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We know the seriousness of eating disorders; the statistics speak for themselves – over 30 million people will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder in their lifetime. And we know eating disorders are a severe mental illness, with anorexia nervosa topping the list as having the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. Staggering numbers for a mental illness that can take devastating effects on individuals and families.

Salley knows these effects all too well as she is part of the 30 million that has suffered from an eating disorder. Today she finds herself on the road to recovery, but unlike many others, anorexia has been part of Salley’s life for 45 years. Now in her 60’s, Salley is facing her disorder head-on.

The Freshman 15

Like so many, Salley developed anorexia when she began college. Freshman year is an exciting time with new friends and new experiences. But first comes orientation, then classes, and then the legendary “Freshman 15,” the 15 extra pounds that freshman women, in particular, think are destined to acquire. For Salley, this was the trigger; this is what set her life to intersect with an eating disorder. She recalls, “Everyone hears about and even dreads the “Freshman 15,” but I decided I was not going to give in, I was determined to dig my heels in and beat it.”

People often forget that eating disorders are not about food, and they are not a choice; they are a result of a much deeper issue. For Salley, it was about managing her feelings and emotions and a sense of being out of control. Like so many freshmen, Salley was immersed in the uncertainty of the new experiences and emotions that college brings – feelings of homesickness, of the fear of failure, of being inadequate, to name a few.  While Salley was feeling overwhelmed and out-of-control on the emotional roller coaster that can accompany significant life changes, she realized that she could control her eating and thereby her weight.

Salley’s first defense for what seemed to be the inevitable weight gain was to eat more healthily, a tough act considering she grew up in the South where fried food was the norm.  She became very careful about everything she ate and baked, broiled, or steamed what she could while cutting back on many of her favorite foods. Her determination to not gain weight and her fixation with healthy eating turned into orthorexia. Typically, orthorexia develops in two stages, with the first being the adoption of a healthy eating pattern, and the second developing as more foods are eliminated, and more focus is placed on food, preparing it, and planning meals. For Salley that meant her attention was initially only on healthy eating including avoiding fatty foods altogether. A little weight loss led to some more weight loss, and she began to spiral.

“I remember coming home from college and my mom’s concern. She tried to talk to me about my weight loss, but 45 years ago eating disorders weren’t on anyone’s radar. She expressed her deep concern and wanted to know how to help me,” Salley said.  Her mom tried to make sense of what was happening to her daughter, and in a desperate attempt to help, tried to bargain with her. “My mom told me, if I gained weight, she would lose some weight. She didn’t actually need to lose weight, but she didn’t know what else to do to get through to me.”

As college progressed, so did Salley’s disorder. Her orthorexia led to anorexia, and being very thin became her identity. She changed her major from early childhood education to nutrition, feeling that she could better control her weight if she understood more about nutrition in general. She graduated from college with a degree in nutrition and worked as a clinical dietitian before taking a sales position with a nutrition company.  Her focus for so long had been health; ironically, she was helping others regain and/or maintain their health, all while struggling with her eating disorder secret.

Many Birthdays Later

Years passed, and Salley was successful in her 20-year career in sales but carried her disorder with her. Through the years she also struggled with alcohol.  When she stopped drinking seven years ago, the eating disorder grew stronger dropping her weight to under 100 pounds.  As Salley turned 63 in March 2018, she realized she needed help. “I have had many birthdays, and I have lived my life entire adult life with anorexia. It finally took one person to make me realize I needed help,” she recalls. Her daughter at 27 years old was beginning to battle her own eating disorder.  Just like her mother so many years ago, Salley became deeply concerned for her daughter and didn’t want her to suffer, “I knew the path she was headed down, and I didn’t want her to go through what I had been through.”

Salley had been seeing a therapist for quite some time, and during one session she asked, “What can I do to help my daughter?” Her therapist gave her a card with the name and number of an eating disorder specialist and the message, “the best way to help your daughter is to help yourself.” Salley knew she needed help and had for quite some time, so she followed up on the referral. She began seeing the psychiatrist and attending a FED (Friends and Family of those with Eating Disorders) support group. She also began attending a second support group, ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders). Slowly she began talking about her illness but remained guarded and still more concerned about her daughter than herself.  At an ANAD meeting the therapist who was facilitating the meeting asked Salley if she would consider residential treatment; deflecting the attention, she quickly responded, “sure, why not,” and the door opened.

Magnolia Creek Offers Hope

One of Salley’s main criteria for a residential treatment facility was that it be within a 4-hour drive from Atlanta.   Her search first lead her to a facility in North Carolina, however; after several phone conversations, she realized that this facility was not a good fit.  When she called Magnolia Creek, a voice on the other end understood her struggle like no one else had. “Alycia answered the phone, and she made the difference. She understood my past struggles with alcohol just as easily as she did my anorexia. She told me both of my disorders were like Dracula sucking the life from me, and Magnolia Creek could help me, Magnolia Creek was my answer. Had it not been for that phone call with her, I don’t know if I would have come to Magnolia Creek, she is the one that made the impact.”

Salley accepted that where she was in her life was unhealthy, and Magnolia Creek was her turning point. “My daughter was my mirror, and I was originally doing it for her.  To be successful, I understood I needed to shift gears and make it about me,” she shared.  As Salley packed and prepared to leave for Magnolia Creek, she realized that her journey had become about her recovery.

“When I first arrived at Magnolia Creek, I was honestly shell-shocked. I was scared and barely putting one foot in front of the other, but I had reached a point of total surrender. Everyone at Magnolia Creek, regardless of their role, just exuded, ‘I am here to help you,’” Salley remembers.

