Posted on Leave a comment

What’s new in eating disorder treatment? An interview with Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C

We sat down with Jennifer Rollin, an eating disorder therapist and founder of The Eating Disorder Center based in Maryland, to find learn what’s new in the treatment of eating disorders.

1. What do you think has changed about the way we treat eating disorders in the past 10 years?

I think there have been a lot of changes in eating disorder treatment, and we still have a ways to go. One of the big things is a shift towards more evidence-based treatments. We now have a higher emphasis on treatments that have been demonstrated by research to be effective. This will hopefully lead to improved care.

We have also seen the incorporation of Health at Every SizeⓇ (HAESⓇ) principles into eating disorder treatment. We’re experiencing a push towards more weight-neutral care, and are reducing the fat phobia that has been deeply steeped into so many treatments in the past. Providers are finally recognizing is that eating disorders impact people of all body sizes. We’re working hard to eradicate fat phobia in the eating disorder treatment space because it is incredibly harmful.

I think some residential treatment centers are lagging behind, especially in terms of supporting males who have eating disorders. We have two local treatment centers, and only one of them accepts males. Residential treatment has a long way to go in terms of equalizing eating disorders in terms of gender, race, size, and abilities. We are seeing a shift in terms of providers being more welcoming to people of all shapes and sizes, but we still need a lot more education that people who have eating disorders can be any body size, race, class, and gender.

We still need a lot more progress in terms of being welcoming to people in all types of bodies. A lot of people who have eating disorders don’t ever seek treatment because they don’t fit the stereotype and don’t seek treatment or when they do, they are not treated appropriately. Diet culture has completely normalized disordered eating so people don’t even realize they have a problem. Larger people who have eating disorders are often seen as someone who’s trying to “be healthy” and “lose weight.”

2. How do you work with adolescents who have eating disorders?

The first thing that’s most important when working with anyone, but especially teenagers, is building a relationship. It can be hard to earn teens’ trust, especially if they don’t feel a connection with their therapist or healthcare provider. We can have all the best clinical skills in the world, but if we can’t connect with a teen, we won’t get buy-in or trust, and then we won’t be effective. Personally, I think it helps that I’m younger, and I work to keep in touch with teen trends so that they feel I can relate to their world and, therefore, their deepest struggles.

When we’re working with a teenager, we have the benefit of being able to work with the family, which can really help treatment. I will utilize the family in the treatment process as much as makes sense. We have to look closely at the family dynamic and determine the best way to work in partnership for optimal treatment.

Sometimes I will use modified Family Based Therapy (FBT), especially if I’m working with a younger child and it’s a purely restrictive eating disorder. I find it’s most helpful to modify treatment for each child and each family system. Anybody who says that any one treatment is a panacea for eating disorders is problematic – we must look at each case individually. Not everything is appropriate for everyone, and not every family can or should take on FBT.

3. How do you involve parents in a child’s eating disorder treatment?

This totally depends on the person and the situation. I always share with parents that they can be involved as much or as little as they want. Sometimes I need to push for more involvement if I feel it will serve the child’s recovery. I am the child’s therapist, but I will send weekly email updates to parents, and I encourage parents to email updates to me so that I can be aware of what’s going on at home. I will invite parents into sessions and sometimes do family sessions, depending on what makes the most sense. But I always remain aware that my client is the child.

It can be very tricky to navigate fat phobia and diet culture. Parents are so well-intentioned and love their kids, but I can still see that they are trapped in our societal expectations regarding weight. A HAES-informed recovery process involves accepting the body as it is, but I still have great parents asking whether they can help the child lose weight in a healthy way. This is where we still have a lot of catching up to do in terms of educating people about the futility and dangers of intentional weight loss.

When treating a child who has an eating disorder, I become very aware of parents’ thoughts about weight. I take a gentle educational approach and tell parents that in my professional opinion, any focus on weight loss is not helpful for anyone, especially someone who is in recovery for an eating disorder. I know parents want what’s best for their kids, and diet culture has convinced them that certain foods are bad or higher weights are bad. Parents just want to do the right thing, but unfortunately, even though they are trying to help, they don’t understand that it can hurt.

