The Sun and Wind Dispute: Navigating Motivation and Readiness for Change in Adolescents with Eating Disorders

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Clementine Miami Pinecrest Clinical Director Bertha Tavarez, PsyD discusses treating an adolescent who is resistant and treatment ambivalent. Dr. Tavarez offers some strategies to help strengthen the therapeutic alliance and build the groundwork necessary for full recovery. 

“The sun and the wind were having a dispute as to who was more powerful. They saw a man walking along and they had a bet as to which of them would get him to remove his coat. The wind started first and blew up a huge gale, the coat flapped but the man only fastened the buttons and tightened up his belt. The sun tried next and shone brightly making the man sweat. He took off his coat.” – Anonymous

The metaphor of the sun and the wind is an accurate depiction of the challenges that many clinicians face while working with adolescent patients. Although we may have access to the gravity of our patient’s clinical needs, simply communicating our concerns and providing much needed skills can be met with resistance. Our patients remain “locked in” to their emotional experience while simultaneously feeling “locked out” of the insight and motivation needed to increase their receptivity to much needed skills development. The adolescent, preoccupied with exerting and maintaining control and autonomy, may hold tightly to their coat, rendering our intentions to provide care futile.

So how do we, like the sun, create shifts in awareness and influence change?

The power of reflection

It may be tempting to adopt the roll of cheerleader (“You can do this!”) or problem solver (“Why don’t you try this?”). When an adolescent patient presents with resistant talk (“I don’t want to be here”) or talk that inhibits change (“I got straight A’s with ED, what’s the problem?”). Often the simplest and most effective way of building rapport and loosening the grasp of resistance is to simply reflect the patient’s message in your own words. Often, patients are primed for persuasion and direction. Reflection statements can contribute to feelings of validation and interpersonal trust.

Resistance as an interpersonal process / Resistance as developmentally appropriate

It is important to keep in mind that resistance is both developmentally appropriate for adolescent patients and an interpersonal process that occurs within the therapeutic alliance. Although, we may expect a certain degree of resistance on a developmental level, we can provide corrective experiences around resistance that still promote autonomy. A clinician may benefit from awareness about the resistance that is brewing in a session, abstain from engaging in a power struggle, and promote an alliance with the patients’s desire for autonomy.

Highlight intrinsic control

An effective technique that facilitates a shift from resistance talk to change talk is the clinician’s emphasis on the patient’s access to her personal control. A clinician may reflect the pros and cons experienced by the patient:

Patient: “I got straight A’s with ED, what’s the problem? Gosh! That was so hard!”

Therapist: “It sounds like you did well in school this year, but ED made it more difficult.”

A clinician may also reflect a patient’s choice within the constraints of the treatment environment while having the knowledge of the consequences. For example, the patient may be informed of her choice to select what day an exposure is initiated or asked to reflect on her choice to not participate in a group while being aware of consequence of losing a daily privilege as a result.

Shifting focus  

If resistant talk persists, the clinician can shift the focus to another closely relevant therapeutic topic that may tie into the overall theme beneath the resistance. For example, if the patient states, “I don’t want to take medications and that’s final!” the clinician can say, “Ok, how about you tell me how you’re feeling about your overall health today?”

Working with patients experiencing resistance and treatment ambivalence can be challenging. However, there are great opportunities at this treatment phase that can strengthen the therapeutic alliance and build the ground work necessary for lasting change. Motivational interviewing and person-centered techniques are an integral component of the clinical work at Clementine adolescent treatment program.

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.


Maintaining Recovery in College: Part Two

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Senior Director of East Coast Clinical Programming Dr. Melissa Coffin, PhD, CEDS continues our series on tips for women entering or returning to the collegiate environment after treatment. We hope these tips will assist you in navigating this transition and embolden you to truly enjoy your college experience.

Dr. Coffin has been a pivotal member of Monte Nido & Affiliates since 2008 and has extensive experience in the treatment of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and compulsive over-exercise. She has presented nationally on eating disorders, body image, food rules and self-care at conferences by the National Eating Disorder Association, the Binge Eating Disorder Association, and the International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals.

