How Are You Teaching Others to Treat You?

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Clementine South Miami Primary Therapist Josephine Wiseheart, MS contributed to an article published on PsychCentral, “What It Means To Teach People How To Treat You.” The full, original article can be accessed here. The article explores the importance of and your own role in teaching others how to treat you. Please enjoy an excerpt of the article below…

Start with yourself.

“[T]o teach people how to treat you, you do not begin with them, you begin with yourself,” said Wiseheart. Morgan agreed: “The way you believe about and treat yourself sets the standard for others on how you demand to be treated. People learn how to treat you based on what you accept from them.”

Wiseheart regularly tells her clients to “Be the pebble.” In other words, “to create even a seemingly small amount of change will ripple out and create more change.”

Teaching others how to treat us starts with self-awareness, Wiseheart said. She suggested asking yourself these questions: “How do I treat myself? What do I value? What do I want? What do I think I deserve?”

Remember that you can’t change anyone else. But we can “create a different reaction in others if we change ourselves,” she said.

Talk about your “rules of engagement.”
One of the biggest misconceptions Wiseheart’s clients have about relationships is that others should know how they want to be treated. However, “in order for people in a relationship to be on the same page, they need to have access to the same instruction manual,” she said.

She calls this manual the “Rules of Engagement.” She suggests having “business meetings” to discuss the “rules” of your relationship. Have these meetings when people are at their best: They aren’t in an emotionally heightened or vulnerable situation, she said.

Rules might include no name calling or yelling during a conversation, and taking a break when tempers flare.

Communicate your needs clearly and compassionately.
For instance, many couples criticize, yell, or give each other the silent treatment to communicate their needs, said Morgan, who practices at Wasatch Family Therapy. This not only is ineffective, but it also hurts your relationship.

“Rather than scream ‘you never listen to me,’ it is more helpful to express ‘I feel alone right now and I would be very grateful if I could have your undivided attention for 10 minutes,’” he said. Another example is: “I am feeling overwhelmed right now and would love it if I could get a few ideas from you.”

In other words, we teach people how to treat us when we can identify a need and then express it in a clear and comprehensible way, Morgan said.

“If we use pouting, desperation, or even abuse, people do not learn how we want to be treated. All they hear is pouting, desperation and screaming. The message does not get across.”

Model how you’d like to be treated.
Wiseheart also often tells clients to “Be the person you want other people to be.” That is, treat others the way you want them to treat you, which is reminiscent of the Golden Rule, she said.

“If you want your children to be kind to you, be kind to them; if you want your sweetheart to be romantic and affectionate with you, be that way with them.” If you want others to listen to you, listen to them. Focus your full attention on the person, maintain eye contact, ask questions, validate their feelings and be empathetic, Wiseheart said.

Reinforce behaviors you like.
Reinforcement simply means expressing appreciation when the other person makes the effort to change their behavior, Wiseheart said. For instance, you might say: “I appreciate that you listened to me so intently yesterday.”

“Reinforce [behaviors you like] at the time, 5 minutes later, 10 minutes later, an hour later, a day later, 10 days later. You cannot reinforce a positive behavior enough.”

Pick a role model to emulate.
“Find a role model of someone who demands respect and appears to have a strong sense of worth,” Morgan said. This person might be a parent, peer, friend, teacher, coach, therapist, mentor or even a well-known celebrity, he said. “The important component of a role model is that they are emulating the desired beliefs and behaviors that you would like to adopt or integrate.”

Have realistic expectations.
According to Wiseheart, “You don’t teach people how to treat you in a day, or a week, or a month; it probably takes many months at a minimum to really get someone to treat you the way that you want to be treated.” This process takes lots of practice and patience. And sometimes, people are too caught up in being rigid and defending their own reality to try to act differently, she said.

When you start clarifying what you will and won’t tolerate there’s also a risk that some people won’t stick around, Wiseheart said. “At that point, you need to ask yourself what’s in your best interest — a relationship at the cost of you, or making room for the future relationships that you deserve?”

For the full article, written by Margarita Tartavosky, MS who writes her own blog, Weightless, please visit here. Marriage and Family Therapist Michael Morgan, of Wasatch Family Therapy, also contributed to the article.

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.


Diagnostic Dilemmas: The Nutritional and Medical Interface in Treating Eating Disorders and Co-morbid Illness

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Clementine Director of Nutrition Services Amanda Mellowspring, MS, RD/N, CEDRD and Chief Medical Officer Joel Jahraus, MD, FAED, CEDS will be sharing some of their expertise in an upcoming professional seminar. “Diagnostic Dilemmas: The Nutritional and Medical Interface in Treating Eating Disorders and Co-morbid Illness” will be held in Princeton, NJ at the Westin Princeton on Friday, March 10th from 9:00am-11:30am. Breakfast and 2 CE hours will provided.

