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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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21 Feb

Supported Meals — What’s Your Take?

Ideas to Consider 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

The lovely readers here were oh-so-helpful a couple months ago with sharing your perspectives on what recovery means (the presentation based on some of those responses I’m giving in just over a week – wish me luck!), so I thought I’d turn to all of you again.

I’m doing another presentation at a conference in a couple months and my colleague and I will be talking about supported meals in the treatment of eating disorders, in particular binge eating disorder. We’ll be talking about all kinds of interesting things, like mindfulness at meals, intuitive vs. structured eating, the role of peers in support, portioning meals, and more. One thing we’ll also be discussing is the “controversy” surrounding whether staff (therapist, dietitians, whoever is facilitating the meal) should eat alongside the patients in the meal.

I’ll share my own thoughts with you soon, but so as not to bias, I’ll leave it at that. If you have ever been involved in a supported meal as part of treatment, I’d love to hear from you about your experience. Let me know what was helpful and what wasn’t. And tell me what role staff played in the meal and what that experience was like for you. If you’re a clinician, let me know what your thoughts on are on this topic. Do you think it’s more helpful to eat or not eat with a patient? Why?

Thanks in advance. You are all wonderful! (regardless of whether you respond to my plea this is true!)

**If you don’t want to leave your thoughts as a comment, email me at nourishingthesoulblog@gmail.com. 

20 Feb

If You Really Knew Me: This is MY Body

If You Really Knew Me No Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Below is one in the series of reader submissions called “If You Really Knew Me.” This moving post comes from a strong woman named Liona who blogs over at The Muck of Life. During our email interaction, she shared that a few years ago, her response to “If you really knew me…” would have been much different, much more painful. Isn’t it amazing what changes can come about in our lives and in our perspectives? If you are interested in participating in the series, check out the details.

If you really knew me, you would hear me say this:

This is MY body.

MINE alone.

 

This is MY body.

It does not belong to other women to be admired, compared to, scrutinized, criticized…

It is not there to make anyone feel better or worse about themselves.

This is MY body.

It does not belong to men to be lusted after, degraded, or ranked on a beauty scale.

It is not there to make anyone stumble, or feel repulsed by.

 

This is MY body.

It does not belong to society.

It is not there to meet beauty ideals.

It’s job is not to be attractive enough to elicit a smile, or help me get a job.

 

THIS is MY body.

It belongs to me alone!

 

I am responsible for it’s nourishment and care.

It is MY job to look after it and treat it with the respect it deserves.

 

MY body lies within MY boundaries,

Boundaries I set and enforce.

Anyone invading those boundaries,

whether intentionally or not is to be held accountable for the transgression of sacred space.

 

MY body belongs to Me,

and as such it IS me.

 

To respect me, means to respect my body.

 

To love me, means to love my body.

 

To embrace me, means to embrace my body.

 

It takes courage to claim my body as my own!

 

Courage to stand up against society, against the voices of those who denied it’s sacredness.

 

It takes courage to take responsibility for my body

 

to care for it,

 

to respect it,

 

to speak kindly of it.

 

In a world that demands I define myself by my bodies aesthetics

 

In a world where courage is defined by the willingness to push my body to it’s limits,

where rest and kindness are idle concepts,

where no one has the luxury to apply what idealism teaches.

 

It takes courage to acknowledge and care for my body.

 

This is MY body and I hold it in high esteem.

 

It’s not perfect,

and it doesn’t have to be,

just like I don’t have to be.

 

It doesn’t define me,

but it does define my physical boundaries.

 

It doesn’t create conflict,

but it is in constant conflict with the ideals of my world

 

It isn’t crazy, yet I can go crazy over it.

 

I don’t know about you,

but claiming my body,

truly accepting it as a part of me rather than a separate almost enigmatic presence,

is one of the most courageous things I can think of.

 

To live In my body,

With my body,

Trough my body,

is an act of heroism few women have the courage to do.

 

If you really knew me, you would know how courageous I am and long for you to be with me.

17 Feb

Could a recovery app help you beat an eating disorder?

Ideas to Consider 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

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When people talk about how hard eating disorder treatment is, it’s not often the actual sessions with a therapist or dietitian or the meal group they’re attending that they’re talking about. It’s usually the time in between session that poses the biggest challenges for individuals working their way into recovery. And while the meetings with providers can help guide someone on the right path, it’s generally the time outside of those meetings that make up the steps to real recovery. That’s when real life happens.

Real life is hard work, and it’s the stuff that challenges all the plans and commitments made in the safety of a therapist’s office. Whether it’s developing a plan to utilize a coping skill or practicing mindful eating at each meal, memory and motivation can easily wane when someone finds himself on his own.

That’s why both professionals and recovered people alike decided that there had to a better way to help people stay connected and committed to their goals. If only there was a device that was nearly always with you that could track data and send alerts… and maybe it could even make calls too? Oh, yes! Your mobile phone!

