Tennie McCarty is the founder and CEO of Shades of Hope Treatment Center in Buffalo Gap, Texas, a nationally-acclaimed center specializing in the treatment of eating disorders and other co-occurring addictions.
Tennie brings over thirty years of combined professional and personal insight to the treatment of addictive diseases. Growing up in a home of addiction, abuse and dysfunction, she knew first-hand how eating disorders, sex, and alcohol and drug abuse can become coping mechanisms of survival.
After realizing that her husband was an alcoholic, she became a therapist and was one of the first women in Texas to be certified as a licensed chemical dependency counselor. Read on for a Q&A session with Tennie about Shades of Hope and her tough-love treatment style.
Shades of Hope is an all-addiction treatment center specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. Throughout its twenty-five years of existence, the center has become a leader in treating food as an addiction and treating those with eating disorders and other addictive behaviors (drug, alcohol, self-harm, sex/love, etc.) simultaneously. Shades is committed to treating the totality of the client and their family.
It has always been the philosophy at Shades that eating disorders respond to addiction treatment that is traditional for chemical dependencies. Food, sex, love, and self-harm are often used as mechanisms to control and/or ease the pain of life. We believe that addicts all fall under the same umbrella, and our work is to provide avenues for clients to delve deep within and confront not only the outward behaviors of addiction, but also the secrets, pain, self-loathing, and blame that lie beneath.
The 42-day program is the first phase of treatment - Intensive Residential Program (IRT). It is followed by Transitional and Halfway House. The IRT phase lasts 42 days in order to:
-allow the client to really get treatment on all levels; physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally
-give sufficient time to identify the core issues, work through the anger and shame
-prepare for Family Week (normally the 5th week of treatment)
-have a week after Family Week to process through what happened and to concretely put into motion the agreed-upon aftercare...going to transitional living at Shades of Hope or somewhere else, returning home, returning to school/jobs, etc.
[Meal plans are based on the] American Dietetic Association exchange system. Practicing eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack.
In reference to smoking/drinking: it has never made sense to Shades of Hope, an all-addiction facility, to allow individuals to participate in addictions. It has been that way since Shades opened its doors. Smoking/nicotine is an addiction; caffeine is an addiction.
On the topic of outside reading materials such as magazines, books and television, many [people] use those as escapes. [They] read a good book and [aren't] thinking about what is going on within. While in Intensive Residential Treatment, we want all the feelings - the anger, the anxiety, etc. of life to come up an "slap the client in the face." We want the mask, whatever it is, [that] the client wears to be ripped away and the anger within to come up. We call [this] "the client is showing up."
1. Hiding food. If they are hiding food, not eating in front of others, throwing it away, this is a sign they are trying to hide their use of food and signals an issue.
2. Trips to the bathroom. If someone immediately goes to the bathroom following every meal, this is a sign of bulimia.
3. Rituals with food. If they cut up their food in very tiny bites, this is something often seen in anorexic patients.
4. Scabs on knuckles and dry skin around the mouth. This is a sign of constant purging.
5. They can't stop their habits. If someone cannot stop from over-serving themselves, from eating another helping, from purging, from lying about their food use, this is a symptom of an eating disorder.
Shades of Hope believes everyone has the right to a balanced, good life without the burden of addiction. Recovery starts with the recognition of one's understanding [that they are] powerless over the addiction, food or drug, [and] that life has become unmanageable.
Treatment is just the beginning of a life-long journey as one begins to learn to engage in life with new "tools" with different attitudes. The initial 42 days is just the unmasking, understanding, and the beginning of hope if one is open to the painful process of drilling down to the core [to unearth their] secrets, anger and pain.
When one realizes it is about a day-by-day, moment-by-moment commitment to change old patterns [then they begin the] process of a life-long journey. It is about practice, reaching out, [and] being aware of feelings, thoughts, etc.
1. Be conscious of what you eat: eating disorder patients often go on auto-pilot and consume food while watching TV, driving, working and generally not paying attention to what they are putting in their bodies. Pay attention.
2. Eat with intention: know that you need food for nutrients and to live a healthy fulfilled life. Eat those foods that help you accomplish that and allow your body to work the way it is supposed to.
3. Maintain a healthy meal plan: if you know ahead of time what you need to purchase at the market, you will make smart choices and focus on fresh foods. If you know what you are going to eat for your meals, you are less likely to grab something unhealthy.
4. Eat by the clock: recovering food addicts should eat every 3.5 - 4 hours during the day in moderation, just as they would take medication on a regular schedule.
5. Recovery is not a diet: food addicts will be in recovery the rest of their lives. Recovery is a way of life.