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About Abigail Natenshon
Over 45 Years of Eating Disorder Specialty Practice
 

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New Therapy groups forming for Adults and Adolescents
 
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"Eating disorders are on the rise in Jewish communities" on WBEZ 91.5
 
 
Conferences, Resources and Seminars Offered to Schools, Educators and Parents


Abigail Natenshon is a certified elementary and middle school teacher as well as a psychotherapist by training. She provides seminars, tutorials and experiential workshops for teachers, educators, school counselors, athletic coaches, as well as students and parents about recognizing and healing clinical eating disorders.


Beyond eating and weight control, eating disorders represent a way of life. Often undisclosed, their diagnosis is typically first revealed in schools through peer reporting or through a child’s growing inability to concentrate and learn. By default, school social workers become diagnosticians and ground floor activists, working with children and parents to educate and counsel, as well as initiate the healing process.  School personnel transition and integrate children back into classes after extended hospitalizations or residential stays, becoming involved as members of the treatment and recovery team. Schools can also be instrumental in eating disorder prevention.

Teachers, mental health workers and coaches…learn what eating disorders are about, how they affect their students’ capacity to learn, and how to intervene effectively to nip these problems in the bud before they take hold and take lives.  School personnel will also learn to become valued student advocates as part of the eating disorder recovery team.

 

FULL DAY TRAINING WORKSHOPS would include:

  • Power-point keynote address
  • Additional Teaching workshops or Breakout groups for students and/or parents wanting to share similar personal experiences
  • Multi-family group therapy sessions, facilitated by Abigail Natenshon. Ninety minute multi-family groups would provide self-selected workshop participants the opportunity to experience a more profound personal sense of community, self-awareness, and positive change. Participants choosing not to become actively involved in the group therapy experience enjoy the option to learn more about themselves, recovery, and the therapy process by observing the therapy group in process through a "fishbowl" format.
  • Workshop participants might be offered the unique opportunity to experience body awareness and body image transformation through an experiential session featuring the Feldenkrais Method. This workshop segment would introduce this potent adjunct treatment technique that has been proven to enhance personal self-awareness, self-perception, and experiential problem-solving in eating disorder recovery. This Awareness through Movement@ workshop can be enjoyed by participants while seating or standing at their seats.

 

HALF DAY TRAINING WORKSHOPS would include:

  • Power-point keynote address

Optional:

  • A teaching workshop.
  • A multi-family group therapy session, facilitated by Abigail Natenshon. Ninety minute multi-family groups would provide self-selected workshop participants the opportunity to experience a more profound personal sense of community, self-awareness, and positive change. Participants choosing not to become actively involved in the group therapy experience enjoy the option to learn more about themselves, recovery, and the therapy process by observing the therapy group in process through a "fishbowl" format.
  • Breakout consultation groups for families wanting to share similar personal experiences and discussion.
  • Workshop participants might enjoy the unique opportunity to experience body awareness and body image transformation through an experiential session featuring the Feldenkrais Method. This workshop segment would introduce this potent adjunct treatment technique that has been proven to enhance personal self-awareness, self-perception, and problem-solving in eating disorder recovery. This Awareness through Movement@ workshop can be enjoyed by participants while seating or standing at their seats.





Workshop Options for School Educators, Counselors and Coaches

Lessons That Save Lives: Educators as Advocates for Eating Disorder Recovery

86 percent of eating disorders occur in children under the age of twenty. There is a far greater likelihood that early warning signs of these secretive diseases will appear in school and at home before they do in the doctor's or therapist's office.  It is critical that school professionals understand that eating disorders are less about food and more about how a student attempts to confront and respond to stress, anxiety and the trials of daily living.  The earliest warning signs may be seen in a student's affect, thinking, mood, capacity to learn, and work ethic - even before the disease begins to take its toll in physical appearance. Recognizing and defining early disease are the first steps in prevention and healing. Opportunities for prevention around athletic training and sporting events are particularly critical.

  

 Creating Recovery Alliances through the Schools: Involving Parents in Constructive Ways

Educators are responsible for educating parents, of both healthy and eating disordered children, so that they can in turn be responsible for mentoring their child’s continuing health, or recovery. This workshop explores the benefits of promoting appropriate, empowered and proactive parenting during a child’s eating disorder recovery, even while addressing the challenges of parenting and educating healthy children.  The latter also need to be made to understand and accept behaviors, attitudes and social withdrawal that they see in their eating disorder afflicted or recovering classmates.