Embrace change. College is an exciting time in life and it is ripe with new opportunities. Be open and flexible to the changes that come with it even if it means trying something that you’ve never done before.
Be mindful. With all of the opportunities in college you have to pick and chose what is most important so you don’t spread yourself too thin. Be conscious around how you spend your time and what you commit to as that will shape your experience.
Engage in self-care. Make sure to schedule time in each day to relax and take care of yourself, even if it’s just for a short time. Having rest, sleep, and time to decompress regularly will help to keep your stress in check.
Stay connected. Not only will you be forming new relationships in school, you still have your family and friends at home. Use your resources to stay connected with old and new.
Ask for help. It’s OK to ask for help from family, friends, and professionals if you need it. There are those on campus that can help you with your mental health, medical health, academics, financial issues, social needs, career planning, et cetera. Reach out and ask for what you need. The counseling or health centers are usually good places to start.

 

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 learn about summer programming at Clementine, please visit our website or reach out to an Admissions Specialist.


Finding Your Passion with Career Testing

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Associate Director of Clinical Research and Clinical Outcomes Dr. Jessica Genet, PhD explores the importance of finding a passion; whether that includes hobbies, extracurricular activities, a major in college, or a career path. Career assessments and further exploration in therapy allow clients to understand their preferences, values and interests, and offers guidance toward following a true passion. 

“Individuals working to break free from the tangle of eating disorders need to find their passions in life… By passions I mean something external that gives the individual enjoyment, positive structure, or a pathway to self-knowledge.”
– Ira M Sacker, M.D., Author of “Regaining Your Self”

We strive to help our patients explore their passions and live a more meaningful life. Unfortunately, the eating disorder is often so preoccupying and all-consuming that it interferes with the process of exploring interests and engaging in fun activities. Some of our clients struggle to find a job, a major in college, hobbies or extracurricular activities that bring them true enjoyment. Other clients have chosen paths and activities that “look good” externally (and bring them praise from family and friends) but are internally unrewarding. With these struggles in mind, all aspects of our treatment at Clementine, from therapy sessions and yoga classes to outings in the community, aim to help our patients find their passions, explore new activities, and find what brings them true happiness.

One particularly unique service we offer at Clementine is the opportunity to complete a career assessment. Career assessments are designed to help individuals understand their preferences, values and interests, and offers guidance towards selecting majors in school, jobs, career paths, and hobbies that are motivating and rewarding. Are you a person who tends to make decisions based on personal values or are you someone who tends to make decisions based on logic? Are you a person who prefers working on teams or prefers accomplishing tasks independently? Are you excited about activities that require self-expression and creativity? Are you interested in the helping professions such as teaching? These are just some of the questions a career assessment will explore. It is important to understand that a career assessment is not a magic eight ball and will not spit out an answer like “you must become a teacher.” Instead, it offers a springboard for discussion on these topics, leaving plenty of space for personal reflection and choice. Career assessments offer more than guidance on career or job choices; many of our clients describe the experience as an opportunity for self-discovery. We are delighted to provide this service to our clients.

 

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 learn more about our newest location, Clementine Briarcliff Manor, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.


Making Mango Memories

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Clementine Miami Pinecrest Dietitian Alyssa Mitola, MS, RD, LD/N shares about a special tradition held each year at Pinecrest in this week’s blog post! The yearly Mango Jam Jamboree is an event for staff and clients that includes gathering the mangos, preparing the dish, and sharing the food together. Read on to learn about this special Clementine Pinecrest tradition…

It is that time of year again! The 3rd Annual Clementine Pinecrest Mango Jam Jamboree. Every year, when the mangos begin to ripen, staff and clients at Clementine Pinecrest gather round to make clementine mango jam in our PJs, while jamming to some of our favorite tunes. This tradition started when we first discovered the numerous mango trees growing in our very backyard. Throughout the summer months we always incorporate a variety of mango dishes into our local fare menu-there is nothing more local than the backyard. However, the highlight of mango season is always the Jamboree.

