Written by Gretchen Bartlett, Director of Admissions at New Haven Residential Treatment Center
Relationships and interactions help to define who we are and how we see the world. February often becomes a month where everyone thinks harder about relationships as we encounter all of the hearts and cupids tied to Valentine’s Day. At New Haven Residential Treatment Center we not only focus on interpersonal relationships, but also our relationships with our bodies, our skin color, our neighbors, our style, but most importantly ourselves and our families.
AWAKEN: Relational therapy has always been a cornerstone of our delivery model at New Haven. One of our mottos for healing is, “a thousand moments”. What is the goal of those thousand moments? To awaken a young woman to her own goodness, and to reintroduce her and her family to the innately worthy, valuable, bright, talented and beautiful person that they truly are, but have lost along the treacherous road of life.
HAND IN HAND: William Glasser, a highly renowned psychiatrist, author and theorist, stated: “In practice, the most important need is love and belonging, as closeness and connectedness with the people we care about is a requisite for satisfying all of the needs… Being disconnected is the source of almost all human problems such as what is called mental illness…” (1). Hackney and Comier concur in their position, stating that “Unconditional positive regard was one of the original conditions identified by Rogers (1957) as necessary and sufficient for positive personality change to occur. He defined it as prizing the client as a person with inherent worth and dignity…” (2). At New Haven, we join with these and many other theorists of psychology and sociology, who indicate that the most influential aspect of healing is relational.
SUPPORT OF HER FAMILY: From New Haven’s humble beginnings it has been clear that the most powerful relational work we will do will be centered within families. There are few things more poignant in the life of young women than the relationships that exist within the walls of her own home. By the time a young woman reaches New Haven, these family relationships have often been battered, bruised and/or abandoned. We Heal Families. We heal by imploring mom’s and dad’s, siblings and close relatives. We invite them to explore points of discord and sources of trauma, supporting insight into the genesis of these items and the things that perpetuate them. Next we encourage young women and their families toward integrity and fidelity to new ways of being, that ultimately allow for a healthy, interdependent family experience. The process is not easy, though the payoff so sweet.
So as you think about your relationships it’s important to remember that relationships require energy and work. They require perpetual motion, movement and growth in order to be productive. So as a Valentine’s gift to yourself this month, think about one thing that you really like about yourself and share it with those whose relationship you value most. For more information on relational healing at New Haven Residential Treatment Center click here.
1. The William Glasser Institute (2010). Obtained online at: http://www.wglasser.com/the-glasser-approach/choice-theory
2. Comier, L.S., Hackney, H.L. (2001). The Professional Counselor; A Process Guide to Helping. Allyn & Bacon. Fourth Edition, p.48
Written by Oliver-Pyatt Center’s Primary Therapist, Lisa Jimenez, MS
Lisa shares some of her expertise and experience in working with clients suffering from eating disorders, specifically Binge Eating Disorder. She discusses our society buy in to the idea that “thinner is better”, and offers some strategies to embrace your body, no matter the size.
Everyone knows that feeling. You wake up, look in the mirror, and don’t like what you see. Bad body image, it’s the worst. For our women in larger bodies there seems to be an added layer. Not feeling our best, we turn to someone we love for some validation and get the dreaded response, “don’t worry, the weight will come off”. Hmm… that didn’t really help. What about my body now, right as it is in this very moment? Will people not like it? Will they think I’m too much?
We live in a society that idealizes the thin body. Those closest to us, the ones we care about most deeply, often buy into this misconception as well: thinner is better. We search for validation and acceptance in a body that’s beautiful and curvaceous, however one that others may not idealize and may not strive for.
As a larger bodied woman working with clients seeking treatment for Binge Eating Disorder (often larger bodied, however, not always the case) I’ve gathered tools both in my personal and professional life to help combat bad body image. In a society that idealizes thinness, some of these steps may be hard to believe, however, I can say confidently that they work. So why not? Be your own advocate. Give them a shot!
