How to Stay Recovery-Focused When Interacting with Triggering Media

In our previous post we discussed a variety of reasons that individuals with eating disorders, especially those in the early stages of recovery, may choose not to watch the Netflix film To The Bone or other films they know could create roadblocks in their continued recovery.

With that said, triggering media has always been around and will always be a part of our society so it’s helpful to know how to navigate it.  Many individuals in long-term recovery or later stages of treatment might feel prepared to watch a film or read a book about eating disorders, despite triggering content. Many of our clinicians have helped to shape such exposure into therapeutic experiences for patients who are ready.  For example, during periods of strong recovery, seeing a film like To The Bone can be an opportunity to reflect on one’s own experience, see things from a new perspective, process lingering eating disorder thoughts or channel anger towards the eating disorder in productive ways.

If you’ve considered all of the options and decide you do want to watch a film about eating disorders, these are a few things to consider that can help you do so in safe and productive ways.

  1. Don’t watch alone. Watch with a support person you can trust and communicate openly with them about how it is impacting you in the moment. You might even consider pausing the show periodically to breathe, reflect and talk.
  2. Time it right. Only watch it when you know you’ll be attending a therapy session or support group within a few days so you can explore your reactions and get help challenging any distorted thoughts or concerns about what you see on screen. If you currently have a lot of other life stressors or you’re in a time of transition (moving, starting school, going through a divorce, etc.) you may want to consider waiting to watch until things settle down.
  3. Challenge the ED thoughts. Consider journaling about aspects of the movie that you find triggering and then refute and challenge the inaccurate, negative or distorted thoughts.
  4. Be an activist. Write a letter to the director of the film or to the editor of a local newspaper regarding what you liked or didn’t like, what was helpful vs. not helpful or what you’d like to see more of when it comes to films about eating disorders. For example, while To The Bone features one person of color and one male in supporting roles, the movie’s star and protagonist is a young, white, upper-middle class woman with anorexia. This doesn’t help to dismantle stereotypes about who is and isn’t impacted by eating disorders. Consider writing a letter that advocates for greater diversity in eating disorder representation or about another aspect of recovery that feels important to you.
  5. Create an escape clause. Allow yourself the option to stop watching at any point throughout the film. Eating disorders can be associated with all-or-nothing thinking so it may feel like once you start the movie you have to finish it, but remember it’s not so black and white. At any point, if you feel triggered or uneasy about what you’re watching, turn it off.
  6. Plan ahead. Decide in advance upon an alternative show to watch or a self-care activity you can do when the film is over (or if you stop watching early) that will help you sustain a more recovery-focused mindset.

Do you use these strategies or have other ideas for navigating triggering media safely?  Tweet them to us @CEDSheppPratt and we’ll add to the list. 


You may also be interested in reading: 
To Watch or Not to Watch: That is the Question, Navigating “To The Bone” and other potentially triggering movies about eating disorders

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Blog Round-Up


“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
~Lady Bird Johnson
*    *    *

Our CED Staff has been busy guest blogging for Eating Disorder Hope on a variety of topics from nutrition and meal plans to body image and relapse prevention. We hope you’ll take a look and share with friends, colleagues or clients who might benefit from the following information.

If you have questions about eating disorder treatment or a topic you’d like to see us write more about, please send your suggestions and requests to our Community Outreach Coordinator, Kate Clemmer at  kclemmer@sheppardpratt.org


The Importance of Incorporating Fear & Challenge Foods in Recovery

Written by Caitlyn Royster, R.D. & Rebecca Hart, R.D., Registered Dietitians

While you may technically be following your meal plan, without incorporating fear foods you are still giving the eating disorder a major foothold by preserving fear and anxiety. It might seem like choosing safe foods is better than acting on symptoms. However, over time this restriction can snowball and lead to relapse. READ MORE…


Mother’s Day Makeover: Boosting Body Image for Ourselves and Future Generations

Written by Irene Rovira, Ph.D.
Psychology Coordinator

Most of us appreciate all the mother figures and mom-types in our lives – including aunts, sisters, mentors and best friends – for the love they give or how they make us feel. We do not value them based on their weight or size. Yet we often hold a double standard when it comes to how we view ourselves…READ MORE to find 7 Tips to help boost body image for yourself and future generations