While at Magnolia Creek, the most significant impact on her was the staff.  “I never questioned their instructions or the overall protocol. I knew these people genuinely cared about me and my recovery. Their care for me was powerful.” Salley recalls, “The staff counselors were with me day in and day out. They have a tough job.  I felt that they took me under their wing from day one; these amazing, and professional people were so kind and encouraging.  They did their job so well and made a huge difference in my recovery.”

A Healthy Place

Today Salley is home and continuing her recovery.  She has a therapist and a dietitian and attends support groups. “I am in a healthy place now and am surrounding myself with as much support as I can. I have been sick for a very long time and I know I need help to stay healthy,” she shares.

“I hear my daughter say, ‘You are so brave, Mom,’ and that supports and encourages me. She and I are very honest with each other. My journey is mine, and her journey is hers. We will support each other through this, but we can’t do each other’s work.  I now know this.”

The post Anorexia: The Real Story appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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It is hard for people to understand that eating disorders are not a choice, they are not a lifestyle. Someone with an eating disorder is not trying to garner attention; they are not choosing to battle a life-altering mental health condition.

Eating disorders are an illness that takes control over someone as they struggle with disordered beliefs about their weight and shape, lack of self-esteem, and the constant societal emphasis placed on body image. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are only some of the eating disorders affecting someone’s physical and mental health and lead to severe consequences. 

How does an eating disorder begin?

Eating disorders don’t happen overnight; they can develop over the course of a few months or a few years. Like with any mental health condition, eating disorders, begin differently for each person. For some, it may be losing a few pounds and enjoying the way their body looks with less weight, for others it may be finding comfort in food, and still, for others, it may begin due to depression, stressful triggers, or trauma.

Those with anorexia have significant weight loss from restricting calories, often not realizing how underweight they may be and perceiving themselves as “fat,” despite a dangerously low body weight. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental health condition and claims the lives of an estimated 10-20% individuals due to complications. Associated with a distorted sense of body image, anorexia is closely linked to depression.

Bulimia is characterized by cycles of binge eating followed by purging the body of unwanted calories. The sequence can be triggered by stress, anxiety, depression, and a lack of control. Individuals who have bulimia might feel regret after a binge, but find comfort and well-being following a purge. Purging can bring a sense of control and ease in the stress and anxiety someone may be feeling.  Often consuming between 3,400 calories in as little as an hour or as many as 20,000 calories in eight hours, those with bulimia may repeat the cycle several times in a week.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. The frequent sessions of binge eating leaves individuals feeling out of control and ashamed, often leading to depression. Little is known about the cause of binge eating disorder or why it develops, but it is sometimes linked to genetic disposition, depression, anxiety, and weight discrimination.

While there is no one true cause, several combined factors can produce an eating disorder. Individuals with a family history of eating disorders are more likely to engage in eating disordered behaviors, as well as those who have a history of depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Many experts believe eating disorders develop when neurotransmitters in the brain become unbalanced, one being serotonin, which has a central role in anxiety and depression, both common in anorexia and bulimia. Brain scans have shown that individuals with these disorders get too little of serotonin.  Other contributing factors leading to eating disorders can include stress, anxiety, and substance abuse.

What about treatment?

Seeking treatment can be difficult, but can be successful in helping to recover from an eating disorder. Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder receive treatment. Eating disorders involve complex relationships between emotions, coping, food, control, and obsessions, making it difficult sometimes to recognize the problem. Many individuals, as well as their friends and family, do not see changes in eating behavior as a sign of an eating disorder. Letting go of established thought patterns and responses can be scary, and many months or years may slip by before taking the step to seek treatment.

Treatment, such as that at Magnolia Creek, can help the brain and the body heal and recover, providing someone with the ability to relearn and trust their thoughts and behaviors.  Our holistic approach utilizes evidence-based therapy such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help clients:

  • Eliminate eating disordered behaviors
  • Identify adaptive skills to cope with life stressors
  • Develop a healthy relationship with exercise
  • Restore weight (within ideal body weight range)
  • Establish healthy eating patterns a healthy relationship with food/fluids
  • Practice food-related life skills (including grocery shopping, menu planning, cooking, and appropriately portioning food)
  • Distinguish emotional and physical hunger/fullness cues
  • Identify and challenge food/body related cognitive distortions

Our professional treatment team works with each client to develop a customized treatment plan that meets their individual needs and nourishes the body and strengthens the spirit. We look beyond the symptoms and behaviors of the eating disorder to help our clients recover, and not just manage their eating disorder.

The post Did you choose your eating disorder? appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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During Alcohol Awareness Month, it is important to understand the link between substance use, such as alcohol or drugs, and eating disorders. Substance use disorders can precede the onset of an eating disorder, or develop because of an eating disorder. Those with a substance abuse disorder may develop abnormal eating behaviors, even when sober. It is estimated that nearly 50% of people with an eating disorder are also abusing drugs and/or alcohol, a rate that is five times higher than the general population. The reverse is also true as 35% of individuals who abuse alcohol or drugs have had an eating disorder.

Individuals with bulimia compulsively binge on large amounts of food and purge their calories through vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics, or excessive exercise. They have a far greater tendency to abuse drugs or alcohol than those suffering from anorexia or binge eating disorder.

What is the connection though between an eating disorder and substance abuse?

Eating Disorders and substance abuse share several of the same risk factors such as brain chemistry, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.  While there is no concrete evidence on why the two often exist together, it is suggested they often co-occur because of the following:

  • Self-medication: Individual suffering from eating disorders will often use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate when suffering from depression, low self-esteem, or negative body image. Others may self-medicate to deal with mood swings, to satisfy cravings, or to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Weight Control: For those with anorexia, caffeine, nicotine, diet pills, and stimulants can suppress appetite and increase metabolism. On the other hand, those with bulimia may abuse diuretics, stimulants, or laxatives for purging purposes. Alcohol is often used to limit calorie intake when suffering from an eating disorder.
  • Coping Mechanism: Individuals will also use food and substances to cope with stressors such as recovery, or compensate for the lack of chemical reinforcement.
How do you know if there is a problem?