The Mango Jam Jamboree has become notorious among staff and clients alike. Stories of Mango Jams past are shared among clients and the staff always wants to work on the day of the jam. Of course, we can never predict when the jam will be because, like all things in nature, they ripen on their own time. One year the jam happened in May, another it wasn’t until July. You can’t put a time limit on a developing fruit— a lesson we always share with our clients, as well. Waiting for the fruit to ripen is always a reminder to practice flexibility and patience.

The Clementine Mango Jam Jamboree is filled with many lessons. It is not just a fun event for staff and clients, it is an opportunity for corrective experiences with food. Traditions are very important in families and so often traditions include food. An eating disorder often infiltrates family traditions, sometimes tarnishing the memories, or even leading some families to change traditions. Creating new traditions or healing old ones is a very important step in healing your family’s relationship with food.

The Clementine Mango Jam Jamboree is one tradition, we have here, but I always encourage our families to create positive traditions when the clients return home. Whether it is baking cookies, developing a family recipe, or cooking each week, traditions provide consistency and foster a relationship with food beyond nutrition facts. It doesn’t matter what stage of recovery you are in, there is always an opportunity to have corrective experiences with food. There is nothing I love more than watching the clients enjoy the mango jam on a fresh croissant or laughing in the kitchen as they mash the jam. Clients are always shocked how easy it is to make. For that one moment, the clients aren’t counting calories, they are creating memories.

As a registered dietitian, it is important for me to foster these opportunities throughout recovery. During the Jam, I walk clients through the experience of gathering mangos, preparing the dish, and sharing the food together. Our clients walk away with a greater appreciation for the food on their plates-a mindfulness practice we call gratitude. In Hindu culture mangos are viewed as a symbol of life. Our hope is for each client to walk out our doors and begin her recovered life. Each year, our Clementine Mango Jam reminds me of that very goal. For that hour, we celebrate the lives of all those fighting for recovery.

Clementine Mango Jam

Ingredients
1 – 2 mangos
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed clementines or oranges

Directions
Place all ingredients in a small pot over high heat. Stir until the mixture thickens and begins to gel. Spread on your a croissants, english muffin, or your favorite type of toast.

 

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 learn more about our newest location, Clementine Briarcliff Manor, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.


10 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

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Becky Henry is trained as a Certified, Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) and uses those skills to guide families to let go of fear and panic, learn self-care skills and become effective guides for their loved one in eating disorder recovery. In this week’s blog post, Becky shares valuable self-care tips for caregivers.. 

Loving and caring about someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder likely has left you feeling hopeless, helpless, overwhelmed, terrified, upset, confused and more.

When your loved one is over 18 you might fear there is nothing you can do to help them with recovery from one of these deadly brain illnesses.

There is HOPE! There are plenty of things you can do to both help your child in recovery (no matter their age) and help yourself. I’m sharing 10 simple self-care tips with you to try so you can practice self-care and more easily and effectively help your loved one. But first, just like they say on the airplane, you must put on your oxygen mask first!

Doing things you enjoy while you have a child who is so sick may seem selfish and counter intuitive but it is essential to practice extreme self-care. This is a crisis and your child needs a parent who is in top form and ready to go to bat for them. So, let’s do it!

