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“You’re Too Sensitive” and Other Lies Your Eating Disorder Tells You

 

Dr. Linda Shanti, PsyD is an eating disorder expert with almost two decades of experience working in the field. As a recovered professional, she understands what her clients are facing on a day to day basis and is able to support them on their journey. In her writing, Dr. Shanti tells some of what her clients share with her in treatment due to the “Eating Disorder Voice”, and how she responds to these statements.

In an effort to Honor Sensitivity, and I’m going to jump right in with what I hear on a weekly basis in my therapy practice working with recovering women:

1.“You’re too sensitive.”

My adult clients often say, when entering eating disorder recovery, “I’m too sensitive,” as if it were a curse, or something that needs to be gotten rid of in the recovery process. Often they received this “too sensitive” message as children. Maybe when they cried, felt things deeply, were highly intuitive, or were sensitive to stimuli such as noise, textures, or smells, they were told: “Get over it,” “Don’t be a crybaby,” “If you feel scared or ashamed don’t show it” or (covertly)”Don’t talk about feelings. They are weak and we don’t have room for them here.” Your Eating Disorder (ED voice) is the one that judges (and then tries to hide, numb or cut off from) your sensitivities because they were not embraced and/or too painful to experience as a child.

I tell these adults that, even though it may be the opposite to what they want to hear,

“Recovery is an invitation to embrace what wisdom your sensitivity has to offer.”

Being sensitive means that your are strongly in touch with the part of you that knows, intuitively, what is right for you and what isn’t. It is the part of you that gets, on a gut level and often immediately, (even if it’s not what you want to know) whether someone is a good or bad fit for you in dating. It is the part of you that feels a palpable rise in anxiety before you engage in disordered eating behaviors, because it knows that you are about to act violently toward your sensitivity, trying to numb it rather than listen to it. It is the part of you that senses when a friend is feeling sad or mad, even when they try to mask it. It is the part of you that easily connects with nature or animals or young children being themselves. It is the part of you that knows when someone needs help or is not being treated fairly and feels a protective and empathic response toward them. People who struggle with disordered eating often are highly attuned to other’s feelings. However, they can be insensitive toward their own feelings, judging them as “bad” or “wrong.”

2. If I’m having a feeling, it is bad and I should make it go away.

Closely related to being sensitive is having feelings. The voice of the Eating Disorder (ED) does not like to have feelings. It really doesn’t matter which feeling – sadness, anger, shame, joy, happiness ED doesn’t like it. However, as Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, states:

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

We have to go toward the feelings we’ve left behind in childhood in order to reclaim those parts of ourselves and become full human beings again. We have to go toward, not away, from the feelings that scare us. I often give clients a feeling wheel to look at and identify which areas they are comfortable and which areas they are not. Some people like to hang out in “purple,” some in “red,” some in “yellow.” You may be very comfortable with sadness, but terrified of anger – or vice versa. Instead of judging this, recovery involves getting curious about it and learning to inhabit all the different colors. Because if you don’t feel, you can’t heal.

3. Needs are bad/weak/not okay unless you are taking care of someone else’s.

It’s so interesting how sensitive people can be fabulous caretakers but – how shall I say this – absolutely and completely suck at identifying, asking for support, and receiving care for their own needs. It’s called codependency in recovery lingo. The underlying unconscious assumption is: If I take care of you, you won’t be uncomfortable. And then I’ll be okay, because I’ll just match all of my needs to yours! But people have different needs.

And people who develop eating disorders usually haven’t been allowed to identify their own needs separate from others. There are many good reasons for this, often stemming from family of origin dynamics. Being a chameleon pretending you don’t have any of your own needs certainly has some benefits: you can blend in to many environments and “fit in,” You are not going to be singled out as “the scapegoat,” you can get along with many different kinds of people and work environments without being offensive.

However, at some point, a person recovering from an eating disorder will need to start risking the vulnerability of identifying their own needs. And this can be uncomfortable because, as a wise friend of mine says, “When you stop people pleasing, people aren’t pleased.” However, you WILL most likely, as you identify and start risking having some of your needs seen and met, feel less anxious, more at peace, and less concerned with the necessity of pleasing others.

4. If I just get the RIGHT food plan then I won’t have these uncomfortable feelings or needs anymore.

This ED belief can actually hang on for a long time. Because, even in recovery, it morphs and becomes clever, saying things like “I’m just trying to help you be healthy. You felt so much better when you were eating (fill in your own ED’s version of no sugar/whole grain/not wholegrain/gluten/fat-free/high-or-low protein obsession here).”

