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Can Childhood Abuse Lead to an Eating Disorder?

Can Childhood Abuse Lead to an Eating Disorder?

Jillian looked around her room at all the boxes piled in the corner and felt an urge to weep. She wanted to but she wouldn’t. There was no point in crying; that wouldn’t solve anything. Nobody asked her about the divorce. Nobody asked her if she wanted to move to a different state. Nobody asked her anything. She was supposed to shut up and do what she was told; the only person allowed to cry was her mother.

Jillian could still remember how she’d felt when her mother told her the divorce was final and about the move. Jillian had started to cry and then her mother had started to cry and told her not to. It wasn’t fair. Jillian had to leave her school and her friends and she wasn’t to cry about it. Fine, she’d make the best of it. A new school, new friends, a time to reinvent herself. She had all summer to lose weight so she could start high school thin. Then she wouldn’t have to worry about finding friends; friends would find her. She wouldn’t cry or complain; she’d do what she needed to do—whatever it took.

Abused children are often not allowed to respond to trauma or traumatic events in appropriate ways for children. They are expected to act as “little adults.” Sometimes wounded adults call on them to take on the role of comforter or companion. They are expected to disregard their own needs and fulfill the needs of others. In some abused children, this unrealistic expectation and disregard of their feelings produce feelings of anger and rage. If these reactions are also quashed, the anger and rage must find a substitute outlet.

In some abused children, this expression leads to an eating disorder. The child may begin to control body weight as a way to control at least one thing in their life. That control of their body may come in the form of restriction, in anorexia; of bingeing and purging, in bulimia; or in a preoccupation with weight and image, in body dysmorphia. Some abused children seek out the comfort of food and engage in binge eating but without any purging, resulting in more and more weight gain.

Are you consistently thinking about how you look? What you eat? Do you experience a sense of satisfaction when you reach certain weight goals? Have you disregarded the concern of others over your eating patterns or your weight? Do you feel you deserve to be thin? Do you feel you deserve to be fat? Is food the one com- fort, the one sure thing in your life? Food is a mood modifier and can be used—either by undereating or overindulgence—as a way to cope with psychological stress.

If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

How Can Parents Deal with a Teenager’s Broken Heart?

How Can Parents Deal with a Teenager’s Broken Heart?

As parents, we need to fight against the illusion that everything is always fine with our teenagers.  Teens often hide their pain behind the “Fine” sign — which is another way of saying “Keep out of my life.”  

Parents can have difficulty believing their teenager is undergoing some of the most painful experiences they’ll have in life, while that teenager lives in their house, eats their food, and sleeps under their roof.  How can pain be happening in a place with Internet access, food on the table, and clothes in the closet?  

Here are some tips for dealing with a teenager that has a broken heart:

Pay Attention – Parents can have difficulty realizing their teenager has an emotional need.  What parents must pay attention to is when their teenager’s behavior changes.  

  • Your kid who’s never been much of a talker emotionally vanishes for days or weeks.  
  • Your kid who’s a drama queen about everything flatlines emotionally for an extended period of time.  

If things like this start to happen, pay attention.  Check in with your teen and ask how things are going.  If they don’t reply, acknowledge that they don’t want to talk and don’t push them.  Instead, leave them an open invitation to talk.

Check Yourself – If your teen experiences a broken heart over a known event, such as a relationship breakup or a divorce, a death, or a best friend moving across the country, keep track of how your teenager is navigating those waters.  It is possible the event that’s upset your teen has also upset you.  If you’re experiencing a broken heart as well because of what’s happened, seek out help for yourself.  The last thing an emotionally wobbly teenager needs is for you to start leaning on him or her for your own support.  Both of you are bound to fall.  

Avoid Judgement – Avoid judging what hurts your teenager.  When a teen is in pain, it doesn’t help to hear you consider the reason to be stupid or meaningless or, worse, childish.  Pain can be universal; everyone who hits their finger with a hammer will yelp.  Pain is also personal; what injuries one person may have shrugged off, another person might feel more deeply.  Even though you shrug off your teen’s pain, your teen still hurts.  

