

Weight Stigma. (2019, June 27). Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/weight-stigma

United We Stand

United We Stand

Prosperity always offers individualized services that are gender, race, sexuality, religion, age, eating disorder, and body size inclusive.

A personal message from one of our staff:

A deadly pathogen is running rampant through the world, undetectable and unstoppable, middle class families are waiting in mile long lines at food banks, and those who were already a paycheck away from disaster are now homeless. The political divide is deeper than ever, no longer about differences in policy, it is now an appraisal of morality. Wearing a mask has become a partisan statement, with both sides shaming and accusing each other of ignorance.

The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in close succession have shocked those who had come to accept racial bias as an unpleasant truth to be denounced, yet tolerated. The long simmering resentment of African Americans has passed the boiling point, and we are witnessing a revolt against a society that has oppressed and stigmatized their race for centuries, the type of which has not been seen since Dr Martin Luther King lit a fire for equality more than 50 years ago.

Then there are those who used to lurk in the shadows and hide under hoods, who have become emboldened to voice their hatred and hostility towards people of color over the last three years. For them, the stakes are now higher than ever; they are desperate to cling to their vision of a whiter America peering over the horizon.

All are clamoring to be heard, and the resulting cacophony of rage threatens to dissolve America. To say these are frightening times would be a ludicrous understatement. Growing up, political discourse was something I rarely witnessed. I was raised in a religion that preached neutrality, and it was considered futile to attempt to influence societal issues that could only be solved by a higher power. An independent streak and a passion against injustice brought me into frequent conflict with my family and religious leaders, but I struggled to reconcile those principles with my conscience. I saw neutrality as pacifism, and pacifism was complicity.

In 1992, as the Rodney King riots shook Los Angeles, I graduated from high school. I remember watching the riots on television and not really grasping what they were about. It was undeniable that the police had brutally and unnecessarily beaten a man, but I failed to recognize that the rage over that was fueled by a systemic problem. I lived in an all white community in the mid-west, and while I was aware racism was still prevalent, I rarely witnessed it and certainly had no concept of how it permeated the everyday existence of people of color.

I was raised to accept people of all races and nationalities, and have never felt hatred for another race, yet still, unconscious racial and class bias was cultivated in me. My relationships were filtered through the lens of how much their lives mirrored mine. I felt compassion for the less fortunate, yet my efforts to help them revolved around making them more like me. I subconsciously divided the “good blacks” from “bad blacks”- usually based only on their speech and style of clothing. I held strong opinions on homosexuality and abortion, and consideration of other viewpoints or contemplating different reasoning was not allowed by my religion. Effort was made to reduce exposure to outside influences that might contradict those beliefs, so education beyond high school was strongly discouraged. My mind remained closed because my world was.

A complicated series of events, too lengthy to detail here, slowly unraveled my faith, and I eventually discarded my religious beliefs. The consequences of that decision were personally devastating, causing me to spiral into a deep and unrelenting depression, and I sought counseling as a means to cope with my grief, disillusionment and fear. However, with the loss of what was familiar and comfortable came the gift of freedom of thought, and I embraced the opportunity to re-learn what I believed. I sought to educate myself on issues that I had been ignorant of, I listened to others’ opinions with an open mind, and I worked to envision myself in the difficult situations that others faced, so that I could develop empathy. I became aware of the judgmental lens I had unconsciously filtered others through, and began to engage with those who I would have previously avoided. I saw beyond their clothes, mannerisms and diction to the person inside, and discovered that where once I saw vast differences, now I saw sameness.

There is a video currently circulating on social media that has sparked furious controversy. In it, a young, black woman named Candace Owens expresses her disgust for the seeming martyrdom of George Floyd, due to his violent criminal past. While she condemns the actions of the officers, some of what she said seems to enforce the entrenched belief that black men being shot in some way have it coming. I was infuriated by many of her comments, but I forced myself to listen to her, and to try to understand her point of view, some of which was not without merit. She emphasized that George Floyd had not lived an honorable life- he had hurt and traumatized individuals for life. She reasoned that the victims of his crimes surely are angered and hurt that he is suddenly being treated as a hero.