1. Get inspired. There are many amazing, body positive women all over social media speaking up. Add them to your Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter! Flood your feed with women of different body shapes, colors and sizes. Who wants to see the same image over and over? There’s beauty in diversity.
2. Remember your unique worth. You’re a lot more than your body. Think about your values, your interests, all those people in your life that love you greatly. There’s so much to be excited about!
3. Practice body gratitude. This one can be hard, but it is key to body acceptance. Do you remember that cool move you did in Zumba the other day? Yeah, that was your body doing its thing. How about those Latin genes seeping out of your curves? Personally, I like to reflect on how my body connects me with my ancestry. Wherever you’re from, your body is part of your history. How cool is that?
4. Rock your style. I know it may be hard to find a wide variety of sizes in retail store, but there are some fun, stylish brands online. Order yourself something cute. Spend the money. Feel good in what you’re wearing! You deserve it. For now, rummage through your closet and throw on an outfit you feel good in.
5. Nourish yourself. On a day where your body image is not at its best, make it a priority to properly nourish yourself, both physically and emotionally. Don’t skimp on the food. It’s the ultimate set up for mindless eating. And please, do something nice for yourself. Manicure, anyone?
6. Practice body neutrality. Okay fine, you may not love your body today, but you can still show it respect. Try a more neutral approach like “I may not love what I see but I can accept it. I am more than my body.”
7. Gather the evidence. Will people really like me more if I lose weight? Will all my problems miraculously vanish? Is my weight truly the cause of my unhappiness? I think you get it. And if you struggle with this one (as many people do), you might need to move on to number 8.
8. Stop the spiral. There’s a great cognitive behavioral therapy tool where you imagine a stop sign to help you stop ruminating thoughts. If you notice that your head is taking you down the rabbit hole, this is about the time where you whip out this tool. If this doesn’t work, go distract: read a book, watch a funny video, keep that brain of yours occupied.
9. Call a body positive friend. Hopefully you have at least one person in your life on board with body positivity. Take note of these women and call them up when you need a little extra TLC. If you don’t have a friend like this in your life, it’s time to go out and find one!
10. Ask yourself this: when did hating my body ever result in anything positive? Never!
Written by Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD at Green Mountain at Fox Run
Perhaps the most common struggle we hear among the women who come to Green Mountain at Fox Run is emotional eating. These women aren’t particularly unique. Emotional eating has become the wolf hiding behind the bush, ready to jump out at most people who struggle with their weight.
There are a number of reasons for this but they all boil down to one big reason: stress.
The Power of Chronic Stress Triggers
Stress is no stranger to most of us.
And some of it is good. A little bit of stress can help energize us, motivating us to get things done. It also serves as a warning system – the famous fight or flight syndrome that signals the body to produce hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol to help focus and give us energy us when we need to avoid danger.
Problems arise, however, when the stress turns chronic. We get stuck in fight, flight or even freeze, unable to effectively manage the real or perceived dangers that come our way.
These days, a lot of the dangers are perceived, especially for women who struggle with weight, including:
This last fear leads to an all-too-common stressor – dieting, or restricting what you eat to lose weight.
This creates a push-pull relationship with food that has both physical and psychological consequences in the form of unsupportive eating and feelings of deprivation, guilt and failure.
The ultimate consequence, however, is that food ends up as the go-to for women who struggle with weight as their bodies demand it to meet basic needs and their minds demand it for emotional solace.
What’s Stress Got to Do With Weight?
If we’re eating to manage stress regularly, we will likely be eating when we’re not hungry. That means we’ll be taking in more food than our bodies need.
Of course, that can lead to weight gain. But there’s another way stress affects weight.
When we’re stressed, we’re in survival mode.
Our bodies’ evolutionary response is to hold onto energy (aka calories) so we can survive. For example, back in prehistoric days when we were escaping tigers (or other, equally deadly carnivores), we needed energy to run.
