Rosewood Centers blog for topic on eating disorders, health tips, recipes and more. Rosewood is the leading eating disorder treatment center for all stages of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating recovery for adults and teens.
U.S. culture’s obsession with unrealistic body ideals is taking a toll on girls. By age six – that’s kindergarten – girls start to express concerns about their weight and shape.
As many as 60% of girls in elementary school worry about becoming “too fat.” By the time they’re teenagers, 50% of teen girls (and 33% of boys) admit to using unhealthy methods to control their weight, including smoking cigarettes, skipping meals, fasting, vomiting or taking laxatives. Body dissatisfaction seems almost baked into the national psyche.
A poor body image is associated with feeling self-conscious, anxious and withdrawing from social activities. Taken to the extreme, poor body image can contribute to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.
On the other hand, people with a positive body image feel comfortable with themselves and have the confidence to try new things, enjoy physical activities and participate in a wide variety of social gatherings.
In an environment where there are so many factors conspiring to bring down a teen’s sense of self-acceptance, what can parents do to help raise a child who has a positive body image?
Be mindful of how you talk to yourself.
Studies show that parents (and mothers in particular) can transfer a negative body image onto their daughters.
One reason for mother’s larger influence is that they typically engage in more attempts to modify their daughter’s appearance and eating behaviors than fathers, according to researchers. Mothers are also more likely to have a poor body image themselves. Researchers have also found that the mothers of teen girls with disordered eating are more likely to have body dissatisfaction or to feel that their daughters need to lose weight to improve their appearance.
If you suffer from a poor body image, be careful of what you say to your daughter, and what she overhears you saying when you look in the mirror or when talking with your friends. Don’t put yourself down in front of her, and don’t put others down either for their appearance.
The study, which included interviews with 559 teens starting at age 15 and then again when they were adults, asked about eating behaviors and if the teens were being pressured or encouraged to diet by their parents. (The majority of the study respondents were girls, but boys were included as well.)
Teens who had been told they should go on a diet were 25% more likely to be overweight and 37% more likely to be obese. Teens told to diet were 72% more likely to binge eat as adults.
When you discuss food, focus on what’s tasty and healthy.
Saying that certain foods will “make you fat,” or that carbs are evil, or any of the other things that adults say about food isn’t what kids need to hear. All foods are acceptable in moderation. Encourage kids to try a variety of foods. Make sure they hear you raving about how great that watermelon tastes on a hot day, or how satisfying a chopped salad can be. Praise them for trying a new vegetable, or for making a healthy choice about a snack.
Your diet should not be your child’s diet.
Whole 30. Ketogenic. Raw foods. Whether any of these diets can be healthy for adults may be up to debate, but they’re not good for growing teens. Adolescents require a balanced diet from all categories of the food pyramid. Restricting a child’s food choices or encouraging them to join you on your fad diet can result in malnutrition, stunted growth and can set them up for eating disorders later on.
Teach your teen to be media savvy.
Largely due to social media, today’s kids are exposed to a relentless stream of idealized images of perfect bodies and perfect lives. Have a conversation with your kids. Make sure they know how these images are created, that you only see a snippet of their lives, and that when it comes to celebrities, photographers use creative angles and retouching to eliminate flaws.
Model a healthy lifestyle.
Exercising and eating well helps people of any age feel good about themselves, teens included. To encourage this, eat meals together as a family as often as you can. Plan active family outings such as walks, hikes, bike rides, bowling – anything that gets you up and moving.
Make some subtle changes at home, such as limiting junk food, sweetened beverages and fast food. This is good for everyone, and will ensure that a teen doesn’t feel singled out or that they’re the only one who has a “problem.”
Raising a child with a positive body image in our appearance-obsessed culture isn’t easy. But by being mindful of what we say to teens and to ourselves, and by modeling a healthy lifestyle, parents can be a positive influence on the ways teens feel about their bodies.
Summer is almost here. For some people, the long sunny days conjure up happy times spent at barbecues, the pool or trips to the beach. For people in recovery from eating disorders, the carefree days of summer can feel like anything but.
“Bathing suit and shorts weather” can cause body image issues to resurface, while pressure to fill a plate with food at social gatherings can cause stress and anxiety. If left unchecked, summer activities can be a trigger for a relapse of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, with their cycles of starvation, binging and purging.
If thoughts of summer are causing you to worry about how you’ll get through it, here are some way to cope.
