The Body’s Built-in Safety Nets

Our bodies are capable of amazing things, and there is a lot going on in there to keep us alive and attempt to make sure that we are functioning at our best. When we upset the optimal levels that our body needs to function, there are coping mechanisms that take place as built-in safety nets to help us survive. There are also specific things that happen in the presence of an eating disorder, and some of these can be exhibited as signs or symptoms to warn us of the underlying issues. For example, in times of starvation or malnutrition, when we are not getting enough energy through calories consumed, our bodies attempt to slow down metabolism in order to conserve energy1. One of the ways that the body accomplishes this is by lowering its’ body temperature. Blood circulation is decreased, and blood is conserved around the internal organs for protection, which causes a lack of warm blood flow to the extremities of the body such as the hands and feet. The blood that is sitting in the extremities gets cold due to the lack of circulation, and thus causes the hands and feet to feel especially cold. Another reason for always feeling cold is the loss of the body’s insulating layer of fat, which is normally used to keep the body warm2. Individuals with eating disorders sometimes explain feeling cold often and this is why it occurs. If this is something that is happening for you or a loved one, it’s important to speak with a health care professional to let them know. Our bodies have a specific temperature range where they function optimally, and a lower temperature range can lead to dangerous health complications.s

Other adaptive changes that the body makes in times of stress can include a reduced respiration rate or hypotension (low blood pressure), which are both also due to the slowing down of the body’s metabolism to conserve energy3. There can also be growth of a fine hair on various parts of the body in an effort to keep the body warm and insulated and try to regulate temperature. This hair growth is referred to as lanugo4. With all of this being said, when these warning signs appear it is extremely important to seek help from a professional before trying to reintroduce a higher calorie intake. The reintroduction process needs to be gradual to avoid refeeding syndrome, where your body cannot adapt quickly enough to the change and cannot cope properly. After prolonged starvation, the body shifts to get energy from different places, and is potentially deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. When refeeding, the metabolism can overwork itself trying to make up for lost tissues and it can be difficult to adapt again to a new change5. Consulting with a physician or dietitian first can help to make personal recommendations while also monitoring nutrient levels and maintaining safety above all in the recovery process.


References

1. Gaudiani, J.L. 2015. Why feeling cold can be a dangerous sign in anorexia nervosa. Retrieved from: http://www.gaudianiclinic.com/gaudiani-clinic-blog/2015/12/21/why-feeling-cold-can-be-a-dangerous-sign-in-anorexia-nervosa

2. Eating Disorders Glossary. Hypothermia (low body temperature). Retrieved from: http://glossary.feast-ed.org/3-treatment-medical-management/hypothermia

3. Ahacic, J.A. 2016. Nursing made incredibly easy! Vol 14-2Retrieved from: https://www.nursingcenter.com/cearticle?an=00152258-201603000-00007&journal_ID=417221&issue_ID=3331856

4. Mascolo, M. 2018. Anorexia recovery and overcoming physical side effects of an eating disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/bulimia/anorexia-recovery-and-overcoming-physical-side-effects-of-an-eating-disorder

5. Grubiak, K. 2018. Restoring nutritional health in anorexia nervosa recovery. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/restoring-nutritional-health-in-anorexia-nervosa-recovery-4115081

 

Breakfast: Is it Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

Many of us have been told since we were children that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Truth is, it’s not a myth! Eating within an hour of waking “breaks the fast” (ie. break-fast) and helps our body to wake up and get ready for the day. In order to tackle our daily tasks, we must first fuel our brains and provide our bodies with substantial energy to thrive during the day. Eating meals and snacks throughout the day not only provide us structure but also assists in the recovery process by helping our body get used to adequate nutrition again.

What does “breaking the fast” really mean? Well, during the night our bodies are in a fasted state which means that bodily processes slow down to rest. This includes our breathing, our heart rate and digestion. Upon awakening, our bodies seek energy primarily in the form of carbohydrates which is utilized to supply fuel to our brains. Further, the digestive tract begins its’ natural rhythm as it knows that food is on its way.Consuming breakfast after the night’s fast helps to regulate blood sugars and hormones such as cortisol, the “stress hormone”.By fuelling our bodies with food, cortisol levels naturally balance out and our body is no longer in a stressed state due to the overnight fast.2

Eating breakfast also helps to set up our appetite. Hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin, are noticeably balanced after consuming a meal.2 A large piece of eating disorder recovery is re-learning our hunger and fullness cues and eating breakfast can be tremendously helpful in this endeavour. People who do not eat breakfast will often notice increased feelings of fatigue and brain fog as the day goes on.The cycle perpetuates itself, often impacting cognition and the ability to learn.4

