Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Fiaedp, FADA, FAND
Co-author of Intuitive Eating
1. What drew you to the field of eating disorder treatment? Why?
In 1981, when I was doing my training to become a Registered Dietitian at a clinic affiliated with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, I was supervised by a nutritionist who was also affiliated with the Adolescent Eating Disorder Clinic at UCLA.
I knew that there was something drawing me to the field of eating disorders, and when I mentioned that to her, she invited me to attend the team meetings for this clinic after I became registered as a dietitian.
Only after I had spent two years attending these meetings and learning more and more about the treatment of eating disorders, did I finally acknowledge that I, myself, had had an eating disorder. Once I was finally able to understand my own personal involvement, I became committed to helping people heal from their disorders, as I had been able to heal myself.
2. What keeps you in this work, day after day?
Everyday I observe the miracle of clients freeing themselves from the obsessive focus, which binds them to their eating disorders. I see them move closer and closer to the place of freedom and safety they feel in their relationship with food and body.
Knowing that I am walking this healing path with them gives me the motivation to keep doing this valuable work every day of my working life. The meaning and purpose that come with this work are as fundamental to me as is breathing.
3. What is your philosophy on eating disorder treatment?
As the co-author of Intuitive Eating, I am absolutely convinced that the most effective route to healing eating disorders is through the Intuitive Eating principles. I help people find satisfaction in their eating experiences and help them learn to eat slowly, mindfully, and savor their food.
When they are driven to eat emotionally, I encourage them to find what it really is that they truly need instead of food, and help them to have an acceptance of their normal body size and shape, as well as helping them to use their bodies to give them the joy of movement. Most importantly, I help them recognize that all foods are emotionally equivalent, which erases the judgment and shame they feel about eating previously fear-based foods, as well as the feelings of deprivation that have come with restriction.
Once they have made complete peace with food by challenging the distorted myths they’ve maintained about food, they find a freedom in eating that virtually eliminates their eating disorder behaviors. They are finally able to trust their bodies to tell them what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. Only they own this personal knowledge, and with that acceptance they become symptom free.
4. What tools would you like your participants to gain while working with you?
Clients build a toolbox which they fill while doing this work. Some of the tools, which fill the tool box include the following:
- The ability to find the most satisfaction they can in the foods they choose and in their eating environment.
- Learning to eat slowly, so that they can savor their food and recognize when they are comfortably full.
- Becoming astute at understanding how to begin eating when moderately hunger.
- Becoming aware of their emotions and learning to separate emotional cues for eating from physical cues.
- If they are not hungry but have the urge to eat, learning to ask what it is that they really need, since the body does not need food at that time.
- Becoming skilled at finding the appropriate coping mechanism to deal with the emotion that is felt.
- Learning to nourish and nurture themselves with nutritious food and comforting experiences. At the same time, learning to allow themselves, without judgment, to eat foods, which they enjoy simply because of their flavor although not being high in nutritional value. These foods are called “play foods”. Clients ultimately find an appropriate balance between the more nutritious foods and the play foods.
- Practicing the tool of enjoying movement for movement’s sake, rather than thinking of it as exercise for the purpose of weight loss or maintenance.
- Learning to prepare for their eating needs by purchasing and keeping food available in the home, by preparing it to their tastes, and by taking food with them when they’re out.
- Visualization practices on how they will handle various eating experiences so that they are comfortable to participate in any social setting that includes food.
5. What do you envision the future of eating disorder treatment to be like?
My deepest hope is that all practitioners and eating disorder treatment programs will learn to value the promise that Intuitive Eating holds in helping their patients attain full healing from their eating disorders.
I am concerned that there remains a good deal of treatment which, while helping to heal the physical symptoms and health of the patient, unfortunately leaves him or her with the incessant mental noise which speaks the language of fear about eating. I have worked with many clients who have been symptom free for a number of years, but who still may weigh and measure their food, and/or count calories, carbohydrate or fat grams, exchanges, etc. and who are afraid to go off their meal plans.
They have not yet truly learned how to trust themselves to know how to eat. After they have done the Intuitive Eating work, they are finally free of fear and fully healed from their eating disorders.