Wear shorts and a bikini if you want to. Or don’t.
People with eating disorders tend to be hypercritical of their body, honing in on perceived flaws and measuring their appearance in comparison to others. When people shed layers of clothes, engaging in this relentless self-assessment becomes that much easier.
Warning signs for an eating disorder relapse can include constantly looking in the mirror, feeling disgusted with oneself after eating, thinking obsessively about food and weight, or withdrawing from social activities. If you start to experience any of these symptoms, recognize you’re at risk of an eating disorder relapse. Practice the relaxation techniques and coping skills you learned in eating disorder treatment. Focus on sticking to your meal plan, and reach out for support immediately if you feel that negative internal monologue is getting too loud to ignore.
Keep in mind that what you wear or don’t wear in the summer is totally up to you. If you’re ready to put a bathing suit on or challenge yourself to wear one, go for it. If you’re not ready, or you feel it will do more harm than good, then don’t.
Stick to your schedule.
Maintaining a structure around eating, exercise and sleep, and following a meal plan established by your eating disorder treatment team, is very important when in recovery from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.
But time off from school, vacations, parties and other summer activities can easily disrupt those schedules. The changes in schedule provide ample opportunity to slip back into disordered eating habits, from restricting food to binging and purging.
If you’ll be traveling, attending a music festival or spending the day at the river, think about how you’ll handle it ahead of time. Pack food if you’re not sure what food will be available, or you’re worried you won’t find anything at the event that’s appealing.
Toss the magazines and lay off social media.
It happens twice a year like clockwork. After Christmas and New Year’s, glossy magazines promise to help you lose the holiday pounds. Leading up to summer, those same magazines promise to get you “beach body ready.”
No. Just no. Looking at pictures of airbrushed models, or trying to follow whatever diet or exercise regime celebrities purport to be on, is not going to help anyone feel good about themselves, practice self-acceptance or enjoy the unique and wonderful body they were born with.
Same goes for all those Instagram bikini selfies. (You’ve seen the ones of the long legs and painted toes in the chaise lounge looking out to a tropical paradise while you’re staring at dirty dishes in the kitchen sink?) There are just too many tricks that people can use with angles and filters to make themselves look far more “perfect” than they really are. As much as you can, just look away.
Have a plan for handling BBQs & picnics.
Heaping plates of ribs and coleslaw can fill people in recovery from eating disorders with dread. Eating in public and social gatherings centered around food can also provoke anxiety. The anxiety can be compounded if you’re worried about family or friends making comments about what you’re eating or not eating.
At these events, try to take the focus off the food and enjoy the conversations, the outdoors or a game of Frisbee. Just be sure that you’re nourishing your body and eating a sufficient amount of calories to maintain your weight and avoid restricting.
a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
Recovery for me hasn’t been so much of returning to a normal state of mind as it has been obtaining. Recovery for me has definitely been a journey and a half. My eating disorder started at a young age. In a way, the thoughts have been there as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until my adolescent years where I fully started acting upon them. My story includes some of the basics; trauma, anxiety, mental health issues, substance abuse and of course, nonetheless but heartbreak. My adolescent years were filled with self-hate, fueled by the notion that I would never amount to anything. In my eyes and my parents I was useless, a burden to the family, they’d be better off without me. Suicidal thoughts and ideation was something close to my heart for many years. I’d spend hours fantasying about how I’d go out.
My first hospitalized attempt I ended up going inpatient for my eating disorder afterwards. My best friend at the time told me repeatedly, “Tell them about your eating disorder. It’s killing you.” Looking back, I cannot describe how miserable I was due to all of my negative ways of coping. It definitely wasn’t just me putting these thoughts in my head but I was 100% guilty of believing them and continuing the story in my mind. I play the tapes every hour of every day. I wrote the words out with sharpie on my skin, I tore myself apart in the mirror, I was taught to hate myself and I ran with it. My parents were probably the least supportive people and they enjoyed me sick. Part of my recovery has been distancing myself from them.
