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Eating Disorder Recovery Roundtable: Breathe’s Food Philosophy

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September 7, 2017 || Breathe founder Brad Lamm sits down with CEO Deb Hughes and Director of Nutritional Services, Ashley Lytwyn to discuss Breathe’s Eating Disorder unit’s Food Philosophy. Full transcript from roundtable below or CLICK HERE to download the audio version. Interview has been edited for clarity.

BRAD: Hi there, it’s Brad Lamm the founder of Breathe Life Healing Center. I have here with me today, industry veteran Deb Hughes who is also my partner and CEO of Breathe. She is well-known for creating the Rosewood System of eating disorder treatment. Also, our director of nutritional services at Breathe, Ashley Lytwyn. So, I wanted to just jump in. You know their treatment within their programming, and having a more integrative approach to treating the binge eater, which I think is great.

But I think it’s going to take a long time for the change to really occur. I mean I look at what’s changed over the last 15-20 years. It’s been very small changes. But there are more ED treatment, more treatment available for people so I do have hope that it will continue to grow and bring in new ideas for how we’re going to treat every person that has an eating disorder whether it’s anorexia, or bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

Adding a trauma-informed lens will continue to serve clients.

ASHLEY: Like Deb just said, I see these tiny little baby steps being made. I mean I was even visiting the ranch a few weeks ago and the director of nutrition over there Helen, she was discussing with me how they are opening up a small room sort of gym-like facility so that they can provide that support for a client. So when I’m discussing these controversial topics in the field it’s you know I always preface that with you know what guys we don’t, there is no one answer. We’re working together to provide the best tools for the clients, but there is no one answer. We’re working together to provide the best tools for the clients. But there’s no right a wrong way to do this. But let’s explore ideas. Let’s find what’s working for you let’s find what’s working for me and let’s just listen to what another.

BRAD: What do you think would go then, to both of you, what do you think the obstacles are to progress in this field?

ASHLEY: I think the biggest one right now. I got a lot of questions about you know concurrently treating anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating together but under the under the idea of trauma-informed treatment. We know that these are symptoms of an underlying issue and when we’re working therapeutically with all of the clients it makes a lot of sense to me that we can really we can have the clients relate to one another regardless of if they have different eating disorders. You know no two people with the same diagnosis even appeared the same or have the same life come from the same background. So we need to know that even if they have completely different diagnoses we can all heal in a community and we can all do that together.

BRAD: Ashley how do you describe Breathe Life Healing Center’s Food Philosophy? Beyond a notion of minimally processed and some of our food harvested fresh from the biodynamic farm on Campus?

ASHLEY: We focus on a whole real food concept being incorporated in our food. We have two extremely strong chefs on our team, and they do use food from our biodynamic garden. They’re always on the forefront of using local and organic when possible. We couple that with nutrition education and Hands-on Nutrition to have the client really invested in the food process.

So alongside that we have fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, lean protein carbohydrates of all sorts. We have dessert twice a week and we dive into what food preferences are, versus what is a fear food for clients, and we do extensive analyses on that. So we give, the voice back to the client; saying “Hey let’s see what your eating disorder?” versus what your long-term sustainable food plan will look like.

We have a structured mindful eating program where we have three meals, three snacks all balanced meals that are individually created for each and every client.

BRAD: Could you explain that notion, you know I know some people will see on a brochure or the website this words: Hands-on Nutrition. What does that mean to you as it relates to ED treatment?

ASHLEY: Hands-on Nutrition is an absolute pinnacle of our program. I used to work in schools, and they are extremely, extremely picky and until they have their hands in it and really whether it was growing made and using mint water or whether it was you know making a salad they wouldn’t try and accept new foods. So when we have Hands on Nutrition at Breathe, that’s exactly what we’re doing. It’s like getting your hands dirty, getting yourself into that system.

A lot of clients come to us, they don’t cook at home. They don’t have a relationship with eating in the home. In fact, most of their life is eating on the road or eating at work or eating in the car. We dissect those behaviors to help them understand what, and how having a relationship with food can absolutely transform their life. So we go through basic life skills, we go through culinary skills, we have a recipe booklet, we have plating and portioning we have Mindful Eating. We visit grocery stores, we have to eat at restaurants to really give that holistic approach to again deepening that relationship to food and oneself.

BRAD: So we know we know that when you treat a crystal meth addict you’ll be advocating for a life of abstinence. Meaning they’re not going to learn how to moderate and be successful crystal meth user. In the world of Eating Disorder treatment, it’s not that rigid system. What is Breathe’s approach to making peace with the process of eating, and ED clinical groups

ASHLEY: Well if someone is stating “I will never eat sugar again!” first and foremost I’m going to listen to that person and, want to understand what their experience has been and where that statement is coming from.

At Breathe we don’t force desserts or force types of food – if the client is not ready for it. It’s really walking alongside the person and really making a clinical judgment as to when best, if ever, to expose that person to the food regardless of what it is.

BRAD: So the exposure therapy around certain things is not one size fits all.


BRAD: It’s a patient/client assessment. So I appreciate your time today as you know I’m in New York you’re you’re in West Hollywood. Ashley, Deb thanks for taking time today.

DEB & ASHLEY: Thank you so much, Brad.

BRAD: I’ll see you at the clinic. Goodbye.

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