You are most likely to need a food plan in the beginning of your recovery. That is appropriate. If you have been skipping breakfast and lunch and bingeing on ice-cream for dinner, you are going to need to add the first two meals back into your day as well as get some vegetables, protein and carbs in there. If you have been avoiding “fear foods” such as cookies, bread, or salad dressing with fat, then you will need to practice having salad dressing (on the salad not the side), dessert, or scary snacks, in order to know you can tolerate the anxiety and be okay. Your food plan may be more structured or less structured during different parts of your recovery. It will change, just as you will. But finding the exact “right” food plan in order to not have uncomfortable feelings is a lie. Your food plan should support you having feelings rather than restricting or numbing them.

If you are sensitive, you are going to feel. Therefore you are going to feel the food you eat. If you have an allergy, are celiac, or have another medically related issue regarding food choices, then you need to tend to this. Otherwise, we need to look at the feelings not the foods. Because the feelings are what your ED is trying to avoid by obsessing on whatever food plan you are convinced will make you “right” or “better.”

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Cheri Huber, a zen writer and teacher:

“There is nothing wrong with you.”

Really. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing to fix around you being you. Be YOU and consider there is nothing wrong with that. That is the work of a lifetime and not fixed with any food plan.

5. And the number one lie I hear from ED in my office every week is: Once I’m recovered, I will be “thin” (which means…)

And then we work on filling in the dots for the associations with what “thin” symbolizes. Some of them include:

  • I will feel confidant/comfortable in my skin.
  • I can dance, wear a bathing suit, do the-thing-I-won’t-let-myself-do-at-this-size.
  • I will be worthy of a romantic relationship.
  • I will be worthy.
  • I can go back to work (postpartum) or
  • I can get or go after the job that I really want.
  • People will love me.
  • People I love won’t leave.
  • People I love won’t die.
  • I won’t have to feel grief, sadness, anger or shame.
  • I won’t be sensitive anymore.

The list can go on, but the important piece here is calling ED out on the lie: if you are human, you are not always going to feel confidant, you are going to be imperfect, regardless of the size of your body. You are going to experience loss. You are going to die. What are you going to do before that? Because that is what ED is doing its darndest to prevent you from experiencing and engaging in: your LIFE.

Stop believing the lies and keep taking tiny (or huge, this can change day-to-day, moment to moment) steps toward fear: your recovery is there, as is your life. Because FEAR can mean many things:

Forget Everything And Run (in the land of ED);

Face Everything And Recover; or

False Evidence Appearing Real.

I hope you choose to walk right into and through that false evidence that appears real according to ED.  It is worth it. Love is on the other side of this false evidence. You are worth it. You always were.

 

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


It’s Not Your Body’s Fault


Monte Nido Manhattan Primary Therapist Kelsey Fisher, LMSW
approaches each new therapeutic relationship with hope and the belief that full recovery is a genuine possibility for every person who embarks on the journey to wellness. In her writing, Kelsey discusses her work with clients in identifying and challenging their negative body image.

Bad body image is not your body’s fault. In fact, it is not even about your body. Your body’s shape, its marks, dimples and folds, its sensations, pressures and pulses, are not to blame.

Whatever happened to your body, or was said about your body, was also not your body’s fault.

If your body is big or small it is not an accomplishment or a failure.

It is incredibly easy, however, to get confused because we are indoctrinated into a culture of “thin is in” that privileges some bodies over others, a culture in which women and other marginalized people, in particular, are subjected to intense body scrutiny at best and horrific boundary violations at worst.

Our clients often come in with skepticism, despite the well-established assertion (see below for further reading) that it is not your body’s fault. I hear the familiar refrain from people of all sizes, “If I could just lose some weight I would be more of this good thing, less of that bad thing.” In an instant, a glimpse of yourself in a shop window is translated into the litany of ways you could be better, which is often conflated with the newest diet plan. And it’s gratifying for an instant to think that whatever was so objectionable is fixable, but we’re so far off the target that it’s soul crushing. Thinness makes so many promises on which it could never deliver.

When we trash our bodies, we are actually trying to avoid or manage difficult emotions and painful, oppressive social realities.

When I ask my clients to be curious, to consider what they were feeling or thinking right before they hated on their bodies, they might be able to observe for themselves how the thought pattern or feeling associated with hating their body is separate from their actual body.

When we are curious, mindful observers of our bad body image we are developing skills for critical consciousness. By perceiving our painful automatic thoughts or reactions in their full context, we make breathing room for our souls.

