Approaching Eating Disorders

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How would you use a meta-coach in an eating disorder clinic that has a multi-professional approach? What type of work do you think a coach can do in this area? How would you use a meta-coach in an eating disorder clinic that has a multi-professional approach? What type of work do you think a coach can do in this area? Michele Agami, Mexico

Most people are familiar with the two most publicised forms of disordered eating, Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa. In the most simplest terms both are characterised by behaviour to avoid/restrict food and/or eating large amounts of food in a very short time frame (binging) which can often be followed by purging (vomiting or taking laxatives to eliminate food and reduce absorption time). It is common for these behaviours to be combined together and complimented by excessive exercise or diet pill abuse. Such behaviours are usually motivated (all though as we will describe further on, not the only motivators) to avoid perceived fat gain.

Most of us can relate to having ‘pigged out’ on a packet of biscuits that call your name or a whole tub of creamy ice cream. Perhaps hot potato chips grab a hold of you or seeing an enticing cheese platter. Whatever your case may be, most of us have binged at some time or another. Do we call this a disorder? Yes, if this becomes a default pattern for relating to food, where you feel you no longer have personal choice or self control to stop at just a couple of biscuits or one small bowl of ice cream. If you HAVE to eat the entire packet and then another, just because they were in the house, you know you are out of balance in your relationship to food.

The same is true if you notice you are skipping meals with the intent of reducing food or calorie intake to avoid putting on weight. If you have got to the stage of deliberately vomiting, this will be an obvious indicator that you have gone outside normal healthy eating patterns. Through the lenses of our work in Energetic Living™ and The New Human™ we see many other forms of ‘disordered eating’ that have cunning labels which can seemingly serve to justify an out of balance eating pattern.

The most common of these ‘others’ include food allergies and sensitivities that are genuine, yet cause an individual to remove major food groups, and to have extreme control over what they eat and do not eat. The same can be true about other extreme diets such as a low or no carb dieting, macrobiotic dieting, raw food dieting, alkalizing, etc. While all of these are potentially useful for various different body types, any concept of a diet taken to extreme creates a compulsive focus on food and eating (or lack of) that dominates an individual’s day and lifestyle; mentally, emotionally and physically.

Short term episodes and obviously long term behaviour of food avoidance, binging and purging can have extreme and long lasting effects on psychology; body image; metabolism; digestion; glucose tolerance; teeth and gums; osteoporosis; self esteem; self confidence; narcissism; perfectionism; hyper vigilance around trust, control, and boundaries in relationships; and the ingrained behaviour of never feeling ‘good enough’ in comparisons to one’s own ideal of perfection in self and others.

Other examples of disordered eating may include not being ‘able’ to eat foods of certain colours, textures, and scents. Perhaps your throat constricts and rejects certain food as a reflex response. Another form is a sense of insatiable appetite – always feeling hungry. Or having no biological responses that indicate hunger.

My approach to working with disordered eating fits very well into a multi-professional approach such as the clinic I imagine Michele Agami to have outlined in her question.

Given eating disorders are multi faceted; coaching alone will not usually provide a long-term permanent solution to eating disorders. However a multi disciplinary approach most definitely can, and in my experience does. I am talking about a full 100% healing and recovery of the body’s metabolism; digestive, nervous and immune systems; new balanced eating behaviours; sense of personal choice and self control with food (that does not feel like control); exercising out of choice not compulsion; a neutral body and mind that does not consciously or unconsciously reject food (elimination of all food allergies – even anaphylactic responses); indicators in the body that send messages to the brain for knowing when one is full (naturally controlling portion and food size); a solid sense of self esteem, healthy relationship to others and the achievement of a healthy body size and shape.

This multi disciplinary approach may include:

Nutrition

Most people with disordered eating will have numerous food, chemical, organ, and environmental allergies that they are unaware of. These allergies when ingested or contacted will cause the individual often to bloat, have pain, weight or fluid gain and generally feel awful. Unconsciously or consciously an individual will often avoid those foods or food all together to attempt to avoid such unpleasant and even debilitating experiences. Similarly a food allergy can cause extreme cravings and even compulsions to think about and to devour certain foods (usually those we are allergic to). Treatment for neutralising the body to these allergies helps the person to no longer go into an extreme response of avoidance or compulsion towards the specific allergy, creating a natural neutral state of acceptance and tolerance by the body. The most effective modality that I have found is NAET. Given the extreme impact on metabolism of any eating disorder the introduction of foods that the body once avoided or was compulsive towards needs to be measured and monitored closely, over a period of time while the body’s metabolism learns to function in a balanced and healthy way. Similarly the body will be deficient in many essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. The individual will require a monitored program to rebuild healthy levels in their body. This will also help reduce avoidance and cravings of foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids that the body may be severely depleted in and needing.

