Fat Chat is No Light Matter



Andrea Wachter is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of Getting Over Overeating for Teens. She is also co-author of The Don’t Diet, Live-It Workbook and Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell. She is an inspirational counselor, author and speaker who uses professional expertise, humor and personal recovery to help others. In her writing, Andrea shares strategies to help parents foster a positive relationship between their children and their bodies.

As an eating disorders therapist and woman who spent the majority of my life in the grip of a weight and food obsession, I walk around with my antennae tuned in to whatever might help me understand how we got ourselves into this mess. Obesity is now considered an epidemic. My young bulimic clients tell me, “Vomiting is no big deal.” Every day, people die from anorexia-related complications. And let’s face it, folks: Even many Americans of average weight are preoccupied with food and body image.

Recently in a grocery store check-out line, I stood behind a thirty-something mom and her little girl. The mother was chatting on her cell phone while the daughter was clinging to her mom’s leg with one hand and sucking on the thumb of the other.

The mother’s side of the conversation went like this: “Oh, I was so bad yesterday! I had a whole piece of chocolate cake at the party. I am not eating any carbs today. I feel as big as a house.”

I wanted to hand the daughter my business card right then and there! I refrained, though, since the kid, still in diapers, was a little too young for therapy.

My point is that your children are listening. They are listening when you partake in what I call “fat chat.” They are listening when you say you feel “fat” (which, by the way, is not a feeling). They are listening when you say you were “bad” or “good” or “evil” or “sinned” because of a food you either ate or passed up. They are listening when you say you need to go to the gym to work off your dessert. They are listening when you comment on other people’s bodies or your own. Your children are listening and learning and following suit. And what they often end up thinking is: “I better watch out. I might get fat. Maybe I am fat. If I am, then people are judging me. I better control my eating. Uh-oh, I can’t stop eating. Hunger is bad. Fullness is worse.”

Every year, my clients get younger. I have seen six-year-olds who are already dieting and know about carbs, fats and calories. I worked with a seven-year-old girl who was spitting up her food because she was convinced that calories were bad for her. Last year, I had a nine-year-old client who had to change her school clothes several times each morning till she found something she didn’t feel “fat” in. Most often, though, people don’t get to my door until they have been entrenched in food and weight struggles for many years. While an eating disorder is possible to overcome, the longer it goes on, the harder it is to heal. We need to do prevention at the ground level. We have a choice: We can teach our children to relax, listen to their bodies and love themselves, or we can teach them to be anxious, controlling, and out of touch with their own hunger and fullness.

My message here is not to blame or to shame, but merely to highlight the fact that unless we model a healthy, balanced, and loving relationship with food and our own bodies, children are at risk for developing disordered eating, poor body image, and/or weight problems. Take a look at the messages you are teaching. Learn to enjoy food again. Stay conscious of your body’s hunger and fullness levels and act on them. Get help if you can’t. Treat your body with respect and appreciation. After all, isn’t this what we want our kids to do?

Tips for Helping Your Child with Body Image

• If you find yourself “feeling fat,” explore a little deeper to see if there’s something else going on in your life. Model for your children that “fat” is not a feeling, but rather “feeling fat” can be a distraction from more difficult issues.

• Try not to label food as “good” or “bad.” Some foods are more nutrient dense than others, but morally all food is equal — it’s fuel! Talk with your kids about the nutritional value and variety of different foods, the art of cooking, and the fun and the pleasure of eating.

• Talk to your kids about the difference between emotional and physical hunger and how the two often get mixed up. Physical hunger is a feeling in the belly that the body needs fuel. Teach kids to notice degrees of hunger and fullness as well as how to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Emotional hunger is usually a need to express feelings or have feelings acknowledged. When kids are sad, they might need to cry, talk about it, or draw a picture. When they are mad, they might want to write, draw, punch a pillow, tell you about it with gusto, and have you really hear them.

• Along these same lines, talk about the role of feelings: that they are signposts for living, and not to be “stuffed” or “starved” away. Teach them that just like there are no “good” or “bad” foods, there are no “good” or bad” feelings.

• Do not comment on other people’s bodies. This sets up a comparison mentality that is harmful and hard to give up. Talk about how everyone is beautiful in their own way, and that beauty is an inner quality that can be expressed in outer characteristics such as kindness and enthusiasm.

• Exercise with your kids for the joy of movement, not for how many calories you might burn.

• Look at family photos and talk about where your size and shape came from.

