Auburn alum is committed to helping others overcome eating disorders through nutritional therapy

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Helping others became the life mission of Auburn University alumnus Kerry McCarthy.

2012 graduate is making a difference in her Fort Lauderdale, Fla., community with Nutrition Therapy and Wellness Group Namaste fed. McCarthy, who earned a degree in nutrition and dietetics at Auburn’s College of Humanities, is dedicated to helping people overcome eating disorders to find balance and happiness in their lives.

Through Namaste Nourished, McCarthy and her colleagues offer nutritional therapy and body image work to those in need. Whether it’s anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, negative body image, or a host of other disorders, McCarthy’s group practice helps individuals through their personal battles find a way forward. towards positive mental and physical health.

For McCarthy, a registered dietitian for eating disorders, her career is a labor of love inspired by the realization that millions of Americans struggle with eating disorders of all kinds.

“It’s a lot more common than people think,” said McCarthy, a registered dietitian and nutritionist. “Food is so essential to connecting with others, and when you see people being able to take control back, it’s so cool. other areas of their life.

Namaste Nourished works with therapists, psychologists, treatment centers and outreach professionals in a comprehensive approach to treatment. By combining nutrition and wellness therapy with mental health treatment, McCarthy and her associates can help clients address their eating issues from multiple angles.

“With eating disorders, it’s very multidisciplinary, and there’s a lot of collaboration in treating eating disorders,” said McCarthy, who has worked hard to increase her knowledge in mental health therapy. through continuing education sessions and partnerships with therapists. “When we do this work, we are literally changing the structure of someone’s brain. We’re creating new neural patterns and pathways in the brain, and just knowing you’re helping someone do that is really nice. It creates that lasting change.

“We have a team, and the biggest players on the team will always be the dietitians and the therapists. These may be licensed clinical social workers, licensed mental health counselors or psychologists. We are the main trio, and depending on the client’s situation, they could possibly have a psychiatrist or doctor involved and family support.

The McCarthy team offers tailored treatment plans that are specific to the individual since everyone has different needs, strengths, weaknesses and goals for their recovery.

“Everyone’s treatment is so different, because everyone’s story is so different,” McCarthy said. “There are so many different reasons we eat, and that’s something I talk about with my clients. It’s so layered, and we’re looking at whether the disorder happened because of trauma, or whether it happened because of unnecessary language and behaviors around food in their household or whether they have a genetic component that simply causes the eating disorder. The care and treatment plan becomes so individualized.

Find your passion project

After graduating from Auburn, McCarthy interned with Atlanta-area sports dietitian Page Love and learned a lot about eating disorders.

“When I was interning at Page, it sparked a personal interest in me. I really saw with my own eyes how much people with eating disorders suffer,” she said. “I gave different areas of the field a chance when I was on internship, but the counseling aspect of eating disorders struck me differently.

“Since you are a key part of a person’s treatment as a dietitian, this is not always the case for dietitians in other areas of the field. To play such an important role in someone’s recovery, both physically and emotionally, is truly enjoyable and rewarding.

Reconnect to the body

One of the main themes that Namaste Nourished insists on is changing the dialogue about how food and diets are perceived by their customers. Rather than labeling foods a certain way or focusing on the deprivation tactics common to most diets, McCarthy and his partners work to shift the mindset of their customers to a more positive place.

“Our society likes to be very black and white or all or nothing about things, and it doesn’t have to be that way,” McCarthy said. “So even when I talk to people who don’t have eating disorders, my food philosophy doesn’t change. If we’re talking about creating a healthier lifestyle, it’s better to talk about how I can get more fruits and vegetables, more fiber, or more water into my diet than to say, “What should I eliminate?

“We don’t like having things taken away from us, because it doesn’t do us any good. So if we talk about what we can add, it feels a lot better, and I think it hits the brain a little differently. Additionally, the foods that people tend to try to eliminate are usually foods that bring them joy, which is valuable for our emotional well-being.

This shift in mindset can help a person reconnect their brain and body, paving the way to better mental and physical health.

“In our society, we praise the bustle and people who are so busy that they say, ‘Oh, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t eaten anything all day.’ And for some reason we’re praising that for being a good thing, it’s actually not a good thing, and you’re probably disconnected from your body and maybe the work you’ve been doing all day could have be done much more efficiently if you had eaten something.

“Even dieting – and I mean fad diets – is a disconnect with the body. It’s disordered eating habits, and then you have eating disorders which is a mental health diagnosis where there’s a much more ingrained factor other than just manipulating food to change the body.

McCarthy also said that labeling foods as “good” or “bad” should be avoided.

“We’re starting to talk about why it’s important to drop the labels where we say, ‘It’s a good food. It is bad food. It’s clean. It’s unhealthy,” she said. “What it does is it sets up a lot of mental gymnastics in our heads, and it forms this disconnect from the body. I like to talk about the ‘all foods are fine’ philosophy.

“Second, what we want to try to do is create a sort of consistent food pattern. The client and I will talk about different meals and dig a little deeper into the science and explain how combining certain types of food is going to be helpful. to regulate blood sugar and hunger.

Change dialogs

Changing the dialogue and mindset can help reverse the negative patterns that are at the heart of eating disorders. This can cause a person to regulate their body, an achievement that can lead to better outcomes with mental health professionals.

“It gives the therapist a chance to have someone who is nurtured and has a nurtured brain that can begin therapeutic work,” McCarthy said. “We set certain goals around food, challenge certain belief systems, certain fears. So even starting to invite those signals back and connecting to those signals is positive work that we are doing.

“For people who have very negative feelings about their bodies, connecting to the body can feel very scary. So we really need to have that solid rapport and build some trust before we even make any changes to their food.

Namaste Nourished also works with clients who seek to make a positive and proactive life change by engaging in a healthier relationship with food.

“Usually when we hear that someone wants to make lifestyle changes, it means they want to lose weight,” McCarthy said. “When I talk to people who have this as their goal, I tell them that I would never intentionally put anyone on a weight loss plan because studies show it’s not a lasting goal to achieve. I I’ll say we’re going to focus on their behaviors, and one of three things will happen: either they’ll gain weight, or they’ll lose weight, or their weight will stay the same.

“Whatever happens, it won’t be because we try to change their weight. We try to focus on behaviors and behavior change. For some reason, we always give weight loss credit to someone improving their health, when in reality, it’s the behavioral changes they’ve made. These are the things that deserve the applause, not the weight loss. »

McCarthy – who celebrated the birth of her first child, Ainsley, with her husband, Randy, on December 2 – said the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the prevalence of eating disorders. This made his work more important than ever.

“We’ve definitely seen a big increase in the onset of eating disorders or someone relapsing into their eating disorder because of the pandemic,” McCarthy said. “Throughout this difficult time, it has been fun to help people change their coping skills and recover.”

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