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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.

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.

Signs That You Are Stressed

Signs That You Are Stressed

The symptoms of stress can show up in unexpected ways.  Consider the following questions and whether you’re experiencing any of the following signs of a stress-filled life:

What is your current resting heart rate?

Stress leaves you energized and may cause you to have difficulty relaxing, so your heart may have difficulty returning to a low resting rate.

What is your resting blood pressure?

The more stressed you are, the harder your cardiovascular system works.  This can create a situation where your blood pressure spikes and then takes longer than normal to fall back down to within normal range.

Do you find yourself hyperventilating?

Deep breathing in the face of physical exertion is useful, as it allows for increased oxygen to be used by the body.  Hyperventilation, or overbreathing, however, creates a situation where the body releases too much carbon dioxide, resulting in dizziness, tingling, headache, and general weakness.

Has your dentist mentioned that you grind your teeth at night?

Teeth grinding is a known symptom of stress, as clenching of the jaw muscles causes the teeth to work against each other, even during sleep.

Do you find yourself breaking out in pimples, acne, or skin rashes?

Stress produces toxins in the body that can be excreted through the largest organ you have—your skin.

Are you always quick to catch whatever cold or flu seems to be going around?

Stress puts a tremendous strain on your immune system, which can result in lower resistance to illnesses and infections.

Is your interest in or ability to have sex flagging?

Stress can suck all the sexual energy out of a room, leaving you tired, unmotivated, and uninterested.  Stress can also lead to painful periods in women and episodes of impotence in men.

Are you gaining weight, or have you lost interest in food?  

Food is a common way people cope with stress—either by self-medicating through food or losing their appetites.  Large shifts in weight—either up or down—can indicate the presence of stress.

Are you eating normally and easily digesting what you eat?

In response to stress, some people may eat too much, too little, or the wrong types of foods.  In addition, the physical effects of stress can interfere with the process of digestion and elimination.

Do you find yourself ranting or venting your feelings of anger?

An emotional rant or venting may make you feel more relaxed, more relieved, because stress can be painful, and people in pain may react strongly in anger.  Anger is a powerful physical and psychological response that can bleed off some of the effects of stress.

As a busy professional, husband, and father, I feel the effects of stress in my own life.  As a therapist, I often see the effects of stress in the lives of those I work with on a regular basis.  For some people, these stress effects are so familiar, they seem normal.

In order to stress less, there are six steps you can take that, when integrated together, provide a pathway to successful long-term recovery.  These steps can be found in my new mini-book that discusses the importance of finding recovery from a stress-filled world.

Remember that God has promised to be with us through times of tension and stress.  When stressed, we are meant to say, like Paul, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

If you or a loved one is struggling with severe stress, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.

The Warm Embrace of Comfort Food

The Warm Embrace of Comfort Food

Few things bring as much comfort as homemade bread, especially when it’s hot out of the oven and slathered with sweet cream butter. It’s warm; it’s soft; it’s delicious. I attended a charity event, and one of the items up for bid in the silent auction part was called Delivered Comfort—homemade bread delivered to your house every week for two months. It was a very popular item. People would walk along the tables, reading all of the cards and descriptions of items to bid on, and when they’d come to this one, there was almost a universal sigh. “Oh, fresh hot bread every week!” You could hear the longing in their voices.

I kept track of this silent auction item because it intrigued me. Watching this particular bid sheet, I kept seeing the same bidder number. As other bidders outbid her, this bidder kept upping the ante. Finally, the bidder signed up for the “guaranteed bid”, which meant she would pay any higher price, thus guaranteeing herself the winning bid. It was her way of saying, “The bread is mine!”

Aren’t you like that about your comfort food? You tend to get grouchy if anyone tries to interfere with it. You need that food. It’s your reward. It helps you feel good. You use it to cope. It brings you back to your happy place. It’s your comfort.

In an increasingly uncomfortable world, comfort food takes on new importance. You’ve dealt with the ignorant and mindless eating, but comfort food isn’t ignorant or mindless. You know precisely what you’re after when you eat it and give it your complete and undivided attention. You don’t just eat it; you revel in it.