Lectures for Parents and PTA's

 

Eating disorders in the young child: What they mean for parent and child and what they require for cure

Four and five year olds who exhibit food fears, food refusal, weight-related rituals, or compulsive eating habits are most likely not suffering from clinical eating disorders, but from anxiety, confusion about what healthy eating is, and a temperament and genetically determined susceptibility to developing a clinical eating disorder in years to come. The sooner parents recognize, understand, and effectively respond to early signs of eating dysfunction, the better the child’s chances to avoid the lethal consequences of clinical disease and resolve the underlying emotional issues that drive them.

 

The Obscure “Eating” Disorders: Feeding Disorders and Picky Eating in Infants and Young Children


Picky eating and food refusal in young children is typically not a matter of food preference, a passing stage, a bid for attention or a demonstration of attempts to gain power and control. Feeding problems are real; they are hard-wired and neurological. In all too many case, because they do not typically affect a child’s growth pattern, they are not identified by pediatricians as being a cause for concern. Typically the result of sensory integration disorders or other neurological syndromes, their far-reaching effects are nutritional, interpersonal, behavioral and developmental, altering the sense of self and self-esteem, family relations, sociability, as well as academic and professional performance. Eating problems, particularly those that underlie more pervasive neurological problems, need to be recognized early and treated effectively while the brain is most malleable. A knowledgeable and proactive response sets the stage for the prevention of clinical eating disorders later in life.

Click here for more information.




Lectures about Children, Teens and Young Adults

Body Image Concerns: A New Face on Childhood Fears

The true indicator of a healthy body image is the child’s sense of security, confidence and well-being - not her ability to fit into size 2 jeans.  It has been reported that 80% of girls in grades three through six have bad feelings about their bodies, an issue diverting attention from school work and friendships; 25% of first grade girls have already been on diets.

Body size acceptance is related to self-esteem and emotional health; combating body image fears fortifies a child’s healthy connection to a secure sense of self. It is up to parents to insure that children grow up with all the emotional tools and resources they need to remain immune to unhealthy peer and societal pressures in learning to love and accept self and body.

Body image concerns or distortions are likely to be connected to the genetics of clinical eating disorders; they may act as precursors or exacerbate these disorders.  Even when they do not lead to clinical disease, they deserve attention so the child can learn to enjoy a healthful relationship with food, with the self, and with loved ones.

Click here for more information.          

     

Monkey See, Monkey Do: The Role of Parents in Establishing a Healthy Eating Lifestyle in a Food Phobic World

Learning to eat healthfully in a society that mandates thinness and promotes widespread misconceptions about healthy eating can be challenging.  Even more complex is the job of teaching healthy eating habits and a healthy exercise lifestyle to our children. Children are keen observers; parents are their most potent teachers, teaching best through example. Parents need to become enlightened about what healthy eating is, and about what and how to communicate with their children to counteract misleading eating mythologies.  A healthy relationship with food reinforces pivotal life skills, accurate self-perception, self-regulation and self-care and may even prevent the onset of a clinical eating disorder in a genetically susceptible child. 

Parental attitudes about eating and weight control wield significant influence on the development of a child’s eating patterns. How parents feel about themselves and their own relationship with food are critical forces in determining how children learn to feel about themselves, particularly with regard to eating and weight management.  In some instances, a parent’s fears, insecurities or preoccupations with food and body image may influence or trigger the onset of an eating disorder in the genetically susceptible child.

By becoming knowledgeable about healthy eating, aware of one’s own personal attitudes, biases and beliefs, and mindful of their consequences in raising children, parents take charge of their own lives, their parenting, and the physical and emotional well being of their children. By rectifying misconceived beliefs and attitudes of their own, parents develop healthier eating habits and exercise lifestyles and become better equipped to impart these important life lessons to their children.

 


Jewish schools and Institutions
: Teaching Self-Love and
Learning Body-Love through Jewish Teachings

This workshop discusses the nuts and bolts of eating disorders...what they are about, and what they mean to and for our children... along with providing practical tools and strategies to recognize these problems and intervene effectively as mentors in promoting prevention or healing. Abbie offers curriculum ideas for Jewish educators and youth group leaders, promoting the power of positive relationships and human connection to heal these problems through Jewish values and approaches to learning and problem solving. As a follow-up to this seminar, Abbie offers her expertise as a group psychotherapist and educator to run educative-support groups for teachers and youth group leaders, and/or for students and parents.

