There’s Help. There’s Hope! The Emily Program is a warm and welcoming place where individuals and their families can find comprehensive treatment for eating disorders and related issues. This blog is a place for us to share the latest happenings at The Emily Program, as well as helpful tidbits from the broader eating disorder community. Subscribe via RSS to receive automatic updates. We want to hear your story. Email us (blog@emilyprogram.com) and ask how you can become a contributor!

What is Intuitive Eating?

A person eating from a takeout box

Intuitive eating, aptly named, is an approach that trusts in the body’s intuition to guide eating decisions. Unlike a diet that prescribes rules about what and when to eat, intuitive eating emphasizes attunement with natural signs of hunger and fullness. These internal signals replace any externally imposed rules, and the body is situated as the expert of its physical and psychological needs.

Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch first outlined their model of intuitive eating in a 1995 book of the same name. The book’s fourth edition, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, was released earlier this year. Tribole and Resch’s paradigm continues to garner public and clinical attention, and its evidence base continues to grow (Tribole, 2017).

Though the intuitive eating approach is rooted in the body’s intuition, it can (and often does) feel far from intuitive for many. Diet culture’s “health” and “wellness” messages, as well as dieting, disordered eating, and eating disorders all serve to distance the mind from the body. Without a firm mind-body connection, the mind often acts as a micromanager of the body’s needs, tending to or ignoring them based on external rules and restrictions.

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It Started Innocent

A person standing outside with outstretched arms

**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. This story includes mention of self-harm. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

This blog was submitted anonymously by a person in eating disorder recovery.

My eating disorder never really “started.” It just happened. At least, that’s what I used to think.

When I was 11, I was diagnosed with diabetes, and for the first time in my life, I craved food. Sure, I had been a typical kid with a typical candy-shaped stomach. But this craving was different. My body was starved from weeks of cellular fasting, and it told me to eat. Ok, so far so good.

Through my teenage years, those beloved hormones began to race through my system. My body started to change, and with it, so did my metabolism. I cut lunches and felt guilty when I couldn’t resist the urge to fill my blossoming belly (although in truth I was still quite petite). Evening snacks evolved from a handful of nuts to a cup or two—in any case, more than I intended. I felt weak, unable to control this ever-persistent desire. But it never interfered with school or work. It was a mild case of disorganized eating.

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Nurture Yourself through Nature

Hands with soil and leaf bud

**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

Lisa Whalen’s book, Stable Weight: A Memoir of Hunger, Horses, and Hope, will be available from Hopewell Publications on March 2, 2021. Her writing has also appeared in  An Introvert in an Extrovert World; The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield; Introvert, Dear; and Adanna, among other publications. Whalen has a Ph.D. in postsecondary and adult education and an M.A. in creative and critical writing. She teaches composition, creative writing, literature, and journalism at North Hennepin Community College, where she was selected Minnesota College Faculty Association Educator of the Year in 2019. In her spare time, she is an equestrian and volunteer for the Animal Humane Society. Learn more at her website and follow her on social media @LisaIrishWhalen.  

I have always disliked yardwork—or any outdoor work, for that matter. I hated that it was dirty, sweaty, and left me with sore muscles despite regular exercise. Worst of all, it turned me into Sisyphus, a character from Greek mythology who was sentenced to an eternity of pushing a boulder uphill, watching it roll down, and then pushing it up again. It seemed I would just finish mowing, weeding, or raking, only to find that the grass had grown, new weeds had sprouted, and more leaves had fallen.

But COVID-19 changed my attitude.

Like many people, I saw my life turned upside-down last March. Suddenly, I couldn’t walk to the neighborhood coffee shop and write. I couldn’t sit in a patch of sunlight at the library and edit my book about eating disorder recovery. I couldn’t participate in group fitness classes on the YMCA’s roof and savor spring’s increasingly blue skies. I couldn’t attend weekend horseback riding lessons, which were the only outdoor activity I enjoyed. Overnight, my work and social life had been reduced to sitting in front of my laptop. I couldn’t escape staring at a screen. I needed an outlet—a way to shake off stiffness in my body and mind.

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It’s Not Just Girls: Body Image in Boys and Men

A young boy sitting on a man's shoulders

Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and a founding director of the Health Sciences Center at Rutgers University (Camden). She is the author of The Body Image Book for Girls, as well as a forthcoming companion book for boys.

While body image has typically been regarded as a female issue, body image concerns can affect people of all genders. Here, we chat with body image researcher, Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., about body image in boys and men.

Describe your interest in body image. 

My interest in body image dates back to my childhood experiences as a ballet dancer. The intense focus on your body when you are a dancer is unfortunate and really fueled my own body dissatisfaction.

It wasn’t until I was an undergraduate psychology major that I started to look at the scars from my years as a dancer. Intellectualizing these issues was (and is!) a great coping mechanism for me. I began doing research on body image and eating attitudes during my undergraduate years and continued to do so when I completed my Ph.D. in psychology. I love doing research and teaching as a professor, but I also really love to make the research accessible to more diverse, public audiences. This has led to my work on book projects, including my recent The Body Image Book for Girls and the forthcoming companion book for boys.

Why has body image traditionally been thought of as a “women’s issue”? 

Diet culture and the beauty industry have targeted women for decades. It has long been commonplace for girls and women to want to change their appearance—in terms of both their bodies and their faces. This is not the only reason, but it is one of the primary reasons why body dissatisfaction is normative and festers among girls and women. In contrast, “manly” men have historically been conceptualized as natural, unadorned, and uninterested in fashion or beauty.   

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Staff Spotlight, Antoinette Johnson

Antoinette Johnson headshot

TEP: Tell us about yourself!

Antoinette: My name is Antoinette Johnson, and I have been the Office Manager at The Emily Program – Cleveland Outpatient site since 2015. My husband Curtis and I have been together for 32 years and have two wonderful sons—CJ, 29, and Alex, 21. We have a sweet beagle, Hailey—she’s 6 years young!

TEP: What do you like most about your job?

Antoinette: It is rewarding to be a part of a group of staff that truly believes in working as a team to help clients in their individual recovery journeys. We have such a wonderful group of clinicians and administrative staff that collaborates seamlessly in the coordination of client care. To oversee these efforts and assist in ensuring everyone knows they play an essential role in the organization as a whole is just as important as the care we provide to our client base. I look forward to returning to all of the onsite activities that I coordinate for our site, which is a really worthwhile way for everyone to connect and decompress from daily stressors.

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Episode 41: Beyond Quasi-Recovery with Miranda Snyder

A person studying at a laptop, a pair of glasses in their hand

**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. This episode includes mention of sexual assault. Please use your discretion when listening and speak with your support system as needed.

Episode description:

Miranda Snyder is a student in the Honors College at the University of Maine, where she is studying to be a high school ELA teacher. A strong proponent of storytelling-based advocacy, her past and current advocacy efforts emphasize the power of lived experience.

The power of Miranda’s lived experience is on full display in this episode of Peace Meal. She shares with us her eating disorder story, charting it from illness to “quasi-recovery” to full recovery.

When Miranda first underwent treatment for anorexia in eighth grade, she felt she had little say in the matter. She received ample support from friends, teachers, and friends, but her participation in care was more passive than active. Although she achieved nutritional rehabilitation, she continued to struggle with strict food rules and routines for the next several years. She lived in so-called “quasi-recovery.”

“I figured, ‘This is as good as it’s gonna get,’ she says, reflecting on that time. “I would be doing the best I could and be achieving so well, but I would always have an ED in the back of my mind.”

And then came a turning point.

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