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Staying Power: How To Tolerate What Feels Intolerable

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, RYT, is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In recovery herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. Jennifer works with clients in person and via Skype. She also teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia, is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, and leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes. In this week’s post, Jennifer discusses the idea of “staying power” in tolerating what feels intolerable.

While on my healing path from anorexia I’ve had to learn how to tolerate what often felt positively intolerable (my body, food, treatment, calorie increases, exercise restriction, gaining weight, drinking supplements, painful therapy sessions, and much more). I was taught to sit with uneasy feelings and physical discomfort and to wait for them to pass. The reality is that that space and time of “waiting” can be in itself intolerable and set off habitual negative thoughts and behaviors. Yes, learning to be present to discomfort is an important life skill, and that awareness is key, however, I believe that approach can sometimes feel passive and leave us feeling helpless in a difficult moment or situation.

Staying power is what I call super-charged presence. It’s actively and directly taking on intolerable feelings — those feelings that set off negative thoughts and coping behaviors. It’s about staring those painful thoughts down and not letting yourself off the hook with sabotaging and destructive behaviors — like hiding food, over exercising, being dishonest with support people, or checking out by starving, purging, and bingeing. The more we practice staying power and get comfortable with what feels intolerable, then the door to acceptance and the deeper work of healing can open. But first, we have to learn how to NOT escape the feeling.

The minute you have the awareness that you want to dodge, push away, or ignore a feeling or situation is the exact time to tap into your staying power. In yoga, we have a saying: the pose begins the moment you want to come out of it. The same with recovery: the real work begins when we choose to stay and push ourselves to withstand what feels awful. In my experience, practices like mantra, deep breathing, and yoga poses cultivate staying power by creating focused positivity. For others, prayer, art, music, cooking, and nature brings a peace and calm from which to harness clarity and strength.

To learn your power source, reflect on these questions:

  • When in your life do you feel empowered?
  • What activity are you doing?
  • What thoughts, feelings, and emotions do you sense when you feel empowered?
  • How do you hold your body in that moment?

The qualities and activities you identified are your power source. To “stay” with what feels intolerable, you need to plug into your personal power source. It will both protect you from self-sabotaging behaviors and empower you to call on your strengths and not be defeated by what you believe you can’t tolerate.

I get that it’s not easy to REMEMBER your strengths when you feel consumed by an intolerable feeling and you want it to go away ASAP. Most likely, you have habitual responses that will need rewiring. To help you remember your strengths, I encourage you to create an intention that aligns with your power source or carry a grounding stone to help pull yourself out of ED Head and into the moment. You might even ask yourself “WTF” (What’s the Feeling?) when the urge to check out comes on or try this simple yoga practice to interrupt habitual eating disorder rituals.

Here’s the thing: we need to get creative and test out little tricks to begin to make small shifts in our recovery. We can’t cultivate staying power if we don’t actively, directly, and deliberately pull ourselves out of ED Head and use our personal power to rise above the challenge of tolerating what feels intolerable.

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.


Three Reasons to Set Firm Boundaries and Enforce Them

Becky Henry is trained as a Certified, Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) and uses those skills to guide families to let go of fear and panic, learn self-care skills and become effective guides for their loved one in eating disorder recovery. In this week’s blog post, Becky discusses the importance of setting boundaries.

 

  1. They empower us and our loved ones.
  2. We gain time and energy to more effectively support our loved one in recovery.
  3. They keep us and our loved ones safe

    Boundaries are not cruel, they’re COOL!

It doesn’t help us or our sick child to fall prey to all of the chaos and fear of the eating disorder (ed). We need to live in-tune with our own desires, needs, and feelings.

​FEAR can lead to SILENCE, INDECISION and KEEPING OUR CHILD SICK.

If you love or care about or know someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder you may be feeling; fearful, helpless, overwhelmed, afraid, upset, and more. And if your loved one is over 18 you might fear there is nothing you can do to help them with recovery from one of these deadly brain illnesses. There is an endless list of things to fear; when they will eat next, when they might purge again, when insurance will cut them off, will they die?

