We often need to hear something several times to truly incorporate the knowledge. And when we are in a fear state due to a child having a life threatening illness, it can take hearing a message many times and many ways to really embrace a strong understanding. 

This week I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Jillian Lampert of The Emily Program present on “Disordered Eating vs. Eating Disorder: What’s the Tipping

Slide Courtesy of Dr. Jillian Lampert – The Emily Program

Point?” And of course, the topic of shame came up. It was a great reminder to not use shame to try to help people change behaviors. 

Jillian reminded us and I paraphrase, “Shaming someone to stop doing something does the opposite…makes them do more of it.”

Shame is quite often present in a family while a loved one is working on recovery from an eating disorder. It is so prevalent that our July 2019 guest speaker at the Weekly Online Group Support call for family caregivers of those with eating disorders presented on this topic. Danielle Small, MS, LMFT from Monte Nido & Affiliates gladly shared her wisdom and clinical expertise on this important topic and you can read my summary on 10 Tips on Coping with Shame While Loving Someone with an Eating Disorder here. 

This topic is such an important one, I’ve written about it a few times and you can see more on this blog post on shame and how it’s not a parent’s fault that a child has an eating disorder. 

In Jillian’s presentation she shared non-shaming questions we can use to help open up conversations with our loved one’s in treatment.

Slide courtesy of Dr. Jillian Lampert – The Emily Program

Here are a few non-shaming phrases to try out:

  • Would you tell me more about that?
  • What’s up with that? 
  • How much of the day do you spend thinking about food? 
  • Do you HAVE to fast? (All religious practices allow for exceptions for health.)
  • Are you sleeping well? 
  • How are you coping with life? 
  • What’s eating like for you?
  • I’m concerned you’re not moving/eating/drinking/sleeping in a balanced way.

It’ can be so challenging for family caregivers who are exhausted, depleted, fear-filled, unsupported and lacking confidence to find the compassion to not shame. Even knowing what Jillian said,  “Shaming someone to stop doing something does the opposite…makes them do more of it.” isn’t going to help use new skills unless parents & other family caregivers have compassion, are calm and supported in practicing these skills. 

I believe that having compassion increases our ability to learn and employ new skills. 

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending an Eating Disorders Conference put on by the Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa & Nebraska Eating Disorders Network in Omaha…yes, I’m always up for a road trip. 

Becky Henry, Michelle Roling, Shannon Kopp

One of the best presentations I’ve ever heard at an eating disorders conference was the keynote, “Psychology of Happiness, a Provider and Patient Perspective” – Dr. Ralph Carson, RD, LD, PhD and ERC National Recovery Advocate Shannon Kopp

Learning about the brain and neuroscience from Dr. Carson and how Shannon was able to change her brain while working with dogs grew my compassion level dramatically. First, I’m a huge neuroscience geek…cannot get enough of it. And dogs…well, it totally made sense what they together shared as to how a person can grow the number of cells in the Left Prefrontal Cortex region of the brain. And why that makes people happier and able to function without their eating disorders behaviors. 

When we understand what is happening in the brain and how people with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other brain illnesses don’t have enough cells in the part of the brain (Left Pre-frontal Cortex) that defines happiness it can increase our compassion. When we increase our compassion, it reduces our frustration so we can utilize new tools and skills. 

The other good news is that there are many ways to increase the number of cells in the Left Pre-frontal Cortex of the brain! Watch for that next week. You can see the webinars Shannon Kopp and Eating Recovery Center do here at Say It Brave.