Eating disorders are serious mental health disorders that can have life-threatening consequences. Each type of eating disorder has its signs and symptoms, however, may have several signs or symptoms. All eating disorders can involve problematic behaviors related to eating and body image.

Like eating disorders, substance use disorders can also have life-threatening consequences. Signs and symptoms of addiction may vary depending on the substance and the individual. However, the most common signs of addiction include:

  • Taking drugs or alcohol in more significant amounts and for longer than intended
  • Loss of interest in friends and activities
  • Secretive behaviors and lying
  • Increased need for cash
  • Excessive absenteeism from work or school
  • Changes in sleep pattern or appetite
  • Sudden onset of mood swings
  • Nausea, sweating or shaking
  • Deterioration of physical appearance
Treating an Eating Disorder and a Substance Use Disorder

When an eating disorder co-occurs with a substance use disorder, treatment and recovery can become more complicated. Comprehensive treatment is needed from professionals with expertise in both issues. At Magnolia Creek, we treat co-occurring substance use disorder that is secondary to an eating disorder. Our holistic treatment program is comprehensive and strengths-based, incorporating the principles of 12-step recovery and requiring individuals to attend at least three 12-step meetings per week.

Our certified and trained professionals work with individuals to identify triggers and develop coping skills to manage those triggers, while at the same time addressing the underlying eating disorder that fuels the substance abuse. Through a program that emphasizes self-acceptance, validation, and personal empowerment, our goal is to help individuals establish abstinence from substances and begin maintaining recovery. Clients play an active role in treatment and work with their treatment team to develop a customized plan that identifies treatment goals and the support needed to achieve and maintain the desired change. Magnolia Creek instills a sense of hope and empowerment as clients learn recovery is possible.

The post Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse: Is there a connection? appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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“You would be a knockout if you lost weight.”

“You need to eat and put some meat on your bones.”

“There is no way that is going to fit you.”

“Are you really going to eat all that?”

“You are SO fat!”

“Your body is disgusting.”

Words matter, and have the power to hurt. Even when we don’t realize it, words can cause someone to pause and pursue unrealistic expectations about their body. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, about 65% of people with eating disorders say that bullying contributed to their condition. Negative connotations about weight and body image can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation, poor body image, and has also been shown to directly contribute to the development of eating disorders.

What is Body Shaming?

Body shaming and fat shaming is the same as bullying, whether it be in person, or online. It is the act or practice of negatively judging someone based on their physical appearance. Typically, people are body shamed when they appear overweight or underweight or don’t fit society’s view of “thin and beautiful”. Our culture loves the ideology of a perfect body, whether it be in print, movies, television, or online, seeing someone who doesn’t fit the mold isn’t considered acceptable to some.

Research conducted by the Yale Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity found:

  • Peer victimization can be directly predicted by weight
  • 64% of students enrolled in weight-loss programs reported experiencing weight-based victimization
  • 33% of girls and 25% of boys report weight-based teasing from peers, but prevalence rates increase to approximately 60% among the heaviest students
  • 84% of students observed students perceived as overweight being called names or getting teased during physical activities

While body shaming has been in society for quite some time, the internet and social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, have brought it to an all-time high. With millions of users signing-on each day, social media platforms open the door for individuals and companies to share unrealistic expectations of an ideal body. Technology has made the focus on appearance easier and given way to a platform that invites body shaming and bullying more frequently.

  • Instagram is one of the most used social media networks with over 200 million users daily
  • Snapchat has 161 million users daily
  • Approximately 65.8% of US companies use Twitter for marketing purposes

“Keyboard courage” plays a key role in making hurtful and derogatory comments toward others online. It is easy to shame someone when behind a screen, making them feel inadequate. Posting body-shaming comments to those they know and don’t know, leaves individuals feeling as if there are no repercussions for their words.

Do words matter to someone’s mental health?

For Megan, her 6-year battle with anorexia began when a close friend said, I finally got the abs I’ve always wanted, and look at you with all that belly fat.” Was it meant to cause harm? Probably not, but the effect was life-threatening. The friend’s words lit a match in Megan and set her on the path for an eating disorder. Although she had a supportive family, she hid her disorder. For years, Megan counted calories, looked in the mirror constantly, worked out obsessively, and lived in baggy clothing, ashamed of her body.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, among overweight and obese adults, those who experience weight-based stigmatization:

  • Engage in more frequent binge eating
  • Are at an increased risk to develop eating disorder symptoms
  • Are more likely to have a binge eating disorder
  • 79% of weight-loss program participants report eating more to cope with weight stigma

We often think of body shaming as only happening to people like Megan, but the truth is, nobody is immune from harmful words about their appearance.

In an interview with Teen Vogue, singer Kesha opened up about her experience, “It became a vicious cycle: When I compared myself to others, I would read more mean comments, which only fed my anxiety and depression. Seeing paparazzi photos of myself and the accompanying catty commentary fueled my eating disorder. The sick irony was that when I was at some of the lowest points in my life, I kept hearing how much better I looked. I knew I was destroying my body with my eating disorder, but the message I was getting was that I was doing great.”

Olympic gold medalist Ali Raisman shared how at a young age, words played a role in her body image, “In seventh grade, I was wearing a tank top at school, and one of the boys told me my arms were disgusting. So, I didn’t wear a tank top to school ever again. Thinking about that makes me so sad because I let one kid affect how I see myself.”

Not only does social media and society play a role in body shaming and bullying, but even family members also make us see ourselves differently. Approximately 40% of higher weight kids are teased about their weight by peers or family members. Weight-based stigmatization at home can lead to binge eating, weight gain, and drastic weight control measures. Negative comments make someone vulnerable and lead to an unrealistic expectation about their body.