Structural / Body Work / Neurological

There are many cranial and spinal influences that contribute to eating disorders or are the result of disordered eating. Given our spine protects our nervous system and sends nutrients to all of our organs, any misalignments can cause either minor or major disruptions to blood flow and neural connectivity to our brain, within our brain and other organs. As the body goes through its changes in nutrition and psychology, the body will expel toxins and open neural pathways that were before blocked. Ongoing spinal manipulation through chiropractic, osteopathy or through massage and physiotherapy will be an essential ingredient in full recovery.

Emotions

As we know, behaviour is heavily influenced by our emotions. Many of us are familiar with drinking or eating after success, stress, hurt, or sadness to gain comfort, connection, or a sense of pleasure. For some this can be a one-meal experience and for others it can be the intention of everything that goes into their mouths. That is, food being inappropriately used (or avoided) to manage and deal with our emotions. Working at the emotional level, a Meta-Coach can help identify these connections, and help an individual to create more healthy meanings and connections to food and eating. Most often this will include changing the meanings of food to be just that – nutrition and food – taking away any of the other emotional connections and meanings that have been erroneously connected to food over the journey and years of life. At a second level, if there are unresolved emotions from trauma or just normal events of life, these can become driving influences towards lower self esteem and can even become cognitive distortions, in that they colour all of our interactions; including body image, self esteem, relationship to food and relationships in general. If there was any trauma associate with these emotions, very often these responses got hardwired deeply into cellular memory and influence the natural self organising and healing use of our DNA. While conscious processing will be useful at times for identifying these responses, very often they are so deeply unconscious in cellular memory they need a practitioner who can access and help heal them at a level beyond our cognitive mind. A highly trained kinesiologist, body talk practitioner or NET practitioner can use the body’s muscle responses to access these emotional responses and facilitate healing and balancing at this level.

Cognition

Obviously there are many thinking styles and patterns that influence disordered eating. Some of the patterns a well-trained and experienced Meta-Coach will be looking out for may include: All or nothing thinking – extreme thinking style. A Meta-Coach can facilitate the flexibility of continuum thinking and multi dimensional thinking, thereby reducing extreme polarised thinking and behaving that leads to starvation, binging and purging. To read more on All or nothing thinking click here. Strong willed or over compliant to self – unable to follow rules, restrictions or boundaries imposed by self or others. Or rigidly follows own rules disregarding if the rules serve their desired outcomes or not. Often they may be unable to say NO to self and others. A Meta-Coach can question for self-awareness around imposed rules to create a sense of personal freedom and choice, thereby reducing rigidity or the inability of healthy self-control (if lacking in the case of binging). Sameness / difference – will need to have things rigidly the same. Or, mismatches self (and others) and therefore goes against one’s own decisions and choices re food and eating. Again a Meta-Coach will help develop flexibility in routines, food choices and where the body is mismatching (rejecting) food either in the form of anorexia, allergy, and repulsion etc. Extreme internal or extreme external referencing – referencing outside of self (external) to others, which may include friends, celebrities, models etc., to compare oneself to others or society’s version of beautiful. Or, despite the feedback of others, internally referencing only, where others’ opinions and feedback do not ‘count’ and are considered invalid or inaccurate by their own standards. The Meta-Coach will help create a healthy internal reference and external check. Necessity – uses language and thoughts of ‘have to, must, should, must not, should not’ etc. Does not experience a sense of choice (I want to, like, desire to etc.). A Meta-Coach will support through awareness and then challenge inner self talk and self imposed rules that prevent a sense of choice and an ability to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’, thereby creating self responsibility and balanced self control. A Meta-Coach will also be looking at the anchored behaviours and states to food preparation, shopping, eating, food clearing / cleaning in a continuum of time of hours, days, weeks and months. We will also be helping to develop a solid sense of self-identity, beyond the narcissism (extreme self referencing) that often accompanies anorexia or the over comparisons (extreme other and external referencing). The possible outcome is a grounded sense of value and worth irrespective of shape, size, or colour etc. Responsibility and sense of control (or lack thereof) will be an essential dialogue in assessing personal boundaries and amount of self-empowerment. In many cases there has been a personal violation and trauma between the ages of 0-21, which may be physical, sexual, or mental that contributes to being overly responsible (controlling) of others and/or lacking in personal responsibility. Very often food through excess or starvation can be inappropriately used as a resource for gaining a sense of control or rebellious freedom.