• Watch TV together and discuss the emphasis our culture places on looks, image, and thinness. Help them to notice special qualities in themselves like compassion and humor as well as things that interest them beyond their appearance. Teach them that they are enough just by being who they are — on the inside. (While you’re at it, think about yourself that way, too!)

• Do de-stressing activities together, like: listening to music, walking, spending time in nature, playing games, doing a hobby or craft, or reading and discussing a particular book.

• Help them to foster love for themselves when they look in the mirror. Teach them to “see” themselves with the same love that they feel for other people or animals in their lives.

• Make a list together of all the things that our bodies do for us. Help them to appreciate their various body parts rather than criticize them.

• Talk about what makes a good role model. Ask for an example of a person who seems to be a healthy, balanced eater with a positive body image. Discuss what qualities that person has that demonstrate good health. Ask your child to imagine having those same qualities inside.

• Teach your child that weight fluctuations are normal and healthy and that we all have a natural weight range just like we have a natural eye and hair color. Help them prepare for weight changes, especially girls approaching puberty.

• Role model and practice all of these things along with your child so they can experience you as a healthy eater with loving body image!


For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine location with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.

5 Keys to Coping with the Holidays



Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld is a licensed psychologist, certified group psychotherapist, certified eating disorder specialist, and the author of Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation’s Fixation with Food and Weight. Her work focuses on substance use disorders, anxiety and mood disorders, fertility challenges, relationship concerns, and sport and exercise psychology. In addition to directing Gatewell Therapy Center in Miami, she is a co-occurring (eating disorders and addictions) consultant at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. Dr. Rosenfeld works with individuals, couples, families, and groups, using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical-behavioral (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, and motivational interviewing approaches. In this week’s blog post, Dr. Rosenfeld shares strategies to help cope with the upcoming holidays while in eating disorder recovery.

Despite its festivities, the holiday season can present a number of challenges for those in eating disorder recovery. For some, family time can be stressful. Food is often abundant and not on a regular schedule. In many cases, individuals leave the comforts of their homes and routines in order to celebrate with others. Those with co-occurring illness, such as alcohol/substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, or trauma may face additional challenges during this time.

Toward the goal of relapse prevention, a little planning can go a long way. As the holiday season approaches, consider these five “S”s that can help reduce the likelihood of symptoms escalating or re-emerging:


Going into the holidays, take a personal inventory. How have you been doing? What has been challenging for you recently? What have you learned from past events? What types of triggers do you anticipate going into the holidays this year?


Planning is the enemy of relapse. While it might be impossible to predict every potential scenario, strategizing certain situations can go a long way. For instance, if you’re attending a holiday gathering, discuss with one of your treatment professionals how you’ll approach food before, during, and after this event. How will you respond if someone comments on what you’re eating or your weight? If you’re sober, assume someone will offer you a drink; have a response ready to go. Have some topics in mind to discuss if the conversation turns sour (e.g., when the inevitable New Year’s diet talk ensues).


Think about who your supports are and reach out before the holidays approach to see if they’re on board to provide you help if needed. Your interpersonal arsenal might include specific family members, friends, treating professionals, peers from treatment, or others who have identified themselves as healthy supports. Ask your supports if they’ll be available to talk/message at designated times. See if you can check in before and after specific events that you anticipate to be particularly challenging, a practice referred to as “bookending.”


Knowing that the holidays can create additional stress necessitates a ramping up of your standard self-care routine. What can you do that calms you/centers you in preparation for this time? Now is the time to be particularly gentle with yourself. During a stressful situation, are there specific tools you can use to help you through? Do you have an escape strategy ready to go? If something triggers you, and you’re at an event, can you step outside and get some fresh air or contact one of your supports? Are there any pleasurable activities you can get on your calendar following your holiday commitments?


Recognize that, despite your best efforts, setbacks can happen. How you respond to potential setbacks can influence their duration and severity. Recovery is a process of learning from experience, maintaining motivation and commitment, and cultivating self-compassion.


For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine location with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.

Article Spotlight


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.

In Groundbreaking Victory for Eating Disorders Prevention & Treatment, Congress Passes Historic Mental Health Reform Legislation NEDA Blog

The Use of Meditation in Children with Mental Health Issues The Psychiatric Times

Transitioning Back to College after Winter Break while in Recovery Eating Disorder Hope

3 Reasons to Let Yourself Feel Your Emotions Psychology Today

Holidays & Hungry Hearts: Serving Soul Food with Jenni Schaefer & Robyn Cruze Angie Viets’ Blog

Wise Words from 10 Women in Recovery About What Empowers Them to Keep Going Chime Yoga Therapy Blog


For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine locations with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.

