Written by MEDA undergraduate intern, Patty Atkinson
Many people, including myself, have turned to yoga for help and guidance in the recovery process. The skills practiced in yoga are highly valuable to eating disorder recovery. In fact, the implementation of yoga in treatment programs has been shown to decrease eating disorder symptoms (Carei et al., 2010; Mitchell et al., 2007).
Feeling separate from your body is a major obstacle in the recovery process. Yoga works to reconnect the mind and body by focusing on redefining the relationship with your body in a safe, empowering, and judgement free space. Grounding positions such as warrior one, two and three help to explore moments of feeling comfortable in your body, as well as moments of discomfort and how to accept uncomfortable feelings when they arise. The mindful practice of discomfort in yoga is extremely beneficial to recovery (Strock, 2016). Yoga challenges you to experience awkwardness, distress, and unease through holding the extra painful second in difficult poses and allowing yourself to try new and intimidating poses free of self judgement.
The practice of discomfort is useful in rewiring the brain to be more resilient and less impulsive during recovery when negative thoughts, urges, or cravings arise (Strock, 2016). The mindfulness of yogic breath helps to control behavioral thoughts by allowing yourself to acknowledge the thoughts that come to mind and instead of acting on them, refocus your energy on the present moment and learn to tolerate and breathe through the discomfort.
Yoga teachers are taught to emphasize going at your own pace in a noncompetitive setting. Yoga highlights self-awareness and listening to one’s body. Self-awareness in practice may mean going slower or faster than those around you, modifying your practice for your own body’s needs, restoring the comfortable and grounding position of child’s pose or just merely sitting and listening to your breath and allowing yourself to be present in the moment.
I first sought out yoga as a fun alternative to running. However, as my stress and anxiety increased, my mom suggested I become more involved in my practice. Yoga has taught me how to control my anxiety and notice the effect of anxious thoughts on my body and breathing. Through the practice of mindfulness and meditation I now have a better understanding of how to change my breathing patterns in order to manage stress and impulsive thinking. I am now currently training to become a certified yoga instructor to expand my knowledge of the practice and eventually help others find the same healing benefits.
Even with what feels like must be the tightest hamstrings and calves in the world, it’s not the forward bends in my practice that are the most discomforting, it’s the moments of sitting in silence with my eyes closed on my mat. Throughout my eating disorder the voices of ED and my anxious and racing thoughts made it difficult to discern between what my mind and body needed and what ED and my anxiety wanted. Yoga has taught me how to acknowledge the thoughts that arise during meditation and instead of continuing to think, let thoughts go, feel instead of think, and regain attention towards the breath.
Yoga brings both psychological and physiological changes to the body through conscious breath and practice of mindfulness. Mindful, slow and deep breathing induces relaxation by altering the functioning of the cardiovascular and nervous system and the brain. Yogic breath creates the self-love and awareness that is lost with eating disorders by learning to listen what your body needs. Yoga brings control and consciousness to the breath, allowing one to recognize when emotions may be affecting one’s breathing patterns and how to control for that.
Yoga is open and accepting to all skill levels, sizes, ages, genders, and races. Practicing yoga allows the awareness of body and mind and creating an authentic self through challenging yourself to tolerate discomfort and acknowledging comfort in your body within a judgement free practice. Yoga teaches how to be patient and gentle with yourself and how to deal with challenging situations off the mat. Having struggled with anxiety and an eating disorder, yoga has allowed me to find balance and mindfulness in my life on and off the mat.
Although yoga may be helpful in supporting recovery, there is no substitute for a medical or mental health professional. If you are in anyway struggling with your mental health, please seek out the help of a professional.
