Clementine adolescent treatment programs Director of Nutrition Services Amanda Mellowspring, MS, RD/N, CEDRD-S is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian with over a decade of experience in program development and clinical application working with eating disorders at various levels of care. In part two of her series, Amanda dives into just how Clementine supports adolescents to be empowered in their eating disorder recovery.
Check out Part One of Amanda’s series HERE.
There is often a lot of discussion related to feeding, meal planning, weight goals, etc, so in this discussion, let’s focus instead on how to plant those strong roots (ie. how to empower an adolescent in recovery while also providing structure and guidance). In working with adolescents, it is not uncommon that our girls are still trying foods for the first time EVER! This rarely has to do with the eating disorder, yet can have everything to do with being an adolescent. Supporting girls in trying new foods or combinations of foods with structure and expectation that their warrior hearts can manage it, allows for an empowering experience of increasing food variety, enjoying new flavors, and even learning that they enjoy different cuisines. This can also be an individuating experience for some girls. A common example of this includes supporting our girls in trying new fruits or veggies for the first time; perhaps even meals prepared differently than how mom or dad does at home. This may include new seasonings or spices, sauces, and even preparation methods – a great Indian chicken tikka masala dish may be a new love for someone in treatment, while another girl may develop a new love of grilling outdoors with our chef. Oftentimes, these new experiences for our daughters also may challenge mom and dad to explore new foods and our cooking experiences at home also. Healing involves the whole family and creativity can be a big part of the process.
Another important example of planting these roots involves tolerating dislike – yes, exactly, asking and expecting that a warrior heart can manage to do things that she doesn’t absolutely LOVE! I know – tough adolescent stuff! Our world is busy and it is often easier (and less frustrating) to just pick up or serve whatever we know everyone will eat, so that we can all try to get a bit of relaxation in before another busy day. Allow us to support both your daughter and your family in shifting this. In our work, we devote the time to tolerating the experience of pushing through the dislike and acknowledging that doing so actually translates into an important lifeskill – how many times do we all as adults have to do things we don’t LOVE?…often! Being able to tolerate these experiences and move through them without getting stuck in them, or demanding ONLY our preferences from the world, strengthens those roots. I still remember bursting in the door from high school, frantic to know what was for dinner, only to hear something I didn’t want to hear…say meatloaf. I also remember that I would wash up, sit down and eat the meal, chat with my family, focus on the time together, and then move on with my evening. Meatloaf nights were an important part of creating strong roots to tolerate that life is often different than what we would prefer, but the value in that holds great opportunity for us. A strong theme in our work with adolescent girls is acknowledging their warrior strength, rather than backing down to the eating disorder or fearing that their young years somehow limit their ability to challenge themselves. Treating our adolescent girls as the warriors of recovery that they truly are, allows for growth, change, empowerment, and wisdom. These are aspects of healing that are vital to true, longterm recovery.
The balance of accountability and expectation with compassion for the sometimes confusing experiences of adolescence holds endless opportunities for supporting recovery and normalized adjustment into adulthood. Avoiding the fear, the challenges, and the fight serves no one in recovery. After all, warriors grow from the fight!