Eating Clean and Dieting: What it Means for Eating Disorders

“Clean eating” is a buzz phrase that you may be hearing lately. What does that mean, though? According to the Mayo Clinic, “clean eating is, in essence, a diet — just a way of eating. But it is also a way of living that lends itself to improving one’s health and wellbeing.” They go on to explain that clean eating involves eating real foods that are not processed, eating for the purpose of nourishing the body, and eating safe food that is washed, cooked, and stored properly. While this doesn’t sound so bad, the National Eating Disorders Association suggests that clean eating is actually dieting, but just called something else.  Mental health experts have begun to see that the “clean eating” trend can impact those at risk for eating disorders negatively.

To begin with, the idea of labeling certain foods as “dirty” as opposed to “clean” can be a dangerous concept. If someone is eating anything other than vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins, does that mean that what they are eating is “dirty?” For those struggling with weight and diet issues, this can quickly turn into obsessing over everything that one consumes according to the Huffington Post. This could potentially lead to an eating disorder. If you notice that your teen has gotten caught up in the “clean eating” trend, here are some ideas on how you can encourage healthy eating habits instead.

  1. Everything in moderation.

While there are some foods that we know we shouldn’t eat all the time, like a box of cookies, the danger of labeling certain foods as off-limits it that it causes them to be more tempting to eat. Explain to your teen that it is perfectly okay to have a cookie occasionally. Everything in moderation.

  1. Don’t fall prey to the trends out there.

Between food bloggers, social media, etc. all new diet trends are put out there and largely discussed-particularly when they have been successful for weight loss. “Clean eating” might be all the rage right now, but down the road society will likely shift gears onto the next trend. Talk to your teen about the importance of not always following the crowd and evaluating what is right for them.

  1. Focus on the nutrients that your body needs.

As stated by the Huffington Post, nourishment isn’t just the physical, but also about the mental and emotional satisfaction that food can provide. Eating a salad with grilled chicken, and light dressing is a satisfying and healthy meal, but that doesn’t mean that your mom’s homemade pasta dish isn’t just as satisfying. There is a time for comfort foods. Remind your teen of that.

Encourage your teen to take cues from their body as to what nourishment they need and to be diligent about not obsessing about whether the foods they are eating are “clean” vs “dirty.” If you are concerned that your teen’s fixation with food is dangerous, please consult one our specialists here at Doorways.

Doorways offers individual and group programs for teens and young adults who are struggling with eating disorders. Our certified eating disorder experts are here to help your teen get their life back again.

How to Survive Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder

If your teen is struggling with body image, weight or food issues, the holidays make it so much more stressful. This is particularly true at Thanksgiving, which is a completely food centered holiday.

Doorways Arizona Blog: How to Survive Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder

According to The Huffington Post, some 10 million Americans are fighting an eating disorder. For them, the amount of food around the holiday can be downright painful. For those with anorexia, the food at Thanksgiving can be scary since there is an expectation to eat the food and enjoy it. For those suffering with bulimia or a binge eating disorder, they may be having difficulty controlling their desire to purge being surrounded by so many triggers. However, there are ways that you can not only help your teen survive the holiday, but enjoy it.

Support

While you may be busy cooking, cleaning, or visiting with family throughout the day, don’t forget to check in with your teen and see how they are doing. Additionally, you might suggest that they reach out to a friend that they can check in with throughout the day to give them an outlet to vent. Make sure they know that they are not alone.

Game Plan

The Huffington Post says that your teen should have a game plan. Encourage your teen to eat a healthy breakfast. Maybe they decide to avoid the pre-meal snacks so they can focus on the main meal. At the main meal, they can then make choices that are deliberate.

Ignore the Diet Talk

There is no avoiding the diet talk. As everyone is over indulging at the dinner table it is almost certain that someone will bring up how much they will need to exercise after the meal. Or how they are going to starve themselves after consuming a week’s worth of calories. It is important to talk to your teen about the possibility of this happening so that they can remind themselves that other people’s food issues are not also theirs. Encourage them to not feel guilty about what they are eating nor deprive themselves either.