 

  1. Send those fears on a hike!Literally! First, notice that you’re having a fear response. That’s the tricky part. Then consciously CHOOSE to send fears on a hike. Last, CHOOSE another much more useful and fun thing to think about. And then if you like, take your own hike – without the fears.
  2. Make sure you’re included in the treatment team.The evidence is increasingly showing that when the family is included, the treatment outcomes improve. The chemical dependency world has known this for over 30 years.  They have also been huge proponents of caregiver self-care.
  3. Learn skills for being calm, emotionally objective and confident.This may include some DBT SKills. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) helps anyone with mindfulness and distress tolerance. When we are mindful and have managed our distress, we can be calmer. Being calm helps us be rational in our decisions so we can then cope with the wild things the eating disorder will throw at us. Doing our part to preserve our sanity and health helps us remain calm so we can actively preserve relationships. That doesn’t mean it is going to be all wine and roses, but we can do our best to show the person in recovery that they are loved. Not an easy task with someone who often thinks they are unlovable and has their thoughts distorted by the eating disorder.
  4. Make a Top 10 List.What’s this you say? When I was learning how to be a more effective parent of someone with an eating disorder, someone gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. She said, You’re in crisis, practice extreme self-care, and make a TOP 10 List of things that fill you up.” This seemed selfish to me at that point, but I get it now. It was hard to fit it in some days with all the work of helping my daughter.

We cannot pour anything out of an empty cup. 

So, you out there-yes you, making sure someone else’s needs are being met…it’s time. Get the nice paper (or any old thing) and make a list of 10 things you love to do, that fill you up. And then…do at least one EVERY DAY. Yes, every day. This will fill your cup up and make you an even better caregiver or “carer” as our friends in the UK say.

It might seem such a small thing to do but it is essential. If you are burned out, you will be of no use to your loved one. They need you, and they need you to be strong. So, do the right thing and go fill yourself up! You are the one who is on the front lines; you’re getting the full brunt of the eating disorder’s wrath. You need extra defenses.

  1. Get support.This may be connecting with others who’ve been through this journey, paying a coach or therapist to guide you or attending a support group.
  2. Learn caregiver skills.An essential piece of self-care. Training on how to be an effective caregiver is available and research is now showing how effective it can be in reducing caregiver anxiety, distress and burden. Check out the research done at Kings College in London by Dr. Janet Treasure. 
  3. Eat regular meals.This may seem obvious…yet in the throes of the chaos your own eating can get off kilter. Your child needs to see you modeling regular eating habits.
  4. Commit to getting ENOUGH sleep.This may feel impossible due to the worries that seem to stream through our brains while in the midst of saving a child’s life. AND, with some practice and support we can get regular good sleep.
  5. Get out in nature and move in a joyful way. Do whatever fills you up and commit to leaving Ed behind. Okay, it doesn’t have to be biking ‘no-handed’ on a beach but let it be fun. Try to notice your surroundings.
  6. Practice Gratitude. There is so much evidence now on how being grateful reduces stress. And even the act of trying to think of things to be grateful for helps our brains produce more feel good chemicals. Give it a try!

Okay, as you get your oxygen mask in place, here are resources to keep you supported and involved as a family member:

 

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 learn more about our newest location, Clementine Briarcliff Manor, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.


Our Clementine Family: Megan Fahey, MS, RD, CDN

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Clementine Briarcliff Manor Registered Dietitian Megan Fahey, MS, RD, CDN shares her personal journey to joining the Briarcliff Manor team in this week’s “Our Clementine Family”. Megan gives an inside look at her daily work in supporting adolescents on their path to full recovery. Read on to learn more about Megan and the Briarcliff Manor team.

What is your name and what are your credentials?

My name is Megan Fahey, MS, RD, CDN. I am a Registered Dietitian with a Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bastyr University.

Please give us a brief description of your background.

I have always been intrigued by the mind-body connection, and am passionate about applying my knowledge of nutrition to promote physical, mental, and emotional healing. Through previous work in acute care and private practice settings, I have gained experience developing and implementing detailed nutrition care plans for adolescents and their families.

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

My days consist of organizing menus in the kitchen, reviewing medical information in the office, and holding individual and group nutrition therapy sessions with our clients. I run weekly lunch outings to local restaurants, as well as weekly cooking groups to provide a variety of food exposures. As the adolescents progress through treatment, I also teach them the skills necessary to portion food in accordance with their meal plans. I keep in constant communication with the adolescents’ outpatient teams and families in order to collaborate on nutrition-related care and create a smooth discharge home. My daily goal is to help each adolescent feel energized and empowered by learning how to nourish her body in a mindful way.