Click here for more information.

 


A Workshop for Young People

What’s On Your Mind?

A Workshop with, and for, Youngsters

In school settings, prevention of eating disorders has been proven to be better facilitated through education about healthy eating, rather than through descriptive "Don’t do what I did" lectures that inspire experimentation with pathological behaviors.  This workshop teaches school children how to eat healthfully at school and at home; thereby facilitating ED prevention even in genetically predisposed individuals. 

Natenshon addresses students' concerns about healthy eating, healthy weight management and body image… in themselves, family members, and peers.

Conducted in a group format, discussion allows children to express themselves freely, to listen and learn from each other, to support friends with eating and body image concerns; they learn how to approach peers whose problems have gone undetected, and/or their own parents in seeking assistance for themselves, or in securing appropriate parental support and intervention through treatment and recovery. Most importantly, children learn that eating disorders can be prevented and are highly curable when treated early and effectively.

The focus of www.empoweredkidZ.com, is on answering children’s questions, responding to their concerns, dispelling commonly held myths and confusion about eating disorders, countering the effects of destructive pro-anorexic web sites.                

 



From Abbie’s Mailbox

Inquiries and Testimonials

 

Read the following two letters to Abigail from educators and school practitioners and her informative responses

 

Abigail,

Hello.  I am an Exercise Physiologist in Minneapolis, MN and I am doing a community project for children in the Twin Cities.  My goal is to do presentations for area schools to address Self Acceptance and Body Image.  The reason I chose school age children is that adolescence is when self acceptance becomes a great struggle for many children and is a very critical time in which patterns of eating, nutrition, exercise and self acceptance form.  I am working with Licensed Nutritionists, Exercise Physiologists, Educators and other health care providers with experience in eating disorders and body image.

 

Yours is a great web site full of information on this topic.  The presentations we are doing will take place in the classroom and will last about an hour.  What recommendations do you have for this type of presentation for 8 to 12 year olds? Interactive games?  We need simple messages that let kids know they have choices about whom they are, how they feel about themselves, and whom they want to “BE.”

 

Thank you for this web site and I would greatly appreciate any insights you could offer.

Sincerely,

Reagan E. Schmitt

 

 

Dear Reagan,

You might want to assign each participant one of the articles to read that is posted on www.empoweredkidZ.com.  Have each student present one main idea from the article he or she has been assigned, perhaps the one that is most pertinent or that speaks the loudest to him or to her personally. Then, consider organizing a group discussion with the wider class around whatever issue or issues seemed to engender the greatest interest.  See where it takes you.  Let me know how it goes.

Best Regards,

Abbie Natenshon

 

 

 

Dear Abbie,

 

Your site is WONDERFUL and I plan to use it with the small groups I’m working with on Healthy Eating.  There were so many of the young girls not eating here at the Jr. High School I work at, that I decided to run two small groups, simultaneously.  Because I have girls at both ends of the weight spectrum I decided to focus on Healthy Eating.  I do, however, have a question about one of your items listed as an eating disorder “sign.”  That is, when an individual restricts his or her eating to “I only eat when I am hungry.” Could you please explain this psychologically and perhaps physiologically?

 

I ask because in the past year I have been to two different conferences for school nurses and health professionals about children and nutrition and at both, experts advised that children be allowed to self monitor by eating only when they are hungry and stopping when they are full.  The parents’ role is to offer nutritious food choices, but not to force the child to eat just because it’s “lunch time.”  This habit would be carried into adulthood and decrease the chance of being overweight from overeating (the satiety trigger is being developed this way as well.) This seems to be opposed to the information on your site (the assessments.) I would appreciate any insight you have into this.

 

Thanks again for a great site.

 

M-------------

School Nurse

San Juan Unified School District

Carmichael, California

 

 

 

Dear M,

So glad you ask this very poignant question.  You are right in your observation that too many people have misconstrued what would otherwise be good and practical information about how to eat healthfully.

 

What you describe here is a concept known as “instinctive eating.” Not every child has the neurological or developmental capability to allow their instincts alone to guide them accurately in response to hunger and satiety cues.  The judgment of the malnourished anorexic brain is unsound, based on distorted perceptions; children with feeding disorders frequently struggle with neurological issues that alter and distort perception, judgment and capability. Freedom and flexibility around food management have viability only when a person’s roots have a secure foundation in the structure of a healthy lifestyle. The latter requires three balanced meals a day, as well as snacks, to insure a healthfully functioning metabolism and a fit and well functioning body. 