Nutrition supports growth and bodily functions. For example, during infancy, childhood and adolescence, nutrition supports cognitive development and growth. During the later years, nutrition helps to maintain a strong immunity and maintain cognitive performance.3,5 Many studies illustrate the connection of eating a nutrient dense breakfast to increased academic performance and sustained energy. Eating breakfast also enhances concentration, memory and alertness.2,3 It provides us with the brain power to critically think and reason out outcomes during problem solving.Consuming regular meals and snacks helps in meeting nutrient and energy needs, facilitates the development of normalized eating patterns and reduces the likelihood of disordered eating.6

Consuming breakfast is one of the first nutrition goals when working with our dietitians to overcome an eating disorder.By engaging in regular eating for recovery, one will recognize and respond to their hunger cues and become more in tuned with their body providing it with sustained energy throughout the day.This is also known as mechanical eating, suggesting that individuals should eat every 2-4 hours while awake. This technique disrupts disordered eating, grazing, binge eating, purging and relieves anxiety associated to food rules.4 Committing to this nutrition goal benefits the individual by providing them with structure to their day and encourages routine to plan, prepare and prioritize meals.4 Ultimately it is protective to recovery as it allows the body to heal and repair and stimulates a positive mind set.


References

1. Betts, J. A., Chowdhury, E. A., Gonzalez, J. T., Richardson, J. D., Tsintzas, K., & Thompson, D. (2016). Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? In Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 75(04), 464–474. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116000318

2.  Spence, C. (2017). Breakfast: The most important meal of the day? In International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, 8, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgfs.2017.01.003

3. Affinita, A., Catalani, L., Cecchetto, G., De Lorenzo, G., Dilillo, D., Donegani, G., Zuccotti, G. V. (2013). Breakfast: a multidisciplinary approach. In Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 39(1), 44. https://doi.org/10.1186/1824-7288-39-44

4. Ferrer-Cascales, R., Sánchez-SanSegundo, M., Ruiz-Robledillo, N., Albaladejo-Blázquez, N., Laguna-Pérez, A., & Zaragoza-Martí, A. (2018). Eat or skip breakfast? the important role of breakfast quality for health-related quality of life, stress and depression in spanish adolescents.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(8), 1781. doi:10.3390/ijerph15081781

5. B, C. (2018). The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Eating Breakfast. In Brookhaven Blog. Retrieved from https://www.brookhavenretreat.com/cms/blog-22/item/3090-mental-physical-benefits-eating-breakfast

6. Fleming, K. (2018). Regular eating for recovery. In Center for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/~/media/95F9A1FC3F1C4D0A92CD31B09166FDDB.ashx

 

Sick Day Management: How to Stay on Track With Recovery When You Have a Cold

Over the winter months, we welcome frigid temperatures, frequent snowfalls and of course, cold and flu season”. During this time, we begin to experience a weakened immunity due to the change in weather, the lack of sunlight and shorter days.1Certain measures can be taken to avoid getting sick, such as frequent hand washing and getting the flu vaccine.2It’s also helpful to  get adequate sleep, stay hydrated and nourish our bodies with food.

Sick day management can be challenging. You may be experiencing fatigue, congestion,  and a lack of an appetite.3When we’re not feeling so well, it’s normal for our appetites to be suppressed. Our days may feel dull and dragged out and our energy levels lower than usual. During recovery from an eating disorder, this can become more challenging and requires extra attention to stay on track with recovery.4Efforts should be made in order to consume a sufficient amount of energy required for eating disorder recovery and also to recover from the cold or flu. Since hunger cues may be affected, without proper attention an individual can easily under-eat, become dehydrated and as a result prolong their sickness and regress in their recovery.5

When we are ill, our body’s defense army will work extra hard to attack the virus impairing our wellness. This is why maintaining regular eating habits and nourishing our bodies is crucial to repairing and strengthening our immune system. It can be beneficial for individuals in eating disorder recovery to practice mechanical eating during times of sickness. Eating based the clock, every 2-4 hours, will help meet energy and micronutrient needs despite feeling unwell.5Intuitive eating should be avoided as appetites tend to be suppressed during times of sickness.

Since we know that the common cold can diminish our hunger and speed up satiation, an easy way to manage our energy intake during recovery is to choose more nutrient dense foods and drink energy rich fluids5. A simple way to add extra energy to our meals and snacks is to use full fats in recipes and meals, such as rich cheeses, full fat yogurts and heavy creams. Increasing the nutrient content in beverages is highly recommended and can be accomplished by replacing water with milk, soda or fruit juices..Choosing to make soups and smoothies when we are feeling sick can also been a good choice rather than consuming heavy meals when our appetites are suppressed. Finally, staying warm and scheduling in adequate time to rest is imperative for your body to heal sufficiently.


