Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Declaring Our Independence

Each year on July 4th, I celebrate my independence from my eating disorder once again.

It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, or how many other (and possibly even greater) challenges I may have faced since then. I still celebrate my recovery from “Ed”, as many eating disorder sufferers today term their disease, with all the gusto and force of the newly recovered, hardly believing my good fortune, scarcely comprehending the courage in what I have just achieved.

“This”, I find myself thinking to myself once again, “is worth all the hard work and effort and the years of struggle it took to get here. This is worth the time, the expense, the pain and suffering of the in-between days when I was neither as sick as I had been nor as well as I might yet be.”

In other words, each year, and yet again, I rediscover that recovery is worth it.

There are so many incredible experiences that I have had since that I could never have had while I spent my days engaged in the endless ruminations over weight, calories, numbers, sizes, shapes, portions, and reflections in a coated aluminum pane of glass that my disease required of me.

There are so many bright lights, interesting sights, fascinating people, fun hobbies, rewarding work, and loving connections that I never was able to participate in while my time was wrapped up with “Ed”.

But I can and do participate in them now.

While today, on some level, it is hard to believe that it took me as long as it did to choose to work as hard as I knew I was capable of working towards my own recovery, I liken that to the process that one goes through from denial to acceptance when they are dying, whether it be an emotional or mental, or a true physical death. 

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross writes about this process when she outlines her research into the Five Stages of Grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, grief, and acceptance. I went through all of these stages, and sometimes out of order, and definitely multiple times, on my own path towards choosing and then achieving recovery. Some days I was very accepting of the fact that I was ill and needed to work hard and follow the advice of my treatment team in order to heal. Other days I was not as accepting, for whatever reason, whether it was because I was scared I wouldn’t know who I was without a day consumed by “Ed”, or whether it was because I didn’t feel quite as sick that day and I thought that maybe it wasn’t as serious as my team had made it out to be.

There were also many other reasons.

But whatever the reason, I grieved, erratically but in time fully, and when at last I woke up one day to discover that I had been in sustained recovery for quite some number of days, I felt the impact of the independence I had won for the very first time.

120702-fireworkssIn those first moments of awareness, all the fireworks on the planet would not have been enough to express my triumph, or my joy. Every Fourth of July since then, as the fireworks explode overhead, another, identical set of fireworks explodes in my heart, and I count my blessings, and I thank myself yet again for displaying the bravery and the perseverance and the vision to pursue my recovery like my life depended on it….because it did.

Looking back, I can see that now. Even if I had managed to survive the ravages of my eating disorder and somehow settle into “maintain”, I would not have been living. I would have been existing, trapped in a cycle of endless painful application for acceptance from a part of me that would never willingly have given it, no matter how nicely I asked.

Today, I can ask for and receive my own acceptance, and all in the space of a few moments. I have learned how to extend the same kindness and compassion that I offer to others to myself as well. No longer do I find my principle source of self-esteem in what I achieve, but rather I take it genuinely from not even who I am, but from the simple fact that I am.

I am a human being. I have faced death, and not just physical death but death of all my hopes and dreams, and I have survived. Not only have I survived, but I have won my independence. Today my work and my passion is to share with others what I have discovered about the power of the human spirit to not just survive but to triumph over adversity. Through my work, through how I live my life, and most of all through how I celebrate the Fourth of July each year, I am living proof that recovery is not just possible, but real.

And I wish the same for you.

If you are struggling to overcome a significant life challenge such as an eating disorder, and you don’t want to wait until the next Fourth of July to get started towards your goal, then Southlake Counseling can help. At Southlake Counseling, we not only have more than two decades of training and expertise that supports us in our life-changing work, but each member of our staff also brings to the table their own personal experience of recovering from a significant life challenge. In other words, we get it, we have been there, we understand what it takes, and we can help you to get there too. If you are ready to say “no” to staying stuck and say “yes” to celebrating your independence, we look forward to hearing from you! Contact us at www.southlakecounseling.com for more information.

Be Well,

Kimberly

 

 

Declaring Our Independence

Each year on July 4th, I celebrate my independence from my eating disorder once again.

It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, or how many other (and possibly even greater) challenges I may have faced since then. I still celebrate my recovery from “Ed”, as many eating disorder sufferers today term their disease, with all the gusto and force of the newly recovered, hardly believing my good fortune, scarcely comprehending the courage in what I have just achieved.

“This,” I find myself thinking to myself once again, “is worth all the hard work and effort and the years of struggle it took to get here. This is worth the time, the expense, the pain and suffering of the in-between days when I was neither as sick as I had been nor as well as I might yet be.”