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

At Clementine the goal is to provide adolescents with the tools required to let go of an eating disorder and re-engage in a healthy, well-nourished life. We reject the diet mentality, embracing that all food is fuel and that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Through an improvement in nutritional status and exploration of deep emotional work, we truly believe everyone can experience the freedom of full recovery from an eating disorder.

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

The clinical team at Clementine shares office space, which fosters an environment of collaboration and professional support. We hold weekly team meetings to discuss every component of the client’s care. Although each practitioner offers a unique skill set, we are constantly learning from one another in order to enhance our treatment approach as a team. I work closely with the chef, clinicians, and recovery coaches to create a supportive eating environment to help ease the anxiety that arises around meal times. I value our model of open and honest communication and admire the strength and empathy shown by each and every team member.

What is your favorite thing about Clementine?

I am humbled to work in a role that allows me to witness the powerful, healing journey of eating disorder recovery. The adolescents who enter our home are some of the most insightful, kind, and intelligent individuals whom I have ever met. In working specifically with adolescents, I am reminded to view the world through a lens of curiosity and possibility.  As an added bonus, the adolescents keep me up-to-date on the latest social and pop culture trends!

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

  1. My paternal family lives on a farm in Ireland. I spend time every year on their beautiful land and have always believed that those “roots” influenced my desire to pursue a degree in nutrition.
  2. I love to read and write and have kept journals regularly since the age of 8. The tattered, worn stack of journals sits at my nightstand and I almost never travel without something to write in.
  3. My absolute favorite movie is “The Little Mermaid” and as a child I dreamt of being able to live and breathe underwater.

 

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 learn more about our newest location, Clementine Briarcliff Manor, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.


The Impact of Social Media

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Senior Director of East Coast Clinical Programming Dr. Melissa Coffin, PhD, CEDS discusses the impact social media is having on our every day lives. In this week’s post, Dr. Coffin shares how you can ensure these outlets are being utilized for positive benefits as opposed to negative results. 

For some, technology is the first thing they check when they wake up, and the last thing they do before bed. Over the last few years, we have become a society attached to our devices. Recent data on this topic shows that some people are checking their technology, most notably their social media pages, more than 10 times a day while some are spending hours in this pursuit.

When it comes to social media, we are all still trying to keep up, including the field of eating disorders. Unfortunately, some research is showing that use of social media is increasingly correlated with depressive symptoms as a result of the inherent issues of acceptance, competition, and attention that present themselves in this domain (Chicago Tribune, 2013). Women working on recovery from body and food issues frequently mention comparing themselves to others, feeling inferior and having increased body image concerns as a result of their social media usage.

However, at Clementine adolescent treatment programs we are invested in helping our adolescents develop a healthy and mindful relationship with their technology, just as they are working on a relationship with food and their bodies. If time is spent on social media comparing to others, it can result in feelings of inferiority and dissatisfaction. Instead, if time is spent connecting with others, it can result in new and improved relationships and increased positive feelings. Monet Eliastam’s quote below captures this idea beautifully.

Imagine if social media became a place where we shared our dreams instead of hiding our faults, where we collaborated in conversation instead of trolling anonymously, where we felt included instead of excluded. We need to reinvent the online community to cultivate a safer, more diverse, more welcoming environment where we value people for generating thoughts, not likes… We have an incredible tool in our hands, we need to use it to change the world.

So, let’s embrace the world of technology and the interfaces that social provides us. The fact that you are reading this blog right now suggests you are looking for positive ways to spend your time and energy online. Thanks for doing so and share your positive experiences both on and offline with those you love.

 

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 learn more about our newest location, Clementine Briarcliff Manor, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.


