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chrysalis
07/Sep/2019

This blog is written by Kelly Broadwater, LPA, LPC, CEDS-S, a psychologist and Clemson alumnae…

Dabo Swinney, head coach of the National Champion Clemson Tiger football team may not know it, but he is an expert in Positive Psychology. I would venture to say that his motivational tactics are responsible for much of the success of the Clemson football program, a program that has played for three–and won two– National Championships in the past four years. He is the inspiration behind the team that achieved a perfect 15-0 season last year, culminating in the underrated Tigers (predicted to lose by 6 points) trouncing the Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16 in the title game.

So what exactly is positive psychology? Defined, it is “the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organizations to thrive”.

The field of positive psychology is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. Sounds exactly like the philosophy that fuels the Tiger football team, who although adored by their fervent fans historically have lacked respect from commentators and the college football community at large. Despite that, thrive they have! Ever the underdogs, they prove time and time again that they have the biggest heart of any team in the nation. After the awe-inspiring win over Alabama for the 2018 National Championship, Coach Swinney had this to say, “When you get a young group of people that believe, are passionate, they love each other, they sacrifice, they’re committed to a single purpose, you better look out. Great things can happen and that’s what you saw tonight.”

Positive psychology researches concepts such as grit and resilience. More and more, researchers are proving that inborn talent doesn’t necessarily determine success. Instead, grit, a relatively new concept in psychology, is becoming the key factor in achievement. Positive psychology defines grit as “passion and perseverance in working toward significant long-term goals”. In 2000, Swinney was let go from his coaching position at Alabama when the entire staff was fired, and briefly went into real estate. He was hired at Clemson the following year and by 2009, was an unlikely choice for the head coach position (he’d never even been a coordinator). Unranked nationally by the end of his second season, Swinney’s Tigers started to climb each year to earn the #2 spot in the country by 2015 and to play for Clemson’s first national championship since 1981 the following year. His long-term goals, established when he took over as coach in ’09, were realized thanks to his passion and perseverance.

 

What researchers are discovering, and what Dabo Swinney already knew, is that what we accomplish often depends more on our passion, resilience, and commitment to our goals, rather than our innate talents. Take Hunter Renfrow as an example. Once mistaken for a water boy, this 5’10 walk on ended up earning a scholarship and making the heroic last second game winning reception during the 2016 National Championship; he is now an NFL player.

So how does one develop grit even if you’re not a Clemson football player? Positive psychology experts recommend the following:

  • Develop a passion. A big component of grit is perseverance. Few people are willing to work tirelessly on something in which they’re completely uninterested. Research has shown that people have much greater work satisfaction and job performance when they do
    something that fits with their personal interests. However, it’s unlikely that people try something and immediately know that it’s what they want to do for the rest of their life. An Interest has to be developed and deepened before it becomes a passion.
  • Practice Deliberately. Practice doesn’t always lead to mastery. What is it that sets apart those who achieve extraordinary levels of mastery in their fields? They don’t just practice; they practice deliberately. Here’s how to do it:
  1. Set a stretch goal (a goal that exceeds your current level of skill)
  2. Practice with full concentration and effort
  3. Look for immediate and informative feedback
  4. Repeat with reflection and refinement
  • Focus on Purpose. At the heart of purpose is the idea that what you do matters, not just to yourself but to others. Purpose has a pro-social focus. In any activity, there are bound to be setbacks and moments of boredom, doubt, anxiety, and disappointment. We’re more likely to push through the hard times if our efforts give us meaning and contribute to something larger than ourselves.

Researchers have found a correlation between grit and purpose. Grittier individuals were more motivated to seek meaning in their lives, and the contribution of their efforts to the lives of others revealed a powerful source of motivation. One way of focusing on your purpose is to seek out the pro-social benefits of whatever it is that you do. Doing so is linked to greater satisfaction at work and in life.

 

Swinney is known for giving impassioned speeches during post-game interviews, and coming up with catch phrases on the fly that turn into mantras- “Bring your Own Guts” and “All In” being a few that come to mind.

