Tailored Therapy Treats Eating Disorders

How Treatment Specialized for an Eating Disorder Enhances Positive Outcomes

As anyone suffering from an eating disorder can attest, it is next to impossible to will oneself back to healthy, normal eating patterns once the disorder has become entrenched. Because eating disorders are so varied, and the roots of each type of eating disorder so complex, a specialized treatment provider who has advanced knowledge and experience in eating disorders is critical to recovery.

A professional in the treatment of eating disorders will examine the physio-psychological elements of the disorder to reveal the causal factors that underlie it that have lead to the maladaptive eating behaviors. The three most common types of eating disorders are:

Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia is characterized by extreme restriction of food, which, left untreated eventually leads to dangerous health conditions including malnutrition and cardiac arrhythmia, even death. Symptoms include restricting caloric intake to fewer than is necessary for healthy body weight, a distorted self-image, use of laxatives to eliminate more weight, and fainting.

Bulimia nervosa
Bulimia is characterized by a cycle of binge eating followed by purging or over-exercising, causing health problems such as tooth decay, electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and wounds in the mouth. Symptoms include eating of large amounts of food, eating in isolation, vomiting after meals, and excessive exercising.

Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia, where excessive amounts of food are consumed to the point of feeling sick, but purging is absent. Instead, diets and fasting may be utilized to offset the high caloric intake and the feelings of shame and guilt. Symptoms include eating in secret, obesity or heart problems, eating in response to emotional turmoil, and eating more rapidly than normal.

How Specialized Psychotherapy Can Help

When seeking treatment for an eating disorder, it is important to first locate a therapist who is an eating disorder specialist. Often there are multiple health providers assigned to the patient, such as a dietician, a primary care physician, and a psychotherapist.

An intensive outpatient program tailored specifically for treating eating disorders is an effective option for many. However, sometimes the eating disorder requires a higher level of care, such as for someone battling anorexia who may have life-threatening medical conditions. In this case, a full-immersion residential treatment program would be indicated.

There are several types of psychotherapy that have shown to be especially effective in treating eating disorders. They include:

• Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
• Interpersonal psychotherapy
• Family therapy
• Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
• Group therapy
• Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
• Psychodynamic therapies

Because eating disorders do not have a single cause or take a predictable course, matching the right mode of therapy or therapies to the specific disorder is another benefit of seeking treatment with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. Some therapists may be members of prominent organizations such as the Academy of Eating Disorders or the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals.

The type of eating disorder and the severity of the disorder will help determine the treatment course of action, including whether medications will be part of the treatment plan. Recovery from any eating disorder is a long process. Having a specialist involved who will integrate treatment and create a long-term recovery plan is ideal in achieving a successful outcome.

Adjunct Therapies for Eating Disorders

It has been found that adding certain activities and adjunct therapies to the standard treatment plan enhances success in treating eating disorders. This multimodal treatment for eating disorders addresses various aspects of the disorder via multiple routes, improving the chances of real reform.

Popular adjunct therapies include:

Patients who participate in yoga have experienced a greater decrease in eating disorder symptoms. This can be attributed to the yoga lessons assisting in managing stress and improving mood, as well as benefits associated with physical exercise.

Because food obsession is at the heart of eating disorders, learning how to cook a quick, easy, healthy meal is essential to recovery. It is important to normalize the relationship with food by learning how to plan meals, shop for ingredients, and prepare the meal.

Casa Serena Can Help

Once the decision has been made to seek treatment to help yourself or a loved one with an eating disorder, the highest hurdle has been cleared. Taking that first step is the key that opens the door to a full recovery, and selecting a specialized treatment provider is the next step.

Casa Serena understands the complexities of an eating disorder and offers a group of trained professionals who specialize in treating them. Many of the counselors at Casa Serena have themselves once struggled with an eating disorder, so they bring compassion to the healing work they do each day, and have a personal understanding of what it takes to recover. Contact our friendly staff for answers to any questions at (925) 682-8252.

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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.






The Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Eating Disorders

 As with any important decision in life, choosing the right treatment option for an eating disorder (ED) comes down to need and lifestyle.  Factors such as the severity of the ED, finances, and family/work/academic obligations will determine whether an individual is in need of intensive inpatient care, basic outpatient services, or an intensive outpatient program (IOP). An IOP is at the center of the treatment spectrum for an eating disorder, an elevation above basic outpatient services that may not provide enough structure or breadth in services to adequately address the needs of the client.  Intensive outpatient programs often fulfill the needs of a patient just discharged from an inpatient program, allowing for some independence without sacrificing the important treatment elements they have become accustomed to while in a residential program.

The various treatment levels of care for an ED include:

Inpatient residential treatment:  A dedicated residential treatment facility is indicated if the disorder is deeply entrenched and life threatening, where physical and/or psychological instability may require acute hospitalization.  An example of this would be a serious eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, that has impacted vital organs and has caused serious damage to the body.  An inpatient treatment program can offer cardiac monitoring, IV fluids to restore electrolyte balance, and medications for anxiety, depression, and agitation.

Intensive outpatient program:  An IOP is often utilized for patients coming from a residential program, once mental and physical health are stabilized.  Mental health providers have determined their symptoms to be under control and the patients are considered able to function in their daily lives while continuing to progress in recovery.

The Intensive Outpatient Program option is also a step-up in care for those with progressive eating disorders not managed sufficiently in a basic outpatient program.  For these clients, despite working with an outpatient team a couple of times a week, the basic services do not provide enough continuity and structure to produce a stable recovery from their eating disorder.

Basic outpatient services:  A basic outpatient program (BOP) typically offers services two days a week for those with newly formed eating disorders who do not meet the criteria for a higher level of care.  The BOP will offer treatment management and group therapy, but does not offer adjunct treatment services such as art and music therapy, equine therapy, meal therapy, or body image classes.

Teen IOP versus Adult IOP

 The stage of life an individual is in when they seek treatment can dictate not only their scheduling needs, but also the content of the program itself.  Because of the differing demands and responsibilities between an adult and a teen, it is helpful to find an IOP designed accordingly.  Casa Serena offers intensive outpatient programs exclusively, thus making us specialists in this level of care.  Therefore, we have created effective programs designed to accommodate the specific needs of both teens and adults.

Adult IOP:

An IOP designed for adults accommodates the need for the client to continue to work at their job, whether inside or outside the home.  Some adults who have parenting responsibilities may need to be present during the day for their children, while others simply cannot take time off of their jobs.  For adults, an evening program like the one offered at Casa Serena—four hours per evening, four days a week—is a perfect fit.  In the adult program, the client will learn better ways to manage anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem, factors often at the root of the disordered eating habits.  By addressing the underlying issue that fuels the disorder, the clients are taught new coping skills to overcome it.  The adult treatment components include:

  • Classes in body image, nutrition, and living skills
  • Group therapy (4 per month)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Yoga and mindfulness group (2 per month)
  • Supportive meal groups (4 per month)

Teen IOP:

For teens aged 13-18, the IOP must take their school schedules and academic obligations into account.  Because of this, Casa Serena offers a program that meets after school hours four days a week for four hours, but allows the teen plenty of time in the evening to tackle homework.  The teen years are especially challenging, with emotions running high, hormone shifts, and plenty of peer pressure that can all trigger disordered eating patterns.  With a focus on helping the teens overcome destructive behaviors and developing new coping skills, our teen program helps them manage the issues that drive their eating disorder.  The teen program treatment components include:

  • Individual counseling appointments daily
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Group therapy (2 per month)
  • Yoga and mindfulness group (2 per month)
  • Classes in nutrition, body image, living skills
  • Expressive arts
  • Multi-family group

Casa Serena can Help

Casa Serena provides a well-rounded, comprehensive IOP that is designed for the demands in the client’s life, be they an adult or a teen.  Our expert clinicians treat all clients with the compassion and support necessary to overcome an eating disorder.  Call us today for details about our programs at (925) 682-8252.





Trauma Triggers Eating Disorders

How Past Traumatic Events may cause Eating Disorders

 The after-effects of having experienced a traumatic event can reach far deeper than the initial stress response to the event.  Intense emotional traumas, whether caused by the loss of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, divorce, or a natural disaster, can trigger significant psychological upheaval.

How one manages the stress and anxiety provoked by the trauma can vary dramatically among individuals.  While some may seek solace in unhealthy sexual behaviors, another may isolate themselves from friends and family.  Some cope by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs; another may manage their internal anguish with food.

