Eating Disorder

You Can Never Be Too Thin--or Can You?

“You can never be too thin or too rich.” This quote has been ascribed to twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, the American woman for whom Edward VIII abdicated England’s throne. Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, was reportedly obsessed with wealth--and being thin.

Apparently, the duchess isn’t the only one to ascribe to this point of view. Thin models and celebrities stare at us from magazine covers. Celebutantes, almost always thin, post their filtered, carefully posed selfies on Instagram. Women of every age try diet after diet in an attempt to look like the airbrushed images that bombard them every day. According to BusinessWire, the weight loss and diet control market in the United States reached $72 billion in 2019, the highest it had ever been.

That last point may be proof that what’s good for Wall Street isn’t always good for Main Street. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), twenty million women and ten million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders have the “second-highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, surpassed only by opioid addiction.” NEDA works to educate the public about eating disorders, build communities to support people who are recovering from these disorders, fund research, and provide people with resources. In an effort to educate the public, NEDA sponsors National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which will be February 22 through 28 in 2021.

What Are Eating Disorders?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders are “serious medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors….These disorders can affect a person’s physical and mental health; in some cases, they can be life-threatening.”

Three common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

People with anorexia avoid food or severely limit the amount and types of food they eat. They see themselves as overweight even when they are severely underweight. Some people with anorexia, in addition to restricting food, will force themselves to vomit or misuse laxatives and diuretics in an effort to further limit calories. Signs that someone may have anorexia include restricted eating, excessive exercise, extreme thinness, fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image. As the illness progresses the person may develop medical issues, including:

  • Anemia
  • Muscle wasting and weakness
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Low body temperature
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Heart damage
  • Brain damage
  • Multi-organ failure

Anorexia can be fatal and people who die from anorexia exhibit medical conditions associated with starvation.

People with bulimia eat unusually large amounts of food and feel as if they have no control over their eating. They compensate for binge eating by forcing themselves to vomit, misusing laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people with bulimia can be a normal weight or even be overweight. Medical issues caused by bulimia include a chronically inflamed and sore throat; swollen salivary glands; worn tooth enamel and tooth decay; acid reflux; intestinal issues from laxative abuse; dehydration; and electrolyte imbalance which can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Sufferers of binge-eating disorder have repeated episodes of binge eating, usually defined as “eating an amount of food that exceeds what most people would eat within a two-hour time period. People with this disorder will eat even when they are not hungry and eat until they are uncomfortable. They tend to eat very rapidly during these binge episodes and they frequently eat alone or in secret because of feelings of shame or embarrassment. People with binge-eating disorder are frequently overweight or obese and diet without success. Heart problems are the most common health problem for this group.

Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues

While the causes of eating disorders are not known, experts speculate that eating disorders are caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and societal forces. What is known, however, is that many people with eating disorders also suffer from depression and anxiety and may have issues with substance abuse. 

A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that 50% of people with eating disorders abuse drugs or alcohol, particularly those who engaged in some sort of purging behavior. According to an advisory released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), people with eating disorders have high rates of substance abuse as well. As the eating disorder becomes more severe, the likelihood that more than one substance is abused increases as well. Studies reported in the advisory found that people with binge-eating disorder tended to abuse alcohol, while those who attempted to increase their weight loss by purging (including bulimics and anorexics who purge) abused stimulants and sleeping pills.

The same advisory noted that co-occurring mental health disorders are common among people with eating disorders, particularly anxiety disorders, mood disorders (including major depressive, bipolar, and seasonal affective disorders) and impulse control disorders.

Help--and Hope--Is Available

Fortunately, help is available for people suffering from eating disorders. As serious as these disorders are, they are treatable, and people do recover.

Treatment for an eating disorder includes nutrition education, psychotherapy (talk therapy), and medication. Of the available psychotherapies, family-based therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy have been found to be effective. Alternative treatment modalities are also helpful in treating eating disorders. These include yoga, meditation, massage, fitness therapy, and acupuncture. 

