Mindful Eating

Written By: Lynette Morris, RD, LD

Hunger is the enemy to a person suffering from an eating disorder. Hunger
threatens the maintenance of a low body weight or triggers a binge eating
episode and fullness is equated with weight gain and being out of control. One
way a person with anorexia responds to hunger is by switching what is normal
for what is abnormal. Feeling hungry all the time becomes normal and feeling
satiated or full feels abnormal. The feeling of hunger not only reassures the
person with anorexia she is not going to gain weight, but also gives her a false
sense of security that everything is going to be all right.

How is it that food and eating have become such a common source of
unhappiness? And why has it occurred in a country with an abundance of food?
The fundamental reason for our imbalance with food and eating is that we've
forgotten how to listen to what our bodies are telling us. The problem lies in our
mind. It lies in our lack of awareness of the messages coming in from our body,
from our cells and from our heart.

At Thalia House, we teach the residents to listen to what their bodies are telling
them about hunger and satisfaction. We call this Mindful Eating or intuitive
eating. Intuitive eating is necessary for a recovering person to be able to develop
and maintain healthy eating patterns and body weight.

Eating intuitively helps us become aware of who in the body/heart/mind complex
is hungry, and how and what is best to nourish it. It also involves paying full
attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside
(environment) the body. We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors,
temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food. We pay attention to the
experience of the body. Where in the body do we feel hunger? Where do we feel
satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full?

We educate the person with the eating disorder to understand that their
preoccupation with food, the insatiable hunger, and the periods of uncontrollable
eating are normal responses to prolonged starvation and the maintenance of a
low body weight. The person with bulimia or compulsive eating will understand
that the desire to eat large quantities of food in the evening is the bodies
response to food restriction during the day.

It is possible, as one recovers from an eating disorder to gradually regain the
sense of ease and freedom with eating that we had in childhood. At Thalia
House our mission is to help set the residents up for success in recovery when they leave; to make peace with food, honor their hunger, and respect the
wonderful things their bodies can do.

Stages of Change

Written By: Melinda Schneider, LPC

Do you ever have those moments when you notice that your life seems to be more difficult than those of your peers but you are not sure why? Or those moments when you know why, but you are not sure you want to change yet? We have ALL been there at some point, with some behavior or another.

Often times, knowing what stage of change we are on, can help us move forward in growth sooner than if we stayed unaware or in denial. When working to prevent relapse, evaluating a stage of change can help in reestablishing motivation and benefits of staying in recovery.

So what are the 5 stages of change?

  1. Precontemplation
    1. The costs of the problem behavior are not yet recognized. The individual is in denial and is not seriously considering changing their behavior. They may have made previous attempts to change, but have since given up.
  2. Contemplation
    1.  The individual is experiencing ambivalence about change. They can see reasons to change their behavior, but they are still hesitant. The problem behavior continues.
  3. Preparation
    1. The individual has decided to change their behavior, and they begin to think about how to do so. During this stage they will begin to make minor changes to support their goal, but they might not have completely ended the unwanted behavior.
  4. Action
    1. Significant steps are taken to end the problem behavior. The individual might be avoiding triggers, reaching out for help, or taking other steps to avoid temptation
  5. Maintenance
    1. The changes made during the action stage or maintained. The individual may continue to face challenges, but at this point they have successfully changed their behavior for a significant period of time. ­

Take some time to see where you are with your recovery story currently.

What stage do you think you are on right now? Why? Do you feel like you have been “stuck” on this stage for a while now, or have you seen growth recently? What has helped you get to this stage, and not be at a previous stage? What might it take for you to move forward to the next stage?

Intuitive Eating: Why Something That Sounds So Simple Can Be Quite Difficult

Written By: Amy Smith (Counseling Intern)

March is National Nutrition Month! Nutrition and food fuel our bodies and, while eating seems simple and pleasurable for some people, it can be difficult, complex, and often times scary for someone struggling with an eating disorder. Part of the recovery process is learning to eat intuitively based on natural hunger signals instead of relying on the rules of the eating disorder. This means getting reconnected with our body and tuning into what sounds satisfying in the moment. For many who struggle with disordered eating this can be a daunting challenge as eating disorders create detachment between body and mind.  

We are bombarded with messages from so many different sources including media, social circles, and advertisements that tell us what we should and should not eat. Foods acquire a label of “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy”. What we eat becomes less and less about energizing our body so we can be engaged in the world and more about our worth as a person. We begin to lose faith in our body’s ability to sense what we need. We ignore the intuition of what would satisfy our body. We become fearful of our body’s wants and desires and try to shut them out altogether. We say to ourselves, “How can I trust my body? It’s craving a piece of chocolate cake and I just read an article about how terrible it is for you! I have no willpower!” And, eventually we might get to the point of saying, “I can’t believe I ate that piece of chocolate cake; I am a terrible person.”