Trauma and Eating Disorders

There is a very high correlation between victims of trauma and eating disorders.  Although causation is not indicated—trauma doesn’t cause the eating disorder directly, or all trauma survivors would have eating disorders—there is an abundance of research that shows that a significant number of people with eating disorders have experienced a major traumatic episode in their lives.

Because traumatic events can leave the individual feeling helpless and out of control, it isn’t surprising that an eating disorder may develop as a result of these emotions.  Those who have suffered through a sexual assault or domestic abuse may attempt to cope with the deep sense of shame and fear by disordered eating. Statistical links have been demonstrated between people who have suffered abuse and later go on to develop an eating disorder.  Males who were sexually abused have a higher incidence of eating disorders than sexually abused females.

Bulimia has been linked to trauma as a coping behavior that serves to self-protect the individual through the binge/purge process.  Bulimic behaviors appear to reduce the impact of the thoughts and emotions, like anger and guilt, as they relate to the traumatic experience.  In the bulimic’s need for personal space, predictability, and control over their lives, binging and purging, they believe, cleanses them of the thoughts of the traumatic episode and offers an escape from the negative emotions that accompany it.

Unresolved trauma can sit below the surface and manipulate, although subconsciously, behaviors in order to relieve the emotional effects of the traumatic event.  According to Judy Scheel, Ph.D., LCSW, who studies the link between PTSD and eating disorders, “One of the primary purposes of eating disorder symptomatology is to avoid and cope with painful, disquieting or uncomfortable feelings or affect. The eating disorder serves both to distance oneself from these feelings or states as well as to relieve them.” Scheel continues, “From an abuse perspective, the eating disorder is a clever, albeit, destructive means to accomplish both distance and numbing as well as a means to relive the painful past events through a recreation of it through the eating disorder symptomatology.”

Treating the Trauma as well as the Eating Disorder

When trauma is an underlying condition for an eating disorder it must be addressed for any lasting recovery to take place.  Without treating the deep and intense emotions connected to the trauma the individual will face an uphill battle.

The eating disorder has become medicinal to them as a means of coping with the emotional fallout of the event.  In many cases, the eating disorder developed in the first place as a form of self-defense for the victim.  Therefore, if the trauma is not addressed and treated, too, relapse is likely.

Casa Serena can Help

At Casa Serena, our caring professionals understand that any underlying trauma must be treated as well as the eating disorder.  One of the techniques our clinicians specialize in is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which assists our clients with working through their trauma.  To help the client process past memories, EMDR has them focus on an external stimulus, like the therapist’s finger, tones or taps. While their eyes follow the stimulus back and forth the therapist helps guide the client to new insights regarding their personal trauma experience.

Casa Serena understands the importance of assisting our clients through their trauma work concurrently with the treatment of the eating disorder itself.  Only then can the client develop an understanding of their stressors and learn new ways to cope.  Contact us today at (925) 682-8252.






Importance of Family Therapy in Treating Eating Disorders

How Family Support and Understanding Aids in E.D. Recovery

No problem exists in a vacuum, a fact that applies to eating disorders as well as any other type of mental health condition. Because as human beings we live within a family structure, it comes as no surprise that, when one member of the family develops disordered eating habits, dysfunction in the family is a likely result.

Why is that? How is it that one family member’s disordered eating causes such disruption in the family dynamic? Because just as it causes deep anguish to witness a loved one suffer from any physical illness, it is just as upsetting to watch a family member battle a serious eating disorder. It is painful for parents and siblings to watch their loved one in the throes of anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder.

Family members often feel helpless while they watch their loved one waste away, with no sense of power to stop the process. The fear of losing them can unleash powerful emotions, such as frustration, anxiety, and anger. Without a basic understanding of how and why an eating disorder has made its way into the family unit, confusion, blame, guilt, and shame begin to color familial relationships, causing disharmony.

How Family Therapy Can Help

Once it is understood that a complex mix of factors cause an eating disorder, the family learns it is not in their best interest to lay blame on each other for having “caused” the illness. A therapist in a family group environment helps much more by focusing on educating the family members about how an eating disorder evolves and how it affects the brain of their loved one, rather than by assigning blame. Effective family therapy is centered on improving communication skills between family members, and equipping them with problem-solving skills to use throughout recovery.