During the 2018 National Championship parade and celebration in Clemson after the Tigers returned home from California, Swinney said the following: “Why not little ole Clemson? Somebody’s going to be 15-0 one days, so why not Clemson?…I challenged these guys with this quote, ‘So what you can vividly imagine and ardently believe and enthusiastically act upon, will inevitably come to be. The 2018 team is the best ever… It’s not that we won- it’s how we won.’”

 

Challenge yourself to take a page from Swinney’s playbook, focus on what you can “vividly imagine, ardently believe, and enthusiastically act upon”. You may surprise yourself and others, the same way “little ole Clemson” has.

 

Kelly Broadwater, executive director of Chrysalis, is a second generation Clemson Alumni and die hard Tiger fan. She has been known to use sports analogies in her work with clients and believes Positive Psychology concepts create “wins” in and out of the therapy office.



I‘m back today on the blog after learning more about Kelly Lehman, who just joined our staff last month. Kelly is a Licensed Professional Counselor who treats children, adolescents, and adults. Her areas of special interest include eating disorders, addictive behaviors, military issues (including deployments, readjustments/reintegration, and PTSD), anxiety, OCD, and marriage/couples counseling. Additionally, Kelly works well with patients who are experiencing chronic pain or have experienced medical trauma. To schedule your first appointment with Kelly Lehman, call our office at (910) 790-9500 or email administration@chrysaliscenter-nc.com. 

~ Alexis Hunter, Director of Professional Relations

Why did you decide to become a therapist?

I decided to become a therapist because I know personally how life can throw challenges at you. None of us are exempt from experiencing trials in life, and when they do occur, there is tremendous value in having a support system outside of family and friends. I have always enjoyed creating genuine, authentic relationships with people, and being able to encourage and help others is something I feel compelled to do. I feel incredibly honored to be able to serve in the role of therapist, and I take the responsibility that comes with it very seriously.

I’ve never been to therapy. What should I expect during therapy appointments with you?

I want to create a therapeutic environment that feels relaxed and natural. I am a very down to earth person, and I appreciate ‘realness.’ I provide an honest, accepting atmosphere where my clients can feel safe being who they are genuinely. I also want them to know that they will get honesty from me. I know how imperfect I am, so I make every effort not to judge another person for past life events, current circumstances, future aspirations, or emotional/behavioral struggles. While I have education and experience that can be of value to my clients, I know that I am not omniscient. I rely on my clients to share their own expertise into who they are. I value the therapeutic relationship and like to have a partnership with my clients. As a therapist, I am not a dictator, rather a facilitator. My clients should expect our sessions to be an accepting environment where they can receive education, guidance, and support. Ultimately, change is in their hands. My job is simply to encourage and facilitate that change.

What is different about talking to a therapist than talking to a good friend?

Friends and family are an amazing resource and provide a tremendous support to someone in need. A therapist can also provide this, although the relationship is a bit different from that of a friend. A therapist is likely to be more objective and can provide feedback that is not emotionally rooted. It is very easy for friends or family to become overwhelmed or frustrated by client circumstances; therefore, they may respond out of their own emotion. Their ability to remain neutral may become cloudy. They also may not have the communication skills or understanding of mental health issues to effectively support the individual in a manner that encourages personal growth. Additionally, many clients may find it comforting to share personal issues with a ‘stranger,’ so they can be completely honest without fear of retaliation, hurt feelings, judgment, or awkwardness.

What book are you reading, or podcast are you listening to right now?

I just finished reading It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst.

Fun Fact:

If you stepped through my front door, you would immediately realize that I am a huge animal lover. At this time, I have cats and dogs, but if I can one day convince my husband, I would love to include a pygmy goat and alpaca to my pack.

 



Today’s edition introduces you to Ed Cochard. He is currently accepting new clients and sees adolescents 14+, adults, couples, and families at our office. He is in network with BCBS, Medcost, Aetna, and Tricare. 

