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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.

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.

 

Eating Disorder Recovery: Coming Out of Exile

Eating Disorder Recovery: Coming Out of Exile

It is said that no one is an island, yet through your behaviors you’ve separated yourself from other people.  To control your surroundings, you couldn’t afford to include other people in your life — because people are notoriously unpredictably and often uncontrollable.  Over time, you have walled yourself in.  Now it’s time to start dismantling your wall, brick by brick.

One of the first bricks you need to remove is the one that hides the truth about your relationship with food from those who truly love you.  They need to see what this has been doing to you.  They need to see what this is doing to your physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  They probably already have a pretty good idea of what’s been happening between you relationally, but may not realize how much your eating disorder or your disordered eating is at the core of that impact.  It’s time to let them in.  You need to allow them the opportunity to help you.

If you are a perfectionist, that attitude has fostered a solitary state of mind within you.  Perfectionism demands private effort and rewards accomplishments privately.  Part of you may not want to include others in your recovery to avoid being indebted to them in any way: It’s my challenge, so the victory should be mine.  This attitude only strengthens your perfectionism and false pride — and neither one will assist your recovery.

Those who are deeply concerned about you may want to give you that love and trust as desperately as you need to receive it.  Take the chance.  Open up to someone, but be wise about the choice.  Choose someone who loves you, and then allow that person to show you how much.  Both of you will benefit.

The time to remain trapped in your prison of food is over.  Freedom awaits you.  And included in that freedom is the reality of unpredictability.  You have already decided that you want the future to look different than it does today.  You have already acknowledged that hope is more important than control.

Life is worth a chance.  Love is worth the risk.  God is sufficient.  Believe is your recovery.  Believe in today.  Believe that God loves you.  Believe that your life makes a difference.  Believe there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Believe you are the light for someone else who needs hope.  Believe that the best is yet to be.  Believe in yourself.

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.

The Link Between Hypoglycemia and Depression

The Link Between Hypoglycemia and Depression

Helen came to The Center • A Place of HOPE suffering from anxiety and depression.  Her moods swung from hopelessness and lethargy to being stressed out and anxious.  If it wasn’t one, it was the other.  Both were taking their toll, and she wanted an end to them.

Helen was tired of never feeling settled.  She had become terrified she was bipolar because of her roller-coaster moods.  It was this fear that finally propelled her into counseling.  In addition to her therapy, Helen set up an appointment to see our nutritionist.  What was mysterious to her was obvious to him.  Helen had hypoglycemia, which was a major source of her depression and anxiety.

Over the course of her adult life, Helen developed a pattern based upon her eating habits and food choices.  She preferred quick, calorie-rich foods, eaten sporadically, with large amounts of caffeine throughout the day.  Because she worked for a newspaper, Helen’s duties were stressful and time sensitive.  Many times she put off eating, subsisting instead on high-caffeine beverages and sweets, consumed on the run.  The caffeine and sweets propelled her headlong into nervousness and anxiety as her blood sugar levels spiked.  The resulting crash of insulin to counter this massive sugar dump in her system brought feelings of depression and physical depletion.  At these low times, Helen doubted her abilities, fretted over her age, and raged over any mistake.  When Helen hit rock bottom, she questioned whether she was really capably of doing her high-stress, high-profile job.  Her body was playing right into her fears of unworthiness and inadequacy to handle her job.

Hypoglycemia is more commonly known as low blood sugar or the “sugar blues.”  The body’s main source of fuel is glucose, which is a form of sugar.  Glucose is produced by the body through the consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, and starches.  Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream during digestion.  Glucose that is not needed is stored in the liver as glycogen.  When the amount of sugar in the blood is insufficient to fuel the body’s activities, hypoglycemia occurs.  While this condition has been universally accepted as a cause of depression, even skeptics will agree that hypoglycemia can cause weakness, mental dullness, confusion, and fatigue.  All of these symptoms, when taken together, can exacerbate depression.

Some in the medical community, especially those schooled in holistic medicine, do make the connection between depression and hypoglycemia, including the U.S. National Library of Medicine of Medicine National Institutes of Health. [1]

Food and caffeine became Helen’s drugs of choice.  Food, so abundant in this country, is often used as a form of self-medication and comfort, especially high-sugar, high-fat foods.  These foods flood the bloodstream with an energy surge.  While using food to treat feelings of depression may prove temporarily effective, the resulting crash of low blood sugar can make you feel even worse.  As you look at your own cycles of depression, look for a connection between what you eat and how you feel.

Here are common signs of hypoglycemia:

  • headache
  • nervousness
  • confusion or disorientation
  • hunger
  • weakness
  • rapid heart beat
  • slurred speech
  • tingling lips
  • sweating

If you find yourself having feelings of hopelessness, stress, anxiety and depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

[1] M. J. Park, S. W. Yoo, B. S. Choe, R. Dantzer, and G. G. Freund, “Acute Hypoglycemia Causes Depressive-Like Behavior in Mice,” Metabolism 61, no. 2 (February 2012): 229-36, summarized at U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21820138

Make Vibrant Health Your Goal

Make Vibrant Health Your Goal

The physical side effects of a dysfunctional relationship with food are not unlike the environmental complications that have arisen from pollution in our world today.  You may have trouble imagining your body as polluted, so do the following exercise using graphic pictures that depict the damage pollution is causing to the earth.