4 Changes You Can Make in Your Home to Support Eating Disorder Recovery & Reduce Relapse

Written by Kate Clemmer, LCSW-C
Community Outreach & Education Coordinator

It’s safe to say no one who has been through recovery from an eating disorder would downplay the difficulty or complexity of it. And while recovery is never simple or easy, there are some simple and straightforward changes you can make to reinforce recovery efforts and help prevent relapse. These specific modifications are not changes in thinking (cognition) or even changes in behavior but rather, changes to your physical living space – your home environment.  READ MORE…


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What is a “Fear Food”?

 


At some point during treatment for foods_fearan eating disorder, most individuals will meet with a Registered Dietitian. One of the many important things you’ll do during those sessions is identify and discuss your personal list of fear foods. This is an important step that allows the dietitian to individualize treatment, help you plan for and overcome obstacles, and work alongside the rest of the treatment team to empower you in your recovery.

What are fear foods?
A fear food, or challenge food, is a term for foods that one finds difficult to incorporate into everyday eating. This term is used for foods that feel scary to eat, often because of negative thoughts or feelings related to the food’s nutrient content. Fear foods can be items or categories of food that one perceives to be “bad” and which, when consumed, might trigger feelings of intense guilt or shame. As a result, people with eating disorders often completely avoid or restrict their fear foods. Sometimes, just being around a particular food or being faced with the possibility of eating it can result in increased anxiety.

For people with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, these fears and the perception of certain foods as “bad” are often related to anxiety about anticipated weight gain and/or an inability to stop eating the food once they begin. In other words, there tends to be a strong belief that eating a fear food will instantly make you fat or that eating a certain food will make you lose control and overeat.

A person’s list of fear foods might be specific, like ice cream or peanut butter.  For others, their fear foods might encompass a whole category like all desserts or fried foods. Someone else’s fear food list might include an entire nutrient group such as carbohydrates. Common fear foods are also items considered by many to be tasty, but may also be labeled as “junk food” in our current culture.

Where do fear foods come from?
Fear foods develop from personal values, attitudes, feelings and even memories associated with a certain food. Messages from the people close to you – family, friends, coaches, teachers, healthcare providers – all play a significant role in determining your thoughts about food and can ultimately influence your (dis)comfort with particular food items.

Fear foods may also stem from a variety of impersonal sources including trending cultural ideas about food, media messages, advertisements or even nutrition information intended to be educational and beneficial. For example, there are multitudes of articles and news stories that include lists of supposedly good vs. bad foods, or foods that are better/worse for health.

Another frequent source of fear or shame related to food is dieting. Given that most diets limit or cut out certain foods, dieters start to believe that the eliminated food is bad. The more diets a person goes on, the more fear foods they are likely to have.

What are some consequences of avoiding fear foods?

  • Limited variety and lack of enjoyment in meals
  • Social isolation
  • Obsessive thoughts about the feared food
  • Worsening anxiety
  • Increased eating disorder symptoms and heightened risk of relapse
  • Prolonged negative relationship with food

People without eating disorders may have fear foods too but the consequences for those with eating disorders are much steeper since we know that limiting variety and continuing to avoid specific foods during recovery raises one’s chances for relapse. Two of our CED dietitians recently wrote in more detail about this topic for our friends at Eating Disorder Hope in a post entitled, The Importance of Incorporating Fear Foods and Challenge Foods in Recovery.

Remember, no single food has the power to make you thin or fat. And, ironically, the avoidance of a food is typically what leads a person to overeat it.

If you think you might need assistance reintegrating fear foods or overcoming negative thoughts about food and eating in general, please call The Center for Eating Disorders at (410) 938-5252 for a free phone consultation. 