In other words, each year, and yet again, I rediscover that recovery is worth it.

There are so many incredible experiences that I have had since that I could never have had while I spent my days engaged in the endless ruminations over weight, calories, numbers, sizes, shapes, portions, and reflections in a coated aluminum pane of glass that my disease required of me.

There are so many bright lights, interesting sights, fascinating people, fun hobbies, rewarding work, and loving connections that I never was able to participate in while my time was wrapped up with “Ed.”

But I can and do participate in them now.

While today, on some level, it is hard to believe that it took me as long as it did to choose to work as hard as I knew I was capable of working towards my own recovery, I liken that to the process that one goes through from denial to acceptance when they are dying, whether it be an emotional or mental, or a true physical death. 

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross writes about this process when she outlines her research into the Five Stages of Grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, grief, and acceptance. I went through all of these stages, and sometimes out of order, and definitely multiple times, on my own path towards choosing and then achieving recovery. Some days I was very accepting of the fact that I was ill and needed to work hard and follow the advice of my treatment team in order to heal. Other days I was not as accepting, for whatever reason, whether it was because I was scared I wouldn’t know who I was without a day consumed by “Ed,” or whether it was because I didn’t feel quite as sick that day and I thought that maybe it wasn’t as serious as my team had made it out to be.

There were also many other reasons.

But whatever the reason, I grieved, erratically but in time fully, and when at last I woke up one day to discover that I had been in sustained recovery for quite some number of days, I felt the impact of the independence I had won for the very first time.

In those first moments of awareness, all the fireworks on the planet would not have been enough to express my triumph, or my joy. Every Fourth of July since then, as the fireworks explode overhead, another, identical set of fireworks explodes in my heart, and I count my blessings, and I thank myself yet again for displaying the bravery and the perseverance and the vision to pursue my recovery like my life depended on it….because it did.

Looking back, I can see that now. Even if I had managed to survive the ravages of my eating disorder and somehow settle into “maintain,” I would not have been living. I would have been existing, trapped in a cycle of endless painful application for acceptance from a part of me that would never willingly have given it, no matter how nicely I asked.

Today, I can ask for and receive my own acceptance, and all in the space of a few moments. I have learned how to extend the same kindness and compassion that I offer to others to myself as well. No longer do I find my principle source of self-esteem in what I achieve, but rather I take it genuinely from not even who I am, but from the simple fact that I am.

I am a human being. I have faced death, and not just physical death but death of all my hopes and dreams, and I have survived. Not only have I survived, but I have won my independence. Today my work and my passion is to share with others what I have discovered about the power of the human spirit to not just survive but to triumph over adversity. Through my work, through how I live my life, and most of all through how I celebrate the Fourth of July each year, I am living proof that recovery is not just possible, but real.

And I wish the same for you.

If you are struggling to overcome a significant life challenge such as an eating disorder, and you don’t want to wait until the next Fourth of July to get started towards your goal, then Southlake Counseling can help. At Southlake Counseling, we not only have more than two decades of training and expertise that supports us in our life-changing work, but each member of our staff also brings to the table their own personal experience of recovering from a significant life challenge. In other words, we get it, we have been there, we understand what it takes, and we can help you to get there too. If you are ready to say “no” to staying stuck and say “yes” to celebrating your independence, we look forward to hearing from you! Contact us at www.southlakecounseling.com for more information.

Be Well,

Kimberly

 

 

Weekly Meditation: I Have the Right to Discover and Celebrate My Unique Beauty

This week marks National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 20-26, 2011). During this week each year, we honor those who struggle to recover from life-threatening eating disorders, and we resolve to do what we can within our spheres of influence to create a space for all body shapes and sizes to be honored and appreciated for the unique beauty they convey. We can start with ourselves. We can start by noticing where we are tempted to see the absence of beauty in ourselves and others, and strive to perceive its presence instead.

This week I resolve to: Remember that I bring a unique and unrepeatable beauty into this world, and I deserve to celebrate and enjoy this beauty, and encourage others to see and celebrate their unique beauty as well.


Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Emotions and Food – Friends or Enemies?

We all know what it is like to have a love-hate relationship with someone.

Or something.

One minute, this is the best thing that ever happened to us. Thank goodness for whatever-it-is. The next minute, we can’t imagine how we will survive another minute without changing everything about our situation as it relates to that someone or something.

This is what it is like trying to introduce emotions to nutrition, and nutrition to emotion. Some days, our emotions and our eating habits may feel in sync and balanced. Other days, well….we get to the end of the day and look back at our food choices and eating patterns in wonder – or shock.