“Culture is the way of seeing and speaking that is so much a part of everyday living that it never has to be articulated. Fish don’t know they are swimming in water, until they are a fish out of water.” –Carol Gilligan

Further reading:

The 8 Keys to Recovery from and Eating Disorder By Carolyn Costin

Overcoming Overeating: When women stop hating their bodies By Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter

The Beauty Myth By Naomi Wolf

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


Redefining Resolutions in Recovery

Angie - Color Head shotClinical Psychotherapist and Eating Disorders Specialist Angie Viets, LCP speaks to the pressure and stress the new year can bring to those suffering from an eating disorder. In her post, Angie pushes us to reflect on the idea of a “resolution”, and to use it to help encourage and support recovery.

This will be the year! Back and forth the conversation in my head repeated. One hour the upcoming new year meant I was going to ‘perfectly’ recover, eliminating all eating disorder behaviors, all at once, once and for all. Done. The next hour I plotted methods for ‘perfecting’ my eating disorder. Ambivalence highlighted and amplified by what, another day?

Now, as a recovered clinician, I watch the internal battle I overcame play out in front of me with the beautiful souls who entrust me with their hearts as they recover. As we creep ever closer to the new year, black and white thinking—a hallmark of a brain hijacked by an eating disorder—goes into overdrive. My work as a recovery guide is to aid in softening the sharp edges of all-or-nothing thinking.

The middle path—the place between black and white—offers a bright golden light (gray is far too depressing, we need more light!). When we allow the light to wash over and within us, we find an opening, a secret door. Behind the door is the truth.

The truth about recovery is it doesn’t happen on a certain day. Nor does it happen all at once. We set ourselves up to live in a never-ending failure funnel when we buy into the belief that January 1st we can walk away from behaviors entirely. People, in general, are unable to keep their New Year’s resolutions. Why? Because we set ourselves up for failure.

REWORK YOUR RESOLUTIONS

What if reworked resolutions? I had a conversation with Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, Eating Recovery Center Chief Clinical Officer and Medical Director of Child and Adolescent Services to understand how he approaches this time of year with his clients. Here’s what he had to say:

“People’s desire to start fresh or to draw a line in the sand and step over the old and into the new has been around a long time. There’s nothing wrong with the desire to say this is my last year of illness, or I’m going to do whatever I value even better (my sport, school, job, art, passion). However, if it’s unrealistic, too much too soon, or tied to an increased level of stress then it’s an invitation not to make the mark and to continue to chisel away at our self-esteem.”

I loved his criteria for whether or not a resolution will serve you! Check out your resolutions and ask yourself:

  • Is this goal realistic?
  • Is it too much too soon?
  • Will this increase my level of stress?

Dr. Bermudez shared that when resolutions immaterialize it adds to the sense of ‘I can’t’ and ‘I’m stuck with this eating disorder no matter how hard I try;’ which can then become a perpetuating factor of the illness. Beliefs become further entrenched when we’re unable to meet recovery goals, with thoughts like: This is who I am. Who would I be without the eating disorder? This is all I’ve known for such a long time.

MAKE THE NEW YEAR A TIME OF REFLECTION

I had to laugh when Dr. Bermudez said, “Our biology doesn’t recognize the season. Our body doesn’t know the difference between the 4th of July or New Year’s Day.” That’s so true! We put unnecessary pressure, not only on ourselves, but our body by shocking it into massive change.

Let’s pause and reflect instead. Dr. Bermudez encourages another path. “What if we made this a time of reflection?” He has the following suggestions to consider when you’re making New Year’s resolutions to improve your self-esteem, instead of tearing it down:

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Make your resolutions gradual and sustainable. Small changes rather than unsustainable drastic changes.
  • Remember that change is a process. Make it attainable, which is by far more helpful.
  • Slow down! Make room for subtle shifts which increase your chances of success.
  • Be careful not to add more angst than relief.

By following this more gentle approach to resolutions, you are more likely to find your path to recovery.

BABY STEPS!

Sometimes our New Year’s resolutions seem as ridiculous as tucking in a newborn baby on December 31st and asking the baby to walk when they wake up the next morning, despite their inability to even hold their head up independently, sit, or crawl. We would never put such an impossible task on someone we love. So why then would we do it to ourselves? It’s because we aren’t gentle enough with ourselves. We put too much pressure on ourselves. We don’t treat ourselves with enough compassion. In fact, sometimes we are just down right mean to ourselves.

