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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

Angie

Angie Viets, LCP is an eating disorder specialist who has dedicated her career to helping her clients recover. In her writing, Angie shares her personal journey with an eating disorder as well as her professional experience in the field. She offers a unique perspective to the view of exercise and whether it can be an act of self care or self harm.

“Strong is the new skinny.” “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” “Suck it up now and you won’t have to suck it in later.” Sound familiar? You can’t spend five minutes on Pinterest or any form of social media without seeing these catchy little quotes layered on top of images of whatever the latest absurd mandate is to be considered beautiful or sexy…

Sometimes I wonder who the puppeteer is behind this charade. I imagine if we saw who is making up these insane standards it would be like the big revelation in the infamous Wizard of Oz. Just an ordinary man behind the curtain playing clever tricks on us (probably while eating Cheetos and drinking grape soda, laughing at us while we run around in circles eating egg whites).

Are you so lost and unsure of yourself that you’ve bought into this craziness? Once upon a time, I was, for sure.  My life felt controlled by getting in my next workout. I adopted the belief that a day was only as good as the workout completed. Fear pressured me into working out while sane people slept. Dark streets stretched before me, lonely and cold, yet mile after mile I ran and ran until my heart told me to stop, yet even then I kept going.

I felt so superior to my peers and colleagues; I burned seven trillion calories while they drank coffee and watched the Today Show before heading into work. People probably thought I was crazy, but instead, they said things like, “Wow, I wish I had your motivation.” (“See, you’re superior!  You have something they want but don’t have the willpower to achieve,” the eating disorder that ruled my life at the time said, reinforcing my efforts.) I failed to let them know that I was seeing a cardiologist over the lunch hour, due to becoming increasingly more convinced that my irregular heartbeat might be a sign of an impending heart attack at the premature age of 22.

I hold images of that girl in my head, and I just want to pick her up off of the dark curb where she sat, fearfully timing her pulse, instead of her miles, and tuck her into bed while secretly burning her running shoes. She was a lost soul, running away from the very thing she was so desperate to find – herself. Looking back now it just feels sad; certainly not superior. My identity was wrapped up in an all-consuming eating disorder, and excessive exercise was just one part of my obsessive and disordered life. Until…

Until the day, I walked by a yoga studio and observed people in odd postures. They looked really…well, serene, unlike me and all of the other treadmill junkies. I found the practice of yoga fascinating; it kept calling to me softly, “just one class,” as I walked by each day. But I waited a long time to have the courage to attend a class because it meant rebelling against my eating disorder and its insistence that running was the Holy Grail. My addiction to running was much louder than the gentle whispers seeping out from under the yoga mats, following me home.

The night I finally entered the sacred space of that yoga studio is forever burned into my mind. Something shifted in me that night as I laid in savasana (corpse pose). I reconnected with a part of myself while lying on my yoga mat and I heard a quiet voice softly whisper, “You can eat now.” This voice is my most compassionate self who is loving, infinitely wise, and deeply invested in nurturing me. I chanted Om three times, bowed my head while saying Namaste, rolled up my mat and walked back out into my life forever changed.

Unfortunately, I didn’t abandon compulsive exercise that night; I needed a remedy much greater at the time. But little by little I started giving myself permission to listen to my body and its desire to attend a yoga class instead of torturing my injured knees on a treadmill. At some point, I laid down running entirely. Moving my body stopped feeling abusive and slowly felt like an act of self-care. Over time, I let go of the core belief that if I didn’t exercise in an ‘acceptable’ way that something horrific would happen.

Exercise is kind and loving and very much a source of self-care when used in moderation and in ways that feel good to you. For some, that could be running, for me, it’s a long walk on a sunny day with Mosley, our Golden Retriever, a bike ride with my kids, or a walk with a girlfriend where our legs try to keep up with our words. My body craves a gentle yoga class with incense burning and Sanskrit music playing; I feel at home in my body on a yoga mat.  Sometimes it’s a quick cardio workout with my favorite audible book playing. And many days, it’s rest, because I don’t need to run away from myself anymore.

Our bodies crave movement. Exercise has tremendous benefits for our mental and physical well-being, but when abused it does far more harm. It’s not intended to be our only method of coping with the stress we experience in our lives.

Listen to the infinite wisdom of your body, it has all the answers you need.