We may not perceive it right from the start, but we eat for so many reasons. Some of our reasons are nutritional. We are concerned about the strength of our bones so we eat foods rich in calcium. We are concerned about our digestion so we add more fiber choices to our diet.

But then other times our reasons for eating are emotional. We are feeling victorious or overjoyed, and so we eat to celebrate with ourselves. We are feeling sad or fearful, and so we eat to commiserate with ourselves.

How do we learn to tell the difference? Why would we want to? Does it really matter why we’re eating – if we eat, we must be hungry, right?

Well, yes. If we eat, we are definitely hungry….on some level, and for something.

But the trick to consumption is to figure out what we are hungry for, and then to “eat” that, and not something else.

For instance, if our body is hungry for nutritious food, it is wise to eat that food and give our body what it needs and requires to function optimally. But if our emotions or hearts are hungry for a hug, for company, for rest, then eating food is not the wise choice, and will leave us even hungrier in a way that no amount of food can fill.

When we eat for emotional instead of nutritional reasons, this is called “emotional eating.”

While the presence of a strong emotion can trigger a feeling of “hunger,” if we pay close attention, our experience of this type of hunger is not the same as the physical empty feeling we get when our body needs fuel.

It may not be easy at first to distinguish emotional hunger from physical hunger, but it is a skill we can learn with time and practice. According to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center website, there are several key signs to help us tell the difference between different types of hunger:

  1. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, while physical hunger builds more gradually
  2. Emotional hunger tends to fixate on a ‘comfort food’ (ice cream, chips, etc), while physical hunger tends to focus on foods with distinct nutritional value
  3. Emotional hunger will not wait; physical hunger usually will
  4. Emotional hunger doesn’t respect fullness cues; physical hunger does
  5. Emotional hunger often leaves guilt in its wake; physical hunger leaves comfort and peace

Using these clues, we can start to decipher why we choose to eat, and why we make the food choices that we do. We can become students of our hunger and fullness cues, our body’s needs, and our other needs for nourishment and nurturing that food cannot fulfill.

In this way, we can begin to once again experience the kitchen, the dining room table, the coffee shop, as a safe place to be, and even feel grateful for food’s role and presence in our lives to sustain the body within which our emotional life plays out.

We can “eat” in healthy ways for our body and our mind. We can sit with ourselves in the presence of our emotions and exhibit patience to seek out the appropriate type of nurturing rather than rushing to food as a quick fix. We can move towards our physical health and fitness goals at an equal pace as we move towards our emotional health and fitness goals.

We can feel confident and comfortable in our own skin on every level of our being.

If you are struggling to relate to food in a healthy, self-nurturing way, Southlake Counseling can help. Our evidence-based, empirically-supported nutrition and eating disorders programs provide you with the skills and tools you need to feel confident both in the kitchen and in the rhythm of your daily emotional life. Our skilled and compassionate professional staff has more than two decades of experience facilitating individual transformation in the areas of recovery, health, and wellness. If you are ready to say “no” to emotional eating and “yes” to healthy, balanced, living, visit us at www.southlakecounseling.com to learn more!

Be Well,

Kimberly

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Fat Talk Free®Week – A Message of Hope for All of Us!

Many women I speak with each week about disordered eating, body image, and eating disorders are mothers. Or daughters. Or sisters. Or best friends. Or all of the above.

Each woman is grappling with her own perceptions of the obstacles that stand between her and feeling at home in her own skin. I notice that most are also concerned with how their inability to do so may be affecting those whom they love most – their mothers, their sisters, their daughters, their best friends.

While any lasting, worthwhile change usually cannot occur overnight, and may take weeks, months, or even years to fully bear fruit, there are efforts going on right now to ensure that the legacy we leave for each other and for future generations treads more kindly on our perception of our body’s unique and worthwhile beauty, just as it is.

That is not to say that we can’t all do our part to learn how to take the very best care we can of our physical body, one step at a time, and many women who come to Southlake Counseling come because they want to do just that. But this movement takes us beyond our individual efforts and into a societal shift that will make this process easier – and more fun – for all of us.

Take “Strong is the New Thin,” for instance. This is a Facebook-based movement that repositions physical health and strength as an admirable, desirable goal.

Or the emerging “real women” and “authentic women” monikers, meant to denote a woman who is beautiful in her outside-the-thin-box skin.