Perhaps on December 31st we could whisper softly to ourselves, much like to the new baby: “I can’t wait to watch you change and grow stronger over the next year. To witness your courage as you slowly stand back up, careful to regain your balance when you fall. I’ll be right here, ready to hold your hand.”

HOW DO YOU WANT TO FEEL?

One of my favorite author’s, Danielle LaPorte, talks about how her New Year’s resolutions always seemed to add stress, “Earn more money, remodel the kitchen, plan a trip…” Danielle realized even as she was considering her goals for the upcoming year she felt dread, overwhelm, and pressure by the process of reaching those goals. Of course, the end result of the kitchen remodel is great, but the stress of having it torn up, managing contractors, the cost and so on are a lot! She got clear that the never-ending striving, hustling, and grinding it out was tearing her down.

With the awareness of how her goals were making her feel, she decided to flip her approach. She began a new ritual, redefining resolutions for herself by getting clear about how she wanted to feel, instead of what she could accomplish.

If you tap into how you want to feel in the new year, you’ll find your resolutions will take on a completely different shape.

SLOW & STEADY

There’s a reason the adage, slow and steady wins the race, is so enduring. What do you say, as we embark on another year, we set small, achievable and realistic goals for ourselves. What if one of our resolutions could be to cut ourselves some slack? To make room for more joy, less stress.

Cheers to baby steps, self-compassion when we fall, and steady, gradual growth!

Happy New Year, Beautiful!

 

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

 


Article Inspiration

articles-for-the-soul

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.

 

5 Ways to Create a Safe Space for Those Struggling This Holiday Season NEDA Blog

Tips for Surviving the Holidays in Eating Disorder Recovery Psychology Today

Supporting a Loved One in Eating Disorder Recovery During the Holidays ED Recovery Specialists

Facing the Fear of the Unknown in Eating Disorder Recovery Eating Disorder Hope

To Tell or Not to Tell: Therapists With a Personal History of an Eating Disorder ED Catalogue

 

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


8 Keys Series: It’s Not Just About Food

Monte NidoKeesha - Circle Vice President of Clinical Programming Keesha Amezcua, MA, LMFT, CEDS continues her series this week on the 8 Keys book by Gwen Grabb, LMFT and Monte Nido Founder Carolyn Costin with the 3rd key. In her writing, Keesha explains how this key stresses that the eating disorder is not just about the food, and the ways this is put into practice in treatment at Monte Nido.

Almost every person who has struggled with an eating disorder has been berated by a, often well-meaning, loved one to “just eat a cheeseburger already”. Key 3, which stresses that eating disorders are not just about the food, is the antidote to those comments. This is what makes healing from an eating disorder so complex. Key 3 can help create discussions that explore the range of complex multi-faceted meanings of eating, food, weight and shape.

This is the key where therapists get to pull out all the knowledge they used in graduate school; digging deeper into the underlying issues that result in food and exercise behaviors. In the absence of healthier, more adaptive coping skills, an eating disorder can develop as a way to manage stress, anxiety or depression, family dynamics, cultural pressures and traumatic experiences, among other things. There can also be biological factors contributing to a person’s eating disorder. Therefore, we can’t assume that just reestablishing someone’s relationship with food can heal his or her eating disorder completely. This is why there continues to be such debate in the field about evidence-based therapies and best practices for treating these disorders. If there was one right way, one clear winner in how someone can without-a-doubt get well, every treatment program would look the same and there would be less need for research and conferences. There are obviously some treatment modalities that have proven to work better with certain demographics and diagnoses; but still, those do not give us absolute certainty that a person will recover. Therefore, we continue to utilize an eclectic group of therapies to get at these underlying issues.

Key 3 is not intended to negate the importance of nutritional stabilization; this is addressed in another key. It does make clear that solely addressing the food, in the absence of exploring other psychological issues misses the mark. We can talk about food all day, every day, for a year and not see someone truly progress toward recovery. Someone can restore his or her weight, but if he or she hasn’t explored what was underneath the restricting and weight loss there is a good chance recovery will be short-lived. We need to understand what function or set of functions a person’s eating disorder has served. As clinicians, we have to identify these functions in order to help our clients get their needs met in more adaptive ways. A conversation about kale will only get you so far. Only discussing donuts can be a dead end.