References

  1. Influenza (Flu). (2018). In Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm
  2. Allan, G. M., Arroll, B. (2014). Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. InCanadian Medical Association journal186(3), 190-9.
  3. Influenza (Flu). (2018). In Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/coldflu.htm
  4. Karges, C. (2016). Dealing With Sickness: Maintaining Recovery During the Holiday Season. In Eating Disorder Hope. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/dealing-with-sickness-maintaining-recovery-during-the-holiday-season
  5. Leech, R. M., Worsley, A., Timperio, A., & Mcnaughton, S. A. (2015). Understanding meal patterns: Definitions, methodology and impact on nutrient intake and diet quality. In Nutrition Research Reviews,28(01), 1-21. doi:10.1017/s0954422414000262

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Helping or Hindering Recovery?

Following the holiday season, there comes the time of year where people tend to reflect on all the experiences and milestones that they have accomplished and begin to assess what they can change.  January 1st becomes the marked date where resolutions are made in hopes to change a habit, better yourself or make new commitments to name a few.  Many see it as an opportunity to leave certain habits or negative vibes behind and start fresh with a new year. Some may even say “new year, new me”1. This particular time of year can be very exciting but also very triggering for individuals living with disordered eating. There are societal pressures encouraging many people to become the best version of themselves1. What we hear less of is that this can backfire and cause people to make unrealistic goals or create negative mindsets. By being kind to yourself, we can choose to either make helpful, healing resolutions or opt out of resolutions altogether! Either way, we can reach our goals while embracing self-love and self-acceptance.

We have noticed that the majority of people who make new year’s resolutions strive for perfection. They make too many goals with the hopes to change old habits or make major life changes all at once1. This can be quite overwhelming! To no surprise, the University of Scranton noted that only 8% of people successfully translate their resolutions into their lifestyle while 92% fail to continue2. Why is this? When we make too many goals at once, it can be hard to keep track and sustain each goal; creating a negative attitude towards the rest. Guilt and shame suddenly overwhelm our thoughts and our abilities to succeed. Just like eating disorder recovery, making a change in life requires steps and should be regarded as a journey3.

Whether the goal is to set boundaries, practice more self-compassion, budget your money, or incorporate a new self-care activity, there is sure to be some regression and progression. SMART goals may be a helpful tool in helping you to sustain a change or successfully incorporate new year’s resolution into our lifestyles. SMART goals represents the need for goals to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time based4. It is very easy to get caught up in the pressure in making resolutions and dismissing reality. By making your resolutions a journey, you maybegin to understand the process. It it may even mean that you take a few steps back before you can take a few steps forward.

Especially around this time of year, there is a great emphasis and focus on the word “health”. A lot of resolutions stem from a negative mindset of wanting to make changes to our weight, eating patterns and body shape1. This can be triggering to many individuals, especially those who are on their journey to recovery. It is important to consider your audience when discussing anything around food and exercise to ensure you are not risking harm to your peers. We all need to be gentle with ourselves, but especially as we are in the process of healing and can be easily influenced by the negative body ideals, social media blasts and diet culture surrounding us.

It is important to be conscious of helpful versus hindering resolutions. Individuals who are in recovery from an eating disorder can be susceptible to the diet culture language and can easily fall into disordered thoughts, behaviours and patterns if they are not mindful. Over-exercising and food rules (just to name a few) can hinder recovery and cause regression. Try to be gentle with yourself, acknowledge how far you have come and embrace your accomplishments. Remain aware of your triggers and strive for a mindset that is free from restriction, rules and perfection. By shifting focus from a new resolution to the journey of recovery, it may be easier to focus on nourishing your body and make yourself a priority each and every day.

If you are someone who finds goal-setting or new year resolutions helpful and healthful, here are some ideas:

Begin everyday with positive affirmations.

Look in the mirror and remind yourself how strong, courageous and beautiful you are.  By doing this, you will begin each day with a positive mindset and know that you can overcome any challenges that you may be faced with.

Focus on your well-being.

Do something each day that you love.  Take this time for yourself to reflect and relax.  This can be as simple as reading a book, journaling, disconnecting from social media, taking a bath or baking something delicious.

Make yourself a priority.

Take charge and do what’s best for you and do not be afraid to remove yourself from a situation that may hinder your recovery.  Practise intuitive eating and self-love.

Spend time with your loved ones. 

Spend more time with family members, call a friend or plan a social gathering.  Embracing your support system will benefit your well-being and enhance your confidence.