Our Clementine Family: Nicole Palumbo, MS

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Clementine Briarcliff Manor Math Teacher Nicole Palumbo, MS shares her personal journey to joining the Clementine family in this week’s blog post. Nicole shares her passion for teaching and some of what makes the work being done at Briarcliff Manor so special. Read on to learn more about Nicole and the Clementine Briarcliff Manor team…

 

What is your name and what are your credentials?

My name is Nicole Palumbo. I am a graduate of Buffalo State College (B.S.) and Canisius College (M.S.). In addition to serving as a classroom teacher for many years, I have extensive supervisorial and managerial experience, serving as the Mathematics Department Chair at two prestigious New York City private schools, as well as serving as Board President at a large cooperative in Lower Manhattan.

Please give us a brief description of your background.

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, I moved to New York City shortly after completing graduate school, ultimately landing in Northern Westchester County, New York. With over 20 years experience in the classroom, my primary focus (by choice!) has been the middle school grades. I absolutely love working with adolescents and feel very lucky to be part of an amazing team of people focused on this age group.

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

A typical day starts as one might expect in any educational setting: arrival, clerical duties, and readying the classroom. Once done, I then move on to one of the less traditional aspects (but truly a highpoint), walking down to the breakfast area to greet my students. Seeing their faces light up is incredibly rewarding, and very powerful. My students are happy to see me, happy to come up to the classroom, and happy to get started on their coursework. What more could a teacher ask for? The classroom is one of many safe places in a typical day for our adolescents, but the classroom offers a bit of a divergence from their typical routine, as a result, they come relaxed, focused, and ready to learn.

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

The philosophy of Clementine is pretty straightforward: The whole is incomplete if the parts are not in working order. Like a chain, we are only as strong as our weakest link. The Clementine program serves as the solder necessary for reinforcing the weak points. By shoring up the weak points, we help to cultivate the skills necessary for pushing back against the pressures that weaken our adolescents over time. The Clementine program provides the tools necessary for helping our clients go the distance.

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

The education team works very closely together. Although each team member’s role differs, and we may not all be in the classroom at the same time on any given day, we are in constant communication. We take a hands-on approach to learning, tailoring instruction to meet the needs of the individual. Our adolescents feel supported, and are at ease while working with us. We offer a safe environment that encourages healthy risk taking. We teach our adolescents that it is okay (and perfectly normal) to experience uncertainty, and that it is through mistake making that some of the most profound learning takes place. We teach our adolescents the skills necessary for success inside the classroom, and offer strategies for applying those skills outside the classroom as well.

What is your favorite thing about Clementine?

My favorite thing about Clementine is the caring staff and our amazing adolescents. My job is more rewarding that I ever thought possible. I truly enjoy coming to work each day.

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

  • I rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange twice!
  • I don’t know my left from right (I have to think about it, it isn’t automatic)
  • I love rollercoasters!

 

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 learn more about our newest location, Clementine Briarcliff Manor, 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.

 

Easy Self-Care Practices You Can Do on the Daily Huff Post Canada

Cave Person (Part II) Project Heal

Rebuilding Your Identity in Eating Disorder Recovery Eating Disorder Hope

Don’t Bring Talk of Diets and Losing Weight Into the Family Home More Love

How Looking at the Facts Reduces Anxiety and Anger Psychology Today

Fostering Body Positivity in Children NEDA

 

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 learn more about our newest location, Clementine Briarcliff Manor, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.

 


Learning to Respect Hunger

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Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, RYT, is the founder of Chime Yoga Therapy and specializes in eating disorders and body image. In addition to her private yoga therapy practice, Jennifer leads yoga therapy groups at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia, is cofounder of the Body Kindness Project, and a partner with both the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and the Transformation Yoga Project. She is the creator of the home video series Yoga to Strengthen Body Image and Support Eating Disorder RecoveryHer writing on the topics of yoga, body image, motherhood, and eating disorder recovery can be found on her blog as well as several influential online publications. Jennifer has been featured in the Huffington Post, Women You Should Know, Medill Reports Chicago, Philly.com, and the DailyDot. Connect with Jennifer: www.ChimeYogaTherapy.com.