  • Collect some magazines and make a collage of beautiful pictures of the earth; sky scenes, landscapes, seascapes.  If you can’t find appropriate images, draw a picture in your journal of a beautiful world.  This world represents the way God intended your body to be.
  • After that, find pictures of the ravages of pollution.  On the next page in your journal, draw or paste pictures of how pollution has harmed the world.  These images represent how your eating behaviors have polluted your body.  Be aware of your physical reactions to these different pictures.  Does the beautiful scenery make you feel calm and peaceful?  Does the polluted world give you feelings of sadness?
  • At the bottom of each picture, write a brief description of how you feel about what you’re looking at.  Just as the awareness of pollution’s dangers has caused people to repair the damage done to our earth, so also your own awareness of the real toll you are placing on your body can give you added motivation for discovering the source behind the pollution of your eating behaviors and putting an end to them.  Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as  God intended it makes me feel….  Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as it has been polluted makes me feel…  Fill in those blanks and reflect on your feelings.

All your life you’ve heard the expression, “It’s never too late.”  You need to believe that now.  Yes, there has been damage done to your body, but that damage can be dealt with and, in most cases, reversed.

In the past, you have spent a good deal of time focusing on how your body looks from the outside.  Now it’s time to look at your body from the inside.  What is happening to you on the inside affects how you look on the outside.  Your relationship with food has not brought you to the point of vibrant health.  Instead, it is robbing you of your well-being, little by little.

Before, you were concerned only with the end result, attaining some sort of desired result.  Now you need to be concerned with the means you are using to that end and the damage it is causing.  To be thin is not necessarily to be healthy.  To put on weight is not necessarily to be fat.  Vibrant health is what you are striving for physically.  Proper nutrition can aid your body in regaining the health of its systems.

Learn more about how nutrition can have an impact on your mental health.

If you or a loved one show signs of having an eating disorder, you may benefit from consulting an eating disorder specialist. Our team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE focus on whole-person recovery, and take special care to understand the many aspects in a person’s life that may be contributing to their eating disorder. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today.

Are You Living in the Yellow Zone of Depression?

Are You Living in the Yellow Zone of Depression?

Everyone feels lousy sometimes.  Everyone experiences days when they just don’t want to get out of bed, when they’d rather just roll over, pull the covers up over their head, and call in sick to their life.

Depression is more than an occasional I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed day.  Depression is a condition marked by three characteristics: frequency, severity, and duration.

To help figure out if you are depressed, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1.    How often does this happen? (frequency)
  2.    How bad is it when it happens? (severity)
  3.    How long does it last when it happens? (duration)

The more it happens, the worse it is, and the longer it lasts, the more likely you are not just having a bad day—you are dealing with depression.

But what exactly is depression, especially when everyone has bad days, and people come in all sorts of emotional shapes and sizes? Depression is an overall category of specific feelings and behaviors.  However, if you are depressed, that depression may look very different from your cousin’s or aunt’s or the person’s down the street.  Trying to compare the way you feel, and matching it up with how someone else feels, may not help define whether or not you are depressed.

Instead of comparing one person to another, try comparing the way you feel with the following two lists.  The first I call my Yellow List, which describes symptoms that signal caution, and a need to be monitored.

As you look over the following Yellow List, a word of caution is needed.  Some Yellows can be tricky to identify, because they may have been present in your life for a long time.  You may be so used to these Yellows they have become normal for you.  A Yellow is not normal if it follows the three characteristics of depression symptoms: frequency, severity, and duration.

Here are items in the Yellow List:

  •    A loss of enjoyment in established activities
  •    Feeling restless, tired, or unmotivated at work
  •    An increase in irritability or impatience
  •    Feeling either wound up or weighed down
  •    Feeling overburdened with life and its activities
  •    A lack of spiritual peace of well-being
  •    A constant anxiety or vague fear about the future
  •    A fear of expressing strong emotions
  •    Finding relief by controlling aspects of your personal behavior, including what you eat or drink
  •    Feeling unappreciated by others
  •    Feeling a sense of martyrdom, as if you are constantly asked to do the work of others
  •    Exercising a pattern of impulsive thinking of rash judgments
  •    Apathetic when you wake up in the morning about how the day will turn out
  •    A sense of enjoyment at seeing the discomfort of others
  •    Anger at God for how you feel
  •    A recurrent pattern of headaches, muscle aches, and/or body pains
  •    Feeling left out of life
  •    Feeling trapped during your day by what you have to do
  •    Experiencing recurring gastrointestinal difficulties
  •    Feeling like your best days are behind you and the future doesn’t hold much promise
  •    Displaying a pattern of pessimistic of critical comments and/or behaviors
  •    Bingeing on high-calorie foods to feel better
  •    Feeling social isolation and distancing from family or friends
  •    Feeling that it’s easier to just do things yourself instead of wanting to work with others
  •    Feeling old, discarded, or without value
  •    Feeling trapped inside your body
  •    Dreading the thought of family get-togethers or social gatherings
  •    Feeling overweight, unattractive, or unlovable
  •    Sexual difficulties or a loss of interest in sexual activities
  •    Unmotivated to try new activities, contemplate new ideas, or enter into new relationships

Living in the Yellow means diminished joy and fulfillment, yet some people seem to live in that zone for a long time, finding ways to cope until the accumulated weight of despair or a sudden, traumatic life event propels them into a deep depression.

You can survive in the Yellows for quite a while, but that’s not really living.  This may seem like bad news, but it’s actually good news.  You weren’t meant to live a life of mere survival, and you don’t need to.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  The Center was recently voted one of the Top Ten Facilities in the United States for the Treatment of Depression.  Break free and achieve peace.  Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.