Part Three: Don’t Look in My Lunchbox! An Open Letter to all teachers, coaches, school personnel, educators, parents, and frankly, everyone, everywhere…

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Clementine Advisory Board Member Cherie Monarch conludes her important letter from a mother’s perspective in this week’s blog post. Cherie continues with an “open letter to all teachers, coaches, school personnel, educators, parents, and frankly, everyone, everywhere”.  

10 Things you need to know before you speak (read 1-4 HERE and 5-7 HERE).

8. Even if your words do not trigger my child to have an eating disorder or disordered eating, they may haunt them for the rest of their life. They may burden my child with thoughts every time they take a bite … they may question every food choice. They may analyze  every bite they take, every meal they choose, for the rest of their life. Your instruction may make my child afraid to eat wheat, chips, cookies, ice cream, or other foods they used to love and were celebratory. Please consider your words carefully. Please don’t make my child afraid of birthday cupcakes!  

9. As my child’s mother, I know best what to pack in my child’s lunchbox. There are reasons my child’s lunchbox contains the foods it does. My choices may be driven by medical, mental, or financial needs. If you have questions regarding the food in my child’s lunchbox please contact me directly. Please do not discuss this with my child or shame them.

10. It is important that my child eat the lunch I have packed. If you notice my child is consistently not eating their lunch, is giving their lunch to other students, or is throwing it away or you have concerns regarding the amount of food my child is eating, please contact me directly. There may be a serious health concern. Please do not address this with my child. Please do not comment on the amount of food they are/are not eating. I count on you to be my eyes and ears when my child is at school.

I encourage you in the future to NOT monitor any child’s lunch or food choice. To reconsider and re-examine any school-based, anti-obesity, healthy living campaigns. To consider the fact that there is little research on the effectiveness of these programs. Is the potential risk of harmful effects on children’s physical and mental health and adoption of unhealthy behaviors worth the potential gain?

So, before you speak, please think carefully about your words. You see, my child respects you. They look up to you as their teacher. Imposing your beliefs and your nutritional needs on my child may compromise their health and mental state. Please teach them that all foods fill a need – always nutritional, sometimes celebratory and always nurturing.

Please understand, I know your intentions are pure and good. For that I will be forever grateful. But in the future I would appreciate it if you do not monitor my child’s lunchbox. Please leave that to me, their mother. I know their nutritional and emotional needs better than anyone.

Warm regards,

Mothers Everywhere

P.S. This article is not about monitoring lunch boxes because a child in the class may have an inadequate food supply in their lunch box or may have life-threatening food allergies. It is about the negative food talk happening in classrooms and lunchrooms, and how it affects our children. It is about food judgments and how programs that are intended to promote health sometimes have big unintended consequences.

 

We are exited to share the opening of Clementine Malibu Lake. Learn more about the program by visiting our website or calling an Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.

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.


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

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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 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.


Getting Your Children to Chill Out

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Laura Cipullolaura-cipullo is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian, and four-time author with offices in NYC and NJ. Laura weaves evidence-based science into treating clients, authoring books and speaking engagements. She treats her clients with an approach that combines her knowledge from her credentialed expertise in: nutrition, behavior change, the endocrine system and psychology. In this week’s blog post, Laura shares the importance of helping kids practice mindfulness and the many benefits it can provide.

Kids are stressed out, and really, who can blame them? There’s the pressure to do well in school; to juggle household chores, a social life and extracurricular activities; to fit in with classmates; and to handle all the issues that come with a changing body. Managing that stress is important for feeling good in the moment, and the future: A recent University of Florida study found that kids who experienced three or more stressful occurrences were six times likelier to have physical or mental health issues or a learning disorder than those who did not.

Science backs the benefits of mindfulness when it comes to reducing stress and improving overall health. The University of Massachusetts School’s Mindfulness Program found that mindfulness leads to a 35% reduction in medical symptoms and a 40% reduction in psychological ones. Eating disorders are one example of a psychological issue that can be helped through mindful eating. According to Dr. Susan Albers, “During the past 20 years, studies have found that mindful eating can help you to reduce overeating and binge eating, lose weight and reduce your body mass index (BMI) and cope with chronic eating problems such as anorexia and bulimia, and reduce anxious thoughts about food and your body.”

It doesn’t take long for mindfulness to show a result, either. Carnegie Mellon found that as little as 25 minutes of mindful meditation for three days helped stress. Yoga and meditation specifically help decrease stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine.

With all the research showing the benefits of mindfulness, it’s little wonder that schools are catching on and incorporating the concept on a regular basis. A recent Washington Post article reported on how public schools are teaching the concept of mindful eating. Children are getting in tune with their body’s hunger signals, learning to enjoy the flavors of food, and respect the cues the mind/body are relaying to them; they are also learning to respect what they are putting into their bodies, and to respect their bodies as a whole. This all can help prevent eating disorders in middle-school children, a population at high risk for these issues.

In the wake of the Newton tragedy, Dr. Stuart Ablon of Massachusetts General Hospital was brought to New York schools to conduct seminars for 3,000 school safety agents and police officers. Mindfulness — getting children to acknowledge and resolve their feelings — was a key component of the anti-violence program, as was yoga. The goal was for these agents and officers to talk to troubled children before resorting to punishing them.

Mindfulness and meditation are also becoming a part of private school health classes, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, and are used to strengthen children’s all-around emotional and intellectual wellness.

Spafinder took note of the Oakland-based Mindful Schools, a program that shows adults how to teach mindfulness to K-12 youth, helping over 300,000 children so far.

Beyond schools, mindfulness and general wellness for kids is taking center stage at hotels, spas and resorts, offering children a way to unwind at the same time their parents are enjoying a well-earned vacation.

And don’t forget to check your local meditation or yoga studio! You may be surprised to find they have children’s classes too (like MNDFL, a New York meditation studio not far from my new office). New York even has its own yoga studio just for kids. I recently filmed a news segment there on the very topic of mindfulness for children.

And while all these mindful-based resources are great for kids, it doesn’t mean kids will forge forward without parental support. I ask parents to take responsibility and please introduce, then maintain, mindful experiences at home. Breathing work, meditation apps, mindful eating (check out my books Healthy Habits and Women’s Health Body Clock Diet for more info) and mindfulness meditation are the most studied and effective strategies in the adult population and therefore a great place to start with the kiddies! Leading by example is also important. Consider how you role model gratitude, body acceptance, compassion and mindfulness in your own life.

 

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.