The Truth about Weight Stigma

Posted on January 26, 2017 by StayConnected

Oliver-Pyatt Centers Founder Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS matches both her comprehensive training and personal victory over food and body issues with an unwavering belief in compassionate and scientifically sound treatment. She shares some of her expertise in this week’s blog post by discussing the stigma surrounding weight and body size in our culture.

Weight stigma, also known as weightism, weight bias, and weight-based discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on one’s weight, especially larger or thinner people. Weight stigma reflects internalized attitudes towards body size that affects how those who are the targets of bias are treated.

A person who is stigmatized possesses a weight that leads to a devalued social identity, and is often ascribed stereotypes or other labels denoting a perceived deviance which can lead to prejudice and discrimination. Some common “weight-based” stereotypes are that obese persons are lazy, lack self-discipline, and have poor willpower, but also possess defects of intelligence and character. Pervasive social portrayals of people of larger body size create and reinforce biased attitudes.

Research has documented that physicians are the #2 source of weight stigma. Weight stigma has also been demonstrated in nurses and medical students, psychologists, dietitians, and fitness professionals.

Rebecca Puhl of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity illustrates in the Cycle of Bias and Obesity the pursuit of help followed by the avoidance of help, likely caused by the stinging, invasive weight bias experienced by the patient. The patient may not know they were subject to weightism, and may even believe that the shaming, unhelpful remarks are warranted, deserved and appropriate, and that they are even less valuable a person and therefore avoid the doctor and pursuit of health care altogether.

The person experiencing weight stigma is in a bind. They may seek assistance from healthcare or other providers, but the “help” can in fact reinforce and intensify shameful feelings the person experiences on a day to day, moment to moment basis. This leads to avoidance of health care, and even turning to food and bingeing to dissociate from this painful experiences.

When well-intentioned providers “prescribe” simplistic, behavioral weight loss plans (the typical eat less, exercise more mantra,) the individual with Binge Eating Disorder feels even more powerless. Not only is their shame exacerbated, their illness is being mismanaged, and they enter into a hopeless-helpless paradigm.

The truth is Binge Eating Disorder is a mental illness, and requires treatment that addresses the bio-psycho-social issues that contribute to the development of an eating disorder.

A patient told me that a physician once told her “You’re fat everyday so you should exercise everyday.” This statement is grounded in ignorance. It was not helpful. Worse yet, it was harmful and might have contributed to further avoidance of healthcare, shame, and ultimately, bingeing. Thankfully, this patient knew better. She found another healthcare provider rather than blame herself or avoiding the help she desperately needed.

Weight Stigma is perhaps the most recent, socially acceptable form of discrimination. I am thrilled that Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) and National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) are spreading the word on the insidious, destructive reality of weight stigmatization, a current reality of modern society and modern medicine. I hope we will be able to look back one day and realize how far off medicine once was, and recognize instead that attitudes and approaches founded on compassion, love and science are how we heal our patients.

© Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.


Fear Busters

Posted on July 28, 2016 by StayConnected

KarinL_blogKarin Lawson, PsyD is a licensed psychologist who is passionate about helping people create change in their lives through self-reflection, self-compassion, new perspective and new ideas. In her writing, Dr. Lawson offers some useful tips to help combat the fear you might be facing.  


Fear is a feeling, but it’s one that is incredibly powerful and can stand in our way like no other. It is not always rational . . . most of the time it’s not, yet it is all too real and intense none the less. When someone is struggling with an eating disorder, may times common everyday fears are ramped up and intensified. Reasons for this amplification can include co-morbid anxiety disorder(s), poor sleep and malnutrition both of which impact our physiological experience of fear, faulty core beliefs, history of trauma (both big T and little t) to name a few. If you’re set up for a major battle with fear, take heart, because there are some choices you can engage in to help make it a little less overwhelming.

In the recent Ghost Busters remake, it wasn’t a lone person but a group of kick butt, like-minded women who faced their fears together. So find your recovery-oriented tribe. Join a psychotherapy group, find a pro-recovery Facebook group or reconnect with those who have supported you in the past. When people are standing together, there’s more courage, less fear. You don’t need to do this alone.

Find your safe space. Whenever we’re venturing out of our comfort zone, facing fears and taking risks, we also need that nurturing, soothing safe space to rejuvenate and recover. This could be a comfy chair with headphones and blanket nearby or a spot under a tree where you take your journal and your dog. Your safe space is yours, so only you know what makes sense, but take some time to recognize it and make it happen. Many times in therapy we talk about an imaginary safe space, which is still legit support, but I also encourage you to find that literal space where you can let your hair down and relax in a tangible way.

Find inspiration from risk takers out in the world. Find those people those are conquering their fears. These don’t always need to be related to eating disorder recovery. Look for those people out there in life. Whether it’s conquering the fear of traveling alone or applying for a school that has always tugged at their heart, people are out there doing it and writing about it. Find them and hear their truth. My bet is that they were not fearless, but balancing the opposing concepts of fearfulness and courage. This is another way to recognize that you are not alone in this. The exact fears may be different, but the feeling is the same. Know that it can be done. Fear does not have to lead.

Here are some of my favorite fear busters when I need a courage boost.

Brene Brown’s Courage Works

The Courage 2 Create Blog

100 Days Without Fear


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt CentersClementine adolescent treatment programs and Monte Nido, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

Mary Dye_MPH RD CEDRD LDN_Director of Nutrition Services

Mary Dye, MPH, RD, CEDRD, LD/N oversees all nutrition across Oliver-Pyatt Centers as the Director of Nutrition Services. In this weeks blog, Mary offers her unique perspective on the relationships between dieting, disordered eating and eating disorders.

What are some signs you should be aware of that a strict diet is turning into an eating disorder?

Isolation & Secrecy:

If counting and measuring food, only eating in a certain way or at a certain time starts to take priority over relationships and social opportunities then we have a problem. Think of that friend who used to meet up for brunch. If she’s now suddenly not available or comes but “has already eaten” these could be warning signs. If you realize she doesn’t seem to eat with you anymore and is always full, these could be signs that her eating is so rigid it can only be done at home, likely alone.