Focus on Gratitude

While it may seem like it is all about the feast, it is really about thankfulness. Help redirect your teen’s focus from the feast to something or someone that they are thankful for. Maybe have everyone go around the table and say what they are grateful for to help further cement that focus.

Encourage your teen to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal and the special time with friends and family and most importantly, their thankfulness. If you find that your teen needs additional support, reach out to someone that specializes in eating disorders. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

4 Ways You Can Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Teen Athlete

By the time your son or daughter reaches the teenage years, they will inevitably be involved and immersed in many interests as they explore their developing skills, talents, and passions. One of the most common pass times that teens typically enjoy at various degrees during adolescence and beyond is athletics.

Participating in athletics is a fantastic way for your teen to stay healthy and fit, while learning the value of teamwork, respect, and hard work. Playing sports can also build self-esteem and help your teen form healthy bonds of friendship as they learn how to handle success and defeat.

However, as you teen begins to develop athletic skills and pursuits, they will also become more aware of their bodies and how they compare to their peers and any athletic icons they look up to as role models and motivation.

Unfortunately, this heightened body scrutiny and comparison can give way to unhealthy body image issues and evolve into eating disorders very quickly if your teen is not equipped with a strong sense of what it means to be healthy, strong, and athletic. In fact, according to the National Mental Health Institute, 2.7 percent of teens age thirteen to eighteen have struggled with some type of eating disorder.

4 Ways You Can Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Teen Athlete

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, here are four ways that you can help support a healthy body image in your teen athlete to protect them from developing dangerous, unhealthy eating or training habits:

Understand eating disorders and other body image issues your teen may face.

It is important to understand that eating disorders do not stem solely from eating or not eating in unhealthy manners. Eating disorders are a symptom of a much deeper mental, emotional, or psychological issue that may be plaguing the happiness and well-being of your teen. Make sure that you do the research on what different body image issues and eating disorders exist, and fully understand how they may impact your teen as they strive to excel in athletics.

Know how to identify if your teen is struggling with their body image or suffering from an eating disorder.

To keep your teen healthy and safe, know the warning signs and symptoms to look for that may provide you early warning into a potential problem. Most teenagers will not come forward openly with their body image or eating disorder problems, so you will need to begin the open, honest, supportive conversation if you witness the warnings. According to the Mayo Clinic, warnings of an eating disorder may include:

  • Abnormally low body weight
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Distorted body image
  • Expressions of self-hatred or loathing
  • Excessively limiting calories or food intake
  • Escaping to the rest room immediately after a meal
  • Refusing to eat
  • Vomiting after meals
  • Use of weight loss pills or laxatives

Talk to your teen about their athletic role models, and help them identify healthy bodies and training regimes.

As the Summer Olympics quickly approaches, your teens will be watching with added excitement and attention as the very best competitors in their favorite sports compete for medals. This is a great opportunity to point out healthy, strong bodies and talk to your teen about the best ways to accomplish their fitness goals in a safe manner.

Additionally, there are many athletes who have overcome eating disorders. Sharing these stories of triumph and success can help encourage your teen to open up and seek help if they have been experiencing issues with their body or are developing an unhealthy relationship with eating.

Intervene with support, positivity, and straightforward help when you suspect body image issues or eating disorders in your teen.

If your teen exhibits the warning signals of poor body image or a potential struggle with an eating disorder, you should intervene immediately. When you bring up this topic with your teen, do not speak in judgmental or negative terms. Be open, positive, and straightforward as you encourage your teen to speak openly while you listen. If your teen continues to display unhealthy behaviors after you’ve intervened, it can be immensely helpful to consult the advice of a professional teen counselor to help you reach your teen with tools for an active and healthy approach to athletics and life.