Fear keeps us stuck. ​It’s time to ​send those fears on a hike!​ There is plenty you can do!

Make sure you’re included in the treatment plan!​ More and more treatments are including families so there is definitely a lot you can and will need to do. You may be wondering what you do if your area doesn’t have a program that includes parents at all. And perhaps your family situation is such that doing the FBT model isn’t a good fit. Then it’s a matter of finding treatment providers who will work with you and your loved one. Many treatment centers now include parents as part of the team and have options for learning how to help your child. Another option may be to go out of your area. If you’re in the USA, The Alliance for Eating Disorders can you help find a center that is a good fit for your child.

Educate yourself on eating disorders.​ The more you understand, the more competent and confident you will be in staying calm and not letting fear take hold. It will empower you and give you ​hope​ as you learn that there are effective treatments.

Treatment usually must continue for a long time, often even after they have been fully re-nourished for over a year. Please hold onto ​HOPE​, this is a normal part of the process.

Do your part to preserve your sanity and health, this helps you remain calm​ so you can actively preserve the relationship. Eating disorders can destroy relationships as well as lives. Remaining calm doesn’t mean it is going to be all wine and roses, but you can do your best to ​show the person in recovery that they are loved​ and protect yourself in the meantime by setting limits on what will will allow others to do to us. Not an easy task with someone who often thinks they are unlovable and has their thoughts distorted by the eating disorder. We don’t help them by taking on their experiences and ‘stuff.’

I know what I am in control of myself and my experience and that I’m not in control of other people and their experiences.

When we can be calm, emotionally objective and confident in our decisions we can then cope with the wild things the eating disorder will throw at us.​ Easy to say, hard to do. Keep reading, we’ll get you on the right path. You may need some extra support with this and that’s fine. We have parent support programs to help with that. Self-care is essential. It is not selfish! Doing things that fill you up actually helps you and your child.

Here is an example of a situation a parent might be facing:

“My child with bulimia also abuses alcohol and is stealing. I know he needs treatment for his eating disorder so I keep rescuing him when he shoplifts. I’m getting bitter and angry about constantly bailing him out with money but I’m so afraid if he goes to jail he won’t get the treatment he needs.”

The fear and lack of boundaries around what this parent is willing to set limits on are leading to them being taken advantage of and as a result, the child isn’t getting any better and the parent is becoming bitter and angry. This is not helping anyone.

We become so used to verbal abuse and disrespectful treatment from the eating disorder that we begin tolerating inappropriate behaviors. Once we come to grips with our ​fears​ and accept that boundaries aren’t cruel and punitive then we can begin to set limits. And reclaim our power and some ​HOPE.

I get it, setting limits takes time and energy that we don’t have. And in the long run, they give us more time and energy. Setting and enforcing boundaries are loving acts that keep our kids safe. It takes consistency to enforce them, especially when we haven’t in the past.

Remember having a 2 year-old that wanted to run out into the street? We didn’t let them even if they screamed or cried or pitched a fit. There is no way we would would let them endanger themselves like that. It’s no different now, the stakes are much much higher though. ​When we take the time and energy to set limits and enforce them, we gain so much time and energy as well as protecting our child.

It may better serve the parent in the example to instead of bailing him out say, “I will not finance your irresponsible behavior.”

We don’t want our child to live forever in an “almost anorexic” or “almost recovered” state as that would be much more painful and cruel in the long run than making the tough decisions to draw the line in the sand now.

Trust me, I understand how much it hurts. I will never ever forget flying across the country to take my child to treatment. I cried most of the way there and back. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. It broke my heart into a million pieces. I get it how very painful some of the choices are that we have to make for our kids in recovery. These choices can save their lives.

Often with teens and young adults in recovery we must ​bravely use whatever leverage we have to set boundaries that keep them safe​. This might be letting them know the limits and rules for having the privilege of having a cell phone. Or using the car, or going to college. These are tough boundaries to enforce and they will most likely get angry with us. This means they’re learning they cannot use us anymore. Until we are consistent and stay firm they will continue to take advantage of us. And they often will continue resisting taking the recovery steps they need to take.

