Casa Serena Leading Eating Disorders Treatment Provider in Bay Area

Leading Eating Disorders Treatment Provider in Bay Area

Leading Eating Disorders Treatment Provider in Bay Area

In the crowded field of mental health providers who specialize in treating addiction and eating disorders, business longevity is rare.  Start-up facilities come and go at lightening speed, here one day and-Poof!- gone the next.  To survive and thrive in the business of treatment and recovery it takes a clearly-stated vision, an ongoing commitment to the mission statement, compliance with licensing and state regulations, solid business acumen, and, most importantly, a sincere and compassionate desire to help people regain their healthy lives.

Casa Serena, a treatment provider that specialized in eating disorders, is one such success story.   Where some treatment facilities are created and driven solely for financial gain, Casa Serena was started in order to fill a void in the care being offered in the Bay area.  Founder Jackie Holmes, M.Ed., MFT, was motivated on a personal level to start a new kind of eating disorder treatment program.  Jackie had been struggling with bulimia and binge-eating disorder herself and was frustrated by the scarcity of ED services within Contra Costa County while on her path to recovery.  To remedy this, Casa Serena was born in 2005.

Jackie’s immense professional experience, spanning over 30 years in the eating disorders field, includes 18 years as an outpatient therapist, five years as an inpatient clinical coordinator, and a teacher in the Eating Disorders Certification Programs at UC Berkeley and JFK University.  This extensive background made her uniquely qualified to put together a successful intensive outpatient program (IOP) like Casa Serena.  An IOP provides more structure and a wider range of services than a typical outpatient program, offering a middle ground between residential inpatient care and an outpatient program.  Clients benefit from the intensity of the program, but are still be able to go home each day.

Casa Serena offers specialized programs for teens and adults, each program customized to address the specific needs and differences between these age groups.  The adult program meets in the evenings to allow for clients to be able to work at a job or parent their children, where the teen program meets mid-afternoon, allowing for enough time in the evening for homework.

The components of each program are also tailored to the demographic.  The adult program includes group therapy, yoga and mindfulness group, nutrition class, supportive meal groups, body image class, living skills, and dialectic behavioral therapy skills training (DBT).  The teen program offers one-on-one counseling sessions, group therapy, community meetings, multi-family group, expressive arts, dinner-prep class, as well as the nutrition class, body image class, and living skills class.
Casa Serena has built its stellar reputation over the past eleven years by providing compassionate support and care to its many clients, and by focusing on the importance of family as an important component in the treatment and recovery of eating disorders.   The Multi-Family group allows family members and loved ones to gain a broader understanding of the multiple dynamics inherent in eating disorders, allowing for open communication between all parties.  In the Multi-Family group new skills are taught to help family members to better support their loved one in recovery, including better communication skills.

Casa Serena Can Help

Casa Serena has flourished all these years because it remains dedicated to the wellbeing and personal growth of each and every client.  The amazing staff at Casa Serena includes clinical therapists of the highest caliber, as well as professional specialists, such as dietitians and yoga practitioners, all ready to help clients discover their personal journey back to healthy eating and overall wellness.  Our experts frame every step of the recovery path in compassion and understanding, as some of them have also battled eating disorders personally.  They understand the multi-dimensional aspect of how eating disorders originate and the challenges in treating them.  Contact Casa Serena today at (925) 682-8252.

Treating a Food Addiction as an Addiction

Differences Exist Between Food Addiction and Binge-eating Disorder

Most of us understand the temptation to eat more chocolate cake than we know is good for us, right?  What is it about chocolate that often results in a total hijacking of the will, an unchecked hand-to-mouth response that usually doesn’t cease until every morsel of said chocolate has been consumed?

It isn’t only chocolate that inspires such a visceral “gotta have” reflex.  Any yummy treat or fat or salt-laden munchie can drive us to compulsion now and then.  For most people these lapses in dietary control are just sprinkled sporadically through our eating histories, but for some the over-whelming urge to eat copious amounts of highly palatable low-nutrition foods has all the trappings of an addiction.