 

Six Tips to Help Parents Raise Kids With A Positive Body Image

It’s no mystery that we live in a culture driven by appearance. Even if we know something is bad for us, if it will help us look good we can’t seem to turn it down. As the drive for visual perfection continues, young men and women are constantly told that they are not good enough. The battle begins in childhood, with elementary school children reporting that they feel fat or wish they looked a different way.

Body Image Concept

The National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders recently reported “a dramatic increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders in children 12 and under.” Sadly “between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations rose 119 percent.” This didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be solved overnight. Still, there are things parents can do to encourage children from a young age to young adulthood to value themselves and to find that value in places other than their appearance.

Focus on Character Not Curves Be intentional about complimenting character. Take the focus off the body and put it on the brain. Encourage and celebrate academic success. Spend time serving others instead of focusing on self. Invest in your children’s character development more than their physical development and they will naturally learn what is more important.

Make Food Friendly Do not use food as a reward, punishment or incentive. This is a tough one, but if you can put it into practice, you just might save yourself and your child a lot of hurt. Attaching food to success or failure adds emotions that can lead to disordered eating. Try to avoid taking away food as a punishment or implementing consequences for not “clearing the plate” at dinner.

Lose the Scale One of the best things you can do for your teen, and probably for yourself, is to get rid of your scale. Unless you have orders from a doctor to track your weight, it probably isn’t necessary to weigh yourself on a regular basis. If you do choose to keep one around, put it away when not in use. Avoid weighing yourself in front of your kids or letting them weigh themselves.

Strive for Health Not a Number In the same tone of ditching the scale; we really encourage you to strive for a healthy lifestyle. Make an effort to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. As your schedule and budget allows, make meals from scratch using whole foods. Keep healthy snack options in the home and avoid processed foods. Be active, not just through exercise, but also through spending time in activities with the whole family.

Love Yourself You are your child’s first teacher and you have a lot of power in shaping their body image and self-esteem. Choose to make yourself an example of a healthy lifestyle and positive body image. Silence the “fat talk” and be vocal about things you like about your body. Put the focus on talent and strength. Also be mindful of how you speak about other people’s appearance. In employing this tip, you just might find you are feeling better about yourself too.

Put Your Guard Up Mainstream media, youth programming included, is full of body shaming. One study reviewed 134 episodes of popular Disney and Nickelodeon shows and determined that an alarming 87 percent of the female characters ages 10-17 were underweight. Take steps to guard your children from negative body image in the media. Ditch the beauty magazines. Skip the weight loss commercials and don’t choose programs that show weight loss as a path to happiness or portray being underweight as normal or healthy.

Even if it doesn’t develop into a diagnosed eating disorder, a negative body image can impact development. Research from Common Sense Media and others shows that body image is linked to several factors of both social and emotional well-being. So as difficult as it may be, take time to talk to your teens about the issue. And take a stand, unpopular or not, to protect them from influences that impact their body image in a negative way.

 

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Dr. Wall: Article Accepted for Publication in Journal of Psychiatric Research

Dr. David Wall, Ph.D., has written an article that was just accepted for publication in Journal of Psychiatric Research titled “Self-harm History Predicts Resistance to Inpatient Treatment of Body Shape Aversion in Women with Eating Disorders: The Role of Negative Affect.” Authors: Olantunji, B.O., Cox, R., Ebesutani, C., Wall, D.

journal of psychiatric research cover

20141208_5171 (Preferred)David Wall is a Licensed Psychologist with a PhD from California School of Professional Psychology. He completed his internship at the University of California at Berkeley. He also received his Masters of Divinity from Fuller Seminary, and served as a youth director as well as a Chaplain Candidate in the US Air Force.

Dr. Wall was Director of Psychology at Remuda Ranch for almost 20 years, treating girls and women with eating disorders. He is certified by the International Eating Disorder Foundation to treat eating disorders and is certified by the International OCD Foundation to treat OCD and related disorders. He has presented at national conferences, published articles in scientific journals and co-authored/edited a book on eating disorders.