Boundaries can bring; HOPE, PEACE, CALM, HEALING and JOY!

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.


Article Spotlight

Join us in reading soulful articles we have cultivated from across the web. If you have found an article you feel is inspirational, explores current research, or is a knowledgeable piece of literature and would like to share with us please send an e-mail here.

 

Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders NEDA

Garmet Project Offers Fresh Wardrobe to Those Recovering from Eating Disorders Trib Live

The Importance of Slowing Down Psychology Today

When You’re a Good Friend to Others But a Terrible One to Yourself Huffington Post

Do These Daily: The 3 Most Meditative Yoga Poses Mind Body Green

Using Mindfulness to Navigate “Self” Mindful

 

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.


Treatment Now? That is the Question

Monte Nido’s Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia Primary Therapist Kate Funk, MS, MFT shares some of her personal recovery journey in this week’s blog post. She explains that there might not be a “perfect” time to enter into treatment and to not let that stop you from seeking the support and help needed. Read on to learn more from Kate’s personal and professional experience…

Ambivalence is a common part of eating disorder recovery. Getting better can often feel terrifying and overwhelming which makes people question if they even want to recover. There is often a thick layer of denial and fear that can also make people question if getting better is truly worth it or if it’s the best time to start on the journey to recovery.

Many clients worry they don’t have time for treatment. (Financial worries, social obligations, academic pursuits, and upcoming vacations are just a few of the reasons clients have questioned whether or not to delay treatment.) As a recovered therapist I can relate to this issue on a personal level. I remember attempting to postpone my own treatment so I could attend my high school’s Homecoming. The woman looked me in the eye and said, “You might not make it to Homecoming if we don’t get you into treatment”. I was shocked. No one had ever spoken to me about my eating disorder like that before, but deep down something in me knew she was right.

It will never be the “perfect” time for treatment. There will never be a time in your life when everything is neatly tied up with a cheery red bow, you just happen to have extra money tucked away to spend on your well being, everyone in your life is supportive and excited for your recovery, and your “to do” list is empty. That’s not reality. Quite often, I find clients expect a variation of these scenarios in order to be ready for treatment. Treatment will never be convenient and, in fact, probably shouldn’t be. If recovery came easily the destination wouldn’t mean as much.

If you are wondering if you should go to treatment even though there are a laundry list of obstacles in your way, take some time to reflect on what’s preventing you from committing to treatment today. Ask yourself, am I truly present in my life? Am I able to laugh with family and friends? Am I able to concentrate in conversations? Am I able to engage in activities I enjoy? Is my life in jeopardy without more support? (This is a trick question; the answer is absolutely! Eating disorders are deadly!) Is it worth living a half-hearted life when I have the chance to recreate a whole one? Consider carefully your answers to these questions. Remember your life will still be there after treatment, and you might actually be present to participate in it instead of just surviving it!

Recovery is a process that allows you to peel away the layers of pain, break the habits and obsession, and heal so you can reclaim your true self. Treatment is the leap of faith that things can be better and the white flag admitting that your eating disorder’s way of life is no longer working. Asking for help is the most vulnerable thing we must do as humans, but it is also the most courageous. Treatment offers the opportunity to dust off and reclaim your life. If you are considering treatment, now is the time. Everything can be put on hold, but your health cannot. For more information on treatment please call our admissions department or email at montenidoadmissions@montenido.com.


Honoring Client’s Self Determination: The Case of “A.G.”