Family group therapy can also help families cope with the stress of the eating disorder. Often, the eating disorder has changed their loved one’s personality, making them irritable and angry as they grapple with the powerful illness, and this causes strain and tension in the home. Group therapy gives family members an opportunity to openly communicate how stressful it is to walk on eggshells in the presence of the sufferer. In the case of anorexia, the starvation has a significant impact on their cognitive processes, so they can’t think or reason correctly. Once weight is restored, the moodiness and irritability usually subside, allowing for a more peaceful home environment and healthier interactions between family members.

Teaching the family about what they can expect in the recovery process is a valuable component of family therapy. Knowledge is a powerful tool in establishing an atmosphere that is conducive to loving support and understanding. Gaining specific skills for family members to employ during their loved one’s recovery phase is important, as it empowers the family. Meaningful participation with their loved one on the path of recovery gives families a sense of helpfulness versus the helplessness they felt before.

Casa Serena’s Multi-Family Group

At Casa Serena, our Family Education and Support Group involves a group of multiple families who gather together with our clients, their loved ones. In this large group setting, family members can learn from other families and gain new perspectives. The depth of knowledge and experience provided by our expert clinical therapists gives family members a new frame of reference and helpful tools. Compassion is emphasized, as family members are encouraged to support their loved one while issues around food, weight, or size are resolved in recovery. Contact Casa Serena today at (925) 682-8252.


The Folly of Fad Diets

How Fad Diets can Result in an Eating Disorder

For decades now, fad diets have tempted otherwise intelligent people into the most asinine eating routines in the hopes of shedding some unwanted weight. You name it, we’ve witnessed the craziest food trends—from the ubiquitous grapefruit diet, to zany fad diets like the Hollywood cookie diet, the cotton ball diet, and, yes, even the tapeworm diet (I kid you not).

Even some of the saner fad diets, such as the Raw Food Diet, the Paleo Diet, and the South Beach Diet, which at least emphasize consuming healthy foods, fall short when it comes to long-term results. They simply are not sustainable.

While troubling that people can place such blind faith in the constant parade of new fad diets with the dubious weight loss claims, it is alarming that fad diets can actually fuel a nascent eating disorder. Food obsession has become a systemic symptom of the disordered thinking that commonly leads to disordered eating.

The emotions of guilt, shame, frustration, and failure that accompany efforts to lose weight are potent. These feelings can eat away at a person’s self esteem, gnawing away incrementally each time one caves into an extra cookie or blows off the salmon in favor of a greasy hamburger. For someone obsessed with weight loss and who has latched onto the fad diet du jour, failing to comply with its restrictions becomes yet another sign, in their minds, of their own imperfections. The unhealthy belief that one should be able to adhere with 100% commitment and deep reservoirs of discipline to eating as cavemen ate (i.e., the Paleo Diet), or noshing on baby food all day (i.e., the Baby Food Diet) is simply absurd.

The Connection between Fad Diets and Eating Disorders

People mistakenly assume there are only two types of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Obsessive eating that causes nutritional or psychological distress can span a spectrum of behaviors with one common outcome—disordered eating habits.

Trendy diets promise a thin, svelte physique by demanding full compliance to rigid or nutritionally unbalanced diets that have ‘failure’ written all over them. Why failure? Because people are human, with daily—even hourly—shifts in mood, willpower, stressors, or desires that can quickly sabotage even the most devoted dieter, leaving them with feelings of self-disgust and failure. Emotions are the drivers of eating disorders; the oft-repeated scenario starting with the initial determination to strictly adhere to a given fad diet, only to submit yet again to food temptations sets up a vicious cycle of self-loathing. Those reinforced negative emotions become embedded into the simple act of feeding oneself, culminating in an eating disorder.

Binge eating disorder can result from repeated attempts to lose weight by following a fad diet, only to find their weight loss plateau and desired outcomes dashed. This can trigger binge eating or binge/purge behaviors, with pent up food deprivations and a sense of failure as fuel.