Below are some resources for those looking for more information on yoga, yogic breathing and the benefits the practice can have on recovery:
Yoga Basics: Explains postures and breathing techniques that support eating disorder recovery through positivity, mindfulness and grounding exercises. http://www.yogabasics.com/learn/eating-disorders/
Yoga and Body Image Coalition: Focuses on promoting and supporting yoga that develops and encourages body positivity, accessibility and diversity. http://ybicoalition.com/
Chime: Yoga-Inspired Healing for Eating Disorders: Promotes recovery and healthy body image through focusing on yogic breath and the idea of staying present. http://www.chimeyogatherapy.com/
Evolution Yoga: Yoga for Eating Disorder Recovery: Describes the healing benefits of yoga for eating disorder recovery. http://www.evolationyoga.com/yoga-eating-disorder-recovery/
Mitchell, K. S., Mazzeo, S. E., Rausch, S. M., & Cooke, K. L. (2007). Innovative interventions for disordered eating: Evaluating dissonance‐based and yoga interventions. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40(2), 120-128.
Carei, T. R., Fyfe-Johnson, A. L., Breuner, C. C., & Brown, M. A. (2010). Randomized controlled clinical trial of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46(4), 346-351.
Strock, J. (August 10, 2016). Mindfulness, Yoga and Eating Disorder Recovery. Yoga and Body Image Coalition. Retrieved from http://ybicoalition.com/mindfulness-yoga-eating-disorder-recovery/
Written by Alexa Riobueno-Naylor, MEDA Undergraduate Intern
In a recent article on the Eating Disorder Hope blog, “Is Instagram Helping or Harming My Recovery Efforts?”, contributing writer and author Crystal outlines the potential negative effects of Instagram on recovery. More specifically, she describes recent research out of the University College London which suggests that Instagram usage is associated with increased symptoms of orthorexia . There is no doubt that the images we see on social media sites such as Instagram have a significant impact on how we think about our bodies and our health.
Scrolling through Instagram can be a triggering experience, even for individuals who have not experienced eating disorders. It’s possible to scroll through hundreds of images in a minute, all of which are idealized—portraying ideal beauty, ideal bodies, and the ideal life. It is not often that you see pictures of celebrities or even your own friends that are un-filtered, raw, or honest. Viewing these images can be not only damaging to how you see yourself, but also to how you see others.
It has been well established that culture plays a primary role in the development of body image. We learn from the society around us how to evaluate ourselves and others based on outward appearances. This, in turn, has fostered a sense of normalcy surrounding body dissatisfaction. None of this information is breaking news. But how do we begin to challenge the ways in which we conceptualize bodies as good or bad bodies, based on their outward appearances?
According to the body-positive activist Jes Baker, we can do so in the same way that got us here in the first place—through social learning. Baker states in her book “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls” that “the word fat is not inherently bad. The only negativity that this word carries is that which has been socially constructed around it; our aversion is completely learned.”
It is possible to un-learn the socially constructed ideas that we hold related to bodies. Jes Baker is only one of many body-positive activists who have been working to challenge and re-shape how we think about bodies by providing diverse, honest, and un-touched images of bodies of all shapes and sizes. Many body positive activists have taken to the popular photo-sharing site Instagram, to share their empowering images to thousands of their followers.
Crystal states at the end of her article that “there are many positive Instagram accounts and users who do actively promote eating disorder recovery, intuitive eating, and body positivity. Consider filling your feed with these types of individuals, who will positively support your recovery efforts and encourage your healing journey” . There are, in fact, so many amazing Instagram accounts to follow if you’re looking to find more messages of body positivity and eating disorder recovery on your feed. One of the truly wonderful things about social media is that you have the power to decide the kind of images and messages you see as you scroll through your Instagram feed. Why not take the time to create a body positive and diverse environment which could have a real impact on how you see yourself and others?
Author, activist, and former model Nikki DuBose describes how she worked to reclaim social media as a safe space in her article “Creating a Safe Social Media Space to Maintain a Healthy Body Image.” By re-designing your Instagram feed, as well as other social media sites that you may use around pro-recovery messages and messages of body-positivity, you can also create an empowering and safe social media environment for yourself.