Monte Nido & Affiliates Adolescent Treatment Program, Clementine Briarcliff Manor Clinical Director Danielle Small, MS, LMFT is an eating disorder expert who is dedicated to helping clients learn to accept their bodies and embrace their spirit while also connecting to their intellectual curiosity. In this week’s post, Danielle dives into the idea of treating clients who are resistant to care and touches on a recent legal ruling involving a woman suffering with Anorexia Nervosa. Read on to get Danielle’s insight into the topic…

Often in our work we encounter clients who are resistant to care.  They may only be in treatment due to boundaries held by loved ones and therefore may not be emotionally connected to letting go of their eating disorders on their own accord.  In these cases, we often speak of “meeting the client where they are at”; encouraging them to work on those aspects of themselves that they feel safe challenging, while we in turn build a case for full surrender to the treatment process.  Some of these clients eventually catch a glimpse of the value of letting go of their eating disorder and tolerating the unknown in order to live a different type of life.  Unfortunately, others don’t see the eating disorder as the problem, but instead the solution to managing whatever stressors they face.  So the question then is, when do we honor a client’s self-determination?  With the medical complications inherent to eating disorders, this can be a complex clinical question, fraught with legal and ethical concerns.

The idea of self-determination is central to the case of “A.G.”, a twenty-nine year old New Jersey woman suffering from Anorexia.  In November of 2016, A.G. was granted the right to refuse a feeding tube and instead she received palliative care.  On Monday, February 20th, 2017 A.G. died.  Her guardians and treatment team ultimately supported her decision to refuse medical help due to the toll forced-feeding and restraints would have taken on her body.  The judge in this case described A.G’s testimony as “forthright, responsive, knowing, intelligent, voluntary, steadfast and credible.”[1] This is not surprising, as many of our clients are incredibly bright, intuitive and capable individuals.  However, due to the often ego-syntonic nature of their disorders, they are not able to see past their own truth.

This post does not seek to argue politics or make judgments on the cultural implications of such a ruling.  It simply begs the question, how do we respond to resistance when it may be both final and fatal?  In cases where an individual is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Cancer or Parkinson’s, one would assume that the disease is seen as the enemy, not the friend.  Choosing to surrender to death is often connected to inevitable decline, financial hardship and the pain of invasive treatments.  If an individual were given an opportunity to heal, that opportunity most likely would be seized.  Yet with eating disorders the opportunity is often cast aside due to debilitating anxiety and fear, not to mention the discomfort of tolerating a body that feels like a betrayal.  How do we know as professionals when to let go and allow a client to walk their own path?  Do we advise the family to permit the client to connect to their healthy selves in their own time, or do we intervene regardless of a client’s wishes?

The standard in determining a client’s capacity is to assess the following[2]:

  1. Can the client communicate their choice?
  2. Can they understand the information relevant to making this choice?
  3. Do they appreciate the consequences of this decision?
  4. Can the client process this information rationally and in a way that is consistent with the client’s long-standing desires?

Many clients have no issues with points one and two.  However discerning whether a client is rationally processing the consequences of refusing care is the tricky part.

In A.G.’s case the court did not see the impact of the disorder on her cognitive functioning.  The judge saw an intelligent woman making a well-informed argument that further intervention would bring unnecessary pain and suffering. Clearly it was determined that the consequences were understood and consistent with A.G.’s well-established wishes.

I can’t speak from the perspective of a judge, but as a clinician, I aim to go beyond the standard assessment.  I certainly want to use all the empirically tested tools available to me, but I also want to connect to the essence of the individual; look into their eyes, hear their words and witness their suffering, whether that suffering comes from their eating disorder or the work of letting go of it.  I want to sit and process with those that love them, and for better or worse, have taken the journey with them.  I ultimately want to try to glimpse their soul self and tune into an intuition that cannot be labeled or quantified.  Only then can I make a determination on how I might chose to act if tasked with supporting or denying a client’s self-determination.

References:

(2) Appelbaum, P. S., & Grisso, T. (1988). Assessing patients’ capacities to consent to treatment. New England Journal of Medicine,1635-1638.