I sometimes recommend that parents meet with a HAES-informed dietician who can help them understand these concepts. The analogy is that having diet foods in the house, talking about dieting, and focusing on weight loss is like going on an alcohol bender while living with someone who is in recovery for alcoholism. We have to be mindful of what we do when we live with someone who is in recovery.

4. What do you think parents most commonly misunderstand about a child’s eating disorder?

I think the most common misunderstanding is that an eating disorder is a choice. Even if parents have been told that it’s not a choice, it’s hard to accept that. We naturally want to understand responsibility and want kids to recover. Well-intentioned parents may feel upset when a child doesn’t follow a recovery plan exactly, they will say things like “you have all these skills, why aren’t you using them?” But this is where it gets tricky. An eating disorder is not a choice, but recovery is. This means that the eating disorder can slip in at any time and take over, and a person who is in recovery has to exert tremendous effort to constantly make the choice to recover. It’s so helpful to know that recovery is a process, not an event. And recovery looks different for every single person.

Of course you’re concerned about your child, and of course you’re disappointed when you see them struggling. But parents need to understand that they are going to have these feelings, but they don’t always need to say them out loud, especially with their child. Disappointment is normal, but parents can unintentionally make kids feel they are disappointed in them for struggling.

I have some clients who feel very guilty for making their parents’ life complicated and scaring them. And it’s true that parents do have to work harder when a kid has an eating disorder, but if the child had cancer, the parent would do it and recognize it wasn’t the child’s fault that they have cancer. That’s what I’d love to see when a child has an eating disorder.

I see some parents who are resigned to the idea that their child will always be sick. Then I have parents who think that if the weight is fine, the child is fine. We have to find a balance and recognize that you can’t judge an eating disorder based on someone’s physicality. Ultimately it’s a mental illness, and we can’t tell how healthy someone is based on how they look or their behaviors.

5. What is advice would you give a parent who has a child who has an eating disorder?

First, have compassion for yourself. A lot of parents blame themselves for a child getting sick. It’s natural to think about what could have been done differently, but ultimately parents have to move forward. Make time for your own self-care. Helping someone in recovery can be emotionally draining.

Second, have compassion for your child, and have compassion for the eating disorder behaviors. Sometimes eating disorder behaviors are the best way your kid can cope in the moment. The eating disorder is serving a purpose for them, otherwise they wouldn’t’ have it. Your child is trying to help themselves – they’re just going about it in a way that is not helpful.

Clearly, I’m passionate about helping people to recover from eating disorders, but I also believe in starting with radical acceptance, which is a concept in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Acceptance doesn’t mean you like it, it just means you acknowledge it’s there and you don’t have to make it the enemy. The eating disorder is currently a part of your child. When we make it the enemy, it can feel disapproving or critical to the person. Instead, seek ways to reduce anxiety and help your child meet the needs that their eating disorder is currently meeting, in other more life-affirming ways.


jennifer rollin eating disorders

Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW is a Psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In addition to her psychotherapy practice, she also offers recovery coaching via phone or Skype. She has published numerous articles regarding children, adolescents and eating disorders. Website

Posted on 6 Comments

Why yoga is an excellent practice while in eating disorder recovery, and what parents should know, by Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, CYT

Jennifer Kreatsoulas writes about how yoga practice can integrate with recovery from an eating disorder and eating disorder treatment

As an athlete in early recovery from an eating disorder, I first started practicing yoga as a physical activity that wouldn’t tempt me to overexercise or become obsessed with burning calories.

Initially, my yoga practice was purely physical. I focused on learning the asanas or poses. I remember the thrill of observing how, with consistent practice, I could twist and fold a little deeper or balance on one foot a little longer.

But unlike other forms of exercise that had been triggering for me, I found that yoga is much deeper than the physical body, and deepening my yoga practice was healing, not exacerbating my eating disorder behaviors.

It was exciting to be a member of a community and make new friends who were also experiencing a greater appreciation for what their bodies were capable of. Little by little, my relationship with my body changed. I learned to reframe my strength and to release my grip on numbers—how much I should weigh, how much I was allowed to eat, and what size jeans I had to wear.

Today I’m a yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. I have found that integrating yoga concepts into eating disorder recovery can have a significant impact on how someone feels about – and within – their body.