One assignment that Carolyn and Gwen discuss in the 8 Keys book, which Carolyn had initially written about in her first edition of Your Dieting Daughter, is the “Real Issues” assignment. There is a list of 13 proposed issues to provide a jumping off point for clients to delve into what’s really going on underneath their fear of food or their over-attachment to it. This list covers the basic categories and can help a therapist determine what therapeutic modality might best address what’s going on. Is there a need for more psychodynamic work? Family systems? Existential? Feminist theory? Narrative therapy? ACT? DBT? Perhaps some specific trauma work needs to happen via CPT or EMDR? All the while we continue to utilize the CBT techniques as I’ve previously discussed.

It’s not just about the food. This makes this work exciting, ever changing, always challenging and forever interesting. It is also what makes an individual’s recovery unique and lasting.

 

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


The Fairy Dust

kate-funkMonte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia Primary Therapist Kate Funk, MS, MFT joined the Monte Nido team six months ago when the program first opened. In her writing, Kate shares the journey she and her team have gone on starting as co-workers and now becoming a family, and just how important this relationship is in providing eating disorder treatment services.

In early June I joined the team that would open Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia. During our training, we were promised that we would create a family and enjoy life long relationships with one another. I thought nothing of it at the time, figuring this was something people say when trying to build camaraderie among new staff members. Theoretically a nice concept, sure, but how could they ensure that our site would have that experience? As we learned about the “fairy dust” that sets Monte Nido apart, I hoped that we could give clients the same specialized treatment provided by the staff at the original six-bed facility.

Flash forward six months… Our staff, accompanied by the Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Experiential Officer, shared desserts over a family meal in a local restaurant. As we laughed and dined together, I looked around the table and had a moment, a soul moment. A table of individuals from different corners of the world, various backgrounds and values, experts in our field, strangers just a few months prior, now people I consider family. This was the fairy dust we learned about in training. We had it. A dinner with my coworkers and the heads of the company and I was completely myself; even better, they were all being their true selves. That was a night I’ll never forget.

This is what Monte Nido is all about. We work to wean our clients off their eating disorders and onto healthy relationships with others, but, even more importantly, with themselves. We model this skill with our staff. Monte Nido offers the space for staff to be authentically themselves; modeling this journey of self-exploration invites clients to explore who they are as well. We share with each other our experiences. We share meals and emotions, the good and the bad. We celebrate and we mourn together. We don’t hide who we are we. We don’t turn away from the dark parts. We take the time to go in. Hand in hand. Together.

This is the fairy dust. This is what matters. This allows us to stand apart. Six months ago I wasn’t sure we could recreate the magic that Monte Nido Founder Carolyn Costin originally created, and luckily – magically – we’ve been able to. This is my new family, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of our team.

 

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

 

 


Selfish or Self-saving?

beth-hartman-mcgilleyMonte Nido & Affiliates Expert Advisory Council Member and Associate Professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita Beth Hartman McGilley, PhD, FAED, CEDS is a psychologist in private practice, specializing in the treatment of eating and related disorders, body image, athletes, trauma, and grief. In her writing, Dr. Hartman McGilley speaks to the stress and pressure many of us experience in our every day lives in an effort to be all things to everyone, and reminds us of the importance of saying “no”.

As the holidays near, most of us are in some form of panic about “what needs to be done before.…” Before the relatives come; before the office Xmas party; before taking finals; before the turkey is done; before the year is over. In truth, for too many, this mad rush to “make our lists and check them twice” is a year round ordeal—a revolving door of self-imposed demands that daily dumps us on the threshold of our self-esteem with nagging feelings of deficiency. It drives some to distraction and others to destruction. Either way, it diminishes our precious capacity to be wholly present, and intra- and interpersonally attuned. What good is a completed list with a depleted list maker? One version of this is the “be all things to everyone” persona. Recognize yourself anyone?

Given that we tend to become what we focus on, I prefer to turn this dilemma inside out and explore what it looks like to “be some things, to someone, some of the time!” One tool I offer my clients, to enliven and embody the qualities they admire in others, is to become shameless spies! I ask them to think of a few people who carry themselves and conduct their lives with the character and integrity to which they aspire. And then set out on spying missions to bear careful witness to how those people inhabit their bodies, how they hold others in their gaze, how they negotiate daily demands, how they communicate in simple matters as well as the profound. Once we have a living template for how those cherished qualities manifest in others, we can try them on and in ourselves. Over time, we can develop our own versions, and they become part of our internal and interpersonal fabric.

