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The 3 Biggest Myths About Eating Disorder Therapy in West Chester, Pa

Body Positive West Chester, PA Therapy Counseling for Eating Disorders

West Chester, Pennsylvania is just south of The Main Line – an area rich with resources, beautiful settings, history and academic prestige.  With all this knowledge about … well, everything - in our town, why is it so difficult to fully grasp what eating disorder therapy actually is?  What does it do?  How does it work? 

And the most important question of all – WILL – IT – MAKE – ME – FAT? 

Body Image Therapy in West Chester, PA for Eating Disorders including Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder

You may have found counselors in West Chester that were kind enough and surely helpful.  Understandably, you’ve got lots of questions.

It is so normal to be scared. 

It is completely understandable if you’re wanting help – wanting support, but you can’t quite get yourself to take the plunge – and for MANY reasons (including the fear of getting fat).  There are other reasons you’re probably scared:

you know there’s a bunch of things in your past, or perhaps your family, that may have contributed to your anorexia, but you don’t want to blame them. 

You know you’ve got some difficult memories stored away, but that’s just the point – they’re STORED neatly away and the thought of walking into a counseling office and TALKING about them seems like the worst idea ever!  Also, the commitment! 

The binging and purging takes up ALL OF YOUR TIME –

every last ounce of energy you have to get to the grocery store, buy your binge foods, bring them home, make sure no one’s around and then the binge.  Eating and purging and eating and counting and cleaning and being COMPLETELY EXHAUSTED!  Who has time for therapy, let alone has the ability to commit to a specific time every week to show up? 

But you’re so tired! 

Therapy for Purging in West Chester, PA

Tired of this dance you are doing with a gorilla – he won’t let go and you just keep spinning and you’re out of control and you want help, but it all just seems too overwhelming. 

I hear you – it’s a dark way to live

You don’t have to feel like this anymore

Here are some debunked myths about eating disorder therapy:

1.  Will my therapist try to make me fat?

No.  We are not here to make you fat, contrary to popular belief.  Geneen Roth says that recovery is about finding balance in food, weight and life; it's not about gaining weight.  Recovery from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder is NOT about making you fat.  My focus, when I work with clients struggling with ED, is to help them break free from the obsession with food and body.  To help them learn to love their bodies and live inside of them.  To find peace around food and this is NOT done through binging!  This is done by UNdoing the diet mentality.  Diets make people with eating disorders either fat or nutty or both. 

The goal for someone trying to find recovery from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder is to eat when you are hungry, to eat enough food, that you enjoy, to SATISFY you and to stop eating when you are SATISFIED. 

If you practice this way of normal or intuitive eating, your body will follow suit.  If you are not restricting all day, every day and then binging and purging up your food, your body will do what it was born to do naturally – it will process the food and use the calories to give you energy and help your hair shine and your skin retain moisture.  It will also alleviate the depression and anxiety you are experiencing from malnutrition.

2.  If I go to therapy, will I spend all my time digging up the past and talking about my mother?

No.  As a therapist, I believe your history is one important component of what makes you - YOU.  I usually spend some time exploring things that happened in the past, but only as I find it helpful for the present – or if my client wants to explore or use EMDR to process an upsetting memory, then, of course we go there.  But this is not the focus.  As a therapist, my job is to help you identify YOUR GOALS and I am the guide that helps you reach them. 

Another thing to consider is coaching.  One of the differences between a therapy and a coaching is that coaching is usually much more directive and there’s virtually no history that comes into play.  Coaching can be very useful especially for help with navigating things like grocery stores, restaurants or meal times.  I incorporate coaching techniques when my clients are in need of this sort of direction.  Whatever it takes to reach your goals and so you don’t need to be in therapy for the rest of your life. 

3.  Won’t I just be put on another diet?

Eating Disorder Therapy for Dieting in West Chester, PA

No.  Not when working with this type of eating disorder recovery, anyway.  Some clinicians believe the way to heal an eating disorder is through rigid meal plans and restriction of certain food groups.  Perhaps this works for some people, but don’t you want freedom?  REAL freedom?  As Jenni Schaeffer said, “How free do you want to be?”  YOU CAN FULLY HEAL FROM YOUR EATING DISORDER.  You CAN find freedom from all sorts of restriction.  The beginning stages of recovery may involve a meal plan from a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders.  We usually work on the exchange system.  Rather than counting calories or measuring amounts of foods, we use exchanges to help you get away from the diet mentality. 

And we meet you where you are at. 

If you are not ready to eat 3 meals a day, that is okay.  It is our job to help you mediate your anxiety around food; not to overwhelm you.  Middle and late stages of recovery often move away from meal plans and move more towards intuitive and normal eating.  (whatever that is right?)  But honestly, the goal is to help you find freedom to enjoy meals with friends and family – to put food in its place in your life instead of allowing it to dominate and terrorize you.  Dieting is not part of eating disorder recovery.