You can recover from an eating disorder and receive treatment for co-occurring disorders that you may have. Treatment can literally save your life.

Experts estimate that nearly thirty million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, which has one of the highest mortality rates of all mental health issues. Approximately half of those who have an eating disorder also abuse drugs or alcohol and co-occurring mental health issues are also prevalent in this population. Eating disorders are serious health issues that can result in death if not treated. Help for eating disorders is available at Enlightened Solutions. We are a drug and alcohol treatment center on New Jersey’s southern shore and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. Our treatment plans are rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We focus on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. In addition to traditional talk therapy and support groups, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga and meditation, art and music therapy, and family constellation therapy. If you have been struggling with an eating disorder or other addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483. We can help.


Orthorexia Nervosa- Fear of Eating Unhealthy

Orthorexia Nervosa- Fear of Eating Unhealthy

It is always good to want to eat healthily. But, it is never good to be obsessed with healthy eating. By knowing the signs of Orthorexia Nervosa, you can prevent this unhealthy addiction and learn to still eat healthy without any negative feelings associated with it.

How Orthorexia Nervosa is Different From Other Eating Disorders

Eating disorders that we know of like anorexia or bulimia is about quantity. Orthorexia Nervosa is about quality. Losing weight is normally not the objective when you develop this particular eating disorder. This is when you have an obsession with eating foods that have the highest “purity” or the most healthy. This eating disorder was made aware when Jordan Younger, a successful blogger, spoke about how her obsession with healthy eating led her to suffer malnutrition. While Orthorexia Nervosa is recognized in the medical community, it still is not associated with the American Psychiatric Association or the DSM-5. 

The Causes of Orthorexia

It may have started where you wanted to go on a diet to improve your health, only to let your healthy eating habits grow out of control. Obsessive-compulsive disorders, as well as former or current eating disorders, can be factors for Orthorexia Nervosa. It can also be if you have a tendency towards perfectionism, high anxiety, or a need for control. You may also feel pressure to be healthy for your career where picking the right foods becomes a necessity. It can be jobs like healthcare workers, musicians, ballet dancers, and athletes. 

The Two Stages of Orthorexia Nervosa

The first stage of Orthorexia Nervosa is your obsessive thoughts of healthy eating. You feel emotional stress in relation to certain food choices. This can mean having compulsive thoughts on dietary choices that you believe will make you the most healthy. You do not want to break any part of your diet or you may experience anxiety, shame, fear of developing a disease, feeling impure, or how you will perceive your physical health. If you keep up with these dietary restrictions, it can lead to leaving out entire food groups as well as cleanses, fasts, or both.

The second stage of Orthorexia Nervosa is when this eating disorder prevents normal functioning. You could experience malnutrition, severe weight loss, and other complications. You could also have trouble functioning socially where your friends are not fond of your obsessive eating habits or academically where you do not have the energy to do your work. You could also feel like the way you see yourself all depends on how well you do on your diet. For example, eating one piece of candy can already make you feel like you are doing a lousy job at feeling healthy instead of thinking of everything in moderation.

Physical Effects

It is important to realize that true health is eating all of the essential food groups. A shortage of essential nutrients can lead to malnutrition, anemia, or a slow heart rate. You could also experience electrolyte and hormonal imbalances, metabolic acidosis, and bad bone health. Do not underestimate any of these health problems and see a doctor for them before your life is threatened by this eating disorder.

Emotional Effects

If a person with Orthorexia Nervosa has their eating habits disrupted, it can lead them to extreme frustration. You could end up feeling guilty and hating yourself if you deviate from the diet. One deviation can lead you to say to yourself you will not eat anything the next day or go on a cleansing. A large amount of your time is spent deciding on which foods are “pure” enough for you. You could be concerned about pesticides in vegetables, dairy with hormones, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Besides eating, you could also be spending your time researching, weighing, or measuring food or planning future meals. 