One of my most spy-worthy friends is Dr. Margo Maine. A prolific writer and passionate advocate, activist and therapist in the field of eating disorders, Margo wastes no time in revolving doors! She has mastered the fine art of living exceedingly productively with what I once heard called “joyful stress.” She is equally facile hitting the gas pedal as she is in using the brakes. “Yes” and “no” are equal opportunity answers depending on the question, and more importantly, how it impacts her in the moment and the longer term. While some may hear that as being self-centered, it’s quite the opposite. I liken it to the metaphor of putting your own oxygen mask on first if a plane is going down. We are only as effective as we are well sourced. If we aren’t connected to self, our relationship with the Divine is compromised (and vice versa). It’s an act of respect and regard for another to manage ourselves—our time, our energies, our money, our hearts. Our word counts, and when asked to do something we’re unlikely to complete, it’s a LOT easier to say no and then yes, than it is to say yes and back pedal our way back to no! Memorize this people pleasers!

Margo was recently distinguished as a recipient of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame Women’s Wellness Honorees. All honorees were challenged to answer, in 20 seconds, the following question: What is the single most important thing a woman can do to increase her well-being? She answered: “The most important relationship in a woman’s life is her relationship with herself. Our self-talk can diminish or empower us. In a culture so demanding and dismissive of women, we need to rebel and stop apologizing for not being perfect, and start telling ourselves we are good enough as we are—simply good enough!” Simply. Good. Enough. See how that mantra could burst you out of the revolving door? How would you answer the question for yourselves?

There’s a seriousness to this dilemma that can’t be made pretty, and I offer this to the healers and wholers of the world—no advanced degree required. You, who keep the porch light ever blazing for those in need, who foster and serve the young skin- and fur-clad lost souls, who bathe the feet of the old and dying, who are woke and speak up to indignities. You, who are Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, walking “on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting,” whose nature is so given to giving, it becomes “your place in the family of things.” Your heart doesn’t operate on the clock and the wellspring of your spirit has no depth gauge. You answer the calls, you welcome the tears, you speak truth to power. For you to say “no,” or “not now,” or “not again,” will feel like bending your fingernails backwards. Do it anyways. Give what you give to the person who sometimes needs it the most—yourself. It’s not selfish. It’s self-saving.

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

 


3 Rules to Maintain Recovery During the Holidays

jennifer_yoga-9076Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. Recovered herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. She teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia and is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. She leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes and teaches weekly flow yoga classes. In this week’s blog post, Jennifer offers some tips to help maintain recovery during the holidays.

The holidays can be a season of conflicting emotions and desires. For me personally, I feel joy and overwhelm, excitement and anxiety, carefree and out of control, happy and unsettled. After years of persevering to make my recovery a priority during the holidays, I’ve observed that emotional collisions can significantly affect hunger and fullness cues.

So not only are feelings at odds with one another, but the natural sensations that we in recovery work so tirelessly to understand and honor, can also become confusing to decipher. If all this goes unchecked, we may find ourselves on a downward spiral of eating disorder thoughts and behaviors before we ring in the New Year.

Trust me, this is not to diminish the sheer guts, courage, and perseverance it takes to maintain recovery during the holidays. We are bombarded in ways that may be very uncomfortable, overwhelming, and outright triggering. All those external factors can flood our minds and emotions, which is exactly when we want to take refuge in the eating disorder. Disconnect. Numb. Distract. Sound familiar?

Years ago, my therapist told me that recovery is about having choices. When we are ruled by “ED head,” we do not have choices; everything is off limits or has a consequence associated with it, which seriously limits our range of choices. Her words have stuck with me and made a big difference in my relationship with my recovery, including during the holidays when it may be enticing to numb out.

But, I have a choice, and YOU have a choice: We can get pulled under or commit to doing our best to not let that happen.

Here’s 3 rules that I live by to help me choose recovery when I want to check out, like during the holidays. Pick the one that resonates with you to help you maintain recovery during the holiday season and beyond.

No. 1. Have a safety net to keep you honest. I have a pact with myself that, unless I am actively continuing forward in my own healing, I cannot work with others in recovery. In this way, my work keeps me honest. It’s my safety net. It’s the thing that keeps me in check from getting off my recovery path. When old fears show up and tempt me to starve, my work keeps me honest. When the urge to drop weight or obsessively body check comes on strong, my work keeps me honest. I think of my passion for my work and the trust I am asking of my clients, and know that, if I do not choose recovery, all that goes away.

What keeps you honest? Who or what is vitally important to you and can be your safety net? It’s ok to use external motivators to get us through intense times. Continue to ask yourself this question until you find the answer. Hold that answer in your mind and heart, and look to it to help you stay on course. You will be thankful for that safety net, and you will feel renewed by a sound sense of purpose. I promise.