I considered at length how despite her facts being accurate, millions of people were not only angered by his death, but truly grieved, even driven to tears, as I was. Why are we mourning George Floyd? It is because when we watched him die, when we listened to him gasp for air, when he cried out for his mother- for those 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we didn’t see a black man, and we didn’t see a criminal- we saw a human. People worldwide had seen past their filter and saw their human brother suffering, and it hurt. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we were not white or black or or any race other than the human one. That brief glimpse was enough to shock many people awake, and opened their eyes to how fellow humans are being treated. The reality of what it means to be black in America has finally resonated and made us painfully aware and ashamed of our white privilege. It is apparent that this can no longer be treated as a “black problem”- it is a human problem.

These are unprecedented and turbulent times, but also, the beginning of a new era. Just as my life changed when my unconscious prejudices were torn away, the entire country is experiencing the same. It is not enough to just not be a racist- because silence is complicity. It is no longer enough to portion shares of equality to those we feel have earned it, it has to be granted upon birth. What we are witnessing is an entire nation recognizing and acknowledging their mistakes, and actively taking measures to change. Emotions are high, and conflicting, but we have the choice to continue stripping away our ignorance and educate ourselves, with an open mind, without bias. We can stop focusing on our differences and work to see sameness. We can look at the destruction of what was familiar and comfortable with fear, or we can see it as an opportunity to start over and to re-make our country into something better. Right now, we can choose to be scared, or we can choose to be strong.

I did not write the following, but it says what I am feeling in my heart: (see below)

“WHAT IF 2020 ISN’T CANCELLED?
WHAT IF 2020 IS THE YEAR WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR?
A YEAR SO UNCOMFORTABLE, SO PAINFUL, SO SCARY, SO RAW-THAT IT FINALLY FORCES US TO GROW.
A YEAR THAT SCREAMS SO LOUD, FINALLY AWAKENING US FROM OUR IGNORANT SLUMBER.
A YEAR WE FINALLY ACCEPT THE NEED FOR CHANGE.
DECLARE CHANGE. WORK FOR CHANGE. BECOME THE CHANGE.
A YEAR WE FINALLY BAND TOGETHER, INSTEAD OF PUSHING EACH OTHER FURTHER APART.
2020 ISN’T CANCELED, BUT RATHER THE MOST IMPORTANT YEAR OF THEM ALL.”
– leslie dwight

By Michelle Schwake

If only I had the time…..

If only I had the time…..

Let's Take Advantage

There are so many things that I would do if I only had the time. Guess what? We do!

We can use this time that we have right now to create positive change in our lives. How will you take advantage of being in quarantine. 

Here are a few of the things I came up with. 

1. Journal

2. Pay attention to our feelings

3. Spend time outdoors

4. Create structure in our lives.

5. Be rested

6. Meal Preparation

7. Read a good book

8. Start a new hobby 

9. Learn something new

10. Create a gentle yoga routine

11. Ask for support

12. Listen to inspiring podcasts

13. Take a deep breathe

14. Create a gratitude journal

15. Order a self-help workbook

16. Pray

 

 

My Confrontation at Starbucks.

My Confrontation at Starbucks

   So I don’t usually post much about work on Facebook but I figure this is a place where a large amount of people can be reached. This is going to be a novel I can already feel it lol OH NO IT’S HAPPENING AND I’M MAD SO STRAP IN.

I’m a Dietitian working in the field of eating disorders, and it has been the most rewarding job of my life. It has also been the most emotionally taxing thing I’ve ever done.

Eating disorders are the number one deadliest mental illness. Every day, I see people muster every bit of strength they have to fight these life-threatening diseases. I see people feeling completely and utterly broken, hopeless, done, sick. I have seen people dance, laugh, scream, and curl into a ball in defeat, all in a matter of an hour.

I see people cry of happiness over their victories in treatment, only to cry of sadness and guilt immediately after. I watch their face shift as they realize this “success” in treatment is (in their eyes, right now) their greatest failure.