Love + Light,

Angie

If you are concerned exercise has shifted from self-care to self-harm, I would recommend taking a minute to consider a few common symptoms:

-Working out when sick or injured

-Irritability if you can’t exercise

-Becoming depressed if you are sick/injured to the point of being unable to work out

-Fearful of weight gain if not exercising

-Arranging your entire day around a workout

-Working out more to compensate for eating certain foods or skipping a workout

 

This article originally published on The Angie Viets site. 

 

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

Dawn Theodore BlogDirector of Day Treatment Services at Monte Nido & Affiliates Dawn Theodore, MA, MFT, CEDS discusses the unique challenges that arise when treating a middle-aged patient with an eating disorder.

When I treat clients with eating disorders, I always talk to the person about the “fork in the road”, which is the choice they have as to whether to choose their life in that moment or their eating disorder. Every decision that is made moves them closer to one destination or the other.

The Fork in the Road
As I sat across from a woman in her 50’s who has been struggling with her eating disorder for 40 years, I have to wonder why she has chosen her eating disorder and not life. After all, she is working and functioning in life, but she continues to struggle with her eating disorder and is sitting in treatment yet again after many failed attempts.

I had a lot of empathy and compassion for this woman who had developed her eating disorder at age fifteen, about the same age I had developed Anorexia Nervosa. We were approximately the same age and yet we had chosen a different fork in the road.

In the past, eating disorders would be seen at developmental transitions such as middle school to high school, high school to college, college to life and before and after pregnancies. Now there are additional transitions that are leading to an increase in eating disorders in individuals 40 and above.

Many clients being seen for eating disorders in the 40 and older range could have had an eating disorder for many years, but it was never recognized or treated. The person was functional in their life and able to keep their eating disorder a secret for many years.

A client may also have had recovery from their eating disorder at an earlier time in their life and a life event has triggered a relapse.

The Pressures of Aging
Some of the possibilities as to why the 40 and older population is developing their eating disorder now could have to do with transitions associated with the age. At this age, the person may be beginning to recognize the societal pressure to look younger as the aging process begins. Their children are developing into beautiful adults as they begin to see the signs of aging.

Children are leaving the home and the empty nesters are being asked to reevaluate their lives after raising a family. This is a time when the couple has to look at their marriage or relationship and divorce is a distinct possibility as they rediscover life without their children.

There may also be financial concerns as they have children in college and they are preparing for retirement. Women may be forced back in to the work force after years of being removed if they were a stay at home mom. Seeking treatment may be costly and they feel shame to take money from college funds and/or retirement.

The sandwich generation is stressed by the pressures of raising their own family while caring for ailing parents. The loss of parents is another developmental transition which can cause someone to begin looking at their own mortality and aging fears.

As young girls transition from childhood to adolescence, they receive attention for their new body. Women who are going through menopause are also going through a transition with their body, but this time they are not receiving the positive reinforcement they had as an adolescent. In fact, it is a time when they may really be dissatisfied with their body.

Treating this Population
When treating this population, it is important to look at the current stressors in their lives. Being able to identify what has gotten them to treatment and actually be able to talk about it without shame and guilt.

If they have had an eating disorder in the past and have relapsed or if they have secretly had an eating disorder for a long time, they may feel hopeless and as though they will have their eating disorder forever.

Teaching the client how to be authentic and congruent may be healing as they take off the mask they have presented to the world. This may be the first time they actually have the time to focus on themselves and their well being.

What they were presenting to the world and how they actually have felt were not the same. The person will need to identify their feelings and learn how to communicate their feelings to their support system.

The support system for this population may include their children, husband, friends, and siblings. Helping the client identify what she or he needs from their support system and how they can be supportive. The more educated the families are about the clients eating disorder, the less this client will be able to act out in their eating disorder.

Communicating Concerns
Helping the family communicate their concerns can be difficult. The children may have to be honest about how their parent’s eating disorder has impacted them.

The roles may be reversed and the child may be the one setting limits with their parent(s). Teaching families to be loving, empathetic and communicating without judgment is key through the process. Also important is being able to speak their truth without being attached to the results.

The belief system of the eating disorder will need to be challenged. If the client has had their eating disorder for a long time, the belief system will be rigid and it will take a lot of support from the therapist, dietitian, family and friends to begin to shift the distorted cognitions.