I sit here in my Brooklyn apartment, married, with a job, a cat, and food to eat. Over a year since I left Rosewood. Looking back I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive team. I love everyone there. Staff helped me out more then they even know. Because of my circumstances at the time, part of my stay at Rosewood I was couch hopping, some nights with nowhere to go. As soon as the staff members found out they pulled resources together to help me find a place to sleep at night. My team never gave up on me and that was something I wasn’t used to in my life. I was used to people coming and going through my life. I was basically in a new school every year because of how much my family moved around, I was always the outcast. I had no real friends. I had no support system and the people I surrounded myself with up until I went to rosewood had all been using buddies. The notion of people sticking by my side genuinely wanting to help me get better was insane to me. It was such a foreign idea. At first I resisted I portrayed myself as the misunderstood nineteen year old. “No one could ever understand what I went through”. The idea was dissolved quickly into real relationships and connections I found with others. I became who I always knew I was capable of. Someone strong, but understanding, relatable, capable, compassionate, confident. Someone confident.
I used to hide under a façade, pretend I was better than others and could take on the world alone. After my stay at Rosewood, I’ve realized this was all a lie I was telling myself. No one, no one in the entire world can go take on life alone. Connections and the people we surround ourselves with is all we really have at the end of the day. At Rosewood I learned how to connect. I learned that being alone isn’t actually what I wanted. I realized I self-sabotaged every relationship I had ever had up until that point. I realized, and looking back I can see, I was just a sad scared little girl, hiding under heavy black eyeliner and loud music. Don’t get me wrong I still love these things, and there’s nothing wrong with the two I’ve just also learned how to embrace a softer side of me as well. I learned how to love, others, and myself.
To me my stay at Rosewood was so much more than just learning how to eat. It was learning how to live. Learning how to find myself and have an identity outside an eating disorder. I am not my disorder. I am me. I am strong.
The most powerful testimonies about eating disorders and recovery come from people who have experienced it. To raise awareness about eating disorders and the need for better access to care, a group of alumni and staff will travel to Washington, D.C. on April 24 to participate in National Advocacy Day.
The event is hosted twice a year by the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action, a nonprofit organization made up of eating disorders treatment centers and national eating disorders associations. The coalition aims to increase understanding about eating disorders among policymakers and the public, and advocate for increased resources for education, prevention and training.
Participants spend the day on Capitol Hill in meetings with members of Congress and their legislative aides who deal with health policy issues. From getting a behind the scenes view of Capitol Hill to sharing their personal stories, all agree it’s a powerful experience.
“By using my voice, I was allowed to share my experience with members of Congress and their staff to help them understand how important these issues are and that we need things to change before more people die from this deadly disease,” said Cheyenne Willis, who participated in last year’s National Advocacy Day. “Our presence made a difference because they truly listened to us that day.”
Delegations from each state, which can include eating disorder professionals and those in recovery, typically meet with members of Congress from their home state to request support for specific laws that impact people with eating disorders. In 2016, the group successfully advocated for passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which prohibits insurance companies from refusing to cover residential eating disorders treatment when medically necessary, and calls for better education of health and school professionals in identifying eating disorders.
“After our conversations, eating disorders were no longer limited to a statistic, but were represented by real human beings,” said Dena Larsen Gazeley, who has met with Arizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain. “What I enjoyed most was the moment of connection, comprehension and empathy that was shared between my story and the members of Congress and their staff.”
The law was inspired by Anna Westin, who died at age 21 after a long struggle with anorexia. After her death, her mother, Kitty Westin, spent 17 years fighting for legislation to mandate better insurance coverage for eating disorders.
Yet, despite the passage of the law in December 2016, many of its provisions haven’t been implemented yet. During the April 24 meetings, the group will remind legislators of the urgency of fully implementing the law, particularly training health professionals to identify eating disorders and intervene.
One Rosewood alumni found that almost everyone she spoke to knew someone who struggled with an eating disorder. “Each aide had a personal connection to eating disorders. They were genuinely interested in learning more, asked questions, and were fully engaged,” said Ashley Law. “It ignited my passion even further to continue to raise awareness and fight for those still struggling. It was truly inspiring.”
Added Cheyenne: “I felt as if I was finally heard for the first time in my life concerning these issues connected with my eating disorder, and since doing this, it has opened up a different side of me to share so much more with others that I hadn’t shared before.”
Rosewood alumni also enjoyed meeting and networking with other participants who have walked a similar path with eating disorders and are now using their experiences to advocate for those who are struggling. “Those halls represented something more than just bills or Congress members. It was bigger than me. It was an immense honor to be there to share my experience, but to also see and meet and hear all the powerful stories of true courage and bravery,” said Winter Groeschl. “The souls who have fought and won one day at a time against their eating disorders. It was a privilege to stand with them and share our truth.”
