Sororities & Bulimia: What Can I Do to Help My Sister?

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By: Libby Lyons

Dieting behaviors among college students are becoming more common. 83% of university females have consciously tried to lose weight or engaged in dieting behaviors [1].  The Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA), reports that 15% of women aged 17-24 have an eating disorder and 20% of college students say they have previously had an eating disorder, and 91% of college females students have attempted to control their weight through dieting [2].

Types of Eating Disorders

There are three main types of eating disorders that have different symptoms.

The three kinds are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. It helps to know the difference between the three categories to understand better how to help your sorority sister.

Anorexia is when a person feels that they are overweight or fat and want to become leaner. Typically this leads to eating disorder behaviors such as over exercise, food restriction and dieting practices; She may have an obsession with being ‘thin’ even when underweight.

Signs include an intensive drive for thinness, a refusal to maintain a minimum weight, a fear of becoming fat, and a distorted body image [2].

Women in college who experience a distorted view of their body may avoid situations with food such as eating in school cafe and may start to withdraw socially. There may be emotional changes such as irritability, depression, and anxiety.

Friends sign

Bulimia is episodes of binging where large amounts of food are consumed in two hours or less followed by self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, and laxative or diuretic abuse, or a combination of all three.

Feelings of shame and guilt are typically felt by individuals who struggle with this disorder. Physical signs can be swollen glands, discolored teeth, calluses on the knuckles, broken blood vessels around the eyes, gastrointestinal distress, and fatigue.

Women with bulimia are obsessed with their body weight and shape and often have a distorted body image. They can become socially withdrawn, depressed, and self-critical.

Other signs can include missing amounts of food, frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, and night eating.

Binge Eating Disorder is when a person engages in episodes of binge eating with no compensating behaviors. It is also followed by feelings of guilt and shame. Typically those who engage in binge eating are overweight or obese. They may eat when they are not hungry and have remorse for their behaviors.

Helping a Sorority Sister

With eating disorders being common in sororities and universities nationwide, there are things that you can do to help a sister who is struggling.

1.  Be gentle with your friend about your concerns. Often the person struggling will feel overwhelmed and defensive when approached.

Address your friend with care and compassion. Share your observations of concern as well as your support for an assessment and seeking resources on campus.

2.  Know that your friend may not be ready to accept help or admit that they have an issue. They may become irritable with attempts to address their disordered eating and may become defensive.

Do not give up on your friend. Let them know that you are there for them when they are ready to talk and that you will check in with them at a later time to see if they are willing to talk.

3. Have resources ready for your friend when talking with them. Let them know what resources are available on campus and in the community. Inform your sister that you are willing to go with them to an appointment if they would like.

Sorority sisters

It’s important for your friend to feel that they have control over their treatment. Most often eating disorders are about power and control when they feel out of control in various areas of their life.

4.  If your friend is resistant and you are still concerned about your friend, reach out to your sorority mom and let her know that you are concerned. From there, you and your sorority mom can work together to help your friend get the help that they need.

5.  Get your friend engaged in social activities, grab a coffee or tea, or do something that does not involve food or intense exercise. Being able to get your friend out of their environment and connected to other things such as nature, friends, family, spirituality, art and other activities can help them disengage from the eating disorder for a while.

6. Ask your friend what they need from you and how you can help them. Some individuals may be in therapy or treatment already but could use a meal buddy during the recovery process.

Asking what support your sorority sister needs and helping them through this tough time is rewarding for both of you.

Helping your sorority sister get through bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder is important and could eventually save her life.

References:

[1] Smith-Jackson, T., Flint, M., Brown, M., & Lehmbeck, J. (2016). Eating Disorder Behavior as Normative for College Women. Science Med Central, 4(3). Retrieved December 12, 2017, from https://www.jscimedcentral.com/PublicHealth/publichealth-4-1065.pdf.
[2] Eating Disorders Among College Students. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2017, from http://www.waldencenter.org/popular-searches/eating-disorders-among-college-students/

This blog post was originally posted here

About the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.