No. 2. Recognize struggle, but don’t settle. There’s no shame in struggling. In my opinion, the struggle is work not failure. It’s just as worthy of an experience as a struggle-free day. The important thing about struggle is not settle in or for struggle.

We can get caught up in telling ourselves a narrative about how hard we are struggling and literally get sucked in so deep that struggle turns into a downward spiral. Sometimes a relapse is what we need to ignite the healing process, but other times, maybe even most times, this is not the case. Keep yourself honest about the struggle and don’t settle to let it take over you or your holidays. This is the time to rally and call on your supports, do activities that are empowering, carve out quiet time, or see friends who are uplifting. We all have our tricks for pulling ourselves out of a funk. You deserve to take the time to do those things, no matter how hectic the holiday season is. You deserve to not settle.

No. 3. Resolve to evolve. Just because the holidays were difficult last year or the past 15 years, that does not mean that this year will be or must be the same. We have the choice to do the holidays differently this time. We can resolve to evolve.

Reflect on what’s been hard in the past for you. What’s made the holidays challenging? How did you use the eating disorder? Look hard at your choice, patterns, and habits this time of year. What small shift can you make in how you respond to a triggering person, place or thing? What are some ways you can respond that don’t involve taking it out on food or your body? This is about playing offense instead of defense. In other words, the holidays can leave us feeing out of control, but we can flip that thinking by taking charge. When we are in charge, when we remember we have choices, when we resolve to evolve, we empower ourselves and make recovery a priority.

I recognize that these rules ask a lot. They require we work hard and stay connected to present moments that are uncomfortable and maybe even painful. But these rules also inspire a proactive attitude and a committed effort to incorporate recovery into our lives, not keep it off to the side or treat it as another “job.” We must remember that we have choices, and this holiday season, let’s all do our truest best at maintaining recovery by staying honest, not settling, and resolving to evolve.

 

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


That Voice in Your Head: Don’t Take It Out on Your Body

Jen Gaudini

Expert Advisor to Monte Nido Jennifer L. Gaudiani, MD, CEDS is nationally known for her work on the medical complications of eating disorders. She recently opened the Gaudiani Clinic, a unique outpatient medical clinic specifically dedicated to adults with eating disorders. Dr. Gaudiani shares her work with clients who are faced with “that voice in their head” in this week’s blog post. 

That voice in your head is as familiar as it is judgmental and unkind: “You’re not good enough. You’re not thin/disciplined/organized/accomplished enough. You’re not meeting expectations as a partner/sibling/parent/child/professional/student. You haven’t done enough today to deserve rest and self-care.” So many people walk around every day with some version of this voice in their heads. And all too often, the next step is to take it out on your body, imagining the voice could be satisfied, or “good enough” could be achieved, if somehow the ideal body shape/size/nutrition plan/exercise regime could be accomplished.

Of course, this logic is pure nonsense, borne of endless marketing schemes, haunting images of people who don’t even look like that themselves, and a society that seems to keep getting more demanding while offering less compassionate support. The truth is: when you eat a wide variety of foods, and plenty of them, practice moderation (most of the time), and move your body in ways that bring you joy and help you stay strong, your body will take the size and shape that was pretty much genetically predestined. Love it or not, that’s the body you have, and only you can be its caretaker over the years. Totally separate from your body (really!), you can learn to use a kinder voice in your head, gently recognizing accomplishments and disappointments without judgment. Everyone needs self-care, just like everyone needs air to breathe.

I’ve been an internal medicine physician who specializes in eating disorders for eight years, and I’ve taken care of some of the sickest adults in the country. I’ve listened to a lot of stories from extraordinary people who developed a life-threatening mental illness as the voices in their head became intolerable and forced them to numb themselves through starvation, purging, binging, and substance use. Everyone’s story is different, but almost everyone I’ve cared for talks about that voice in their head.

You might be one of the lucky ones who rarely hears the voice, or who naturally (or after lots of work) has learned to answer judgment with kindness, and keep emotional struggles separate from body image. Or you might have struggled for years with this relationship between soul and body, going on diets (that aren’t sustainable and don’t work but sure cause a lot of crummy days in the process), thinking a certain size or shape will make everything else better. (They don’t.) Or you might have developed disordered eating or an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder. You’ve suffered terribly, as have those who love you, as the eating disorder turns the voice in your head into a fiendish, cruel, jealous, and insatiable presence. Even as that voice tells you nothing bad will happen to you as long as you just keep restricting, binging or purging, you actually end up with a disorder that carries the highest death rate of any mental illness.