You don’t have to go to D.C. to participate in National Advocacy Day! Use the Eating Disorders Coalition’s online legislative tool to quickly and easily send a message to your U.S. Representative and Senator to support eating disorders research and treatment. The more messages received by members of Congress that day, the greater the impact! You can choose to lend your support to specific bills that the coalition is advocating for, or compose your own message.
Kim Kardashian or Gwen Stefani? Women and Men Disagree on “Perfect” Female Body, How Far to Go to Achieve Ideal Physique
New Survey Finds Men More Demanding Than Women of Themselves, Partners When it Comes to Physical Appearance
Phoenix, Ariz. – March 23, 2018 – Men and women across the U.S. agree that the ideal male body type would be similar to that of soccer superstar David Beckham, according to a January 2018 study conducted for Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders. But there’s a difference of opinion when it comes to the perfect female body. Women describe their perception of the perfect body as being like singer Gwen Stefani, while men prefer women to have more curves (a la Kim Kardashian), the Rosewood study uncovered.
The new survey, conducted for Rosewood by Ipsos Public Affairs, polled 1,000 Americans over the age of 18 and found that while most men (55%) and women (54%) consider an “athletic physique” to be the perfect male body type, the sexes are divided when it comes to the perfect female body. In fact, nearly half (49%) of women think women with an “athletic physique” reach perfection, while 38% of men say “a woman with curves” is their ideal.
4 out of 5 Men and Women Unhappy With Their Bodies, Survey Says
When thinking about their own appearance, most respondents (79%) admit they are unhappy with how their own body looks at times. This discontent is most common when looking in a mirror (37%), when at the beach in a bathing suit (32%), or when shopping for clothes (31%). How far Americans are willing to go to change their bodies differs by gender, the survey found. Men are three times more likely than women to say they would be willing to exercise to the edge of their physical limit every day, even if they have to endure pain (23% vs. 8%, respectively). Nearly one in 10 (9%) men admit they’d be willing to take performance-enhancing drugs to achieve perfection, compared to only 2% of women.
What’s more, men are more likely to make sacrifices to achieve their ideal body. The survey found that although women are slightly more likely to give up deep fried foods (49% of women vs. 41% of men) or alcohol (45% of women vs. 37% of men) in order to obtain the ‘perfect’ body, men are more likely to give up everyday comforts, such as:
social media (38% vs. 29% of women)
their pets (12% vs. 4%)
their job or career (7% vs. 4%)
their home (6% vs. 0%)
a relationship with someone they love (4% vs. 1%)
financial security (4% vs. 1%)
their physical or emotional health (3% vs. 0%)
“When men and women start considering ‘whatever it takes’ to reach some unrealistic ideal of the perfect body, you’re getting into a dangerously risky place,” said Dr. Dena Cabrera, executive clinical director for Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders and co-author of the book, ‘Mom In The Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy.’ “Even with the fairly low percentages of these survey results, it’s unhealthy for anyone to go so far as to push their bodies to the point of pain, abuse performance-enhancing drugs or give up perfectly healthy aspects of their lives in order to achieve a certain body. It’s particularly concerning men are more willing to endure such extremes, given that men are already less likely to seek treatment than women if their behavior extends to an eating disorder.”
Many Men Want Women to Take “Extreme Measures” to Achieve a ‘Perfect Body’
Just as alarming: According to Rosewood’s survey, men are more likely than women to want their partner to take extreme measures in order to achieve the perfect body: exercise to the edge of their physical limits every day regardless of pain (13% of men vs. 5% of women), skip meals (5% vs. 1%), take performance-enhancing drugs (5% vs. 2%), consume laxatives (3% vs. 0%), or throw up after eating (3% vs. 0%).
“Women are already under so much pressure to look as thin as models and actresses or as fit as professional athletes, thanks to Photoshopped images in the media, societal pressure and their own perceptions of what female beauty is,” Cabrera said. “It’s disconcerting to think their male partners could be adding to this pressure by expecting women to endure unhealthy extremes to look a certain way.”