 

What Is An Eating Disorder Treatment Team?

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By: Kristina Zufall

Eating disorders are psychological illnesses that by their very nature, often have medical complications. As a result, treatment for eating disorders often require a team of professionals from various disciplines to ensure comprehensive care and the best treatment prognosis. Some professionals that may be involved in the treatment of eating disorders include:

  1. Physician – Medical doctors are necessary to monitor medical status. Eating disorder can compromise medical status in a variety of ways, and medical status can change throughout the recovery process. Their role includes ordering lab tests or imaging, interpreting the results, and prescribing necessary corrective measures.
  2. Psychiatrist – Because eating disorders may occur alongside other psychological illness or substance use disorders, psychiatrists who specialize in the use of psychopharmacological treatment are often part of the eating disorder treatment team. Their specialized role involves using specific medication to assist in helping a patient reach psychological recovery.
  3. Therapist – A licensed psychotherapist is a mental health professional that helps an eating disorder patient challenge negative thoughts about food and body image. Different therapists may use different modalities, but common therapy modalities for eating disorders include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. Non-traditional therapies such as equine assisted, expressive arts and movement, or even yoga, may also be incorporated into the therapy process.

Because of the complex interworking of the mind and body, a person who is nutritionally compromised as a result of their eating disorder may have difficulty working through the cognitive and emotional components of their eating disorder. As such, therapy often occurs alongside nutritional interventions as well.

Family therapy may also occur alongside individual therapy. Because eating disorder patients often require much support outside of the treatment setting, family therapy is way to educate families on support techniques for the eating disorder patient.

  1. Dietitian- A registered dietitian or nutritional counselor works with the eating disorder patient to develop regular and healthful patterns of eating. They play a large role in education of “normal” or “intuitive” eating, and can work with patients on food preferences, allergies or intolerances, and work to reintroduce high-anxiety foods. Further, dietitians work alongside medical doctors to ensure weight and nutrition status are adequate and can recommend any changes as appropriate.
  2. Group leader- Groups can be a therapeutic part of eating disorder recovery and may be led by therapists, dietitians, or even nurses. They have several different purposes that include education on a variety of topics including health and nutrition, ways to cope with disordered eating, or garnering support from others who have had eating disorder experiences.

Communication between treatment team members is a necessary aspect of treatment. Dietitians can tailor their nutrition interventions based on medical diagnostic testing, therapists can work utilize exposure therapy when a patient identifies a fear food with the dietitian, and therapists and dietitians can help psychiatrists understand current psychological and medical status to help tailor medication choices. Further, different treatment team members may have different relationships and experiences with the patient, and it is important all team members have an accurate picture of recovery status.

Some facilities may have these various disciplines under one roof. This is most common in high levels of care including inpatient, residential, and partial hospitalization. On an outpatient basis, it is more difficult to find a facility that has the necessary disciplines under one roof. as a result, ask your treatment providers if they have preferred treatment partners. Further, for ease of treatment, ensure all your treatment team members have “release of information” on file for each provider. This is a document that grants permission for treatment providers to communicate each other to stay up-to-date on your treatment.

If you aren’t sure who should be on your treatment team, ask your providers for guidance.

About the Author: Kristina resides in Houston, TX. She is a University of Houston alum where she earned her master’s in counseling. At Project HEAL, Kristina is dedicated to leading the Greater Houston Area team in awareness and fundraising efforts. She is passionate about the Houston Astros, Texans, and her black cat, Hallie.  Kristina’s favorite flavor of ice cream is birthday cake with sprinkles!

Why I’ll Never Stop Sharing My Recovery Story

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By: Brenna Briggs

Sharing my story of recovery has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. To take such a negative time in my life and turn it around into something positive is something I am so thankful for.