As I sat across from my client, I was aware of how her eating disorder had pushed the support system away with its relentless demands on her. She had no relationships in her life and she was returning to an apartment she shared with her cat. As she made the transition out of treatment and back to her life, I held the hope for her journey in to recovery, but also knew it was her choice and she had the tools to choose life.

How do you think eating disorder been impacted by age? How has age impacted recovery?

This post originally published on the Eating Disorder Hope blog

 

To read a past article about eating disorders and aging, please visit here. 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 Recovery

opcfrontview

A heartfelt thanks goes out to Emily for sharing some insight into her path of recovery, including a journal entry at the completion of her time at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. We hope this provides encouragement to those working toward recovery, strength to those struggling, and a reminder that you can do this.  

For the longest time, I was my body’s worst enemy. I was constantly consumed by my thoughts obsessing over my body and food. This began when I was fairly young. I can still vividly remember being in 2nd grade when I was forced to wear a dance costume for my recital that consisted of pleather pants and a hot pink fuzzy sweater. To this day, I can remember how much I hated my body in that outfit – the thoughts were inescapable. That was the first time I became aware of how much I disliked myself.

I grew up thinking that hating my body was normal; I truly believed that everyone was struggling with the same thoughts. I started to live my life convinced if I lost some weight, all of my problems would disappear. I would be happy, popular and live a life people would be envious of.

I was 15 when I was diagnosed with an eating disorder, but it didn’t hit me that it was a real problem then. It wasn’t until last year when I spent the holidays in panic over the food that I realized things were not okay. Needless to say, my eating disorder had taken over my life. On some days, I was able to recognize things had gotten out of control, but a majority of my days were spent listening to the thoughts that shouted I wasn’t sick enough. I believed them because I never thought I was enough. Sick enough, pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough – it was never enough.

A few days after ringing in the New Year, I found myself having had enough of my eating disorder. Ironic isn’t it? I sat in my therapist’s office and agreed that maybe it was time to really recover. She mentioned Oliver-Pyatt Centers (OPC) might be the right fit for me. I looked at her like she had four heads, ME, in residential treatment? My eating disorder panicked and I went right back into denial. I swore I was fine even though I was the furthest thing from that.

I did not understand how this could happen. How did I end up with an eating disorder? How did it get this out of control? Why couldn’t I stop?

Everything felt like a blur. I very reluctantly agreed that to go. I packed my bags and began my journey. I left New York City and went home to my parents the days before I boarded the plane to Miami. I cried a lot – I was leaving my favorite city, my beautiful family and my eating disorder. I knew logically there was no reason to miss something that was killing me emotionally, physically and spiritually. But we had spent so many years together that I did not know how I’d survive without it.

I will always remember the devastating feeling I had walking away from my family at the airport to fly to Miami by myself. I landed in the MIA airport and was greeted by one of the OPC recovery coaches. She tried her best to comfort me about being there and reassured me I had made one of the strongest choices I’ll ever make in my life.

I walked into the Verde house where I would spent the next few months and took a deep breathe. I tried my hardest to remember why I was there. Not just to lose my eating disorder, but to gain back my life. I, of course, missed my family, but something told me I had just found my new family. The way I was embraced in hugs with girls I barley knew, and staff that only wanted the best for me – I felt at peace for the first time in a long time.

It is so hard to put into words the experience I had at OPC. The five months I spent there were unforgettable. I became Emily again, and god it felt so good. I think the following journal entry when I ‘graduated’ from residential is the best way to share how much it meant to me. I will always remember sitting outside in the tranquil backyard of the house reading this to all the girls I had been with on this journey and crying. Not because I was sad, but because I was so happy about how far I had come.

May 17th, 2015

I can hardly believe this day has come. That all my hard work has paid off. The past three and a half months I spent in treatment here has meant the world to me because I feel so differently than I ever have in my entire life. Prior to getting here, waking up in the morning felt like a never ending nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. I was miserable and living a life filled of shame and pain. The most awful feeling in the world was wanting to call my body home but never having the strength to.