(1) Kauffman, E. (2017, February 22). Eating disorder leads to court case, woman’s death. Retrieved March 06, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/22/health/right-to-die-anorexic-woman-dies/

(2) Schmidt, S. (2016, November 22). Anorexic woman weighing 69 pounds has a right to starve, court rules. Retrieved March 06, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/11/22/anorexic-woman-weighing-69-pounds-has-a-right-to-starve-court-rules/?utm_term=.99472d847442

 

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

 


My Soulful Journey: Grace Kuo

Monte Nido Rain Rock Lead Therapist Grace Kuo, MA, LMFTi utilizes her experience and clinical approaches in individual therapy, CBT/DBT group and Food and Feelings to work alongside clients towards recovery. In this week’s post, Grace shares some of her personal journey to joining Monte Nido and just what makes the Rain Rock team so special. Learn more about Grace and Monte Nido Rain Rock by reading her soulful journey…

What is your name and what are your credentials?

Grace Kuo, M.A., Registered MFT intern in CA and OR. I’m the Lead Therapist at RainRock.

Please give us a brief description of your background and what led you to Monte Nido.

I’ve always been fascinated in relationships and how to incorporate that clinically. I also believe in family work and seeing how relationships can heal the individual. Prior to being a therapist I was a personal trainer and got to work with women on how to feel strong in their bodies, which led to my interest in eating disorders and working on the deeper issues. In my work as a trainer, I also saw the distortions around food and weight. As a former collegiate athlete, I wanted to take my experiences and work with other athletes that may struggle with an eating disorder.

What does a typical day look like for you at Monte Nido?

A typical day for me can change. On some days I will have supervision, do sessions, have a recovery coach meeting, sit for a meal, then do group. On other days, I may go on a lunch outing with clients. I like that things at the residential level can change any minute and that we all work together as a team.

In your own words, please describe the philosophy of Monte Nido.

I believe that Monte Nido values person first. We see individuals as a human, and I think that has been a valuable part of my work with clients as well as my work as a clinician. Often times, clients see their identity in their eating disorder so helping them find their healthy voice to identify their soul self has been a beautiful thing to see.

How does your team work together? How do your roles overlap and differ?

I love this team. I think our roles overlap in the way we step in when needed and that we value each other with what each person brings to the table. I see how the four principles apply to our culture here to show up, be present, tell the truth without judgment, and don’t be attached to the results. I know I can trust each person who comes in and also provide different perspectives that we can collaborate together on.

Share a special moment/experience you had at Monte Nido.

A special moment I experience at Monte Nido is always graduations. It’s sacred in the way it honors the work as well as the relationships built. Sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it’s sad, but I appreciate the moments that we can do this.

What is unique about Monte Nido?

I think the biggest thing is the belief in full recovery. I see it as something that provides a lot of hope and motivation, and better yet that clients can be curious about the type of recovery they want. It can be very empowering. I also appreciate the focus on relationships and how that heals the individual.

Share three facts about yourself.

I have an 8 month old Husky named Mochi, my parents came from Taiwan so I am fluent in mandarin and my brothers are 9 years apart but have the same birthday.

 

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.


10 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

Becky Henry is trained as a Certified, Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) and uses those skills to guide families to let go of fear and panic, learn self-care skills and become effective guides for their loved one in eating disorder recovery. In her writing, Becky offers self care tips for those caring for loved ones in recovery from an eating disorder.

Loving and caring about someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder likely has left you feeling hopeless, helpless, overwhelmed, terrified, upset, confused and more. When your loved one is over 18 you might fear there is nothing you can do to help them with recovery from one of these deadly brain illnesses.

There is HOPE! There are plenty of things you can do to both help your child in recovery (no matter their age) and help yourself. I’m sharing 10 simple self-care tips with you to try so you can practice self-care and more easily and effectively help your loved one. But first, just like they say on the airplane, you must put on your oxygen mask first!

Doing things you enjoy while you have a child who is so sick may seem selfish and counter intuitive but it is essential to practice extreme self-care. This is a crisis and your child needs a parent who is in top form and ready to go to bat for them. So, let’s do it!

Send those fears on a hike! Literally! First, notice that you’re having a fear response. That’s the tricky part. Then consciously CHOOSE to send fears on a hike. Last, CHOOSE another much more useful and fun thing to think about. And then if you like, take your own hike – without the fears.

