We have a very exciting Twitter chat coming your way this month! We are honored to have Sharon Peterson, the director of Eating Disorder Network of Maryland (EDN Maryland) talk with us about the genetic component of eating disorders as well as how clients and therapists can learn to manage personality traits that may be hindering recovery.
If you're new to Twitter, here's a primer on how to participate. It's simple, go to www.tweetchat.com and enter the keyword "#endED" and it will appear as if you're in a chat room. Watch the tweets stream live and join in on the conversation. Be sure to follow @MarciRD and @EDNMaryland
We hope you can join us on July 25th th at 8:30 EST. Feel free to RSVP on Facebook as well!
Semantics are important. The words we choose hold a great deal of meaning, whether we realize it or not. So I’d like to give you something to ponder during this holiday season. As you spend time with family and friends you may want to consider a few of the following tips. My hope is that they will keep you focused on the reason for the celebrating without the distractions of excessive concerns with weight, food, and body talk.
Try greeting your loved one with “it’s so great to see you!” rather than “you look so good!” A comment on appearance might seem benign but in many cases it isn’t. For example, if you have a family member whose weight tends to cycle, a comment when their weight is low may put a lot of stress, pressure, and anxiety for future visits when their weight may be higher. The goal is for family and friends to feel love and acceptance for WHO they are, not WHAT they look like.
“Oh, I’m being so bad right now” is a comment that many of us have heard or even spoken. Comments about fat, calories, and “being bad” are nothing but an unhelpful distraction. And quite frankly, it’s obnoxious and may put a damper on the meal for others. Ironically, keeping the focus on enjoying the meal, tasting your food, and listening to your body’s hunger and fullness will improve your mental, physical, and emotional health. And you won’t annoy your loved ones, which is a huge bonus.
Keep your diet and weight loss goals for the New Year to yourself. Seriously, a holiday party isn’t the time for it. Enough said?
I hope you find these holiday tips useful. Do you have any conversation tips you’d like add to the list? If yes, please comment!
Last week Harriet Brown was our guest expert for our monthly #endED Twitter Chat. She taught us a lot about family based treatment for anorexia and the important roles that families play in supporting their loved one through recovery from an eating disorder. (If you want to learn more about her story, this is a link to the New York Times article that started it all.)
Below are some of the gems from our chat that I wanted to pass along to you. In no particular order...
- 1. We need more research to assess the experiences and needs of families struggling with an eating disorder. You can help by completing this 15 minute survey online.
3. Feeling confused about family based treatment for eating disorders? This awesome interview debunks myths and sets the facts straight. One of the biggest myths is that you have to be a special type of family to make family based treatment work. But according to this research article, most families can make it work.
4. Another obstacle to making family based treatment work is getting the pediatricians on board. This is a useful guide for community physicians.
5. Want to know what you can do to help your child develop a healthy relationship with food and their body? Banish fat talk, stop commenting on weight and size (it is over-valued in our culture), do not label foods as good or bad and do not use it as reward or punishment, have fun and be curious about food, and appreciate imperfection- it's a part of life!
6. Curious in learning more about family based treatment? Maudsley Parents is your go-to resource.
I hope this summary is useful. Feel free to pass it on and stay tuned for details on our next #endED Twitter Chat.
The goal of #endED is to bring anyone and everyone together who care about ending eating disorders. My hope is to end the silence and myths about eating disorders, create a place for honest and informed discussion, while offering hope and encouragement.
Today we have the pleasure from hearing from guest blogger Ashley Solomon, PsyD. Ashley is a therapist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness. Please check out her fabulous blog Nourishing the Soul. Nourishing the Soul is a look at how our relationship with food can become distorted when our minds, bodies, and souls are not properly nourished. This blog provides a forum for discussion of these distortions, as well as offers news and views on the latest in the field of disordered eating, recovery, and healthy living. You can also follow her on Twitter @nourishthesoul. Enjoy the post!