Guilt & Obsession:

Strict diets and/or exercise regimens can require so much time, counting and focus they can feel like a part time job. When adhering to an exercise or meal plan replaces pleasurable activities and breaking the plan results in guilt, shame and anxiety, or requires compensatory behaviors there is a problem. It’s tricky because often in our culture we praise people’s devotion to dietary rules but it can be a fine line between an interest and an obsession.

Self-worth based on diet, exercise and/or weight:

Many people on diets like to talk about their diet, exercise and weight. When this becomes the basis of a person’s identity, it can be a sign of a larger issue.

Rapid weight loss & continued loss:

This may or may not occur. But if it does, consider it a warning sign. Losing over two pounds per week can resulting in negative health consequences. Often people start a diet with the goal of losing a few pounds, but once they get into the obsessive mindset and receive positive reinforcement for losing weight (which we do a lot in our culture) the diet can spiral into something more serious.

Pre-occupation with food:

If all your friend is talking about is food and living vicariously through your eating while she claims to be full: warning sign. She’s probably really hungry and is struggling to allow herself to eat the foods her body needs.

Use of food rituals:

These can vary but might include: taking tiny bites, not eating in public, breaking foods into little pieces, drinking loads of water before meals, eating only at exact times, using excessive calorie free condiments, etc. They usually have to do with extending the eating experience and filling up on low or no calories.


Statements like “I have to go for a run because I ate a brownie” can sound benign, but they can be a major red flag. If a person is having to compensate for their food with exercise, purging behaviors or forms of self punishment or if a person is reducing or altering their food intake and denying their hunger cues to compensate for missing a workout, these may be reasons to be concerned.

What is the difference between having an “eating disorder” and having “disordered eating?”?

There are specific criteria for the four diagnosed eating disorders in the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-V). While many people don’t meet the full criteria for a diagnosed eating disorder, many do have an unhealthy relationship with food and weight that may put them at risk both physically and emotionally. The difference has to do with the degree or frequency that a person is engaging in the disordered behaviors. A person with disordered eating would engage in the behaviors with less frequency or with a lower level of severity, yet are at risk of developing a full blown eating disorder in the future. Disordered eating is dangerous in itself, and many times goes undetected until it is a full blown eating disorder because the warning signs are less severe and the person is often highly functional in other areas of their life (this high functionality can be the case in eating disorders as well). Sadly, we live in a culture that promotes a degree of disordered eating, so many people feel uncomfortable addressing these warning signs and write them off as normal.

How has our focus on healthy eating (especially on Instagram and Facebook) contributing to eating disorders? Could they be eating disorders in disguise?

Social media certainly has intensified the pressure to “eat right” – whatever that happens to mean on a particular day. It can fuel the false idea that perfection is attainable. Since social media is accessible 24/7 – it can be visited when people are feeling most vulnerable and looking for a way to fix themselves by scrolling through photos and getting ideas on how to “self-improve”. As registered dietitian doing private food recalls for over 10 years, one thing I can say with certainty is that what people are actually eating and what they present themselves as eating, are often pretty different. I tell my clients all the time: comparisons get you no-where.

Strict regimens are fueled by reinforcement, and what better way to motivate than to get countless “likes” for a way of doing something. It can also intensify the guilt and shame that are experienced if the regimen is broken both for the person in the social media post (a sort of dual identity) and for the person viewing it (I’ll never be like her, I just ate dessert and don’t have time to go running). We also have loads of people giving nutrition and fitness advice on social media that don’t have backgrounds in these fields, so that can lead to a lot of confusion and misinformation.

I think the social media stars that have recently come forward and disclosed their eating disorders has been a wake-up call that some of what we see is an illness in disguise.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt CentersClementine adolescent treatment programs and Monte Nido, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

Posted in Body Image, Recovery

Lisa JimenezOliver-Pyatt Centers Primary Therapist Lisa Jimenez, MS works closely with clients suffering from eating disorders, specifically Binge Eating Disorder. She discusses our society buy in to the ideal “thinner is better”, and offers some strategies to embrace your body, no matter the size.

Everyone knows that feeling. You wake up, look in the mirror, and don’t like what you see. Bad body image, its the worst. For our women in larger bodies there seems to be an added layer. Not feeling our best, we turn to someone we love for some validation and get the dreaded response, “don’t worry, the weight will come off”. Hmm… that didn’t really help. What about my body now, right as it is in this very moment? Will people not like it? Will they think I’m too much?

We live in a society that idealizes the thin body. Those closest to us, the ones we care about most deeply, often buy into this misconception as well: thinner is better. We search for validation and acceptance in a body that’s beautiful and curvaceous, however one that others may not idealize and may not strive for.

As a larger bodied woman working with clients seeking treatment for Binge Eating Disorder (often larger bodied, however, not always the case) I’ve gathered tools both in my personal and professional life to help combat bad body image. In a society that idealizes thinness, some of these steps may be hard to believe, however, I can say confidently that they work. So why not? Be your own advocate. Give them a shot!

  1. Get inspired. There are many amazing, body positive women all over social media speaking up. Add them to your Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter! Flood your feed with women of different body shapes, colors and sizes. Who wants to see the same image over and over? There’s beauty in diversity.

  2. Remember your unique worth. You’re a lot more than your body. Think about your values, your interests, all those people in your life that love you greatly. There’s so much to be excited about!

  3. Practice body gratitude. This one can be hard, but it is key to body acceptance. Do you remember that cool move you did in Zumba the other day? Yeah, that was your body doing its thing. How about those Latin genes seeping out of your curves? Personally, I like to reflect on how my body connects me with my ancestry. Wherever you’re from, your body is part of your history. How cool is that?

  4. Rock your style. I know it may be hard to find a wide variety of sizes in retail store, but there are some fun, stylish brands online. Order yourself something cute. Spend the money. Feel good in what you’re wearing! You deserve it. For now, rummage through your closet and thrown on an outfit you feel good in,

  5. Nourish yourself. On a day where body image is not at its best, make it a priority to properly nourish yourself, both physically and emotionally. Don’t skimp on the food. It’s the ultimate set up for mindless eating. And please, do something nice for yourself. Mani, anyone?

  6. Practice body neutrality. Okay fine, you may not love your body today, but you can still show it respect. Try a more neutral approach like “I may not love what I see but I can accept it. I am more than a body.”