Anita Johnston, author of “Eating by the Light of the Moon,” said it perfectly. She describes a person falling into a river. Imagine it is storming, and they are drowning. They are terrified. They grab onto a log in the water, and it saves their life. The storm calms, the water level slowly drops, they are safer now.

Their friends and family are on the shore, waving to them to come in. They try to swim while holding the log, but it is too big and powerful, and it’s holding them back. They cannot swim to shore with the log in their arms. They cannot get to where they want to be while holding the log. But they don’t want to let go of this log. Why would they? What if the storm comes again? What if they aren’t strong enough?

They will occasionally let go of the log, to try. A wave comes and they get scared, and grab on again. One day, they summon the strength to tread water for 10 seconds before they grab back on. Another day, they make it to 30 seconds. Eventually, they make a lap around the log before fear launches them back into its’ clutches. Little by little, they gain confidence in their strength to make it to shore without the log.

One day, a long while later, exhausted and close to giving up hope, they let go of the log and begin to swim. They swim as hard as they can, until they reach the shore. They no longer need the log to feel safe. They are ready to rebuild, to renew, to create. They are free. I’m paraphrasing and putting my own spin on it, but that’s the general idea.

The log in this analogy is the eating disorder, as it has served a purpose for everyone struggling. Control, escape, accomplishment, success, identity, communication, fear, numbing, punishment, coping. These are only some. They are also often biological/neurological/genetic in etiology. The rushing river is life, the shore is recovery.

I was inspired to write this post when I overheard someone in the line at Starbucks speaking about how “selfish” and “stupid” their girlfriend was for going into another eating disorder treatment center. “She’s skinny, I’ve told her that so many times,” they said. “What does she have to worry about?” “It sucks for me because I’m never going to see her.”

Eating disorders are not a disease based in vanity or a desire for a certain aesthetic. Their symptoms manifest in food, eating behaviors, and body image, but they are serious, life-threatening mental illnesses and are not to be made light of. They are never alone or without an underlying issue.

A couple years ago, I had a client who was on the 80th percentile for weight on their growth charts, and dropped to the 5th percentile in less than a year. At one point in her treatment, when she reached the 20th percentile, her doctor told me she was “medically fine now” and no longer needed treatment, and I needed to step away from her care and let them “take it from here.” “MEDICALLY FINE”……..LET YOU “TAKE IT FROM HERE”…….oh hell no. My brain exploded.

This teenager was more depressed than they had ever been, not getting their period, heart rate 38 bpm, losing full chunks of hair, and was well on their way to osteoporosis. That doctor no longer answers my phone calls (lol that’s fine good riddance sir) but the child is fully recovered because thankfully, their family trusted me.

How do we validate the seriousness of a condition if many of our medical providers, the very people we trust with our health, are telling some of the sickest people that they are “medically fine?”

How do we help people who are feeling so deeply sad and hopeless feel seen and heard, if we are viewing their disease as “selfish” and “stupid?”

How do we slow the development of these diseases when the “wellness” industry based in pseudo-science is promoting restrictive dieting in our youth? IN OUR CHILDREN.

Why was my 13 year old client congratulated on their “willpower” when they brought a bag of raw broccoli to their own birthday party in lieu of cake?

I am writing a Facebook novel right now because this is important.

I will be going to doctors offices donating the book “Sick Enough” by Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani in hope that someone will read it. I speak to health and PE teacher meetings for Fairfax and Loudoun County public schools about how to safely communicate health and nutrition information tochildren and adolescents, in hope that someone will hear it.

I feel like that isn’t enough, though. Which is why I’ve resulted to a social media post, because realistically more people can be reached this way.

“What is the take-home message?” You may be asking if you have made it this far. I’m glad you asked!

1. Be mindful of your words. Be mindful of your judgements. You never know what people are going through.

2. When communicating nutrition information to people (especially personal trainers, health teachers, and health professionals who are new to working with eating disorders) focus on what to add instead of what to take away. 