Ed is a licensed psychological associate who has served in clinical and administrative roles while providing individual, family, couples, and group counseling in inpatient psychiatric, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and office settings. He has experience treating both mental health and substance abuse issues with a broad range of clients from adolescents to older adults. His areas of clinical focus include treatment of anxiety and mood disorders, anger management, eating disorders, behavioral disorders, and substance use disorders. Ed utilizes a blend of cognitive behavioral therapy, solution-focused therapy, reality therapy, and motivational interviewing in his treatment approach.

Why did you decide to become a therapist?

 I’ve always been the guy that people have turned to for support-even as a kid.  Helping people has always been natural to me and something I have enjoyed doing.  It was a natural progression for me to turn it into meaningful career.

I’ve never been to therapy. What should I expect during therapy appointments with you?  

Validation, honesty and unconditional support are central to my approach.  Everyone wants to be heard and understood-especially in times of struggle.  I also believe everyone appreciates caring honesty and a direct approach.  This helps with building a therapeutic relationship based upon trust.  My clients learn that I care and that they can trust what I say-and that I will also provide little nudges towards progress and success.  Sessions with me will also always be filled with humor, and when appropriate and necessary, laughter.  

What is different about talking to a therapist than talking to a good friend?

Support from a good friend is vital to one’s well-being and growth, and talking to a good friend(s) is always encouraged.  Adding a therapist to your social support network is helpful in order to gain someone with more of a clinical perspective with your concerns.  A therapist tends to have experience and training in a great many areas and can provide support, guidance and assistance that is not available through other social supports.

Fun Fact:

I am a huge sports fan!  I grew up outside of Philadelphia so my office is adorned with paraphernalia from Philly teams.  I am also a great lover of the beach. I spend a lot of time on the beach just soaking in the atmosphere.

 

If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Ed, call our office at (910) 790-9500 or email administration@chrysaliscenter-nc.com.



Alexis Hunter is the Director of Professional Relations at Chrysalis Center. She serves in a hybrid role of overseeing all aspects of Human Resources and Marketing.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be introducing you to some of our clinical staff. I want you to get to know our team so that when you make the first step in scheduling with a therapist, you may have an idea of who to see. Thinking of making that first step? Call our office today at (910) 790-9500 or email administration@chrysaliscenter-nc.com.

Emily Lockamy is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in grief and loss, mood disorders, and eating disorders.

Why did you decide to become a therapist?

I have always been so interested in people’s inner landscapes and relational dynamics. It’s what led me to study theater in college, where I was introduced to the field of drama therapy. Learning about how the creative arts can be used as a vehicle for healing inspired my desire to become a counselor. It’s remarkable to me how resilient humans are, and how impactful therapy can be at helping individuals unlock their potential. I feel so fortunate to be able to use my background and training to help people overcome struggles and improve the quality of their lives.

I’ve never been to therapy. What should I expect during therapy appointments with you?

You can expect to be met with warmth, acceptance, and understanding. You can expect to learn a lot about yourself and your worldview. And, you can expect to gain new ways of thinking, relating, and coping that can promote more effective functioning, more meaningful connections, and a greater sense of fulfillment.

As a person-centered counselor, I consider clients to be the “experts” on their lives. Each session I listen attentively and with empathy to their experience. I ask questions and provide insights aimed at helping my clients move through grief, identify inner conflicts, process difficult events, challenge maladaptive patterns, manage and alleviate symptoms, clarify their values, cultivate self-compassion, and develop new perceptions that better serve them. I offer coping skills, resources, and homework as needed.

I feel honored to hold space for my clients’ pain and support them in enacting positive change. I reassure new clients that there’s a reason I have a box of tissues next to the couch – it’s more than okay to cry and “fall apart” in counseling. It’s also okay to laugh (and there’s more of that in therapy than you might imagine!). In fact, allowing the experience of vulnerability by accepting and expressing emotions without judgment is an integral part of freeing oneself from suffering and distress.