Questions You Should Be Asking About Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa, also called binge and purge syndrome, is a habitual eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of excessive food intake followed by self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, fasting, or taking laxatives to avert weight gain.

Bulimia Nervosa as a Medical Diagnosis Concept

Bulimia is a big problem on college campuses. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) approximately 25% of college-aged women engage in bingeing and purging as a weight-management technique.

When it comes to eating disorders, many parents assume that they would be able to tell by their student’s extreme weight loss if they had an eating disorder, however, when it comes to bulimia, the problem is not always visible. 

 

Here are some questions you should ask yourself to help determine if your student has bulimia:

 

Is My Child Unhappy With His/her Body?

Individuals with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Instead of asking if your child is too skinny, ask if they are happy with the way they look. Thin people can think they are fat and still have an eating disorder. Overweight teens are at risk for bulimia just as much as underweight teens are as well, though they are less likely to be suspected of having an eating disorder. If your teen is unhappy with their body, and regularly comments on it, this may be a sign they are suffering, whatever their weight. Contrary to the beliefs of bulimics, purging does not cause weight loss. At least half of what is consumed during a binge remains in the body after purging. The body still absorbs the calories of the food ingested. Therefore, even when an individual has been suffering with bulimia for a while, they may not lose much weight and it can be hard to tell just by looking at them if they are bulimic.

 

What Is My Child’s Relationship With Food?

It is not anyone’s fault when a child becomes bulimic. Many people blame the photo shopped images in the media or often blame the bulimic individual themselves. However, regardless of environmental factors, the individual’s relationship with their body and food is at the root. Bulimia often starts with a diet, which is intended to help the individual feel better about their body. This sometimes results in severe restrictions of food, compensating by binging, feeling guilty about overeating, and beginning a cycle of binging and purging. The cycle, once started, is difficult to stop.

 

Does My Child Show Signs of Binging and Purging?

Bulimics are good at hiding their disease. They hide food and binge and purge in secret. Some signs of purging can include frequent smells of vomit, excessive trips to the bathroom (especially around meal times), excessive exercising, eating large amounts of food with no weight change, use of diuretics and laxatives, and evidence of binges such as food wrappers and containers. Long term bulimics often have swollen glands and discolored teeth from purges.

 

If you think your daughter or son may be suffering from bulimia, it is important to get help. Bulimia can cause long term issues including tooth decay, acid reflux, ruptured stomach or esophagus, loss of menstrual periods and fertility, and chronic constipation. Recovery is possible, and there are trained professionals that can help your child develop healthier attitudes about food and their body. Start by calling the National Eating Disorders Association’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-931-2237 for free referrals, information, and advice.

 

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Is It a Diet or Is It an Eating Disorder? What Parents Need to Know

Eating disorders are a complex illness resulting from a variety of emotional and environmental factors and manifest in a variety of different ways. Often, they can go undetected, especially when unhealthy eating habits can look like a fad diet. Parents of teens may have a hard time recognizing when abnormal eating habits are leading to the detriment of their child’s health. Following are some tips that can help you spot the difference between symptoms of eating healthily while dieting and symptoms of an eating disorder.

Woman handcuffed by a tape measure

photo: bigstock

Your child on a diet:

  • Has a clear weight goal. Ask your child what their weight goal is and determine if it seems like a reasonable, healthy weight for their body.
  • Doesn’t completely cut out any food group. It’s normal to limit unhealthy or fatty foods, but part of eating healthily is eating a variety of nutrients and foods. If your child won’t touch a certain food at all, like bread or proteins, there may be a problem.
  • Limits portions, especially of unhealthy or fatty foods, but still enjoys eating. Most individuals on diets feel guilty after eating too much or too unhealthy, but not afraid. If your child seems afraid or anxious around food, especially eating in public, it may be a sign of a bigger problem.
  • Exercises because it helps them achieve their goals and feels good, not excessively or to punish themselves.