References

  1. Bradley, G. (2018). New Year’s Resolutions That Will Actually Make You Feel Good. In National Eating disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/7-new-years-resolutions-will-actually-make-you-feel-good
  2. New Years Resolution Statistics. (2018). Statistics Brain Research Institute. Retrieved from https://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/
  3. Are New Year’s Resolutions helpful in Eating Disorder Recovery?. (2016). In Eating Disorder Hope. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/resolutions-eating-disorder-recovery
  4. Effective goal setting: applying SMART goals. (2010). In Healthcare Registration. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/apps/doc/A234795397/AONE?u=lond95336&sid=AONE&xid=95cc921e

What is Water Loading?

Water loading refers to drinking excessive amounts of water in a short-period of time. There are several possible reasons for water loading in the disordered eating population. Firstly, large amounts of fluids may be consumed to ward off hunger. Secondly, water loading may be used to aid purging.Thirdly, excessive amounts of water may be consumed right before being weighed by a health professional in an attempt to alter the reading on the scale. A possible reason for attempting to falsify weight during a clinic visit is to disguise the weight loss effects of an eating disorder.Another possible reason for falsifying weight is to deceive health professionals about complying with a refeeding treatment.This can occur because individuals with eating disorders may experience a fear of restoring weight during the early stages of treatment. Since water is an essential nutrient, water loading may seem harmless for the body, however, having too much of anything can harmful. Drinking excessive amounts of water is a dangerous behaviour as it can severely dilute electrolytes and lead to serious medical complications.

Drinking too much water too fast can lead to water intoxication. This occurs when the body takes in more fluids than the kidneys can handle.As a result, excess water collects in the blood and dilutes electrolytes, which are responsible for proper nerve and muscle function. When electrolytes are diluted, symptoms such as muscle weakness, muscle spasms, and muscle cramps may occur.The heart is an important muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. When electrolytes levels are brought out of balance, the heart can begin to ineffectively pump blood, resulting in cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart stops functioning properly.Moreover, excess fluids can begin to enter the brain cells, causing changes in mental state such as mild confusion and disorientation, and can further progress to hallucinations, delusions, or inappropriate behaviour.If left untreated, water intoxication can also lead to seizures, unconsciousness, coma, and even death.Early treatment is crucial to prevent fatal complications, thus emergency help should be obtained if any of these symptoms develop.6

Water intoxication requires drinking extremely large amounts of water. The amount of water that will cause intoxication will very between different individuals. Before water intoxication occurs, your body may show more mild signs that you may be drinking too much water. Signs of over-hydration include nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, restlessness, or irritability.In addition, very frequent urination may be a sign of over-hydration.

Water intoxication is a medical emergency. It can be treated using an intravenous electrolyte solution or using medication that will replenish electrolytes.Medical professionals are becoming increasingly aware that some patients may attempt to falsify their weight readings. As a result, patients may be weighed in a hospital gown with little to no clothing underneath, or unscheduled weight checks may be performed to reduce temptations of weight manipulation.In addition, periodic urine tests may also be utilized to either detect or prevent water loading.Most attempts to falsify weight are ineffective, not only because medical professional are becoming increasingly aware about it, but also because they pay attention to weight trends; thus, severe weight loss will still reveal a downward trend, even if water loading is used. Therefore, water loading can be a dangerous and ineffective way to manage weight readings. Even though water is necessary for life, our bodies need to receive everything in moderation to stay in balance.


References

  1. Marino, J. M., Ertelt, T. E., Wonderlich, S. A., Crosby, R. D., Lancaster, K., Mitchell, J. E., Fischer, S., Doyle, P., Grange, D., Peterson, C. B., & Crow, S. (2009). Caffeine, artificial sweetener, and fluid intake in anorexia nervosa. The International Journal of Eating Disorders. 42(6), 540-545. doi: 10.1002/eat.20633.
  2. Fluid Loading/Water Loading. InEating Disorders Glossary. Retrieved from http://glossary.feast-ed.org/3-treatment-medical-management/fluid-loadingwater-loadingweight-manipulation.
  3. Weight Manipulation. In Eating Disorders Glossary. Retrieved from http://glossary.feast-ed.org/3-treatment-medical-management/weight-manipulation.
  4. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Hyponatremia. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyponatremia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373711.
  5. Radcliffe, S., & Watson, S. (2017) Overhydration. In Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/overhydration.
  6. Farrell, D. J., & Bower, L. (2003). Fatal water intoxication. The Journal of Clinical Pathology. 56(10), 803-804. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1770067/.

 

 

The Risks of Purging

Purging is the behaviour of ridding the body of recently consumed energy in an attempt to  prevent weight gain.1This can be vomiting (aka oral purging), but also includes overexercise and the use of laxatives/diuretics. We will focus on the former today.