I dreaded each day knowing I would have to deal with the tiring dialogue and war happening inside my head. What is so special and rewarding about spending time here at OPC is that I’ve regained my life back. I realize now that there is not enough time for hating myself. There are too many places to go, to see and people to meet. There are too many things to make. It’s time for me to go live my life. A vibrant beautiful life – filled with joy and sometimes sadness.

I realize now that there is nothing more important than being happy and healthy. I realize now that there is nothing more precious than learning to embrace the skin and body I live in. Waking up excited about life and it reminds me how beautiful this process is. I am becoming the truest version of myself the one I had been looking for for so many years. I can look in a mirror now and recognize that I am so much more than just my outward appearance and accomplishments.

I am a beautiful girl with likes and dislikes, with opinions and feelings. Who I am is never going to be reflected on my outer appearance. Who I am is never going to be dependent of the number on a scale. One of the most important things I’ve learned here is that I am a combination of what I love rather than what I hate in the mirror.

For the first time in my life I am loving and nourishing my body more and more everyday. I am able to accept love and compliments for the first time. I have never felt more honest and true to myself and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to learn how to do that. I can finally say I deeply and completely love and accept myself. The time spent here at the Oliver-Pyatt Center was worth every tear shed and every uncomfortable feeling I have had to sit through. I am becoming Emily for the first time and I am using my voice once and for all.

At the end of the day I am also grateful for my eating disorder because it helped me sit through the unspeakable. Even though the comfort of my eating disorder came with a heavy price, I am able to recognize how much I have learned from this illness. I can say now that I deserve more than dedicating my lifes work to losing weight. I feel no shame now for having used my eating disorder to cope with my life, because it doesn’t make me a bad person – my presence still can light up a room.

Thank you to everyone at OPC for teaching me how to love and live again. You saved my life.

I know thinking about going to treatment is scary, even terrifying at times, but I hope this reminds you what you could gain in the process. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call Oliver-Pyatt Centers at 1-866-511-HEAL or visit their website for more information. I wish you well on your journey of recovery. YOU can do this.

This article was originally published on the Project Heal website. We thank them for allowing us to re-post and share with our readers. 

Posted in Recovery

Melissa_Orshan_Spann_withborderDirector of Admissions Dr. Melissa Spann, co-hosting with the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, will be exploring the spectrum of treatment options for trauma in eating disorders throughout treatment at a presentation tomorrow, Friday December 11th from 9:00am – 12:00pm in West Palm Beach, Florida. If you are interested in attending, please register here. For additional information, please scroll to the bottom of this post. 

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives.” 

In this presentation, participants will gain knowledge regarding specialized tools and techniques used to effectively engage clients throughout treatment. From an initial point of inquiry, clients with a co-occurrence of trauma and eating disorder require a specialized approach to treatment in all levels of care. Various treatment techniques and evidences-based practices have proved to have significant results for effective treatment of trauma; however, in the intersection of trauma and eating disorders, specialized consideration of nutritional, medical and eating disorder goals must be given prior to use of trauma techniques.

This presentation will address how to initiate specific trauma-informed therapies according to client background, eating disorder diagnosis, and stage of recovery. During an initial point of inquiry, the use of trauma-informed motivational interviewing provides the client with an opportunity to feel more connected, engaged and as an active participant of their own recovery. This presentation will highlight specifically tools of trauma-informed motivational interviewing as a means to initiate treatment and provide a framework to treatment progression. Additionally, the presenter will provide examples from other clinicians on most challenging trauma eating disorder cases and best practices used.

About Melissa Spann, PhD, CEDS
Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, CEDS is the Director of Admissions at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. Dr. Spann has presented nationally on topics related to adolescent development, trauma and body image. Her clinical interests include experiential therapies, healthy body image, and women’s issues across the lifespan. Previously, she served as a primary therapist at OPC, The Renfrew Center and Life Counseling Services. Dr. Spann also worked with Moving Traditions, whose premier program, Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! is dedicated to proactively building for health. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, Master’s degree from University of Miami and undergraduate degree from University of Florida.

Event Details
Friday, December 11, 2015
9:00 am – 12:00 pm (8:30 am – Light Breakfast and Registration)
West Palm Beach Event Hall | 2223 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard #101 | West Palm Beach, FL 33409
3 Free CEUs and Light Continental Breakfast!

Registration Fee
In lieu of a registration fee, we are requesting a donation to benefit our organization and the free services we provide community wide.

