Call Now To Speak with an Eating Disorder Specialist 1-888-884-4913 / 425-771-5166
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.

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

As human beings, we want to be in control of our own lives. This is a universal characteristic, whether people profess faith or not. Control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as slavery. The paradox is that we invite excessities into our lives from our position of control. We use our control and decide to engage in the Gotta Have It! behavior.

Excessities, however, are notoriously bad guests. They don’t tend to stay within the boundaries we set. Once told yes, they don’t like to be told no, and they perpetually promise what they can’t deliver. Before long, what you invited into your life to obey your needs ends up becoming the one you obey. The sad reality is we begin excessities thinking they will be our slaves – to bring us significance or value or pleasure or numbness whenever we decide – but they end up enslaving us.

Perhaps one of the most insightful groups into this phenomenon of control and slavery and how one can turn into the other rather quickly is Alcoholics Anonymous. The alcohol doesn’t take that first drink thinking it’s going to take over his or her life. No one forces them to take that first drink or the second or maybe even the third. After that, however, it gets a little murky. Alcoholism is a very slippery slope, and Alcoholics Anonymous bands together people in sobriety with a Twelve-Step path to recovery. Here are those Twelve Steps. As you read them, think in the context of Gotta Have It! behavior, whether it’s alcohol or not:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs. {1}

The Twelve Steps, especially the first three, speak to a very fundamental reality that is constantly misconstrued and overlooked: first, that when our lives become unmanageable, they are out of control; and second, that in order to get back control, we have to completely give up control. Jesus puts it this way: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). Again, self-control isn’t something you can arrive at all on your own. Rather, you gain self-control when you give it up to something else.

Giving up control is a frightening prospect for many people. They believe the control they have is the only thing holding the monsters of life at bay. What they don’t realize is that this control isn’t opening the door to freedom; it’s keeping the door closed with them imprisoned inside. The monsters aren’t being kept on the other side of the door; the monsters are really on their side of the door, being kept in.

As topsy-turvy and scary as it sounds, the best way to gain control is to give it up. You need to understand an important point: The control you are so hesitant to give up is in reality not your control; it is the control the excessity has over you. This is a tug-of-war of wills – yours versus the excessity. You need to give up your control, as the AA second step says, to a Power greater than yourself.

{1} “The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,” A.A. World Services, Inc., www.aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-121_en.pdf.

 

Fear, Guilt, Shame, and Eating Disorders

Fear, Guilt, Shame, and Eating Disorders

People who struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating often experience companion emotions. Three of the most common companion emotions to eating disorders include fear, guilt, and shame. Addressing these emotions is a crucial part of truly recovering from an eating disorder.

Fear

If you grew up in a rigid, perfectionistic family, you may have developed an intense fear of failure and rejection. If someone you desperately wanted approval from conditioned that approval on unrealistic goals of perfect behavior, you got the message that no matter how hard you try, you were never good enough. If that person conditioned their approval on physical appearance, you got the message that being thin was the surest way to measure up.

Your parents or other family members may still focus their attention on outward appearances. They may not be comfortable, even today, talking about your feelings and emotions. They may express their approval only of your outward signs of success: your physical appearance, a prestigious job, exemplary school performance, a high salary, or material possessions. Success for them is determined by how you are “doing,” as opposed to how you are feeling. You need to recognize the possibility that your eating disorder or disordered eating patterns have come about as a response to your need for this conditioned approval. If you were unable to gain acceptance in other areas of your life, you may have turned to your physical appearance as an avenue of acceptance. Your fear of rejection has metastasized into fear of being fat.

Guilt

Children’s frames of reference for sorting out the jumble of adult actions and motivations are their own experiences. So there is a tendency for children to blame themselves for family difficulties. A child whose parents are divorcing will ask himself what he did wrong. A child whose mother is angry all the time will wonder how she can make her mother happy. Children understand when something they have done wrong produces pain in others. An immature leap in logic can produce the false impression that when they experience pain themselves, they must be the cause of it. And those feelings lead to tremendous guilt.