  7. Gather the evidence. Will people really like me more if I lose weight? Will all my problems miraculously vanish? Is my weight truly the cause of my unhappiness? I think you get it. And if you struggle with this one (as many people do), you might need to move on to number 8.

  8. Stop the spiral. There’s a great cognitive behavioral therapy tool where you imagine a stop sign to help you stop ruminating thoughts. If you notice that your head is taking you down the rabbit hole, this is about the time where you whip out this tool. If this doesn’t work, go distract: read a book, watch a funny video, keep that brain of yours occuppied.

  9. Call a body positive friend. Hopefully you have at least one person in your life on board with body positivity. Take note of these women and call them up when you need a little extra TLC. If you don’t have a friend like this in your life, it’s time to go out and find one!

  10. Ask yourself this: when did hating my body ever result in anything positive? Never!

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt CentersClementine adolescent treatment programs and Monte Nido, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

What’s Your Power Pose?

Posted on June 30, 2016 by StayConnected

Jennifer_Yoga-9076Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, founder of Chime Yoga Therapy, is a yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders. Recovered herself, Jennifer is exceedingly passionate about helping others connect with their natural gift of resilience through yoga. In addition to her private practice, Jennifer is also a yoga therapist at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia. In her writing, Jennifer tells of the power of yoga in eating disorder recovery.

The other day I had the powerful experience of leading four women through a yoga practice at a retreat. The women had come together to strengthen their eating disorder recovery journey. I was inspired by their grit and dedication. After all, attending a retreat is voluntary. These individuals participated purely out of choice, knowing they were going to do some seriously hard work.

With yoga mats, grounding stones, and paper and pens, we set off to share a yoga experience. I began by asking the women to write down a word that described how they wanted to feel that day. Words like “thin,” “empty,” “numb,” or other eating disorder associations were off limits. This exercise was about imagining another way of feeling and drawing out their “healthy voice.”

As we flowed in and out of poses, I cued the women to recall the word they wrote down. I asked them to hold their word in their mind as we breathed, balanced, twisted, folded, backbended, and inverted.

At the end of the practice, I asked the women to give their word a pose. You see, I believe we can wire in a feeling that we want to cultivate through our bodies. In other words, we can embody a feeling by creating a pose that expresses that very feeling. For example, in the same way that hunched shoulders, clenched hands, and a frown can embody (and even create) a sense of depression, anxiety, or loneliness, an open stance, with feet firm on the floor and shoulders back (like mountain pose) can embody a sense of grounding or confidence. We can call on a pose to literally shift our mood, thoughts, and demeanor. This is a powerful tool I’ve been practicing in my own healing journey.

Certainly, a pose isn’t a permanent fix, but when done with purpose, strong intention, and often, yoga poses can be a powerful way to cultivate the qualities we want to create more of in our recovery and life in general.

I was so impressed and inspired by how willing and open the women were to this exercise. For one woman, “peaceful” took the form of tree pose, and for another woman this quality was felt in mountain pose. Half moon pose represented “alive” for another participant. All five of us were smiling by the time we finished sharing. The room was lighter, and my perception was that the women felt lighter in their bodies as well.

It was quite a moment for me to watch the women combine their word with a pose. In fact, one of them brilliantly named the exercise “Power Pose.” How perfect, right? When we realize that we can interrupt an eating disorder thought or behavior simply with a word and a pose, we have gained immense power. We show ourselves that the very thing that we believe controls us can be quieted and even conquered, if even just for a moment. That single moment is the gateway to many, many more moments one word and one pose at a time.

I invite you to discover your Power Pose for today. First, ask yourself how you want to feel today. Next, imagine a shape that connects you to that quality. You don’t need to be in a “real” yoga pose either. Just simply shift into a shape that takes you out of the eating disorder slump (in mind and body) and into a more positive space.

There’s no right or wrong. Feel your way into your Power Pose. Get used to having the power again.

Many thanks and blessings to those four special women for gifting me with the beautiful idea of Power Pose and sharing their yoga practice with me. Many thanks and blessings to you, too, for taking the time to read this post and opening your mind and heart to healing.

Keep going!


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt CentersClementine adolescent treatment programs and Monte Nido, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

Article Inspiration

Posted on June 09, 2016 by StayConnected

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.


Anxiety, Fears, and Things That Go Bump in the Night Psychology Today

How Weight Information Can Increase Overeating/Binge Eating Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld

Yoga May Be Good for the Brain The NY Times

If We Treated Ourselves The Way We Treat Our Children Kantor & Kantor Law

How Anorexia Causes a ‘Starved Brain’ Dr. Jen Gaudiani

Understanding Anorexia Nervosa in Males Psychology Today

Binge Eating and Binge Drinking: Same Origins  BEDA

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Carolyn_Costin_LtGreen_Portrait_CircleMonte Nido Founder and Eating Disorder Expert Carolyn Costin, MA, MEd, MFT is renowned for being an advocate and activist in her field.  After recovering from her own eating disorder, Carolyn became a therapist and began treating people suffering from eating and body image problems. She went on to open Monte Nido in Malibu, California because she wanted to create something different.  “I wanted to create a center for healing in a home like environment, surrounded by nature.”  She has authored numerous books, and most recently released her fifth book. “Yoga and Eating Disorders” bridges the knowledge and practice gaps between mental health providers and yoga practitioners who work with clients suffering from disordered eating.  It is an invaluable resource for mental health and yoga professionals, as well as individuals and family members struggling with eating disorders.

Fifteen years of treating eating disorders prior to opening Monte Nido taught me the importance of incorporating healthy exercise. Taking away all exercise, as was the general practice, did not work. In private practice a no exercise rule is almost impossible to enforce. When enforced under 24-hour care, clients go right back to unhealthy exercise habits after discharging. Monte Nido has a gym, exercise equipment and a fitness trainer, but it is yoga that profoundly transforms our clients’ approach to exercise in a new and healthy way. Of course, many clients are initially interested in yoga because it purports to provide some kind of exercise. Yet, whatever clients come in the front door expecting, yoga provides a back door into teaching them much more.