Food as Connection: Guidelines for shared meals
Stacey hadn’t eaten a meal with other people in almost three years. The thought of having someone else bear witness to her eating patterns and food rituals was overwhelming and terrifying to her, which made eating with twelve other women in her treatment program all the more painful. While she was consumed with anxiety at the first meal, each one became easier. And what Stacey discovered was that there was something incredibly intimate about sharing food with someone else. Something she hadn’t let herself experience – and had missed – for far too long.
While Stacey’s story may seem extreme, many among us can identify with anxiety around sharing meals. Perhaps we are worry that we eat too much, that our food choices are not healthy enough – or are too healthy, or simply that we hate having to talk while eating. In my work as a therapist who works with eating disorders, fears around shared meals come up often.
Eating with others is inherently connecting. I’m sure, if we tried, we could explain this phenomenon from an evolutionary standpoint – something about cave-people joining together in pursuit of the day’s sustenance or whatnot. But the fact is, sharing meals is an integral part of human relatedness. We “break bread” as a sign of intimacy, of respect, of love.
For people who struggle with eating issues, meals that are shared might need some guidelines to feel safe and at ease. Consider the following suggestions for making meals with friends and family more comfortable for everyone:
Choose a Comfortable Setting – If you’re feeling anxious about a shared meal, consider how to make the environment most comfortable. Do you prefer to go to a restaurant or invite others to your home? Do you want something more formal with courses or for everyone to dig into to shared appetizers? If you’re going out, what kind of setting makes it easiest to talk and converse?
Share the Love – Encourage everyone to contribute to the meal so that it feels like a joint effort. Don’t take on all of the cooking responsibilities yourself, nor let someone else. Sharing in the creation of the meal is part of the bonding experience and can help everyone feel a sense of ownership.
Avoid Food or Fat Talk – While at the table, stay away from talking about the food. This can be challenging, as you might see if you try it. It’s amazing how much of our mealtime conversation often centers around food. But think of how much richer the discussion can be if we explore topics other than the spiciness of the enchilada. Also avoid talking about the nutritional aspects of the food or about weight. It’s hard to enjoy a meal when your friend is telling you how what she’s eating (the same as you!) is going straight to her thighs.
Say No - It's important to use your voice when your heart or stomach - is telling you so. Remember that you can politely say, "No, thank you," to more macaroni if you're too full - Aunt Sally will just have to get over it. You should also speak up if the conversation is making you uncomfortable.
Developing comfort in sharing meals can not only help to reduce disordered eating, but can add so much meaning to our lives. Bon Appetite!
Take the time to read this absolutely fantastic interview with author Laurie David, who recently wrote "The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time." Even if you don't have kids (like me), you'll benefit from the messages in the interview. I think the messages apply to all relationships, not just between parent and child. Here's a blurb from the article:
The Family Dinner argues that parents face immense challenges in reaching their kids today, and yet the daily ritual of family dinner, the simple act of eating, talking and sharing at the dinner table, can help bridge the divide. Chock full of great ways to connect with your kids, one meal at a time, it uses recipes, fun table games, the advice of renowned experts, Laurie’s own lessons learned with former husband Larry David and their two daughters, and a whole lot of love, it makes the case that you should stay at the dinner table sharing with your kids, and not just run off to see another rerun of, well, Seinfeld…
What makes your meal times meaningful? Or are they....
For those of you who listened to President Obama's State of the Union address on January 27th, you likely heard him introduce his wife's initiative to tackle childhood obesity.
As a dietitian who works in the field of eating disorders, I am a member of MEDA (Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association). MEDA is a phenomal resource for clinicians, family members, and individuals struggling with eating and body issues. I recently received an awesome handout from Amy Armstrong, who is the clinical director at MEDA.
The handout is designed specifically for individuals and family members of individuals with an eating disorder. But I think the holiday tips are helpful for anybody. Enjoy and happy holidays!
ADVICE FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
For individuals struggling with an eating disorder, the holidays can evoke feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. Although the media promotes holidays as a time of celebration, for someone with an eating disorder the holidays can be a reminder of an ongoing struggle to make peace with food. Providing support during the season and ensuring that the home is a place where she/he will not be judged is essential to the healing process. Here are some
helpful tips as to how to create a positive environment.
