The Proper Care and Feeding of…Yourself: Center For Eating Recovery

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I ran into Alison Ross from the Center For Eating Recovery a few weeks ago at a festive wintertime event. She was in the wild – not settled on her comfy couch across from me, listening to me talk about what’s going on in my life, in my head, in my gut. I was excited to see her because our 8-week program had ended weeks before.

And then, as I suppose must happen to anyone who runs into her therapist at say, a grocery store, I felt the need to report on my good health. Even though she had advised me to throw away my scale, I happily reported that I’d lost 4 pounds since I last saw her. As soon as I said it, inwardly, I flinched.

Because that’s not the point.

The 8-week group session, a course called Hunger Balance, at Center For Eating Recovery is meant to be a gentle and supportive avenue for people to begin to release their dependency on food – control over it, or overindulgence in it.  It’s for people “whose many jobs and duties in and out of home have led them to forget the importance of care and feeding of self,” says Ross. “The women who come to me don’t identify with having an eating disorder,  but they might have struggled to like their bodies and to eat healthily for years.” I met with Ross privately, but most often this is a communal experience, and participants form bonds with each other and continue to meet after it’s over, sometimes extending their attendance in one-on-one sessions.

I entered into the 8 weeks expecting to get a few tips on how to live a healthier life, but I realized right away that what I called “health coaching” was essentially therapy. Even though I don’t have an eating disorder, my attitude about food and exercise and my own body image are all tied up in the experience and knowledge and outside influences that I’ve collected over my lifetime.

During the first four weeks, I got my feet wet. I stated my intentions, and identified possible roadblocks. Just doing that was enough to keep those ideas in my head, and helped me to change my actions. For example, now I know that the two biggest tools for me to eat healthy are time and availability of nourishing, tasty food.

In other words, I have to make time for myself and provide myself with the right foods. I deserve to slow down for a lunch break, make a tasty salad or sandwich, and sit and eat it. Like regular people. Instead of wolfing down a half a bagel slathered with peanut butter as I run out the door to pick up the children from school, already late because I’ve been working or cleaning the house instead of being mindful of my own hunger, and grabbing this particular snack because that’s all I’ve got on hand.

But it went deeper than that. My sessions with Ross frequently touched on my emotions about food, and those revelations led to conversations about my childhood, and feelings of safety and abundance, and how I want to create those feelings for my own children. We talked about the food traditions and beliefs that I have formed over my life, and my practices now, and how I feed my family.

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Most memorably, all of this affects – and is affected by – my writing. I am working on a book, a collection of essays, lessons and stories from my life. Surprisingly, every session with Ross that started about food ended up touching on these themes, more so in the later weeks, once we had worked through the structure of CER’s Hunger Balance course.

Ross zeroed in not just on the themes of the book, but of the writer. How I push myself to produce – whether in my work, or keeping house, or helping my children achieve. I am relentless, I barely give myself a break. I compare myself to others. I feel guilty when I rest. Having embraced the life of a stay-at-home-mom, I still have moments of doubt, thinking I wasted my college degree and my years of work.

When those thoughts surfaced in our conversations, Ross would slip into role-play. She was me, the real me. She asked for leniency, for kind treatment. She reminded me to be kind to myself, my inner artist. Because my best writing requires me to tap into memories and emotion, it is important to allow myself the space for that, she said.

“Take a break,” Ross-as-me asked. “I deserve to be treated kindly.”

She didn’t mean to stuff my face with seven Oreos at a time, although she didn’t mean I could never have an Oreo again, either. Indulgences are okay, unless you hurt yourself with them.

All these weeks later – we ended our course right before Thanksgiving – I still hear Ross’s voice in my head, or maybe it’s Ross-as-me, or maybe I’ve adopted her sayings and now it’s just me. “Take a break,” I say to myself. “Pick something good for you.” Or I find myself extremely hungry an hour before dinnertime…so I’ll eat dinner. Alone, before the family is even home.

Because my stomach can’t tell time, and that’s okay. I will sit with my family during dinnertime later, maybe eating some more if I’m hungry, maybe not.

I do still weigh myself, not every day, but often. And it’s true – I have lost four pounds, the ones that keep coming back, except they don’t seem to be coming back. Ross did say that when people embrace intuitive eating they tend to default to the natural weight and size that their bodies want to be.

I don’t think I’m quite there, yet, but I’m not in any hurry. I eat what I want to eat, and more and more often I do choose healthier foods. I exercise when I want to – mostly walking and hiking, which I love to do. I embrace what I’ve learned from the Hunger Balance course at Center For Eating Recovery:

Eat nutritious, enjoyable food when you’re hungry. Exercise for health. Don’t let food or fitness control you. Be kind to yourself. Care for yourself. 

It really can be as simple as that, once you work through the complicated person you have become during all your years of living.

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I participated in a comped 8-week coaching program at CER to facilitate this series of posts. This is part 3 of three. Here is part 1.  And here is part 2. Everything I share here is something I learned firsthand about the Center or about myself.

Comments

  1. LOVE this! (And you look fabulous BTW!) You’re right – you need to be kind to yourself. We all do.
    And yay to Oreos. (Even if it’s just one!)

  2. Vaneeta Monteiro says:

    See you are amazing with the amount you do. Don’t ever feel bad for being a stay at home mum. It’s a hard job and you need all the skills of a college degree plus more to survive and raise human beings.

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