My knowledge of the history of yoga barely scratches the surface. I am not adept at any particular form of yoga. I don’t call myself a devotee of any kind of yogic philosophy. What I know is that yoga, as a practice and philosophy, helped me embody what I already cognitively understood was true. It helped me live in my body with awareness, respect, non-judgment, harmony and honor. It enhanced my ability to be still, go inside, maintain balance, avoid comparison and be in the moment, yet not totally disconnected from the past or future. Practicing yoga taught me to accept where I was while, at the same time, guiding me to improve. If yoga did all this for me, how could it not be beneficial for my clients? I began recommending yoga to certain clients in my private practice. At the hospital eating disorder unit, where I served as clinical director, I lobbied to hire a yoga teacher for the patients. I was denied. Then, in 1996, I decided to open my own program, Monte Nido, the first residential eating disorder facility licensed in a home setting.

Yoga fit right in as a way to enhance and physically concretize what I was trying to do: help clients realize that the eating disorder self is ego/ mind out of control. Help them understand that they are not their eating disorder self. Help them separate from it and re-connect with their true nature or soul. Once connected to soul, things like weight get into proper perspective, where a number on a scale is no longer a matter of consequence.

Yoga can decrease eating disorder symptoms while not decreasing BMI. In a study of eating disorder clients, ages 11 through 21, the control group received “standard care” (physician and dietitian visits), while the test group received standard care along with individualized yoga. The yoga group demonstrated greater decreases in eating disorder symptoms a month after their treatment, while the control group showed some initial decline but then returned to baseline levels. 9 Food preoccupation dropped significantly after all yoga sessions. Both groups maintained BMI levels and experienced decreased anxiety and depression over time. The researchers conclude: “Results suggest individualized yoga therapy holds promise as adjunctive therapy to standard [eating disorders] care.”

People with eating disorders are disconnected from, even at war with, their bodies. Their minds are in a state of constant comparison. They are judgmental of themselves and others, out of balance, caught in habitual behavior patterns, and living in the past or future. As a yoga teacher said in class just this morning, “Our bodies live mostly in the past and our minds in the future; yoga helps us bring both into the present moment.” While yoga facilitates awareness, connection and unity of mind and body, we do not claim that yoga alone can heal eating disorders. Instead, Yoga and Eating Disorders: Ancient Healing for a Modern Illness demonstrates an important role for yoga in an overall treatment strategy aimed at transforming body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, addictive exercise, sabotaging thoughts and self-destructive behaviors.


All excerpts above reprinted from “Yoga and Eating Disorders” with permission. Read more about the use of yoga in therapy buy purchasing Carolyn’s book, “Yoga and Eating Disorders”To learn more about Monte Nido and the programs it offers, visit their website: or call 888.228.1253.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook,LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Body Image, Recovery

World Eating Disorders Action Day

Posted on May 19, 2016 by StayConnected

Stacey Rosenfeld - 2

Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD is a licensed psychologist who specializes in eating disorders, addictions and group therapy. In her writing, Dr. Rosenfeld shares about World Eating Disorders Action Day, a day to help educate and raise awareness about eating disorders.


What Is It?
A wealth of misinformation surrounds the eating disorder field; we hear these myths all the time. Ideas such as “Only young, rich, Caucasian girls get eating disorders,” “You can tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at him/her,” or “True recovery is impossible” cloud the eating disorder conversation.

The inaugural World Eating Disorders Action Day (World ED Day), happening on June 2nd, 2016,  seeks to dispel these myths, raise awareness and understanding around eating disorders, and unite activists around the globe toward much-needed policy change.

World ED Day promotes the “Nine Truths about Eating Disorders”, a collaboration between the Academy for Eating Disorders, Dr. Cynthia Bulik (the truths are based on her 2014 talk of the same name), and other key eating disorder associations. The mission/vision of World ED Day is  to “advance understanding of eating disorders as serious, treatable illnesses” and “unite eating disorder activists, professionals, parents/carers and those personally affected to promote worldwide knowledge of eating disorders and the need for comprehensive treatment.”

On June 2nd, activists around the world will come together to promote the “Nine Truths,” highlight the need for evidence-based treatment, increase funding for eating disorders research, and advocate for broad-based policy change that enables greater access to care.

Why Is It Important?
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, but that does not mean they are untreatable. Recovery is possible, but we need to make sure that those who struggle have access to quality treatment. Too often, those who suffer aren’t able to access good care due to lack of sufficient resources, insurance limitations, limited information, or other interfering variables. For many others, treatment is based on an outdated understanding of eating disorder etiology. We now know that eating disorders have genetic, biological, and environmental influences. We know that parents can play a critical role in the treatment and recovery of adolescents with eating disorders. Unfortunately, these truths have not been adopted by all.

World ED Day seeks to reduce barriers to care, particularly in underserved populations, and supports increased diversity in narratives and in the media. Have you ever noticed that most eating disorder articles in mainstream media are accompanied by a stock image of a low weight, Caucasian woman? This needs to change. Eating disorders affect men and women of all shapes and sizes, races, and socioeconomic statuses. These illnesses cut across age, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity in a way that media, research, and policy do not adequately convey.

How Can You Get Involved?
World ED Day is calling for significant social media presence and engagement in the days leading up to, and including, June 2nd. The hope is that those who suffer from eating disorders (and their families), treatment professionals, healthcare organizations, and policy makers will take note of World ED Day’s key messages. The easiest and best way to get involved is to promote World ED Day through your own social media platforms. You can use the hashtags #WeDoAct and #WorldEatingDisordersDay and like/follow these World ED Day accounts:




There will be a 24-hour Tweetchat-a-Thon, accessing folks in all timezones, on June 2nd. Various organizations will present on topics such as Binge Eating Disorder and evidence-based treatment. Follow the hashtags to join the conversation. You can also participate in the Instagram project, which highlights images of diversity and challenges myths surrounding eating disorders (@worldeatingdisordersaction). Finally, please read and share the blog posts on the World ED site. Professionals, patients/carers, and advocates have written critical content begging for dissemination.

The inaugural World Eating Disorders Action Day is in our hands. We have the power, by raising our collective voices, to challenge misinformation, target underserved populations, increase research funding, and remove obstacles to care, toward the goal of treatment and recovery for all.


This article written by Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Giulia Suro_PhD_Primary TherapistPrimary Therapist Giulia Suro, PhD shares three specific strategies that can be integrated into the therapy process. In her post, she explains how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be a useful approach to help clients with eating disorders.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a creative, mindfulness-based therapy that hinges on acceptance and values-driven action. You do not need to be well-versed in the theory of ACT to integrate ACT techniques in to every day sessions. Below are three core concepts to ACT that can be brought in to therapy when you might feel like changing things up.