Contemporary medical illnesses including celiac disease, food allergies and irritable bowel syndrome often confound the treatment of eating disorder patients and need careful consideration as to a true medical etiology. Often in the course of treatment the nutritional aspect of care becomes front and center as individuals fear the worst with food exposures that they have long avoided. This presentation will discuss these issues and put forth our model of care in appropriately assessing the comorbidities as well as the collaboration of medical and nutrition in treating not only the co-morbid illness, but the eating disorder as well.

In this presentation, participants will learn to describe three basic medical and nutritional issues inherent to co-morbid medical issues in eating disorder treatment and accurately explain the current medical approach to the treatment of comorbid illnesses. Participants will also learn to describe the interaction of medical and nutritional team members in the assessment and treatment process. Lastly, participants will learn at least two appropriate nutritional approaches that correct nutritional deficiencies while addressing food fears and eating disorder behaviors.

To join the professional seminar, please RSVP to Regional Outreach Manager Tamie Gangloff (tgangloff@montenidoaffiliates.com). Seating is limited.

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.

 

 


Seven Key Developmental Needs: Creative Expression and Structure

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In this fourth and final post on the seven developmental keys series, Senior Director of East Coast Clinical Programming Melissa Coffin, PhD, CEDS discusses the final two keyscreative expression and structure. Read on to learn how Clementine adolescent treatment programs incorporates both keys in treatment…

The Center for Early Adolescence has defined fundamental developmental needs during adolescence as the following: Self-Definition, Meaningful Participation, Competence, Creative Expression, Physical Activity, Social Interactions and Structure. Today I want to write about the combination of Creative Expression and Structure and how they are integrated in the treatment of adolescents with eating disorders.

In adolescence, the prefrontal cortex is still continuing to develop. As a result, adolescents are able to think more creatively during this time. This flexibility of thought allows them to see things in a different way than we do as adultsthey are great “outside of the box” thinkers. We enjoy this quality of adolescence and encourage our adolescents to use creativity and flexibility to challenge their eating disorders or other areas of life where they are stuck.

At Clementine, we integrate time for both creativity and expressive therapies to appeal to their cognitive flexibility. Being able to teach and talk about important concepts in treatment through a creative modality helps to enrich our programming. It is also a non-threatening way to therapeutically approach more sensitive or challenging topics. For example, having a client create a collage of their goals rather than writing them down in a list helps them visualize goals in a different way. This activity can perhaps bring to light some goals that were not at the forefront of their mind when they started the assignment.

Coupled with honoring their creativity and flexibility, Clementine programming and staff naturally provide structure for our teens. With our multidisciplinary Level System, and structured programming, we provide a safe container in which our teens can flourish during this special time in their lives. We have found this balance of structure and creativity to be the perfect blend for our adolescents. 

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

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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.

 

5 Ways to Self-Care During Difficult Times NEDA

Friends of Teens with Eating Disorders Unsure Where to Turn Psychology Today

6 Key Steps to Getting Back on Track after a Relapse in Recovery Angie Viets

Cultivating a Positive Relationship with Food MEDA

Disordered Eating Patterns to be Aware of Among Adolescents ED Hope

 

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: Ingrid Senalle

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Ingrid SenalleClementine South Miami Recovery Coach Ingrid Senalle, LPN shares her personal journey to joining the Clementine Family, as well as an inside look into the treatment center. Learn more about Ingrid and Clementine adolescent treatment program by reading this weeks “Our Clementine Family”…

What is your name and what are your credentials?

My name is Ingrid Senalle, I am a Licensed Practical Nurse/Recovery Coach. My role as “RC” at Clementine South Miami (SoMi), began on March 2016.

Please give us a brief description of your background.

Miami has been my home since birth, I attended nursing school at MedVance Medical Institute and attained my diploma in Practical Nursing in August of 2012, I have been licensed with the state of Florida since 2013. My nursing career has always been focused on work with adolescent clients, prior to Clementine, I was a school nurse working with special needs high school students. My passion for working with eating disorder patients began when my older brother developed a severe case of Anorexia Nervosa, our entire family was devastated, at the time I was only 14 years old and watched him go through hospitalization after hospitalization. The eating disorder in him got worse before it got better, he was in a wheelchair with barely any strength at all, at my young age I researched as much as I could on eating disorders to help get him out of his poor state. Luckily, with an amazing family and medical team he was able to recover over the course of a year and a half. It was then that I developed a passion for a future career in knowing further about eating disorders and helping children and adolescents with severe eating disorders and/or special needs.