Social Effects

Orthorexia Nervosa can cause your friends to withdraw from you if you are spending all of your time talking about what foods you plan on eating, searching for the calories and ingredients more than eating, or are thinking out what to put in their food diary. Your friends will feel like you are not focusing on them. You may also feel like you can only eat at certain times and cannot take part in activities that involve food like going out to eat or dinner parties. You will feel like the food there does not fit into your dietary restrictions and choose to miss out on it completely. You could also be isolating yourself from people because you know that what you are doing is not safe and you do not want the judgment.

Treatment For Orthorexia Nervosa

If you do not treat Orthorexia Nervosa soon, you could be suffering from irreversible damage to your body. You first need to identify that you have it. This is the hardest part because people with any eating disorder fail to recognize it under something bad happens to them. Once you realize that you fit into the symptoms of this eating disorder, you should seek help from a doctor, nutritionist, and psychologist. There is also exposure therapy, behavior modification therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and relaxation techniques. Lastly, it is important to do your own research about necessary food habits everyone should have to be healthy to avoid any false beliefs. Being in control of Orthorexia Nervosa can allow you to enjoy food again as well as your life. 

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


The Mental Cost of Eating Disorders

The Mental Cost of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can express in a variety of ways: anorexia, bulimia, overeating, just to name a few of the expressions that this condition can take on.  The manifestation of eating disorders will typically involve obsessions about food, about the body and being able to become free from these obsessions.

Culturally, it can be easy to minimize eating disorders as less serious addictions than those struggling with substance abuse addictions.  However, the deeper truth is that individuals struggling with eating disorders are living with the same loss of authentic self as those struggling with other addictions.  The vacillation between obsession and compulsion is a loss of choice which can lead to profound health consequences, even including the loss of the physical life.  At its heart, the loss of the spirit is present in this loss of choice, regardless of what substance or behavior the choice is related to.  

The natural rhythm of providing our bodies with food is an opportunity to discern at each interval what nutrients will provide us with the stamina needed to live our life purpose.  When these intervals become cycles of feeding an obsession, we have lost our authentic selves to an eating disorder.  Whether it is focused on consuming specific foods, performing ritual practices around foods, or a focus on how to mitigate the harmful choices through exercise or purging, the intervals have become about checking out rather than checking in.  

Commonly, individuals struggling with eating disorders are aware that these behaviors are considered ‘not normal’ and hide these patterns.  The result is that they become isolated from their social communities to conceal their behaviors. Becoming a divided person, they , show only parts of themselves to the people who love them while hiding the most vulnerable parts of themselves, the parts that most need to be seen and accepted.  

We can all look at our relationship to food to discover where it is serving the life that we were born to live and where it has taken over our life to block our spiritual purpose. The more that we can become transparent about our journey, moving our relationship to one of positivity and contribution, the more we can support others in doing the same.  

Enlightened Recovery Solutions offers a harmonious approach to holistic treatment, bringing together the best of evidence-based, alternative, and 12-step therapies. Call us today for information on our transformation programs of treatment for addiction and alcoholism: 833-801-5483.


Can Eating Disorders Be Predicted?

A recent study found that there are three primary categories that disordered eating behaviors can either develop from or not develop from, starting in adolescence:

  • Asymptomatic: those who have no symptoms of disordered eating behaviors
  • Dieting Group: those who were actively pursuing weight loss
  • Disordered eating group: those who engaged in disordered eating behaviors symptomatic of diagnosable eating disorders such as binging and purging

Most eating disorders begin to develop at the young, pre-pubescent age and develop into adulthood. The study sought to investigate the patterns of adolescent behaviors and how they transitioned into adulthood. What the researchers found is revealing to the evolution of eating disorders and how early intervention could be essential for long term recovery.