One of my personal favorites is “Fat Talk Free® Week,” an annual week-long event spearheaded by a partnership between the team that wrote the Reflections: Body Image Curriculum and Tri-Delta Sorority.

The event began a few years ago as a way to promote the curriculum’s scientifically-measurable ability to boost body esteem among sorority women. Now it has caught on at a national level, moving its social media and promotion headquarters to Facebook and digging in its heels to reach out to women of all ages, shapes, and sizes with a message that it is not okay to say no to your own unique beauty.

Fat Talk Free® Week is coming up again this year October 18-22, 2010, and I want to encourage all of you to be a part. You don’t need to wear anything special, buy anything special, or do anything special – other than cutting out all “fat talk” from your life for one short week, and encouraging others you care about to do the same.

Part of saying YES to life is saying NO to the things – and the words – that keep your spirit, mind, and heart feeling small, stuck, and discouraged. “Fat talk,” as I often mention privately to individuals who come to me for counseling support, is a short, straight road to low body- and self-esteem, which then leads to depression, discouragement, and repetition of the same disordered eating thoughts and behaviors we are working so hard to overcome.

So for one week, let us practice saying YES to life together by cutting out “fat talk” from our vocabularies. We can start by finding other ways to compliment our female (and male!) friends and family members. Instead of complimenting them in body-based ways, we can spend an extra moment to think of something else nice to say.

In this way, we can make a commitment to moderate the thoughts in our heads before they emerge from our tongues as words, asking ourselves, “is it kind to me? is it kind to others?” before we speak.

We can also make it a practice to journal out a few short notes at the end of each day of Fat Talk Free® Week, asking ourselves how we are feeling about our bodies and ourselves after abstaining from esteem-damaging fat talk over the past several hours. Do we feel more hopeful? More secure? More self-loving? More inclusive and accepting of others?

And if we like what a week of conversation with no references to “I really shouldn’t eat that” or “Thanks for the compliment but I think this blouse makes me look lumpy,” then we can choose to keep it going!

So as we embark upon this week-long adventure together, I would love to hear your experiences of Fat Talk Free® Week – and please feel welcome to share them day by day by posting your comments here!

Remember, saying YES to life starts by saying NO to those things that would keep us from the fullness of recovery, health, and wellness that we dream of. If we can dream it, we can do it – now all that is left is to say YES to it and begin. If you need extra support to be able to say YES out loud and “go for it” to build the healthy, wonderful life you are dreaming of, contact us at www.southlakecounseling.com today. We look forward to helping you reach for and achieve all of your recovery, health, and wellness dreams!

Be Well,

Kimberly

If you want recovery, then CHOOSE it!

If you won a free shopping spree to your favorite store, would you hesitate to redeem your prize? Absolutely not – you’d head right on over to the store, award in hand, to start shopping away!

But what if you were handed a free pass to recover from your eating disorder? Would you turn it in to collect your winnings or just leave it sitting on the kitchen table?

You are intelligent. You are resourceful. You are creative. You are determined. In other words, you already possess the winning lottery ticket of recovery.

But it avails you nothing until you redeem it.

Today’s affirmation: I can and DO choose recovery today!

From Frozen to Fantastic: Ten Tips for Tackling a Child’s Eating Disorder as a Family

Eating disorders are bio-psycho-social illnesses. They are also very treatable. With the right treatment, in appropriate doses, at appropriate times, and for an appropriate length of time, they are even curable.

But medical limitations, patient reluctance, or even media messages are not the primary deterrent to recovery.

The number one reason patients do not get better faster is a plain and simple deficit of information.

In my more than two decades of treating and supporting both eating disordered patients and their loved ones, I have learned a great deal about the type of information that is needed to effectively mobilize a family around a child who is suffering. This article addresses ten key learnings that can take your family from frozen to fantastic in how you collectively band together to combat a child’s life threatening illness.

The first key learning is – do not blame yourself. And do not blame your child. It is nobody’s fault when the biologically-based illness that is an eating disorder arises, in the same way that it is nobody’s fault when a child develops leukemia or autism, or an adult woman develops endometriosis. What is needed and effective is not blame, but rather action in the form of appropriate professional care and informed family and community support.

The second key learning is – an eating disorder is a bio-psycho-social illness with genetic links. Eating disorders have their underpinnings in a biological brain imbalance that results in the affected individual processing the presence of nutrients differently than someone without that imbalance would. As the National Eating Disorders Association states, “biology loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.”  In the thin-obsessed culture we live in today, there is a clear biological reason why not every exposed individual develops a diagnosable eating disorder. Not everyone is at risk, because not everyone carries the genetic linkages that predispose an individual to develop an eating disorder. Those who develop an eating disorder are life-threateningly ill and require prompt and comprehensive care.