It is no accident that comfort food tends to be high in carbohydrates from grains and sugars. You’re after a certain outcome where this food is concerned, and without really knowing the science of it, you stumbled upon starchy, sugary food to achieve that feeling. Your unscientific trial and error with the pantry produces a very scientific result. Foods high in carbohydrates cause your body to have an increased supply of substance called serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which is a fancy way of saying it provides a pathway for nerves to talk to each other. When your nerves are communicating with each other through serotonin, you feel relaxed and calm. If you have a lot of serotonin, you can feel drowsy. After that really big pasta meal on Sunday afternoon, what do you want to do? Why, take a nap! That’s serotonin at work.

One of the precursors of serotonin is tryptophan. If your body has tryptophan, it can make serotonin. Turkey has a large amount of tryptophan. After a big Thanksgiving meal, you sign, stretch, feel extremely content, then curl up on the sofa and snooze. This is your body on tryptophan.

Comfort food is physical, and it is emotional. It is snuggly, cuddly, feel-good food. The world can be harsh, stark, and edgy, so it’s no surprise you like your feel-good food. Even if you’re increasing your fruits and vegetables each day, this type of food can be difficult to give up, because if you give it up, you think you’re giving up comfort itself.

It’s not enough to add fruits and vegetables to your diet. It’s not enough to give up snacking. You need to come clean about your comfort food.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are ready to get the help you need to regain your health and to reach the end of the tunnel, call us at 1-888-771-5166 today.

 

Eating Disorder: Roadblocks to Forgiveness

Eating Disorder: Roadblocks to Forgiveness

Forgiving someone is never easy. It does not happen overnight; it is a process. Often it requires getting over the faulty beliefs and practices taught to you by the very people you are trying to forgive.

Beware of the need to punish. In your anger, you may withhold the healing act of forgiveness as a way to punish or to retaliate against the person who hurt you.

Beware of the desire to continue focusing on yourself. Forgiveness allows for you to move on to a healthier focus in life, away from your self-consuming relationship with food and on to a healthy balance of focuses and interests.

Beware of the belief that you deserve to be hurt and miserable. You don’t; that’s your eating disorder talking to you. Forgiveness will bring you peace, healing, and relief.

Beware of pride. Your eating disorder or disordered eating patterns may have brought you a perverted sense of pride as a way to counteract the pain. Forgiveness, by lessening the pain, interfered with the maintenance of that pride.

If you were never provided with an example of love and forgiveness growing up in your immediate family, where can you find these examples? Try to remember the people who did give them to you as a child, maybe a grandparent or a family friend. Then, think back to how much you needed love growing up. Remember how you would have felt if you had received acceptance. As a forgiving adult, you can give those who wronged you the very things you were denied as a child.

If you have constructed the myth of a happy childhood, giving up that dream will be painful. You will have to discard your idea of the perfect mom and dad, or the image of an idyllic, loving family. Instead, you can establish a new relationship with your family, just as they are.

For some people, their pain and hurt are so deep inside of them that their ability to forgive is buried under layers of anger and resentment. If this description fits you, you will need to search outside of yourself for the strength to forgive. Again, you need to understand that forgiveness is something you can rarely accomplish immediately. You’ve lived with your pain for many years; allow yourself time to work through your need to forgive.

Your eating disorder is a response to your pain and anger. If you can understand what happened, get past the anger, and forgive the pain, the reason for your behavior will no longer exist. When the reason no longer exists, and the health-related complications of your behavior are addressed, true healing becomes a reality.

Once you are able to acknowledge the truth of your pain, you must look towards proactive forgiveness. You have to decide to forgive—not because you want to, not because it feels good, and not because it’s deserved, but because it is the healing thing for you to do. A conscious choice on your part to forgive can counteract your conscious decision to continue in the behaviors of your eating disorder or disordered eating. Your will is the same, but you are choosing to use it in a healthy, uplifting way.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 29 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, depressionanxiety and others.