I encourage you to get to know your teenager, to get beyond your irritation at their behavior, and to pay attention to what that behavior tells you about your teen.  There seems to be an inverse reaction common among teens — the more they hurt, the more they hide.  But pain cannot stay hidden indefinitely.  Pain will come out.  As a parent, you need to watch for signs of pain coming out.  

  • Watch for changes in behavior over an extended period of time.  A couple of days of isolation are probably pretty normal for teens, but not a couple of weeks.  The more significant the shift in behavior, the more you need to pay attention.
  • Don’t expect an immediate response.  The first time you ask your teen how they’re doing and he or she says “Fine,” don’t stop there if you suspect things are not fine.  Let your teen know you’re concerned and specifically why.  
  • Communicate your willingness to talk about anything at any time.  Then, be prepared to follow it up, even if your teen unloads more than you want to know two hours past your bedtime on a weeknight.  

I can’t emphasize enough the pain teenagers hold in.  They get hurt in so many ways that fly under their parents’ radar.  Sometimes that pain translates into depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or substance abuse — behaviors that push the familial panic button and clearly signal something is very wrong.

But sometimes that pain is less obvious and the signals that something is wrong get drowned out by the sounds of everyday life.  Slowly, quietly, that pain translates into a loss of optimism, a cynicism about life, the gradual strangulation of dreams, and a loss of hope for the future.  

Is adolescence supposed to be a time of up-and-down moods and volatile emotions?  Yes, but pay attention if your teen spends too much time in the pits.  If he or she just doesn’t seem to be rebounding or continually refuses to talk about what’s going on, consider obtaining the help of a counselor.  School counselors can be of tremendous benefit, but realize your teen may need to see a professional counselor outside of school.  If your teen had a broken leg, you’d seek professional help.  Since you’d get help for a broken leg, why wouldn’t you get help for a broken heart?  

 

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

 

God Intended Food to Fuel Your Body

God Intended Food to Fuel Your Body

God always intended food to be fuel for the body.  He also meant for it to be a source of pleasure; that’s why He made food to taste good.  As usual, the good God intended has been corrupted by the practice of people.  This happened from the very beginning.  In the garden, Eve looked at the fruit she knew she wasn’t supposed to eat and saw that it looked good, was good for food, and made one wise (Genesis 3:6).  The first two were legitimate food reasons.  The third was a nonfood reason.  All of these reasons, of course, were trumped by God’s declaring this tree and its fruit off-limits.

Food today isn’t forbidden by God, but that doesn’t stop people from choosing food for nonfood reasons.  Now, people don’t necessarily eat to become wise, but they eat for comfort, to relieve stress, to temporarily overcome boredom, because it’s pleasurable, as a form of rebellion, and in the name of convenience.  The more nonfood reasons people have to eat, the more they eat.  The more they eat, the larger they become.  The larger they become, the more dissatisfied they are and the harder it is to experience and maintain a sense of personal happiness.

I encourage readers to utilize an easy-to-find tool in order to eat more healthfully.   This tool is the U.S. government’s food pyramid found at www.MyPyramid.gov.  The pyramid is a dietary guideline for all ages and activity levels.  It also outlines the daily recommended amounts you should consume in different food categories.  You can print up a daily meal planner sheet that helps you track what and how much you’re eating.

The bottom line for healthier eating, which you’ll find in my books or through the pyramid, is to eat more grains (with whole grains being the best), more fruits and vegetables (with darker vegetables being best – just think peppers and broccoli as opposed to celery), more lean sources of dairy and protein, and less oils and fats (with more of the good sources of fat like olive oil and flaxseed oil and less of the saturated and partially hydrogenated fats).  With all of the healthy eating going on, there isn’t much room left for things like processed foods, packaged convenience or snack foods, junk food, or “discretionary calories” like cookies, cakes, pies and the like.  Having these items occasionally is realistic.  Eating them consistently, daily, is not realistic for healthy living.