Items Requested
Donations: Cash/Check Accepted (made out to The Alliance for Eating Disorders)
Gift Cards: Office Depot, Home Depot, Staples, Target, Publix, Amazon
General Supplies: Copy paper, Correction Tape, Clear packing tape, Trash bags-large black, Paper Towels, Tissues, K cups, Postage stamps, Tyvek 8.5×11 mailing envelopes

CEU Information
The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness is approved by the Florida Board of Psychology to provide continuing education courses to psychologists (Provider # 50-11298, expires 5/31/2016), Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling (Provider # 50-11298, expires March 31, 2017) to provide continuing education courses to LCSW’s, LMFT’s, and LMHC’s, Florida Board of Nursing to provide continuing education courses to RNs, LPNs, and ARNPs (Provider # 50-11298, expires 10/31/2017), and Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition to provide continuing education courses to RDs, LDs, and LDNs. The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness maintains responsibility for this program and its content. This course offers 3 credits.

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 Recovery

Melissa_Orshan_Spann_withborderDirector of Admissions Melissa Spann, PhD, CEDS sheds light on some of the most frequently asked questions received by our admissions department. Thank you to the admissions team for sharing these questions and allowing us to provide some additional clarity on the at times confusing landscape of insurance and admissions. The entire Oliver-Pyatt Centers team is here to help guide you through every aspect of treatment and to support your loved one and family on the path to recovery. For any admissions related questions, please contact us here or call 1.866.511.4325. 

Do you take insurance?
Yes! We accept and work well with most all insurance companies. One of our specialties is digging in really deep with every insurance policy to navigate the challenging nuances and come up with the best plan for each client.

We are thrilled to announce we are now in network with BCBS for our Clementine program at all levels of care and our adult programming at the IOP and PHP levels of care. We are also in network with Humana at the PHP level of care and Aetna at the IOP level of care.

What does it mean to be an out-of-network provider?
Different insurance plans have different plan options to choose from. For some insurance plans, even when we are not in network, we have still have the ability to work with your insurance through the use of your out-of-network benefits.

What makes OPC different than other programs?
OPC takes an individualized approach to every client. Our philosophy is one in which we are emphasizing comprehensive care through medical, clinical, psychiatric, nutritional and family support. One of the cornerstones of our model, daily individual therapy, allows clients to develop a deeper therapeutic connection; it is through this vital therapeutic relationship that clients are able to delve into treatment fully and deeply for healing to occur. Our multidisciplinary team uses a bio-psycho-social-spiritual model to treatment – meaning, identifying the core issues that drive the eating disorder and addressing all of the co-occurring issues that may accompany it. Our treatment philosophy is centered around the idea of “If not now, when?”

What makes Clementine different than other adolescent programs?
Clementine takes everything we know about effective eating disorder treatment and tailors it specifically to the unique needs of adolescents. The Clementine milieu is a small, intimate group in which both clients and families are working on recovery. The program provides the opportunity for adolescents between 13-17 to live in a beautiful, home-like environment in which they receive extensive medical, psychiatric, nutritional and therapeutic support. Additionally, clients are working on exposures, daily integrated educational needs, extensive family therapy and family programming, and mindful movement. Clementine was designed with the thought “If my daughter needed residential treatment, where would I feel comfortable?” From that, the unique and beautiful Clementine model was born.

How can I be involved in my loved one’s treatment even though I live in another state?
Your participation in treatment is critical to the overall process. We have weekly family therapy sessions via video conferencing, monthly family programming and as needed check-ins. For Clementine, in addition to all that was just listed, we also have family coaching, daily check ins, and bi-weekly family programming.

What can I do as a parent to advocate for my daughter’s benefits?
You are an essential advocate to your loved one’s treatment. There are so many ways in which family members play a critical role to long term recovery, navigating the challenges within our healthcare system is one. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has some incredible resources for parents on navigating our healthcare system, being an advocate, and articulating arguments to third party payers. I encourage every family to know their rights and advocate on their behalf. We are committed to helping you through this often challenging process.

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 Recovery

Galia

Thank you to guest blogger Galia Barkol for sharing her personal experience and journey of recovery. Please view her full story at ‘Then What Happens.