Not only should men and women not engage in the potentially damaging behaviors referenced in Rosewood’s survey, Cabrera concludes, but they should also pay less attention to the bodies of celebrities, which are often manipulated with photo-editing software or achieved through extreme exercise with personal trainers. “Attempting to look like Kim Kardashian or David Beckham is not a realistic goal,” Cabrera said. “Americans’ obsession with looking like celebrities and professional athletes is leading to unhealthy behaviors, and we need to change the perception of beauty before these behaviors progress to conditions such as eating disorders.”
To combat the prevalence of body dissatisfaction in the U.S. and the unhealthy behaviors developing as a result, Cabrera recommends attending a local American National Nutrition Month event, forming healthy habits of regular, moderate exercise and eating well-balanced, nutritious meals. If you suspect you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, Cabrera recommends getting screened by a qualified health professional. “We can all help change the conversation around body image in the U.S.,” Cabrera said. “And we can all help our loved ones get help if they take their attempts at perfection too far.”
Despite a wave of Hollywood films, TV specials and books focusing on the potentially deadly health risks presented by eating disorders, a new study reveals that many Americans don’t view anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other eating disorders as the life-threatening mental illnesses they are.
More than one in three (39%) Americans surveyed believe that eating disorders are just a cry for attention or a person “going through a phase.” This statistic jumps to 50% when just asking men, versus 29% of women.
More than one in 10 (13%) believe that eating disorders are not serious – that they are a lifestyle choice or about vanity.
A small percentage, 5% of survey respondents, report that they would consider a potential dating partner with an eating disorder as “attractive.”
Twice as many survey respondents say they would stop dating someone suffering from a mental illness (71%), compared to those who say the same of dating someone struggling with an eating disorder (38%), suggesting Americans view eating disorders as less serious than other mental illnesses.
“Eating disorders are among the deadliest of all mental illnesses,” counters Dr. Dena Cabrera, executive clinical director for Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders. “Without treatment, up to 20 percent of people with serious eating disorders die. And yet, most people with eating disorders don’t seek treatment – some feel they can recover on their own; many others fear the stigma that our society has placed on the disease. To save lives, this survey reveals that it’s time we change the way America looks at eating disorders.”
In particular, the Rosewood study found potentially dangerous misconceptions about eating disorders and men:
43% of respondents believe that eating disorders are very rare in men; whereas, “At some point in their lives, 10 million men in the United States will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder,” said Cabrera, who has been treating men with eating disorders for the past six years. “Anorexia is now being diagnosed in boys as young as eight, and 40 percent of those with binge-eating disorder are male.”
If they suspected a male friend was struggling with an eating disorder, nearly one in five survey respondents reported they would tell that friend to “just eat something” (9%) or “do nothing at all,” because they’d feel it was none of their business or feared they would be rejected or resented for the intrusion (10%).
Men are significantly more likely to think that a person affected by an eating disorder is cured once back to a normal weight (25% of men versus 8% of women). In reality, “No one can define a person’s health by how much they weigh,” Cabrera said. “Regardless of media images portraying those with anorexia as emaciated, people with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Even athletes who appear to be at peak fitness might be struggling with an eating disorder.”
“There are myriad ways we can all advance America’s understanding of how serious eating disorders are, and that there is help,” Cabrera said. “From learning the signs, symptoms and causes of eating disorders, to encouraging someone you may suspect of struggling with an eating disorder to get screened by a qualified health professional, we can all take steps to spread the word and, hopefully, save lives.”
About the Rosewood Study
These are the findings from an Ipsos poll conducted January 3 – 5, 2018 on behalf of Atlanta-based RiverMend Health, which operates Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders. For the survey, a sample of 1,004 adults ages 18 and over from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii was interviewed online, in English. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of ± 3.5 percentage points for all respondents surveyed.
About Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders
Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders is one of the first and most experienced programs in the United States providing comprehensive care for those struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and co-occurring disorders. Our treatment programs are led by renowned experts Dena Cabrera, Psy.D., CEDS, and Amelia Davis, M.D. Clients choose Rosewood for superior medical and psychiatric treatment, innovative therapies, individualized aftercare, alumni support and family involvement. With locations in Arizona and California, Rosewood offers all levels of care for men, women and adolescents, providing individualized treatment to match the unique needs of our patients.
Eating disorders can damage every part of the body, the heart and cardiovascular system in particular. At least one-third of deaths in patients with anorexia are attributed to cardiac causes, research shows.
With February being American Heart Month, it’s a good time to consider how eating disorders can impact the heart – and why getting into treatment to restore balanced eating and allowing the heart to heal is so vitally necessary.