Many individuals with eating disorders are downloading a secret weapon in their battle against their eating disorder. Tucked between their Instagram account and Candy Crush are mobile apps that are helping these individuals stay on track. There are a number of apps out there, but some of the most popular include Take Control, Recovery Record, and Rise Up + Recover.

How do they work? They harnass several of the factors that we believe are important to recovery and make them completely mobile. They center heavily around the concept of self-monitor, meaning that users can document things like what they ate for each meal, if they engaged in any eating disorder behaviors, and if they were able to practice copings skills. Many of the apps will offer positive reinforcement — a virtual high-five — when, for example, someone practices mindful eating.

Some apps allow that accountability extend to an individuals providers’ as well, allowing their progress and struggles to be seen in real-time by their therapists or dietitians. This can not only save time in the next session, but it gives more accurate and thorough information to the people who need it.

Apps can also help track your moods, eating patterns, and other factors and alert you if you are at high risk to engage in binge eating, for example. Many people with eating disorders report feeling that the time before a binge episode feels like their on “autopilot,” so getting a notification that to proceed with caution and reminder to go engage in some self-care could help stave off the behaviors before they begin.

Most of the app creators caution that they apps are most helpful in conjunction with traditional treatment, at least right now. A team at Drexel University will soon be studying if these apps could replace certain aspects of treatment at some point. In the meantime, though, apps can provide a great avenue of additional and unique support outside of the therapy room.

Nothing is a panacea, of course, and one of the issues that these apps’ developers are facing is that users sometimes abandon them not long after downloading. That’s where, I believe, using them as a tool in your ongoing treatment will help. When your therapist is checking in and helping facilitate the use, retention is likely to improve. And just like in therapy, it’s up to the individual to be honest and open when logging meals or determining the trigger for a purging episode.

But for individuals who are ready and willing and confront their eating disorder, apps can provide an effective, efficient, real-time tool.

Have you ever used a recovery app? If so, what was your experience like? If not, would you ever consider it? 

 

**If you weren’t able to join me for the recent AED TweetChat on recovery apps, you can read the transcript here.

13 Feb

I eat because…

Guest Post 1 Comment by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

I first stumbled upon The Eater’s Agreement a few years ago and it’s left an indelible mark on my soul. I like to share it with others from time to time, and to use it as a springboard for discussion about what it means to be an eater on this planet. I wanted to share with one of the responses to the agreement, that I think is simply beautiful. The author is a courageous young woman I’m privileged  to know who will give you a glimpse into her own eating disorder and into a powerful transition.

This eater feels shaken. Feels jolted. I can intellectualize my body’s need for food — its inability to go on without nourishment. But I don’t like to admit it. I didn’t want to be reminded of my humanness — my weakness and fragility. So I manipulated it.

I used food to prove that my life was in my hands. I could choose to sustain it or to starve it away. And so I chose to waste. Waste my resources, my body, my relationship. Deprive them all as I watched them dwindle away. I learned that starvation takes away all ability — steals my capacity to move, think, sleep, love.

I can’t starve my body without starving my soul. I starve and I quickly whittle away my logic, my passion, my desire. I believe that I am mighty. That I don’t need the things that all others need — I am the exception in a scenario of no exceptions. I believe that I am not an eater, a feeler, a bearer of life, until I don’t want to be the exception anymore. I want to need food to live, but I don’t want to live.

And then I am re-introduced to life, and curiosity, and pain. To humanity, to weakness, and to strength. To the overwhelming world of eaters. My brain still battles my body. Once a month I am reminded that I somehow came to sustain my life again, and I feel simultaneous joy and suffering. Relief and fear. My heart beats, my hair grows, my body offers to house another. I am alive because I am an eater — or I am an eater because I am alive.

Perhaps the choice is not about eating or not eating, but about living or not living. Embracing life or rejecting it. itching in a basement, all sources of light blocked out by opaque bags installed, but failing to keep the bugs off of my skin, or stepping out into a lawn of weeds and blooms to feel the sun warm my skin.

I eat for that warmth. I eat to experience the sunrise reflected on the Rocky Mountains outside my window. I eat to stand at the tops of those mountains, and to rest peacefully in my bed afterwards. I eat to embrace my mother and connect with my father. I eat to laugh with my brother. I eat to accept I am imperfect, and to acknowledge the beauty of that. I eat to enjoy a moment. I eat to solve a puzzle, read a book, write a poem. I eat to be curious, eat to learn, eat to inquire and desire. I eat to believe, I eat to breathe. I eat to live.

I eat because I am an eater.

I eat because I have a soul, and I have come to learn that I can’t be a soul without a body.

I eat because I want to learn to celebrate my existence. I eat because it doesn’t matter who I was yesterday, and I want to discover who I will be tomorrow. I eat because some days, some moments I hunger for life. I eat to give the hunger space to grown until it’s satisfied. Reappear and be satiated once again.

And again. And again.

I eat to ay that I am okay with this hunger.

I eat to say I am okay.

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