For example: “did you get some fruits and vegetables today to give your body the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals it needs?” Instead of: “do not eat sugar. It is bad.” Another example: hypertension. Research shows that increasing potassium in the diet is effective in lowering blood pressure. Yes, some people need to be careful of the salt shaker and high sodium foods. However, isn’t it lovely that we can talk to them about what they should include vs. what they shouldn’t, and improve their lab values without promoting dichotomous, black and white thinking about eating?

3. Stop demonizing foods, labeling themas “good” or “bad” and putting a moral value on what people eat. Food is supposed to serve two purposes: nourishment and enjoyment. That’s it. You are not “bad” because you had a dessert. You are not “good” because you ignored your basic biological needs by cutting your calories in half.

4. Let’s stop downplaying eating disorders and simplifying their complex nature by telling people they are “fine.” Let’s listen to people when they talk. Let’s keep comments about people’s bodies in a locked vault, stored in the depths of hell. Let’s help people who we believe to be struggling get help. Let’s check in with people who are exhibiting disordered eating behaviors, rather than asking them what their secret to weight loss is. Let’s stop food shaming other people.

5. Understand that eating disorders do not have a face. They do not have a shape or size. They are not only restrictive eating, or purging, or binging. They come in all shapes, sizes, and forms and manifest in many different behaviors. Men, women, non binary, it doesn’t matter. Eating disorders do not discriminate. You cannot look at someone and determine whether or not they have an eating disorder.

6. Most importantly, let’s talk about mental health, because it’s important.

Thank you for coming to my ted talk ?

Edit: To everyone who has reached out to me, thank you. Below is a link to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) website. They have a lot of informative resources, along with a treatment finder to get help in your area.

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

Prosperity Eating Disorders and Wellness Center in Herndon, VA (where I work) has a free family/friend support group for those who have loved ones with eating disorders at 5pm on the first and third Monday of every month. Anyone is welcome.

We also have a comprehensive team of therapists, dietitians, and a psychiatrist/medical director. We have a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and outpatient services. We offer art therapy, yoga, and acupuncture. If you or a loved one are struggling, give us a call or visit our website.

703-466-5150

https://prosperityedwell.com

Parents as Role Models Around Food and Body Image

Parents as Role Models Around Food and Body Image

  1. Why is it important for parents to model healthy eating?

Social psychologists have long explored how social experiences shape our cognitions and behavior. This type of learning, known as observational learning, provides children with the opportunity to watch a “model” (aka parent, sibling or authority figure) as they react to events in their environment. Observational learning is one of the most natural types of learning that we have available to us. The idea is we watch what the model does in a given scenario and then process that scenario or schema as desirable or undesirable; ultimately our behaviors are shaped by watching how others interact with their environment. We mimic and mirror what we see and have learned is valuable to our family system.

Food is a fundamental aspect of the human experience, we all need nutrients to survive and thrive. Unfortunately in today’s society, we have become hyper aware of image and perfection as a symbol for worthiness, resulting fad diets, preoccupation with weight / image, and a generalized sense of dissatisfaction with ourselves in comparison to a perceived ideal. Despite the negative impacts societal pressures can have on an individual’s image or self-esteem, there are many ways parents can buffer the effects of these pressures, not the least of which is healthy modeling. What does this mean? In short it’s teaching your kids to develop a healthy relationship with food by setting a positive example.

Our kids are watching us all the time (we aren’t as sneaky as we think we are), they see us reading labels and being conscious which is great! It’s a great opportunity for us to teach our children about food, nutrition, and healthy eating. Conversely, they see us cringing at calories, judging ourselves and our bodies in the mirror, and they sense the importance of image. We can be a gateway to a healthy lifestyle or we can inadvertently tell our kids that food is the enemy and image is everything. It’s easy to think this learning would have to be overt, that a dance teacher who pinches her students back would obviously result in an unhealthy relationship with food. But it can, and often does, happen far more subtlety, watching mom choose a salad time and again instead of getting what she really wants because she has attached a value to the food as bad. As with most things, moderation is key, it’s not so much what you are eating or feeding your family as it is the relationship with the food and experiences.