Most of us in the West think of yoga as a physical exercise, but what many people don’t realize is that the physical exercises are in pursuit of mental health and relaxation. Using breath control, simple meditation and specific bodily postures, we learn to truly live within our bodies rather than observe them from the outside and judge them based on appearance. By integrating our whole selves – body, mind, and soul – those of us in recovery find a deep level of healing from our eating disorders.

In my work, I help others develop yoga practices and tools based to incorporate into their recovery. These tools and practices provide a sense of empowerment and space for healing. They also cultivate self-reliance, a motivation for recovery, and a renewed and/or improving the relationship with one’s body. For these reasons and more, Yoga can be beneficial of individuals recovering from an eating disorder.

Here is a list of some of the general benefits of Yoga based on my own life, what clients have shared, and current research.

  • Improve overall sense of self
  • Quiet the eating disorder voice
  • Redefine the relationship with your body
  • Cultivate compassion and curiosity about your body
  • Explore moments of feeling comfortable in your body
  • Strengthen your self-expression
  • Reframe how and why we feed our bodies
  • Expand your world to be so much more than food, symptoms, and body image
  • Help manage depression and anxiety
  • Cultivate self-reliance
  • Increase self-worth
  • Enhance physical strength and health
  • Improve organ function
  • Calm the central nervous system
  • Establish new beliefs grounded in health versus disordered eating
  • Complement traditional forms of treatment and therapy

These benefits are truly transformative and can make a significant impact on your child’s ability to fully heal from an eating disorder. If you are a parent of a child who has an eating disorder, I encourage you to support your loved one’s interest in adding yoga to their recovery. As a supportive therapy, yoga can cultivate resilience and infuse your child’s recovery with new energy, concepts, and motivation. They will also learn new ways to relate to and experience their bodies.

It is important to understand, however, that some of today’s yoga marketing and studios, or certain aspects of them, can actually obscure the deeper meaning of yoga, make it challenging to feel at ease. Therefore, parents should carefully evaluate the yoga studio environment before enrolling their child who is in recovery from an eating disorder.

Like all fitness endeavors today, yoga has fallen prey to the social media imagery promoting a particular body type. The yoga selfie craze can breed body comparison, and the hyper-focus on yoga as fitness can encourage competition with oneself and others.

Also, when marketed as fitness, there’s a risk that the essence of Yoga—the aspects that guide healing and self-empowerment—can get lost in translation. As a result, old workout patterns and motivations may resurface, causing more damage than good in the short-term.

It is not uncommon to find people who are on the spectrum for disordered eating teaching yoga classes. Depending on where they fall on the spectrum, some yoga instructors may inadvertently make comments about nutrition, including recommending juice cleanses, vegetarian or veganism, or other eating behaviors that can be dangerous for someone who is in recovery. If attending an in-person class, you may want to discuss this with the studio to determine which teachers are likely to be least triggering to your child.

In early recovery, it’s best to avoid heated studios, as your child may not be physically restored enough for this environment. Also, classes in heated studios tend to be more physically demanding. If your child has a history of trauma, I also recommend you seek out yoga teachers trained in trauma sensitivity. You might also consider your child works with a yoga therapist with a background in eating disorders to help guide his or her experience in a supportive way.

Luckily, for the long-term, there are many, many yoga options available, including a plethora of studios offering a variety of styles, books, and DVDs, YouTube videos, and other apps for home practice. The Internet makes yoga philosophy easily accessible and readable, as well as information about other practices like mantra, meditation, breathing exercises, and grounding techniques.

Yoga is not a quick fix; rather it’s a lifelong practice that complements and supports our ongoing healing. It reminds us that we are so much more than an eating disorder and the disarray this disease brings to our lives. To quote the famous yogi B. K. S. Iyengar: “Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together.”


Jennifer recently released a 3-part video series that is a wonderful option for someone in recovery. If your child is building a new relationship with his or her body and would benefit from a thoughtful yoga practice, consider this video series as an excellent (and affordable!) tool.

