Posts Tagged ‘Teenagers’

Reframing the Way we Build our Child’s Relationship with Food

Girl eating watermelon

In recent years, an awareness surrounding eating disorders has begun to break its way into society, yet there are still misconceptions associated with eating disorders. Although disordered eating is often considered to be targeted at those belonging to the late adolescence or adult demographic, the reality is: they entirely disregard age. Eating disorders don’t discriminate, affecting individuals of all cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and age. For this reason, it is increasingly important to begin encouraging your child to develop a healthy relationship with food from an early stage in their life. Conditioning positive perceptions regarding eating will equip them with a healthy attitude towards creating and maintaining a balanced lifestyle as they grow up.

The domino effect of misinformation

Those growing up today ar considered to be the first generation of the new health era. Many of their grandparents grew up in the 1930s and ’40s, an age when nutrition was focused on minimizing meal size. A domino effect was underway, unknowingly passing misinformed relationships with food to their children. Now, as children grow up, there is heightened possibility that they, too, are carrying misperceptions about food and health. This is why we need to alter our attitude towards eating, nutrition, and health.

It’s especially difficult to do this with children, with the focus on various dietary guidelines pediatricians provide for “ideal” growth. Parents may become so strict with nutritional protocols, striving to meet the daily requirements set for their child’s age range, that suddenly eating becomes a mechanical process. Though this parental behavior stems from positive intentions, aiming to ensure their child is healthy, notions that food is something to be carefully controlled and monitored is implicitly being taught. Instead, we suggest parents show their kids that all foods have a place in a healthy diet and that no food is good or bad.  

Tackling stressors early on

Perhaps your child doesn’t show direct signs of disordered eating but does demonstrate symptoms in line with anxiety. Eating disorders exist across varying forms and regardless of the specific behavioral pattern they do manifest into, they are often accompanied by mental health disorders, like anxiety or depression. Once a disordered relationship begins, so does a significant amount of anxiety around food, which may stem from misconceptions regarding nutrition or confusion around what it means to live a healthy lifestyle.

Beginning self-care (as it pertains to eating) early on will enable you to apply an educational approach to your child’s mealtime practices, which can help to negate potential anxiety. In some cases, disordered eating is utilized as a method of coping with other physical or mental health concerns. Recognizing that these illnesses can coexist will help you initiate appropriate conversations to build your child’s bank of self-management tools to maintain positive perceptions of eating.

Reframing the way your child views eating

The most important conversation to have with your child as they begin their relationship with eating is that food isn’t a systematic practice of adding and subtracting but rather, at its roots, the starring role in their self-care routine. Create an open dialogue surrounding nutrition to provide a safe space where they can navigate a balanced lifestyle on their own terms. When you have discussions with your child about eating, refrain from setting strict divisions between ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. Rather, place emphasis on the fact that no particular food falls into a black and white category in this way. Remind them consistently that every type of food, regardless of the health stigma attached to it, has a place in their life.  

A positive way to go about this is by making cooking a bonding experience. Framing your child’s learning experience as a fun and caring moment shared between you and them can enable nutrition to be something to look forward to. Tackling the cooking process meal by meal, creating each dish together while actively encouraging your child to include all types of food. Walk them through why occasionally incorporating a cookie as a lunchtime dessert is just as important to their self-care routine as adding plenty of vegetables. Focus on terminology like “nourishing” or “balanced” to allow your child to view a variety of foods as equally beneficial to their lifestyle.

Reframe the way your child experiences life around eating

Health culture throughout the years has fallen into the routine of perpetuating the stressful perception that leading an active lifestyle is our primary tool to managing the food we consume. Help your child understand that exercise and activity should never be solely determined by what or how much they’ve eaten. As with preparing meals, make physical activity a team effort to create positive associations. By creating a direct connection between activity and family or friends, it leaves little opportunity for a connection to food and emphasizes it as an entirely separate sector of their daily self-care routine. Frame food as a nourishing experience that helps your child play more, which provides an exciting incentive around mealtimes.