For the asymptomatic group, those who had no symptoms at all, the researchers found that only a little over half (about 60%) stayed asymptomatic and did not develop an eating disorder later on in life. Adolescents who are not preoccupied with dieting or begin to participate in disordered eating behaviors in their critical developmental years are less likely to develop an eating disorder later in life. The remaining 40% might experience trauma, another mental health condition, or other extreme circumstances in life which lead to developing an eating disorder.

75% of those who belonged to one of the disordered eating behaviors groups, either dieting or disordered eating, continued to be in one of those two categories later on in life. Eating disorders have been discovered to thrive in the habit-forming part of the brain. Deeply rooted in in the brain, changing disordered thinking about eating habits, and disordered behaviors for eating habits, is hard to do. When eating disorder habits and thinking develops at an adolescent age, it can be difficult to stop later on in life.

Interestingly, the study found that a critical component in the development of an eating disorder was self-esteem. “Those with higher self-esteem in adolescence tended to have a decreased chance of transitioning from the asymptomatic group to the disordered eating group in adulthood.” In contrast, those who struggled with depression, dysfunctional family systems, family weight issues, or other circumstances, had lower self-esteem in adolescence and were more likely to develop an eating disorder through to adulthood.

Eating disorders are challenging to overcome but it is not possible. Addiction and alcoholism are commonly co-occurring with eating disorders. If you are struggling with both, recovery is possible and help is available. Call Enlightened Solutions today for information on our integrative treatment programs for healing mind, body, and spirit, as you make your journey to recovery. Healing is waiting. 833-801-5483.


The Challenge Of Relapse Prevention In Eating Disorders

How do you prevent a relapse for an eating disorder?

Food is a choice everyone has to make throughout the day every day. Unlike drugs and alcohol, there is no option to “not pick up no matter what”. Recovering from an eating disorder requires eating differently, thinking differently, and living life in a different way. Through treatment for eating disorders, we learn how to regard our bodies and minds with compassion. Therapy, physical activity, meetings, and meditation are all tools we pick up in order to live a healthy lifestyle without abusing ourselves through harmful behaviors. Like any recovery program, we are prone to slip up on our practice. Cutting a few extra calories from our meal plan might seem innocent when we are struggling with uncomfortable feelings of poor self-esteem. Taking therapy time as “self-care” time and missing an appointment can become an easily repeated pattern. These small changes can seem harmless. Recovery is not meant to be rigid without a margin for error. However, the flexibility can only go so far until it has a negative effect. Eating disorders live in the part of the brain which create habits. Habits are one of the most difficult psychological processes to change. Once a new habit starts leaning toward an old habit, it can quickly change. Old thoughts and voices can come creeping in, encouraging dangerous behaviors, critical observations, and more. Though we live in a world that obsesses about diet, exercise, food and body regularly, it can be life threatening for someone recovering from an eating disorder to go there.

During the early recovery months, it is important to stick to routine, including diet and exercise plans, as well as treatment plans. Stay honest about your experiences with challenging thoughts and moments. We are likely never the only one who is struggling with recovery. If the pressure of an eating disorder comes on too strong, make sure to reach out to someone immediately. We are equipped with a lot of tools to help ourselves, but sometimes the most powerful tool is asking for someone else’s help.

Recovering from eating disorders is absolutely achievable. One day, the voices will get quiet and the choices will become easy. Time, work, and dedication are required. You can find the support and encouragement you need with Enlightened Solutions. Our day treatment programs provide care for eating disorders and co-occurring mental health or substance use disorders. For information on our holistic method of healing, call 833-801-5483.