Energy

Those sensitive to energy and the transmission of energy through their bodies will often find their stomach meridian out of balance, through either excess or not enough energy flowing through it. In the Chinese energy systems of acupuncture and medicine this meridian has a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing and also our relationship to food, hunger and appetite (among many other things). A number of factors can impact the balance of this meridian from allergic reactions to food, people, memories, past events, and any extreme experiences from stress, adrenalin based sports like sky diving etc., trauma, spiritual mystical experiences, receiving higher vibrations and ungrounded sexual experiences. The key focus in this energy work will be balancing the stomach meridian (and any meridian) that is in excess or depletion and simultaneously using rituals that help ground the individual here in the three-dimensional material world. Activities may include walking in nature, gardening, playing with children, swimming, cooking, working with hands on manual tasks, etc.

Spirituality

A Meta-Coach can assist to explore faith and relationship to a higher power, such as God, Buddha, Mohamed, nature, mother earth, etc. Exploring beliefs about spiritual power, influence, religion and communion with such a ‘power’ in daily life. Guilt or lack of spiritual worthiness can often manifest in behaviour that will be seeking to rebel against seeming imposed rules of right and wrong, that can often be misinterpreted from one’s religion, faith, or lack of. This desire to rebel can often express itself in all/nothing thinking and being strong willed. As we have already explored, these two thinking styles can have significant influence for disordered eating. At the same time this conversation will explore one’s soul’s journey and what they believe about their life purpose, great meaning in life, and any ‘karmic connections’ that relate to disordered eating.

In Summary

From my experience, most of us have some form of disordered eating at different stages of our life. For some, however, this moment in time can become habituated into a debilitating and vicious cycle that can have a significant impact on our sense of self, our physical and emotional wellbeing and our relationships.

Through a systemic multi disciplinary approach today, it truly is possible to transcend such a relationship to food, eating and self and to ultimately use food simply as fuel so you and your energy is freed for cultivating your unique talents and expressing your personal creativity into your life and the world you live and play within.

micheleAbout Michele Agami
I have been interested in Eating Disorders for many years. this has a lot to do with my personal history. I have a BA in Business, a degree in Tanathology, I studied Pathwork for 4 years, I was a Pre-school coordinator for 8 years. I have a Coaching Certification with the ICC and soon I will be a certified Meta-Coach. 

I believe that there is a big area of oportunity for Coaching in  Eating Disorder Clinics where a Health Coach can certainly be a part of the multi-disciplinary team. However, Meta-coaching is new to many people in the field and in order to work with them, I have been asked to define “the coachable area” of the treatment process and set very clear limits as to what a Coach can and cannot do with a client, in order not to cross the limits of other specialists like therapists, nutritionists, doctors,social workers, etc.

In my personal experience, there is a gap between ending treatment and returning to living a “normal life”. Clients who are in the process of coming back to their daily rutines could benefit a lot of Meta-coaching because it can provide very clear goals,achievement indicators, and many tools for knowing how we create meaning that are not approached by any other area of treatment, Patients can also benefit from the Coach-client relationship that is so special and unique.

Right now I am working on becoming a part of an Eating Disorder Treatment Clinic, and that is why I asked you this question.

Email MIchele Agami to find out more.

Michelle Duval

As a coach, speaker and writer, Michelle Duval is as a pioneer into new forms of learning. She helped found the field of professional coaching in Australia in 1997 and became a leading voice, forging developmental and transformational coaching worldwide. She has co-authored two international handbooks on coaching, developed coaching psychology models used by professional coaches globally, and trained and certified executive, business and personal coaches in more than 35 countries. Michelle is the founder of Equilibrio, Actualise Daily, Excelerate Coach Mentoring and Fingeprint4Success. Michelle’s personal specialty as a coach is working with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, CEOs, and creative artists such as writers, producers, and actors. As a researcher Michelle led a world first study into the attitudes and motivations of Australia's most successful entreprenuers. Birthed out of her own personal experience with an aggressive life threatening brain disease, Michelle's personal cause and mission is working with otherwise 'incurable' diseases by developing advanced coaching methodologies and the latest discoveries in neuroscience to facilitate well-being and even complete recovery.

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