Primary Therapist Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, CGP explores the cultural influences of eating disorders in modern day society. For more information and to follow Dr. Rosenfeld’s professional blog, please scroll to the end of the post. For the original article, please visit the NEDA website.
Does every woman really have an eating disorder? Of course not. I wrote my book, and started the blog that inspired it, to shed light on the incidence of subthreshold eating disorders, now called Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED) and subclinical presentations, commonly referred to as disordered eating. One thing I had noticed in fifteen years of working with patients with eating problems was that just because someone didn’t meet full criteria for anorexia or bulimia (or now binge eating disorder) didn’t mean that her struggle wasn’t real. So, while not every woman (or man) has an eating disorder, the point of my book, controversial title and all, was to raise awareness across the spectrum of eating and body image disturbances that plague millions of women throughout their lives.
Perhaps more accurate than labeling the individual is labeling the culture as disordered. It is nearly impossible to go a day without exposure to a weight-loss ad, the latest diet trend, or a story about the obesity crisis. On a recent 24-hour trip to participate in NEDA Awareness Week, I was greeted at the airport by a banner ad that read, “Lose your fat, not your luggage” and at dinner that night, I ended up at gluten-free restaurant that a friend of mine had chosen unbeknowingly. When I casually asked for bread mid-meal, our server declared proudly, “We’re totally gluten-free.” The restaurant tab read: “100% Guiltin Free,” in case there was any doubt about the morality of our meal.
Do these cultural influences cause eating disorders? Again, of course not. But, for those who have the genetic predisposition to developing an eating disorder, living in today’s world is like walking in a minefield. With the “right” set of genetic and psychological/constitutional factors, a disordered culture, as we say, pulls the trigger of our loaded gun.
And what about recovery? For those who’ve taken on the brave task of seeking help for their eating disorder, recovery must occur against what I call a “backdrop of disorder.” Recovery is a daunting project, period. Yet, I can’t imagine a more challenging time and place to recover than one in which calorie counts are posted in restaurants, movie theaters, and coffee shops; where group fitness instructors suggest you push it to the limit because you dined with gusto the night before; and where diet trends pounce daily on social media in the form of ads, recipes, and seductive before-and-after pictures. Now, more than ever, recovery must evoke a solid set of blinders, keeping you focused on your path and shielding you from the many triggers you might encounter on a moment-to-moment basis.
That is why I fight so tirelessly to challenge these cultural influences. We might not have a handle on how to address the biological causes of eating disorders (yet), but the cultural forces that can play a role in the elicitation of eating disorder symptoms – and that impact how all of us relate to food and our bodies – are well within our reach.
Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, CGP is a clinical psychologist, on the Oliver-Pyatt Centers team and working in private practice, who treats patients with eating disorders, anxiety/depression, substance use issues, and relationship difficulties. Visit her website here and subscribe to her personal blog here.
1. What is your name and how long have you been with Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
My name is Jamie Morris and I have been with Oliver-Pyatt Centers since opening day. I started working as a Recovery Coach and over the past 6 1/2 years have moved between many clinical positions including Intensive Outpatient Program Therapist, Intensive Outpatient Program Manager, and Comprehensive Program Primary Therapist.
2. Provide a few sentences about your role at Oliver-Pyatt Centers.
My current role is Senior Primary Therapist in Casa Azul. In this hybrid role, I have the privilege of working with a couple women as a Primary Therapist and with others as a case supervisor. I also facilitate one of the weekly Interpersonal Process Groups. In addition to my work as a clinician at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, I also work on various advocacy efforts and have traveled annually to participate in the Eating Disorders Coalition Lobby Days.
3. What is the role of a Senior Primary Therapist at Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
The role of Senior Primary Therapist involves being the Primary Therapist on a few cases, meeting with a few women individually for check-in sessions during the week, supervising fellow Primary Therapists on cases, supporting the Clinical Director, supporting the Recovery Coaches, and providing support with programming and scheduling.
An important part of the Oliver-Pyatt Centers philosophy is that the women and families that seek our services know all members of the treatment team are influential in the healing process and can be a source of support, even if not the primary point of contact.
4. What is your favorite thing about working as a Senior Primary Therapist at Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
I have a few favorite things about working in this role: (1) I enjoy working closely with my colleagues to facilitate healing and help the women we work with transform their lives, (2) I enjoy the opportunity to be a part of each woman’s treatment even if I am not working intensively as her Primary Therapist and finally, (3) I appreciate that each day brings a new challenge and another opportunity to witness faith, hope, and trust at play.
5. Tell us three things nobody knows about you.
I am excited for the day I get to be a mother to two English bulldogs who are already named! I love monograms. I have been bungee jumping and would probably do it again.
Yoga instructor Carly Orshan, MA, E-RYT200, RCYT explores the benefits of mindful movement and awareness through the practice of yoga.
Take a second to tune in and notice how you are feeling in this very moment. Take a breath in. Take a breath out. Breathe at a normal pace and become aware of the rhythm you are creating. Notice what you are experiencing in this moment. What sounds do you hear? What physical sensations come up? What thoughts are surfacing for you? Notice these elements surrounding you and within you – without trying to do anything about it.
You are participating in a mindful activity.
Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. Yoga is a useful tool to help individuals achieve mindfulness and become aware of the present moment through physical, mental, and emotional engagement. Anyone can use mindfulness to help them listen to their inner voice and find better balance within themselves. Mindfulness is a practice that helps individuals learn how to better engage with themselves, interact with others, and learn how to tackle life’s hiccups with grace and awareness. However, mindful yoga can be particularly useful for individuals struggling with eating disorders that often experience negative body image and typically have difficulties nurturing and embracing themselves in nonjudgmental ways.
Through the past three years, I have witnessed individuals engage with mindfulness each time I walk into Oliver-Pyatt Centers to lead a yoga class. There is often a shift that occurs for the women when they step on their mats. This transition may not be obvious to many or even to the participant herself, but it is there. Although it doesn’t show each class for every person, I have noticed that an emotional metamorphosis is revealed when the participant is able to truly connect with her inner self and release other distractions. By tuning in and honoring the present moment this subtle transformation emerges with a beautiful smile upon her face. Even though she may not see it or feel as she is moving and breathing through the class, I do. It is this realization that makes the moment equally compelling for the instructor.
In each class, we begin by closing our eyes, taking a deep breath and setting an intention. In Sanskrit, intentions are called sankalpas, which means our heart’s deepest longings. We use intentions as a way to leverage the power of the practice and the meditative feeling that comes along with it to create movement in a positive direction. Setting intentions helps participants shift their mentality from engaging in an “exercise” event to one that is a mindful practice of movement by turning inward, to their heart’s center. By setting intentions we establish an intimacy with our own inner essence – the quiet voice of our inner self that speaks in terms of openness, love, silence, knowingness, and kindness. Some intentions often prompted during class that I love are:
“To treat myself with love and respect.”
“To have compassion and self-acceptance.”
“To be more open-hearted, despite being hurt in the past.”
“To focus on being present by listening to my breath.”
“To cultivate happiness, experience peace, and honor my true self.”
To connect to our heart’s highest intention, we simply need to turn inward. This process facilitates a mindful experience and reaffirms the physical, mental and emotional gift that yoga can bring to each individual. Mindful based yoga is a powerful practice to bring about balance, smiles and encourage healing.