Eating Disorders Come From A Deeper Place Than Magazines

There’s no question about it. The way body, food, eating, and body image are represented in mainstream media is harmful. Societal standards of beauty are created for profit. By making people believe they are less than, ugly, unwanted, or in need, corporations can sell their products which will rectify these problems. Women’s bodies are photoshopped to be more thin. Men’s bodies are photoshopped to be more sculpted. If one were to make a list of all of society’s demands for having the perfect body, one would find a consistently contradictory list. Expectations lead to disappointments. The expectations set forth by societal pressures and demands regarding body image are impossible to meet, therefore many are left feeling disappointed in how they look. Most unfortunately, many don’t realize that the happiness or feelings of adequacy they seek cannot come from the way they see themselves in the mirror. It is an entirely inside job.

Eating disorders are less about the eating and more about the disorder. Disordered thinking about self, control, body, and image, are what leads to an unhealthy relationship with food. Since the conversation about societal standards through media and body image are so closely tied, many confuse the cause of an eating disorder to be those societal standards. As reported by The State Press, the opposite is true.

Genetics can and do play a large part in the development of eating disorders. While there are specific genes which contribute to eating disorders, they can also develop out of other mental illnesses. Mental illness has been found to be largely genetic, passing on from one generation to the next. Eating disorders are a way to cope with life- similar to the way drugs and alcohol are abused. In fact, there is a high percentage of eating disorders co-occurring with substance abuse. When mental illness goes untreated, it yearns for comfort in whatever way it can. Practices of restriction and starvation, common in anorexia nervosa, or binging and puring, common in bulimia, bring people comfort.

Recovery from an eating disorder will require an understanding of how the mainstream media influences ideals of body image. Digging deep into the psychological underlying causes for eating disorders will help to separate the practice from the perceived cause.

Enlightened Solutions proudly offers dual diagnosis treatment for eating disorders and substance abuse, as well as other co-occurring mental health disorders. We have a carefully curated eating plan complete with nutritional courses and cooking lessons for life skills development. Using twelve step philosophy with evidence based treatment our approach to recovery is integrative and comprehensive. For more information on our programs of treatment, call 833-801-5483.


Family Meals as a Metaphor for Recovery

Family dinners is proven to be a transformational method for preventing the development of eating disorders in adolescents. The act of family meal planning not only encourages bonding time, but also inspires healthier diets. Families who eat a minimum of one meal together per day eat more fruits and vegetables. Other research has shown that families and individuals who eat at home, consuming food they cooked themselves, tend to eat healthier. They also consume less calories a day, helping them maintain a more well-balanced diet.

Experiential learning is an impactful way to change thought patterns, decision making, and awareness in the family environment. Including the family in meal choice, grocery shopping, meal prep and serving creates a fun activity from the beginning to end of a meal. It also helps young members of the family see the amount of work it takes to prepare a meal, helping them develop gratitude. Preparing one’s own food is a spiritual experience that the whole family can enjoy together.

Tying Family Meals to Recovery

If the family can benefit from shared meal time, it is probable they can benefit in learning how to support a loved one’s recovery. As adolescents turn into young adults, many parents practice a “try it at home first” philosophy when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Creating an open environment of experimentation and collaboration can be applied to recovery as well. Having the family come together to choose non alcoholic beverages will help a recovering loved one not to feel excluded.

As an equivalent to meal planning the family can plan activities together which will support their loved one in recovery. Addiction is a family disease, as it is often said, and it takes the whole family to recover. Many see recovery as a spiritual program, which can be supplemented through various activities throughout the day. Together, families can:

  • Read a daily affirmation or chapter of an inspirational book
  • Pick a spiritual theme for the day and talk about their experiences over family dinner
  • Send each other inspirational quotes or videos during the day
  • Practice meditation and quiet time
  • Attend different levels of recovery meetings, like Al-Anon and Ala-Teen
  • Experiment with different religious or spiritual inquiries and attend services
  • Talk openly about emotions and spiritual experiences throughout the day
  • Begin and end the day in family prayer

Family Meals as a Metaphor for Recovery

Family dinners is proven to be a transformational method for preventing the development of eating disorders in adolescents. The act of family meal planning not only encourages bonding time, but also inspires healthier diets. Families who eat a minimum of one meal together per day eat more fruits and vegetables. Other research has shown that families and individuals who eat at home, consuming food they cooked themselves, tend to eat healthier. They also consume less calories a day, helping them maintain a more well-balanced diet.