Why Fad Diets Fail

No matter how intent on success an individual is when they launch into a new fad diet, it is nearly impossible to avoid the basic human weaknesses that ultimately undermine the dieter’s efforts. Here are some common reasons why fad dieters give up:

• Boredom. Many fad diets concentrate on over-emphasizing a specific type of food (i.e., the Kale Shake Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, the Lemonade Diet) and the lack of variety becomes stifling, leading to boredom and abandonment of the diet.

• Preparation time. Some fad diets require a lot of time and effort for planning and executing, causing a high drop out rate. Juicing, for instance, is expensive, messy, and time consuming on an ongoing basis.

• Deprivation. Food has always been associated with comfort and reward, so to attempt to restrict food intake to a short list of options for a prolonged period only leads to a sense of deprivation and throwing in the towel on the diet.

• Fatigue. Attempting to lose weight rapidly can result in a loss of energy and vitality. Often a lack of essential nutrients that accompanies a fad diet contributes to a sense of weakness and fatigue, in addition to a sour mood.

Casa Serena can Help

No matter which fad diet one has attempted, the ultimate results are iffy at best and can even lead to weight gain and ill health, including an eating disorder. We understand how negative emotions associated with eating behaviors can have devastating consequences. Our eating disorder experts at Casa Serena can help you by creating an individualized plan geared to healthy eating habits and regular exercise, vastly improving your chances of successfully achieving physical and emotional health. Contact us today at (925) 682-8252.

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Don’t Oversimplify the Cause of Eating Disorders

Common Misunderstandings about the Cause of an Eating Disorder Dismiss Important Factors

We humans can be a simple-minded breed. In order to make sense of difficult or challenging issues in our lives we seek ways to make quick and easy assessments, avoiding the work involved in plumbing the layers of complexity to get to the real root of a problem. This tendency to find a simple explanation for a serious condition applies all too often when trying to understand eating disorders. When a loved one is in the grips of an eating disorder, there is a desire to explain it away. The usual default most people turn to is that he or she is so obsessed with emulating the svelte, toned bodies of their favorite celebrities that they are willing to starve themselves to look like them. Or, that the images they have grown up with—the Barbie dolls with the microscopic waistlines, the emaciated fashion models teetering on the brink of collapse on the catwalk, or overly airbrushed images in the print media—are what’s really to blame for the unhealthy desire to be stick thin. No one wants to face the music, to dig below the trite superficial reasons for disordered eating and expose the often-complicated psychological underpinnings to the disorder. Why is that? It’s because looking under the hood may reveal damage that is unsettling and difficult to accept—like ignoring a funny sound your car is making thinking it’s just in need of a simple tune-up, when in reality the transmission is going out. Who wants to deal with that?

The BioPsychoSocial Roots of an Eating Disorder

The harsh reality is that deep psychological disorders, personality traits, or even genetics can be the causes of a serious mental health condition manifesting itself in disordered eating habits. Addressing these uncomfortable possibilities is difficult for the parents, spouses, or friends of the person suffering from an ED. There may be feelings of guilt, shame, or confusion after uncovering the painful truths that may be at the root of their loved one’s problem; it is much easier to simply blame the media or culture for it. The different types of eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder) each have their own unique set of factors that may have contributed to the ED. For instance, someone with anorexia may be a perfectionist where someone with bulimia may have an impulsive nature. Some common underlying factors across the ED spectrum may include:

– Anxiety and/or depression
– Sensitivity to reward and punishment
– Excessive persistence (especial in anorexia nervosa)
– Perfectionism
– Sense of having no control over one’s life
– Coping skill deficits
– Trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse or the death of a loved one
– General feelings of inadequacy
– Genetic predisposition if close family members have ED
– Altered brain circuitry in anterior insula, striatal region, and anterior ventral striatal pathways
– Disruption in serotonin pathway
– Low self-esteem
– Family dysfunction or disruption such as divorce
– Impulsivity (especially in bulimia nervosa)

While it is true that an eating disorder results in the obsession with food, appearance, weight, and size, what drives the individual to become so obsessed is a complex and varied set of factors. If eating disorders were simply the result of a culture obsessed with thinness, why is it that only about 3% of the American public struggle with one? Wouldn’t the effects of the societal pressures to conform to an idealized physical size or shape affect everyone in the same way? Since this is not the case, it points to the certainty that the development of an eating disorder has its underpinnings in factors other than simply cultural influences.

