Help for moms with eating disorders
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Help for moms with eating disorders

Anne was a devoted stay-at-home mother of two healthy, beautiful girls ages four and seven. For two decades, Anne had tried just about everything to lose weight. But, over the years, the liquid-shake programs, low-carb plans and starvation diets eventually manifested into bingeing and purging.

She hid her bulimia from family and friends, too depressed and ashamed to reach out for help.

Because she was still overweight, her feelings of shame were amplified.

Anne will never forget the day her seven-year-old daughter asked, “Mom, am I fat?”

As overweight parents and those with eating disorders will attest to, they want nothing more than for their children to be free of the pain and obsessions they have lived with. They want their children to grow and develop healthily and to have a better relationship with food and their bodies than they do.

Why then, despite a parent’s instinct to protect their children from their pain, do children of parents with eating disorders often struggle with food and body image?

As Anne learned, you may think you are hiding your dieting habits or eating disorder from your children, but children learn what they live. Perhaps they are picking up subtle messages about how you classify food as good or bad, or how you eat diet foods while they are told to eat something else.

Maybe it is because they have watched you stuff or starve your-self to numb uncomfortable emotions. It may also be because you skip eating their birthday cake or sit on the side of the swimming pool fully clothed rather than participating. The little things are big things.

The good news is that it is never too late to get things on track and redefine healthy relationships with food, body image and your family.

Whether you have an eating disorder or are struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food or your weight, here are three important things you can do right now to improve your whole family’s relationship with food, body image and health.

Prioritize family meals

Research is very clear that families who eat together have better nutrient intakes and are less likely to be overweight or develop eating disorders.

If you are overweight or struggling with bingeing or bulimia, eating alone is tempting but can be triggering. It is often the time when you may eat for comfort or sabotage. As Anne discovered, choosing only to eat when she was with others worked. Her kids helped her be accountable to model healthy eating habits and choose what her body needed for nourishment.

Eat enough

Anne was surprised to learn that her diet plan, which recommended eating less than 1,200 calories per day, was less than what her short four-year-old child needed. Depending on activity level, an average adult woman needs 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day. Are you trying to hit a calorie target more suited to your child?

Eat enough. If you are chronically depriving yourself of the essential food you need each day, your body interprets this as a sign that there is a famine and chooses to adjust hormones and your metabolic rate to conserve energy.

Simply eating enough and at regular three-to-four-hour intervals during the day helped Anne prevent some late afternoon bingeing and purging, and get control of her weight.

Slow and steady

Chances are you already beat yourself up enough. Remember that creating a healthier relation-ship with food and your body takes time, especially if you have been emotional eating and abusing your body for a long time.

If you hate the way you feel about food and your body, it can be tempting to work in isolation. The only way to feel better is to start talking about it with experts who know how to help.

Seek professional help from your family physician as well as a registered psychologist and registered dietitian who specialize in eating disorders and emotional eating. While moms often excel at giving support to those around them, even the caregivers need caregiving.

Dietitian Andrea Holwegner is the Chocoholic Nutritionist and owner of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. Visit healthstandnutrition.com or phone 403-262-3466.

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Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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