The Inside Scoop on Eating Disorder Recovery: Advice from Two Therapists Who Have Been There Interview

Colleen Reichmann, Psyd and Jennifer Rollin, LCSW-C joined us for an interview on their book, The Inside Scoop on Eating Disorder Recovery: Advice from Two Therapists Who Have Been There. What follows are our questions in italics, and their thoughtful responses.

Colleen and Jennifer, as professional in the eating disorders field and having recovered from you own experiences of an eating disorder, you chose to write The Inside Scoop on Eating Disorder Recovery:  Advice from Two Therapists Who Have Been There. Who will benefit from reading your book?

We are hoping that this book benefits a variety of people – of course we wrote it first and foremost for anyone struggling with an eating disorder. But we also wrote it with family and loved ones in mind. We hope that the book will allow them to look inside the mind of someone with an eating disorder, which will lead to more empathy and understanding. We also wrote it for other professionals in the field. The journaling prompts and exercises threaded throughout the book are perfect for clinicians, dietitians, and coaches to use with their own clients.

Please tell us about the value of your quick quiz which is entitled, “How to tell if you are ‘sick enough.’”

So many clients (and this was the case for both of us, too) struggle with this belief of ‘not being sick enough’ when it comes to their difficulties around food and their body. This is a common trick that eating disorders use in order to keep people sick, i.e. telling you that ‘you aren’t sick enough’ for XYZ reason. So, we included this quick quiz to help simplify things for people and explain that ANYONE struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food and their body, which is impacting their quality of life, is 100 percent ‘sick enough’ for treatment and support.

What led you to include the journaling prompts and other exercises in your chapters?

We have seen the power of journaling in our own journeys, and when working with our clients. We knew when we set out to write this book that we absolutely had to find ways to incorporate journaling throughout. It is one thing to read about the steps one must take in recovery, but actually sitting down, and writing out your own thoughts and ideas helps you to kick-start the change process!

You offer an action plan for binge-eating recovery. What behaviors are included in the plan?

Our action plan for binge eating recovery includes ditching the scale, eliminating restriction (both physical and emotional), rewiring neural pathways, The PAUSE skill, coping with emotions, and practicing self-compassion.

There are many components when it comes to healing from binge eating, however, we emphasize that recovery is possible. It’s also so important to practice self-compassion throughout the recovery process. Ultimately, binge eating is a resilient attempt at a survival strategy – even though it may no longer be serving you.

Can you share some information on the external factors that can complicate one’s body image?

Some common external factors that can complicate one’s relationship with body image are: environment, trauma, culture, and oppression.

Environment includes how someone was raised. Did you family prioritize thinness? Did your mom model a distorted relationship with her own body? These things can mold and complicate our own relationships with our bodies.

Trauma, in its varying forms, can most definitely complicate body image. Trauma often happens to our bodies. Our brain can internalize this idea that our bodies are not safe places to live, and can then in turn lead us to find ways to modify or attempt to use our bodies to feel more safe. An example of this would be an individual who discovers comfort in weight loss after sexual assault, because the weight loss helps that individual to feel less sexualized. 

Our culture most definitely influences body image. Diet culture sends us the message that “thin is good” and that “fat is bad.” This message is instilled from day 0 – look at most classic Disney films. The princess is always very petite and thin, while the villain tends to be in larger bodies. We internalize this message slowly over time and it definitely impacts how we show up and feel in our bodies.

How can an individual recognize they have a problem with over-exercise?

Some warning signs of struggling with compulsive exercise include the following; working out while ill or injured, feeling guilt over taking a rest day, feeling like you have to ‘eat less’ if you do not exercise, tying food to exercise i.e. ‘I’m going to work off X by going to the gym,’ rigidity in terms of your exercise routine, and anxiety when it is disrupted.

Essentially, if you have a voice in your head telling you that you MUST exercise or you must exercise a certain amount of time or X number of days – in order to ‘feel ok’ – this is a warning sign that you might be struggling with an unhealthy relationship to exercise.

Unfortunately, compulsive exercise isn’t very well understood by the public and exercise tends to be highly praised. However, struggling with compulsive exercise is exhausting.

What  is the “90-year-old person perspective”?

This is one of our favorite tools! The 90-year-old perspective is basically the idea of “zooming out” and looking at the big picture – at the end of your life, when you are 90 years old and thinking about the time you spent here on earth – what do you think you’ll want to look back and see? Do you think you’ll want to fondly recall all the years you spent avoiding cookies at the holiday parties? Or all of the times that you skipped out on hanging with your friends because you wanted to be sure to wake up early for that workout? We’ve found that this “big picture” perspective tends to help folks (including ourselves!) refocus on their true values, like relationships, or humanitarianism. The hope is that this continual zooming out will allow people to eventually get into the habit of automatically calling upon their true values when making decisions about how to spend time and what to engage in in their lives.

About the authors:

Dr. Colleen Reichmann is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image issues, self-injury, and trauma. She is the founder of her group practice, Therapy for Eating Disorders and Body Image, in Philadelphia. She has recovered from anorexia, and this recovery has led her to her passion of spreading awareness about eating disorders, and helping others to heal. 

Colleen completed her predoctoral internship at the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro Center for Eating Disorders. She then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Sheppard Pratt Center for Eating Disorders. In both of these programs, she worked across the inpatient, partial hospitalization, and IOP levels of care. She then went on to create eating disorder programming at the College of William and Mary. 

Colleen is a prominent speaker and writer. She has spoken at numerous regional and national eating disorder conferences, and various universities, treatment centers and retreats. She has written for Scary Mommy, Recovery Warriors, MoreLove, Project HEAL, The Mighty, and more. She is the co-author of the book, The Inside Scoop on Eating Disorder Recovery: Advice From Two Therapists who Have Been There.

Colleen is an advocate for the Health at Every Size® and fat positivity movements, and was named one of the top eating disorder experts in the country by a prominent eating disorder treatment center.

Jennifer Rollin is a therapist and founder of The Eating Disorder Center in Rockville, Maryland, who specializes in working with adolescents and adults with eating disorders including, anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, body image issues, anxiety, and depression.  

Jennifer has experience working in a variety of settings including, an outpatient mental health clinic, residential programs for adolescents, and a sexual assault crisis hotline. She served as the chairwoman of Project HEAL’s national network of eating disorder treatment providers. She has received two local awards for her psychotherapy services. Jennifer has been named as one of the top eating disorder experts in the world by a prominent eating disorder treatment center in New York.

Jennifer has a certificate in Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders. She also has a certificate in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. She is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. She served on The Junior Board of Directors for The National Eating Disorders Association. She was invited to serve on the conference committee for The National Eating Disorders Association’s 2018 Conference. 

Jennifer has been interviewed speaking about eating disorders on television including on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and Fox. She gives talks about eating disorders at national eating disorder conferences, therapy centers, and colleges. 

She is an expert writer for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Her professional blog was named one of the top eating disorder blogs in the world. She is the co-author of ‘The Inside Scoop on Eating Disorder Recovery’ alongside Dr. Colleen Reichmann. 

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