Eating disorders and a dysfunctional relationship with food can often be caused by past guilt manifested into control and self-harm. In order to control the guilt, an anorexic will self restrict food and liquids. A bulimic will binge to comfort the fear and purge out the guilt. An over-eater will binge to bring comfort as a way to appease the guilt. People who insist upon intentional unhealthy eating may have already written themselves off because of guilt and lack of motivation to make better choices.

Shame

A dysfunctional relationship with food thrives in an atmosphere of shame. Without significant weakening in the self-esteem and self-worth of a person, these destructive behaviors could not stand. In the progression of the eating disorder and disordered eating, shame over her inability to control her own behaviors is like a suffocating blanket. The person who has learned to love and forgive herself would throw off that blanket. But to the person who has lived in an atmosphere of shame, that blanket is a familiar, acceptable place to hide.

The anorexic feels shame at never achieving impossible perfection. The bulimic and the overeater feel shame at the out-of-control binging. In addition, the bulimic who purges through vomiting or laxatives will feel shame at the very way the food is expelled from the body. The overeater feels ashamed at simply being fat. The disordered eater feels ashamed at being unable to control those urges. Together, they constantly attack self-esteem and promote self-doubt—the perfect breeding ground for shame.

If you or someone you love is struggling with and eating disorder and the co-occurring emotions of fear, guilt or shame, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone from The Center • A Place of HOPE will be in touch with you soon.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Hope Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.

Rebuilding the Body’s Digestion System After an Eating Disorder

Rebuilding the Body’s Digestion System After an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders can wreak havoc on all aspects of a person’s life: their mental wellness, emotional balance, relationships with the people around them, and most certainly their physical body. Recovering from an eating disorder therefore requires comprehensive treatment in order to address each of these areas of a person’s life. Healing the physical body after suffering from an eating disorder is a process that takes care and time, and in some cases needs to be supervised by medical specialists.

Typically, to start your body’s rebalancing process you must first rebuild your digestion, your gastrointestinal (GI) ecosystem. After all, if you are unable to digest what you need to rebalance your system, what you take to rebalance it will have little value. The first step is to re-establish your digestive system’s natural levels of healthy bacteria. Although each body is different, a healthy digestive system supports 300-1000 different species of beneficial flora. Together, these species account for the approximately 100 trillion microorganisms found in the GI system. When healthy digestive bacteria flourish, they provide the mechanism to break down the substances you eat into components your body can absorb and use. Likewise, digestive enzymes allow food to be broken down into its component parts for easy absorption and a reduction in intestinal bloating and gas. When your digestive enzyme level is out of whack, healthy flora can’t grow; unhealthy organisms like yeast Candida, make opportune use of this imbalance. Faulty digestion also affects mood and energy levels. If your stomach is upset, you get irritable and fatigued.

Eating disorders can take a major toll on the number and diversity of beneficial stomach flora. It is therefore paramount to rebuild the bacterial colonies before any sort of nutritional absorption can occur. There is not one quick solution to rebuilding healthy digestion, but instead healing requires multifaceted, continual progress. Here are four important nutritional practices to keep in mind when building or maintaining a healthy digestive system:

1. Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods can be the easiest and most cost-effective way of rebuilding your digestive enzymes. Some examples of fermented foods include yogurt, lacto-fermented pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, and keifer.

2. Stick to a clean, healthy diet. While fermented and fiber rich foods can help contribute to healthy flora in your system, there are also foods that negatively affect this process. Processed foods, sugary foods, and foods laden with chemicals and pesticides should be avoided.

3. Consume fiber. Another important step to rebuilding your digestion is the reintroduction of adequate fiber, to keep your elimination system regular. One of the best ways to do this is through the consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Reintroduction of adequate fiber is especially important when there as been laxative abuse. The bowels need to relearn how to function again.