I was talking to my dad last night and he made a comment how he always knew I would turn my story around and I would do something good with it. My response to him was “Really dad?” and he said “Of course, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind. ” Maybe he really believed that, or maybe that helped him cope with the intense stress and scary life we were all living during my disorder.  I told him last night, there were times I really wasn’t sure if recovery was in the cards for me, and when I said that my heart sunk. It sank for the younger me, and it sunk for all of the people I know who are struggling right now. Feeling like you are going to live a life trapped in this ongoing cycle, being a slave to your disorder and the mind games it plays on you is hopeless, draining, and exhausting.

Knowing that there are people feeling like that, gives me even more reason, even more purpose to continue sharing my story, to continue reaching out, to continue education, to continue fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness and eating disorders.

The more people I reach with my recovery story, the more people will feel confident in their own recovery, more family members will know that there is hope and this is just a minor road block and the destination to recovery is on the map.

I’ll share my story with anyone who will listen and I’ll continue to share it because you never know whose heart strings it’s going to tug at, you never know who has a friend of a friend struggling. Recovery is real and living eating disorder free is real. There is help, there are resources, there is support. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.  

I used to be ashamed of my eating disorder, I kept it hidden from so many people for so long. I even kept my recovery a tucked away. So many people worry that others will think differently of them. I thought that too, until I realized that my story could help someone. My story IS helping people. I’m not just sharing my story so that people who are struggling will reach out for help, I’m sharing my story so that others who are recovered will stand up and share their stories too. We lived it, we fought it, and we are better and stronger because of it.

If even 1 person hears my story and it means something to them, I am doing my job and I won’t stop until the job is done. I didn’t quit on recovery, and I won’t quit advocating.

“Recovery was the hardest thing I ever did. Recovery is the best thing I’ve ever done,  Recovery is my biggest accomplishment, and recovery is worth it.”

About the Author: Brenna Briggs is a Project HEAL Boston Chapter volunteer. 

Be Encouraged, Brave Warrior

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By: Tracey Buckley

Today as I was home cooking I really felt that I wanted to encourage women who are walking through recovery.

I wanted to encourage you that deciding to overcome an eating disorder it not an easy decision.

I really wanted to encourage you and say that you are brave.

You are probably thinking no I’m not, I am nowhere near being brave.

You are probably thinking she is not talking about me?

But yes, I am?

I am talking to you, beautiful brave warrior.

You have made a decision to recover and that is being brave.

You are brave warrior because maybe you chose to-

  • Get out of bed this morning
  • Followed your meal plan
  • Asked for help
  • Kept your appointment with your counsellor, therapist
  • Let someone know that you are struggling
  • Decided to be real with someone about how you are feeling
  • Had breakfast
  • Laughed
  • May have cried
  • Went out for a coffee with a friend
  • Chose to ignore the negative thoughts
  • Wrote in your journal
  • Prayed
  • Read
  • Went food shopping
  • Listened to music that inspired you
  • Stopped and just breathed

Maybe you have been brave in your own way.

Maybe you even thought about doing something on the list above and that is okay.

Sometimes even thinking about doing something is a step towards recovery.

Every day is a step forward to recovery.

Be kind to yourself.

Beautiful Brave Warrior

About the Author: My name is Tracey Buckley and I live in Australia. Tracey is a Primary School Chaplain, who works with students from Kindy to Year 6 and the whole school community to help students with friendships, family and life skills issues. Tracey is also studying a Diploma in Counseling. At Project HEAL, Tracey is dedicated to letting people know that they are not alone in their journey and to know that recovery is possible. She is passionate about making a difference, coffee, family and friends. Tracey’s favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla at the moment.

 

 

The Day I Deleted MapMyRun

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By: Kirsten Danzo Tidwell

For as long as I can remember, I have considered myself an athlete. My parents tell jokes of how I went straight from crawling to running, I played soccer as soon as I was bigger than the ball, and I was a three-sport athlete all throughout high school. When I went off to college I immediately joined every intramural sports team I could find, and treated intramurals like division I sports.

