- Do you want a more positive relationship with your body?
- Are you tired of obsessing about calories and exercise?
- Are you ready to get out of your mind and into your life?
The clients we work with often seek us out to put an end to the struggle they have with their mind in thinking about food and their body all the time. They are ready to get healthy and start living a more fulfilling life!
In treatment we explore the past, present and future while spending most of our time in the present!
In your session with the psychologist, we will spend time exploring when you first remembered having an unhealthy relationship with food and your body. Because the causes of eating disorders and body image concerns are complex in nature, it's not accurate or useful to blame any one particular person or thing. Eating disorders and body image concerns have many different causes. We will explore your past to help provide more context for the function of your eating disorder symptoms in the here and now.
What's your first memory of having an unhealthy relationship with food or your body?
- Negative Body Image Comments or Encouragement of Weight Loss as a Child
Often clients will recall a family member, doctor, or adult telling them they need to lose weight as a young child. Some clients remember going through something traumatic and turning to food at a young age to help them cope. Some clients were teased for being overweight. At a critical age when you are trying to form your identity and are comparing yourself to peers, these messages you receive can really impact how you think others may perceive you and how you begin perceiving yourself. This can last a lifetime and therapy can help with undoing some of the long-term damage of some of the harmful messages you might have received as a child.
- Former or Current Athletes & Dancers
Many of our clients are former or current athletes or dancers. Some were in gymnastics where the culture was always focused on staying thin. Other clients were athletes who then focused on academics as they pursued higher levels of education. When they stopped exercising or experienced an injury of some type, they began developing an unhealthy relationship with their body image and with food. Some of our clients are high-end competitors currently who struggle with finding balance with the time they spend in being athletic with enjoying life.
- Family Patterns of Eating
Some clients recall watching their parents eat soda and chips everyday after they came home from a stressful day. Some clients remember being rewarded with treats. Some clients remember their mother or father being obsessive about restricting calories, skipping meals, or exercising compulsively to maintain a certain weight. Many of our clients learn how to relate to food and their bodies at a young age by watching how their parents engaged with food and their bodies. This can set the course for how you continue to relate to food and your body into adulthood.
- Peer Influence
Clients often tell us that their family life growing up was perfectly fine, but they noticed gaining the "freshman 15" in college and being around peers who were engaging in restricting, compulsive exercising, or purging. They learned these behaviors from their peers and got in a habit of using eating disorder behaviors as a form of coping with their weight and/or emotional distress.
Many clients have experienced a trauma (sexual assault, sexual abuse, bullying or teasing, a death of a loved one, or coming close to a near death experience) that triggered their eating disorder. The eating disorder, then can become a way to control emotions, especially when feeling vulnerable. Below you will see how we manage this in the present.
Most of the work we do with clients is focused on the present.
- Understanding the current function of eating disorder symptoms
Although for many of our clients, the eating disorder may have been triggered for one particular reason or another, the eating disorder starts taking on a life of its own and serves different functions within our clients lives. With our treatment team, you'll learn to become mindful of your emotions and what is going on in your life in a broader sense that might be driving eating disorder behaviors. Are you stressed? Are you making a major life transition? Are you in an unfulfilling job? Are you lonely? Are you sad? Rather than focusing on the eating disorder symptoms all the time, we will focus on what function it serves for you: an emotional crutch, a form of having control when you feel like you can't control anything else, etc.
- Understanding the role of eating disorders, control, and trauma
Part of the work we do is to help clients understand how control plays a role in their eating disorder. Many clients have experienced a trauma (sexual assault, sexual abuse, bullying or teasing, a death of a loved one, or coming close to a near death experience) that triggered their eating disorder. Being so vulnerable and realizing how out of control they felt in those traumatic moments, the eating disorder gives them a sense of control in managing their emotions going forward in life. Part of the work in therapy is being mindful of how the eating disorder may be functioning to help you feel in control of your emotions. When you let go of that control, you may in fact experience more emotions. We will help you cope with the emotions that may arise from giving up the control that comes with the eating disorder.
- Breaking patterns, leaning into discomfort, and creating new associations in your brain
This is the essence of treatment! With our treatment team, you'll learn about how your mind has fallen into certain patterns and routines. Every time you feel stress, perhaps your mind is used to you turning to comfort food so it will prompt you to think about comfort food. Practicing mindfulness, we are going to become more aware of where these patterns show up and how to create new patterns in place of the old ones.
When creating change, you will feel uncomfortable. Your mind feels like the eating disorder behaviors keep you safe in some way from a major threat or danger. Your mind doesn't really know the difference, unfortunately, between a tiger being in the room and experiencing a stressful life event. So when you let go of the eating disorder behaviors, your mind will make you feel like your life is at risk and that a tiger will be ready to attack you. This is where the discomfort comes from when we make changes. Almost 100% of the time, the changes you make won't be as bad as your mind makes it out to be!
With our psychologist, you'll learn to manage and cope with emotions in new ways and address other aspects of your life that are unfulfilling or concerning to you. You'll learn to have a different conversation with yourself about your body that promotes a positive body image. A lot of the work you'll do with our psychologist is becoming mindful of your thoughts and how your engagement with the thoughts creates emotional distress. You'll learn how to relate to your thoughts in a new way such that they don't take over your life so much.
With our dietitian, you'll learn to eat foods that may make you nervous in service of getting you a balanced diet to help you feel strong and healthy.
With our nutrition and fitness coach, you'll learn how to eat and stay active in a way that is healthy for you in the long-run. This may mean taking a break from the cardio to practice some yoga. It may mean turning the television off and practicing mindful eating.
- Clarifying values
Much of the work we do with our clients is to help them focus in on why it's worth it for them to change their relationship with food and their bodies. Why is it worth it for you to lean into the discomfort and make changes (as described above)? This becomes an important part of our work together. What do you want for your future? What kind of example do you want to set for your peers and young girls in your life? What kind of example do you want to be to your own children?
- Maintaining Recovery
An important part of treatment is to continue to visit your treatment team once a month or once a quarter once you are feeling better to make sure we continue to address the life issues that may exacerbate eating disorder symptoms and to make sure that you are continuing to engage in the behaviors that ensure long term success in recovering from an eating disorder.