Your child with an eating disorder:

  • Doesn’t have a clear weight goal. Whatever the scale says, it won’t be low enough. They will always want to lose more and more weight.
  • Eats only certain types of foods. They seem disgusted or afraid of foods they used to like, which may be high in fat or sugar. They may also have strange eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or rearranging it on the plate. They may also combine strange foods together, which they binge on in secret.
  • Limits portions to extreme degree of low calorie intake and skips meals. Individuals with eating disorders will often make excuses not to eat. Either they are not hungry, just ate with a friend, or are not feeling well.
  • Has an unhealthy body image. They complain about being fat regardless of how thin they are or how much weight they’ve lost. They seem repulsed by certain body parts or their body in general.
  • Suffers from depression and engages in self harm. Some individuals also abuse drugs, alcohol, or laxatives.

If your child shows signs of an eating disorder, getting help is essential. Eating disorders can lead to heart and kidney problems or even death, and often coincide with other emotional illnesses, which can be just as harmful mentally as they are physically. Treatment is available to help with the individual’s emotional, social, and body image problems that cause eating disorders. Anad.org is a good place to get started in finding adequate treatment. There is hope in recovery. Your child can overcome his or her eating disorder.

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Eating Disorder Research Update

eating disorders

Be sure to understand when eating disorder risk factors become predictive. (photo credit:BigStockPhoto.com)

Research teams across the country and around the world are constantly pursuing research projects designed to help better understand eating disorders including the root cause, who is most at risk, and what treatments are the most beneficial.  For families affected by an eating disorder, keeping on top of this research is important as it can improve their understanding of a specific disorder and guide them in providing the support and assistance required to restore a person with an eating disorder to good health.  To help, here is an overview of one of the research initiatives published thus far in 2014.

Understanding When Eating Disorder Risk Factors Become Predictive

The factors that can increase the risk for developing an eating disorder are well known thanks to previous research initiatives but when those risk factors emerge and at what point they can be used to predict eating disorder development is less clear.  The goal of this study was to better understand how to use what we know about risk factors to do a better job predicting future disorder development.   The data used in the study was collected from a participant pool of almost 500 females who completed an annual survey for the 8 years spanning from pre-adolescence to young adulthood.   The survey tracked potential risk factor and eating disorder diagnosis information.

The results show that risk factors generally emerge in early adolescence and three of the risk factors emerging in the early teen years seemed to correlate to an increased risk of eating disorder development in the later teen years and in early adulthood.  These three factors are perceived pressure to be thin, internalizing thin as the ideal body type, and body dissatisfaction.  Of those three, increased body dissatisfaction in girls ages 13 to 16 was predictive of an eating disorder diagnosis within 4 years.  The other two factors only seemed to be predictive when seen in girls who were 14.  This indicates that prevention programs need to begin in early adolescence, these programs need to target girls dealing with increased body dissatisfaction, and that prevention efforts focused on 14 year old girls will be the most effective.

Are Cleanses the New Eating Disorder?

juice cleanse

Are juice cleanses the new eating disorder? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Cleanses are healthy, right?  They are touted on major talk shows, endorsed by celebrities, and billed as a healthy way to lose weight and rid the body of toxins.  But are they actually good for your body?  And is the “cleanse culture” ushering in a new kind of eating disorder? To answer these questions, let’s start by looking at some of the most popular cleanses and the benefits they promise to bring.

  • The Master Cleanse – 10 day liquid diet consisting primarily of lemon juice, water, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup.  Promises rapid weight loss and toxin removal.
  • LemonAid 48 Hour Detox Diet – 2 day liquid diet consisting of a specific lemonade formula.  Promises a lighter, leaner you.
  • iZO JuiceFeast Cleanse – Liquid diet consisting of organic juice that people can do for any length of time.  Promises everything from quick weight loss to spiritual renewal.
  • 21 Day Clean Detox Program – 21 day program that includes specific shakes, supplements, and one small daily meal consisting of food from an approved list.   Promises to remove common food allergens, rebuild the body, and gain a better understanding of how your body reacts to certain foods.
  • Blueprint Cleanse – 3 day cleanse that features juice all day, two snacks, and a vegetarian meal at dinner.  Promises to relieve stress on the digestive system and alleviate toxins.
  • The Quantum Wellness Cleanse – 21 day program that eliminates alcohol, gluten, added sugar, caffeine, and animal products from the diet.  Promises to kick-start physical and mental wellbeing.