Competition, athleticism, and an active lifestyle were all just engrained in who I was. When anorexia took over my life my sophomore year of college, in its cruel and wicked way, it used my competitive nature and love of sports to fuel the fire of my eating disorder. Soccer for fun became soccer for 5 hours. I started running as a way to give myself permission to eat. Sports and activity lost its fun and became a numbers game. I am now seven years into my fight with anorexia, and my relationship with exercise has been complicated throughout that time.

Since leaving residential treatment for the last time four years ago, I have been trying to figure out what healthy, recovered exercise looks like for me. About a year ago, my friend asked me to do a 15k race with her, and I decided to give running another try. After all, I was several years removed from treatment. Since my time in treatment I had struggled to stay in my weight range for any extended period of time, but I reasoned with myself that I had never strayed too far from my range… I was by and large leading a fairly normal recovered life—seeing my dietician and therapist every few weeks, still dealing with ED thoughts, but for the most part able to still hold it all together.

And so I ran. And I’ve been running ever since. I told myself that this time, running would be for fun. I wouldn’t worry about being the fastest, wouldn’t sign up for any huge races, wouldn’t make it something I “had” to do…I would run in a healthy, recovered way. But anorexia has a funny way of slipping in the back door when you aren’t looking, and convincing you things are fine when they really are not. If you have any experience with anorexia you will know that it is fueled by perfectionism and competition, and it was almost laughable that I thought that I would be able to “just run for fun”. Before I realized what was happening, things escalated. I meticulously tracked every mile I ran down to the second in MapMyRun, trying to convince myself that this was different than when I had meticulously tracked every calorie I ate.

Reality hit when I went to see my dietician, and once again my weight had dropped. I rationalized and whined and debated with her that running was a healthy coping mechanism for stress, and the weight loss was not related and was under control. Luckily, she has known me for seven years and knows when she is talking to me and when she is talking to my ED. So she dropped a bomb on me: “Quit the half marathon. Quit your “running goal”. And DELETE MAP MY RUN.” For me, a perfectionist, an obsessive goal setter who will finish whatever I start even if it kills me, her words were equivalent to asking me to cut a limb off.

I walked out of her office pissed off and not planning on listening to her. But then I happened to take a look at my half marathon training plan. It was color-coded, with little boxes to check off when I completed the run. It was one of those slap in the face moments where I instantly saw the hands of ED that had snuck in and once again twisted my love of exercise into an obsession without me even noticing. That day I deleted MapMyRun.

Today was my first run without the app. I decided to take a route I didn’t know so I wouldn’t know the mileage (which was difficult since I had nearly every route near my house mapped out to the tenth of a mile in my head). I purposely didn’t look at the clock when I left so I wouldn’t know how long I ran for, giving me no chance to estimate my pace. I ran slow, enjoying my music, looking around at the sights, taking whichever roads seemed scenic. And BOY was it both hard and incredible at the same time. I found myself freaking out, wondering if I was running “too slow”, or if the route I was taking was “too short.”

At the same time I found myself actually relaxing, enjoying the scenes, singing to the songs as I ran. I ran with ease, slowing down when my lungs got tired, taking a break when I needed one, turning back home when it felt right instead of when I had reached the “right” mileage. I have no idea how far I ran, how long I was gone, what my pace was, or what calories I burned. And as hard and as scary as that feels, it also feels incredibly freeing. If I am to reclaim exercise and my identity as an athlete, it needs to be purposefully separate from numbers.