Functional Contexualism, or, “How did this serve you?” Imagine a chair that has a leg that gives out every time you sit on it. What words would you use to describe this chair? Broken? Faulty? Garbage? What if this chair was being used as an educational tool in a furniture-making class? Or as prop in a circus act? In these contexts, the chair would be serving its purpose, or function, perfectly well. Eating disorders also serve a function in the specific context each individuals’ life. This may be to provide a sense of control, safety or distraction. Yet, our clients are very quick to label their own behavior as dysfunctional or wrong. Focusing on the function of behaviors given their context can shift clients to examine their eating disorder from a more compassionate stance and help them move away from guilt and self-blame.

Experiential Avoidance, or, “Feelings won’t kill you.” Eating disorders, like most mental disorders, are characterized by avoidance. This may be avoidance of specific foods, settings, people and often life in general. From an ACT perspective, it’s truly not the external stimuli that are being avoided. Instead, it is how these things make us feel internally. Family therapy would not be difficult if it did not bring up feelings of anger or guilt. Fear foods would not be threatening if they did not incite terror or disgust. In this way, acts of avoidance are really an attempt to escape some internal experience. From this framework, discussions about exposure can center on the emotions that are truly at the heart of avoidance.

Defusion, or, “You are not your thoughts.”A common frustration in the recovery process is that eating disorder thoughts continue to persist despite progress being made. This can be scary and discouraging. When this comes up, ACT offers the skill of defusion. When we defuse from our thoughts, we see them from an objective stance and are better able to hold them lightly. A quick exercise in defusion entails identifying a powerful thought such as “I’m worthless,” and noticing how it feels to buy in to it. Adding the phrase “I’m having the thought that..” to the beginning of the sentence (“I’m having the thought that I am worthless”) immediately provides some space and allows us to and observe the thought from a distance. While the thought itself doesn’t change, we decrease its power and increase our clarity.


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Grieving the Thin Ideal

Posted on April 28, 2016 by StayConnected

Tali_YuzPrimary Therapist Tali Yuz Berliner, PsyD has run a body image group at Oliver-Pyatt Centers for almost three years. In her group, she works with clients on accepting their bodies and letting go of the “thin ideal”. In her writing, she shares about her use of cognitive fusion in aiding clients through this process.  

After almost three years of running body image group at the comprehensive level of care, I have learned a lot from the many incredible clients I have had the pleasure to sit with. One significant theme that is revisited time and time again in my group is the need for the women to “grieve the thin ideal.” It has been important for these women who suffer with eating disorders to not only accept that they cannot strive for thinness any longer but also to accept that the body that they have been chasing will not bring them the fantasy life they envision. I often use the ACT(Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) term cognitive fusion, to explain this concept to the group. Cognitive fusion proposes that certain attachments are made through verbal interactions that people spend endless amounts of energy trying to prove or disprove. People will do so despite the thought not being accurate in the present moment or having evidence to the contrary.

The way we (I say “we” since the process is always collaborative with the clients) tackle this theme in my group is two-fold. First, it is imperative to challenge the distorted thought that a specific body type will lead them to happiness. This is done through a variety of exercises from several modalities, such as:

Looking for evidence that challenges the thought

Exploring body image development

Identifying and connecting other values

Challenging the media

In addition to the exercises, it is important to openly process and review the topic of body image acceptance and how it occurs on a continuum. We explore how it begins with tolerating the body, then accepting the body, then liking it, and eventually one day learning to love it. Exploring where the woman is on the continuum and moving them through it allows the loss of the thin ideal to be less painful.

Second, it’s important that we validate the loss of this ideal. The work can often mirror general grief and loss work whereas the women can experience similar emotions to the loss of a loved one. It is necessary that they process how this void has and will impact them in the future. We continuously reinforce the significant need to strengthen and connect to other roles and values outside of the body/appearance and the eating disorder. The women explore the integration of values to replace what is lost and to reinforce the message that the idealized body will not bring them to a happy life but instead being connected to others and immersed in their values will lead them to life satisfaction. The above is a snapshot into a very complex process that is inherent in both group and individual sessions. My hope is for these women to start to trust their values and their healthy voice to come to the understanding that there is more to life than the thin ideal.


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Melanis Rivera-Rodriguez_PsyD_Primary Therapist

Primary Therapist Melanis Rivera-Rodriguez, PsyD co-facilitates a weekly process group at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. She shares about the use of Yalom’s therapeutic factors in her work with group therapy.

When it comes to the treatment of eating disorders at a residential level of care, a sense of community and ways of one patient relating to another can be weaved into the daily focus of treatment and recovery. The concept of community and relationships dates back to our ancestors, and from a scientific perspective speaks of the gregarious nature within the instincts of survival and collaborative work that humans possess. From a therapeutic stance, Irvin Yalom, an existential psychiatrist, speaks of 12 therapeutic factors defining them as “the actual mechanisms of effecting change in the patient” (Yalom, 1995) in a therapeutic community and/or group therapy setting.

In my experience as a primary therapist, and in co-facilitating process group once a week at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, a sense of community can be observed being established among the women in which several of Yalom’s therapeutic factors can be identified in the group dynamics. Being attuned and aware of these factors has aided in facilitating not only the group process but the individual process as well. Yalom’s therapeutic factors consist of:

  1. Universality – feeling of having problems similar to others and not being alone.
  2. Altruism – helping and supporting others in their recovery process.
  3. Instillation of hope – encouragement that recovery is possible.
  4. Guidance – nurturing support and assistance.
  5. Imparting information – teaching about a problem and recovery.
  6. Developing social skills – learning new ways to communicate about feelings, concerns, and new ways of relating.
  7. Interpersonal learning – finding out about themselves and others through group feedback.
  8. Cohesion – feeling of belonging to the group and valuing the group.
  9. Catharsis – release of emotional tension.
  10. Existential factors – life and death are realities.
  11. Imitative behavior – modeling another’s manners and recovery skills.
  12. Corrective recapitulation of family of origin issues – identifying and changing the dysfunctional patterns or roles one played in primary family.