In individuals with different eating disorder diagnoses, or those with co-occurring disorders, fear foods might manifest differently. For example, in individuals with ARFID, anxiety may be related to a fear of choking or to a perceived health consequence of eating the food item. In individuals with PTSD, fear foods may stem from associations with the traumatic experience.  In both cases, treatment methods may differ, and the treatment team should take into account the origin and underpinnings of each fear food when providing education and support.


Blog Contributors:
Hannah Huguenin, MS, RD, LDN
Samantha Lewandowski, MS, RD, LDN
Kate Clemmer, LCSW-C

Turning a Body Positive Summer into a Body Positive Year

 

Turning a Body Positive Summer into a Body Positive Year(2)


We spent the summer talking about several steps you can take to turn body dissatisfaction into body acceptance. We also presented some of the very important reasons why someone might be motivated to embark on such a task. The bottom line: negative body image can negatively impact all other areas of life – career, academics, physical health, social interaction and intimate relationships. As many as 67% of women ages 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities because they feel badly about their bodies. And women are not alone in the struggle; Thirteen percent of college-aged men say their appearance is traumatic or difficult to handle as well.As we head into the fall, its important to remember that negative body image doesn’t just go away for most people simply because the beach vacations and relentless bikini body advertisements subside. As much as we wish that was the case, we know body image is much more than a seasonal hazard.

Body insecurity will follow young boys and girls into middle school classrooms where they may stop raising their hands or engaging in class discussion to avoid drawing attention to their appearance.

Body insecurity will follow young adults onto college campuses around the country where it, paired with genetic risk factors like perfectionism and anxiety, plus fear of the Freshman 15, may provide fuel for the development of an eating disorder.

Body insecurity will follow the new mom to the play date where she will silently compare and scrutinize her body. She’ll be sold a thousand different ways to get her pre-baby body back.


Body insecurity will follow the quiet colleague home from work each night.  He refuses to hang out with friends or start dating until he finally “bulks up” again.

These may be the realities of day-to-day life with body dissatisfaction but they don’t have to be the end of the story. In addition to the 3 Steps we laid out during the #bodypositivesummer campaign, here are a few guidelines to help boost body image in any season.

1. Don’t postpone important events or fun life goals for appearance or weight-related reasons. Putting off a special vacation, not applying for your dream job or not going on a date until you lose XX lbs. is a recipe for missed opportunities and delayed happiness. Saying you’ll get around to something in few months can quickly turn into a few years, or even decades. If you’ve been waiting to live life fully because you’re unhappy with your body, consider taking one small step today towards whatever it is you’ve been putting off. Research flights, update your resume or call an old friend.

2. Stop Fat Chat.  When among friends or in social settings commit to steering the conversation away from appearance-based judgments and into more positive territory.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report urging pediatricians and parents to stop focusing on weight, or even mentioning weight, during discussions with children and teens. The reason?  Focusing on weight backfires, often leading to unhealthy behaviors that are associated with both obesity and eating disorders. The same is true for adults. Stop focusing on your weight as the golden marker of health and you may actually find it’s easier and/or more fulfilling to engage in healthful behaviors.

3. Cleanse your social media feed. Disconnect from the negativity, surround yourself with positive, healthy, and uplifting social media accounts.  If you’re online quite a bit, there is no reason to allow Instagram followers who consistently engage in fat talk or body criticism to cloud your view of yourself. You have every right to unfollow Twitter users that promote weight loss or diet products, even if they are close friends or family members. Remember, you are the curator of your accounts; use that power to cultivate a body positive presence for yourself online.

4. Last but definitely not least…ASK FOR HELP.  Negative body image can be a risk factor in the development of eating disorders or may trigger relapse while in recovery from one. If you’re having a lot of negative body image thoughts throughout the day or they’re impacting your behaviors around food and weight it might be time to seek support. Specific evidence-based therapies like Cognitive Behavior Therapy can be effective in addressing body dissatisfaction. It can help to tell a trusted friend, spouse, or parent that you’re struggling and ask them to support you in getting connected to a counselor or therapist who is trained in these specific techniques.

Not sure where to turn?  You can complete a confidential online self-assessment here or call (410) 938-5252 for more information.

Visit eatingdisorder.org for additional resources.   

 

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