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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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Tag: family

01 Oct

How often do you eat with your family?

Ideas to Consider 1 Comment by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul


{image credit :: kelsey garrity riley}

Creamy beef lasagne with buttery garlic bread or tofu and broccoli skewers with brown rice? We more often think about the food served at home as being an important predictor of an individual’s relationship with food and self. But the content of the plate is not the only — or necessarily the most – important  factor to consider.

Family meals might be a case of the how being more crucial than the what.

New analyses, coupled with common wisdom, tell us that family meals are protective for youth. Specifically, girls with families that dine together more frequently have lowered risk of depression, substance use, and eating disorders.

The research hasn’t gone specific enough to tell us exactly what the minimum number of meals together might be to garner these impressive effects, but experts in this area tend to suggest five or more meals is a good standard. It also hasn’t been able to tell us exactly why these meals are so important, but there are a number of theories.

For one, family meals offer a time for a family to connect. Families that eat together have more opportunity for communication, allowing parents to get clued in on what their kids are experiencing. That knowledge can be invaluable in addressing issues early. And being aware of and connected can likely prevent young people from seeking out connection in all the wrong places. Plus, kids whose parents take a keen interest in their lives tend to have improved self-esteem. The most important people in their worlds think they and their lives are important – and that’s a big deal.

But what’s interesting is that family meals seem to provide a unique benefit. It’s not just the amount of time — sitting around on the couch doesn’t seem to have the same effect. My take on this is that breaking bread with one another is an intimate and sacred ritual. Preparing and sharing meals is an act of love. It brings people together in an important way that other activities simply can’t.

So if you want to feel better and resolve your eating issues, you just have to schedule some family dinners, right? Of course it’s not that simple, especially for those of us for whom meals with family more closely resemble a scene from Twelve Angry Men than a Stouffers’ commercial.

If getting your family to the dinner table five times a week seems impossible or disastrous, consider how you can create family meals that work for you. That might mean scheduling just one time per week where you come together to order pizza. Or it might be mean creating your own version of “family” — a person or group of people who support you and with whom you would enjoy splitting some crab rangoon.

Do you share meals with family? What are they like for you?


10 Apr

It’s all about the money, money, money… and food?

Ideas to Consider 20 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

{image credit :: audrey sue via pinterest}

My husband and I recently began working our way through Suze Orman’s self-help guide to financial freedom. With more than a little student loan debt (grad school don’t come cheap!), we were wanted to ensure that we were most wisely planning for our financial future.

I personally think Suze Orman is brilliant, witty, and intuitive (sensing the crush I have?), so I was willing to do about anything she suggested. One of the first exercises in the workbook asked us to spend some time reflecting on our financial histories. Specifically, she wanted us to go back to childhood and think about our first memories of money and the beliefs, assumptions, and feelings that originated there. Having dreaded doing a workbook on money matters, I was relieved at this task. Deep psychological exploration? This I could handle!

Despite a smidge of initial skepticism (Memories, my husband questioned? Where does this book talk about our 401k options?), we took the plunge and started talking about early memories of money. While we come from very similar upbringings in terms of economic status, the ways that our families (and eventually we) thought about money were very different. Suddenly, so many of the disagreements that we have today about money (which, maybe surprisingly, aren’t many) came into clearer focus. We weren’t just disagreeing on how to allocate retirement savings – we were (subconsciously) talking about some of our deepest insecurities and fears.

As I started digging into my own financial formation, I began to think about just how much matters of money affect and reflect our relationships with food and ourselves. As a psychologist who treats eating disorders, it’s interesting to me to see these connections play out for my patients as well.

It’s not uncommon for someone who restricts their food to restrict their spending as well. Oftentimes I understand these behaviors as intimately tied to one another – a person will describe feeling unworthy to eat or consume, whether it’s food or material items. They might spend money on others, but they will rewear tattered clothing, deny themselves typical “splurges,” and in general avoid taking for themselves. In my understanding, the root of these behaviors lies squarely on the issue of shame. Can I be seen? Do I deserve? Am I okay?

For most individuals, a pattern of dietary restriction isn’t sustainable in the long-run. Eventually, they engage in binge eating because their bodies and minds are so ravaged from a period of restriction and starvation. This pattern happens almost identically with spending. If we deny ourselves buying the things we want and need for so long, eventually we “crack” and buy something we’re not even sure we want, oftentimes spending more than we had previously saved. A personal example was when I had agreed to not buy new clothes for a year in order to save money (I admittedly had a pretty full closet). Within the first two weeks, I found myself on online retailers and Pinterest looking at new fashions – things I never did before! It reminded me of the Minnesota starvation experiment when men were restricted food intake for many weeks. Soon the men started exhibited a significant preoccupation with food, reporting dreaming about it, imagining it, playing with it when it was available. The lesson? Restriction doesn’t work! And the resulting feelings of shame and self-blame when one “breaks down” then just perpetuate the cycle.