For individuals living with eating disorders, purging is a dangerous way to try to manage weight as it can lead to several medical complications involving many different organs; the type of medical complication depends on the mode and frequency of purging.2Purging is also an ineffective and unsustainable way to manage weight. Firstly, purging does not prevent the body from absorbing any calories because digestion begins in the mouth, continues through the esophagus, stomach, and so on. Purging can only remove up to about half of the calories ingested.3Secondly, most of the weight loss after purging is due to water loss, which will be regained after water is consumed again. Thirdly, if the body is constantly denied nutrients and energy, it can begin to hold on to anything it gets, resulting in water retention. The body can also decrease its metabolic rate to compensate for nutrient loss, resulting in metabolism disturbances.3This blog post discusses several possible side effects and risks associated with purging.

All types of purging can be harmful for the digestive system. Oral purging interferes with stomach digestion and emptying, which can cause a host of side effects including: stomach pain, bloating, nausea, blood sugar fluctuations, bacterial infections, intestinal block, and constipation. It can also result in feelings of fullness after eating very small amounts of food. This is not a good thing because our bodies require a certain amount of food for energy and trying to eat adequate portion sizes afterwards may feel uncomfortable. Purging can also affect digestion by preventing the body from getting enough food and nutrients. Having an inadequate amount of food in the digestive tract can stop the body from trying to eliminate anything. This can in turn weaken intestinal muscles, and result in insufficient strength to propel digested food out of the body. This inability to digest food can lead to intestinal obstructions and prevent elimination. In addition, the pancreas can become inflamed, causing pain, nausea, and vomiting. The use of substances that induce purging can also damage nerves, leaving the body dependent on these substances for bowel movements.4In addition, they can cause rectal bleeding, hemorrhoids, and excessive diarrhea.2

Oral purging can also damage the esophagus, throat, mouth, teeth, and hands due to acidic stomach contents. Stomach acid can wear down the esophagus with frequent purging and eventually cause it to rupture. Purging can also cause acid reflux. Moreover, sores can develop on the throat resulting in painful swallowing and a hoarse voice.4In addition, the inside of the mouth, especially the soft palate, can become red, irritated, and cut.5 Stomach acid is so strong that it can even damage the skin on the back of the hand causing skin to harden or develop a scar.1Oral purging can also cause teeth to develop cavities or even break.2

All types of purging deplete the body of water and electrolytes. Frequent dehydration can cause urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and kidney failure.6Furthermore, sudden and severe dehydration can cause the body to go into a serious medical condition called low blood volume shock, which results in low blood pressure and a decreased amount of oxygen in the body.6Moreover, low electrolyte levels can impair nerve and muscle function, resulting in muscle cramps, and in more serious cases, heart issues. Balanced electrolyte levels are essential for proper heartbeat and contraction.4Without sufficient electrolytes and energy, the heart may become unable to adequate amounts of blood, resulting in low blood pressure and a low heart rate.4This can then lead to irregular heartbeats and increased risk of heart failure.4

By riding the body of essential nutrients, purging can also impair brain function. Symptoms such as difficulties concentrating, dizziness, brain fog, difficulties sleeping, and numbness/tingling in hands and feet.4In addition to impaired brain function, the immune system can become weak and increase the probability of getting sick.

As we have discussed, there are no real benefits associated with purging. Not only is purging harmful for our health, but it is also ineffective at managing weight. In fact, purging can make binge-eating episodes larger and more frequent as purging can give a false sense of security that all the effects of binging can be reversed.1However, as previously discussed, this is false because about half of the calories eaten will be absorbed, and the body will begin to do everything it can to hold on to as many nutrients as possible. Try to remind yourself that breaking your diet eating more than you planned is completely okay. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from loved ones or trained professionals, they are there to help and support you. Understanding the dangerous signs and symptoms associated with purging can allow for early treatment and help prevent serious medical complications. However, the simplest way to take care of your body is to nourish it with essential nutrients; only then, will it fully support you in doing all the things you desire.


References

  1. Dangerous eating behaviours. In Kelty Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://keltyeatingdisorders.ca/types-of-disorders/dangerous-eating-behaviours/.
  2. Mehler, P. S., Marx, R. (2016). Identifying eating disorders: medical food for thought. In National Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/identifying-eating-disorders-medical-food-thought
  3. Vomiting and your health. (2018). In Centre for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Home/Resources/~/media/02EEAE7ED9C24FC699AFDA0573778554.ashx.
  4. Common health consequences of eating disorders. (2018). In National Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences.
  5. Dental complications of eating disorders. (2018). In National Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/dental-complications-eating-disorders.
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Dehydration. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086.