What is different about talking to a therapist than talking to a good friend?

Therapy can often be mistaken for a space in which people “just talk” or “vent” about their problems, as they would with a good friend. But there are major differences between working with a counselor and talking to a good friend (something that’s healthy and important in its own right!). A counselor can offer a more objective perspective using evidence-based practices tailored to an individual’s support needs and strengths, and informed by years of education and training in counseling psychology theory and research. This means that each remark or response from a qualified counselor (whether it’s a question, reflection, or moment of silence) is intentional and grounded in a therapeutic intervention or approach that is shown to facilitate healthier coping and to guide people towards personal growth.

In addition, the therapeutic alliance is not reciprocal in the same way a friendship is. The hour you spend with a counselor is all about you, so there’s no need to feel like you’re over-sharing or “burdening” someone with your concerns. Therapy’s also not “effortless” (the way some friendships can feel). It’s a process that takes work, patience, practice, and commitment. And like most pursuits in life, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get back.

What book are you reading, or podcast are you listening to right now?

In addition to reading clinical literature that keeps me engaged and up to date in my field, I love reading literary fiction and am always in the midst of a novel. I just finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and am about to start Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao. My three favorite novels that I’ve read this year are: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee. To me, reading adds so much depth and richness to life and I love sharing book recommendations with clients who also enjoy reading and use it as a coping mechanism.

Fun Fact about Emily…

Emily is a proud mom to two little boys and spends most of her time outside of work at the park, playground, and soccer field.


chrysalis
19/Jun/2019

Today’s blog is written by Lauren Francis, Master’s Level Psychology Intern at Chrysalis Center. Lauren completed her course work for her Master’s Degree at Appalachian State University in April and is fulfilling her field placement requirements at our office as a Recovery Advocate for IOP and as an individual therapist offering pro-bono counseling.



Remember this scene from the movie Mean Girls? So many women can relate to this scene because, unfortunately, it is what many women do. We often put ourselves down for the way our bodies look or the food we eat. It has become such a natural part of conversation that most people don’t even realize they are doing it. I mean, what do we expect? The media tells us we must meet standards that are not achievable and that we should not stop pushing ourselves until we look like the airbrushed, PhotoShopped models in our favorite magazines. But those goals are unrealistic and dangerous. I am here to tell you to remember that no one looks like those pictures in the magazines, not even the models themselves.

It makes sense that women would come up with this sort of defense mechanism to combat the guilt and shame that society says you should feel for not having the “perfect body.” In fact, there is even a name for this phenomenon – fat talk. Mimi Nichter coined the term fat talk (3) and defines it as conversations one has with family or peers involving statements that shame her own body shape or weight. Research shows that fat talk endorses the thin ideal and is a prevalent form of communication within female friend groups (1,2,4,5). Some of the most commonly reported topics involved in fat talk consist of conversations regarding dieting and working out (1). Other common statements that can be considered fat talk are declarations such as “I’m so fat” or “my thighs look huge in these shorts” (3).

Significant positive correlations have found between higher levels of fat talk and disordered eating in friend groups. Additionally, those who reported more exposure to fat talk also reported more participation in fat talk later on (2). This suggests that once individuals are exposed to fat talk, they are more likely to participate in fat talk themselves, and therefore develop a higher risk for engagement in disordered eating behaviors. The occurrence of fat talk — in most forms — seems to promote rumination surrounding negative feelings one may have about his or her body. This ruminative thought process has the potential to turn into co-rumination, or the tendency to extensively discuss problems, concerns, or negative feelings with peers, which has been found to be significantly associated with increases in disordered eating behaviors (5). Conversely, it has been shown that individuals who have diagnosed eating disorders participate in fat talk significantly more frequently than those who are not diagnosed with an eating disorder (4) speaking to the bidirectional nature of this issue.