  1. What language should parents use/not use, around kids, to prevent unhealthy eating beliefs and behaviors?

Try to avoid making comparisons or comments, especially image oriented ones. For example don’t say,”Oh, Molly is so small, and I am just fat” or “Your friend Jen is so small and cute” “Comparisons like this aren’t helpful in promoting a positive self-image.

Kids going through growth spurts often grow out before they grow up. When your kids are in these spurts, don’t poke at them or their chubby cheeks. In general, try not to use all or nothing statements. That ice cream will make you fat, or those cookies are going to go straight to my hips. No one has ever died from a scoop of ice cream, just like if you eat a cookie or a few cookies, it doesn’t mean you are no longer loveable because your skinny jeans got a little snug. Kids don’t always have the gift of discernment, that’s another reason healthy modeling is so important. We get to teach them that food can be a wonderful and connecting experience. If you wouldn’t want someone saying it to you, then you probably shouldn’t say it to your child, they’re people too, just younger and more impressionable.

  1. How do our kids (unknowingly) teach us how to eat healthy?

Our bodies have natural triggers that tell us when we are hungry and when we are full. People don’t have to be taught when to eat or not, it’s a natural process that occurs and that we can become mindful of as we develop. Children haven’t yet learned to ignore their inner cues and will often adhere to appropriate portions when they are allowed to choose. Kids listen to their bodies, if they have cravings they typically fulfill them and move on with what they are doing. They don’t assign value or judgement to foods which means they are naturally more healthy in regard to portion control and enjoying the eating experience.

  1. How can we achieve health while feeling care free in the process?

Barring an allergy, one scoop, or cup, or plate of anything is not going to leave an indelible mark on our psyche or bodies. Remaining mindful as you eat and making food preparation a process and an act of love for yourselves and others can be a great way to bring joy and peace to a moment. If you struggle with your relationship with food, affirmations can be a great way to break the negative thought pattern. It may feel artificial at first, but keep saying the words, internalize that sense of peace with the food and the process of being healthy. Exercise can be a great way to mitigate depressive symptoms, as the endorphins released during and after a workout boost mood. Additionally, this can be a great way to channel your energy by doing something positive and active with your body, see what you are capable of, know that you are a blessing and that your body is a gift.

By Ashley Steelman, MSW

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Eating Disorder Resource

The Alliance for Eating Disorders recommends a simple acronym to help you cope during your loved one’s recovery journey:

 

C
  • You didn’t CAUSE it.
  • You can’t CONTROL it.
  • You can’t CURE it.
  • You can learn how NOT to CONTRIBUTE to it.
  • You need to learn how to COPE with it.
  • Take CARE of yourself.
P
  • Avoid PANIC. It prohibits clear thinking and calm reactions.
  • Recovery is a PROCESS. Two steps forward, one step back.
  • PROGRESS, not PERFECTION, is the goal. PATIENCE is critical.
R
  • RESPOND instead of REACT.
  • REMEMBER to listen.
  • REFLECT and REASON before you speak.
  • RECOVERY is a journey, a long ROAD that may include RELAPSE.
  • REACH out to others for love and support.

 

For more information about resources for loved ones, or to contact Prosperity for assistance, visit our website at www.prosperityedwell.com.

*Adapted from The Alliance for Eating Disorderswww.allianceforeatingdisorders.com

Suggested Reading

  • Life Without ED – Jenni Schafer
  • Healing Your Hungry Heart – Joanna Poppink
  • 8 Keys to Eating Disorder Recovery – Carolyn Costin, MA, MED, MFCC; Gewn Schubert
  • Eating by the Light of the Moon – Anita Johnson
  • 100 Questions and Answers About ED – Carolyn Costin, MA, MED, MFCC
  • Brave Girl Eating – Harriet Brown
  • Eating With Your Anorexic – Laura Collins
  • Father Hunger – Margo Maine, PhD
  • Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders – Marcia Herrin, EDD, MPH, RD & Nancy Matsumoto
  • Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder – Johanna S. Kandel

*Adapted from the Alliance for Eating Disorderswww.allianceforeatingdisorders.com

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