The third key learning is – do not panic. Instead, learn all you can.  Getting educated by reading high quality books and visiting nonprofit and medical websites that contain accurate information about eating disorders will help you and your family understand what you are dealing with, in the same way that a diagnosis of breast or prostate cancer might prompt the affected individual and their family to carefully review current treatments, options, success rates, and risks involved. In the case of an adolescent who is affected, the responsibility clearly rests with the parents to do the homework necessary to pick the best course of care. The more you are able to learn about what to expect, the timeline involved in recovery, what works better in which kinds of cases, and who in your area has expertise in treating eating disorders, the less energy you will waste in fear, indecision, self doubt, and frustration with the recovery process.

The fourth key learning is – get help. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or self-treat an ill child or loved one. Eating disorders are the most lethal of all psychiatric-based diseases. They are treatable and even curable – with appropriate professional care. For adolescents in particular, learn as much as you can about newer cutting edge protocols such as Family Based (Maudsley) Method (FBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), both of which have shown excellent results in improving symptoms and returning the affected individual to a healthy state.

The fifth key learning is – don’t forget about your own self-care needs. Supporting your child will take an incredible amount of time and energy. There will be times when you will feel hopeless, exhausted, frustrated, confused. To avoid burning out during each leg of the recovery process, remember that you can accept support and you deserve support . You are working as hard as your child, albeit from a different perspective, and you need to apply good self-care or you will not have the stamina you need to see the recovery process through to its successful conclusion. Seek out supportive groups online or in your area – for example, FEAST-ED.org is an excellent parent support site that offers parent-to-parent mentoring via an online forum called “Around the Dinner Table.”

The sixth key learning is – shame has no place in recovery from any illness, including an eating disorder. We have come a long way from the “don’t ask – don’t tell” generation our parents and grandparents labored under. We know so much more now about what causes psychiatric illness and how to help affected individuals and their loved ones navigate the recovery process. Whether it is cancer, loss, unemployment, divorce, or another personal tragedy, no one is a stranger to the need to recover from life’s unexpected challenges. With your acceptance and validation of your child’s illness, you strengthen your child and your entire family to own the challenge ahead as a learning process and a chance to grow stronger. Don’t let shame rob your child and your family of that energizing and motivating gift.

The seventh key learning is – remember that your child and your child’s illness are not one and the same. Your child is a unique, wonderful individual with endless promise and potential. Your child’s illness is something that he or she struggles with that requires appropriate treatment to overcome. They are two different things. It is important to start immediately to emotionally separate out who your child is from what your child is struggling with. Love the child, treat the disorder – they are not one and the same.

The eight key learning is –DO NOT WAIT.  An eating disorder will not suddenly get better or go away if ignored. Pretending the disorder is not there may cause the child to hide the symptoms out of shame or fear, but disappearance of symptoms is cause for increased rather than decreased concern. Act immediately the moment you see the first sign of symptoms. Research has shown that the sooner an eating disorder is intervened upon, the faster and shorter the recovery period will be.

The ninth key learning is – make sure the treatment you choose is evidence-based. What this means is that, with the wealth of options available today, it is easy to get confused about what is the best choice for your child. Go with where the evidence is. Interview medical professionals and ask for success rates. Contact nonprofit and professional organizations and ask to read recent medical journal and research reports concerning treatment protocols you are interested in pursuing.  Talk with other families about what worked for them. Ask medical professionals for references and call those references to find out what their experiences have been like. Most of all, seek a treatment protocol for your child that is well researched and shows consistent positive results. Treatment is expensive no matter what route you choose, so go for what works.

The tenth key learning is – never discount the transformative power of unconditional love. As the disease takes hold, you may find yourself thinking, “Is this my child?” The answer is “No.” The voice of the disorder at work within your child’s brain may create a different relational dynamic for awhile, as her relationship with food and fear changes and then changes again throughout each phase of the recovery process. Fear is a powerful agent, and may produce bouts of rebellion, resistance, even rage. But underneath any show of resistance, bravado, or anger is a frightened child who is doing her best to understand what is happening and figure out what to do about it. It is no different than the brain changes a bout of chemotherapy or radiation might cause – it is temporary, and reversible with application of proper nutrient levels that produce brain re-balancing with a corresponding return of emotional stability. Love your child, treat the disease, fight it together as a family.