Hormonal changes occur that increase our appetite and tell our bodies to store fat. These changes optimize chances of survival in a life-or-death situation. Our bodies can’t necessarily tell if it is a life or death situation so chronic, lower-grade stress causes our bodies to react in the same way.
What’s the remedy? In the face of stressors, shift into the relaxation response.
The most efficient way to do that is through breath work. Take a few deep breaths when you’re feeling stressed. Maybe a few minutes after a heated exchange, or in the midst of a stressful day.
To build better access to your relaxation response, consider taking time regularly during the day to do some deep breathing. Even if it’s five minutes at the start and end of your day.
Ending the Cycle of Emotional Overeating
So deep breathing is one step in the process of getting off the hamster wheel of eating and weight struggles. Another step is to become more mindful.
Mindfulness is quite the rage these days because it offers a real way to change our attitudes, thoughts and behaviors.
That’s because we begin to pay attention to what’s going on in the moment. It allows us the leave the past behind, bring more perspective to the current situation, and worry less about the future.
For many women who struggle with weight, emotional eating has become a habit, engrained in their brains through neural pathways that deepen each time we emotionally eat. Over time, like any habit, it becomes our automatic reaction to certain stressors.
In the middle of a hectic day, when we walk past the candy jar on our office mate’s desk, we automatically, without thinking, reach for something to sweeten our day.
Then the tapes start running: I shouldn’t have eaten that. It’s not good for me. I’ll never lose weight this way. I blew it. I might as well eat more. And forget about that meal I was going to cook later. I’ll just stop at the drive-thru on the way home.
The practice of mindful eating can change those habits and tapes.
In the middle of a hectic day, when we walk past the candy jar on our office mate’s desk, we think before we take a piece of candy. Do I really want it? Is it really going to help me, or is it going to add stress on top of stress? What can I do that will really add some sweetness to this moment?
Sounds simple, and it can be. But just like the habit of emotional eating, we need to develop the habit of mindful eating. Here’s how to do it.
3 Steps to Manage Emotional Eating
When the urge to eat strikes, walk through these steps.
Step 1: Take a breath.
This is the essence of mindful eating. When you pause before diving in, you can become more connected to how you’re feeling and what you are thinking.
Step 2: Ask yourself, “am I hungry?”
Check in with your hunger cues. If you are hungry, choose what you want, and be mindful while eating by paying attention to your senses, emotions, and thoughts.
Step 3 If you’re not hungry – ask yourself, “what’s up?”
What am I thinking? Feeling? And most importantly, Am I willing to try an alternative first before turning to food to self-soothe?
An alternative to food can be anything that is soothing to you – some deep breathing, a cup of tea, a bath, calling a friend, drawing, reading, playing music, etc.
If you’re not willing to find an alternative and just want to eat, then…well…eat.
But eat mindfully – and again, check in with your cues, choose what you want, and be mindful while eating by paying attention to your senses, emotions, and thoughts.
Remember that it’s ok to eat emotionally; food can definitely be a coping tool. But to use food as an effective coping tool, we want to use it in a way that truly helps us feel better. If we use it too often, it doesn’t do that.
A Word About Meditation
A regular meditation practice can be key to becoming a skilled mindful eater, and improving stress & emotional resilience.
The benefits of meditation are many. In particular, it has a lot to offer when it comes to stress and emotional eating. By regularly meditating, you can find you focus better as anxiety levels drop and you become less impulsive.
It can also improve self-esteem, resilience, and optimism while it helps you relax.
However, many people react negatively to the idea of meditation: “I don’t have time for that.” “I can’t sit still that long.” Our 5-Minute Meditation series is just the thing to help you begin this practice. It can help to schedule a regular time to meditate daily. Morning, before all the rush begins, works well for many people.
With a regular mindfulness practice (whether that be meditation, breathing, or something else) we often find less negative emotion associated with the challenges and stressors we face, and with that comes better emotion regulation and happier hormone activity within our bodies.