The truth is our bodies are incredible machines, each one different, unique, and special in its own way. Intuitive eating is about learning to trust our inner wisdom that we were each born with.  The more we can block out the food myths that society conveys and find a way to honor what our body is telling us, the closer we become to eating intuitively. This action leads us to freedom from worries about food and what that means about us as a person.  However, this is easier said than done for many people, not just those that struggle with eating disorders.  How can we ignore the onslaught of messages that say we must police what we eat and, instead, listen to our inner voice? It requires a leap of faith.

Intuitive eating and recovery from an eating disorder in general can feel like jumping off of a cliff. On the top of the cliff you are safe, but afraid and miserable. The eating disorder is familiar and provides a false sense of security that, if you follow the rules, you will feel worthy. “Just stay; who knows what will happen if you jump?” the eating disorder says. Turning to your inner voice, wisdom, and natural body signals can also feel as scary as jumping off that cliff. You may have to jump off that cliff day after day, but it will eventually get easier. And soon enough, you’ll begin to feel that inspiring parachute open up as you glide through the air and see the beauty that surrounds you and the wonderful beauty inside of you. You will land with your feet on the ground and with a renewed sense of self-worth. Your worth lies within your inner wisdom, your very own special and incredible voice.

Imperfect Or Human

Written by: Melinda Schneider, LPC, Thalia House Admissions and Primary Therapist

You are imperfect. But guess what, SO AM I. Every single person, creature, or thing, is IMPERFECT.  Each one of us has our flaws, our quirks, our goofy imperfect tendencies that make us HUMAN. That’s right I said it, “imperfection is what makes us HUMAN”. Now, I know I am not sharing with you something you did not already know. Deep down we all understand that perfection is an unachievable goal. But sometimes I think we forget that if we were to achieve perfection (which again is not possible) it would actually make us NOT human.

So why do we try, sometimes at the cost of our physical life, to achieve perfection? Well, there are a lot of reasons some tries to achieve perfection and one blog post cannot touch on them all, but on a big picture note, people strive for perfection because we believe that perfection is what produces self-worth. Deep down, our culture has taught us that perfection produces worth, and worth is what creates connection, purpose, meaning, and all the things we want and value in life.

But what I want you to walk away from this post with, is the understanding that

                “Perfection does not produce self-worth. And self-worth does not produce connection or a meaningful life.”

In our attempts to achieve perfection, we are actually sacrificing the very things we are trying to gain. Self-worth derives from acceptance of who we are and of our imperfections. Connections are made when we open up about being imperfect, and we honor and validate the imperfections in other people. Meaning and purpose come when we let ourselves put energy into the things we value, instead of the attempt to perfect those things that don’t matter to us.

 So consider this week, how can I use my imperfections to build connections and relationships that matter in my life? How can I begin to honor and value other people’s imperfections? And how do I create meaning in my life without striving for perfection? 

The Value of Belonging

Written By: Melinda Schneider, LPC, Thalia House Admissions & Primary Therapist 

“Your choice is whether or not to live a meaningful life.” – Steven C. Hayes (2005)

On Friday’s at Thalia House we take a deeper look at the importance of values, and the benefits of implementing those into our lives. We have learned through research and experience that implementing our values give us control of our life trajectory; taking away the control from our eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. It gives us the power to choose differently while creating purpose and meaning out of our life journey.
This week we are choosing to focus on the value of Belonging. Your thoughts are probably now running with thoughts and questions like; sure, everyone wants to belong, what does this have to do with recovery and Thalia House? These are all VALID and IMPORTANT questions to be asking yourself.

Belonging is a core need of all people; if it wasn’t, our culture would look nothing as it does today. Feeling as though you belong allows you, and me, to be vulnerable with our thoughts, emotions, fears, anxieties, and experiences that we often keep guarded. This vulnerability creates connection with other people. It provides the space for true, healthy, and equally beneficial relationships to bloom. So yes, everyone wants, and needs, a sense of belonging. And EVERYONE is capable of cultivating the relationships needed to fulfill this value.

“What does belonging have to do with recovery,” you ask? I might go to venture, that it has everything to do with recovery. Remember we just talked about belonging leading to healthy, beneficial relationships. Those relationships create the space for us to live, connected (not isolated) honest (not deceitful) lives. Those who are able to live connected and honest lives, don’t need their eating disorder behaviors to disconnect, hide, lie, manipulate, or numb our emotions, thoughts, or experiences. Cultivating a sense of belonging takes away a major motivator for eating disorder behaviors.

How do we cultivate belonging? By Being Vulnerable. By being willing to have honest, vulnerable, empathetic conversations where we can GIVE and RECEIVE empathy and validation that allow us to move forward. One of the reasons I believe in the Thalia House model so deeply, is because we, as a house, have created a platform for connect and belonging to thrive.

So- What can you do this week, to create belonging in your life?