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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.
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.
Before you set your 2018 resolutions, I’d like you to do something for me. Look in the mirror. Don’t look and fixate on your flaws. Give yourself a positive affirmation. Look at the amazing and beautiful human being you are. Are you a mom, dad, child, spouse, aunt, uncle, brother or sister? Are you a friend to others? I’m sure you take good care of those you love and more than likely put them before your own needs. For 2018, I want to encourage you to invest in yourself. The most common and failed resolution is weight loss. I am a believer that if you invest in yourself and work on a healthy relationship with yourself, your body will adjust and take care of you. What do you love to do? Is it art? Mother nature? Family time? Travel? We make time for the things we love. Love yourself and MAKE THE TIME to do things that decrease your stress and make you smile and feel more relaxed. You are the most important person in your life. We only have one body. Making yourself a priority is not selfish, it is a necessity. Think before you set those goals. I don’t want you to set yourself up for failure. Dreams don’t have to be dreams. You are worthy of an incredible 2018! Happy New Year!
For many, prison is known as an isolated location for those who have committed crimes. A place of contained confinement for those of us on the outside to ensure our safety. Loss of control, barbed wire and armed security guards. Orange suits, questionable slop and unpleasant smells. You are told who, what, where, when and never why. Rise and shine and lights out when told. Break the rules, pay the price. Men and women live in fear behind these bars. The fear of life. Fearful of who has our back and those talking behind it. Loneliness, nightmares, scattered letters and hopeful visitation. Too much time in our heads to ponder our lives and the decisions we have made. Like a caged animal, we dream of the freedom beyond the cell door or perhaps the fear of leaving it.
What about the prison we live in every day? The prison of our thoughts, fears and behaviors. Behind the bars of mental illness and addictions. Shackled and gagged. Exhausted from the fight of escape. The lies and false promises made from the crowd of screaming voices in our heads. The reaching for an off switch that does not exist. The handful of pills and cries of wanting it all to just go away. The crippling fear of an unknown identity. “Surrender” you say. “Surrender what?” “Just stop” you say. If it were only that easy! We desperately want help but have been trained to push you away. “Go away, we can do this on our own” we lie to you as we hide our shudder and wipe a tear. You see defeat as we rise up to fight yet another round. We don’t want to die but at times death presents itself as freedom from our personal prison.
Please don’t judge what you may not understand. We are not lazy. We fight for our lives everyday. We want freedom more than anything.
There’s no denying that the holidays are food-centric, which can bring on a lot of stress if you’re in recovery for an eating disorder. But there are healthy ways to enjoy the holidays and alleviate food anxiety. Planning fun activities that don’t focus on food can help reduce triggers and bring family and friends together in a positive way.
Here are a few good ideas to help you create your own healthy holiday traditions—without food being the central theme.
Healthy Holiday Traditions
Get creative with holiday decorating.
Decorating for the holidays is a great way to lift your spirits and spend quality time with your loved ones. Take the extra time to make your home feel festive. Feeling crafty? Organize a holiday decorating party. Make your own wreaths or ornaments with family and friends. If you have kids, this is a great holiday tradition. You’ll enjoy the time you spend together creating decorations that you can enjoy for years to come.
Check out the neighborhood holiday lights.
Make a night out of taking a relaxing drive around the neighborhood to check out the holiday decorations and lights. Pile the family in the car, turn on some festive tunes and rate your neighbors on their decorating skills. This can be a holiday ritual that’s fun for the whole family!
Plan fun outdoor activities.
Go sledding, ice-skating, hiking or even just a relaxing walk or bike ride. Whatever the weather permits, make sure to get outside and enjoy some healthy exercise while engaging in a fun activity. Whether you grab some friends, family or go solo—staying active and enjoying nature is good for the body, mind and spirit.
If you like karaoke, then caroling just might be up your ally. Singing is actually good for your health. Studies show that singing helps improve mood, lowers stress and can even boost immune system function. So get out there and organize a group, memorize some of your favorite holiday songs and spread some cheer!
Volunteer your time.
The holidays are the perfect time to give back—and it’s not all about the presents. Volunteer your time in the community, at your local church or a non-profit that addresses a cause that you care about. You can even start your own fundraiser. There are many ways to get creative with fundraising online and in your community.
Carving out some “me time” is one of the most important things you can do, especially during the holidays when things can get chaotic. Take a long bubble bath, head to a yoga class, do some journaling or book a spa day. Taking some time for yourself around the holidays should be a tradition you stick with year after year. You deserve it!