Supporting those who are victims of negative comments is critical. Listen to them and emphasize that it is not their fault. Knowing they have support can make a difference in preventing an eating disorder or other mental health issues. For families it is critical to set a good example and avoid teasing others about their weight or talking negatively about other people’s bodies, including your own.

How do you help someone with an eating disorder?

Over 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. And just as Megan did, they struggle in silence. Megan’s dad was unaware of her disorder and chalked her changes in mood and eating habits up to adolescence. Megan’s mom noticed the changes also, and confronted her daughter. As Megan poured out her heart and relived the emotional words that sent her spiraling, she began to feel hopeful.

“I had a feeling something was wrong,” Meagan recalls, “but thought I could manage it. There’s this idea if a person is suffering they should just figure it out — that you’re weak if you ask for help. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I finally opened up to Mom, I began to realize how much trouble I was really in.”

While only 20% of those who suffer from an eating disorder seek treatment, 60% of those who do make a full recovery.  Therapeutic environments, like Magnolia Creek, are designed to support individuals as they explore the contributing factors related to their eating disorder. At Magnolia Creek, clients engage in regular one-on-one sessions with the entire treatment team, which includes the primary and family therapists, dietitians, and medical staff. In a supportive environment, we work with our clients to develop a customized treatment plan that identifies treatment goals and provides the support needed to achieve and maintain the desired change.

Our evidence-based treatment model integrates experiential therapy and activities designed to build confidence, challenge distorted thinking, and help clients develop effective coping skills through experience and metaphor.  Weekly, clients meet with their dietitian to examine personal dietary needs, discuss food preferences, and develop an individualized meal plan.

Magnolia Creek strives to ensure that no one ever feels they are alone in their eating disorder recovery, and we believe that healing and recovery are possible.

Singer Demi Lovato has been outspoken about her eating disorder and bipolar journey. As a role model and an advocate for mental health, she stresses the importance of being open and honest, “It was really hard to talk about on camera,” Demi admits, “but I knew that if I were honest, it would help somebody understand.” She adds, “Sometimes I’m not perfect with my recovery and my eating issues, but I keep fighting. And I want people to see that.”

As we live in a time of social movement and activism, then we should be mindful and aware of words that can lead to life-altering consequences. Demi adds, “I wish I could have told myself that I was beautiful, from my future self,” she says. “People are still going to love you, and you’re beautiful just the way that you are.”

The post Words Have Power: Can they lead to an eating disorder? appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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“You would be a knockout if you lost weight.”

“You need to eat and put some meat on your bones.”

“There is no way that is going to fit you.”

“Are you really going to eat all that?”

“You are SO fat!”

“Your body is disgusting.”

Words matter, and have the power to hurt. Even when we don’t realize it, words can cause someone to pause and pursue unrealistic expectations about their body. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, about 65% of people with eating disorders say that bullying contributed to their condition. Negative connotations about weight and body image can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation, poor body image, and has also been shown to directly contribute to the development of eating disorders.

What is Body Shaming?

Body shaming and fat shaming is the same as bullying, whether it be in person, or online. It is the act or practice of negatively judging someone based on their physical appearance. Typically, people are body shamed when they appear overweight or underweight or don’t fit society’s view of “thin and beautiful”. Our culture loves the ideology of a perfect body, whether it be in print, movies, television, or online, seeing someone who doesn’t fit the mold isn’t considered acceptable to some.

Research conducted by the Yale Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity found:

  • Peer victimization can be directly predicted by weight
  • 64% of students enrolled in weight-loss programs reported experiencing weight-based victimization
  • 33% of girls and 25% of boys report weight-based teasing from peers, but prevalence rates increase to approximately 60% among the heaviest students
  • 84% of students observed students perceived as overweight being called names or getting teased during physical activities

While body shaming has been in society for quite some time, the internet and social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, have brought it to an all-time high. With millions of users signing-on each day, social media platforms open the door for individuals and companies to share unrealistic expectations of an ideal body. Technology has made the focus on appearance easier and given way to a platform that invites body shaming and bullying more frequently.

  • Instagram is one of the most used social media networks with over 200 million users daily
  • Snapchat has 161 million users daily
  • Approximately 65.8% of US companies use Twitter for marketing purposes

“Keyboard courage” plays a key role in making hurtful and derogatory comments toward others online. It is easy to shame someone when behind a screen, making them feel inadequate. Posting body-shaming comments to those they know and don’t know, leaves individuals feeling as if there are no repercussions for their words.

Do words matter to someone’s mental health?

For Megan, her 6-year battle with anorexia began when a close friend said, I finally got the abs I’ve always wanted, and look at you with all that belly fat.” Was it meant to cause harm? Probably not, but the effect was life-threatening. The friend’s words lit a match in Megan and set her on the path for an eating disorder. Although she had a supportive family, she hid her disorder. For years, Megan counted calories, looked in the mirror constantly, worked out obsessively, and lived in baggy clothing, ashamed of her body.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, among overweight and obese adults, those who experience weight-based stigmatization:

  • Engage in more frequent binge eating
  • Are at an increased risk to develop eating disorder symptoms
  • Are more likely to have a binge eating disorder
  • 79% of weight-loss program participants report eating more to cope with weight stigma

We often think of body shaming as only happening to people like Megan, but the truth is, nobody is immune from harmful words about their appearance.

In an interview with Teen Vogue, singer Kesha opened up about her experience, “It became a vicious cycle: When I compared myself to others, I would read more mean comments, which only fed my anxiety and depression. Seeing paparazzi photos of myself and the accompanying catty commentary fueled my eating disorder. The sick irony was that when I was at some of the lowest points in my life, I kept hearing how much better I looked. I knew I was destroying my body with my eating disorder, but the message I was getting was that I was doing great.”