Make sure you’re included in the treatment team. The evidence is increasingly showing that when the family is included, the treatment outcomes improve. The chemical dependency world has known this for over 30 years.  They have also been huge proponents of caregiver self-care.

Learn skills for being: calm, emotionally objective and confident. This may include some DBT Skills. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) helps anyone with mindfulness and distress tolerance. When we are mindful and have managed our distress, we can be calmer. Being calm helps us be rational in our decisions so we can then cope with the wild things the eating disorder will throw at us. Doing our part to preserve our sanity and health helps us remain calm so we can actively preserve relationships. That doesn’t mean it is going to be all wine and roses, but we can do our best to show the person in recovery that they are loved. Not an easy task with someone who often thinks they are unlovable and has their thoughts distorted by the eating disorder.

Make a Top 10 List. What’s this you say? When I was learning how to be a more effective parent of someone with an eating disorder, someone gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. She said, You’re in crisis, practice extreme self-care, and make a TOP 10 List of things that fill you up.” This seemed selfish to me at that point, but I get it now. It was hard to fit it in some days with all the work of helping my daughter.

We cannot pour anything out of an empty cup.

So, you out there-yes you, making sure someone else’s needs are being met…it’s time. Get the nice paper (or any old thing) and make a list of 10 things you love to do, that fill you up. And then…do at least one EVERY DAY. Yes, every day. This will fill your cup up and make you an even better caregiver or “carer” as our friends in the UK say.

It might seem such a small thing to do but it is essential. If you are burned out, you will be of no use to your loved one. They need you, and they need you to be strong. So, do the right thing and go fill yourself up! You are the one who is on the front lines; you’re getting the full brunt of the eating disorder’s wrath. You need extra defenses.

Get support. This may be connecting with others who’ve been through this journey, paying a coach or therapist to guide you or attending a support group.

Learn caregiver skills. An essential piece of self-care. Training on how to be an effective caregiver is available and research is now showing how effective it can be in reducing caregiver anxiety, distress and burden. Check out the research done at Kings College in London by Dr. Janet Treasure.

Eat regular meals. This may seem obvious…yet in the throes of the chaos your own eating can get off kilter. Your child needs to see you modeling regular eating habits.

Commit to getting ENOUGH sleep. This may feel impossible due to the worries that seem to stream through our brains while in the midst of saving a child’s life. AND, with some practice and support we can get regular good sleep.

Get out in nature and move in a joyful way. Do whatever fills you up and commit to leaving Ed behind. Okay, it doesn’t have to be biking ‘no-handed’ on a beach but let it be fun. Try to notice your surroundings.

Practice Gratitude. There is so much evidence now on how being grateful reduces stress. And even the act of trying to think of things to be grateful for helps our brains produce more feel good chemicals. Give it a try!

Okay, as you get your oxygen mask in place, here are resources to keep you supported and involved as a family member:

 

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.


Supporting vs. Enabling: Do’s and Don’ts for Families and Supporters of People in Eating Disorder Recovery

Monte Nido Rivertowns Assistant Clinical Director Gillian Tanz, MSW, LCSW has almost ten years of experience treating severe mood and anxiety disorders in multiple settings. In this week’s post, Gillian shares some of the do’s and don’ts she has learned through the years from families and loved ones supporting those in eating disorder recovery. Read on to learn more about how you can support your loved one on their recovery journey.

Supporting a person with an eating disorder can be a very tricky thing to do. How do you know whether what you are doing is supporting your loved one in their recovery process, or enabling their eating disorder to retain its grip? This is a theme that comes up again and again at Monte Nido Rivertowns. Below are some helpful guidelines, as told to me by families, clients and staff engaged in the process of recovery.

Do: Educate yourself about eating disorders. The more you know about what your friend or loved one is going through, the better you can support them. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions also, as every person is unique. Eating disorders are serious illnesses, with the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. If you know or suspect you have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to support them to get effective treatment.