Our Clementine Family: Melissa Peterson


melissa-peterson-family-therapist-01Clementine Portland Family Therapist Melissa Peterson, MS, LMFT Intern has been with Monte Nido since 2012. Her warm, open approach to each adolescent helps them to feel comfortable and supported during their time in treatment. Melissa believes strongly that individuals hold capacities for change, and that change can occur through new emotional experiences and authentic emotional expression. Learn more about Melissa and the work she does with the adolescents at Clementine Portland in this week’s “Meet Our Team” post.

What is your name and what are your credentials?

Melissa Peterson MS, LMFT Intern

Please give us a brief description of your background.

I attended the University of Oregon and received both my Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Sociology, as well as my Master of Science in Couples and Family Therapy. While taking undergraduate classes at U of O (go ducks!), I very fortunately began working as a Recovery Coach at Monte Nido Rain Rock Treatment Center, a  residential eating disorder treatment facility in Eugene, OR. I very distinctly remember my interview at Rain Rock because prior to learning about Monte Nido, I had learned that being fully recovered from an eating disorder was not possible. It was not until my interview that I was able to openly talk about being recovered, and that has been so healing for me. Over the past four and a half years, I remained working with Monte Nido in a variety of roles. I moved from Recovery Coach at RainRock, to Therapist Intern. After graduating from graduate school, I moved up to Portland and worked as a Primary Therapist at the Eating Disorder Center of Portland, where I was then promoted to Lead Therapist. Most recently, I moved to Clementine Portland where I work as the Family Therapist and love it!

What does a typical day look like for you at Clementine?

Every day at Clementine looks a bit different for me, depending on what is going on and what is needed that day. Majority of my day is spent hanging out with the adolescents, whether that be eating meals or snacks, facilitating a group, having a family session, or spending time in the milieu. Otherwise, when not with the girls I am in the office talking to the treatment team about most updated clinical information and collaborating on care, as well as calling/communicating with family members.

In your own words, please describe the philosophy of Clementine.

One part of Clementine’s philosophy that I value most is the belief that one can be fully recovered, as opposed to being “in recovery.” As mentioned previously, being recovered is part of my identity, so this philosophy is one I hold very close to my heart. Clementine also believes that a part of being recovered is learning to reach out to people instead of one’s eating disorder. With that being said, one of Clementine’s highest priorities is in building meaningful, loving and supportive relationships with each teen and family member we work with. One way we do this is by meeting each teen where they are at in their stage of recovery, and supporting them throughout this process. Each teen has an individualized treatment plan each week that is specifically created by both the teen and the treatment team. This “contract” is designed to meet the needs of the teen each week, and encompasses a multidisciplinary approach including nutrition, education, family and relationships, thoughts and feelings, etc. Ultimately, this allows all teens to take ownership over their recovery while being supported by the treatment team and their support systems.

How does your team work together? How do your roles overlap and differ?

I absolutely love the team aspect of working at Clementine. When I come into work, I feel like I am spending time with my “extended family,” which I feel so lucky to be a part of. Everyone is so willing to jump in and do whatever is needed to help each other out. Although everyone has a specific “title” that comes with certain responsibilities, it would be hard to tell who wore what hat looking from the outside. Whether that be the dietitian doing observations, therapists cleaning up after lunch, or recovery coaches providing support to girls late at night, we are all willing and able to do whatever is needed to provide the best care and support for the teens and each other.

What is your favorite thing about Clementine?

One of my favorite things about working at Clementine is connecting with all of the teens and their family members. I feel so fortunate to be able to witness the love between each family member or support person, and to see the great lengths each is willing to go for their loved one. Another thing I love most about Clementine has to be how at home I feel here. The environment itself feels so cozy and inviting; the house sits at the end of a very long driveway, amongst a Christmas tree farm, magical white cows (that occasionally appear on the farm next door), and a beautiful landscape. Adding to the “home” feeling of Clementine is the family-essence provided by the staff. As I mentioned previously, I feel so connected to the people I work with and constantly feel their love and support.

What are three facts about you that people do not know?

I am a huge Portland Trail Blazers fan!

I love to cook and try new recipes, as well as explore new restaurants in Portland.

I have two cats named Callaway and Wesley!


For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine location with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.