While research related to fat talk is still in the beginning stages, based on what we know so far, it seems that this seemingly harmless form of communication is much more dangerous than we once thought. So, what can we do to stop it? Well, the first step is being informed. Having a term for what you are hearing and then, understanding its impact, are essential in making a difference. Secondly, try acting as an advocate to end fat talk. When you hear a friend or family member saying negative things about their bodies, have them read this blog or explain what you know about fat talk to them. Finally, send positive messages to those around you. Make statements about peoples’ intelligence or strengths rather than their physical appearance. It is time to start empowering each other to realize that what truly matters is much more than what we see in the mirror.

Image result for fat talk

1)Bardone-Cone, A. M., Balk, M., Lin, S. L., Fitzsimmons-Craft, E. E., & Goodman, E. L. (2016). Female friendships and relations with disordered eating. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 35, 781-805. doi:10.1521/jscp.2016.35.9.781

2)Cruwys, T., Leverington, C. T., & Sheldon, A. M. (2016). An experimental investigation of the consequences and social functions of fat talk in friendship groups. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49, 84-91. doi:10.1002/eat.22446

3)Nichter, M. (2000). Fat talk: What girls and their parents say about dieting. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

4)Ousley, L., Cordero, E. D., & White, S. (2008). Fat talk among college students: How undergraduates communicate regarding food and body weight, shape & appearance. Eating Disorders, 16, 73-84. doi:10.1080/10640260701773546

5)Rudiger, J. A. & Winstead, B. A. (2013). Body talk and body-related co-rumination: Associations with body image, eating attitudes, and psychological adjustment. Body Image, 10, 462-471. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.07.010



The National Eating Disorder Association coined today, May 6, the first No Diet Day and we are happy to participate in rejecting diet culture!

Do you feel inundated with food and diet recommendations?  Should I eat small frequent meals to keep my metabolism going or should I consider intermittent fasting?

Are you confused with conflicting messages about what to eat?  Should I choose a primarily plant-based diet or jump on the low-carb band wagon eating large portions of meat?

 

Consider getting away from these confusing messages, black and white rules, and the latest restrictive diet that is likely not based on scientific fact.  Learning to become a more mindful eater and taking the non-diet approach can take time, perhaps professional support, and a new language.  Let’s take a closer look at what this new language looks like….

 

Common words circulated in diet-oriented thoughts include: calories, points, temptations, rules, rigid, portion size, willpower, fear, guilt, deprivation, skinny, failing, and feeling in or out of control.

Mindful eating thoughts include: nourishment, flexibility, hunger, learning, trusting, freedom, pleasure, aware, insightful, experimenting, quality, fuel, nourishment, and feeling in charge.

 

Our bodies have an incredible ability to communicate with us and self-regulate; I encourage you to turn inward to listen to how your body is communicating with you.  You can learn to trust yourself. Our bodies may ache for movement and stretching… honor this. Our bodies have internal cues of hunger and satiety, thus allowing you to determine when and how much to eat.  Listen to your body and how it feels after eating certain foods, be curious rather than judgmental.  Use nutrition information as a tool rather than a weapon.  Being perfect isn’t necessary, learn from your choices.  Discover ways that your body talks to you.  Crave feeling good and be willing to take small steps in that direction.

Compassion, love and kindness are essential in any healthy relationship; bring them to the relationship your building with food and your body. Then, you’re on the track to a non-diet approach.

 

Chaundra Evans, RD, LDN, CEDRD-S is a certified eating disorder registered dietitian who specializes in mindful eating, a non-diet approach to weight management, and helping people find a healthy relationship with food. 



Today’s blog is written by Alex Hussey, a dietetic intern who is completing her degree at East Carolina University. Alex shadowed individual sessions and helped to facilitate IOP meal and nutrition groups while at Chrysalis. 

Courtesy Lumina News

You’ve seen the advertisements everywhere. “How to Get A Beach Body By Summer”, and every other cover title along that line on magazines everywhere. But getting a beach body can be a lot easier than these magazines make it out to be. I’ll list the steps right now in this diagram:

Here’s where things can get tricky…

Do you love your body? Are you accepting of it? Are able to understand and respect the needs of your body?