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

A typical day for me consists of making sure our clients are safe, as safety if the number one priority,  and making sure all of our girls are in tune with what goals need to be achieved to meet their needs. Our clients rely on us for everything, whether it be emotional support to what is portioned for them to eat, my job is a vital role in the process of recovery.

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

Clementine is a program that prioritizes the needs of our clients, helping clients get in tune with their hunger/fullness cues and to normalize the act of eating without judgement.

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

Teamwork is such a vital part of the Clementine program, our team works together in every aspect, communication is a big part of our work together. Communicating information on a day to day basis on each client, helps us stay on the same page with each individual client and their specific needs. Clementine is one big family, we all have different tasks to complete daily, but never hesitate to help even with things out of our normal routine. We all watch out for one another and have found that it helps maintain our warm, friendly and reliable atmosphere.

What is your favorite thing about Clementine?

My favorite thing about Clementine, would have to be the ability to help our clients in so many different way, we are given so much to work with, it is very satisfactory to see the positive progress that our clients make from start to finish. Clementine is a great place to work, the staff is also one of my favorite things, everyone is great to work with. The opportunity for growth within the company, this is a job that I get excited for in the morning!

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

1.      I’m terrified of dark water and what may lie beneath!

2.      I never learned to ride a bicycle.

3.      I have never seen snow in person.

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.


If She Were Your Daughter, What Would You Do?

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LaurenOzboltClementineBlogClementine Medical Director Lauren Ozbolt, MD is board certified in adolescent, adult and child psychiatry. She oversees the psychiatric care and attending psychiatrists at all Clementine locations. In her post, Dr. Ozbolt shares some the work being done at Clementine and the commitment the staff has to each adolescent’s recovery.

I can recall first wanting to become a physician when my mother would take me to the pediatrician’s office when I was feeling sick as a child. Often times my doctor would sit next to me and calmly explain what he felt was going on and all the options for treatment that were available. My mother would always reply in the same way whether I had the flu or needed hospitalization. She would say, “If she were your daughter…what would you do?” To this day, that is how I think about the adolescents we treat, and that is the approach that permeates the air at Clementine. With each adolescent we think, “If this was my daughter, what would I do…”

Here’s what we would do…

At Clementine, your daughter’s psychiatrist takes the time to get to know the girl underneath the eating disorder. We empower and equip her with the tools – whether they be therapy, medication or both – to help her overcome her eating disorder. We feel the best kind of care is collaborative care and we invest a great deal of time in making parents “experts” on the most innovative treatments, neurobiological causes and the latest research in the field of eating disorders. We feel in order to treat a disease it is important for you and your daughter to fully understand the illness and our rationale for treatment. At the heart of Clementine program is a commitment to your daughter.

 While education about treatment of eating disorders is invaluable, it is only a part in what makes out treatment unique. We truly delight in knowing her and your family and take pride in aligning ourselves with you. At Clementine, your daughter’s future goals, become our goals and hence starts a beautiful restorative process of getting her back on track to become the amazing young woman she is destined to become.

 

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.


Talking to Kids about Body Image with Dr. Zanita Zody

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Clementine Portlandzanita Clinical Director Zanita Zody, PhD, LMFT guides her team with warmth and compassion as they provide comprehensive care to the adolescents who entrust their treatment in them. Recently, Dr. Zody sat down with Portland Today to share some of her expertise in supporting adolescents with body image issues. Watch Dr. Zody’s appearance on Portland Today here: 

 

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.


Our Clementine Family: Megan Hamann

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megan-hamann-20171Clementine Academic Liaison Megan Hamann has been working in the education field for over ten years. In her role, Megan ensures that the adolescents are able to stay on track with their school work while on their journey to full recovery. Learn more about Megan and her work at Clementine in this week’s “Our Clementine Family”…

What is your name and what are your credentials?

My name is Megan Hamann. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky and I also have my Master’s degree in Special Education from Florida Gulf Coast University, in Fort Myers, Florida. I am looking forward to beginning my Specialist degree in Education leadership in the Fall here in Miami.

Please give us a brief description of your background.

Surprisingly, teaching was something I never thought I would do! School definitely was not my favorite thing growing up. However, after a decade of being an educator, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I decided to pursue education, to make it a fun and enjoyable experience for my students.