Olympic gold medalist Ali Raisman shared how at a young age, words played a role in her body image, “In seventh grade, I was wearing a tank top at school, and one of the boys told me my arms were disgusting. So, I didn’t wear a tank top to school ever again. Thinking about that makes me so sad because I let one kid affect how I see myself.”

Not only does social media and society play a role in body shaming and bullying, but even family members also make us see ourselves differently. Approximately 40% of higher weight kids are teased about their weight by peers or family members. Weight-based stigmatization at home can lead to binge eating, weight gain, and drastic weight control measures. Negative comments make someone vulnerable and lead to an unrealistic expectation about their body.

Supporting those who are victims of negative comments is critical. Listen to them and emphasize that it is not their fault. Knowing they have support can make a difference in preventing an eating disorder or other mental health issues. For families it is critical to set a good example and avoid teasing others about their weight or talking negatively about other people’s bodies, including your own.

How do you help someone with an eating disorder?

Over 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. And just as Megan did, they struggle in silence. Megan’s dad was unaware of her disorder and chalked her changes in mood and eating habits up to adolescence. Megan’s mom noticed the changes also, and confronted her daughter. As Megan poured out her heart and relived the emotional words that sent her spiraling, she began to feel hopeful.

“I had a feeling something was wrong,” Meagan recalls, “but thought I could manage it. There’s this idea if a person is suffering they should just figure it out — that you’re weak if you ask for help. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I finally opened up to Mom, I began to realize how much trouble I was really in.”

While only 20% of those who suffer from an eating disorder seek treatment, 60% of those who do make a full recovery.  Therapeutic environments, like Magnolia Creek, are designed to support individuals as they explore the contributing factors related to their eating disorder. At Magnolia Creek, clients engage in regular one-on-one sessions with the entire treatment team, which includes the primary and family therapists, dietitians, and medical staff. In a supportive environment, we work with our clients to develop a customized treatment plan that identifies treatment goals and provides the support needed to achieve and maintain the desired change.

Our evidence-based treatment model integrates experiential therapy and activities designed to build confidence, challenge distorted thinking, and help clients develop effective coping skills through experience and metaphor.  Weekly, clients meet with their dietitian to examine personal dietary needs, discuss food preferences, and develop an individualized meal plan.

Magnolia Creek strives to ensure that no one ever feels they are alone in their eating disorder recovery, and we believe that healing and recovery are possible.

Singer Demi Lovato has been outspoken about her eating disorder and bipolar journey. As a role model and an advocate for mental health, she stresses the importance of being open and honest, “It was really hard to talk about on camera,” Demi admits, “but I knew that if I were honest, it would help somebody understand.” She adds, “Sometimes I’m not perfect with my recovery and my eating issues, but I keep fighting. And I want people to see that.”

As we live in a time of social movement and activism, then we should be mindful and aware of words that can lead to life-altering consequences. Demi adds, “I wish I could have told myself that I was beautiful, from my future self,” she says. “People are still going to love you, and you’re beautiful just the way that you are.”

The post Words Have Power: Can they lead to an eating disorder? appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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Leigh-Ann Bamberg, MS, RDN, LD & Brittany Braswell, MS, RDN, LD

At Magnolia Creek, it is important as dietitians that we promote a healthy attitude towards all food. We advocate that All Foods Fit in moderation and can and should be a part of a healthy lifestyle. Our end goal for our clients is that they develop a positive relationship with food by way of eating intuitively. We urge clients to move away from the rigidity of their former “food rules” by educating them and challenging any disordered patterns that they have previously been engaging.

What is orthorexia?

Often, we have clients explain to us that they do not feel they have an eating disorder, but rather just choose to “eat clean.” The term “orthorexia” has recently become more popular as the trend of “clean eating” has evolved. Orthorexia is a term that was coined in 1998 and means an unhealthy obsession with “proper” or healthy eating. The clean-eating trend, which can be closely interchanged with orthorexia, goes in direct opposition to the nutrition philosophy, All Foods Fit, and can be highly detrimental to an individual’s eating disorder recovery.

Below are some of the warning signs and symptoms of orthorexia:

  • Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels
  • An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
  • Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
  • An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
  • Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating
  • Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events
  • Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
  • An obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on social media
  • Body image concerns may or may not be present

Clean eating is not only unhelpful for the general population, but it can create or worsen an already disordered relationship with food. Research suggests that the best-maintained recovery outcomes occur when individuals can incorporate variety and flexibility into their eating patterns. Eating disorders thrive on rules, rigidity, and separation of “good” and “bad” foods. Because of this, clean eating and the suggestion that there are ‘unclean foods,’ can increase the chances of someone developing an eating disorder. Those with a family member who has an eating disorder and those with underlying genetics are at an even higher risk of developing a full-blown eating disorder themselves.

How do you treat orthorexia?

First and foremost, treatment of orthorexia requires an acknowledgment that a problem exists and the individual recognizes they are restricting.  Once they identify what the restricting looks like, treatment at Magnolia Creek then involves helping our clients restore balance to their lives. By using a combination of nutrition and exercise education, exposure therapy, and a therapeutic approach, we can incorporate increased dietary variety, and challenge the cognitive distortion that certain foods are “unclean” or “unfit” to be eaten.

To challenge this distortion, clients must develop healthy coping skills, as well as be willing to make lifestyle adjustments to incorporate an increased amount of flexibility.  Because perfectionism and having power or “extreme self-control” are common traits seen among those struggling with orthorexia, as clinicians, we often work with our clients to help them discover other interests they may have outside of “being healthy.”