Instead, the magazines should print, “How to Love Your Body at the Beach, Mountains, School, Work, or In Literally Any Location”

Courtesy Rueters

These steps are a little bit harder than the ones previously listed. It’s more prevalent for women to dislike their bodies than it is for them to like them. We often compare our bodies to unrealistic expectations. This is a growing problem with constant social media access and exposure to “Instagram Influencers”. The majority of the influencers are using photo editing software to enhance their appearance and we are only exposed to the final product when they post. While these influencers still possess their own beauty, we have to learn to accept the beauty of others without questioning our own.

 

 

What Can We Do?

We should talk to ourselves the way we would talk to a good friend; always encouraging her, being accepting of her flaws and acknowledging her accomplishments. We can eat well and often, eat a balanced, healthy diet and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. We can find joy in movement. Just enjoy a stroll in the sun because it’s scientifically proven to improve your mood. Stay positive, when you start feeling the “doom and gloom” feeling, make a list of everything you are grateful for. Use positive affirmations for even little things. When we are taking care of ourselves and responding to our needs, we will see the positive outcomes in various forms, your skin might be glowing, your smile might be bigger, you might be more outgoing. Whatever it is, when you are able to accept your body for all the wonderful things it is and does, we become happier.

After all, the best body we can get (at the beach or not), is one we love.



Did you know that Wednesday of this week was Registered Dietitians Day? I wanted to take time to acknowledge our wonderful team of dietitians at Chrysalis because every day feels like RD day to us; quite literally, we could not do our jobs without them!

All professional practice guidelines for eating disorder treatment state that a multidisciplinary team approach, which includes nutritional care with a registered dietitian, is the gold standard. In addition, the Joint Commission actually requires any organization that is accredited for the treatment of eating disorders (which Chrysalis is) to provide nutritional assessment and “nutritional rehabilitation” to their patients. Furthermore, all disciplines within the field of mental health (psychology, social work, and professional counseling) have a portion of their ethics code that addresses scope of practice. This means that any therapist who treats eating disorders (or other medical conditions requiring nutritional counseling) has to be referring to and collaborating with a registered dietitian in order to be complying with their ethics. Simply put, mental health clinicians are not allowed to treat what we aren’t trained in!

While all our dietitians are extremely competent in treating eating disorders, they each have unique specialties they offer to diversify the nutrition services we can offer at Chrysalis. Chaundra Evans, RD, LDN, CEDRD-S is also an expert in the care of weight loss surgery patients and is certified in adult weight management. She offers a compassionate, non-diet approach to those with binge eating disorder, emotional eating, and medical conditions due to obesity. Chaundra is an outstanding public speaker who has presented locally, regionally, and nationally on topics related to eating disorder treatment and bariatrics.

Terri Mozingo, RD, LDN, CEDRD is the Director of Nutrition for our Intensive Outpatient Program, chosen for this role because of her wealth of experience treating eating disorders at higher levels of care, including inpatient settings. She is especially passionate about working with patients with complex medical issues given her background in hospital-based nutrition. Terri is also an expert in pediatric nutrition, treating children and adolescents with a wide variety of presenting concerns and is certified in child and adolescent weight management. She provides education to kids and their parents to offer a non-diet, shame-free approach to treating pediatric obesity.

Sarah Voegtle, RD, LDN, CSSD rounds out our team with expertise in sports nutrition and food allergies, holding specialized certifications in both areas. Sarah has extensive knowledge and is passionate about offering nutritional counseling and eating disorder treatment to military service members and their loved ones, having previously worked on Camp Lejeune with this population. She is also an integral member of our Intensive Outpatient team, providing nutrition groups and meal groups in that program.