Surviving the Holidays in Eating Disorder Recovery

For many people, the holidays are a highly anticipated time of the year. However, for those recovering from an eating disorder, the holiday season can be anxiety provoking and pose an obstacle to their recovery journey. Prior preparation can help to lessen the anxiety and tension that often accompanies the holidays for those recovering from an eating disorder. In today’s blog post, we are going to look at some tips to help take away some of the uncertainty and anxiety that this time of the year may bring for those on their recovery journey.

Having a support system is a crucial component of the recovery journey, but is especially important during the holidays. Choose at least one person whom you trust to be your support. Speak to them before the holidays and discuss your concerns with them and any situations you think may be triggering. Ask them if you would be able to text or call them when you are struggling or start to feel overwhelmed.

The holidays often mean multiple gatherings with friends and family. This may be overwhelming as there is often lots of small talk involved, some of which may be centered around food or weight loss. It is not rude to excuse yourself from these conversations if they make you feel uncomfortable. Having responses prepared in advance can be helpful in navigating potentially triggering conversations. This may be as simple as saying, “I am learning how to have a more positive relationship with food and this kind of talk is not helpful to me right now”.1

If you do decide to participate in social gatherings, it may be wise to come up with a back-up plan in case you feel the situation is starting to be overwhelming. Prior to the event, come up with an alternate plan of somewhere else you can go or someone you can talk to during the event. This may be deciding on something else you can do while at the gathering, for example, going for a walk or going into a separate room by yourself, texting/calling someone you feel comfortable talking to (i.e. your trusted person we discussed above), or even finding somewhere else you can go.  Having a back-up plan can ease some tension associated with attending social gatherings and will give you peace of mind as you know there is an alternative to the situation you find yourself in.

With all of the food and gatherings that the holiday season brings, it can be tempting to just want to stay home. However, this is leaves little room for growth or change to occur. Challenge yourself to make small choices that help you take small steps outside of your comfort zone. Maybe it’s eating a small piece of that food you usually don’t allow yourself to enjoy or attending a small gathering2. If something feels unattainable, it is likely too big of a challenge at the time. Start by challenging yourself to something that feels realistically attainable.

Here are a few practical tips to help you thrive this holiday season:

  • Practice normal eating throughout the holidays: “saving up” for a meal is ineffective and is more likely to increase the desire to binge and/or restrict.
  • Expect the potential discomfort of fullness: denser foods tend to be more readily available around the holidays. Try to distract yourself from dwelling on your fullness with other activities, such as playing a game with your family/friends after the meal3.
  • Have positive responses prepared for negative thoughts: for example, if you ate more than you usually do, think, “that meal was delicious and I am now satisfied”, instead of falling victim to negative self-talk.
  • Volunteer: take your mind off your current situation and invest in others. It’s amazing how helping others can help us get a new perspective and help us fill our cups.

Above all else, it is important to be compassionate towards yourself. The holiday season won’t last forever. While your struggles may seem intensified, they will not last. Acknowledge all of the progress you have made and be gracious towards yourself when you slip up. Recovery is a journey and that means there may be struggles along the way, but you are healing a little more with each step you take. This holiday season, lets enjoy the beauty of this special time while acknowledging this time of year is not easy for everyone. A little bit of extra kindness, especially towards ourselves, goes a long way!


References

  1. Susanna, G. (2018, November 21). Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving in Recovery. In NEDA. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/tips-surviving-thanksgiving-recovery
  1. McLaughlin, A. (2013). Lessons in Self-Care: 5 Ways to Survive and Thrive Through the Holidays When You Have an Eating Disorder. In NEDA.Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/lessons-self-care-5-ways-survive-and-thrive-through-holidays-when-you-have-eating-disorder
  2. Jacobsen, M. (2015). Coping with the Holidays. In NEDIC. Retrieved from http://nedic.ca/coping-holidays

What is Set Point Weight Theory?

We can put so much energy into trying to attain a certain weight, through dieting,over-exercising, excessive meal prepping, over-hydration, etc. But what if our body has a built-in mechanism that naturally keeps our weight within a certain range? Wouldn’t all that energy be better spent a different way? In today’s blog post we are going to look more closely at this phenomenon known as the set point weight theory.

Research indicates that every human being has a set weight range that they are genetically predisposed to maintain1. This range is known as the body’s set pointweight. Just as individuals have a fixed height they reach or have the same shoe size for the majority of their adult life,there is also a predetermined weight range they naturally fluctuate around. One’s set point is affected by their eating habits but is largely determined by genetics; our overall build, bone structure, metabolism, and musculature1.The body goes through various changes regularly due to fluid retention, hormonal changes and medicationswhich leads to normal fluctuation within a certain range2.