From the previously listed therapeutic factors, universality seems to inherently facilitate connections in which possibly the treatment experience creates an exchange among the women that may enhance empathy, compassion and self-awareness. Additionally, the elements of time (length of stay) and environment (24/7 care) seem to play crucial ingredients as the women begin to navigate treatment for their specific struggles with an eating disorder and/or other co-occurring issues. Change can be identified not only cognitively and behaviorally, but also holistically, in which the integration of these factors, insight of recovery and relationships might parallel the woman’s circumstances outside of treatment possibly facilitating change in deeper, consistent and meaningful ways in the path of recovery from an eating disorder.


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Body Image, Recovery

Thaimi Fina_LMHC_Primary TherapistPrimary Therapist Thaimi Fina, LMHC is the facilitator of the Body Image Group for women at the Oliver-Pyatt Centers. Through her work, she has learned various strategies to help battle negative body image thoughts. In her post, she shares five effective ways to establish a more positive relationship with your body.

Whether they struggle with an eating disorder or not, most women (and men!) experience negative body image thoughts throughout their day-to-day life. Unfortunately, this has become our norm. Despite the automatic nature of these thoughts, it doesn’t mean that we have to be bound by them and allow them to impair our daily functioning. As a Primary Therapist in Casa Verde at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, one of my most valued tasks is facilitating the Body Image Group for our adult women. Throughout my time facilitating this group, I have had the privilege of learning a lot from our women about which strategies have proven most effective in battling their negative body image thoughts. In this post, I will be sharing 5 of these tips with you in hopes that they will assist you in managing these thoughts and making peace with your body.

Tap into your values and determine the most values-oriented actions you could take. During one of my groups, I provide clients an expansive list of potential values and ask them to prioritize their top five values. These values may include honesty, family relationships, spirituality, independence, health, etc. Clients are then asked to identify a situation that would likely trigger negative body image thoughts and brainstorm as many different actions they could take in that moment to manage these thoughts. Then, they are asked to reference their list of top values and identify the most values-oriented actions they could take. For instance, say you experience negative body image thoughts while getting dressed to go to work. You could decide that these thoughts are too strong, they are impacting your mood, and you should just stay home and avoid being seen today. However, you choose to reference your list of top values which include family relationships and independence, and identify values-oriented actions you could take instead. You decide to call a loved one to share your frustrations or maybe just distract with small talk. You also remind yourself of the importance of showing up to work in order to continue striving for financial independence, and commit to going to work. These thoughts may still be present, but you are not allowing them to control your life.

Write a letter of gratitude to your body and read it when negative body image thoughts arise. During another body image group, our women begin by participating in a gratitude meditation. There are many wonderful gratitude meditations available on youtube if you’re interested! Then, they are asked to write a letter of gratitude to their bodies, choosing to suspend criticism for just a moment, and taking the time to honor their bodies. As they write this letter, clients are encouraged to reflect on all the ways that their body serves them and enables them to live a life worth living. This letter could serve as a powerful reminder of your body’s amazing resilience and value, when you find yourself criticizing its appearance.

Commit to doing one to two random acts of kindness for your body each day. These acts of kindness could vary significantly from person to person but should include any action that makes your body feel good and honors your body’s needs. These acts of kindness could include (but are certainly not limited to): resting when your body is tired, taking a mindful walk, taking a warm bath, putting on a favorite scented lotion, getting a massage, wearing a cozy sweater, honoring your body’s hunger and fullness cues, stretching, meditating, etc. Create your own list of acts of kindness that resonate the most with you and commit to trying 1-2 of these acts each day. Building a better relationship with your body doesn’t just involve battling the negative, but also actively creating positive interactions with your body.

Practice self-compassion. You can’t control that these negative body image thoughts pop up in your head, but you do control whether or not to beat yourself up for having them. Instead, it is important to gain awareness of how these thoughts became so embedded in our heads. We live in a society where women are constantly given the message that their worth is determined by their appearance and body size and that they must never be satisfied with either. It’s no wonder that we feel compelled to criticize our bodies and compare them with unrealistic ideals of perfection. As you work towards building a better relationship with your body, practice self-compassion and be patient with yourself. Choosing to honor and accept your body exactly as it is, is truly revolutionary in our society. Rather than beating yourself up when these negative thoughts arise, speak to yourself with the same loving kindness that you would to a loved one.

Actively seek and create body-positive messages. Be creative and find ways to surround yourself with body-positive influences. This tip could include following body-positive blogs or Instagram accounts. Create your own pro-recovery and/or body-positive Pinterest board. Join organizations and participate in events that promote body acceptance and health at every size. Create and display a collage of images and quotes that inspire you to be kind to your body and honor it. Spend more time with friends and loved ones who do not engage in negative body talk. Serve as a role model for others and avoid criticizing your body in conversations with others. The options for carrying out this tip are endless. Our society, mass, and social media are full of images and messages that promote body shaming and/or unrealistic body ideals. Actively work towards surrounding yourself with very different messages and avoid following accounts that reinforce your negative body image thoughts.

These are just a few of the strategies that the women in our program have found most helpful in battling negative body image thoughts. As you begin trying some of these tips, I encourage you to remember that the goal is progress and not perfection. These thoughts are common and likely to pop up from time to time but you can become more effective in how you manage them and choose to respond. Remember that a thought is just a thought. It does not determine fact or how you must respond. I hope that you find these tips to be helpful and encourage you to brainstorm your own strategies for building a better relationship with your body. To end, I will leave you with one of my favorite poems from Nayyira Waheed. “And I said to my body. Softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath. And replied ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’”

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Practicing Gratitude

Posted on March 31, 2016 by StayConnected

Jessica_Genet_Pic MonkeyAssociate Director of Clinical Recruitment and Resources, Jessica Genet, PhD shares how practicing gratitude can be an effective treatment tool in body image work.  She explains how the use of gratitude in the recovery process can help heal the clients relationship with the body, and offers seven different ways to begin doing so.

Imagine the following: “You are driving your car to the store. Up ahead, the road is closed and road workers redirect you towards an alternate route. Once you arrive, you walk into the store and are greeted by a store employee with a friendly smile.”

Take a moment to reflect on how you would respond to this scenario. Would you focus on the hassle of the road closure? Or would you notice the small act of kindness shown by the store employee?