At Southlake Counseling, we have more than two decades of expertise in treating adolescents and families affected by eating disorders. Our specializations include Family Based (Maudsley) Training (FBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Our founder and staff received training directly from Dr. Nancy Zucker, the director of the Duke University Eating Disorders Program, which incorporates both FBT and DBT protocols in their highly successful family-based treatment program. Our clinical director has also received training directly from Dr. Locke and Dr. Le Grange, authors of Helping your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder. At Southlake Counseling, we have seen firsthand how families that recover together grow closer and stronger together. We encourage you to reach out for help and experience the difference expert, compassionate professional care can make in your family’s life. Visit us today at www.southlakecounseling.com to learn more.

Be Well,

Kimberly

Family-Based Therapy: Three Steps to Anorexia Recovery, Part 2

As we continue our exploration of the application of Family-Based Therapy for recovery from anorexia nervosa, it might be helpful if we first do a quick review.

In Part 1 of this series we discussed why parental involvement in a child or adolescent’s recovery process is so vital to recovery success. Children need their parents. Parents want and need to be involved. Beyond these simple relational facts, research results have proven that a parent’s active involvement in a child’s recovery process is often a major determinant of a successful outcome.

There are three main stages for implementing a Maudsley or Family-Based Therapy (FBT) approach. The first stage is weight restoration. This phase is nearly guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of even the most stalwart parents. The basis of this fear and trepidation, accordingly to treating professionals and parents active in the FBT approach, is a simple misunderstanding. Maudsley Parents, another parent support and advocacy organization, explains that the confusion comes in when a parent sees food as different from medicine. FBT treating professionals are able to clear up much of the confusion and fear when they explain to the parents that food is medicine, and as such it is both medically-prescribed and absolutely necessary for the reversal of the anorexic adolescent’s malnourishment.

During the weight restoration phase, the treating team, which often and ideally includes a medical doctor, therapist, dietician, and psychiatrist, coaches the parents on the proper administration and dosages of “food as medicine.” With coaching and support, parents learn how to empathize with the pain, fear, and anger their adolescent may express, while continuing to insist that the child take in proper dosages of the necessary medicine. Family mealtimes and parental supervision of caloric and nutrient intake is a vital part of the success of this phase. Simultaneously, siblings are taught how to support the patient, and the treating team works to help the patient reintegrate with siblings and with the family unit. Parents who persist and learn the skills necessary to successfully navigate the weight restoration phase find that it is tremendously healing and nurturing for both the patient and for the family unit as a whole.

The next phase is one parents will look forward to during the entirety of phase one, because in phase two parents begin turning control of eating back over to the adolescent. The family unit’s ability to transition to this phase is dependent upon the patient’s continued weight gain, acquiescence to continual increases in food intake, and a positive change in the demeanor and dynamic of the family unit. Often at this phase, everyone from the patient to the parents to the siblings is feeling relief that the eating disorder symptoms are being effectively and consistently addressed, and this relief changes the family interactions for the better, reducing resistance and strengthening resolve. Parents can then begin to give the patient more control over food choice and eating. There is a trust bond that is mutually demonstrated and earned again with each meal as parents see that the adolescent is both willing and medically able to make their own sound and healthy food choices. The patient is also able to eat away from the parents to such an extent as they are able to demonstrate the same healthy choices with friends, peers, and other family members that they do in the home. While this phase can feel stop-and-start especially at first, the entire family is encouraged by the patient’s progress through dependence to interdependence to eventual independence in making healthy nutritional choices and practicing effective body care.

During phase three, the focus moves beyond the food to a re-establishment of a healthy adolescent identity. This is the most exciting phase when parents, siblings, and the patient begin to see the real fruits of persistence with the FBT approach. Here, the adolescent is able to maintain 95% of their ideal weight consistently. Signs of desire or intent to self-starve have abated. The patient has newfound ability to navigate mealtimes with relative ease whether in the home or while out with friends or family. Privileges around food come back into alignment with other privileges that signal a growth from child to adolescent into the teen and young adult years. Often there is a much increased closeness within the family unit and signs of the fear, anger, and resistance that characterized much of phase one and into phase two have vanished (also easing residual parent concerns that phase one and two supervision may somehow irreparably harm the parent-child relationship – research results show that for most families the exact opposite is the case). With weight restoration and stabilization and mealtime autonomy also comes a willingness and ability on the part of the patient to look at some of the underlying triggers and issues that may have contributed to the anorexia. In phase three, the patient can begin or resume work with a therapist and other treating professionals to further discuss healthy life coping skills, identity development, and pursuit of life dreams and goals.

