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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.