Eating Disorder Therapist in Rockville, Maryland. Serving Montgomery County, Maryland. Specializing in the treatment of anorexia, binge eating, orthorexia, bulimia, compulsive exercise.
Around the New Year we are inundated with diet-culture messages that emphasize a focus on “fixing yourself.” Each New Year many people resolve to “lose weight,” and “get healthier.” There seems to be an increased focus on joining the gym, dieting, and “lifestyle changes” (aka diets in disguise).
For individuals in recovery from an eating disorder, the New Year can be a particularly challenging time. With everyone around you racing to join the nearest gym and obsessing about their new “clean eating plan,” it may be difficult to maintain focus on recovery and body kindness.
The following are three quick tips for navigating the New Year and staying on track in your eating disorder recovery.
1. Do a social media detox.
Food related “detoxes” are a ridiculous waste of time and money. There is simply no scientific evidence to support the need for a “detox." If you’ve got a functioning liver and kidneys, they are already doing this job for you.
However, there is one kind of detox that I support, which is a social media and diet-culture detox. Essentially, the first step is to go into your social media and unfollow or unfriend anyone that causes you to feel badly about yourself. Make sure that you remove any social media accounts that talk about weight loss, changing your body, dieting, “lifestyle changes,” and promote an unhealthy fixation with food and exercise. Next, you can go ahead and add in some body-positive, health at every size, and eating disorder recovery accounts.
While you cannot effectively remove all aspects of diet-culture from your life, you can work to make your social media feed pro-recovery and body-positive. It can also be helpful to follow people who promote body-diversity and demonstrate that you CAN be healthy and happy at any size.
2. Set some pro-recovery, body-positive, and self-compassion related goals.
I’ll be honest in that I’m not really into the idea of New Year’s resolutions. First off, here’s simply not a lot of data to support that people actually stick to their resolutions. Additionally, I think that it’s helpful to utilize goal setting throughout the year.
The New Year is a fresh start and a time to really think about your priorities and values. It can be helpful to use this time to set some goals that support your recovery. However, rather than setting goals for the whole year, I think that it can be more useful to set them for the next month or so. This feels less overwhelming to some people and can make it easier to stick to the intentions that you have set for yourself.
Some ideas for pro-recovery goals to set could include challenging yourself to certain “fear foods,” working on practicing body-appreciation, and developing a more compassionate approach to yourself through your self-talk and self-care.
3. Reach out to your support system if you start to feel triggered.
It’s important to practice self-compassion if you start to feel triggered around the New Year. Eating disorder recovery is tough, especially when everyone around you is racing to join the nearest gym and ranting about their new “diet” plan. However, with time and practice you can learn how to effectively manage your triggers and use healthy coping strategies.
If you are starting to feel triggered to return to disordered behaviors, it’s crucial to reach out to members of your support network, which could include family, friends, and your treatment team. Eating disorders thrive on shame and secrecy, thus it is important to be open with the people in your life about what you are experiencing. No one should have to struggle alone and you deserve to have some support.
The Bottom Line
The New Year is an exciting fresh start and a great opportunity to refocus on your values and priorities. However, it can also be a triggering time for those in recovery from an eating disorder.
Work to practice compassion for those who are still stuck in body-hatred and the diet cycle. When they say that they want to “lose weight,” often this is simply masking their true aim, which is to feel loved, accepted, and joyful. Remind yourself that your worth is not found in your weight, eating habits, or your body. Additionally, people of all shapes and sizes are worthy of love and belonging.
If you must make a resolution this New Year, the following are some things that you can work to lose (instead of weight).
You are enough, just as you are.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: has a private practice providing therapy in Rockville, Maryland, for adolescents and adults struggling with eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety, and survivors of trauma. Jennifer offers eating disorder recovery coaching via phone/Skype. Connect with Jennifer through her website at www.jenniferrollin.com
The holidays can be a joyful, yet stressful time for many. For those in recovery from an eating disorder, the holidays can bring increased anxiety, as there is a large emphasis on food, diet-talk is prevalent, and one’s sense of structure and routine is often challenged.