Food isn’t just fuel, it’s something to enjoy

Beyond the educational components of nutrition, develop warm attitudes towards food that exude excitement, happiness, and appreciation. A common tactic utilized in the restoration of healthy eating habits once a disordered relationship has begun, is that food is necessary to fuel for our bodies. While this is true, it can also lead an individual to view eating as something they need to do as opposed to something they look forward to doing. Eating should never feel like a chore. Help to make each meal feel like a small, celebratory event full of gratitude for its presence in your life, ability to bring loved ones together, and to make life more enjoyable.

If you recognize eating disorder symptoms and behaviors in your child, it is important to reach out for help as soon as possible. Early intervention and support is key to a lifelong recovery from an eating disorder. If you are interested in learning more about The Emily Program, please call us at 1-888-364-5977 or complete our online form.

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One Mom’s Tips on How to Raise Daughters to Love Their Bodies

Family in nature

Ellie O’Brien is a yogi and a mother of two. During her free time, she enjoys practicing yoga and spending time with her family. She works hard to raise her two daughters to be strong in their own voices, opinions, and physical bodies.

As both a woman and a mother, I am constantly bombarded by messages of what I should look like and how I should behave. These messages, advertisements, and cultural norms have existed for decades in order to make women feel less than. If we ourselves do not feel complete, whole, or worthy, we are more likely to buy new products, invest in new activities, and pay to look like what we see in the media. This becomes a cycle—the media perpetuates what we “should” look like and we often try our best to adhere to this ideal out of fear of stigma, shame, or judgment. But, I refuse to participate in this cycle. As a mother of two daughters, ages eight and ten, I want to raise my girls to be strong in their own voices. I want them to think positively of themselves and their bodies, and I do the following to make sure my daughters feel strong, confident and loved in their day-to-day lives.

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10 Ways to Stick with Eating Disorder Recovery in School

stack of books with person

With school starting, it’s common to feel a mix of emotions including excitement, anxiety, and stress. For those in middle and high school, the start of school often means a new schedule, new teachers, and adjusting to new classes and classmates. For those starting or returning to college, school may mean moving, new roommates, challenging courses, and the difficult task of navigating conflicting priorities.

If you’re also struggling with an eating disorder, starting school may trigger or worsen disordered behaviors. If you find yourself relapsing in your recovery or engaging in eating disorder behaviors to cope with the changes school brings, the most important thing you can do is reach out to get professional help. In addition to seeking treatment, there are other ways to stay on track in recovery during school.

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Staff Spotlight: Maggie Meyers, Site Director

staff spotlight Maggie Meyers

Maggie Meyers, MA, LPCC, is a Site Director at The Emily Program’s Anna Westin House for Adolescents and Young Adults (AWHAYA) in Saint Paul, Minnesota. AWHAYA will be expanding from a 10-bed facility to a 16-bed facility in September. 

TEP: Tell us about yourself!

Maggie: I am a Minnesotan through and through. Here at The Emily Program, I have worked as a lead therapist in our Adult Intensive Day Program, done outpatient work, been a Program Coordinator for our Adult Binge Eating Disorder Intensive Outpatient Program, and have been involved in clinical management. I am currently the Site Director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Residential House in Saint Paul. I make sure that things run as smoothly as possible, working directly with providers in the building on a daily basis. I help provide our clients with the best care possible. Outside of The Emily Program, I have a small private practice where I see adults for a variety of mental health issues, and I am currently pursuing my Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy.

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Thinking of Returning to School with an Eating Disorder?

Male High School Student

With the school year nearing, it’s important to start discussing the relationship between school, body image, and eating disorders. Navigating school while living with an eating disorder is undeniably challenging. With school comes independence, social cliques, and sports—all of which can trigger eating disorder behavior. Despite the challenges school settings pose, there are preventative measures individuals can take to discourage relapse.

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Residential Care Expanding for Adolescents and Young Adults

Toogood Living Room

The Emily Program is excited to announce that we are expanding our Anna Westin House for Adolescents and Young Adults in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The expansion will increase the licensed 10-bed residential facility to a 16-bed facility. The necessary construction will take place throughout August and early September and will not affect current programming. The expansion is expected to be completed by mid-September.

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