Re-shaping what you see on Instagram may not happen overnight. Consider following a few of the Instagram activists recommended below, and be honest with yourself about the sorts of potentially triggering accounts that you may be following, and consider un-following them. You may be surprised at how much more empowered and positive you feel while scrolling through Instagram after making a few of these changes.
See below for links to our recommended Body Positive Instagram Accounts:
: Turner, PG; Lefevre, CE; (2017) Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity 10.1007/s40519-017-0364-2. (In press).
: “Is Instagram Helping or Harming My Recovery Efforts?”, https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/instagram-harming-recovery-efforts. Accessed June 6th, 2017.
: “Creating a Safe Social Media Space to Maintain a Healthy Body Image.” https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/social-media-healthy-body-image. Accessed June 6th, 2017.
Written by Stacey Koller at New Haven Residential Treatment Center
At New Haven Residential Treatment Center, we believe that family involvement during treatment is key to long term success and recovery. As such, we require heavy family involvement during treatment. Our families participate in weekly family therapy sessions, and our families spend several weekends with us participating in intensive therapy with their daughters. No matter the need that brings a student to New Haven, be it depression, anxiety, substance, trauma or eating disorder, each family is best served if treatment is addressed systemically as a whole family.
During each student’s stay at New Haven we utilize our Adaptive Family Systems Model to address the roles and narratives that exist within each family. Although each girl and her family are different, every family passes milestones that are common to all families. The decision to have a child and expand the family is one example of a milestone. Other milestones happen as each child progresses-learning to walk and talk, attending school, and down the road that child will leave the home. These milestones are not unique, but their impact on each family is, and the Adaptive Family Systems Model provides a lens through which we can view the family, their history and their trajectory. Understanding the system from which each student comes from is imperative to lasting healing.
It is common for a family to come to us when one of these transition periods has not been very smooth, or complete. Sometimes families get stuck in roles that are no longer appropriate for their stage in life. Other times a trauma has occurred that makes moving forward seem impossible. In working with students who have eating disorders, the Adaptive Family Systems Model becomes particularly beneficial. Not only are the reasons behind an eating disorder complex to the sufferer, but each member of the family has a relationship with the eating disorder. An eating disorder has the ability to disrupt a healthy family system-parents worry for the well-being of their daughter; siblings feel they lose their sister and that they are incapable of helping.
Healing can only be found as each family member makes peace with the impact that the eating disorder has had on their family. As the family works together through the therapeutic process they are able to get back on track and return to healthy adaptive patterns that will move a family forward, rather than the maladaptive behaviors that brought the family into treatment. The goal for each family at New Haven is to achieve Interdependence, a space where we accomplish our vision where every young woman makes peace with her past, thrives in the present, and creates a hopeful future, hand-in-hand with the support of her family.
Written by Alexa Riobueno-Naylor, MEDA Undergraduate Intern
Sometimes, it’s nice to be able to take a break from reading, put in your headphones, and listen to content related to recovery or body positivity. There are so many fabulous podcasts related to eating disorder recovery, body positivity, and intuitive eating which can serve as a great resource for individuals at various points in their recovery journeys. Podcasts are also free, easy to get your hands on, and are available on your computer and on your smart phone.
Before listening, make sure to think about the following things to ensure that the content you are listening to fits your needs:
“We talk about how eating disorders are confusing for both the parents and kids who suffer from them. This podcast is for families or anybody dealing with an eating disorder. We’ll usually talk about anorexia, and usually in girls. But we understand that there are other eating disorders, and that boys and adults get them. You won’t be forgotten. We hope to provide you with the things that we wish we had known when we started. Expect features on coping skills, recipes, and a look at the counterintuitive, upside-down world of eating disorders.”
“New Plates podcast, meet host Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh as she asks experts from around the world why including parents during eating disorder treatment is important and why it helps improve outcomes.”
Bonus: Check out episode 15: Recovery Rocks, with MEDA’s own Beth Mayer!