It’s important to note that you are not alone in feeling an increased sense of anxiety surrounding the holidays. Additionally, in challenging yourself and working to maintain your recovery, you are doing something that takes incredible strength and courage.
The following are three tips for getting through the holidays and staying on track in your eating disorder recovery.
1. Create a holiday coping plan.
It might be tempting to cancel appointments leading up to the holidays, but it’s important to try to meet with your therapist, dietitian, mentor, recovery coach, and any other members of your treatment team prior to the holidays. During times of increased stress, it’s important to ensure that you have enough support from others.
It can be helpful to come up with a plan (with the support of your treatment team) surrounding how you will cope with the holiday. For instance, you could work with your dietitian to decide what foods you plan to have at any holiday parties and any “fear foods” that you could include as well. Additionally, you could ask your therapist to help you to come up with some healthy ways that you might cope with triggering situations.
Even if you do not have a treatment team, you can still come up with a plan for how you can best cope with the holiday. I’d suggest that this plan include a list of potential triggers (i.e. people, situations, etc.), healthy coping strategies, a list of support people that you could reach out to, and some helpful coping statements that you could tell yourself in the moment.
The following are some ideas for helpful coping statements.
· I am so brave for facing these foods that I fear.
· Being scared in recovery is normal, but I don’t have to let that fear control my actions.
· No food is “good” or “bad,” and all foods can fit into a healthy diet.
· I am strong and I know I can do this.
· Being more flexible with food allows me to have a full life.
Coming up with this kind of plan can help to decrease some of your anxiety leading up to holiday gatherings and enable you to feel more prepared to handle triggering situations.
2. Set healthy boundaries.
Prepare in advance how you can set healthy boundaries with friends or family members if diet or weight-related talk comes up at the table. It can be helpful to think of a few statements or strategies that you could say when this kind of discussion inevitably comes up.
The following are some ideas for how you can respond if someone brings up diet-talk around the holidays.
· No food is “good” or “bad,” all foods fit into a healthy diet.
· The only reason to feel guilty for eating that brownie, is if you stole it from the store.
· I’m declaring this table a diet-talk free zone.
· I hear that you’re really into your new diet, but can we talk about something more meaningful?
· So how is your new job?
· I’m just really thankful to have food to eat and to be able to spend time with family today.
Frankly, diet and weight-related talk is harmful and uninteresting. It is perfectly within your right to excuse yourself for a moment or to change the subject if someone decides to bring up these topics.
After all, diet and weight-talk have no place at a holiday table (or anywhere for that matter).
3. Practice self-compassion.
Beating yourself up for feeling anxious around the holidays will only serve to make you feel even worse. In stepping out of your comfort zone and facing your fears, you are doing something that is amazingly brave. True strength is not denying yourself food or avoiding certain foods-rather it is challenging yourself, despite what the eating disorder voice may be telling you.
It is critical that you try to practice self-compassion and be gentle with yourself. For instance, try talking to yourself the way that you would a loved one or small child who was struggling. You can also practice self-care in the days leading up to holiday parties by doing nice and relaxing things for yourself, such as taking a bubble bath with a candle, meditating, reading and drinking tea, getting a manicure or massage, doing an at-home spa night, or playing with a pet.
You Are So Strong
You didn’t choose to have an eating disorder, but you can make the choice to continue working on your recovery. Recovery from an eating disorder is tough. You are so strong and brave for continuing to challenge yourself.
True courage is not the absence of fear, rather it is feeling afraid and taking action (in alignment with your values) anyway.
If you keep working on your recovery and reaching out for help and support when you are struggling, you will eventually find freedom. It may take some time, but I believe that you will find a meaningful and purpose-driven life. One where you can finally say, “I am recovered.”
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW is a psychotherapist specializing in working with adolescents, individuals with eating disorders, body image issues, and survivors of trauma. Jennifer offers eating disorder recovery coaching for adolescents and adults in need of additional support. Connect with Jennifer through her website at www.jenniferrollin.com
This article was originally featured on The Huffington Post.