I have had the privilege to teach in amazing schools, focusing on grades 1st – 6th. I hold certifications in ESOL, Elementary K-6, English 6-12, and Special Education. Having taught in Georgia, Naples, Florida, and Miami, I have had a wide experience in different public school systems, as well as Charter Schools. However, one of the best experiences was teaching at Ada Merritt in Miami – one of the top International Bachelorette schools in the country! I love all the experiences I have had, especially the wonderful students & administrators I have worked with, which has thoroughly helped in the position I hold today!

I began working for Oliver Pyatt Center in 2015 after I was looking to step back from the public school system to spend more time with my children. I started OPC as the English teacher and after a few months of working with the clients, I was asked to fulfill the role as the Educational Liaison. I love to work with the adolescents, parents, school counselors and principals on a daily basis to ensure the adolescents are able to stay on track with their education while they focus on their recovery.

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

Typically, my day begins by checking my email to make sure I can connect the adolescents with the teachers or counselors who have emailed assignments or tasks. On the days I am in the classroom with the adolescents, I check in with them to see how their work load is. We aim to maintain a healthy balance of school work with their treatment. If adolescents are overwhelmed, we cut back, if they can handle more work, we add more. When adolescents first admit, we create a personal plan for each. We look at their work load, course requirement for graduation and the reality of what can be attained during our school hours at Clementine to find the best fit for each adolescent in treatment.

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

Education, as well as recovery, is something that effects the adolescents for the rest of their lives. While their recovery and focus on treatment is the number 1 priority, education is also an important part of their lives as well. Our goal is to maintain the appropriate balance to keep the adolescents on track for graduation, while they focus on recovery. However, this is different for each adolescent that comes in, which is why communication is a key factor in the success.

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

Teamwork is key at Clementine! Education is just a piece of the puzzle that we all bring to the table. Without that piece, there would be a big hole in the picture! As our team brings together information, it is amazing to see how certain parts of the Eating Disorder can affect school, learning capabilities and also social aspects as well. As an educator, I aim to bring my knowledge together with the doctors and therapists to help understand why the school situation is impacting the clients positively or negatively.

What is your favorite thing about Clementine?

My favorite aspect of Clementine has been working with schools and adolescents all over the country! I have learned a lot about the school systems and medical leaves, school & state requirements, and have met so many wonderful people who are also focused on wanting the best for our adolescents. Guidance Counselors and principals play a key role in helping the girls attain success as well, it has been such a joy to work with such caring people!

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

When I was in college, I was a nanny for a family who had four kids under the age of three in SoHo, NYC! That was an experience! I also backpacked Europe after I graduated college with only a couple hundred dollars! My biggest secret is – When I was in college I had a major intestinal surgery that took a year to fully recover from, I know that is odd to share here, but I have seen that it has helped me connect with the girls in a very intimate way. I had to take a semester off my college classes and felt it was the end of the world, however, to get better and recover was actually what I needed. I was able to continue to finish school, I finished just a little later than I first anticipated. However, that ended up being the best thing for me. I love to share this with the clients, so they know I completely understand how hard it is to stop their ‘plan’ for school and focus on the quality & health of their own life. I understand it is hard, but we will work together to get them to a place where they can be successful!

 

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.


Q&A: A parent’s view on the treatment of and recovery from an eating disorder

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clementine-oregon-01

We had the great honor to speak with a mother who shared her own first-hand experience of an eating disorder within her family. She works tirelessly to promote eating disorder knowledge, awareness, and recovery through her own advocacy work. This week’s blog post gives insight into a her personal view of treatment, recovery, and the experience of eating disorders within the family unit.

What behaviors should families be aware of within the home and at meals? What are the warning signs your loved one has an eating disorder?

CM: The big thing is a change in behavior and eating habits. It [eating disorders] can change its face for different people so look for any type of drastic change in behavior or eating habits. Be aware of an an overall increased focus on food that was not present before; an obsession with cooking and baking, but no participation in eating the item, watching cooking shows, completing research on recipes and creating elaborate meals, but not actually eating the meals themselves, etc. Some loved ones may begin eating in a ritualistic manner or finding excuses not to eat food. Some loved ones may begin eliminating food groups, begin dieting, or become a vegetarian or vegan for no particular reason. A health focus can lead to restriction of different food groups, quality or quantity of food groups, that leads to more and more restriction; and excessive water loading before or during meals.

Look not only for changes in eating behaviors, but also changes in overall behaviors and social behaviors; for example, loved ones may start withdrawing from friends and family, won’t eat in public, don’t want to attend events that will involve food, and will eventually not want to attend public events at all.