What is a Food Addiction?

A food addiction is just what it says…a person has acquired a dopamine-driven, neural-pathway rerouted addiction to food, the substance-brain response that is the same as in an alcoholic or drug addict.  An important distinction between those addicted to drugs and someone with a food addiction is in the labeling of the person.  You are not a “food addict” if you have a food addiction—why?  Because human beings are ALL food addicts, in that they must indulge in eating food in order to sustain life, unlike a drug addict or alcoholic who absolutely do not require their drug of choice to continue to live.  Quite the contrary.

Food addiction occurs when the food itself elicits such a powerful pull that the person struggling with the addiction feels a compulsive urge to continually over-indulge in whatever food(s) triggers this response.   It is a chemical dependence on food, no different that the drug that triggers the drug addict’s knee-jerk response to use their drug of choice.

Brain imaging in recent years has shown the clear effect that compulsive over-eating has on the pleasure centers of the brain.  The very same reward response is activated in the brain by foods rich in sugar, salt, and fat that is triggered by drugs such as cocaine and heroin.  Once the feel-good chemical, dopamine, is released in the brain’s reward pathway a new response-reward behavior takes root, and the need to eat those specific foods again continues the vicious cycle.

A man or woman addicted to certain foods can build up tolerance, just like someone addicted to drugs.  They may eventually need to eat these highly palatable foods more often and in greater quantity, only to find that eating them satisfies them less as time goes on.  Negative consequences, such as weight gain, poor body image, low self-esteem, avoidance of social situations, begin to pile up, exacerbating the effects of the food addiction.

The criteria for determining a food addiction are remarkably similar to those that define a drug or alcohol addiction.  These symptoms and characteristics include:

  • Eating specific foods to the point of feeling ill
  • Going out of your way to obtain specific foods
  • Continuing to eat certain foods even if no longer hungry
  • Avoiding social interactions and relationships to spend more time eating certain foods
  • Eating in secret
  • Continuing to overeat unhealthy foods despite knowing the negative consequences
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disorders
  • Decreased energy
  • Difficulty functioning at school or on the job
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Digestive disorders
  • Weight gain
  • Emotional detachment
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Feelings of despair and hopelessness

Causes of a Food Addiction

Many factors can contribute to a food addiction, making it difficult to identify a single cause.  Just as in other types of addictions, a food addiction can develop as a result of biological, social, or psychological factors.  Biological factors may include hormone imbalances, abnormal brain structures, family members with food addictions, or side effects from medication.  Some people are simply born with big appetites and no sense of being full, no shut-off mechanism.  Social factors might include dysfunctional family situations or divorce, social anxiety, or stressful life events.  Psychological issues possibly involve emotional or sexual abuse, experiencing trauma or loss, poorly developed coping skills, or chronic low self-esteem.

Over-consumption of the foods that trigger the feel-good response becomes a sort of self-medicating to help alleviate difficult emotional states.  Adding to the problem of self-control is that manufacturers continually tweak the highly palatable foods to produce what they call the “bliss point” by engineering them to stimulate our taste receptors and trigger the reward center in our brains.  Artificial sweeteners, chemicals, and food colorings are shown to have brain-altering effects.

Casa Serena Treats Food Addiction

Once aware that an unhealthy food addiction is negatively impacting your life, seeking professional help for the condition is crucial.  Again, like breaking a drug or alcohol addiction, it is imperative that the problem foods or food types are identified and eliminated from the diet.  This is difficult to undertake alone, as certain foods have been used to soothe emotional pain.  Once chemical dependency has taken root in the brain, removing those foods from the diet can cause distressing emotional symptoms.

The compassionate staff at Casa Serena can help you with the process of weaning off the food addiction while seeking to uncover the biological, social, or psychological factor (s) that lie at the center of the food addiction.  The destructive cycle of a food addiction takes time to resolve, and along the way Casa Serena will provide the help and tools you need in a caring and supportive environment.  Call us today at (925) 682-8252.