God designed your body to use the food you eat as fuel to power your body’s functions.  If you consistently put lousy gas in the tank of your car, it wouldn’t run properly.  it may still get you down the road, but you’ll experience pings, burps, smoke, hesitations, and lack of power.  It will gum up your engine parts and increase the amount of pollution in the air.  Do this long enough, and you could find yourself calling a town truck on the side of the road.  It’s the same way with your body.  An occasional treat is not going to cause you problems, but if you live on a diet of high-calorie, high-caffeine, low-nutrient foods, your ability to physically perform will be compromised.

I’ve just gone over to the tip of the iceberg (or the pyramid) of healthy eating.   I encourage you to pick up a copy of one of my books that contain information on healthy eating (The Body God Designed).  Each of these books takes you on a journey of discovery for healthier living and gives you the tools you need to make better choices.  Right now, I want to acknowledge what you really know to be true, that you need to commit to eating more healthfully.  It really does make a difference in how you feel.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

Owning Up To Your Pessimism

Owning Up To Your Pessimism

If you are a pessimistic person, I want you to be able to proclaim it, to own up to it, and to accept it.  What I have found over my years in practice is that pessimistic people often don’t see themselves that way.  In fact, while they view everything else as being universally negative, they tend to view their pessimism as positive.

Instead of interpreting themselves as pessimistic, they instead see themselves as pragmatic, realistic, more informed and enlightened, and smarter.  For them, a pessimistic response to the world is seen as protective and even superior to the optimist.  Because they approach life believing the worst in circumstances and in people, they feel they are better prepared for whatever life throws at them.  They live a guarded, cautious, defensive life.  Problems, difficulties, inconveniences, and downright disasters are expected.

Pessimists have what I refer to as a critical spirit.  It refers to a person whose inner default mode is to be critical or negative.  Picking on people, jumping on their failures, and criticizing their faults appears to be a positive, proactive position for pessimists.  However, doing so says more about your own faults than the faults of others.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I have been in the counseling business too long to think that pessimists don’t have very specific reasons for being this way.  I have heard, literally, hours of reasons why a pessimist’s attitude is really a good thing in his or her life.  However, in my experience, I’ve found the reasons to spring from a deep well of pain, injury, abandonment, neglect, humiliation, abuse, and disappointment.  Is it any wonder, then, with this kind of well, that what bubbles up in the life of a pessimist is bitterness and negativity?

A pattern of pessimism can be very difficult to give up because it seems safe.  If you’ve been wounded, it appears smart to venture out cautiously, carefully, defensively.  Pessimism appears to be just the armor you need to engage a hostile world.  It can seem very right to the wounded person, but it leads to death, a death of optimism.  Pessimism becomes not an armor keeping the world out, but a prison keeping you in.  Pessimism is a world that says the worse thing that can happen to you is to be hurt by evil flourishes, where wrongs outweigh rights, where oppression is standard and disappointment is the order of the day.

There’s only one problem with this worldview; it’s a worldview.  It’s a view completely obscured by this world.  It presupposes that all there is or is ever going to be is this world, with all its faults and problems.  This is the type of world described in Ephesians 2:11-12.  It is a view “without hope and God in the world.”

But you do have hope, and God is in the world, so this worldview is a lie.  Since the underlying assumptions of your pessimism are a lie, it’s perfectly logical, rational, pragmatic, enlightened, and savvy to reject it and instead base your response to life on the truth.  And what is truth?  Instead of a worldview, have a God view.  With a God view, your response to life can change from pessimism to optimism.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

Practicing Self-Care During the Holiday Season

Practicing Self-Care During the Holiday Season

The wonderful sights and sounds of the holiday season have finally emerged around every corner. Decorations have resurfaced from basements and holiday traditions are in full swing. No matter which holiday you observe, the holiday season can prove to be both a challenging and rewarding time of year for those recovering from an eating disorder.