Helping our clients to rediscover what it means to be healthy is key in helping them to find balance and enjoy food as a part of their life, without it being an all-consuming addiction or quest for perfection.

Meet our Dietitians

A vital part of the treatment team is an experienced dietitian who is knowledgeable of the nutritional and dietary requirements needed for someone recovering from an eating disorder. Magnolia Creek is fortunate to have a professional staff of Registered Dietitians to assist our clients with a comprehensive care plan that can restore their health.

Brittany Braswell, MS, RDN, LD

Brittany earned her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition/Dietetics from Auburn University and a Master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences from Texas Tech and has a strong background in clinical and sports nutrition, behavior change techniques, cardiovascular health, and wellness. Her experience helps her to better evaluate clients for nutritional deficiencies and unhealthy food- and weight-related behaviors. She works with clients to help them understand their disorder and how to build a healthy relationship with food.

Leigh-Ann Bamberg, MS, RDN, LD

As someone who has recovered from an eating disorder, Leigh-Ann understands our clients’ needs and has a passion for helping them focus on their recovery and find freedom from food rules and compulsive exercise. Leigh-Ann graduated from The University of Mobile with a Bachelor of Science in Human Performance and Exercise Science with a concentration in Exercise Physiology, and earned both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Food and Nutrition from The University of Alabama. Leigh-Ann provides nutritional therapy and education to promote recovery and restoration of health.

Lucy Abruscato, MS, RDN, LD

Lucy graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition/Dietetics, and then completed her dietetic internship and Masters in Nutrition Sciences at UAB.  She works with clients to set and achieve their specific nutritional goals through nutrition education. As clients accomplish these goals, they have a more positive relationship with food and nutrition.

The post All Foods Fit: When Being a “Healthy Eater” Becomes Disordered appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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Body image is often an incredibly overwhelming subject for individuals suffering from an eating disorder.  Improving one’s body image is most often one of the last components of recovery from an eating disorder, making this topic very difficult to discuss. Many women with an eating disorder body check, especially after meals and snacks, further exacerbating a poor image of herself and her body.  Helping our clients increase their insight into why and how they see themselves differently than others see them can be enlightening for them and helps them to move forward in their recovery.

At Magnolia Creek, we are passionate about encouraging our clients and lifting them up. Speaking life into them using affirming words is crucial to help them combat the negative things they have been told, often for many years. We have clients affirm themselves after every meal and snack (6x/day) to help them practice speaking positive things to themselves until they can see their bodies and minds in a more positive light.  We also use several techniques in our group therapy sessions to increase understanding for what it means to love their bodies and to help them overcome the fears that are often associated with their eating disorder.

What does it mean to love your body?

Magnolia Creek is honoring Love Your Body Month by taking time with clients to engage in artistic therapies surrounding what it means to love your body. We were fortunate enough also to have our staff, friends, and family involved. Laura Cordova, Primary Therapist, says, “My experience has been when asked, most, regardless of age or gender, shied away from the question and displayed difficulty at the thought.”

In Body Image Group, we asked clients “What does it mean to love your body?” and many became frustrated at the idea and displayed great difficulty in the assignment. Most of these women have spent years struggling with their bodies and body image to fight a deeper battle internally, making the frustration understandable.

“I saw the hesitation with many of them, but then something miraculous happened.  Instead of tackling the assignment alone, they joined together against body image battles and created something beautiful,” shares Laura.

The women at Magnolia Creek united against negative body image and opened their hearts and minds towards loving their bodies and advocating for this cause.  We live in a society with a considerable amount of shame and negativity associated with body image. The media continuously pushes us to diet, tan, or alter our bodies with surgery or other drastic measures.

What would happen, if instead, the world promoted what the women of Magnolia Creek demonstrated? 
  • Take care of your body
  • Nourish your body
  • Embrace your beautifully unique qualities
  • Stop focusing on comparing two bodies that were never meant to be the same
  • Focus on happiness
  • Treat yourself kindly
  • Provide yourself and your body with loving affirmations

These are only a few of the amazing things our clients had to say about loving your body.  Although they may not yet believe it for themselves, they realized they have the heart for those struggling with body image and maybe, they could begin loving their body day-by-day instead of plotting wars against it.

“What struck me most was a client asked me if true recovery and embracing one’s body was a real possibility, and I was full-heartedly able to say yes. Everyone’s journey with their body looks different, and for some, it may seem impossible to ever embrace and love their own body.  Myself, our clients, and all of Magnolia Creek is here to say YES, loving your body is achievable and each person is worthy of this,” says Laura.

It often does not happen in one day but taking time each day to practice being kind to your body can lead to renewed peace and love.  It can be a simple as saying positive daily affirmations to yourself, wearing clothes to express yourself, choosing to honor your hunger and fullness cues, eating the cake and enjoying it, and reaching out for support.

How can we tackle our fears?

Honoring National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, our clients tackled their fears in our Nutrition Group. In the first part of the challenge, our dietitians, Brittany Braswell and Leigh-Ann Bamberg, provided clients with a small piece of paper. On one side, each client wrote down a fear she wants to overcome – nutrition, food, eating disorder, or exercise related – on the opposite side, clients drew a simple picture or word depicting that fear, then shared with the group how she plans to conquer it.

In the second part of the challenge, clients were provided with rolled out cookie dough and cookie cutters. Each client cut out a cookie in a shape of her choice. After the cookies were baked, clients decorated their cookie with the image they previously depicted on their paper to represent their fear.

While the cookies were baking and cooling, Brittany and Leigh-Ann reviewed S.M.A.R.T. goals, and each client came up with her own S.M.A.R.T. goal to help her in taking a step closer towards overcoming her fears. S.M.A.R.T. goals help to make a general goal specific and easy to evaluate its success, as well as barriers to success.