4. Supplement your diet with a probiotic supplement. Taking a probiotic supplement can dramatically speed up this flora rebuilding process. When looking for a good probiotic, it is important to find a supplement that includes many different strains of bacteria to ensure good diversity. Also, make sure to store your probiotics in the refrigerator to keep them alive and active.

Once you reestablish healthy digestive flora, your gastrointestinal ecosystem will be better equipped to begin absorbing the nutrients the rest of your body needs to heal. Again, this is a process that requires careful patience. If you or a loved one is in the process of recovering from an eating disorder but may need the supervision or support of professional nutritionists, please call the team at The Center • A Place of HOPE at 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch with you soon.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Hope Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.

Eating Disorder Recovery: Overcoming Denial of Your Past

Eating Disorder Recovery: Overcoming Denial of Your Past

Individuals with an eating disorder or disordered eating are often unaware of the source of their pain. In order to begin the recovery process, they first must discover the wellspring of pain from the past. Denial is a significant detour in that quest.

There are two kinds of denial. The first is your own denial of what has happened to you. This may take the form of doubting that what you remember ever took place. Because the abuse has been denied, it may take on an unreal quality when remembered. Almost as if it happened to someone else. If the abuse is remembered, it is often seen through the prism that “explains” why the abuse was not really abuse after all.

Denial enters through self-talk. These are the messages repeated over and over to ourselves as we try to deal with the pain and our relationship with food. Thoughts of “nobody’s home is perfect” or “it could have been worse” or “it wasn’t that bad” or “there’s nothing I can do about it now” allow you to minimize the damage. “I should be strong enough to deal with this on my own” or “everyone turns to food when they’re down” increases frustration at the inability to bring the eating disorder or disordered eating under control.

But denial, this minimization of the pain, is merely a coping mechanism to keep the pain at bay. Denial is the ticket that allows you to transform life-altering pain into that limbo state of “not that bad.” If it is “not that bad,” you believe you can find the strength to go on.

The other form of denial comes from the person or people who hurt you. They may deny that the abuse ever took place or that there was not anything wrong with it if it did. He or she may accept that the event or events happened but deny responsibility or minimize the damage. This can happen regardless of the nature of the abuse. Whether the piece was a single, specific event, or a pattern of hurtful behavior carried over out a number of years, this person may refuse to accept the ramifications of his or her actions.

This person may even attempt to make you feel responsible for the abuse itself or responsible for your “version” of the events. They may deny the damage by calling into question your natural response to the damage.  It is to his or her benefit that denial goes both ways—their denial of the event and your denial of the damage done. They may resist acknowledging your eating disorder or the place food now has in your life, because acknowledgment means recognizing the abuse or pattern of hurtful behavior behind it.

So the responsibility for the abuse itself and the resulting eating disorder could be shoved back at you, increasing stress surrounding your eating disorder or pattern with you, escalating its progression. As this escalates, it becomes easier to focus your attention solely on its progress, diverting attention from the root cause.

The desire to go back and rewrite your past is seductive, especially if your past was one of the abuse and pain. Denial allows you to do just that. Denial takes the pages of your past and alters them according to “if onlys,” or it substitutes blank pages for the pain that is really there.

A familiar proverb assures us that those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. You can also be said that those who deny the events of their own history are doomed to relive them. To deny abuse is to perpetuate it. The only way to stop the chain of abuse is to stop denying the truth of that abuse.

Each of us is the product of our experiences, and not one of us is immune to the pain they have cost us. We may not be able to control what happened to us, but we can control who we become as a result of those past events.

First, however, we need to look at those experiences honestly. The light of reality can seem harsh and bright to those who have been hiding from the truth. Clarity and detail spring forth from the light of truth.

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 or fill out our contact form and someone from The Center • A Place of HOPE will be in touch with you soon.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Hope Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.