Click to learn more about this video series


15775030_1831975403749187_7131353409392698274_o

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, CYT, is the founder of Chime Yoga Therapy and specializes in eating disorders and body image. In addition to her private yoga therapy practice, Jennifer leads yoga therapy groups at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia, is cofounder of the Body Kindness Project, and a partner with both the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and the Transformation Yoga Project. She is the creator of the home video series Yoga to Strengthen Body Image and Support Eating Disorder Recovery. Her writing on the topics of yoga, body image, motherhood, and eating disorder recovery can be found on her blog as well as a variety of publications, including YogaLiving MagazineRecovery WarriorsWomen For One, The MightyThe National Eating Disorder Association blog, and several other influential online publications. Jennifer has been featured in the Huffington PostWomen You Should KnowMedill Reports ChicagoPhilly.com, and the DailyDot. Connect with Jennifer: www.ChimeYogaTherapy.com.

Posted on Leave a comment

How to Model Healthy Attitudes About Exercise at Home, by Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, CYT

Jennifer Kreatsoulas talks about exercise and eating disorder recovery

Every Spring, I get an itch to run again. I daydream about the joyful feeling of running on a clear, sunny, 60-degree day–just me and the pavement and that keen sense of boundless freedom. Or sometimes I drive past my gym and remember the empowering satisfaction that bubbles up inside after a solid workout.

The truth, though, is that it only takes a few short minutes of running or stepping or rowing before those positive feelings of freedom and satisfaction are abruptly hijacked by the desire to push and force until I drop dead–figuratively and literally.

From years and years of overexercising or even using “appropriate” exercise to burn up calories, beat up my body, and undo (perceived) weight gain, intense cardio automatically turns on my merciless eating disorder mindset. Despite the best of intentions to workout for the right reasons and in a healthy, mindful way, I still find it hard to resist the pull of my eating disorder. I’ve learned to respect my limits and find activities, like yoga, that empowers versus inhibits me.

For many of us in eating disorder recovery, exercise is a hot-button topic. Whether you are like me and have a history of overdoing it, or if you are at the other end of the extreme and just plain hate exercising, or are somewhere in between, it’s challenging to untangle the benefits of exercise from the beliefs of the eating disorder. Yet, it’s crucial that we do not let our own complicated relationship with exercise influence our children.

This means finding creative ways to model healthy and appropriate attitudes toward exercise, our kids’ bodies, and your own body as well. Yes, this is hard work—even triggering at times—but the benefits to our children and the potential healing for ourselves will pay off tenfold.

How do I know? Well, I have two small girls of my own who are balls of energy and at complete and total ease in their bodies. They dance, jump, run, roll, and climb like no one is watching. Luckily, they are still young enough to not be concerned about whose watching. Nor do they have a clue about calories, weight gain, fat, thigh gaps, muffin tops, and on and on. They simply move. Carefree and curious. It’s a beautiful sight.

To help guide positive conversations with our girls about movement and model healthy attitudes around exercise, my husband and I follow these three rules:

1. Don’t comment on body parts or shape

Most children begin with a carefree feeling about their bodies; they move without worry. They don’t see separate body parts or feel limited by the shape of their bodies. Instead, they live to the fullest in the moment. We serve our children best by praising them for all things they do and try, no matter how big or small. For instance, praising them for being brave and trying something new versus having the longest and fastest legs reinforces that our values and virtues are our truest source of strength. If we build up their inner resilience in this way, they are more likely to withstand the pressures they will face about their bodies as they grow up.

2. Don’t define what counts as exercise

Whether my girls dance for 3 minutes or ride their bikes for 20, both are equally valuable forms of movement. It would be so easy for me, the once overexerciser, to label the longer activity as “real” exercise and the impromptu dancing as “not real.” Once I bring that kind of language into my conversations with my daughters, however, I risk robbing their fun of innocent playfulness and setting off self-consciousness, comparison, competition, and a need to please others through their bodies and the activities they choose to do or not do. When I watch my children play, I look for joy in their eyes. My job is to preserve that sense of joy for movement for as long as I possibly can. By not defining or ranking exercise, I allow the girls to discover what they enjoy on their own.