The following web sites are a good place to start educating yourself:

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/resource-links

http://www.aedweb.org

http://www.something-fishy.org

http://www.anad.org/get-help/

http://bedaonline.com

http://www.montenido.com/about-us/eating-disorder-education-resources/

Don’t: Talk about or evaluate your body or other people’s bodies, or talk about dieting or weight in front of the person in recovery. Even if you are not commenting on their body or their diet, you send an important message about what you value or judge in a person by how you discuss yourself or others. Of course, many people are unhappy with their weight or appearance and the prevalence of the diet industry in our culture cannot be understated. Just because you may be on a special diet does not mean you yourself are engaging in disordered eating habits. However, a person in eating disorder recovery is especially vulnerable to these messages. What is a casual comment to you, can for them be a verbal sledgehammer. This goes for compliments as well as criticisms! For example, noting that a celebrity looks great because he/she has lost weight can send a message that what you value about that person is their appearance. These messages are subtle but insidious, and it takes practice to become aware of them.

Do: Ask to be involved in your loved one’s treatment. One of the most important components of eating disorder recovery is developing a support network of people who understand what you are working on and how they can help. This is what we often call “putting the eating disorder out of a job.” For many people with eating disorders, the ED is a way to cope with difficult emotions, thoughts or events. Using food or disordered behaviors to exercise control over one’s situation is a strategy that may seem helpful to a client until it becomes a real problem. In order to move away from the disorder, the person must begin to trust and rely on friends and family to gain the emotional support that all people need.

Another reason offering your support and involvement can be so powerful is because of the shame and stigma so often associated with eating disorders. Joining with your loved one and engaging in therapy to the degree they are comfortable sends a message of empathy, acceptance and love that they may not believe possible. The alleviation of shame can be incredibly impactful on the recovery process for a person with an eating disorder. This is something supporters can offer in a way that the person in recovery often values more than if it comes from a treatment professional. The validation you can offer with your kindness and acceptance is incredibly healing and important.

Don’t: Make changes in your own life to accommodate the eating disorder. At Monte Nido, we talk about a person’s Healthy Self and their Eating Disordered Self. A person in recovery from an eating disorder may experience a daily battle between these two selves, and it can become quite confusing for them and for their loved ones. For example, a client of mine once told me how supportive her family was—they would stay home and watch tv with her rather than going out to eat at a restaurant. Restaurants made her (Eating Disordered Self) uncomfortable. Rather than making the client choose between what her Healthy Self wanted—time with her family—and what her Eating Disordered Self wanted—to restrict calories—the family’s “supportive” gesture appeased the ED. This enabled her to keep using disordered behaviors with no negative consequences. This client highly valued and loved her family and spending time with them. Before coming to treatment, the client felt her ED was “functional,” despite how miserable she often felt, because she was still able to “have her cake and eat it too.” Creating a choice between staying alone with her ED and engaging socially with her family was exactly what was needed to increase her motivation to recover.

Another reason not to accommodate the eating disorder is because it is awfully tiring! Supporters who go out of their way to appease the disorder can find themselves feeling “burnt out” and even resentful of their loved one. In addition to seeking your own support (see below), it is crucial to know what your limits are and to stick to them. Explain your personal boundaries to your loved one in recovery during a normal conversation (not an argument) and ask for their understanding and cooperation. This is another way to keep yourself healthy and take care of your own needs, so that you can be supportive to them as well.

Do: Get your own support. This can be from many sources, such as a support group, a therapist, friend or clergy. Some treatment facilities offer support groups just for loved ones of their clients for this reason. It is important to recognize that getting your own support can help the person you love who is suffering from an eating disorder. Much like the way that, on an airplane, you’re instructed to put your own air mask on before helping others, you must take care of yourself in order to be supportive to your loved one as they recover.

Don’t: give up hope. Our philosophy at Monte Nido is that real, sustained and permanent recovery from an eating disorder is possible. The road to being fully recovered is not easy, but the presence of loving supporters is essential to progress on that journey. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and for educating yourself so that you can be an effective supporter to your loved one.