All that adds up to less stress, which typically means feeling less depressed, anxious, sad or frustrated – and, therefore, less likely to eat emotionally as a result of the chronic stress in our lives.
This article was originally published as Stress = Emotional Eating: The All-Too-Common Equation at www.fitwoman.com on January 19, 2017.
By Gregory Holich, MS, LPC, DBT Specialist, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center
Eating disorders are multi-faceted and highly complex diseases; as such, multiple treatment strategies are recommended to help an individual fully recover.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a recovery tool designed to help people recognize the ability to create a meaningful life for themselves, regardless of past challenges. The goal of creating a meaningful life complements other strategies by creating a framework in which a person can be set free from an eating disorder and go on to live a balanced, healthy and productive life.
The dialectic in DBT is that acceptance and change can exist simultaneously. DBT is particularly effective in treating those who have experienced repeated relapses of self-harm, eating disorders and co-occurring emotional illnesses.
The four primary aspects of DBT skills training include:
When people engage in DBT they are asked to consider how they would define living a meaningful life. A response could be as simple as “living a life where I don’t have to binge and purge,” or “living a life free from calorie counting.” The fascinating aspect of this initial response is that this definition often expands and changes as these individuals progress through treatment. As they heal from their disorder, they often broaden their definition of a meaningful life to include the possibility of a more expansive career, future love relationships or the advent of children in their lives.
They are encouraged to develop an understanding of the tenants of DBT and start practicing the skills right away. Mindfulness is perhaps the most important, in that the other components naturally stem from this state. People practice slowing down, being present and living in the moment. For many this is extremely challenging, since they have utilized their eating disorder to numb their minds and escape from their personal, painful lives.
It is important for people to return to a life that includes emotion while in therapy. Many have existed in a feeling-free world for so long, it is genuinely difficult for them to recognize an emotion when it presents itself. Since these feelings are often unpleasant, and they can no longer rely on unhealthy behaviors to vanquish them, they must learn and practice the skills of emotion regulation and distress tolerance. They soon discover that emotions, though difficult, are not lethal, and that they, through their own power, can choose how to react and cope.
The fourth component of DBT, interpersonal effectiveness, is crucial to learn and practice. This tool is designed to help people in recovery get their needs met in a way that is respectful to both themselves and others.
Once learned, the skills associated with DBT can be taken from the therapy setting and back into the real-world environment where they can be used to sustain recovery.
Written by Matt Bartlett, Executive Director – Saratoga Springs Campus, New Haven Residential Treatment Center
The world we live in can often be challenging. Many of us deal with the pressure and stress of everyday life in different ways. Sometimes the simple task of watching the news or scrolling through social media can trigger anxiety or bring back memories of trauma that hinder progress.
The impact of trauma on adolescents can be life changing and devastating to overall healthy functioning. Living in a world with heightened emotions, anxiety, and constant threat as a result of the trauma hijacks the brain from normal usage and development.
Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter the sense of security, making individuals feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world. Trauma can take over the daily routines of an individual and handicap them socially and emotionally.
Expertly trained therapists at New Haven Residential Treatment Center follow key strategies to treat and reduce the impact of trauma. By creating a safe environment, students are able to share the traumatic experience through narrative which allows exposure and extinction. While painful, this narrative is similar to “cleaning a wound”. Words and pictures must be shared. Through sharing, processing, and describing the events, the memories created around the traumatic experience can be reduced to a memory rather than a guiding force. Relaxation and meditation are taught so the individual can identify and modulate feelings. Other approaches include cognitive techniques such as thought stopping, positive self-talk, reviewing safety plans, enhancing social skills and problem solving for dealing with triggers.
As the impact of the trauma memory is reduced, new connections are made in the brain. Newly formed neurons are wired together which counter the devastating effects of traumatic experiences. As an individual heals from the traumatic experience, they can re-write the narrative and not let the trauma control life.