Just like I had to retrain myself to forget the hundreds of calorie facts I had memorized for every food, every restaurant, every serving when I decided to choose recovery, I now have to retrain myself to forget the rules I have put in place about exercise and return to the pure joy that I used to find from movement, without the numbers, without the counting, without the guilt. Maybe I’ll take up yoga, or kick boxing, or go back to playing soccer. Or maybe I still will be able to be a runner, this time really in a recovered way. Only time will tell, but I know one thing is for sure—MapMyRun will never again find its way on my phone.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated in Recovery Over the Long Term

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By: Sonia Seguin

Whether you’re just starting down the recovery path or you’re long asymptomatic, healing is a long and difficult process that can leave you completely exhausted. Especially when you’ve been in recovery for some time and you’ve heard the same things over and over again, it’s easy to feel like there is nothing new to learn. What I’ve learned over the years is that there is always something new to learn and healing tends to come into fits and bursts. There are periods of intense learning, listening and processing and a relative lull in between. There are times when I am just not ready to listen and others when I soak up everything like a sponge and make incredible strides forward. So what do we do to keep making progress even when we’re in an unreceptive, completely burnt out phase of healing? When nothing seems to be working- no skills, tools, well meaning advice, therapy etc., etc? It is during these periods that having recovery built into your everyday life is essential. Often we have to process the same stories many times before we can fully work through them.

Here are some ways I’ve built recovery and healing into my life:

1. Constantly expose yourself to people who keep self-care and building a meaningful life at the top of their lists. That positive forward moving energy is so important to have, especially when you’re “recovery fatigued”.

2. Make sure to talk to someone you trust on a regular basis- even if you’re feeling great. Whether that’s a therapist, peer mentor, or close-friend, the process doesn’t stop because you’re asymptomatic or you feel good. Keep exploring, unearthing and processing.

3. Write your insights down. Even if it’s just bullet points on a piece of paper or notes on your phone. Processing can be incredibly complicated work and leaving it as a jumbled, chaotic soup in your head doesn’t help. Most likely, it’ll just overwhelm you. Writing things down can help you organize your thoughts and it can be a reminder of the important strides you’ve made.

4. Take it one step at a time. Especially during those periods of intense learning, it’s important to slow down and take it one step at a time. You can’t forcibly figure it all out at once and have it over and done with. The healing process is messy and will spill over into your life and interrupt your day. When this happens, STOP. Stop and acknowledge what’s happening. Bring your full attention to it. Talk about it, write about it, be mindful of it. Only half paying attention to what’s going on will just make it more likely to burst into life in a bigger way later on.

5. Rest. Find a few activities that allow you to rest. Recovery involves a lot of very uncomfortable moments (and hours and days), when all you can really do is sit with it. There is no avoiding it. I used to play a simple game on my phone. It didn’t fully engross me for hours but it allowed me to take a quick break. Healing takes time and it can be incredibly frustrating, especially when something you’ve already dealt with comes up again. Remember that if it’s coming up, there is something new to learn from it or it’s reminding you of something. Get your skills ready, rally your supports around you and lean into it.


About the Author: Sonia Seguin is founder and owner of not-for-profit organization Body Brave. Body Brave provides peer and professional support to those struggling with body image issues, disordered eating and eating disorders. Sonia suffered from an eating disorder in her late teens and early twenties and has been recovered for 6 years. She has a Masters in Business and Economics and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. She and the Body Brave team strive to reduce stigma around eating disorders, provide accessible support to those struggling as well as change the narrative around body image to be more inclusive.

