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!

Our story today comes from a woman who shows us that recovery is a journey that IS possible. Are you ready to start your journey to recovery


NEDA week has finally arrived, and this year, the initiative is “Come As You Are.”  When I take a closer look at the theme, my focus is drawn to the action word that begins the phrase, “come.”  To me, recovery is largely about action.  A wise therapist once told me that to get different results, you have to do different things…aka make changes.  Easier said than done when most people, including myself, would rather spend decades deciphering ancient hieroglyphics than change.  So, why do it?  What’s the point of recovery?  And really, what is this fabled recovery?


To understand what recovery truly is, I believe that we have to take a serious inventory.  Don’t worry, you will not be subject to any management accounting quizzes.  By inventory, I mean more of a self-analysis.  A lot of people share what recovery is like for them, discussing what they have endured and how life is better for them now, after achieving recovery.  But I have trouble translating others’ stories in to something tangible for me.  Their experience is theirs, my life is mine.


This is where the inventory comes in handy.  Recovery is meaningless unless it applies to you, so make it applicable to you.  Honestly analyze all aspects of your day, your life, your health and your physical/emotional/mental well-being.  Caution: self-analysis takes work, and time (therapy is critical here)…but again, we can’t make worthwhile changes unless we have an accurate understanding of what we have, and what we need.


Once you have a clear inventory, aka a snapshot of your current status, you can be really truthful with yourself.  Think: is this what I want for myself?  Am I happy?  Do I feel good?  How do I relate to people around me?  Are there limits I need to enact anywhere?   Am I setting myself up for meaningful connection with others, and myself?  Only you can answer these, and many other questions.  The answers then become the bedrock for your recovery and your why.


Your “why” is your motivation, your reason(s) for making adjustments.  And it’s OK if your why morphs over time.  It’s yours…it can be whatever you want.  But make sure it’s something that you can cling to during challenges.  This is the logic behind taking action, making change, coming as you are…you aren’t going to do it unless you have a strong reason why and an understanding of what needs to be done.


Turning away from an eating disorder is slow, grueling work.  Day after day, hour after hour, decisions must be made that either align with your why, or not.  Recovery for me is an in-the-trenches process where I force myself to choose the path that’s parallel with my why, NOT the eating disorder.  I have to be gritty and stubborn and remain focused on the foundation of my new actions.  It helps to ask for help, to be surrounded by support and reminded that I’m not alone, because I’m not.  The first step, along with every subsequent step, has to start with you.  You have to come as you are, and you definitely can.  Choose life, I promise that it’s worth it.



Today we share the second client story in the series for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week where we are asked to “Come As You Are” to share stories about all types of eating disorders. 

Three stays and three diagnoses later (anorexia, EDNOS, and bulimia) and I am here to tell the tale. Why? I am not sure, but by the grace of God. It has been a long battle. One that still isn’t over. But as I am now, I can promise it gets better with time, distance, and healing.


I don’t really know where to begin. I guess the beginning would make sense but that goes way back. To paint a clear picture I’ll start in middle school. The other kids are outside at recess. I am stuck in the classroom pushing food around which I dare not eat. You see, the teachers and my parents have already had the conversation. The one that says “your daughter isn’t eating.” I’m in the middle of a long, serious, battle with anorexia. At the time I would not confess nor admit it to myself and certainly not to anyone else. This battle continues for years on end. Fast forward. I am 18-yrs-old. I walk through the doors at Chrysalis, terrified. There I am officially diagnosed. Fast forward again. I just graduated college at age 22. Time for a long seven-month inpatient stay at a treatment center. Tubes come and go, and finally I am released. Mentally still really struggling but physically going through the motions of being okay. It doesn’t last though. I ship off again. This time to a place called Castlewood for six months, but who is counting? Again, I go through the motions. Even begin to heal. Again, I become sick. I go back. Third time’s the charm? I hope so.

Now, I walk through the doors at Chrysalis, but not because I am starving, purging, working out to the point of exhaustion, or using a multitude of other negative coping strategies. I walk through the doors not because all I can think about is food and calories; I walk through those doors because I want life rather than mere existence. I want to be the best version of myself possible. I want to be a better woman than I was yesterday. And, I want to understand yesterday’s pain more deeply. I walk through those doors not because I am isolated and all alone. I walk in because I have so many dear friends who are in the battle, too. So many beautiful souls, who like me, do not deserve the cards they have been dealt.

Life isn’t fair or easy. But I am glad I have life. Now, on the bad days I skip meals and fight with my wardrobe. On the good days, I am truly learning to love myself inside and out. I am still waiting for the body image piece to get better. I believe it will. Everything else has. I am no longer anxious every time I sit down to eat. I no longer just go through the motions. Hell, sometimes I even enjoy food. I smile and mean it. I use my voice over my actions to tell people when I am not okay. And I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come. And so, I come through those doors as I am. Not as I was. Nothing more, nothing less than I am here and now. That’s all I can do. I invite you to do the same.

Chrysalis Center is proud to participate in National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week again this year. Every year, the last week of February, NEDA strives to create awareness about all forms of eating disorders in an effort to promote healing, provide resources and education, and to help the general public become more aware of the spectrum of eating disorders so those suffering from the disease can find a path to full recovery.  