SMART stands for:

S – specific

M – measurable

A – attainable

R – realistic

T – time lined

Negative body image can have profound effects, such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other significant health problems. Now is the time to start conversations about what it means to love your body, and move past the stigma surrounding eating disorders. We can be the change in our society and we can fight to promote a life where bodies are celebrated, not shamed.

________________________________________

And I said to my body softly, “I want to be your friend.” It took a long breath and replied, “I have been waiting my whole life for this.”

The post Loving your Body and Overcoming your Fears appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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Experiential therapy includes multiple expressive approaches such as role-playing, art therapy, music, animal care, yoga, or various forms of recreation. Unlike talk therapy, experiential therapy encourages individuals to address hidden issues through activities and interactions. Our clients will often begin to identify emotions associated with success, disappointment, responsibility, and self-esteem related to their eating disordered behaviors. The certified therapists at Magnolia Creek work with clients to release and explore the negative feelings of anger, hurt, or shame as they relate to their past experiences.

In addition to traditional and group therapy, Magnolia Creek offers experiential therapies such as art, yoga, cooking group, and equine therapy; each helping clients overcome obstacles that have led to their eating disorder, develop a greater sense of self-awareness, and find new ways to express and nurture themselves.

Mindful Movement, Gentle Movement, Yoga

Our yoga therapy is designed for those with little to no experience with basic yoga practice. Jennifer Howell, our certified Yoga Therapist, meets with clients three days a week to help them positively reconnect with their bodies. Since some clients have different levels of experience, she uses simple movements to stretch and warm-up the body and tailors the pace to each person.  Jennifer uses yoga therapy as an opportunity to teach the clients how to be gentle with themselves, gain confidence, and to try something they may have never tried before.

“I have found that using yoga therapy in eating disorder treatment helps clients deal with their fear. They find their strength as they are given a space to reflect and discover how they relate to themselves and the world around them,” says Jennifer.

While some may find yoga to be challenging or boring, Jennifer teaches that performing the various movements gives the body new freedom to increase flexibility, develop balance, breath awareness, and strength. As the women are placed into challenging positions that stretch the body, they can relate it to the negative self-talk and body image that often accompanies eating disorders. Overcoming personal challenges related to their bodies, behaviors, and negative thinking reveals valuable insights about themselves that aid in their recovery.

Art Therapy

Art therapy is used to help clients explore their feelings using the creative process. Unlike talk therapy, art therapy allows the women to examine difficult places in their lives and reconcile emotional conflicts without having to talk about it. Nicole Barton, Magnolia Creek Art Therapist, says, “I become very aware of people and the conflicts in their life. You can tell a lot about a person and where they are in their journey by the colors and materials they choose and how they express themselves in their art. This process gives them a way to find healing through creativity, and a way to learn trust as they work through the creation process. Art is perfectly imperfect, and there are no expectations, no bar to reach.” The creative journey is part of the foundation of recovery and encourages clients to foster self-awareness, learn skills to manage their behaviors and addictions, reduce their anxiety and depression, and increase their self-esteem and self-worth.

Cooking Group

In the cooking group, clients learn and implement cooking skills, and how to cook food in ways that sustain nutrients. Clients are also encouraged to learn how to not only prepare meals for themselves but how to multitask in the kitchen to cook for others. As with other experiential therapies, clients are invited to be creative and choose dishes outside of their comfort zone. This group also helps clients learn to utilize a team environment to create their final dishes. We utilize the cooking group to empower clients in taking the lead to meet their nutritional requirements through meal planning and preparation.

Equine Therapy

Like us, horses are very social. Unlike us, they are very accepting and nonjudgmental. Horses can sense our emotions and communicate with us through their reactions. For example, if you are anxious around a horse, they may react by shying away or acting skittish. A horse’s response can help us to see how we act and think consciously and unconsciously which in turn can help us identify our feelings and begin to cope with our emotions. As clients become more comfortable with the horse, it helps them process their negative emotions surrounding their eating disorder and develop behavioral changes they can apply to their recovery journey, and relationships with others.

At Magnolia Creek, our experiential therapies are designed to use these encounters and insights as a tool to promote healing and growth as the clients build confidence, challenge distorted thinking, and develop effective coping skills.  We have seen great success as these therapies are contributing factors in helping clients transition back to life outside of treatment.

The post Experiential Therapy at Magnolia Creek appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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People often think of eating disorders, such as bulimia, and substance use disorders as separate conditions; however, there is often an overlap between the two. Research shows that roughly 50% of individuals suffering from an eating disorder are also abusing drugs and/or alcohol, a rate that is five times greater than that of the general population.

Studies show that individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa have a 50% higher rate of alcohol use when compared to those without an eating disorder.  The connection between bulimia and addiction is strengthened as substance use often leads to a lack of hunger and increased food restriction, which can lead to binging episodes later.

Similarities between Eating Disorders and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Eating disorders and addiction share common characteristics as they both affect brain and body functions, and emotional health. Like eating disorders, substance use disorders have a strong genetic factor, as well as links to environmental and psychological factors.

Substance abuse and eating disorders may be two very diverse issues, but they both have similar causes.  The behaviors may look very different, but the truth is that those struggling with an eating disorder and/or substance abuse are both hurting people as they search for a way to cope, to numb, to feel better. Substance use disorders often co-occur with eating disorders, such as bulimia, as methods to manage negative emotions or traumatic experiences or to self-medicate mental health conditions.

Common contributing factors include:

  • Trauma
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aversive childhood experiences
  • Shame
  • Abandonment
  • Attachment issues
  • Biological component
  • Social/environmental experiences

Laura Cordova, Primary Therapist at Magnolia Creek, adds, “I see many connections between substance use and eating disorders, mainly the use of the maladaptive behaviors of binging and purging, drinking, or using substances, and the need to cope with underlying trauma. I also believe trauma may be one of the primary links between substance abuse and eating disorders.  Research shows high correlations between substance use and trauma, as well as eating disorders and trauma.”