I had been hospitalized for three months at the best eating disorder treatment center in Israel, and I was finally out. I had a meal plan and my weight had reached what was defined as an ideal number. I was asked to come back every Wednesday to be weighed and to go over my eating journal. So here I am, sitting in front of the dietician, who reviews this week’s data. Apparently, I gained. “You can go down now,” she says. “Let’s put you on less calories a day and see how that stabilizes you.”

That day something cracked. I lost my belief in answers, in solutions.

I was heartbroken. How can this be? I sacrificed the body I was comfortable with, the eating habits I was used to, and for what? For another set of restrictions? For having to always watch it and call it “normal” and “recovered”?!

I left the center and never came back. I rushed back to Paris, where I lived at the time, to catch up with the last days of my film studies and even made it to the final exams. At the same time, I worked equally as hard on getting rid of the weight I’d gained in treatment and on resuming my familiar routine. I was so ashamed to be seen the way I was… this body didn’t belong to me; it wasn’t me. I was equally as miserable as I was before, only heavier. I couldn’t accept it.

It has been ten years since then. During the period that followed, I found a way to maintain the disorder – being slightly underweight, slightly obsessed with and intimidated by food, slightly limited in my ability to be with others and be spontaneous, and slightly unhealthy. But it seemed like the ideal compromise. I was functioning after all, and I liked my body, which was a pre-requisite for me to be able to live in this world.

People thought I’d figured it out, and others who didn’t know about my issues would just compliment me for my slim figure. But I remember hearing myself say at a support group meeting: “I can feel I’m at the most dangerous place. It doesn’t hurt as much anymore; I could go on forever. And I suspect the price I’m paying is life itself.”

But life has its way of nudging us out of those comforting danger zones. So, a couple of years later, I started getting injured frequently. My orthopedist suggested it was related to my low weight. Right around the same time, my physician explained to me I couldn’t go on without getting my period; that it affected my bones. I was terrified. It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t a kid anymore and I realized no one else would take care of me. I had to make a decision. That day something shifted and I started feeding myself better.

My plan or my hope was to reach a healthy weight and stop there, at the minimum of my BMI range, but my body had other plans. After a few months of feeding myself properly, I was back at the point where I had been at the treatment center ten years before: my body told me once again that it wanted to be at a higher weight than the bare healthy minimum, and that I had no business controlling it. This time I had to listen because I understood there was no sustainable alternative, that the only way to be free was to let go and see what happens.

Being in that space is a spiritual practice. I had to bring myself to focus on the intention while letting go of the results. I had to dis-identify from the image of who I thought I was, and to believe that who I was in my core could never be affected or destroyed by anything conditional. This wasn’t a smooth ride. In the past two years, I have died a little every day. I have cried almost every day and was reintroduced to life again little by little – to the wonder, the mystery, the pleasures, the human connection, the humor, the transience, the complexity and simplicity of being alive and belonging to life.

For 18 years of battling with my body image and eating disorder, I have always wondered if I would reach the point where I get to the other side and write a book such as “Here’s How I Beat This!” I don’t know if there will indeed be a day where I feel completely free inside my body as I used to be before it all started. Thinking about this makes me sad and even angry. But at the same time, I recognize the sacredness of being “in between” – in that state of prayer, of openness to how things play out. In a world that offers so many finite answers, I feel peace remaining in the infinite domain of the questions, as a more truthful reflection of life, which honors my individual path.

I recently wrote and am currently crowd funding for a feature film about that place. The film – THEN WHAT HAPPENS – is not specifically about recovery from body image and eating disorders in the same way that it’s not about its protagonist being a dancer who lost her ability to dance. My disorder taught me something about what’s underneath, about what we all share as human beings, which is what I’m looking to zoom into with this piece.

Whenever we face a challenge or a loss, we feel the impulse to push ourselves to skip the confusion and find a new sense of meaning and identity to cling to (such as “recovered from an eating disorder”). We call it “healing” or “overcoming,” and we associate it with strength and even sanity. But we are given very little time to dwell in uncertainty, which is just the place from which true insight and healing emerge.

To me, this is one of the hidden blessings of living through and recovering from this painful disorder – the ability to live in and contain what comes up in the spaces between, where life is most vivid.