This year’s theme is “Come As You Are”. NEDA wants all those who have or had an eating disorder to have a voice and share stories, so we are happy to provide a platform for people to do that. This week – we will share stories written by clients who want to help others. Just like eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities, so will our stories. Do you have a story to share? Has your journey just begun? If you need help along the way, please contact our office and we’ll be happy to help you find your path to recovery.


Journey is often described as an act of traveling from one place to another.  What you are about to read is my personal journey of overcoming my eating disorder.  I remember the first time I sat down with a professional, I told them that I didn’t have an eating disorder but that sometimes I stress eat.  That statement is so far from what I know now to be true.  I was at a point in my life where binge eating had consumed my emotions; my every thought; and, controlled most of my decisions.  What was I going to have at this meal?  Would I have enough food to last me through the work day?  I’m stressed, so I “need” to eat this to help me calm down.  These never ending thoughts held me captive for so long, and I didn’t even realize it at that point in time.  I had tried all the “diets” and exercise programs to help me become a healthier version of myself.  All it led me to was more binge eating, more shame and guilt, and a lower sense of self worth.

When I started seeking help, I was numb emotionally, but open minded and motivated to change.  Meeting with the registered dietitian completely changed my life, and I am so grateful for it.  Lesson 1: add a grain to my meal.  Lesson 2: add a vegetable or fruit to my meal.  I thought, “alright, how hard can that be?”  Slowly, but surely each lesson I learned created a foundation that is now my plan for living and eating mindfully each meal of the day.   Upon each lesson, I was able to gain confidence and control with what I was eating.

When I started, I would think, “well I’m not giving up this or I’m not giving up that” and the dietitian would say, “I’m not asking you to, I just want to try this or this.”  This mindset was life changing for me because it took away the “all or nothing” and “black or white” principles I had been living within my whole life.  Over time, I was able to shift my mindset to become more forgiving when I ate something that didn’t make my body feel as good, feel less guilty about enjoying a brownie or cookie for a friend’s birthday, and live an overall healthier lifestyle in which my body felt good and enabled me to do more things physically.

I remember one morning recently eating a fast food breakfast biscuit while I was on the road. While I didn’t have any guilt or shame, I found that I missed the fruits and grains that were in my day-to-day routine and that I actually preferred these newfound foods that didn’t exist within my day-to-day prior to overcoming my eating disorder.  Throughout my sessions, my dietitian also assisted me with figuring out that tomato based sauce was contributing to my IBS.  So we tried switching me to white sauce pizza which made a huge impact on decreasing my IBS symptoms, and the amount I have to take my medication for these symptoms decreased significantly.  I also found that this mindfulness and flexibility from within my food choices started flowing over into other areas of my life, so I began enjoying exercise, because I did it my way by taking classes that were my style rather than following what society told me I had to do or should be doing.   It also led me to feel my emotions (both pleasant and unpleasant) when I had been masking them for so long by eating them away.  The ability to actually feel, process, and manage my emotions more effectively allowed me to grow into and become my true self within my personal life.

I am now recovered from my eating disorder, but I am still involved with counseling and nutrition guidance so that I can maintain living my healthiest mind, body, and soul.  The journey can be long, rocky, trying, confusing, and overwhelming, but what I can say is that when you stick with it and find your peace, it is so freeing.  You gain a clarity that is beyond what you would ever imagine.

Loving yourself can seem like an impossible task because we are really good at judging ourselves. We judge and criticize our looks, what we say, how we feel, how we act. In fact, we usually wouldn’t say our darkest thoughts about ourselves to our worst enemy. Some of these thoughts we may have even had since we were a kid. It almost seems as though it’s hardwired into our brain. But how we treat ourselves makes a big difference to our overall health. So where do you start? How do you start to love yourself?

Compassion. Having compassion for ourselves can decrease depression, anxiety, and even shame. Before practicing for yourself, I invite you to think about an experience where you have had compassion for someone else. What did compassion look like? You don’t have to have the same experience as someone to recognize and empathize with their suffering. When someone is suffering, our compassion towards them allows us to respond with kindness, with care and without judgement. It allows us to understand what they are going through regardless of their failures or mistakes. Compassion allows a space for human connection with someone which is what we’re all really looking for, right?


Self-compassion is the exact same thing but turned on to ourselves; having kindness and understanding for your suffering, without judgement or criticism. It also includes being kind and understanding to yourself, even when you fail or make a mistake. It allows a space for a genuine connection to yourself. Next time you experience suffering or emotional distress, instead of judging yourself, try finding compassion. Maybe you put your hand on

your heart or say some phrase of understanding and kindness. Maybe you treat yourself to something nice, or even simply allow yourself a space to feel the emotions you’re feeling. When in doubt, think about what you would say or do if someone you love came to you when they were suffering, and then do it for yourself!

We are all human, we all have short-comings and we all deserve compassion. We deserve compassion from others, and from ourselves. This Valentine’s Day I invite everyone to open your heart to yourself and celebrate your common humanity.


For more information about Self-Compassion and how to practice:




Kaitlyn Patterson, MA, LPA is a mental health therapist at Chrysalis Center who helps her clients learn to be compassionate toward themselves as they find recovery. To schedule your first appointment with Kaitlyn, call our office at (910) 790-9500 today.

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Fri: 8AM – 4PM

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