Many people struggle with the environmental and social triggers during the holiday season that may elicit old, destructive eating patterns. Staying committed to practicing self-care throughout the holiday season is your solution to remaining on the path of recovery. Practicing self-care will create a more meaningful holiday season for you and your loved ones and will help you to enjoy all of the holiday festivities.

As you begin the holiday season by thinking about what you must do for others, it is imperative to remember that your happiness and health is of the utmost importance.

Tips to practicing self-care during the holiday season

Stay committed. Maintaining a semblance of normalcy during the holiday season is extremely vital to improving your overall well-being and enhancing your recovery process. The holiday season can be extremely busy but staying committed to your therapy sessions and self-soothing techniques can help you to continue on the path of recovery. Be proactive and create an action plan with your therapist for the holiday season. Together, establish productive coping mechanisms you can use when you are in social environments that may elicit old, destructive eating patterns.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the perfect solution to preventing old, destructive eating patterns. Because the holiday season is filled with many social events that surround food, it is important to anticipate these moments, and practice how you will respond in a productive way. Communicating with your therapist and making a plan for these moments is an extremely beneficial way for you to still enjoy these social events without reverting to old behaviors.

If your friends and family are planning events around cooking and baking, make sure that you make an action plan with your therapist of how you can still get involved in those activities while maintaining a healthy, nutritional balance.

Additionally, staying committed to your recovery by practicing positive self-talk and being mindful in the moment is vital in maintaining inner peace and contentedness during the holiday season.

Participate in your favorite holiday traditions. Revive your spirit and continue on your recovery path by having fun. Getting involved in fun, traditional activities with family and friends is the ultimate self-soothing technique that distracts your mind and engages your energy towards exciting activities. Whether it is shopping, decorating, or planning social gatherings, diving into traditions with friends and family will revive your spirit.

By immersing yourself in the holiday traditions you enjoy, you will be feeding your spirit by improving your health and your overall well-being. Use the holiday season and your commitment to self-care to empower you to enjoy the special moments with your friends and family.

Plan ahead and prioritize. Do not let the stress of the holidays inhibit all of the success you have made during your recovery journey. Take time to assess your needs with your therapist or with your family members and prioritize your events. Dedicate time for maintaining self-soothing techniques such as writing, walking, yoga, or meditation to establish normalcy during this busy time of year. If you are traveling, plan ahead and schedule time to continue on your recovery journey by meal planning and exercising to maintain a healthy balance.

Take a step back from the festivities to collect your thoughts and allow yourself to decompress. Remember, your health is of the utmost importance and the stress of the holidays can sometimes lead to old patterns of thinking and behaving. Planning all of your events ahead of time and prioritizing your needs by taking time out for yourself is a beneficial way to prevent feelings of stress.

Communicate with your friends and family. When you are surrounded by the people you love, it becomes a wonderful reminder of how much you are cared for. The priority of your friends and family is your health and overall well-being. Make sure that you communicate your struggling moments with friends and family. Tell them about your recovery journey and what they can do to help during the holiday season.

The holiday season is the ultimate opportunity for you to practice self-care because the people you love will be aware of your recovery and will do everything they can to recognize warning signs or help you enjoy the holiday festivities.

Enjoy yourself. Release any unwanted thoughts, live in the present, and enjoy yourself. Make time for your favorite activity, go to the movies with friends, or practice yoga for a break during the holiday festivities. Be kind to yourself and continue to cultivate self-compassion by immersing yourself in the holiday traditions and activities you love to do.

You are worthy and capable of having the most memorable holiday season if you let your recovery process empower you. Recognize how far you have come and enjoy the special moments with friends and family. Let this time encourage and strengthen the person you have become beyond your eating disorder.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.