Lastly, I’ll add that I was both unlucky and lucky in the sense that no treatment has ever worked for me. I tried them all and failed them all until I found my way (with the help of magic mentors, of course). I think something inside of me rebelled all those years because it knew freedom meant something else. Freedom doesn’t have a system and cannot be applied to everyone in the same way. Freedom already belongs to us and is for each of us to uncover in our own unique way.

As Joseph Campbell said:

“You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path. You are not on your own path. If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential.”

 

Galia Barkol is an actress, writer and director living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her website hereThis post originally published on Eating Disorders Blogs

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 Recovery

Vacations

Posted on September 24, 2015 by StayConnected

Sydney Keller, Mental Health Worker at Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Boston, helps us wave goodbye to summer and welcomes us into the holiday season with a recovery focused post on vacations. While vacations, trips home, or experiences in new places can be fun and exciting they can also induce feelings of trepidation and unease. Sydney provides us her top six tips to support your recovery during times of travel. 

Sydney_Keller

Summer is the time for rest and relaxation, spending time outside, and going on vacation with family and friends. Wouldn’t it be nice for even one day, one week, one trip, to take a vacation from your eating disorder?

I recognize you might not be able to go on vacation because of the added stress that can interfere with recovery. However, for those who do, provided is a list of tips to utilize while you are away.

1. Be flexible. Just like your home life, vacation is not always on a set schedule. Planes can be delayed, weather is not always as we expect, and traveling can take longer than planned. Be prepared for these situations and have snacks that are both fulfilling and nourish your body. Remember not to let more than two hours go by without eating.

2. Journal. Journal to resist urges, create a dialogue with your healthy self and ED self, and to explore any feelings that may surface.

3. Do not be afraid to try new things and step out of your comfort zone. When traveling to a new environment, the foods you may typically have at home may not be available. That is okay! Stepping outside of your comfort zone is a part of life and so is trying new foods that you may not otherwise expose yourself to. Challenge yourself and try something new if you have the opportunity.

4. Don’t focus on your appearance in family photos, but rather the beauty of your surroundings and the incredible memories you are making as you partake in new experiences. To be in a new place can be both nerve racking and exciting, however, remember to take a moment and capture the beauty around you, rather than focusing and analyzing your figure in photos.

5. Reach out to others. Your family and friends are your main support systems. Lean on them in times of need, especially if you are struggling. It is vital to your recovery to reach out to your supports in order to gain a realistic perspective. This can be achieved in a variety of forms including talking, taking a walk together, or even simply, a hug. Use these supports and remember they will always be there for you.

6. Lastly, enjoy yourself and HAVE FUN! Vacations are a time to unwind, relax, and let go. While taking a vacation from your eating disorder during recovery is not possible, it does not mean you cannot enjoy this time with your loved ones.

For more posts from Sydney, please visit Eating Disorders Blogs where she has been featured as a guest contributor. To learn more about Monte Nido Eating Disorder & Affiliates eating disorder programs, please visit their website here

Posted in Recovery

On Being Recovered

Posted on November 13, 2014 by StayConnected

Founder and Executive Director Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt shares her personal perspective on the differences between being in recovery and being recovered. For more articles from Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt visit here.  

Wendy_casual

Recovery is a process. Recovered is more like an outcome. Both are possible. They are connected, but they are different. On one hand, the recovery process begins to unfold when you have started to really develop the conviction that the eating disorder is no longer an option, and you are willing to do whatever it takes to recover. This is when the process of recovery really begins. However, you can also be in the process of your recovery, even before you have truly decided you have “had enough,” or when the conviction to recover has not fully set in; examples of when this may come up are when you are in treatment and are beginning to engage with another human being in a truly meaningful way, but are uncertain of your conviction to actually become recovered. Or perhaps you don’t really have the vision, the hope and the confidence that you can really become recovered; but you are willing to give it a shot, you are willing to step outside of your isolation and allow a new way, or new people into your world. During this phase you may have a lack of intention, or a lacking of strength to behave in a fully recovered way, but you are willing to engage in the process. In this case, you are in a healing phase, and you are recovering (even if you are very ambivalent about it!) 