“I’ve studied my hunger from every angle. I know its moods, preferences, and quirks. No matter how willfully I rejected or abandoned it, hunger always came back, begging, asking for more. Hunger ate at me, gnawed at my insides, hollowed out my eyes, drained my brain, emptied me out. No amount of shrinking could stifle this maddening hunger of mine.” 

I wrote this passage in a journal years back. Since that dark time, I’ve worked very hard to renegotiate my relationship with hunger by letting go of the conditions I placed upon it. This process has been one of give and take, push and pull. And, if I am completely honest with myself (and you), it’s still a process from time to time. Yet, I’ve had some significant insights along the way that have helped me to be kinder to my hunger, and by extension, my body, mind, and spirit.

Perhaps the most profound insight I had is that hunger is unconditional. The dictionary defines unconditional as “not limited by conditions; absolute.” For example, the common phrase “unconditional love” means affection with no limits or conditions; complete love.

I was trapped in beliefs about hunger that were the exact opposite of unconditional. I was convinced hunger was a punishment. To control my fear of hunger’s punishing demands and pangs, I created countless rules and constructed strict conditions to keep me “in line.” Looking back, the rules and restrictions were maddening, not my hunger.

Learning how to unconditionally trust my hunger is an active and ongoing process (and maybe always will be). I share with you a few of the profoundly significant lessons I’ve learned about respecting my hunger.

1. Hunger can’t tell time. No matter how firmly you believe you must only eat when the clock strikes certain hours, hunger is an organic sensation, not a scheduled meal time. Placing conditions on when the organic sensation of hunger arrives is ultimately impossible and unrealistic and only sets us up for agony and suffering.

2. Hunger has no rules.  For someone like me, who lived by extremely strict rules about food and hunger, it’s powerfully eye opening to trust that hunger has no rules. Hunger just wants to be satiated, attended to, and respected.

3. Hunger isn’t a crisis. More times than I care to admit, hunger has felt like a crisis, inducing panic, uncertainty, and extreme emotional swings. Watching others (especially my daughters) have fun with food has helped me to lighten up at meals and not take my hunger or the food I put in my mouth so seriously.

4. Hunger always returns.  It’s inevitable that fullness fades and hunger returns. Always. No matter how much power we fool ourselves into believing we have over our hunger, it always comes back because it is supposed to. We can numb, but eventually hunger will return unconditionally, and we must deal with feeding ourselves.

5. Hunger is NOT the enemy. This is probably the most profound lesson of all. For many, many years, hunger was my most threatening enemy. It inspired fear, confusion, and self-doubt. My girls have been excellent role models, demonstrating how hunger is simply just hunger, an organic sensation that simply needs to be satiated. When they feel hunger, they ask for food. There’s no debating or arguing with themselves about whether they are actually hungry or not. They don’t try to ignore or pacify their hunger. They don’t curse it, wrestle with it, or endlessly suffer to ignore it. My daughters have taught me that hunger is not out to get me or fatten me. It’s not lurking, waiting to pounce on me. It has no agenda. It’s unconditional. Neutral. Hunger is not the enemy. The eating disorder beliefs, rules, and conditions about hunger were the real enemy.

Coming to terms with our hunger and other aspects of recovery that are frightening and challenging is extremely hard work, as you know; but not impossible. One small insight can lead to a series of shifts that sets us up for new patterns, approaches, and mindsets.

I encourage you to vigilantly and diligently study your hunger or whatever “thing” keeps you feeling stuck. Look at it from every angle and understand the self-imposed rules or conditions that are pinning you down. I can only guess that your insights from this reflection will be profound, as once we come out from underneath the eating disorder rules, we have room to breathe and be, to be renewed in our recovery, and energized to keep pushing forward.

I sign off by wishing you unconditional peace as you continue your journey.

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 learn more about our newest location, Clementine Briarcliff Manor, opening on April 24th, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.