One of my aims in working with clients is to empower them to strengthen their “healthy self” and use it to heal their “eating disorder self.” I express to my clients that their “eating disorder self” is not bad. Rather, it is serving some kind of purpose for them. Thus, part of our work together is to uncover that purpose and determine some more life-affirming ways to get their needs met.
One important aspect of strengthening the “healthy self” is to begin to uncover or re-establish a sense of identity and purpose outside of the eating disorder. Some individuals may be reluctant to fully let go of their eating disorder, as their “eating disorder self,” tells them that it makes them “special,” and “unique.”
The reality is that the deeper you are into an eating disorder, the more you become a carbon copy of everyone else who is struggling with an eating disorder. An eating disorder hijacks your true sense of self and replaces it with an illness. I guarantee that there are other traits or qualities about yourself that make you special and unique, which the eating disorder is currently masking.
The following are three ways to begin to develop a sense of identity outside of your eating disorder.
1. Explore passions and hobbies that have nothing to do with food or attempting to change your body.
If you have struggled with your eating disorder for a long time, it might be hard to remember what you were like before it began. Try to think back to childhood about what your passions were and what you enjoyed doing. If you’re eating disorder began in childhood, now is the time to truly discover your passions and interests, outside of food and exercise.
You could start by checking out resources in your local community and challenging yourself to try one new activity a month. For instance, maybe there is a local theatre or art class that looks fun. You could try your hand at writing, learning a new language, or how to play an instrument. You won’t enjoy every new thing that you try, but the exploratory process can be part of the fun.
2. Take steps to strengthen your relationships and make new social connections.
Eating disorders are truly disorders of isolation. When someone is intensely struggling, their eating disorder often becomes their primary relationship. Often people who are suffering become increasingly isolated from their family and friends. In recovery it is so important to practice turning to people when you are struggling, rather than using eating disorder behaviors.
Work to strengthen existing relationships that nourish you and set boundaries with difficult people in your life. You could also begin to explore new social connections by asking a new acquaintance to get coffee or through one of the hobbies that you are pursuing.
Genuine relationships are part of having a truly meaningful life. Further, having strong relationships has been shown to have a variety of benefits in terms of mental and physical health. For instance, social connections have been shown to improve health and may even increase longevity.[i]
If you are struggling with your relationships, work to be compassionate with yourself. The most important thing is that you continue to reach out to others, even though it might feel scary and uncomfortable at first. However, it will get easier with time and practice.
3. Explore your values.
What are the things that you truly value in your life, which the eating disorder has caused you to lose sight of? At the end of your life, it is unlikely that you will be fondly reminiscing about time spent on the treadmill or engaged in calorie counting.
No one chooses to have an eating disorder. However, you can make the choice to continue on the path toward recovery. Eating disorders often serve to make someone’s world feel incredibly small. Looking at the bigger picture of life by exploring your values can be helpful in terms of your recovery and in the pursuit of developing more meaning in your life.
In a book that I highly recommend on acceptance and commitment therapy, called “The Happiness Trap,” the author describes a brief exercise to begin to clarify your values.
The exercise is to imagine that you are in your 80s and looking back on your life and then to answer the following questions:
You might be surprised to see what comes up after taking some time to reflect on these questions.
You Deserve a Full Life
You didn’t choose to have an eating disorder, but you can make the choice to continue on the path towards recovery. No matter what lies your eating disorder may be telling you, your life is worth so much more than obsessing about food and your body. Imagine all of the amazing things you could accomplish if you devoted this time and energy to something positive. Your life would truly transform.
Ultimately, your worth is not found in your body size, weight, the food you eat, or how much you exercise. Your true value lies in the strength of your relationships, the way that your eyes light up with you laugh, how you pursue your passions, and in giving back to others.
Living trapped in an eating disorder and having it consume your identity, is not a happy or fulfilling way to be. It may take some time, but I believe that you will uncover a newfound sense of identity and discover true meaning and purpose.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW is a psychotherapist in North Potomac, Maryland, specializing in working with adolescents, eating disorders, body-image issues, survivors of trauma, anxiety and depression. Jennifer also offers eating disorder recovery coaching for adolescents and adults in need of additional support in their recovery. Connect with Jennifer through her website at www.jenniferrollin.com.
