Eating disorders are serious, potentially deadly illnesses. They lead to a disconnection between the head and the rest of the body, to the point where your body doesn’t feel like your own. Eating disorders can disconnect you from your life, your family and your values. Healing and recovery means finding wholeness, not only reconnecting the signals between your mind and your body, but also reconnecting with your loved ones, your community and your purpose.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, you are not in this alone. At Reconnect, Ozark Center’s eating disorder clinic, we take this work seriously. Our providers have each received specialized training in evidenced-based practices from industry-recognized experts. Treatment at Reconnect relies on a multidisciplinary team, and every member of your team is vital to taking your recovery into the real world:
- You. You are the expert in your own life.
- A psychologist or therapist. Our providers will work to help you and your family identify your strengths, barriers and areas for continued growth to choose the best treatment for you.
- A registered dietitian. Rather than teaching what to eat and when, our dietitians will help you transform your relationship with food and find balance in your health.
- A psychiatric provider. These providers strengthen your recovery and you through psychiatric medication management in a supportive environment.
- Your primary care physician. Our team will collaborate directly with your primary care provider. Your health is paramount in treatment, and your provider will help us closely monitor your medical stability to ensure you are safe.
- Medical support. These members of our team not only ease communication among your providers, they also watch over your health as you work toward recovery, and empower you to manage this sometimes difficult task as you are able.
- Reconnect Coach. Your coach will help advocate for you and help you learn to advocate for yourself. They will help make your recovery a reality by providing support in difficult moments and encouraging you in the daily work of healing. They are here to help you bring your recovery into the real world, working through barriers and returning you to your life and purpose.
About Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are not a choice – they are dangerous and devastating illnesses. Someone does not choose to have an eating disorder any more than they would choose to have cancer. Girls as young as 6 years old may express concerns about their weight and appearance. More than 80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat, and nearly half of girls between the ages of 9 and 11 often diet to lose weight. These behaviors can and often do pave the way for eating disorders at a young age.
Nearly 30 million people in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. Girls between the ages of 15 and 24 are 12 times more likely to die from this illness than any other cause of death. Normal blood work and lab results may be found in some patients, and those who suffer may fiercely believe “it’s not that bad.” However, their health is in danger now and for the rest of their life. Medical complications include multi-organ failure, infertility, decaying teeth, heart attack and stroke.
The roots of eating disorders begin in biology and genetics. They grow in a culture that assigns a higher value to certain bodies and inevitably considers someone not good enough. The media teaches we must be thin and young to be considered beautiful. Life happens at the same time, bringing events that may trigger an eating disorder, from traumatic events to medical emergencies to bullying. We know eating disorders often occur alongside depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcohol and substance use, or other mental illness.
Recovery from an eating disorder is a difficult roller coaster, but it is possible. Remember this – with effective treatment, 60 percent of those with eating disorders reach full recovery. The truth is your strength knows no bounds. Know that whether your body is large or small (or anything in between) or if it doesn't seem "that bad," you deserve treatment. Know that even if you aren't sure you can afford it, help is available here.
The Emily Program Foundation. Eating disorders statistics.
How often have you held back in your life because you felt not good enough or that your worth was less than those around you? Maybe you skipped dipping your toes in the ocean this summer because your swimsuit did not fit quite right. Perhaps you kept your ideas to yourself for fear of what others might think. Maybe you are even avoiding mirrors because you cannot stand to face your own reflection. Our body image – or perception of our physical self – often dictates the tone of our day and our ability to engage with it.
Often our body becomes a scapegoat for our deepest fears and vulnerabilities. And who can blame us? We were raised to believe our bodies are problems to be solved. Over time, our bodies have been made commodities and hatred of them has become a selling point. We have been taught that our value as individuals is equivalent to our jean size and our ability to attract a partner. Men learn to value their physical strength and are shamed if they do not meet certain standards of physical prowess. Did we even have a chance at a positive body image?
The truth is body image involves much more than our appearance or our bodies. It is the embodiment of the messages we receive from the world around us, whether from society in general or our families. These in turn become self-limiting beliefs that keep us from achieving our true potential in life. We focus on what we have come to know as our worst attributes in an endless game of smoke and mirrors. In spite of its dangers, this is a comfortable way to go about our lives. It is simpler, easier even, to focus on all that is “bad” or “wrong” about us rather than risk the uncharted territory of realizing our strength and potential.
People often assume it is normal to not like your body and want to change it. This comes from a media and culture that teaches us we could never be good enough. You may have a negative body image if you:
- Set goals to lose weight or change your appearance to feel less anxious or depressed.
- Take a long time to get ready in the morning after changing clothes because nothing “fits right.”
- Compare yourself to other people as soon you walk into a room
- Avoid taking pictures or selfies with friends.
- Put off life, fun or vacations until you are able to lose weight.
- Have a difficult time taking compliments.
- Avoid looking in the mirror.
- Feel anxious about how you look in public.
- Check your weight on the scale multiple times per day.
Imagine for a moment the amount of time and energy consumed by every negative thing you think, say or feel about your body and yourself each day. Now imagine what you could do with each of those moments. Whether it is finally taking on that hobby or finding a way to be of service to others, what could happen if you let go of those self-limiting beliefs?
You owe it to no one to be pretty or attractive. Your obligation is only to yourself – to nourish your body and your heart.
By Dr. Jenny Copeland, Ozark Center Clinical Psychologist