Additional warning signs may include constant body comparison and body image issues, obsession with weight, size, shape, constant weighing, and isolation, excessive and ritualistic exercise, rigid beliefs and actions around food, exercise, body image, and behaviors, decompensation of mental functioning, dramatic and quick mood swings, inability to retain information, emotional unbalance, or physical symptoms such as lanugo, extremities turning blue, etc.

Keep in mind that significant weight loss may not occur for all individuals struggling with disordered eating; while weight may remain constant, focus on changes in the behaviors of your loved ones.

What was helpful in getting your loved one to commit to treatment?

CM: Parents have to call it as they see it and have to be an ally for their loved one. Many times parents are in denial that something is wrong. You have to send a clear and steady message that your loved one is decompensating while providing specific examples, work together with your loved ones’ outpatient team, and express your support with a statement such as, “I am not going to stand by while these things are happening.” Parents need to address the situation calmly and rationally, explain the behaviors you are witnessing and why you feel he or she needs to attend treatment.

Be aware that as a parent, you have a different view of your loved one than her outpatient team. There are times the loved one may be able to put on a “healthy face” for the outpatient team or while at home and act as if they are doing well. At times, it may require the parents of the loved one to care for the individual and spearhead the path to treatment.

How does a parent know their loved one needs to go to treatment?

CM: When things aren’t getting better, even in outpatient treatment. When your loved ones’ entire life is falling apart. When you are in a living hell at home. When there is decompensation in all areas. Everything is screaming that your loved one needs residential or inpatient treatment and it is obvious she needs much more support. Remember it [the eating disorder] is not just a phase and it will not go away without proper treatment.

Parents may become very frustrated with their loved one. Their loved one may say they do not need help or support. Parents have to remember that eating disorders are not a choice and that their child is not an eating disorder. It is important to remain your child’s ally and to avoid becoming confrontational. Do not get on the roller coaster with the child. Be supportive, but also separate the disorder from your child – externalize the illness.

There are times when your loved one is not in the position to say yes to treatment and you will have to eliminate all other options. You have to say, “You need help, this is serious. You have two options: going to treatment or going to the hospital.” Parents cannot negotiate with treatment, but should include the child in the decision (i.e. provide specific examples of the behaviors and decompensation witnessed and why you feel your loved one should enter treatment). Paint the picture very calmly, express love and concern for your loved one’s wellbeing, and then provide one combined option of treatment and support. Do not let it become a battle because then you are also battling with the eating disorder.

What was successful in treatment (i.e. family therapy, phone calls from clinical team, family Friday)?

CM: Therapy with the entire family is critical. Do not forget about the siblings and how they are affected during this process.

The more learning curves in the road during treatment the better (i.e. someone saying something triggering at a dinner outing, etc.) Your loved one will learn to handle experiences that are going wrong instead of everything being perfect. You want treatment to go smoothly, but you want your loved one to be able to navigate difficulties whether they be social, food, etc.

What advice would you give parents whose loved one is in treatment?

CM: School often takes priority over all else. You need to firmly establish that health is the number one priority and that school and anything else comes second to health. You cannot negotiate because of these other “important” life events. If you do, you are sending the message this is not a top priority and that getting help for your eating disorder is not urgent. Children need to understand this is urgent, this is serious, and that nothing else is more important.

Do not negotiate with the eating disorder. The minute you start negotiating with the eating disorder all bets are off.

Be clear, be firm, and do not negotiate on any level (i.e. becoming vegan, staying at school to finish up before treatment, coming back to school for trip or play, etc.) Do not engage in these conversations – the eating disorder will see the crack in the window and will keep picking at it.

What support do parents need or do you suggest they get while their child is in treatment?

CM: If you have questions or concerns while your loved one is in treatment, speak directly to the treatment team. Do not cast doubt on the treatment team or the treatment; your loved one could take this as an opportunity to disengage, she may begin feeling she is not sick enough to require treatment, or the eating disorder may find a way to sneak back in.

Make sure you are also taking care of yourself. You may be physically and mentally exhausted so make sure you are receiving support; whether that is through self-help books, psychotherapy, education, and understanding what it will look like when your loved one leaves treatment. Know the path to recovery will not be a straight shot and there are going to be bumps in the road.

Siblings, couples, and individual therapy are all helpful. The eating disorder can infiltrate and effect the entire family. Join an advocacy group (listed below) to find support and affect change. Find support in any way you can so you do not become isolated. Find individuals and community support from people who understand where you are coming from.

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.


Fat Chat is No Light Matter

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andrea-wachter

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!

 

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