Alternatively, a person may have full conviction, intention, and determination to recover, and they may even be certain they will recover. This does not guarantee immediate results. So often, patients and families are confused. We live in a society that says, “Just do it!” When we try this, we do expect results! Nothing can be more difficult than to have the expectation if we just try hard enough, and want something enough, we are going to be able to “do it.” Time and time again, patients, families, and even providers are attached to this concept. This can lead to very difficult and even dangerous experiences for a person with an eating disorder. A frequent time we hear this mindset is when a patient or family says, “I am going to college in the fall, the structure will really help me” only to find that the stress, the demands, and the nature of a potentially triggering environment make things worse not better. Another situation this comes up is when a patient is willing to do everything expected of them in treatment, but not all the components of recovery are not integrated. Perhaps they will do as they are told, they will try and try and try. But this does not mean the person is fully engaging in treatment, or that they are aware of, sharing, and/or confronting the struggles in their life. Intention to recover does not equate with a guarantee that you are in a healing phase, or that all of the pieces are intact to lead to being fully recovered (the person may in fact underestimate their needs in general – a hallmark of all forms of eating disorders, and may underestimate what they need in order to recover.)   

In some of my presentations I create a slide that reads: “Intention to Recover vs Healing Process.” What I am trying to point out is that one can have an intention to recover, yet not be engaging in a vulnerable and open relationship with others, or be developmentally able to process the emotions that leave them locked in the eating disorder and one can be in a healing process, even when they have very little, if any intention to recover.

Becoming recovered is when you have both healing process and intent operating simultaneously, to some extent. For me, personally, I became recovered when I was truly sick and tired of my eating disorder ways, and was willing to do whatever it took to recover. It was still trial and error, but I refused to be controlled by a mandated weight or size, and furthermore, I fully rejected the idea that restriction of my calories would ever bring me happiness, peace or fulfillment. I abandoned the pursuit of weight loss, and instead pursued the practice of mindful eating, and ultimately mindful living. I continued on the trajectory of healing, despite set backs and struggles.

To me, this is a little bit like learning to play the piano. When you first begin, you have to practice measure-by-measure, line-by-line, sometimes right hand alone, sometimes left hand alone. You mistake the F sharp for an F over and over, and have to re-do certain parts of the piece over and over. It seems like it will never work! This is the recovery process. The amount of time and energy this takes is individual to each specific person and their circumstance. What shockingly happens when you are committed to the process is the most amazing. Through this intention, and this process, eventually you play this music “by heart”…meaning no written music is necessary. Isn’t that kind of funny? When you master a piece, and play it without any music, we call it playing “by heart.” That is a little bit what it feels like to become recovered. Over and over you practice and fail at mindful eating. Just like over and over you fail to play that piece of music without errors. But you keep coming back to it. And eventually the song comes out of you, versus being forced. The piece is played without the written  music, and when you are playing it, you are not fighting your way through it. It flows.  

I think this is why it is so important to remember the distinction between the terms “recovery” and “recovered.” Here is what my friend, Carolyn Costin says about being recovered: “Being recovered, to me, is when the person can accept his or her natural body size and shape and no longer has a self destructive or unnatural relationship with food or exercise. When you are recovered, food and weight take a proper perspective in your life and what you weigh is not more important than whom you are; in fact, actual numbers are of little or no importance at all. When recovered, you will not compromise your health or betray your soul to look a certain way, wear a certain size or reach a certain number on a scale.”

A person may not yet have the strength, conviction, confidence or trust needed to leave the eating disorder paradigm. This process cannot always be “willed.” It is an uncertain and mysterious process for a person to develop a sense of trust with self and/or a connection to self that really allows you to be exposed and vulnerable, or be open to a new way of experiencing food (and life.) 

Recovery is when you are able to combine the process of recovering, with a willful intention to recover, and you are willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to train or retrain yourself to live a life guided by mindfulness. 

Being recovered means that I am not living my life based on weight, shape, or being focused on food. Being recovered is not “white knuckling” it. It is like playing the piano from heart. I am living life based on my heart, by intellect, and my “inner compass.” This also means I am not attached to outside approval, and am not wed to avoiding all conflict. I am thankful I stumbled across Mindful Eating/Intuitive Eating when I did in my life. Had I not, I don’t know if I would have ever recovered. What is most important to me now is that my attention and energy are actually available to me to live according to my values and according to what really excites me. Being recovered is not something I think about a lot – but deep down it is always something I have gratitude for.  

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 Recovery

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