The Heart and Anorexia
It’s hard to think of an organ that’s more important than the heart. Beating an average of 115,000 times a day, the heart is responsible for transporting blood, oxygen and nutrients around the body. We can’t live for more than a few minutes without it pumping.
As strong as the heart is, it’s also very vulnerable to the deprivation of calories and nutrients that marks anorexia. Anorexia symptoms include a severely restricted intake of calories and food, and often a very low body mass index (BMI). These physical signs are usually accompanied by an intense fear of eating, becoming fat or gaining weight despite being underweight.
When calories are severely restricted, the body starts to make changes to conserve energy in an effort to stay alive. Muscles wither, bones lose density, and the skin and hair dry out. Like other organs and muscles, the heart also undergoes significant changes.
Changes in heart function – Individuals with anorexia often develop abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias. Low heart rate and low blood pressure are among the ways that anorexia is detected and diagnosed.
When the body is subjected to prolonged fasting or starvation, the body undergoes hormonal and metabolic changes to protect itself from muscle or tissue breakdown. One of those responses is a slowed heartbeat. A slow heartbeat, or bradycardia, is a heart rate of under 60 beats per minute. It’s not uncommon for people with anorexia to have a heartbeat of below 40 beats per minute. Bradycardia can lead to fainting, fatigue, lack of energy. The slowed heart rate may also lead to a drop in blood pressure, called hypotension.
One specific heart rhythm abnormality seen in people with anorexia is a long QT syndrome, a subtle lengthening in a specific part of the heartbeat known as the QT interval. This change can be detected through EKGs or echocardiograms, and is associated with a higher risk of sudden death.
People who also binge and purge, including people with bulimia may also be susceptible to dehydration, dangerous shifts in electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium. Electrolyte imbalances can lead to irregular heartbeats, which can be life threatening unless fluids and minerals are replaced. This should be done carefully with experienced healthcare providers who will monitor vital signs and electrolytes closely.
Changes in heart structure – The heart is a muscle. Muscles need fuel to stay strong. When the heart doesn’t get the fuel it needs, the heart muscle shrinks and weakens. It’s similar to what happens with other muscles in the body when the body is slowly starving. The main difference is that while you can see the muscles on the outside of the body withering, you can’t see what anorexia does to the heart.
The most serious consequence of the loss of muscle mass is in the left ventricle. Known as the power chamber of the heart, the left ventricle is responsible for pumping fresh blood throughout the body. When the left ventricle is weak, this can lead to fainting, dizziness, and low blood pressure. It can also compromise the function of the nearby mitral valve.
Long-term effects of eating disorders on the heart
Over time, the changes in heart function and structure can lead to another potentially life-threatening consequences – heart failure.
In heart failure, the chronic malnutrition causes the heart muscle to become weaker and weaker and less able to pump the blood that the body needs. People with heart failure are at risk of having fluid building up throughout the body, causing swelling in the feet, ankles, legs and lungs. Heart failure can cause other organs in the body to shut down, leading to liver and kidney failure.
Healing the heart after eating disorders
As dire as the situation is, the good news is that the heart muscle is resilient. Research shows that if anorexia is detected and treated, the heart can heal.
A study in adolescent girls treated for anorexia found that while 35% had bradycardia, 93% had decreased mass in the left ventricle of the heart and 60% had abnormal heart rhythms, weight restoration reversed those structural and functional changes. Another study in adults with eating disorders found that abnormalities in the QT interval can return to normal after treatment.
Though heart complications from eating disorders are both common and incredibly serious, getting into treatment can reverse those changes. If you or someone you love is struggling, the team at Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders is here to help.
The feelings of gratitude I have for recovery are unmatched in every way. The last year has been one of growth and resilience but also pain and loss. I have mourned the loss of my eating disorder in moments of frustration and anxiety, remembering moments when I escaped into my behaviors in order to avoid the pain. For most of my life, I held on to my eating disorder in order to avoid living, because it was easier than showing up.
It has been ONE FULL YEAR out of treatment and I am living. Living and feeling and crying and laughing.
The road to recovery has not been an easy one and there have been obstacles and challenges and full on roadblocks along the way. I haven’t been going one single direction the entire time. The destination has changed multiple times and I have had to make a number of U-turns in order to get back on track.