Emergence from phase three shows a young, bright, promising future where the anorexia used to be. The entire family continues to exercise vigilance even amidst beaming smiles and a huge, long sigh of RELIEF.

At Southlake Counseling, we have more than twenty years’ experience with successfully treating eating disorders, disordered eating, body image, self esteem, recovery, health, and wellness concerns in children, adolescents, young and mature adults. Our caring, compassionate, professional and highly trained staff partner with you and your family to smoothly navigate all three phases of the Family-Based Therapy (FBT) process. Discover how rewarding and satisfying it can be to become an active participant in your child or adolescent’s health and wellness by contacting us at www.southlakecounseling.com

Be Well,

Kimberly


Family-Based Therapy: Three Steps to Anorexia Recovery, Part I

When I read the words “three steps to…” I usually think, “Oh, here we go. Someone is about to tell me that something very difficult is really very easy.”

Rest assured, that is not going to happen here. I am a licensed treating professional with more than two decades of experience treating eating disorders, but I am first and foremost a parent too, and I know that all individual or family-based positive change takes persistence, patience, effort, and time.

So what I am about to share with you is not easy at all – but it is very possible, and it is highly effective. In this two-part blog series on implementing Family-Based Therapy (also called the Maudsley Method) for recovery from anorexia nervosa, we will examine the reasons behind the newfound acceptance and popularity of a family-based approach to treatment, as well as the three steps every family will follow to implement family-based therapy in the home.

The role of the parent in eating disorders recovery has long been a controversial one. In the past, treating professionals have commonly regarded parents as, if not the main culprits, at the very least a large part of the problem. Parents have been cordoned off from the treating area, banned from the therapy room, locked out of the kitchen.

Today that thought process is changing. Efforts from concerned parents such as Laura Collins, the author of “Eating With Your Anorexic” and founder of the F.E.A.S.T. parent support and advocacy group, and treating professionals like Dr. James Lock, co-author of the “Treatment Method for Anorexia Nervosa: A Family-Based Approach,” have reassured parents that they do have a place in the treatment process – and a vital role that only a parent can fill.

Additionally, there is a growing body of scientifically-sound research that highlights the efficacy of involving the parent in the adolescent’s recovery. The message is clear – parents can learn, parents can help, parents are needed.

For parents of an anorexic child or adolescent, this is very, very good news!

For single parents who are concerned that the process won’t work without a parental team, there is even more good news. Recent research has shown that the FBT approach can work equally well with a single parent head of household. The main determinant of success is not dual parenting but rather parent education, commitment, and involvement in the process.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 when we examine the three phases of FBT, what a parent can expect during each phase, and a big picture look at a typical outcome for families who adopt the FBT approach.

At Southlake Counseling, we have more than twenty years’ experience with successfully treating eating disorders, disordered eating, body image, self esteem, recovery, health, and wellness concerns in children, adolescents, young and mature adults. Our caring, compassionate, professional and highly trained staff partners with you and your family to smoothly navigate all three phases of the Family-Based Therapy (FBT) process. Discover how rewarding and satisfying it can be to become an active participant in your child or adolescent’s health and wellness by contacting us at www.southlakecounseling.com

Be Well,

Kimberly

My Steps to Recovery – Saying No to ED and Yes to Life!

I have been asked numerous times over the last twenty years about HOW to recover from an eating disorder and IF it is REALLY possible.  I am here to tell you that Recovery is not only possible, but can become a reality for you, too.

In honor of Mental Health Month I wrote this post to answer that question and to give you some words of encouragement – I recovered from an eating disorder after suffering for over 8 years and now use that experience to help others recover.  My way was only my way and no indication of what will work for you, but my experience may give you some ideas for recovery, as it does contain things I often find useful in working with my clients.  Recovery is a very personal experience, so take what you can use and leave the rest.

What did it take to stop?  Honesty, openness, and willingness. And a lot of hard work and persistence.

Has it been worth it? Absolutely. Today I am free of being controlled by unconscious urges with food and compulsive exercise.  I know how to respond so I don’t have to engage in the behavior. I am more self-aware, healthy, and centered. I also realize that food is just food and weight is just a number on the scale.  Neither can bring me true happiness. And I have finally accepted people don’t like me or dislike me because of my body, but because of who I am as a person.

Is it perfect? No, because perfect doesn’t exist, and I live in a world where focus on body, diet, and perfection is idealized. I need to maintain a certain acceptance, willingness and awareness. But this is such a small price to pay for having freedom.

How did I do it? I am actually working on writing the story of my recovery, but to give you the shortened version, this is what I did and the steps I took.