While many experts agree that short cleanses like the LemonAid 48 hour detox or the Blueprint cleanse may not necessarily deliver significant benefit, they also agree that extreme calorie reduction for a few days isn’t going to do any harm either.  But when this kind of extreme calorie restriction goes on for a week or more, concerns are being raised about how that is impacting the body.  But even doing something like the Master Cleanse for 10 days isn’t the real issue nutritionists and experts in this area are worried about.

The concern over the popularity of these cleanses is that when people, especially women, go through one of these programs and experience rapid weight loss from extreme calorie restriction or other temporary benefits, they can become obsessed with cleansing.  This can lead to going through a new cleanse every week or two.  Since most cleanses involve extreme calorie reduction and intake of a very limited group of nutrients, this healthy fad, when taken to extremes, can have serious health consequences.    Some have even raised concerns that this type of behavior may be developing into a new kind of eating disorder.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) defines an eating disorder as a serious emotional and physical problem that involves extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors around weight and food.  Given that definition, it is easy to understand why there are growing concerns about the cleansing craze.  NEDA has recently added a category of eating disorder to their website called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder that encompasses behavioral patterns where a person fails to take in enough food and experiences serious nutritional deficiencies but without the psychological factors seen with Anorexia Nervosa.  While not specifically related to cleanse craziness, this new disorder seems to encompass the problem that would result from extreme cleansing.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Eating Disorders

Do you know the warning signs that a loved one may have an eating disorder? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When most people think of eating disorders, it is very likely that the image that pops into their mind features a young, emaciated girl.  But this is only part of the real story of eating disorders and something that the National Eating Disorders Association is working to change with its annual awareness campaign.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs from February 23rd to March 1st this year which provides the perfect opportunity for everyone to increase their understanding of these debilitating and even deadly disorders.  There are millions of people in this country suffering from eating disorders but many go undiagnosed and untreated.  In part, this happens because of the shame and guilt many people struggling with these conditions feel because of their disorder.  It also happens because not everyone with an eating disorder looks like that girl many of you pictured.  People with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes which is why it is so important to spread awareness to everyone, not just amongst those who have been diagnosed.

Here are some of the things you can do to help spread awareness about eating disorders this month.

1.     Educate Yourself or Someone Else

Many people have a very limited understanding of the two most well-known eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and little to no knowledge about the other common eating disorders.  This means that we may not see the signs of struggle in someone we love or even in ourselves.  Understanding the basics of the four primary eating disorders is a great start.

  • Anorexia Nervosa – When a person participates in self-starvation, depriving the body of calories in order to become thinner.
  • Bulimia Nervosa – When a person goes through cycles of binge eating followed by activities like purging or excessive exercising to “make up for” for the binge.
  • Binge Eating Disorder – When a person participates in regular episodes of binge eating that is not accompanied by other behaviors intended to compensate for or get rid of the extra calories.
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) – Some people who struggle with disordered eating exhibit a range of symptoms that prevent them with being diagnosed with each of the three primary disorders above.

2.     Host an Event

The National Eating Disorder Awareness website has a ton of information you can use to host a fun, informative, or educational activity or event as part of the awareness week event.   One great way to get the message out is to host a screening of “Someday Melissa”, a documentary about eating disorders.   For assistance in planning your event, download NEDA’s Event Planning Guide.

3.     Share Your Story

Whether you post some thoughts on your favorite social media site or stand up in front of a crowded room, sharing your own eating disorder story is one of the most powerful things you can do to raise awareness and make a difference in other people’s lives.

4.     Post About the Problem

Take to social media to help spread the word about eating disorders.