- When friends and/or family have not seen each other in a long time, they may be tempted to comment on changes in weight or appearance. Be a friend and help dissolve conversations or comments about food, weight, or overall appearance. You will be creating a more positive atmosphere for people to enjoy each other’s company and to remember the experience as a wonderful time.
- Perhaps sitting down to one meal as a family would help someone struggling with an eating disorder feel more comfortable, instead of “grazing” on food throughout the day. Do not forget to discuss these options with your family and welcome all input.
- Try to avoid emotionally charged discussions before or during mealtimes. The energy of a charged discussion can lead to feelings of anxiety. Often holidays are the only times people are able to catch up on experiences, political issues, sports, etc., but it is helpful to try and limit these types of electric conversations for after meals.
- Indulging is a natural part of the holiday season. People eat foods they normally wouldn’t eat and often they end the day feeling very full and sometimes very regretful. For some people it is common to make comments like, “I feel so fat” or “I shouldn’t have eaten that much.” These comments can have a devastating effect on someone struggling with an eating disorder. Do not support or encourage these types of remarks.
- Try to be a good role model for your loved one with an eating disorder. It is important for your loved one to witness your healthy eating as a way to connect with her/his feelings and priorities. Remember, eating disorders are about emotions and not about food.
- It is not uncommon for eating disorder symptoms to increase during the holiday season. Try to avoid getting into power struggles over food and do not ever force someone to eat. Be positive and maintain a healthy, nonjudgmental attitude toward her behavior.
- If your loved one is withdrawn or isolating herself/himself from mealtime and other holiday activities, gently try to bring her/him into discussions or activities. If she/he rejects your efforts, do not take it personally and try to understand this behavior as part of her/his eating disorder. Always remember to take care of your own needs and to enjoy yourself, your family, and your friends.
- Attempt to spend time connecting with your loved one struggling with an eating disorder in non-food related ways. Set time aside to take part in an activity of her/his choosing. Taking walks, playing games, or watching a movie together can help decrease anxiety by taking the focus off food and eating.
- Do not forget to communicate with concerned members of the household. What feelings are emerging? Do they feel that they are handling the situation well? Seeking support and learning how to communicate feelings in a positive way is essential to understanding your role in the process of the recovery.
Information compiled by MEDA, Inc. 2002
With all of the confusing headlines and shifting recommendations about eating, it’s no wonder many people feel uncertain about their diet. However, there is a large body of research that suggests one of the very best things you can do for your family is eat together! I found a relevant article on the Children’s Data Bank website which cites the current benefits of simply eating together on a regular basis. Family meals and parental presence at meals is associated with:
• A more nutritious diet with higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products
• A decreased risk of developing disordered eating habits in adolescence (especially girls)
• Teens that are less likely to get into fights, think about suicide, smoke, drink, use drugs, delayed initiation of sexual activity, and better academic performance
If you’d like to read a more in depth article which cites the current research, click on this link. There is also a great article from the Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association (MEDA) about the benefits of family meal time. Feel free to share it with your family and friends.
I had the opportunity to go see Food, Inc. last night. If you care at all about the food you feed yourself and/or your family please go see it! It's essentially "Fast Food Nation" and "Omnivore's Dilemma" rolled into a well-research, eye-opening, and entertaining 90 minute film which traces our food supply from farm to plate. In short, the American food system is extremely disfunctional. It wreaks havoc on our environment, local economies, and heavily subsidizes the food that is making America sick. While it's discouraging to see how far off the mark we are, the film ends with a host of simple ways we can start changing the system. You are voting with every dollar you spend on food. So starting spending wisely! Buy less processed food, buy fewer animal products, eat more local produce and buy it locally if you can, join a CSA, buy organic if you can afford it, support organizations which promote sustainable living. I'd encourage all of you to see the film, read through the website, and take a look at what you can do support a healthier food system here in America. There is power in the almighty dollar!
Here's a link to the website which is a fantastic resource to learn about the issues, watch the film's trailer, sign petitions which support a healthy food system, and gather resources from reading lists and blogs. I highly recommend it.
Here's a link to movie reviews
Here's the movie trailer