Years ago, before email, texting and social media, people wrote letters when they wanted to stay in touch across long distances. Handwritten in each person’s unique style, letters were sent between spouses, lovers, friends, and soldiers at war to their families at home. The arrival of a letter was a special event, and the letter itself something to be cherished and read again and again.
To recapture a bit of the lost art of letter writing – and to convey the thoughtfulness that taking the time to write and mail a letter implies – Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders’ alumni group has started a writing club. With about 75 participants, writing group members volunteer to send handwritten notes to several other members of the group weekly. Through the letters, they get to know one another, share news, express their feelings, offer encouragement, or simply let the other person know they care.
“The whole purpose is to remind each other about the importance of recovery, community and being each others’ cheerleaders,” said Shannon Hershkowitz, Alumni Recovery Coach at Rosewood.
Hershkowitz got the idea for a writing club after she came across letters that her grandparents had written each other as high school sweethearts while her grandfather was fighting in Europe during World World II. Decades later, Hershkowitz’s brother, who served in the Army during Desert Storm, also wrote letters home that she’s saved ever since. When her son sent her a letter from boot camp, she knew she’d save that forever too.
“There is nothing more precious than a letter,” she said. “Having something to hang on to, to read again and again, feels like you have a piece of them with you. With our alumni, I wanted to bless them with that continued support after they’ve gone home. When they are struggling, they can go back to their letters and read them.”
People with eating disorders often struggle with dwelling on their faults, ruminating over mistakes, and getting stuck in a self-destructive frame of mind because of something they ate or a number on a scale. Sitting down and writing a letter is a powerful coping skill, she explains, because it brings the person out of their own head and instead makes them think about something else or someone else.
When they started, some alumni had never written a letter before. Hershowitz assured them they didn’t have to write long letters – a message of inspiration or just saying hello reminds the recipient that they are being thought of.
“Everyone loves a letter right?” she says. “It’s so much nicer than getting a bill in the mail. When you open up a letter that someone wrote to you, it reminds you that you’re appreciated and that people care.”
When we think of occupations that have a higher prevalence for developing an eating disorder fashion models, celebrities and actors come to mind. But a recent study published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity shows a group at high risk that has gone largely unrecognized—musicians. Dr. Mark Gold, chairman of RiverMend Health’s Scientific Advisory Board, weighs in about the lack of awareness, “One probable reason is that musicians are a very diverse group of artists. A first seat cello player in the Boston Philharmonic would seem to have little in common with a drummer in a heavy metal band in London. Yet the research yielded numerous risk factors and incidence data among all subsets of study participants.”
Investigators surveyed more than 300 musicians including amateurs, music students, professionals and retired musicians. Two-thirds of the participants were female with an average age of 31 years old. Although they were all from diverse backgrounds the majority—about 85 percent—were classical musicians.
The group was asked to fill out a questionnaire that surveyed their physical and mental health, taking into account key information regarding their lifestyle, eating habits and career. Issues surrounding perfectionism, eating disorders, depression and anxiety were addressed. The study revealed that nearly one-third (32 percent) were found to have had an eating disorder at some time in their life, with high rates of depression, anxiety and perfectionism reported.
There are a number of different factors that contribute to musicians developing eating disorders, including keeping up with a particular image to look and perform a certain way. Dr. Marianna Kapsetaki, the study’s lead author, a concert pianist and PhD researcher in neuroscience at Imperial College London, states, “The mental and practical strains arising from an unpredictable work schedule and constant travel may draw professional musicians into ‘a vicious circle of unhealthy eating’”.
So why is this important? Dr. Gold, concludes, “Like many occupations in a fragile economy, stress to perform and to keep one’s job is a constant companion. For musicians, who are mostly self-employed, or seasonally contracted, these stressors are exasperated and often chronic. Prolonged stress is a predictor of depression and anxiety, as well as numerous physiological pathologies, including eating disorders.”
Recognizing the risks for an eating disorder is crucial to getting the help and treatment needed. If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder call 844-921-3091 to speak to a Rosewood Specialist.
The holiday season is upon us, and with it we prepare to celebrate with our loved ones. Huge family feasts and social gatherings can feel overwhelming for anyone. But for those suffering from an eating disorder, the holidays mark a particularly challenging time. Food is often a central theme for bringing families together, which can negatively trigger those in need of treatment. And to compound the issue, the stresses of balancing career, family and daily life in general can take its toll. If you’re telling yourself to just get through the holidays and wait until the dust settles to seek treatment—don’t. There’s no time like the present to begin your recovery. In fact, the holidays may just be the perfect time…and here’s why:
The holidays can actually bring a period of downtime from work schedules and your daily routine. It can be ideal for self-reflection and allow you to take some time to find the right treatment program.
