What I learned at an eating disorder conference.
Last week I attended an eating disorder conference (IAEDP) in Palm Desert, California.
Oh how I love California. The best state. It was especially nice to be surrounded by like-minded dietitians and therapist in-person, rather than just connecting with them on the internet. Below are my Houston colleagues (Nikki, Lauren, Emily) + Haley Goodrich & Sumner Brooks (whose eating disorder ONLINE conference is right around the corner!)
We ate well and there were snacks galore, which I forgot to take pictures of! Some meal photos I did remember to grab…
breakfast: latte + breakfast burrito + fruit
another breakfast: latte + oatmeal w toppings + eggs + bacon
lunch: salad + pizza + halibut + coleslaw + ginger ale…quite the combination w the fish + pizza lol but that’s what they had!
dinner: epic ginger + lime drink with burger & fries
I wanted to share a few of my favorite takeaways from IAEDP and I’ll be turning some other takeaways into full posts.
Here are 3 of my IAEDP 2019 top moments…
A practical skill to validate what a person is going through.
The point of validating is to convey understanding of another’s experience and prove to them that you “get it.” I think it is probably one of the best feelings and warmth just radiates through my body when someone understands and get’s my experience with ED past/motherhood/etc.
One talk I listened to given by Dr. Adele LaFrance was on supporting and equipping caregivers of those struggling with an eating disorder. She discussed making sure the caregiver knows how to properly validate and gave a simple tip for doing this. She said we aren’t asking our caregivers to do more (because they already do a lot), but instead asking them to do things slightly different and to make sure we have a shared (and effective) language for how to support someone struggling.
First she started off by saying validating is not cheerleading, reassurance or problem-solving. It’s not fixing anything. Instead it’s simply doing the below:
The 3 things that reflect the other person’s internal experience, in terms of ED recovery, might be:
- it’s going to hurt your stomach.
- to restrict/binge/purge is relief from big pain.
- you haven’t eaten pizza in x amount of time and it’s a huge fear food for you.
Your support for someone struggling doesn’t end with just validating. You then need to provide emotional and practical support to make sure the food challenge, decrease in exercise, or goal from the therapist/dietitian actually happens, such as encouragement, eating x challenge food with the one struggling, and/or comfort.
Each morning IAEDP offered a gentle yoga class led by Lori Haas, a psychotherapist + yoga therapist who specializes in using yoga as a part of healing in eating disorder recovery. The most annoying part of typical yoga classes is the nudge towards juice cleanses and “make sure you eat something green today” mentions that yoga teachers can throw in unfittingly at the end of a class. All these classes were great and different than anything I’d ever done before in a yoga class.
A large part of the yoga focused on sitting and breathing, but my favorite flow she took us through was one that connected you to how it feels to move through life when in the eating disorder vs. how it feels to flow through life when no longer in the eating disorder. To do this she had us rigidly move though a flow. For instance, a flow of raising your arms over your head and then connecting hands over your head to move them downward through heart center, instead of being done in a continuous + fluid movement, she had us jerkily move through that movement with pauses in the movement for several rounds, then we were instructed to fluidly move through whatever flow it was and feel the ease of it. Comparing the rigidity the ED forces you into (i.e. food rules, specific times to eat at, forced movement/movement length of time, etc.) to the flow, trust and relaxation you’re opened up to in recovery (i.e. freedom to eat based on hunger, ability to move different lengths of time depending on your bodies needs, etc.).
A quote about how eating disorder behaviors can feel.
“Just because it feels better, doesn’t mean it is better.” – Dr. Nicole Hawkins
I enjoyed being away at the conference so much and it was SUCH a nice break from my typical routine. It was the longest I’d ever been away from Jo. Happy to be back home now!