Bulimia and Substance Use

Bulimia nervosa involves a cycle of binge eating followed by behaviors such as self-induced vomiting or over-exercise to rid the body of the food consumed. As the frequency of the binge-purge cycle increases, the pattern becomes more firmly engrained in the brain.

As a person engages in the binge-purge cycle, and then uses a substance, the brain is altered to strengthen the desire to continue to use the substance. The brains structure and neural pathways, which are responsible for reward and pleasure, are changed to increase the symptoms of both disorders. Feelings of shame and guilt, both common in bulimia and addiction, often follow the binge-purge episode, and substances are frequently used to subdue these emotions.

Laura adds, “One common theme we see in eating disorder therapy is a connection between cocaine and Adderall use in efforts to suppress appetite and lose weight.  Client’s with bulimia may use drugs to suppress their appetite in between binging and purging episodes.  This substance use often develops into addiction over time.”

Treatment for Eating Disorders and Co-occurring Substance Abuse

Treatment for eating disorders and co-occurring substance use disorder needs to address both conditions simultaneously. In addition to treating the addictive behaviors, addressing the root cause of the addiction is needed to promote healing and establish coping skills. At Magnolia Creek, we provide a holistic approach designed to support each client as they explore the contributing factors related to their eating disorder and co-occurring substance abuse. In combination with individual and group therapy sessions centered around addictive behaviors and recovery, we believe 12-step integration is an essential tool. We provide psychoeducation on the 12-steps as well as regular times for weekly client-led meetings and off-site meetings.

Our clinical team works with the client to provide a customized treatment approach using an evidence-based treatment model that integrates experiential therapy and activities such as art, psychodrama, ropes, movement, and recreational outings to build confidence, challenge distorted thinking, and help clients develop effective coping skills through experience and metaphor.  We are committed to helping our clients develop the skills they need to establish abstinence and begin maintaining recovery.

The post Bulimia & Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder – Is there a connection? appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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Statistics show that about 30 million people suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. Despite staggering numbers, many of those suffering do not seek treatment due to embarrassment, denial, or confusion surrounding their symptoms. Education and awareness are key in helping break through the stigma and providing the proper information.

During February, the Eating Disorders Information Network (EDIN) sponsors Love My Body month, which encourages individuals to love their bodies, and it promotes numerous community events for education, networking opportunities, and support groups for those in recovery or family members of someone struggling. February is also the time in which we raise awareness about eating disorders during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week spearheaded by the National Eating Disorders Association.

As we begin to focus on raising the awareness of eating disorders, it is important to know that help is available if you think you have an eating disorder. Seeking treatment for an eating disorder can be one of the most challenging steps to take. You may fear that nobody understands, but Magnolia Creek does.

What Makes Magnolia Creek Different?

Magnolia Creek is the place where you can come and be all of who you are without judgement. We offer a multi-disciplinary team to renew your hope, restore your health, and recover your life.

Renew Hope

Our professional clinicians partner with clients and encourage them to be an active participant in their treatment. We instill a sense of hope and empowerment as clients learn recovery is possible through:

  • A safe, therapeutic environment designed to support each client as they explore the contributing factors related to their eating disorder. Clients work to challenge the negative thoughts and behaviors that prevent them from living fully and freely.
  • Focused and individual care with regular one-on-one sessions with the entire treatment team, which includes the primary and family therapists, dietitians, and medical staff. We work with our clients to develop a customized treatment plan that identifies treatment goals and provides the support needed to achieve and maintain the desired change.
  • A supportive atmosphere for interaction with a community of peers and licensed therapists in daily therapeutic processes such as groups, meal times, and experiential outings.
Restore Health

Our strength-based and collaborative program looks beyond the symptoms and behaviors of an eating disorder to honor the strength within. We emphasize acceptance, validation, and empowerment at every stage of treatment. Magnolia Creek uses an evidence-based treatment model that integrates experiential therapy and activities such as art, psychodrama, ropes, movement, and recreational outings to build confidence, challenge distorted thinking, and help clients develop effective coping skills through experience and metaphor.

In addition to group and individual therapy, each client meets weekly with a dietitian

to examine personal dietary needs, discuss food preferences, and develop an individualized meal plan. Clients also engage in physical activity to learn a healthy and balanced relationship with exercise. We work with clients to design movement plans that promote overall wellness while accommodating medical conditions and physical needs.

Recover Life

Our treatment model is designed to promote healing and growth while preparing our clients

to transition back to life outside of treatment. We understand that the most difficult time can be when a client leaves treatment.  An essential element to a successful recovery is the continuity between treatment and home, and we strive to facilitate a smooth transition through:

  • Planning During Treatment: Developing an aftercare plan begins early in the treatment process to ensure clients have the needed resources and support following discharge. We work with each client to assemble and locate a treatment team of doctors, therapists, dietitians, and other support professionals they may need once they return home.
  • Support After Treatment: For 18 months following discharge, our staff regularly checks in with each client to provide encouragement and connect clients with any resources that may further support them at every stage of their recovery journey.

Magnolia Creek believes that healing and recovery are possible, and we want to ensure that no one ever feels they are alone in their eating disorder recovery. As we approach the occasion to further educate our community about eating disorders, now is the time to take the step to live life freely.

__________________________________

“I knew I was in a safe place where I could let my guard down and cry. It was comforting to know that everyone was not looking at me in a certain way because of what I did. I realized they understood what I was dealing with.” – Former Magnolia Creek Client

The post Eating Disorders and the Magnolia Creek Difference appeared first on Magnolia Creek.

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