In part three of the nutrition series, Director of Nutrition Mary Dye, MPH, RD, CEDRD, LD/N continues to share about the nutrition philosophy at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. Mary explains the use of only serving food, including “threatening foods”, and the philosophy behind it.
As part of the nutrition programming at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, we only serve food. We thoughtfully do not offer meal replacement shakes or supplements. Since our end goal is nourishment through solid food and inclusion of often threatening food, we have created a culture in our milieus of “food is fuel” and “all foods fit” and our clients have come to know this as the expectation. This has served to assist us in directly challenging our clients in the earliest phases of their treatment, which while distressing for some, helps to build their confidence early on and helps their GI tract to more quickly re-adjust to digesting solid foods. We acknowledge that consistently and appropriately feeding a malnourished body is uncomfortable initially. We validate this discomfort and help our clients to simultaneously re-adjust to food physically and psychologically.
We unapologetically serve threatening foods. I use that word because it’s the term used in research and study after study shows that inclusion of foods that threaten the eating disorders values are essential to sustained recovery. I proudly say that our foods are some of the most threatening (and delicious) in the industry. Our chef is tasked with preparing meals that are both nutrient dense, appealing, often challenging and complex. We aim to do more than feed our clients – we use the food served as a conversation starter and a way of building awareness and trust of self. Many centers choose to ease their clients into simple or safer food and more gradually introduce threatening foods. Not us. If you admit to us on a day with spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, we’ve very lovingly going to ask you to eat the meal. There will be a lot of support around helping you do so, but we want to send a strong to message to the eating disorder from day one: you are not welcome here and you have no-where to hide. All because we love the woman whose voice has been drowned out by the disorder. To empower her we set a high bar and help her climb to it. If the meal is overly distressing, we will give an option of an equally threatening initially, but more predictable meal. These can be used up to twice weekly. The cap on this option helps our women to be more thoughtful in using them and more prone to step up to the challenge presented in the chef’s meal. And of course we would offer varieties of the meal to accommodate allergies, religious restrictions and vegetarian diets for instance but the meals would look almost identical to one another to promote a family style dining experience.
At Monte Nido & Affiliates, we save lives while providing the opportunity for people to realize their healthy selves. One of the ways we want to help provide opportunities for individuals to realize their healthy selves is through our Sea Glass Grants opportunity. A Sea Glass Grant aims to support small projects that create, develop or communicate a project that supports eating disorder recovery and healthy self-image.
Monte Nido & Affiliates is delighted to announce that The Garment Project – founded by Monte Nido alumni Erin Drischler – has been awarded the first Sea Glass Grant of $500 to support their mission to provide size free clothing to women in treatment and/or early recovery from their eating disorder.
We are happy to share more about The Garment Project through our conversation with Erin:
Tell me about the process of creating Garment.
Garment was created from about two years of conversations between [my partner] Jordan and myself. I have worked in retail for the past decade and have always been interested in fashion. Jordan is a documentarian at an advertising agency. Our careers have given us knowledge and experience that helped us to create something innovative and truly necessary. Once we had our concept worked out, we started to talk to friends in the non-profit space about taking next steps and making this idea a reality. Jordan and I have been learning as we go, but we make a great team.
How has Garment helped you in your recovery journey?
Garment is a constant reminder of the progress I’ve made in my own recovery. The initial idea came to 5 years before we could make it a reality. I worked through my issues of always wanting to be the caretaker for other people like my mom or my friends but never taking care of myself. As I began to devote more time to my self-care, I was able to become more confident in myself and my abilities. Now I am able to truly help people in a bigger, healthier way.
Who is Garment?
Garment is me, someone who is living a recovered life, and Jordan, who has spent the past few years learning how to be a great support person for recovery. Both of us have a passion for helping others and are devoted to solving a problem that hasn’t been addressed for others in the past.
What feeling do you most associate with Garment?
Pride. I’m proud of the organization. I’m proud of the work I accomplished in my recovery to get here. I’m proud of the relationship Jordan and I share and the bond we’ve created by working together on something that we love. The small setbacks we’ve faced leading up to our launch would have sent me on a downward spiral just a few years ago. It is empowering to take pride in something that once gave me so much shame.
Walk me through the Garment Experience.