It is often a misconception that a client has to be in therapy at Chrysalis to see one of our dietitians. All three of our team members accept outside referrals and gladly collaborate with any referring party, whether it be a mental health clinician or a medical provider. In addition, to participate in our IOP, a patient does not have to see one of our dietitians individually; our nutrition director will communicate with any outpatient dietitian to ensure that a participant’s meal plan is being met.

Chrysalis Center’s mission is to offer expert level, integrative, evidence-based treatment to all of our clients. Hopefully after reading this, you see why our dynamic group of RDs is crucial to the success of our program and to healthy outcomes for our clients. Thanks Chaundra, Terri, and Sarah for all you do! Learn more about our dietitians here.

 

Kelly Broadwater, LPA, LPC, CEDS-S is the founder and executive director of Chrysalis Center. A certified eating disorders specialist, she has had the privilege of working side by side with registered dietitians her entire career.



For as long as I can remember, my life has been directed by two things: My weight and food. I always wanted to be thin because in my mind thinness was equal to acceptance. As a little girl, I constantly compared myself to my friends. I was never the “skinniest” and I hated that. At age 11, I went on my first diet with my mother. I lost weight very quickly, and people took notice. The compliments were addictive…” Wow, Sarah you look so good” ….” Someone is losing their baby fat” ….” Sarah is really coming into her own” … I was hooked. I’d never felt such confirmation. And so, I started my new life as a “dieter.” I tried all the fad diets and my weight yo-yoed for years. My relationship with food was horrible. My relationship with the scale was even worse.

By my fifteenth birthday all thoughts and actions revolved around food. The servings on my plate were tiny and I would run for miles a day to burn off what little calories I consumed. I was officially out of control. My clothes hung off me, my periods stopped completely; I looked skeletal. My mother took me to my pediatrician for my yearly exam and he exclaimed “if you continue like this you are going to die. “He urged my mother to seek professional help for me immediately.  I agreed to go to treatment and my mother set an appointment with my very first therapist.

She was sweet, but not very knowledgeable about eating disorders. She did not ask me to meet with a nutritionist. Instead, she and my parents developed a plan to fill the home with candy, cakes, chips, anything I used to eat that was full of calories and unfortunately lacking nutrients. I wanted to succeed in treatment. I have always been a people-pleaser and wanted to make my parents proud. I ate what was asked of me and more. I carried around a book bag full of chips, snack cakes and chocolate. This is how I learned to binge. I would eat all day. Many times, to a point of extreme discomfort. My parents were elated. My therapist praised me for my efforts. It was not long after my weight restored that I was considered “recovered”. My weight was back to normal, so all was well, right? My therapist and parents agreed I was “cured” and no longer in need of treatment….so I stopped going….

….and I continued to binge. I learned it could be just as mind-numbing as restriction. My weight climbed to a point that was unhealthy for me. I felt totally out of control. My eating disorder told me I could take it back by purging. This took various forms: either by restriction, over-exercise or making myself throw up. For years and years, I found myself in a binge/restriction cycle. Over time I assumed it was normal; and because I did not look emaciated my behaviors went unquestioned. This is how I lived for most of my life. I was detached and isolated. As far as I was concerned, this was good enough.

Time went by and I lived my life, but I was bound by the rules set by my eating disorder.  A few years after I got married my husband and I decided we wanted to try to have a baby. I had a very difficult time getting pregnant. At the time I could not see the correlation between my weight and infertility. I assumed I was unable to get pregnant without medical intervention. I started fertility meds and eventually got pregnant. At first, I thought I would be fine, that my maternal instincts would over-come my disorder. Certainly, I would be fine with the weight gain for the sake of my baby, I thought.

How wrong I was.

I found myself in a very dangerous place after I conceived. I lost weight my first trimester due to morning sickness and something inside me snapped. Terrified of weight gain, I became very restrictive. I could not eat what I needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Around my third month of pregnancy I realized what a bad situation I was in. I spoke to my doctor about the severity of my situation. She told me about a program in Wilmington that specifically treated eating disorders. She referred me to Chrysalis, thank God.