It’s not like all rainbows and smiles and rosy colored hearts in the sky. Every day is hard work but everyday it gets easier. Every day the light becomes a little clearer and the negative thoughts about myself and food are quieter. I can sincerely say I love myself….and with that, I have allowed others to love me. I have opened my life to thriving relationships and shut the door on those that seemed to hold me back. It was a painful time and it still continues to hurt when I look back, but I also look forward and rejoice about the freedom and life that awaits me.
I couldn’t see this a couple years ago, but turning my back on my eating disorder meant turning into an array of possibilities and opportunities. It opened me up for bigger things that could fill my life without weighing it down. In so many ways, things have seemed to come into their own, always reminding me that all that anxiety and worry about menial things was in vain. This has allowed me to stay in the moment and continuously enjoy the present and what is the here and now.
My eating disorder stripped me of a lot in the years that it took over my life. It felt like I was raw and skinned when I walked into recovery…like the everyday hardships and climates would somehow break me and turn me inside out. But I soon realized that the beautiful people in my life (both clinicians and peers) were the safeguard I needed during that delicate time. I became a child again, I went back to the basics…learning how to eat, how to breathe, how to make simple decisions for my well being. I learned how to be Aimee all over again. It was tough, it was rough and it was my own personal hell. But then it ended.
Before I even acknowledged it, I became the person I had longed to be for so long. And I was ready to brave the every day life struggles by myself, and when I couldn’t, I knew I had a community of power behind me every step of the way. Since then, my community has shifted significantly for the better. And the beauty of recovery is that change no longer frightens me in the deep ways it did before.
I am now excited and so blessed to be marrying my best friend! After September 14th, I will be Mrs. Bravo, yet another chapter of my life! A chapter that no longer includes the eating disorder. I am excited to explore what direction my life takes me…I am ready to continue to be myself, AND LOVE IT.
To everyone still in the storm & those who have seen the way out…
Our alumni group recently got into a lively discussion over the benefits of weighted sleep blankets to relieve anxiety and insomnia. Weighted blankets, also called gravity blankets, usually contain pellets sewn into the pockets of the lining to make them heavier than normal bedding.
Weighing from 10 to 25 pounds, the blanket’s pressure is evenly distributed across the body. Many people report that snuggling up under one has a calming effect, helping them feel more secure.
There’s some research to to suggest that weighted sleep blankets may be effective. A study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine found that people using weighted blankets reported finding it easier to settle down to sleep and felt more refreshed in the morning. Objectively, researchers found people slept for longer periods of time.
Research conducted in 2015 among adults in inpatient mental health hospitalization found that 60 percent reported a reduction in anxiety when using the weighted blanket.
Sleep blankets have also been used in children with autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other developmental and sensory disorders. Nursing homes have also started experimenting with sleep blankets to help the elderly who suffer from anxiety related to dementia.
The Science Behind Weighted Sleep Blankets
It’s not known exactly why weighted blankets work, but experts believe that the deep pressure created by the blanket may release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and mood. Deep pressure may also simulate the feeling of being hugged or held, and, similar to swaddling a baby, may make people feel a sense of safety and tranquility.
There are multiple blankets on the market, through sellers including Amazon and Etsy, at prices ranging from about $90 to $200. Some Rosewood patients have made their own, filling the interior of a blanket lining with rice or plastic poly pellets, similar to the material found in Beanie Babies.
While a few of our former patients said the blankets made them too warm or were too difficult to move around under due to muscle weakness, the consensus was that the blankets made people feel safe, calm, comforted and that they slept better.
Weighted blankets are safe for almost anyone, except perhaps someone with serious respiratory or circulatory problems. Though weighted blankets will not help everyone, we think there’s enough evidence that weighted blankets may be worth a try.
I cried today.
I wasn’t crying out of fear, frustration, anger, confusion, this was not that kind of cry.
I was crying because I am happy, I feel joy run through my body. I was crying because of how thankful I am for my recovery & my sobriety.
I was crying because around this time in January, eight years ago, I started my journey, not only with recovery but also with Rosewood.
I was crying because of how far I’ve come, how much I’ve let go, how much work I have done to get here.
I was crying because I am alive, I am living my life for me, not for any other person.
I was crying because I finally know freedom.
I was crying because I finally met myself & I love her, I love who I am without question, without doubt & without ED, Al or Addy screaming back.
I cried today & I am grateful.