So how does the body strive to stay within its’set pointweight? Just as the body has feedback control mechanisms to maintain a constant body temperature, it also has mechanisms that will help it stay within its’set point weight range. For example, if there is an increase in food intake, the body will raise its’internal temperature and increase metabolism to try to use up the extra energy1. Similarly, if there is a decrease in food intake, the body will slow down its’metabolism to try to conserve energy1. Additionally, if the body is not receiving adequate energy it will use hunger signaling as a mechanism to try to get us to eatwhile also slowing down our metabolism to conserve energy1. This is just another reason why diets do not work. The body naturally wants to stay within a certain weight range and by restricting food intake it only slows metabolism and increases hunger to combat the lack of energy. Some people may successfully be able to maintain weight loss after dieting due to the fact that they were above their set point prior to beginning a diet, but this is quite rare3. For those who are within or below their set point before beginning a diet, they will likely find it difficult to lose weight as their body slows metabolism to conserve as much energy as possible.

Set point weight theory is an important concept in eating disorders. Food restriction may cause the body to fall below its’normal set point range which will slow metabolism and increase hunger in an effort to protect us from starvation1.This will lead to an increase in thoughts of food and make it difficult to focus on other things. A preoccupation with food may cause individuals to be more susceptible to episodes of binge eating1. The best thing one can do for their body is to allow it to naturally settle into its’set point weight and avoid behaviours that suppress the body’s normal weight tendency. This is much healthier than cycles of weight loss and regain, as is common with dieting.

So how can you know if you are at your set point weight? A weight set point is not a static number on the scale; it is a range that the body normally fluctuates within. The best way to get a good idea of what your weight set point might be is to engage in normal eating and moderate exercise for approximatelyone year3. The body usually requires this length of time to settle into its natural weightbut it can sometimes take even longer. This only applies to those who have stopped growing. Adolescents and young adults are meant to have an increasing weight until their young 20s. Finding your body’s natural set point is best done through intuitive eating and gentle exercise, as mentioned above, and not using objective measures like the scale or measuring tapes.

You may be wondering how you can accept your body’s set point weight. What if it’s higher than you think it should be? Diet culture has taught us to value thinness and low numbers on the scale. It can be difficult to accept one’s weight being higher than deemed acceptable by society. You may not initially feel comfortable at your natural weight, however, this is something that takes timeand reflection. Gradually, by showing kindness towards your body, by dressing in clothes that fit you and are comfortable, and by taking care of your body, an acceptance of your body’s natural size will be fostered. Try to avoid wastingyour time trying to attain a certain number on the scale that your body cannot naturally attain. You have not failed if your weight is higher than you think it should be. Strive to take care of your body as it is by eating intuitively and engaging in gentle exercise and it will become the weight it is meant to be. Try to spend less energy focusing on maintaining a certain weight and put your energy into more productive activities, like being kind to others and creating beautiful things. Let’s not let our lives be marked by the number on the scale.


References

  1. Centre for Clinical Interventions.(2018). Set Point Theory. [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/~/media/6CD4432DC40649949D8B4923C725742D.ashx
  2. Eating Disorder Help. (2017, September 22).Can I Accept My Body at It’s Natural, Comfortable Weight? Retrieved November 17, 2018, from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/accept-body-comfortable-weight
  3. National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). (n.d.). sSet Point: What Your Body is Trying to Tell You.Retrieved November 17, 2018, from http://nedic.ca/set-point-what-your-body-trying-tell-you

 

How to Take Your Life Back From an Eating Disorder

Recovering from an eating disorder requires a lot of strength, courage, and determination. Although you may want your life to be the way it was previous to the development of your eating disorder, this may not always be realistic. When treatment ends, it is time to overcome challenges independently. During this transition, it is normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, as well as resistant to further changes. However, it is important to not give in to eating disorder behaviours during this shift, as recovery is imperative for your future health and well-being. Throughout this process, you will learn ways to rebuild your life with a new mindset that is not controlled by your eating disorder.

During recovery, it is crucial to develop and maintain a support system. Most individuals find it difficult to reach out – this is normal. Although it is important to be independent, it is okay to ask for help from others in times of need. Staying connected with those who are supportive and nurturing can help during difficult situations1. Your support system can consist of family members, friends, or even health care providers.

In order to prevent relapse, identifying triggers for your eating disorder is key. A trigger can consist of anything that may cause your disordered eating behaviours to reoccur1. Trying to identify your triggers can help in knowing when to not partake in certain activities. In order to do this, try to reflect on times when you’ve felt the urge to engage in disordered eating behaviours. Sometimes, a previous traumatic experience may be triggering, making it difficult to participate in social outings or activities. Making your support system aware of your triggers is also a good idea, as they will keep these triggers in mind when planning activities that involve you.