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.


Article Inspiration

Join us in reading soulful articles we have cultivated from across the web. If you have found an article you feel is inspirational, explores current research, or is a knowledgeable piece of literature and would like to share with us please send an e-mail here.

Who is Your Recovery Hero? Project Heal

Let it Gleam Recovery Spark

Celebrate the People that Make Recovery Possible NEDA

More than Poses: Yoga’s Healing Wisdom for Eating Disorders Chime Yoga Therapy

New Research Finds Mindfulness Reduces Worry Psychology Today

Supporting vs. Enabling: Do’s and Don’ts for Families and Supporters of People in Eating Disorder Recovery Resources to Recover

 

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.


The Trap of Settling for “Well Enough” in Eating Disorder Recovery

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, RYT, is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In recovery herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. Jennifer works with clients in person and via Skype. She also teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia, is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, and leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes. In this week’s post, Jennifer dives into the idea of “well enough” in relation to eating disorder recovery.

In my own healing journey from anorexia, I often experienced a troublesome conflict between wanting wellness and clinging to illness. I bargained and negotiated over and over with myself, searching for ways to be a little well and little ill or just “well enough.”

I measured all this wellness and illness as meticulously as I counted calories. But instead of numbers, I relied on physical signs to reassure myself that I was “OK,” that I hadn’t overdone it or wandered too far on the side of “well” or “healthy” (gasp!): Do I still have bags under my eyes? Are my cheeks sunken? Am I pale? Do my clothes fit the same way? Am I hungry when I go to bed? And on and on and on.

All of this checking and clinging was happening in tandem with trying to recover, to be alive in my life to the fullest. Based on sentiments that others in recovery have shared with me, I know this rift within is common. We become hyper attached to “looking the part” (in my case, “the anorexic”) and fiercely depend on physical signs to reflect, reassure, and validate that we are “well enough” to keep loved ones off our backs but ill enough to keep the eating disorder in play.

There’s no shame in this. After all, this is how we learned to live, how we understood and moved through life. We clung to the eating disorder like a security blanket because, at the end of the day, we craved security.

The very real problem is, as you know, that messing with our physical bodies to the extent that eating disorders do is harmful, dangerous, and deadly. It also sabotages our emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. No matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we can’t be hollow physically without annihilating our spirits.

Even now, more than 2 decades later on my healing path, this rift within shows up every now and again in subtle ways. I combat the urge to “look the part” by remembering that the ultimate conflict of living from a “well enough” perspective limits my potential on all fronts of my life—family, professional, social, spiritual, personal. Only going as far as “well enough” in my recovery jeopardizes and constrains my potential to have the most basic of human desires: happiness.

“Well enough” thinking and living is a messy business, because we will always err on the side of more sick than well, which inevitably leads to bleak dead ends time and time again. I know what my dead end looks like, and it’s the complete opposite of happiness!

Every cell in my body knows how difficult it is to give your all to recovery, to let go fully and honestly of the eating disorder, so trust me, I am with you and deeply understand the challenges you face each day. If you are clinging to physical signs to assure yourself that you are “safe” or have designed routines in your day that support you only being “well enough,” I invite you to grab a journal or take some time to reflect on these questions:

  • What physical signs do I cling to?
  • What am I protecting myself from by clinging to my body?
  • What’s the emotional and mental toll I experience because of it?
  • How am I being held back in my life by living like this?
  • What’s one thing I can do differently starting today to cultivate a sense of thriving instead of surviving?

These are tough questions, but I believe (based on my personal experience) that the more you practice being painfully honest with yourself, the less you will settle for just being “well enough.” From this new awareness of the ways that you habitually cling and limit yourself, you can cultivate the power and inner strength to surpass “well enough.”

I encourage you to reach out for support and call on those cheerleaders in your life who believe you deserve more than “well enough,” who believe you deserve the stars. Because you do. You truly do.

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.