I Went to Iceland and My Eating Disorder Stayed Home

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By: Anonymous

Last fall, I traveled to Iceland with my husband, a long-awaited trip to celebrate our five-year
anniversary. It was my first time in Europe, and the first trip in memory that my eating
disorder did not come along. To put the magnitude of this in context, I’d like to briefly go
back in time…
When my sisters and I graduated from high school, my Nana took each of us on a special trip.
My older sister went to Greece and Italy. My younger sister would go Kenya. And I, now
almost a decade ago… New York. I was still fresh out of the hospital, after almost losing my
life to anorexia nervosa, and my parents decided that leaving the country and trying to follow
my strict meal plan was out of the question. I was devastated. Although there’s a certain,
lovely energy to the city that never sleeps, this alternate trip, and the one I truly wanted but
never took, has sat in the back of my mind for years now, taunting me.
Three years after that, the summer before my senior year of college I went on a service trip to
Guatemala with a program through my university, but my going was continent on my
parents’ communication with university administrators to ensure that I would be able to – you
guessed it – follow my meal plan. Although I had an amazing time, intruding into my
memories of teaching children in rural villages how to brush their teeth and assisting in the
delivery of medical services are ones of daily food logs sent to my doctors and weekly
weigh-ins at the Guatemalan clinic.
Although I have now been in recovery for many years, I feel I hardly need to clarify that an eating disorder does not simply go away. Yes, it can fade, become less pervasive, less
abusive, less demanding, but the process of rebuilding a life free from it’s clutches takes
years, even decades. And so when I boarded the plane for a weeklong adventure to the land
of fire and ice, and my eating disorder did not jump on board with me, this was a BIG DEAL.
For years, I trudged along in recovery, thinking, “Well, this is it. This is as good as it gets.” I
almost accepted the idea that ice cream would always induce panic, exercise would always be
about burning calories, and buying clothes would never be fun. I almost believed doctors who
warned me that I would likely be sick forever, that my anorexia could be managed, “like
diabetes,” but a full recovery was unlikely. I’d like to take a victorious moment to say how
wrong that thinking is. I stayed in the recovery-version of purgatory, that no-man’s land
between dying and really living, for years, but slowly, almost imperceptibly, life came back
into color, regained its vibrance piece by piece.
Our trip to Iceland was filled with spontaneous hikes to majestic waterfalls, late nights in our
tiny campervan cooking backpacking food over a finicky stove as the wind whistled across
the tree-less ground. There was overpriced soup, and the donning of the traditional
lopapeysa, watching seals lounge on icebergs in the Jokulsarlon Lagoon. Songs sung in the
singing caves of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, moon-lit soaks in geothermal springs, and land
so wild you feel like you’ve left planet earth. This was the first major trip in memory that
wasn’t also marked by constant body scrutiny, food anxiety, and attempts to squeeze in extra
physical activity. And let me tell you a little secret, it was SO MUCH BETTER this way. So
hang tough, and keep trudging through purgatory, because there is a beautiful world that
awaits you just on the other side.

#MusicMonday – Christina Grasso

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Project HEAL has started a new blog series called HEAL Anthems where people from our community share what their recovery anthem is and why. We wanted to give you a playlist where you can access all of our favorite anthems and new anthems added each week. This week we have Christina Grasso, Advisory Board Member, PR Director and Instagram Manager.

You can check out our playlist and hear the song Christina chose below or on Project HEAL’s Spotify profile.

Song: “Gypsy” by Fleetwood Mac

What does this song mean to you?

Stevie Nicks’ music and own recovery from addiction has helped me immensely through my recovery process, but this particular song reminds me to stay connected to my roots and the person I was before anorexia took over. At that point I was still a child, and this song was written by Stevie about staying in touch with her younger self before her career took off. It’s a beautiful reminder of my values and is a song that has gotten me through numerous hospitalizations and treatment stays.

What’s your favorite lyric from the song?

“To the gypsy
That remains
She faces freedom
With a little fear
I have no fear
I have only love
And if I was a child
And the child was enough
Enough for me to love
Enough to love.”

Overcoming Anxiety, Depression and Anorexia (Video)

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Hear about recovery warrior Sarah Lomke’s story below.

 

#MusicMonday – Sara Brody

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Project HEAL has started a new blog series called HEAL Anthems where people from our community share what their recovery anthem is and why. We wanted to give you a playlist where you can access all of our favorite anthems and new anthems added each week. This week we have Sara Brody, Advisory Board Member.

You can check out our playlist and hear the song Sara chose below or on Project HEAL’s Spotify profile.

Song: “With Or Without You” – U2

What does this song mean to you? It helps one to realize that you have the power to resolve your own challenges yourself and you can do it

What’s your favorite lyric from the song?

I don’t have one, but believe the whole song is inspirational.