At the end of the day, it is crucial take care of your health and well-being. Remind yourself that you deserve to put time aside for self-care. Planning a time to relax can help in reducing stress. For those struggling with anxiety or stress, yoga or meditation are common practices to help with that2. Other relaxing activities can include painting, writing, or listening to music.

There may be times where we want to numb negative feelings with old habits. Flexibility plays an important role during recovery. The world is full of spontaneous and unexpected surprises that may catch you off guard. There are times where you may be triggered, or experience stress unexpectedly. If you do happen to relapse, try to not be so hard on yourself. Instead of dwelling on past experiences, you should learn from each experience (good or bad) and keep a positive perspective in order to move forward.

Never think you need to be perfect, and try not to expect life to be perfect too. Everyone experiences a different journey throughout recovery, and there will never be perfection in this experience. Throughout life, you will be faced with many obstacles, though you will need to stay positive, strong and resilient. Don’t let your eating disorder define you. By staying focused on making your journey through life positive, you can overcome your fears and take back your life from an eating disorder.


References

  1. Sclisizzi K, Wilton K, Jasper K. (2014). Managing Triggers while Recovering from an Eating Disorder. In National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Retrieved from http://nedic.ca/sites/default/files/files/Vol29No1Feb2014Triggers.pdf.
  2. Six relaxation techniques to reduce stress. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/six-relaxation-techniques-to-reduce-stress

 

How To Survive Halloween When You Have an Eating Disorder

Fall has begun and Halloween is just around the corner, with stores selling costumes and candies in abundance. For some, Halloween is the most exciting time of the year, however for others it can be a holiday where anxiety and insecurities flourish. For those struggling with an eating disorder, it can be difficult to want to go out and celebrate. Regardless of age, candy and other festivities will typically make a larger appearance than usual during this season. Throughout childhood or early adolescence, trick or treating is how most celebrate Halloween. During high school or college/university, Halloween costume parties are often the norm. As you mature through life, you may be exposed to the holiday through pumpkin carving with family, events at work, or even indulging in the goodies leftover after handing out candy.

For those struggling with body image issues or an eating disorder, Halloween can be a tough holiday to endure. In today’s society,  the majority of adult costumes, especially those marketed towards females, can be quite revealing.  Although many do not consider this, Halloween has the potential to create a hostile environment for some, as dressing up may cause individuals with body image issues to compare themselves to others.

While it may seem difficult, it’s not impossible to enjoy this holiday. Being aware of the possible triggers during this season can prepare you for a positive experience. If Halloween may be triggering to your eating disorder, there is absolutely nothing wrong in deciding to not partake – always look out for yourself. You should never feel pressured to have to dress up or go out, those close to you should understand and respect your decision to stay in. Prioritizing your mental health is very important, and should be strongly taken into consideration when making any decision that may affect your recovery process.

Throughout any holiday, intuitive eating can help to remove guilty feelings or the shame that some attach to the act of eating Halloween candy. Depending on the type of eating disorder you are struggling with, you may have avoided eating Halloween candy in previous years, or binged on it in secret. By practicing intuitive eating, you can enjoy these treats without having the urge to engage in disordered eating behaviours1.  By making peace with food, you are giving yourself permission to enjoy the treats that come with Halloween, while also listening to your hunger and satiety cues1.  Developing a positive relationship with food is an important step in recovery, and can start whenever you feel ready. There are many different ways to celebrate Halloween without feeling insecure. Deciding to stay in and watch Halloween themed movies with friends or a loved one is a fun way to celebrate Halloween. Another exciting way to partake is through handing out candy to children. If you decide to not participate, something you should never feel is guilt. Instead, praise yourself for deciding to prioritize your needs. Halloween will be there next year, as well as the year afterwards. If choosing to not celebrate will help you during recovery, it is absolutely worth it.

However, if you feel ready and want to challenge yourself by going out, go out! If you feel certain that you’d like to celebrate, keep in mind that it’s not about what you wear, it’s about how you wear it. Feeling comfortable is key – this is something to remember for anytime you choose an outfit. The focus should be on having fun, which is what you’ll most likely think about if you feel confident in what you’re wearing. If you find yourself comparing your physical appearance to another person, try your best to remind yourself to disengage in those thoughts. Although someone may look good, it does not mean that you look bad.

During your recovery, you will be faced with many challenges – Halloween being one of them. Try your best to face each challenge with determination, strength, as well as resilience –  you will surely succeed!


References

  1. Tribole, E, Resch E. (2012). Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.