Spending your time in a treatment program can provide you with the tools to finally cope with your eating disorder. Suffering through the holidays isn’t beneficial to you or your loved ones. They would rather see you on the path to healing instead of struggling to cope.
Being surrounded by a supportive treatment team can be just what you need this time of year. Although you may be missing your family and friends, you can rest assured that this second “family” will be there for you every step of the way.
Waiting one more day may be one day too late. Entering a recovery program means that you are one step closer to living a happy and healthy life—no matter what time of year it is.
Keep in mind that there is no perfect time to take those first crucial steps to long-term recovery. Your health and well-being should take priority over any guilt or anxiety you may be feeling due to the holidays. Don’t delay treatment another day. By getting help now you can avoid serious health complications later and start living the happy and fulfilled life that you deserve.
Big family meals, festive foods and social events are a typical part of celebrating during the holidays—but can also trigger anxiety for those in recovery for an eating disorder. And food isn’t the only issue. Many other emotional stressors can take their toll, which can trigger relapse. But with the right preparation and support, there are healthy ways to manage holiday triggers so that you can enjoy the fun and festivities.
Tips for Staying Focused on Your Eating Disorder Recovery
This year, we asked some of our Rosewood alumni what helps them get through difficult times during the holidays. Here’s what they had to say about how to stay strong and focused on recovery:
“For me, I need to stay close to my supports and my meetings. I have to be honest with whatever I’m feeling. I also need to use my coping skills.”
Plan ahead with your treatment team. Talk to your therapist and treatment team to discuss any pressure you may be feeling surrounding the holidays. Come up with some self-soothing strategies together to get you through difficult days. If you’re feeling very stressed, call your therapist or sponsor if you have one. They are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you need to.
“I stay strong by having a plan, taking time to practice self-care, and by having a support system in my husband and best friend.”
Lean on a support partner who understands what you are struggling with. Whether it is your spouse, a friend or another family member, having someone to talk to when you’re feeling overwhelmed can be a huge help. The people who love you are there to listen.
“I try to stay present and in the moment with my kids. It helps my stress level to let go of all of the expectations of the holidays (especially as a mom) and not worry about all the little things. Me being present is what they want most.”
Being present in the moment and not pressuring yourself to create the “perfect” holiday can keep you balanced and centered. If the gravy comes out lumpy, the kitchen is a mess when your guests arrive and the relatives start bickering before you’ve had a chance to serve the pumpkin pie, take a breath and let it go. Thanksgiving is just another day. Going with the flow can relieve unwanted stress and anxiety. Try not to sweat the small stuff.
“Having a schedule helps tremendously. And being kind with myself and knowing what I can and cannot handle.”
The holiday season brings many social events, which can feel overwhelming. Be sure to plan your holiday schedule ahead of time to alleviate extra stress. You should only do what you can handle. If you don’t want to attend an event—don’t! It is perfectly acceptable to politely decline an invitation if you don’t feel up to it.
“Setting boundaries of my expectations when my family comes to visit. Open communication and giving myself space to know when I need alone time.”
Stressful family dynamics is a common trigger during the holidays. Setting healthy boundaries is key. Ask your family to avoid any remarks about your eating disorder. If someone happens to make a remark, think about how you will respond ahead of time and be honest with how you are feeling. This can set the precedent for how they communicate with you in the future. If you need some alone time, let them know. Remember, staying focused on what is best for you and your recovery is most important.
“Socializing vs. isolating! Get outside, visit with friends, go to get-togethers and celebrate holidays with those I love.”
Taking a time out is ok, but completely isolating yourself isn’t a good idea. Be sure to attend gatherings and events that you know you will enjoy. Take part in fun activities. Distractions can help!
“Solitaire on my phone. No matter where I am I can zone out!”
Coming up with some self-soothing strategies are great ways to decrease stress and anxiety. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, download a fun game to play on your phone, learn some relaxing breathing techniques, curl up with a book or squeeze a stress ball. These techniques are so simple—and they work!
“Taking breaks during the holiday events to watch a funny video, pray and re-center.”
Remember to enjoy the little things that make you happy on a daily basis. It will take your mind off any holiday pressures you may be under. Don’t push yourself. When you need a break, take one.
“No matter what, I am following my MEAL PLAN!”
Have your meals made in advance or offer to bring a dish that you know you will eat to family gatherings. Sticking to your meal plan will help take the stress and anxiety out of holidays meals.