3. Don’t make it about you

This may be the hardest rule to follow. Like rule #2, it’s very important to not insert your preferences for, beliefs about, or relationship with exercise. Refrain from commenting in front of your children about needing to burn off lunch, the cookie you ate yesterday, or calories in general. Don’t comment on your own body parts or refer to exercise as punishment or penance. Let go of language like “I’m being good” or “I am bad” in relationship to exercise. These messages run the risk of warping the carefree joy of movement for our children. I think about all the years I lived by and with these torturous beliefs and thoughts. No matter how hard of a day I am having, I cannot speak this way in front of my children. On those days, it’s best to turn to my husband and other supports in my life.

For us parents who are in recovery as well as parents of children with eating disorders, we have an opportunity and obligation to teach our children about the importance of movement. No matter what our personal relationship with exercise may be, it’s imperative that we step up to the plate and expose our children to physical activity such as play, exercise, sports, or simple fun. In addition to the natural cardiovascular and energetic benefits of exercise, research has also shown that physical activity improves learning in children. Get our kids moving, and their bodies and brains will benefit.

Let’s face it, we live in a new social order defined by devices, social media, and virtual everything. Ultimately, this is a sedentary way of life, and although there are many, many advantages to living with technology, the downsides can set off a ripple effect of poor health. If we get our children moving now, they will be more likely to continue to embrace activity in healthy forms and amouts as they grow.


jennifer kreatsoulas

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, CYT, is the founder of Chime Yoga Therapy and specializes in eating disorders and body image. In addition to her private yoga therapy practice, Jennifer leads yoga therapy groups at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia, is cofounder of the Body Kindness Project, and a partner with both the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and the Transformation Yoga Project. She is the creator of the home video series Yoga to Strengthen Body Image and Support Eating Disorder RecoveryHer writing on the topics of yoga, body image, motherhood, and eating disorder recovery can be found on her blog as well as a variety of publications, including YogaLiving MagazineRecovery WarriorsWomen For One, The MightyThe National Eating Disorder Association blog, and several other influential online publications. Jennifer has been featured in the Huffington PostWomen You Should KnowMedill Reports ChicagoPhilly.com, and the DailyDot. Connect with Jennifer: www.ChimeYogaTherapy.com.

Posted on Leave a comment

5 ways to create positive body & food vibes at home, by Jennifer Kreatsoulas

“I want more cake!”

Ten minutes later…

“Can we have more cake tonight?”

These were the very first words out my 3- and 5-year old daughters’ mouths the morning after my birthday. It was 7 AM and their taste buds were already gearing up for chocolate cake with chocolate icing. “Let’s focus on breakfast first” was the best answer I could come up with!

As a parent in recovery from anorexia, conversations with my daughters like this one always leave me feeling a little unsettled. I question if my words and body language came from my heart versus my old “ED head” beliefs. Did I pass judgement on their hunger or the food they want to eat? Did I suggest that a food is “bad” or send the message that their pure passion and enjoyment for eating most foods is wrong or something they need to control, temper, ignore even?

Although my journeys of parenthood and recovery have at times run parallel to one another, they have also intersected and influenced one another in significant ways. I may question my “food parenting moments,” but at the root of my concern is my vigilant and diligent efforts to model healthy and uncomplicated relationships with and perspectives about nourishing our bodies.

My husband and I are equally dedicated to creating positive food and body vibes at home so that our girls have the most solid foundation possible from which to develop healthy relationships with food and their bodies. To help guide positive conversations with our girls, cultivate their self-confidence, respect their hunger cues, and teach them about healthy and balanced nutrition, my husband and I follow these five rules:

1. Don’t punish or reward with food

When you are at your wits end or tired from a long day, it’s so easy and tempting to use food as a motivator: “Stop whining and I will give you a cookie” or “No dessert tonight if you don’t clean up your toys.” But this is risky business, because then behavior becomes linked with food, and usually it’s a dessert or snack food. These associations of praise or punishment with food can follow a child through life and lead to disordered eating and thoughts related to those types of foods. Additionally, if food is held as a punishment or a reward, then food becomes about something other than the basic need of nourishment, which can lead to serious problems, including anxiety, low self-esteem, body image, and eating disorders.

