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Empowered Dining: Meal Support for Eating Disorder Recovery

Our student intern Maya Jefferson, writes about her experience attending Empowered Dining, our meal support program.

Maya Jefferson, Student Intern

A safe space: that is the goal of therapy, nutritional counseling and meal support for recovery. Empowered Dining is an amazing program that we offer in our Greenbelt and Columbia offices for those in recovery of an eating disorder or disordered eating. Led by Registered Dietitian Alex Raymond, Empowered Dining occurs twice a month and allows for much needed support and interaction during mealtime. I was fortunate enough to attend this previous Empowered Dining and was able to see the importance of building friendships in recovery from the outside, as an intern, but also related it to my own past recovery, and the meal support I attended during those years.

Empowered Dining creates a safe space

We started with some casual conversation about our week and one rose and thorn that occurred. Right away, we allowed the room to become a safe space. A place where we could share something that occurred during our week that was not exciting or helpful, something that made us anxious or mad or sad, and something that made us human. At the same time, we shared a rose of the week, something that occurred that made us smile or laugh and happy despite the negative event.

Next came dinner. Creating the safe space during mealtime was important for all of us in the room as we continued casual discussion and tried to add positivity to the food we were eating, focusing on each other’s company and not the emotions that were arising. After eating however is when we could discuss any emotions or thoughts that occurred during the meal. Relating back to my own recovery I remembered having to discuss how a meal made me feel internally. It definitely helps to express the emotions and thoughts that occurred while eating especially if the meal was tough or challenging.

The last half of Empowered Dining consists of an activity. This week the activity was centered on a blog written by one of our Registered Dietitians, Bobbi Boteler, titled “Quieting our Inner Voice of Comparison”. This blog highlighted the barrier to being able to love ourselves completely arises from the constant need to make comparisons. Negative comparisons are often where our mind goes especially when beginning recovery. We feel that everyone and everything looks or is better than us. We make comparisons about our bodies, our progress, and sometimes even about recovery. However, in order to love ourselves we need to change the negative comparisons and start noticing differences out of positivity.

Comparison is the thief of joy

I asked the group these discussion questions in order to see what they thought about the blog and how it related to their everyday actions, attitudes and thoughts.

  • “Comparison is the thief of joy”- Theodore Roosevelt- How do these words resonate with your current life?
  • What were one or two comparisons you made this past week? Were they coming from a place of noticing differences or were they comparisons arising from unhealthy interpretations?
  • Do you think comparison affects the drive to post on social media? Posting pictures on Instagram or Facebook? Is it healthy acceptance of differences or unhealthy comparisons between yourself and others?
  • What can we do to make sure we quiet the unhealthy inner voices in order to progress through recovery without constant comparisons? Name three things you can start doing now.

From the outside, it was interesting hearing the responses to the questions as the group loved reading the blog and understood the importance of changing the way we make comparisons. I thought about recovery and how in an eating disorder, it is so easy to compare every detail that we see. More importantly, how comparisons shape our society with constant pictures and statuses being thrown in our face on social media. This topic around social media and how it can affect either positive or negative noticing of differences was important to the group as well as to Alex and I. Being able to discuss such a relevant topic that used to affect me negatively as it does many in recovery, helped me to no longer feel outside of the group but included.

Understanding both an insider and an outsider perspective around this discussion and around meal support was great to be apart of. Empowered Dining truly becomes a safe space for the members who attended as they are able to get away from their busy lives and can focus on trying to add positivity to mealtime. I enjoyed every conversation, learning more about the members and also learning from Alex. Letting myself attend and lead a segment of the program allowed me to no longer look at recovery from the outside.

For more information about our Empowered Dining Meal Support Program, click here!

Empowered Eating Team

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