1)     I accepted that I had an eating disorder and I needed help.  I also came to realize it was not my fault, and I had no need to feel ashamed. An eating disorder is a real medical condition. I didn’t ask to have one, I just developed it due to a combination of many factors; genetics, triggering events, family issues, and peer pressure.

2)     I retired my “Cinderella Complex” and came to accept and realize that no one was coming to save me.  I would have to develop responsibility for saving myself.  Looking outside myself was not the answer, I had to look within and discover my true self.

3)     I came to understand that although it was not my fault, it was my responsibility to do whatever it took to learn to control the urges I had and the actions I took. Thus, I needed to make a decision on how I was going to approach the problem and then begin to do it.

4)     I decided that I would do whatever it took to reach recovery and regain my life. I reached a point where I realized that living with an eating disorder was really no way to live. I could learn to eat in a healthy way, manage my urges, and learn to tolerate my feelings without necessarily acting on them. As Goethe once said, “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

5)     I took the time to educate myself and learned all I could about eating disorders and what was needed to live without one.  I fully accepted it wasn’t about the food or the weight. I accepted that I couldn’t do it alone and that I needed to practice humility and ask for help.  Being responsible for my recovery didn’t mean I had to do it on my own.  I could be vulnerable, admit my imperfections, and live to tell about it.  I could also allow people to help me.

6)     I did self-monitoring for 6 months, an average of five days a week. I learned SO much about myself, my patterns, and my responses to situations, whether I was tired, lonely, angry, or feeling anything else.

7)     I took medication to moderate my anxiety and depression – it didn’t help me to eat, but it enabled me to lift the depression and anxiety I had experienced since childhood, so I could stay motivated with my practice of all the tools I had learned from others, and developed on my own.

8)     I began to focus on the things in my life that were the most important to me and surrounded myself with positive and encouraging people. I learned to identify my true feelings, and noticed that if I expressed myself in appropriate ways, and set good boundaries, I was less likely to be triggered.  Self-care became a huge part of the process.  I learned how to put myself and my needs first and let go of feeling guilty when I said NO. I practiced  meditations, relaxation techniques and learned to enjoy exercise as a way to move my body rather than punish myself for what I had eaten.

9)     I decided that I was willing to accept that this might take a while, but what did I have to lose?  I could either keep living the way I was, which was in misery, or I could begin to practice all the things I was learning and take some risks.

10) I Learned not to beat myself up when I did slip. I came to realize that we DO slip on the road to recovery, or most of us do. So learning to be a little(or a lot)  more compassionate and accepting with myself was a big part of the process.

11) I Learned to measure my recovery not by the scale, but by how fast I got back on track with my life, how little I berated myself, how much I was able to congratulate myself and enjoy all of my accomplishments.

12) I kept a gratitude journal.  In the deepest darkest days of my depression, anxiety, and ed behaviors I didn’t think there was anything to be grateful for.  I was wrong.  When I began to focus on all that I was and everything that I had, a small light started to shine.  As Helen Keller said “Keep your face to the sunshine and you will not notice the shadows.”

13) Even after my symptoms subsided, I stayed in therapy to discover my true self, who I was without the eating disorder.  How could I be myself if I didn’t know who I was? Look for my upcoming book… How can I be myself when I don’t know who I am TM.

14)            I found a passion and purpose for being- my career and helping others recover and focusing on having my own family. Finding a reason to recover was important.

15) Today I live with the full understanding that yes, my eating disorder could come back at any time. However, this way of life has become an opportunity for self-growth, centeredness, awareness, and acceptance. Today, I have the tools I need and the commitment to use them.  Every day, I Say Yes to Life !

The good news is there really are pathways out of being controlled by ED and other compulsive behaviors. The challenge is that it takes time, commitment, awareness and practice. But then, to be good at anything usually does. I have lived many years free from Ed behavior and am lucky enough to work every day with amazing people who are also on this journey.  If you are on this path, struggling, or just need someone who really understands, give me a call.

To your success and happiness,

Kimberly

Kimberly Krueger, MSW, LCSW is a therapist and the founder and director of Southlake Counseling and The Center for Self Discovery in Davidson, NC. Kimberly may be reached at kkrueger@www.southlakecounseling.com

Southlake Counseling is Lake Norman’s leading behavioral health treatment center, providing a full range of clinical services to children, adolescents, and adults. Southlake services include therapy, psycho-educational and psycho-social assessment, consultations, health education, nutrition, wellness and coaching programs for those suffering emotional, behavioral, health, and educational challenges.