Casa Serena can help

The compassionate professionals at Casa Serena are trained to identify which set of factors is contributing to an individual’s eating disorder. Understanding that the reasons are varied and unique to each individual, our program is successful because we get to the root cause of the disorder and will guide the individual to a path of recovery based on their own individualized treatment plan. At Casa Serena we place understand the importance of a support system, so family involvement is considered a key component in the individual’s long-term recovery. Call us today at (925) 682-8252

Sources for this page:
http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating- disorders/bulimia-nervosa/bulimia-nervosa-cause
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/factors-may- contribute-eating- disorders

The Dangers of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

How a Distorted Body Image Fuels Disordered Eating

Preoccupation with body image usually kicks in during adolescence. In the early teen years, kids suddenly become obsessed with what society has determined as “good looks.” Many will pore over fashion or celebrity magazines, identifying the physical traits of seeming perfection, and then begin comparing these “perfect” body parts to their own. The mirror may become a young person’s worst enemy if this interest in what our culture dictates as physical beauty becomes an unhealthy obsession.

Although most of us can quickly point out the body part we wish we could fix or change, this desire doesn’t usually occupy more than a passing glance in the mirror on a given day. However, when an individual becomes so preoccupied with their perceived flaws that they can no longer control their negative thoughts about themselves, often resorting to drastic measures to fix the imagined defect, they may suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

About BDD

BDD is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme and persistent obsessive thoughts regarding some aspect of their appearance. Someone suffering from BDD may spend several hours a day performing rituals coping with or hiding their distorted body image.

Surprisingly, BDD affects males and females nearly equally, with the disorder typically developing during the adolescent and teen years. About 1-2% of the U.S. population grapples with BDD, with the majority zeroing in on their hair, skin, nose, chest, or stomach, although people with BDD can find fault with any part of their anatomy.

BDD is tightly associated with other anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders (ED), and social anxiety disorder. Symptoms of BDD, however, are specific and include:

• Preoccupation with appearance. The individual is preoccupied with one or more nonexistent or slight defects in their appearance, thinking about the imagined defects for at least an hour a day. They may spend a great deal of time trying to camouflage the imagined flaw.

• Repetitive behaviors. The individual performs repetitive, compulsive acts in response to the perceived defect. The repetitive acts can be behavioral, as in mirror-checking, excessive grooming, changing clothes often, seeking reassurance from others, or skin picking. If weight is the primary issue, disordered eating, over-exercising, or unnecessary cosmetic surgery may result. Repetitive behaviors can also be mental, such as constantly comparing one’s appearance with others; tormenting themselves by feeling they come up short.

• Impairment. When the preoccupation causes significant distress or impairs areas of functioning such as social, academic, or occupational, then BDD is indicated. Their constant negative self-talk hinders their ability to function, causing them to miss work, skip school, avoid social events, and isolate themselves.

Treatment for BDD

Because the sufferer of BDD is often embarrassed and ashamed of their condition, they might not seek medical help. However, effective treatment is available for treating BDD, often with great success. A typical treatment regimen includes both psychotherapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy has been shown to help someone with BDD identify the thoughts that trigger the disordered behaviors, and then to replace the response with a new, healthy thought and behavior pattern. By teaching the BDD patient how to manage their triggers without resorting to avoidance or compulsive behaviors, CBT can help them see the bigger picture and to respond in a more rational way. CBT has been shown to improve such symptoms as depression, low self-esteem, and social anxiety.

SSRIs are considered the first-line medication of choice for treating BDD. SSRIs are antidepressants that can help reduce obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. The medication helps to control the distress that BDD can cause, including anger and suicidal thinking, as well as improve daily functioning.

Casa Serena Can Help

If you or your loved one struggles with irrational perceptions of their physical appearance that have culminated in disordered behaviors, we are here to help! At Casa Serena our caring, expert clinical staff understands that BDD is not just vanity gone wild, but is a serious and dangerous mental health condition that needs to be treated with understanding and compassion. Our treatment plans are individualized to the specific needs of each patient and to how their BDD has manifested itself. Contact us today and speak to our knowledgeable staff today at (925) 682-8252.