It is easy to take for granted the small “gifts” that occur in our daily lives as well as the more substantial blessings and silver-linings. It is also unfortunately easy to fall into a pattern of focusing on hassles, irritations and life stressors. However, research has shown that taking the time to actively practice gratitude – acknowledging goodness in ones’ life and recognizing the contribution others (people, animals, higher power) have made for the sake of our well-being– can be incredibly beneficial to our emotional and physical health. Research has shown that gratitude increases happiness and feelings of optimism, joy and pleasure. Gratitude also encourages us to “pay it forward” and be more helpful, altruistic and compassionate. A grateful focus helps us feel more connected to others and less lonely, and improves our health, strengthens the immune system and encourages us to take better care of our bodies.

At the Oliver-Pyatt Centers, we regularly incorporate practices of gratitude into our treatment. For individuals with an all-consuming eating disorder, moments of gratitude are often overshadowed by obsessive thoughts, anxiety and sadness, isolation, and other hallmarks of the disorder. We also know that the journey to recovery is often challenging. By teaching our clients to practice gratitude, we can help build their resilience to the challenges of recovery and move towards a life that feels more joyful, meaningful, and connected to others.

One area of treatment that especially benefits from the practice of gratitude is body image work. Many of our clients enter treatment extremely critical of their bodies and preoccupied with body shape and size. By encouraging our clients to take a moment to reflect on the gifts and miraculous functions of the body – such as appreciating arms because they allow us to hug a friend and our eyes which allow us to see a summer sunset – we can slowly begin to heal the relationship with the body.

Below are some suggestions for how you can start a practice of gratitude (from the book “Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier” by Robert Emmons, Ph.D.)

Keep a Gratitude JournalEstablish a daily practice of reminding yourself of the gifts, benefits and good things you enjoy. By writing each day, you magnify and expand upon these sources of goodness.

Buddhist Meditation Technique of Naikan – This practice involves self-reflection on three questions that can help address issues or relationships. It involves recognizing the gifts we receive and what we give to others, and acknowledging how we may cause pain in the lives of others.

What have I received from__________?

What have I given to ____________?

What troubles and difficulties have I caused _______?

Pay Attention to Your Five Senses – By paying attention to the ability to touch, see, smell, taste and hear we connect to what it means to be human.

Use Visual Reminders – Visual reminders (e.g., post-it notes on our bathroom mirror, reminders in our phone) serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude.

“Breath of Thanks” (by Dr. Frederic Luskin) – Two or three times a day, slow down and bring attention to your breathing. Notice the flow of your breath. For each of the next five to eight exhalations, say that words “thank you” silently to remind yourself of the gift of being alive. Practice at least three times a week.

Learn Prayers of Gratitude – Spiritual traditions are universally filled with prayers of gratitude. If you identify with spiritual tradition, incorporating these prayers into your daily life can heighten gratitude.

Go Through the Motions – If we go through grateful motions (e.g., saying thank you, writing letters of gratitude) we can trigger the emotion of gratitude. Psychological evidence has shown that attitude change often follows behavior change.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

KarinL_blogI am so honored to host a brief Curvy Yoga session at the 2016 Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness Walk in Boca Raton, Florida this Saturday morning! Many people have been intrigued by the idea of “curvy yoga” and what that means, so let me explain. Curvy Yoga is a brand created by yoga teacher Anna Guest-Jelley out of Nashville, TN to help make yoga body positive and accessible to all bodies, regardless of shape, size, age, ability or experience level. So many people have assumptions about yoga with one of the strongest being that yoga is not available to them in their body type.

Although I am an advocate for body positivity and am a clinician working with eating disorders, I did not go to Anna’s yoga teacher training to bring it to my clients. I actually went to Anna’s yoga teacher training for myself, for personal growth and as a four part retreat. However, once I was done with the training experience, I knew I could not keep this awesomeness that is Curvy Yoga underwraps and am happy to be bringing it to the South Florida community. Currently, I do private one-on-one and small group yoga sessions, so I can be more attuned to the needs of the people I am teaching; creating modifications that feel right to that person as they connect with their body. Even though the Alliance walk yoga session will be a large group and won’t lend itself to as much individual support, my hope is that it will still convey the ideals of non-competitiveness (including with oneself), tuning inward to see what feels good and practicing self-compassion. As Anna taught me, yoga can be “no pain, no pain”.

The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness is hosting their annual walk this Saturday, February 27th celebrating everyBody: a walk for eating disorders awareness in Boca Raton. Participation can be registering to walk or making a donation. If you would like to join our team, please visit here and make sure to stop by the OPC booth and participate in a Curvy Yoga session with Karin Lawson after the walk.

For more information about Dr. Karin Lawson, Curvy Yoga and her private practice visit here:

Final Logo

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram


Primary Therapist Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, CGP discusses the subtle changes occurring within the fashion industry, media and society and how these changes may impact women’s overall body image. For the original publication, please visit here


Ashley Graham,Tess Holliday, Crystal Renn. Do these names ring a bell? They should! They’re some of the top plus-size models in today’s fashion landscape, and the proliferation of their images in mainstream media is helping to promote body diversity and is poised to present a solid challenge to our culturally thin ideal. Do these plus-size models represent every woman? Of course not. We’re yet to see, with any regularity, models who run the gamut with respect to race, ethnicity, disability, etc. But these celebrated faces of plus-size fashion are certainly a start.

Daily Life with Media’s Pressure

What happens when everyday women, with everyday bodies, are bombarded by billboards, television commercials, online images, and magazine ads featuring models with body shapes/sizes that don’t represent them, with bodies that naturally occur in only a small percentage of the population?

Research has typically shown that exposure to thin models can elevate body dissatisfaction among girls and women. In one study, for example, women who already experienced some degree of body dissatisfaction reported higher dissatisfaction after viewing advertisements with thin, versus “average-size,” models. Another study found similar results for exposure to thin models in music videos. Here, adolescent girls who watched music videos featuring “ultra-thin” models demonstrated significantly elevated scores on a measure of body dissatisfaction.

Exposure to traditionally thin (and often retouched/Photoshopped) models may cause women to believe that their own bodies are unacceptable – or that certain body features are flawed. Problem areas? Cellulite? Bad! But what if we were regularly exposed to models with bodies that mimicked our own, bodies with paunches and bulges, stretch marks and dimples? More, what if these models actually presented, “flaws” and all, as at peace with their appearance?

