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!

Episode 46: Redefining Beauty with Melissa Louise Johnson

Melissa Louise Johnson

Episode description: 

Melissa Louise Johnson is a Marriage and Family Therapist, adjunct professor at Bethel University, and the founder of the Impossible Beauty blog and podcast. Through her work at Impossible Beauty, Melissa is on a mission to expand and renew beauty, as she believes the American brand of beauty is divisive, destructive, and far too narrow.

Melissa explores the concept of beauty with us in this episode of Peace Meal. She describes how cultural beauty messages impacted her childhood, adolescence, and the development of her eating disorder, as well as how she recognized and reckoned with these messages in recovery.

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Recovery Conversations: A Q&A with Andrea Kelly

A rocky ocean shore

**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.

Andrea Kelly is a transformational coach and writer who also has a background in real estate. After many years of struggling silently with anorexia and bulimia, she has found freedom in the last few years. She shares her eating disorder story in Fear Less: Transforming Fear into Courage within Relationships, Career, Society, and Self, available for preorder now. Find her blog at yourbestbeing.com and follow her on Instagram @andreakellylove.

Recovery Conversations is a question-and-answer series that shares voices and stories of eating disorder recovery. In this post, Andrea Kelly describes the ways fear presented itself in her eating disorder and how she learned to confront it in recovery.

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The Language of Eating Disorder Recovery

A horse in a sunset

**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.  

Whether we know it or not, language shapes our perception. I never thought much about how the language I speak and the way I view the world were connected until I took foreign language classes in high school. My Spanish teacher explained that translating wasn’t just word-for-word substitution. Unlike the equations I learned in algebra, where I could replace X with a number to answer a question like 4x + 2 = ?, I couldn’t always replace an English word with its Spanish equivalent to answer a question like, “How do you say _X  ?”

Learning Spanish was my first introduction to the idea that each language has a unique structure. Studying Spanish taught me that some structural differences between languages are minuscule, like the English rule that adjectives should come before nouns, as in “the blue car,” versus the Spanish rule that nouns should come before adjectives, as in “the car blue.”

Later, when I began teaching college English classes, I saw how other structural differences between languages affect every aspect of communication, such as English verbs having up to 12 tenses to indicate time versus Hmong verbs having a single tense. English requires us to say I eat, I ate, I have eaten, I will eat, I will have eaten, to tell listeners when the action happened because Western culture perceives time as linear and moving toward the future, while Hmong speakers say I eat yesterday, I eat tomorrow, I eat before sunset because traditional Hmong culture perceived time as cyclical and anchored by the present moment.

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Keep Climbing

Robby Swenson

**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.

“Whenever life gets you down / You’ve gotta get up off the ground / and you’re gonna keep climbing up.”

Hi, I’m Robby Swenson, and you just read the ending lyric to my new full-length studio album Anorexia, available on Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, YouTube Music, and all other streaming services. But more to come on that later.

About a year and a half ago, I was battling an agonizing battle against anorexia. My days were filled with hatred, guilt, and judgment, and I didn’t see a path out of my situation. However, I was so blessed to have a great support system around me, and today I can say that I am no longer afraid to nourish my body both physically and mentally.

Let’s be 100% honest with ourselves and the world around us: Body image issues are such a real problem for so many people. I think that I lost sight of this fact when I was going through my battle with anorexia. And it completely makes sense how I could do so. In a society where talking about your struggles is taboo, it is easy to turn inward and shield your emotions from those around you who love and care for you. 

That’s why I think we need to “stand up strong and climb the bars” that are holding us back from being the people we are destined to be. The only way we can prosper as human beings is to surround ourselves with love.

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Staff Spotlight, Lucy Chermak

Lucy Chermak

TEP: Tell us about yourself!

Lucy: Hi! I’m Lucy Chermak, Site Director at our Toogood site for adolescents and young adults in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’ve been at The Emily Program since 2011.

TEP: What do you like most about your job?

Lucy: I love the people I work with. We have such kind, empathetic staff who are just FUN! Working with adolescents definitely draws in a certain personality type which makes every day a blast…not to mention that working with teenagers keeps me spry.

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Questions You Should Ask Every Patient About Their Relationship With Food

A doctor in a telehealth session

You’re invited!

Whether in-person or virtually, you’re invited to assess, assess, assess! In school, we clinicians are taught to ask questions—so many questions. We are taught to ask about our patients’ history, about their current happenings, and about their future hopes and dreams. We are taught to ask about easy things and hard things. We are taught to ask about things that aren’t socially appropriate, things that are extremely uncomfortable outside the confines of medical and mental health settings. We are trained to ask questions about substance use, depression, anxiety, suicide, sexual behaviors, and peculiarities of the human body and its functioning.

Yet, so often, we forget to ask questions about one of the things that sustains life: FOOD! We know that to survive we need to eat. From the moment of conception to the moment of death, we are required to consume, in some way, calories that feed and nourish the systems within the body. Why, then, do we shy away from asking questions about this life-giving, life-sustaining human behavior?

Anecdotally, I hear medical and mental health providers say, “We have never had training,” “I don’t know what to ask,” and “I’m not sure what to do if it seems as though there might be a problem.” However, in the same way that we all learned how to ask and how to respond or intervene following questions about suicidal ideation or even substance use, we all can become more comfortable with integrating questions about eating disorders into our assessments of 100% of our patients.

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