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Males Battle Eating Disorders, Too

The Eating Disorder Landscape is Not Only Populated by Females

While eating disorders may be more prevalent among females, plenty of males are also struggling with these dangerous disorders. In fact, the National Eating Disorders Association reports that while 20 million females are affected by eating disorders at some point in their lives, 10 million men will be as well; a statistic that is not widely known.

Among those suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, approximately 25% are male. The percentage of males with binge eating disorders is higher, at 36%. The impetus behind what drives men and women to develop disordered eating habits is complex. Generally, factors that can result in an eating disorder may include biological, psychological, and interpersonal aspects.

Anorexia nervosa may result from risk factors such as childhood eating conflicts, struggles around meals, premature birth, feelings of inadequacy, and lack of control. With bulimia and binge eating disorders, a desire to live up to a media-driven portrayal of the perfect body shape and weight often drives obsessive behaviors and a preoccupation with thinness—“thin-ideal internalization.” Although the motive—attaining the “perfect” body—may be the same between the genders, there are distinct differences as to their specific concerns about their bodies.

Male vs. Female Eating Disorder Profiles

Young males are prone to the same insecurities related to their body size and shape as young women are. Males look to muscular celebrities as the ideal of manliness, just as girls seek to emulate stick thin supermodels. Beginning in 2010, men’s fashions became much more fitted, with ads featuring thin and sinewy male models plastered on billboards, magazine covers, and across social media. In recent years, an media focus on buff, pumped up male celebrities touting their six-pack abs has resulted in subconscious messaging for young men to try to attain a similar physique.

Where males may be less concerned with their weight than women, they are concerned with body image. Approximately 43% of men now report being dissatisfied with their bodies, a dramatic increase over the past few decades. Masculinity is often defined in our culture by how lean and muscular a man’s physique is. Males, therefore, may go to extremes to achieve the ideal body, turning to body building supplements, excessive exercise, steroid use, and disordered eating.

When the desire to achieve a muscular build becomes obsessive, it may lead to muscle dysmorphia. Muscle dysmorphia occurs mostly in males, thinking that their already fit bodies are still inadequate, seeing themselves as weaker and smaller than they actually are. This distorted thinking leads them to become consumed with weight lifting and hyper-vigilant about their diets to an unhealthy extent.

Social Media Fuels Eating Disorders

In the past, even just a decade ago, male teens and adults did not have the daily barrage of exposure to images of celebrities, models, and social pressures that has come with the advent of social media. Now, with men accessing multiple social media platforms on any given day, they are exposed to the hurtful comments and slurs directed towards both famous and everyday people about their looks or physiques. Again, this messaging sinks in, causing a sense of inadequacy and insecurity about their own bodies. It is as common nowadays for men to be sexually objectified as women, exacerbating the pressures they feel to fit the ideal image of what is perceived to be desirable.

Even among one’s peer group, many of those Instagram and Facebook photos have been doctored with Photoshop editing tools (even a “thinify” feature) and flattering filters, offering up a fraudulent image that subsequently becomes someone’s unattainable goal. Both females and males participate in the practice of photo editing their selfies and pics, in a quest to portray themselves in their best light, even if it isn’t authentic. So this becomes an unending dysfunctional pattern across social media, setting in motion the unrealistic images which can lead to negative self-talk, consumption of supplements or diet aids, and disordered eating habits.

Symptoms of a Male Eating Disorder

There are definite signs that point to an eating disorder. They include:

  • You exercise excessively. If you miss a workout you experience anxiety and guilt
  • You are compulsive about caloric intake, as well as sugar and fat content in foods
  • You use body building supplements or weight loss pills
  • You alternate between overeating and fasting
  • You engage in ritualistic eating behaviors, hiding food, eating alone
  • You feel depressed
  • You devote so much time to working out that you neglect family and responsibilities
  • You may experience muscle dysmorphia
  • You become isolated and withdrawn
  • You work out even with injuries

We Can Help

Because of the stigma attached to eating disorders, and combined with the erroneous notion that eating disorders are female-only issues, young men may not seek help for this serious medical condition. If you or your loved one is displaying the symptoms of an eating disorder, it is time for professional help. At Casa Serena our compassionate professionals can provide an assessment and customized treatment plan tailored just for you. Call us today (925) 682-8252!