I started to see a therapist and nutritionist regularly. I was amazed at the difference in this treatment episode! They were so knowledgeable and capable! For the first time in my life, I felt understood, I felt hope.

I would love to say that I was immediately healed and gained the weight recommended for a healthy pregnancy, but anorexia is a very powerful disease. I was still underweight when I gave birth. I was anemic throughout my pregnancy and was very thin. Thankfully, I carried my son to term and he was born at a healthy weight. We were very lucky.

When my son was born I was determined to breastfeed which made meeting my treatment goals very difficult.  Over-whelmed with caring for a newborn, I clung to my disorder for comfort. After months of this with no improvement I realized I may need a higher level of care. I spoke to my nutritionist about inpatient…but after we spoke I realized going away would mean being away from my precious baby for months. I would miss his first words, his first steps. But then I had a thought that turned out to be the reality check I needed: I was going to miss out on all those things and so much more if I didn’t step it up in treatment.

 

So, I did the work. I pushed myself even when I thought I had nothing to give. Little by little I started making progress. I learned to cope with my disorder. I gained tools, faced my fears, and rediscovered who I am without anorexia. One day my nutritionist told me about a film called “Embrace.” It taught me about appreciating my body for what it can do rather than what it looks like. I never thought about it that way. I’d always seen my body as purely ornamental. I can now appreciate and love my body for its capabilities! For the first time in my life I am living!  I am eternally grateful to my counselor, my nutritionist, and the Chrysalis Center. They played a monumental part in helping me get my life back. In the past two years I have started to learn to love myself unconditionally. There are no words to express the value in that. I will continue to push myself and work toward a life that is free from my disorder because it is worth it! I am worth it!

 



Today’s story comes from a man who wants to take an opportunity to share his journey regarding how his obsession with nutrition became one of his life’s struggles and how he was able to overcome the issues that developed.

Growing up as a kid, athletic performance was at the very top of my life’s priority list.  I was taught that dedication and extreme discipline would allow me to separate myself from my peers and help me reach greater goals.  These principles proved to be true as I saw success in high school and college athletics.  After college, I no longer had competitive basketball to fulfill my drive, so I turned to a focus on working out and weight lifting.  I had always lifted weights but now I was doing it for different reason.  Previously, the motivation was performance based, but now there was more of an aesthetic motivation.  I implemented my dedicated and disciplined characteristics into this endeavor and found that nutrition played a huge role in helping to meet my goals.  Soon enough, the “health” component would prove to be the unhealthiest aspect of this hobby.  I became obsessed with every calorie and I wouldn’t let myself deviate, even the slightest bit.  Additionally, my friends and family came to admire this level of discipline, adding pressure to my situation.  I felt like I had a reputation to uphold as everyone was looking to me for nutrition and advice on health.  As this situation progressed, an important observation should be noted – my performance, mood, and energy all began to suffer, creating even more of a toxic situation.  Eventually, I caved.  One Sunday afternoon, I ate more calories in 6 hours than I typically would in 3 days.  The psychological effects from this binge were the worst part.  This continued on and off for a little less than a year.  During that time, food began to take over the majority of my thoughts and I felt imprisoned – it was awful.  I was constantly in a state where I was either trying to undo the damage from a binge by frantically working out for hours, or I was in continuous thought about how I would prevent the next binge.  In due course, I sought professional help and learned how to prevent these binges, but more importantly I learned how to relieve my mind from obsessing about food.

I spared a lot of details, but I wanted to share this quick story for a few different reasons.  I think it’s important that people realize that eating disorders can affect people of all different shapes and sizes.  I was doing my worst, when I was physically looking my best.  I was striving for “perfection” while I should’ve been striving for balance.  Since altering my mindset, I have been much happier and healthier physically and mentally.  Also, I can’t stress enough, the importance of seeking help.  Understanding the how and why wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of someone who had professional experience in this space.   I encourage anyone who is struggling to seek guidance – every problem has a solution!


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