Garment has relationships with treatment centers across the US. When a woman is reaching a point in her recovery process where our service would be most helpful, her treatment team will start to communicate some helpful info to Garment. With that style, personality, and measurement detail, Garment creates a unique shopping site for each individual. From there, our new friend can pick out items that she likes, we’ll box them up and ship them right to her.
How and where do you get your clothing and accessories?
Garment has been building relationships with retailers across the US to ensure that we have an inventory with enough variety to fit anyone’s style. There are so many retailers that are acting philanthropically with their items after a certain season has passed, when items have gone on sale, etc. Garment has been fortunate enough to be in contact with incredibly generous people at both national retailers as well as smaller boutique shops. We take boxes of new, never worn clothing in all shapes, colors, styles, and most importantly, sizes. Eating disorders do not target certain body types. We want the women we serve to see more options from Garment than they’d otherwise be able to find in most stores.
What is your favorite part of the day-to-day start-up process?
My favorite part of the day-to-day startup process is working side-by-side with Jordan. It is incredible to see what we are capable of doing when we work together. He constantly impresses and surprises me with his talent and attention to detail.
How can people get involved?
The Garment Project has already seen such an encouraging response and we know that it’s all because of people talking. The best thing anyone can do for The Garment Project is to talk about it. Talk about eating disorders. Talk about mental health, about resources for help, and about supporting anyone around you who is struggling. We encourage everyone to continue our conversation on social media and via email. Donations to The Garment Project can be processed on our website.
What advice would you give to someone in their recovery who has a dream?
Recovery was uncomfortable work that took dedication, acceptance, and time. It was not easy, and yet it is so worth it. Recovery is possible for everyone. A few years ago, I could not say that sentence out loud, let alone believe it true for myself. I am now living a life free of the eating disordered thoughts and rules that once consumed me. Although each person has a different story and struggle, it is truly possible to live a fully recovered life, free from your eating disorder.
What are your hopes and dreams for Garment?
Our hope is that Garment can reach women and eventually men too on a global scale and spread confidence through fashion. We want to become a resource for the millions of women and men who are working hard to recover.
As the summer ends and the crisp fall air approaches, the season of back to school is upon us. While this time of year can excite some, for others, the beginning of school is coupled with feelings of anxiety and stress. For those individuals considering going away from home for school for the first time or leaving home once again to return to college, this time can be fraught with decisions around lack of parental involvement which can lead to struggles with schedule, sleep, study, exercise and food.
I recently spoke with a client regarding a “quick admission” to residential treatment so she could return to college for her junior year. During the course of the conversation, this lovely, articulate and bright twenty-year-old told me every summer for the previous three years she had been in treatment. When we explored those treatment stays, she reported she consistently discharged to “get to school on time”. We discussed what it would mean for her to commit to being present in treatment for the recommended length of stay, rather than entering treatment for a specified period of time to engage in minimal weight restoration, receive a quick tune-up and brainstorm potential pitfalls for her return.
This conversation is one many professionals have during this time of year. When is it time for our clients to remain in a higher level of care and when is it time to return to their college campus? College students are left to cope with high-pressure academic environments, navigating complex social nuances and trying to engage in self-care; even in the best of circumstances this is challenging. Add an eating disorder to the mix and an individual is left to manage feeding themselves, self-monitoring exercise and managing substances which can significantly increase engagement of eating disorder symptoms, anxiety and depressive symptomatology.
The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) conducted a Collegiate Survey Project in which they reported:
The increased pressure and stress of school and leaving home may lead to mental health problems among college students and a greater need for campus services. This is also a period of development in which disordered eating is likely to arise, resurface or worsen for many young men and women. Full-blown eating disorders typically begin between 18 and 21 years of age (Hudson, 2007). Although some students will experiment with dieting and escape unscathed, 35 percent of “normal” dieters progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20 – 25 percent progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak & Crago, 1995).
With every client, parent and provider I speak with, I encourage them to dig deep in consideration around the return to school. The idea of taking a semester off may be a painful one; however, the ultimate benefits may far outweigh the potential challenges.
I believe it is more beneficial for an individual to engage in treatment fully and completely, rather than potentially need to reenter in the future.
For questions or more information on supporting your client or loved one in the transition from treatment to school, please email us directly.