2. All food is neutral

We live in a society that labels food groups as indulgences, fattening, and bad. Obviously, I could elaborate on this list. More important, however, is the message that food—all food—is neutral. It is the charge, labels, and beliefs that we pass on about food that endows it with such power. By calling some foods good and other foods bad, we teach children to be suspicious of food and, by extension, their cravings and appetite. If we teach that food is just food, that it is neutral, that it feeds our bodies and brains and gives us energy, we send a more positive message about food in general. As parents, we have the responsibility to model and teach about portions rather than demonize and/or forbid food groups.

3. Trust that the body knows

Our society also likes to have a say in when we should and shouldn’t be hungry. While children are young and not yet exposed to diet culture and headlines about curbing hunger, we have the privilege of encouraging connection with hunger and fullness cues. By encouraging children to check in with their bellies (ie, hunger and fullness), we teach them to respect their bodies’ needs. If we challenge the legitimacy of their hunger or fullness, we not only risk mucking with their bodies’ digestive system, but also teach them to question, doubt, or negate their own hunger and fullness. In the same way food is neutral, so is hunger and fullness. We serve our children best by not layering hunger and fullness with emotion or debate.

 4. Don’t comment on body parts or shape

Because of my eating disorder, my family and friends have the advantage of knowing to never comment on my body. That rule carries over to our girls’ bodies as well. And we teach our girls to not comment on others’ bodies. Most children begin with a carefree feeling about their bodies; they move without worry. They don’t see separate body parts or feel limited by the shape of their bodies. Instead, they live to the fullest in the moment. We serve our children best by praising them for all things big and small. If we build up their inner resilience, they are more likely to withstand the pressures they will face about their bodies as they grow up.

5. Don’t question each other’s preferences

We work very hard to not second guess our daughters when they express a desire or need. Whether it’s food, what they want to wear, the TV show they want to watch, or the color crayon they ask for, it is imperative to hear that request and not challenge it with questions like: Are you sure? What about this one? Don’t you want this instead? Do you want that or do you want X instead? When we question our children’s preferences, we send the message that we don’t trust their decisions or judgement. In turn, they may become less confident in their ability to connect with and articulate their needs. They may also become hypersensitive to pleasing the parent rather than fulfilling their own desires.

These rules have been extremely helpful in making sure me and my husband are on the same page when it comes to teaching and modeling positive food and body messages at home. For sure, raising children is a work in progress, and I imagine we will add a few more rules to this list, especially as we approach the teenage years! I’d love to hear how you and your family creates healthy food and body vibes in your household. Please feel free to email me with your suggestions and share about your experiences. I’d love to hear from you!


15775030_1831975403749187_7131353409392698274_o

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In recovery herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. Jennifer works with clients in person and via Skype. She also teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia and is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. She leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes and teaches weekly flow yoga classes. Jennifer contributes regularly to eating disorder and body image blogs and the YogaLiving Magazine. Website

Posted on Leave a comment

Yoga to strengthen body image and support eating disorder recovery – a video series from Jennifer Kreatsoulas

Yoga is frequently found to be helpful in recovering from an eating disorder. Those of us who struggle with disordered eating tend to be disconnected from our body, and yoga is a great way to reconnect and rebuild a loving relationship with our bodies.

As you support your child in healing from an eating disorder, however, you may find that not all yoga classes are appropriate for him or her. Unfortunately, many yoga teachers unknowingly trigger people who are in eating disorder recovery with talk of restrictive diets such as veganism, vegetarianism, juice cleanses, and other recommendations that are distressing and even dangerous for someone with an eating disorder.

There are some yoga instructors, however, who safely work with people in eating disorder recovery, providing a wonderful practice that can help them build a new relationship with their bodies and selves. Jennifer Kreatsoulas is one of those yoga instructors. In fact, she specializes in working with people in recovery from eating disorders.

She recently released a 3-part video series that is a wonderful option for someone in recovery. If your child is building a new relationship with his or her body and would benefit from a thoughtful yoga practice, consider this video series as an excellent (and affordable!) tool.