I hope this helps debunk some of the myths about eating disorder therapy, and hopefully, it will help you in your search for the right eating disorder therapist in West Chester Pennsylvania.  If you are still feeling stuck, please don’t hesitate to call me at 610.314.8402 for a free 15-minute phone consultation.  I’m happy to hear about what is happening and help direct you to the right person.  If you are looking for help with eating disorders, you can read more about how I can help here.

8 Tips to Navigate Food and Emotions this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be about gratitude and joy for some and for others’, it’s extremely stressful – especially if you’re dealing with or in recovery from an eating disorder.  Here are some things you can do:

1.      Be Gentle with Yourself:

Remind yourself that this is just one day out of the year and it won’t make or break you.  Give yourself permission to eat foods that you like.  BREATHE and know that you are doing the best you can.

2.    Get Grounded:

BEFORE you leave your house.  What grounds you?  Do something that feels very grounding for you and set an intention to keep checking in with yourself during the day.  One of my favorite ways to get grounded is to ask myself “Where are your feet?” – then look down at them; wiggle my toes, feel my feet on the floor or in my shoes.  When I do that, I can rest assured that right here, in this moment, I am safe.  In this moment, where my feet are, I am okay.  Here are some other examples of grounding activities:

Prayer and meditation

Yoga

Coloring mandala’s or other coloring

Going for a walk

Make a list: of anxieties, gratitude’s or plans, etc.

Have a bit of a plan for the day – perhaps write it down in the morning.

Journaling

3.    Contain the Food:

Do your best to eat meals at the normal times you usually eat them.  So instead of skipping breakfast and going to Thanksgiving hungry, eat your normal breakfast.  When you get to your event, check in to your hunger cues – on a scale of 0-10, with zero being extremely starving, 5 is having a light sense of satisfaction – being neither hungry nor full and ten being the most stuffed you’ve ever experienced.  How hungry are you?  Aim for letting yourself empty out to a 2-3 before eating a meal.  See if you can stop eating at a 5-7.  Once you are hungry, rather than grazing on all the different foods, make a plate.  Allow yourself to put at least a little bit of each food you love on the plate or foods you’d like to try.  Skip the foods that don’t interest you much.  Sit down and really savor the foods you chose.  Check in with your hunger and satiety signals a few times while you eat your plate.  Once you are satisfied, tell yourself that you can have more when you are hungry again and follow through.  Making a practice of using hunger and satiety cues is extremely helpful in finding balance with food.

4.   Keep Your Boundaries:

People tend to project their OWN food and body issues onto others’.  So if you notice yourself engaged in a conversation with someone who’s trying to talk you in or out of eating or commenting on your body, take a step back.  Check in with yourself and see what YOU NEED, rather than what this person is trying to get you to do.  Saying you need to use the bathroom is always an easy out to give yourself some time and space to check back in with yourself and get grounded.  Take some deep breaths, splash some water on your face and ask yourself what you need in that moment to take care of yourself before you leave the bathroom.  Here are some examples of things you can say to people who are pushing you: “No, thank you”

“I’m okay right now”

“Yes, I’m going to enjoy this food right now”

“I’m not hungry”

“I’ll let you know when I’m ready for ...”

“I’d rather not discuss my body with you”

Practice saying these boundaries out loud BEFORE the holiday, so that when you’re in the moment, they flow easily and effortlessly.

5.    Make a Self-Care Plan:

If you notice yourself getting overwhelmed, come prepared with an exit strategy.  Here are some examples:

Playing outside with the kids (or adults)

Going into another room for a breather

Taking a walk with a trusted person

Making a phone call to someone from your support group

Taking a time out to journal or color

Going for a drive

6.    Ask for Help:

Enlist a member of your support group to be ‘Holiday Buddies’ to practice what I call ‘Book Ending’:  Have a few agreed upon times you with check-in with one another throughout the day – perhaps before, during and after.  You could plan to call or text one another to report how things are going.  If you don’t hear from your buddy, shoot them a text to see what’s going on.  In this way you have another person who has your best interest in mind to be accountable to.  This practice is also helpful in getting your mind off yourself and your own difficulties.

7.    Be of Service

If you’re feeling social anxiety, focus on what you can do to help.  Be it washing dishes, entertaining the kids, setting the table, taking out the trash – if you make it your mission to help out as much as possible, you’ll find yourself busy and this can really diffuse social awkwardness and anxiety.

8.    Trust:

Trust your body to make up for any ‘mistakes’ you may make.  One day, one meal, one bite at a time.  This day will not make or break you.  Try to turn it over and enjoy as much as possible.