Last Friday I was invited to visit the Upstate New York Eating Disorder Service (The Nutrition Clinic) in Elmira, NY. Accompanied by Mary Ellen Clausen, the founder of Ophelia's Place, we drove the 2 hours to Elmira on a chilly upstate morning, chatting the whole way about life, business, and all things Syracuse. The time with Mary Ellen was reason enough to take the trip-she shared many of her experiences running Ophelia's Place and Cafe at 407, and as I am just 6 months into running Syracuse Yoga with still so much to learn, I took in every word. Mary Ellen is a wonderful soul with great advice. I am lucky to know her, and Syracuse is so lucky that she has made Ophelia's Place her life's work.
I am a HUGE fan of Ophelia's Place, Cafe at 407, and Circles of Change. I am a proud Movement Warrior, having taken the pledge to change the conversation and culture around body image, health and beauty. I truly believe Yoga is for Everybody and EveryBODY. The work done at Ophelia's Place changes lives, and no one is turned away if they need help. Want to learn more? You can take the Circles of Change pledge here and learn more about Ophelia's Place here.
Eating disorders and disordered eating are prevalent in the fitness community (and really every community). To better serve my Syracuse Yoga community, I wanted to learn more about how Ophelia's Place helps people. Mary Ellen invited me to Elmira to meet Carolyn Hodges Chaffee, MSRDN, CEDRD, who opened The Nutrition Clinic over two decades ago. Recognizing the need for more intensive treatment and regional step-down programs, she also opened the Sol Stone Center, a partial hospitalization program in Elmira, and added intensive outpatient programs in Syracuse (the partnership with Ophelia's Place), Ithaca, and Binghamton. The Upstate New York Eating Disorder Service now serves more than 400 patients a year.
Carolyn conducts state-of-the-art metabolic testing and body composition analysis to evaluate the nutritional status of each individual. This helps guide treatment recommendations, and the testing helps assess how individuals respond to treatment.
I went through the metabolic testing and the body composition analysis-both tests took under 30 minutes to complete. What I learned about my own health and wellness was eye opening.
Here I am promoting self care to others through Yoga, partnering with students on their Yoga journeys, and I found out I am taking in about 1000 less calories a day than I should, causing my body to be catabolic and hypometabolic. What does that mean? From the internet: A catabolic state is a condition that is mainly caused by excessive training coupled with a lack of adequate nutrition, especially protein. It results in numerous undesirable side effects in the body, such as extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and sleeplessness. Read about being hypometabolic here. Also, I was about half a liter low on fluids. So not only am I not eating enough, I am also not drinking enough water. Yikes. Unconscious disordered eating. I didn't mean to have this happen to me, but it happened.
I've been so busy running Syracuse Yoga and teaching upwards of 20 Yoga classes a week that I haven't been practicing enough self care. I'm not talking I haven't had enough bubble baths or facials (although more of those would be great!). Sadly, I haven't had enough fuel. Food. Nourishment. Now I get why I've been so tired all the time, or there are days when my muscles ache in an unfamiliar way, and those restless nights of sleep, and the irritability/brain fog. I see why my doctor keeps ordering thyroid tests. I get it now. I first felt embarrassed. I mean, I am a scientist, the daughter of a chef. I should know how to eat, right? How can I take care of others when I am not taking care of myself?
We develop bad habits-eating on the run, grabbing whatever is available. Meal time for me has dwindled to a 5 min shoveling session-get it in quick because there is too much to do! There's no time, things have to get done! I feel compelled to share this experience with you all, mainly because I think I'm not alone. This culture of busy, this putting ourselves last. Maybe you do it too? This working so hard I "forgot to eat lunch" thing. It's not a badge of honor to eat less.
The part that really hits home for me is how connected my nutrition is to my overall wellness. Without the right fuel, or enough fuel, a bad cycle starts to form. 95% of our seratonin is in the gut. If you don't ingest the right fuel, seratonin drops, affecting mood. There is an effect on your immune system too-if you don't have the right fuel and your body starts to get run down, that's when you get sick. Menstrual Cycles can be affected. Maybe you are stuck in this cycle too.
This metabolic testing was so eye opening for me, and I see how beneficial it is for people that have eating disorders/disordered eating. Once diagnosed and treatment begins, these tests can help determine if the patient's health is improving. Here's the thing-most of the time we can't tell on the outside if people have an eating disorder. People may look totally healthy, or even what we might call overweight by society's standards, or totally fit with abs of steel, or thin...these tests show what is on the inside, and this information is so valuable for overall wellness.
Knowledge is power. Now that I know what is happening in my body, it's time to take action. Food prep on the weekends is critical for me to ensure I have food to eat on busy days at the studio. Planning meals ahead of time and grocery shopping have to become non negotiables on my to do list. I have been given permission to eat more (the data supports it!), which is a totally foreign concept for me.
Now that I have done the initial testing, I can make an appointment periodically at Ophelia's Place to do follow up body composition testing to see if I am improving or not.
Want to support Ophelia's Place? Help them reach their year end goal with a donation. Every little bit helps. I donated this morning!
Thank you again to Mary Ellen Clausen and Ophelia's Place. You gave me the greatest gift this holiday season-the gift of awareness and health. I will be forever grateful and will continue to support Ophelia's Place and Cafe at 407 as a Warrior of Change!!!