Click to learn more about this video series


15775030_1831975403749187_7131353409392698274_o


Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In recovery herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. Jennifer works with clients in person and via Skype. She also teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia and is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. She leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes and teaches weekly flow yoga classes. Jennifer contributes regularly to eating disorder and body image blogs and the YogaLiving Magazine. Website

Posted on 1 Comment

Tree pose with your teenager who has eating disorders to build connection, by Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, RYT

One challenge for adolescents recovering from an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder is even wanting to be in their bodies in the first place. I say this with complete and sincere understanding of how intolerable it can be to live in the body. I know the depth of self-loathing and disgust. I also know the fatal lengths one will go to shrink, hide, numb, and escape existing in their body. I’ve been there.

Yoga helped me experience my body as a source of strength rather than a heavy burden to endure. By learning how to breathe deeply, stay present, and open my mind to possibilities versus limitations, yoga showed me how to be present to my thoughts about my body and challenge them in real time. I had a choice: hate myself or learn how to use my body to ground my mind and fill up with a kinder feeling than disgust.

No doubt, this is hard work. It takes vigilance and diligence. But, I’ve seen in myself and my yoga therapy clients that small shifts are very possible when we take a risk and call on our bodies to cultivate empowerment and centeredness.

I think it’s a great idea to try some basic yoga as a family or one-on-one with your child who has an eating disorder, and tree pose is a great way to start. Tree pose improves balance and coordination while inviting calm and steadiness. As a balancing pose, tree may help your child learn to respond to feeling in balance and off balance.

Here is a video showing how to do tree pose:

My clients have taught me some creative ways to use their bodies in tree pose to calm spinning and obsessive thoughts and cultivate centeredness. Here are a few variations you can also try.

Two Feet for Grounding

Take tree pose with one foot on the floor and the other resting as a kickstand at your ankle or placed above or below your knee (just now next to your knee joint to stay safe in the pose). Ground your standing foot into the floor by pressing firmly down through the four corners of your feet. Allow all your toes to relax instead of grip. Just as firmly, press your other foot into your leg, being mindful not to force or push too hard. By rooting with both feet, your tree pose will grow taller. You also send a message to your mind that you are steady, focused, and centered. You may hold your hands in prayer at your heart, open your arms by your sides, or reach them above your head. Hold this pose for as many breaths as is comfortable and then switch sides. And if you fall out, no big deal. You can choose to switch to the other side or continue the same side.

Seated Tree

Sit upright. Begin with both feel on the floor. Pause and notice that your feet are grounded on the floor even though your mind feels like the complete opposite. Draw one foot up to any part of your leg. And, like we did above, use both of your feet for grounding. Press into the floor and your leg and allow your mind to rest on the sensations in both feet. Notice your breathing, and purposefully bring it to a steady natural rhythm and you hold the grounded sensation in your body through your feet. You can bring your hands into the mix by resting them on your lap or on the table, creating four points of groundedness.

Tree on a yoga block

Grab a yoga block and begin standing with both feet on the block. Once you feel steady, take tree pose. Start with your foot resting against your ankle as a kickstand and notice your balance. If you feel steady, you might explore drawing your foot above or below your knee. Test out your balance. Find that place where you can be centered in the pose to allow your mind a few purposeful moments to rest. You may hold your hands in prayer at your heart, open your arms by your sides, or reach them above your head. Hold this pose for as many breaths as is comfortable and then switch sides. And if you fall out, no big deal. You can choose to switch to the other side or continue the same side.

Partner tree variation

Stand side to side with your tree pose partner, facing the same way, about 1 to 2 feet from each another. Hold hands of your inside arms and bring the foot of your outside legs into tree. Holding hands, reach your arms up (the outside arms too). Have fun finding the steady point for the both of you and explore how using each other for support helps to find balance in the pose. Hold for a 5 breaths or so and then switch sides.

The idea is to take a playful attitude when practicing yoga with your child. You may be surprised how soothing it can be for your child to move his or her body in a new way and use the body to calm the mind. It’s in those moments of calm that we can work together to catch glimpses of new perspectives and begin to form a new relationship with our bodies.


screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-9-35-39-am

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In recovery herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. Jennifer works with clients in person and via Skype. She also teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia and is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. She leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes and teaches weekly flow yoga classes. Jennifer contributes regularly to eating disorder and body image blogs and the YogaLiving Magazine. Website

Posted on Leave a comment

3 Simple Ways for Families to Get Grounded at Mealtime By Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, RYT-500

Meal time can be a highly charged time for parents who have a child with an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. The parents, the child with the disorder, and the siblings and other family members may all feel high levels of tension, angst, unhappiness, and dread.