Experiential learning is an impactful way to change thought patterns, decision making, and awareness in the family environment. Including the family in meal choice, grocery shopping, meal prep and serving creates a fun activity from the beginning to end of a meal. It also helps young members of the family see the amount of work it takes to prepare a meal, helping them develop gratitude. Preparing one’s own food is a spiritual experience that the whole family can enjoy together.

Tying Family Meals to Recovery

If the family can benefit from shared meal time, it is probable they can benefit in learning how to support a loved one’s recovery. As adolescents turn into young adults, many parents practice a “try it at home first” philosophy when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Creating an open environment of experimentation and collaboration can be applied to recovery as well. Having the family come together to choose non alcoholic beverages will help a recovering loved one not to feel excluded.

As an equivalent to meal planning the family can plan activities together which will support their loved one in recovery. Addiction is a family disease, as it is often said, and it takes the whole family to recover. Many see recovery as a spiritual program, which can be supplemented through various activities throughout the day. Together, families can:

  • Read a daily affirmation or chapter of an inspirational book
  • Pick a spiritual theme for the day and talk about their experiences over family dinner
  • Send each other inspirational quotes or videos during the day
  • Practice meditation and quiet time
  • Attend different levels of recovery meetings, like Al-Anon and Ala-Teen
  • Experiment with different religious or spiritual inquiries and attend services
  • Talk openly about emotions and spiritual experiences throughout the day
  • Begin and end the day in family prayer

intensive outpatient program

Fashion Industry’s Power over Beauty

The word model means “a system or thing used as an example to follow or imitate.” It is no wonder then that fashion brands have, for centuries, call the men and women showing off their clothing “models”. Fashion sells more than clothing. How a fashion brand develops their loyalty is through the development of a lifestyle. Wearing a certain type of clothing is supposed to make you feel as though you are living a certain type of life. By using “models” fashion brands use living people as examples of how life should look.

Over time, models have become thinner and thinner. Numerous documentaries and investigative reports have revealed the pressures models face to be thin. Models must meet high expectations and standards of beauty that are ever changing. Recently, major fashion centered countries like France have banned excessive thinness on the runway. Fashion models have to meet a healthy BMI in order to work.

For decades, fashion models and eating disorders have been closely affiliated. Beyond the models in fashion are the people trying to “model” themselves after fashion models. Consumers see images of these lifestyle brands and believe in the ideals of perfectionism or beauty. Convinced that they are fat, ugly, or not beautiful enough without looking like the models do, people resort to extreme measures. Though many models are already incredibly thin, fashion participates in another harmful trend which is digital alteration. Photos of models on the covers of magazines or in advertisements have been digitally altered. The beauty ideal upheld by fashion is unrealistic.

London Fashion Week is coming up in the fashion circuit. England is one of the few countries left not to regulate the BMI of fashion models. A new campaign initiative is being launched to get this sort of legislation happening in the UK. Models with a BMI below 18.5 need to be seen by medical professionals. Additionally, each collection showcased by a designer must include sizes from one end of the scale to the other. One of every sample must be a UK size 12 or above, which is usually designated as “plus size”.

The history and reasoning behind small sizes displayed on the runway have to do with saving money. Designers believe they save money for investors by using less material for their designs on the runway. Skinny models require less material. For this small reason in a multi billion dollar industry, millions of men and women around the world suffer from eating disorders.

Eating Disorders are commonly co-occurring with substance abuse issues including alcoholism and addiction to drugs like cocaine or other amphetamines. Enlightened Solutions is a certified and licensed dual-diagnosis treatment center, welcoming men and women seeking recovery for co-occurring disorders. For more information on our programs of treatment call 833-801-5483.