Amanda Mellowspring, RD/N, CEDRD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian with over a decade of experience in program development and clinical application working with eating disorders at various levels of care. She shares how the food exposures and challenges at Clementine help clients in their recovery process.
Most often by the time an individual admits to one of Clementine’s residential treatment programs, the client, the family, and their peer group are afraid, frustrated, and exhausted. Oftentimes, many emotional injuries have occurred along the way. Many of these have occurred surrounding food.
With eating disorders, food is the vehicle through which feelings are expressed that otherwise may not be spoken or heard. For this reason, food symbolically consumes the family and the peer group for these individuals. Family meals become tense if not obsolete because of the frustrations and anxieties associated with food selection, preparation, quantity, and behaviors at the table. Dining with friends is no longer a fun way to catch up, laugh, and share stories. It becomes a terrifying task of eating enough of the “right” things to seem “normal enough” and not ruin everyone else’s fun as her mind races with thoughts of hidden calories, special orders, and comparisons.
In healing these injuries, it is vital that each client at Clementine, not only achieves a state of health and wellness with appropriate food intake and nutrient balance but that she also begins to experience freedom in her experiences with food. Food exposures and challenges with staff, with family, and individually are all important ways of doing this. This aspect of recovery takes practice in self-confidence with nutritional needs and honesty in honoring all of the aspects of food that make it enjoyable in our lives. Being able to cook a meal with mom and dad, go on a picnic, order in for a movie night, or go out for ice cream on a pass are all examples of ways that Clementine clients have practiced this healing.
During these exposures clients are not only practicing eating foods they like and desire in appropriate quantities to support their body’s needs, they are also challenging messages regarding comparisons with others, seeing calorie information posted in restaurants, managing herself while others around her may feed themselves differently, and working to be present in the moment socially and emotionally to enjoy the opportunity to be with friends or family.
The Clementine dietitian works closely with the entire treatment team and family to ensure that the dynamics surrounding these injuries at the table are acknowledged and approached with compassion for both the client and her family members.
Obtaining a state of health and awareness of how to nourish one’s body appropriately is vital in recovery, while healing the injuries that have occurred around the table offers peace and serenity for these individuals allowing them to move forward in their life and recovery without the wounds of the eating disorder.