“Each episode, I talk with inspiring guests—including leaders in the body-positive and Health at Every Size movements—about intuitive eating, body image, eating disorder recovery, weight stigma, nutrition, fitness and more, all from a body-positive perspective.”
“The Eating Disorder Recovery Podcast is a show about the recovery process from eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, as well as disordered eating, emotional eating, dieting, and exercise addiction. The show is for anyone who would like to learn more about the psychology of eating disorders, make peace with food, improve their body image, and live authentically. The podcast explores how eating disorders work psychologically, what the recovery process looks like, and the cultural context of eating disorders. The show blends solo episodes with the host, Dr. Janean Anderson, and experts in the field including authors, speakers, dietitians, and treatment professionals. The Eating Disorder Recovery podcast balances providing information, education, and outreach with personal stories of hope for recovery.”
“Motivation and inspiration for your journey to recovery from an eating disorder. Host Jessica Raymond interviews recovery warriors and treatment professionals from around the world to get their unique perspective and advice on what it takes to recover. This show is for all types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and disordered eating.”
“The Chasing Joy Podcast shares meaningful conversations about wellness that will bring energy and joy into your life. Every week Chasing Joy dives into a topic related to wellness and brings on new guests with expertise in that area. My goal is to entertain, educate and inspire you to have a more joyful and energized life.”
“The Gurze/Salucore podcast airing once a week where we interview the top experts in the field of eating disorders, sharing information for individuals recovering from eating disorders, their loved ones, clinicians in the field, and other individuals, professional or otherwise seeking to learn about eating disorders. Healthy conversations about eating disorders.”
Written by Clementine adolescent treatment programs Medical Director Dr. Lauren Ozbolt, MD.
Dr. Ozbolt is board certified in adolescent, adult and child psychiatry and oversees the psychiatric care and attending psychiatrists at all Clementine locations. In her writing, Dr. Ozbolt explains her approach when recommending the use of psychopharmacology to her adolescents and their families.
After years of treating patients with eating disorders, I know the word “psychiatric medications” often sends chills down one’s spine. Furthermore, the idea of using psychiatric medications in adolescents is frequently the stuff of parental nightmares. It is true that some adolescents have been scarred by memories of taking psychotropic medications without explanation or have felt “bullied” into taking medications. I find that many teens are terrified of psychotropic medications and have false preconceived notions about how medications work. As one young girl timidly told me, “I will be a zombie.” (Cue Walking Dead episode)
Thus upon meeting a new adolescent at Clementine, I typically don’t introduce the idea of taking psychotropic medications for the first few weeks of treatment (provided they are psychiatrically stable). I find it is much more valuable at this stage of the game to establish rapport. I really want to take the time to get to know the patient, focus on the nutritional aspects of treatment and try to gain a better understanding of the function of the patient’s eating disorder.
After seeing the adolescent daily for several sessions and establishing rapport, I then may make medication suggestions. Psychotropic medications can be very helpful in the treatment of certain eating disorders targeting such symptoms as anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts and food preoccupations. I spend a great deal of time providing education about the medication, how it works in the body, risks, benefits and side effects. I will often tell the adolescent what they will find if the “google” the medication and why or why not this may apply to them. I never push a medication though, and often suggest that they take a few days to think about the medication and discuss it with their parents. I similarly, give the parents the same extensive psychoeducation and rationale for my recommendation. If the adolescent decides not to take psychiatric medications, again, I never push or try to convince her to take medication. I don’t believe in trying to convince people to take medication they don’t want to take—especially an adolescent who is in the separation-individuation stage of development where opposition is the rule. Instead, I support the adolescent in their decision all the while, leaving the option for medication open. I find this open approach coupled with a relationship that fosters trust and mutual respect sets a firm foundation for change.
To learn more about our newest location, Clementine Briarcliff Manor, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.
Content originally published here on August 2, 2016: http://clementineprograms.com/2016/08/02/an-open-and-informed-medical-approach/