Director of Nutrition Services Mary Dye, MPH, RD, CEDRD, LD/N and Director of Food Services Lissa Garcia, RD, LD/N come together to share an important series for cultivating recovery around the kitchen. Mary and Lissa will discuss ways to ensure that the family is providing a safe space around mealtime for eating disorder recovery.
As families well know, kitchens and dining areas can become a battle zone when an eating disorder is present. Since they are so often such places of conflict, we need to prep them for the fragile early stage of returning home from treatment, when things as simple as the color of the placemats, type of milk and shape of the bowls can serve to increase urges to engage in maladaptive patterns or reinforce recovery oriented behaviors.
This two-part series will discuss different facets related recovery around the kitchen.
When I start this discussion with clients I ask them to describe their kitchen and dining area and we talk about how certain parts may trigger old ways of thinking or serve as an opportunity to facilitate new recovery oriented behaviors. Often this leads to exploring the size of their dishes, view from their designated spot at the table or when we need to, we get creative at thinking of how to create a table in small spaces where this is none. From all these discussions I’ve compiled a list of things to consider as you prepare to go home or to welcome your loved one home.
Now, don’t think that keeping old placemats is going to risk a loved one’s recovery; it certainly is not. But it is an opportunity to discuss with your loved one the environment that they’ll be returning to and what small changes might help them to reduce the pull toward old ways of thinking in regard to food. There are some common themes that tend to come up and are worth addressing before discharging from treatment. Keep in mind, this is certainly not to suggest a costly kitchen overhaul. As fun as it may be for some to re-decorate, things as simple as changing a few items or swapping a tablecloth can make a world of difference.
Ensure that dishes can accommodate recovery oriented portions
A common situation clients find themselves in is comparing the portions they ate in their eating disorder to those their body needs for a life in recovery. For instance, if a person’s body needs three times the serving of cereal that they had been allowing themselves previously, that portion difference the familiar bowl is going to look pretty different. This difference can spark negative thoughts and comparisons, fueling restrictive urges. Replacing the bowl with a new size or shaped version that can better accommodate the portions or just simply serves as a new visual point of reference can help to reduce this internal critique and comparison, leaving them with more energy to eat (and hopefully enjoy) the cereal rather than question it.
Ensure that furniture can accommodate all bodies at the table
Sitting through meals can be hard enough in a comfortable seat, so just think of how challenging it is in an uncomfortable one. Questions to consider are: can the chairs comfortably accommodate the weight, stature and space needed for all who may dine here? Is the seat too hard or soft, wide or narrow and what body image thoughts and judgments might this be fueling in myself or my loved one? For some in treatment, there are changes to the body and for some their are not. Take the time to consider if furniture has been used in “body checking” and take steps to remove the baseline measure and promote a comfortable and if needed, new, experience at the table.
Join us in reading inspirational and informative 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.
How to Have Hope for Mental Health Recovery The Mighty
50 Psychological Hacks For Better Mental Health Psychology Today
Forget Resolutions, Set Intentions Angie Viets
7 Ways To Boost Self-Love As You Move into a New Year Mind Body Green
Karin Lawson is a licensed psychologist, certified eating disorder therapist and writer in private practice. She’s located in Miami, FL. Dr. Lawson is currently the Vice President of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals – Miami Chapter, as well as the President-Elect of the Miami-Dade-Monroe Psychological Association. Dr. Lawson discusses the idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals in this week’s blog post.
Dr. Kristen Neff acknowledges in her writings and her academic research, self-esteem is created by comparison and evaluation. It’s the work, school and sometimes even the play environments that most often builds or tears down our self-esteem. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of the comparison route. We do enough of it already and are schooled in it literally. However, I also believe that rare is the thing that is “all bad” or “all good.” So, how can we utilize this idea of self-esteem stemming from evaluation into a well-thought-out self-esteem boost?
We can set some very intentional, realistic goals. But these goals can’t be just any ol’ goals. To really set ourselves up for success, we need to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Smart stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
What does this look like in real life?
Is there something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t gotten around to? Perhaps you started a project a while ago but have yet to complete it. Deep down this lack of completion has caused your self-esteem to take a hit.
Let’s say you’ve been wanting (and very much needing) to clean out the garage. You’ve probably said to yourself, “I’ve really got to go through the garage and throw a bunch of stuff out.”
That’s an okay start, but as goals go, it’s pretty vague. Let’s use S.M.A.R.T. goals to get the job done.
Here’s a Specific goal: “I am going to clean out and reorganize the garage.”
That’s good. Now how do we make that Measurable? Let’s add some words that will help us know when and if we complete our goal. “I am going to clean out and reorganize the garage so both cars and all of our bikes fit.”
You’ll also want to be able to measure your progress toward your goal to be certain you are staying on track. So, you could decide to spend two hours each Saturday and Sunday for the next 4 weeks. If you do that, you will know you’re on the right path to achieving your goal. If you don’t meet these milestones, you’ll know you’ve gotten off-track.
Now let’s talk about whether or not your goal is Achievable. Well, other human beings have cleaned out and organized their garage, so you know it’s possible. You have the desire and you’ve carved out an appropriate amount of time to complete the job. Yep, this seems like a very achievable goal!
Instead of cleaning out the garage you already have, your goal could have been to build a new garage by yourself all in one weekend, but no, that would not have been an achievable goal.
You know your goal is achievable, but is the schedule you’ve set for yourself Realistic? Do you actually have 4 hours on the weekend to devote to this project, or with your work and family time, is half an hour more realistic? While it’s understandable you want to get the job done as fast as possible, you also don’t want to set yourself up for failure. So be sure your schedule is realistic.
And lastly, you’ll need to set a Time-bound deadline for the attainment of your goal. Will this task be completed in 4 weeks? Will it take two months? Choose a deadline that’s reasonable and motivating at the same time. It’s a balance between being practical and pushing yourself slightly. A date too far in the future could kill your motivation.
Let’s recap. We started with the vague goal of “I’ve really got to go through the garage and throw a bunch of stuff out” and ended up with “I am going to spend four hours every weekend for the next four weeks cleaning out and reorganizing the garage so that both cars and all of our bikes fit.” Now you have a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goal with built-in milestones to get you there. But more importantly, you’ve made a promise to yourself, and keeping this promise is what will enhance your self-esteem.
Of course, sometimes it takes a little more work than reaching a goal to lift our self-esteem, although they sure can feel good and help us with feel self-efficacy. There are also without a doubt experiences in our lives that can truly devastate our sense of self-worth, and often we need the guidance of a therapist to help us recover our sense of identity and other concepts that give us value beyond the idea of self-esteem.