Parents and caregivers may feel like they are walking on eggshells, desperately afraid to include an ingredient or say something that will set off an argument or cause their loved one to withdraw. They worry:

  • Will he/she eat?
  • Will this meal be tense or relaxed?
  • How will I help him/her through it without my fears or frustration showing?
  • Will he/she keep the food down?
  • What will be the aftermath of this meal, and how will I handle it?

At the same time, the individual in recovery may be anxious before the meal even begins. In my early recovery days, the smell of food cooking would instantly set off a barrage of fears and worries such as:

  • Can I do this without freaking out?
  • Will I gain weight?
  • Do I have to eat all of it?
  • How can I act normal when I feel so scared?
  • Will I let my parents down again?

As for other family members, they may feel annoyance, jealousy, anger, fear, and so many other feelings that deserve to be honored as well. They may act out either towards the person who has the eating disorder or towards others at the table in an attempt to process their feelings.

If any part of what I am describing is a familiar scene in your home it may help to use some simple poses to defuse anxious energy before coming together to eat. They can be done alone or together.

These activities, when done mindfully, can help everyone calm their nervous systems and arrive at the table in a more relaxed state of body and mind.

Prayer hands

Firmly press your hands together and bring your awareness to the feeling of palm into palm, fingertips into fingertips. Take a few moments to stay focused on the feeling of your hands pressing into one another as you take 10 deep breaths in and out. Count the breaths to help deepen your focus and detach from stressful worries about the impending meal.

Stay with this hand position and your breath for as long as you need, and remember that you can return to it again during and after the meal as many times as is helpful to ground again.

Thumb to finger counts

Closeup of woman's hands meditating indoorsSit or stand still in a comfortable position. Close your eyes if you prefer. With one or both hands, connect your thumb to your index finger. Slowly tap your thumb one at a time to each finger. Bring all your concentration to this simple action and repeat “I am calm” (or another affirmation that resonates with you) as you move from finger to finger and repeat several times.

You can vary the speed of this exercises from slow to fast, depending on what helps you relax most. I like to do this before a meal, but it is also helpful to do during a meal under the table with the hand that’s not holding a utensil. The concentration it takes to do this exercise will help shift your mind away from thoughts and emotions that pull you off your center.

Palm press

grounding-mealMany of us carry tension in our hands without even realizing it. We hold our hands as fists, subconsciously prepared to fight. We might even hold such tight fists that we dig our nails into our palms. All that clenching travels up our arms and into our necks, shoulders, and upper back, causing muscle pain and tightness.

Take a few moments before a meal to physically relax your hands and upper body. Open your hands, spread your fingers, and firmly (but not forcefully) place your hands against something solid, like a wall or table. Take several deep breaths and purposefully relax your shoulders, neck, jaw, and eyes.

Hold this simple connection between your hands and a solid structure until you feel grounded and more relaxed than when you started this exercise. You can repeat this at the table during the meal as you feel tension creep into your shoulders and neck and hands. You can also press your hands into a family member’s or someone you trust and take several grounding breaths together.

In my personal recovery experience and professional experience as a yoga therapist, the meal experience is more positive when we bring less emotional weight with us to the table. I intimately know that all family members’ feelings are well founded. I also understand that these exercises won’t take away all the agitation that one may feel. They will, however, help focus that intensely frenetic emotional energy by calming your mind, easing muscle tension, and creating a mindful pause to center and ground yourself before the meal starts.

You can do them on your own or as a family. And, you may need to do one or all of them multiple times to get through a meal. That’s OK, I promise. So much of making this process palatable is learning simple ways to ground our minds and bodies when panic hits so that we aren’t overcome with frustration and fear.

These simple grounding exercises will help everyone pause, get a grip, and then come together from a place of calm and centeredness.


screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-9-35-39-amJennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In recovery herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. Jennifer works with clients in person and via Skype. She also teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia and is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. She leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes and teaches weekly flow yoga classes. Jennifer contributes regularly to eating disorder and body image blogs and the YogaLiving Magazine. Website