We live in a society where “You look great, have you lost weight?” is seen as a normal greeting. I choose to surround myself with body-positive and health at every size aligned individuals. Due to this, sometimes I forget just how prevalent diet-culture and fat-phobia is.
Recently, I went to a party where comments about people’s bodies and weight seemed to be the initial topics of conversation. I overheard numerous conversations congratulating others for their weight loss or thinness.
I truly believe that people often do not intend to hurt others by exclaiming, “You look so thin, that’s awesome,” or “Did you lose weight? How great,” or even, “You got bigger.” In light of that, the following are three reasons why you should never comment on someone’s weight.
1. You cannot tell anything about a person’s health, happiness or life circumstances based on their weight.
We live in a society where often weight loss is perceived as “good” and weight gain is seen as “bad.” This fundamental assumption is inherently flawed. Weight loss and gain tells you nothing about a person’s health, happiness, habits, or life circumstances. The person that you are praising for their weight loss could be suffering from a life-threatening eating disorder, cancer, depression, grief, the diet-binge cycle, intense self-hatred, or numerous other issues. The person that you are judging for their weight gain may be happy, healthy, in recovery from an eating disorder, finally letting go of the diet mentality, etc.
Being thin is not “good” and being fat is not “bad.” There shouldn’t be this sense of morality surrounding weight. Additionally, our bodies are meant to change throughout our lives. This is part of being a human being and nothing to be ashamed of. All bodies are good bodies, but more importantly people’s worth is not based upon their weight or shape.
2. Weight-related comments can be highly triggering for people.
There are so many examples of how weight-related comments can trigger people. For instance, we know that for those in recovery from an eating disorder, weight-related comments can be incredibly triggering and can serve to fuel their disorder or cause a relapse. It’s also important to note that you cannot tell who has an eating disorder based on their physical appearance. People with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.
Let’s say that someone has simply lost weight on a diet and you applaud them on their “weight loss.” Since we know that diets have around a 95% “failure” rate when it comes to maintaining weight loss in the long-term, this “praise” will only serve to make them feel worse when they inevitably gain the weight back. This can serve to perpetuate the diet-binge cycle, which has been shown to have highly detrimental effects in regards to people’s health and happiness.
3. It shifts focus away from things that are actually important.
I am sometimes struck by how I can be among a group of ambitious successful women who have amazing careers and are raising children, yet the conversation is primarily focused around dieting and weight-related concerns. These are women who have achieved incredible things and yet they are choosing to focus on something so trivial and meaningless. I do not blame them, as this is largely a cultural and societal issue.
Body image issues and diet-culture impact both men and women. However, I do think that particularly as women it’s important to note that a focus on these issues often keeps us from “playing big” in other areas of our lives. Diet-culture and a fixation on thinness actually rose in prominence around the time that women began to gain more political rights in our society.
Additionally, It’s sad to me that people will approach someone that they haven’t seen in a long time and the first comment that they think to make is about the individual’s weight. What if instead you asked them about their passions, their relationships, and how they are doing in general? There are so many more important and interesting things to focus on than a person’s weight or eating habits.
By focusing on appearance and weight, you are perpetuating a culture where the female candidate for president is critiqued on her outfits instead of her politics. Ultimately, body policing of women is a social justice issue. You can be part of the solution and not the problem.
What to Say if Someone Comments on Your Weight
The following are some simple suggestions for what you can say if someone comments on your weight.
“You look great! Did you lose weight?”
It's also important to note that if you are uncomfortable saying something in response, that you are perfectly entitled to come up with a reason to excuse yourself from the situation. You do not have to engage in any conversation that is harmful to your mental health.
Ultimately, your worth and your value do not come from your appearance, the number on a scale, or your body. Your value lies in the kindness that you extend to others, the spark in your eyes when you laugh, the way that you pursue your passions, and your relationships. You are worthy of love and belonging. You are enough, just as you are.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com
Check out Jennifer's on-demand eating disorder trainings here!
This post was originally featured on The Huffington Post.
I'm an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, MD.