What this all means is that if you struggle with your relationship food, you might also want to take a closer look at your finances as well. Notice if you can find similar patterns emerging, and if you might benefit from some professional guidance.

Do you see your relationship with food being connected to your relationship with money?

27 Jun

When Family Just Doesn’t Understand {On the move…}

Guest Post No Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

The daughter lifts her gaze and with eyes swollen from tears looks at her mother, having just revealed her year-long struggle with her eating disorder. The mother, rocked inside, but in a controlled and loving way, wraps her arms around the one who will always be her little girl. She murmurs gently that she will help in any way she can.

Music rises and lights fade. Made-for-television special goes to commercial.

As most of who live in a world outside of one constructed in Hollywood know, sharing our deepest secrets and enlisting the support of others doesn’t always come quite so easy. And when we’re talking about parents… well, things can be downright painful.

Read more over on Looking in the Mirror…

Thanks to the lovely Melanee for the opportunity to guest blog. She has a fantastic site full of musings from her journey to self-love and acceptance. While you’re there, make sure to check it all out!


21 Jun

One Brave Little Soul {Self-Discovery, Word by Word}

Word by Word 24 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

As I write this post, I’m soaring ten thousand or so miles above the ground, periodically sipping caffeine to prevent any chance of napping that will impair my return to proper time zone alignment, and staring out the oblong window at the blue expanse, lined with long pearls of white clouds.

But this post is not about conquering my fear of flying. Despite my at times intense fear of heights and my notoriety as a Nervous Nelly, I am miraculously at ease in the air.

No, this post is about the little girl sitting behind me.

Let me start by telling you that this flight from Sacramento to Chicago is just over four hours: long enough for an adult like me to read a hundred pages or so in my latest novel, doze off briefly, eat some peanuts, and start to get ansy. For the little girl behind me, who is at most four, this flight is an eternity. It’s at least eight Dora episodes when she usually can’t sit through the first half of one. And so the fact that she’s pulling at her underwear as she’s whines about how her brother has gotten more time on daddy’s iPod is not all that surprising to me.

But her father apparently doesn’t approve of her high-pitched lamentations that are slowly morphing into big, wet, tears — the four-year-old kind.

“Shut up!” I overhear him hiss between teeth so tightly clenched that you’d think his daughter was giving away they passcode to his Swiss bank account. “You’re such a spoiled little brat! You never think about anyone but your goddamn self!” he continues.

My heart is pounding. Well of course she doesn’t think about anyone but herself, I shout in my head. She’s four freaking years old!

“Just stop!” he yells in response to her crying, his voice loud enough for even business class to wonder who spit in his tomato juice. “Quit crying like a little baby. Everyone’s watching you be a brat!”

Now, a braver woman than I might turned around in my seat and laid into Daddy Dearest for berating an innocent child. But I am on a plane thousands of feet in the air and weighed the potential outcomes if this not-so-stable man became violent.

Instead, I sit and wince, and think about how this little girl is much like the grown-up versions of her I see for therapy. This is, in real-time, the inner layers of the onion that we work so diligently in treatment to peel back, and it’s playing out before me.

These comments that the little girl’s father make are the refrains that could play inside her head for years upon years.

You’re a spoiled brat! [You’re bad at your core and a burden. No one will like you.]

You only think about yourself! [You should be thinking about everyone else, even at the expense of your own needs and desires.]

Crying is bad! Everyone’s watching you. [Don’t cry. Keep all of your emotions to yourself. Others will think you’re petty and weak.]

It’s these micro-incidents, that are all too soon forgotten, relegated to the very back of our cluttered brain, that begin to mold the way that we see ourselves. Years from now, in therapy (or hopefully not), the little girl might be asked if she was abused.

And she’ll say no, no one hit me or molested me or killed my dog. But she won’t understand why she loathes herself, why she just can’t seem to establish a healthy dating relationship, why she feels compelled to turn down food because she’s feels guilty eating it, why she just can’t seem to open up and express her feelings to anyone. She’ll see herself to blame for her “issues.” She think she’s selfish. She’ll think she’s a burden. She’ll think she’s whiny. She think she’s bad at her very core.

And I’ll think she’s brave as hell.

[And then I’ll try to convince her of that.]


This post was written as part of the Self-Discovery, Word by Word series. This month’s series is hosted by Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner at The Body and the Brood who has chosen the word  BRAVERY. Please go here to check out the details and all of the amazing posts!

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