Thanks to Plus-Size Models like Ashley Graham!

Model Ashley Graham, in her recent TED Talk: “Plus Size? More Like My Size” tackles full-body acceptance head on. She begins her talk by addressing her image in a full-length mirror:

You are bold, you are brilliant and you are beautiful. There is no other woman like you. You are capable. Back fat? I see you popping over my bra today, but that’s alright. I’m going to choose to love you. And thick thighs? You are just so sexy you can’t stop rubbing each other. That’s alright. I’m going to keep you. And cellulite? I have not forgotten about you. I’m going to choose to love you even though you want to take over my whole bottom half, but you’re a part of me. I love you.

Will Graham’s gratitude and Holliday’s hashtag (#effyourbeautystandards) catch on? Only time will tell. Media are slowly starting to feature plus-size models, and clothing brands like American Eagle’s Aerie are paving the way for a more expansive practice of un-retouched images.

Do we expect increased exposure to diverse bodies to decrease the incidence of eating disorders?

Unlikely. We know that eating disorders are serious mental illnesses with genetic, biological, and psychological roots. But, for the majority of women who struggle with body image concerns, constant exposure to media featuring models of a limited body type can take its toll. And for those in eating disorder recovery, witnessing a cultural recognition (or even celebration) of body diversity might help model the elusive challenge of body acceptance.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programming, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Body Image

Hand-Paper Making

Posted on November 18, 2014 by StayConnected

Thank you to Primary Therapist, specializing in Art Therapy, Annie Hoffman, ATR-BC, LMHC for sharing this fantastic collaboration and activity promoting positive body image, acceptance, and appreciation. For additional photos of this project visit here


One of my favorite things about my job as an art therapist is my ability to address and work through issues in non-traditional avenues. In July I had the opportunity to attend the American Art Therapy Association annual conference and attended a presentation on hand-paper making given by art therapists, Genevieve Camp and Amy Bucciarelli. I was so inspired by this presentation and could not wait to return home and apply what I had learned at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. I chose to do this as part of my role facilitating body image groups in our Intensive Outpatient Program.

A major area of focus in body image groups is promoting positive body image and increasing body acceptance and appreciation. Recently in these groups, we were able to take a creative and meaningful approach in the process of letting go of clothing that no longer fits. This is an important part of recovery from an eating disorder in that holding on to clothing that no longer fits is in a way holding on to parts of the eating disorder. It can then become a question of whether you are holding on to the clothes or the eating disorder is holding on to you. Having in one’s possession clothes that no longer fit is a temptation to body check or try on the clothes to see how much weight you have gained or how much you would need to lose to fit into them again. This is a very common trigger that can send people back into the clutches of the eating disorder. So then, what do we do with these clothes? Many people find that instead of just getting rid of them, donating them to help those less fortunate allows for a more positive shift in the significance of these clothes. One other way to shift the meaning/significance of the clothes is to transform the clothes into something else. This is the route we took.

We started out by bringing in the clothing to the center and cutting it up into small postage stamp size pieces. Then all of those pieces made the journey from South Miami to Boca Raton to the Jaffee Center for Books Arts at Florida Atlantic University. There the director, John Cutrone, helped us to use a machine called a Hollander Beater to pulverize the clothing pieces into usable pulp to make hand-made paper. The pulp was brought back to Oliver-Pyatt Centers where we transformed a meeting room into our very own hand-paper making studio! In the paper-making studio, each client was able to learn how to use the mold and deckle to create a unique piece of hand-made paper from the pulp which used to be her old clothes. Since our paper making studio did not have a press to dry/flatten out the sheets, we “pressed” the paper onto the glass windows of the center and let the paper dry in the sun. It was not only energy efficient but was also rather beautiful as the windows were soon covered in pieces of paper. One of my favorite things about his project is how it brought everyone together as we had the majority of our staff in the studio as well pulling sheets of paper. It was truly a team effort.

Once the paper was dry and flattened, we embarked on the final stage of this process. The women were able to choose what they would like to do with their paper. Some of the women wrote letters to their old clothing, one woman wrote a postcard to her parents and many women created paper beads. For the paper beads we wrote on the inside of them positive body image affirmations and then created beautiful meaningful pieces of jewelry with the beads. This project allowed the women to transform their relationship to the old clothing and to experience some empowerment over a challenging aspect of recovery. 

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and newly introduced Embrace, a binge eating recovery program and Clementine, a residential program exclusively for adolescents girls please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Body Image

Last week, Clinical Director Karin Lawson and Director of Outpatient Programming Melissa Spann were honored to present on eating disorders and body image at the Pershing-Turner Center Symposium. Karin and Melissa share, “we are really excited to be introducing an innovative model for body image recovery. Although it is linear in presentation, many of the phases are part of an ongoing process that includes relational dynamics as a significant factor in recovery. Those relationships evolve in the movement toward increased authentic connection.”

Body image struggles are common among our clients with eating disorders. Body image is a concrete object to focus one’s attention when the eating disorder and the world can feel so abstract. It is a metaphor for the self. It can also be a deterrent to shy away from other intense therapeutic topics. However, this is  not always a distraction. Many times it is a significant part of the therapeutic work.

Dr. Lawson and Dr. Spann delve into this topic, discussing the importance of the client being physically and psychologically ready to address body image work and the movement that occurs through stages of animosity, rejection, bargaining, tolerance, acceptance, appreciation, and ultimately, authentic connection with self and others.

Additionally, Karin and Melissa explore and challenge clinicians to reflect on their own relationships with their bodies as part of their professional and personal development; noting a clinician has to be willing to engage in self-reflection and increase self-awareness. “It can feel challenging to have your body be the object of a patient’s feelings like scrutiny, envy, hatred, etc. Looking back, I wish I would have more readily and more comfortably incorporated this. It’s so important to model to our patients that we aren’t afraid to talk about our bodies and that we aren’t afraid to hear their feelings about us and our bodies.” – Primary Therapist, Oliver-Pyatt Centers

If you are interested in this topic and want to learn more, please send an e-mail to, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with our upcoming talks and presentations. Stay tuned – this presentation is slated to be repeated in Washington, D.C. in the upcoming months.

Posted in Body Image

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