My message is this: the voice in your head can be costly, really costly. You can choose to answer back to the voice when it tries to play its same old song: “I am enough. I’m doing what I can. I’m proud of the way I stood up for myself today. It was painful when I had that argument with my boss/mom/daughter, but I think I learned something, and I didn’t aim to wound. I’m going to put my feet up now even though there are a ton of things on my to-do list, because I need a break.” Your body deserves enough delicious, varied food to fuel it adequately, and the activity you do should be a celebration of the ways your body can move…never a punishment or an atonement. Keep working to untangle the voice in your head from the care you give your body. Body and soul will thank you in the long run!

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


Does Body Image Always Have to be the “Last Thing to Go”?

jessyka-young-edtny-mnnewyork-02

 

Monte Nido Assistant Clinical Director Jessyka Young, LMHC explores the use of yoga therapy in eating disorder treatment in this week’s blog post. She explains how yoga can help clients to listen to and become attuned to the signals and needs of their bodies.

“Body image is the last thing to go”. This statement seems to be an old adage in eating disorder treatment and recovery. I know that I am guilty of telling countless clients this.

Since becoming a yoga therapist, I’ve found myself questioning whether body image has to be the last thing to go, or whether there are ways to give clients a different perspective and appreciation of their bodies while they are in treatment. If we can change our thoughts about food, why can’t we change our thoughts about our body?

I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to do yoga therapy sessions with clients in our PHP and IOP program at Monte Nido San Diego. The yoga therapy I am trained in is called Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. It is a trauma-informed, client-centered modality that uses the body as a tool for increased awareness. In my experience, the body can be a direct gateway to one’s true self or soul. I’ve had a client refer to our sessions as individualized “Body and Soul”, a group I have run at Monte Nido for over three years and which many clients say is particularly effective in connecting to a deeper, healthier “Soul Self”.

Another client wrote to me about our yoga therapy sessions, “I have never really listened to my body, in fact I tried my hardest not to. But you gave me the space and opportunity to do that.”

Bessel van der Kolk, MD writes in The Body Keeps the Score, “One of the clearest lessons from contemporary neuroscience is that our sense of ourselves is anchored in a vital connection with our bodies.” In eating disorder treatment, clients have accustomed themselves to not listening to their bodies’ messages and cues. What if, instead of waiting for the recovery process to deliver body acceptance, there were a way to actively work on rebuilding the connection?

Interoceptive awareness, the signaling and perception of internal bodily sensations, is often defective in those suffering from eating disorders. Yoga is a great way to help increase interoceptive awareness and aid in the healing process. Just as we use exposure work to challenge our clients’ distorted thoughts about food, I believe body work can be a form of exposure work; exposing clients to the reality of their body in the present moment, the physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and memories. Yoga therapy is a mindful, nonjudgmental approach to body awareness, allowing clients to gain a new perspective of their body in order to integrate all parts of themselves.

To give you a taste of what yoga therapy is like, here is a short activity:

Ask yourself the question, “What do I need to do today?”

Allow your answer to come to mind naturally, and just go with the first thing that pops into your head.

Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Inhale and raise your arms up over your head, exhale swinging your arms down, and fold forward, letting your head and arms hang heavy. Repeat this 2-3 more times.

Come up to stand and start twisting side to side, allowing your arms to hang heavy, as if they were wrapping around your body with each twist. Do this several times at whatever speed feels right for your body.

Roll your shoulders, backwards and forwards a few times.

Scrunch them up towards your ears on an inhale, and let them drop on an exhale. Repeat this 2-3 times.

Then take your hands and rub them together, creating some friction. When you start to feel some heat, place your hands anywhere on your body that is calling to you (i.e. your face, neck, heart).

Keep your hands wherever they landed and take another 2-3 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Ask yourself the question again, “What do I need to do today?”

Notice if the answer has changed, or the intention.

What happens when you listen to your body for the answer?

I believe the body holds an incredible amount of wisdom, and that by working directly with it we get to extract and develop that wisdom to be used as a tool for healing. I am grateful to work for a company that incorporates yoga into its programming, and I hope to continue the conversation and exploration of how yoga can help our clients heal.

“Yoga teaches us how to be “in” our body, use our body, and take care of our body with understanding, awareness and acceptance.”

– Carolyn Costin, Yoga and Eating Disorders: Ancient Healing for Modern Illness.

 

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