 

As a rule of thumb, parents need to provide nutritious food, along with the opportunity and expectation for the child to eat it, ideally in the company of loved ones. It is up to the child to determine the amount to be eaten.  This is NOT to imply that if a child chooses not to eat at mealtimes, the parent should abide.  It is through healthy guidance and limit-setting around eating at mealtimes that parents not only teach a healthy eating lifestyle, but also the process of healthy self-regulation, stacking the cards against the eventual onset of a clinical eating disorder.

 

Best Regards, 

Abbie Natenshon

 

 

 

The following are excerpts from Abigail’s plea to ban fat-testing in the schools.

 

 

This letter was directed to support a resolution by the National Parent Teacher Association recommending the elimination of fat-testing by caliper/skin fold or other devices, as currently used in many high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools.

 

January 4, 2001

 

Dear Sir;

I am writing to express my support for a ban on fat-testing in the high schools, junior highs and elementary schools.  ….my experience has shown that in our fat conscious society, too many children are highly susceptible to any influences that could cause them to believe that they are overly fat even when they are not.  Such a belief creates a high risk factor for the development of a clinical eating disorder.  I have personally known children as young as age 9 who report to their parents that they are too fat, an image of self that was based on a fat caliper test that was originally created for use on triathalon adults and that has been used instead in the early grades.

 

….the incidence of disturbed body images and concerns about weight management and appearance are preoccupying children’s minds and precluding their ability to concentrate in school and to learn.

 

…The idea behind the testing is good and correct…children do need to be concerned about the health of their bodies and must learn to eat healthfully and exercise appropriately to achieve that end.  The means to the end with this testing, however, defeats this goal and misses the mark, communicating a dangerous message to our youngsters.  The solution lies in schools teaching our children what healthy eating is, not how to lose weight and develop phobias about fat in their food and on their bodies……

 

 

                                     

 

 

Read Natenshon’s School Journal publications

Our Children, The National PTA Magazine; October 2000; Volume 26 #2 Conquering Eating Disorders at Home and in School: Lessons That Save Lives; a feature article by Abigail H. Natenshon

The American School Board Journal; Food Fright; February, 1996
http://www.asbj.com/indexes/subjectindex96.html


School Conference Leadership and Lectures

Illinois Association of School Social Workers Conference;
Eating Disorders in the Schools: Teaching Lessons that Save Lives

 

 

 

Recent Consultations to Schools

School consultations help teachers and administrators formulate in-school programs for primary and secondary prevention of eating disorders for all age groups, facilitating the creation of teaching tools, resources, programs and support groups for eligible students; consultations may include counseling staff about managing resistant, acting-out and vulnerable students and their parents.

New Trier High School; Winnetka, Il.

On Creating a Body Image Intervention Program for the Student Body; A consultation for teachers, coaches and social service staff

Roosevelt Middle School; River Forest, Illinois

Teacher/Athletic Coach In-service/training about eating disorders in the school

Highland Park High School, IL;

Teacher/Athletic Coach In-service/training about eating disorders in the school

Glenbrook North High School Eating Disorders

Speech and Member of Teaching Panel in honor Eating Disorder Awareness Week, 2000

Glenbrook South High School

In-service training for counseling department

Northwestern University Health Fair,

Spring, 2003

Northwestern University Chemical Educators Speaker, 2000

A training program for student peer educators who deal with addictions

 

Testimonials from School Professionals

A school social worker and participant in the Illinois Association of School Social Workers Conference, 2000
“Most teachers want very much to help out but don't know how to begin. You have offered really helpful practical suggestions that make the task before us so much more understandable and do-able. I have been hoping for a book like yours for years, as it is not only a wonderful resource for parents and kids, but for teachers, coaches and school counselors, as well.”

"I just visited your site for kids. It is so informational and user friendly!"
- J. Mardi

 

        Educators will find this book an invaluable resource.

  • School social workers can direct teachers and parents to it when they require clarification about eating disorders in youngsters.
  • Children can offer it to parents who need to better understand the problem, the child’s experience, and what needs to be done about it.
  • Teachers can use the workbook in health classes to offer students interesting and informative health quizzes to raise their level of self-awareness and insights.
  • School personnel can assess their own personal issues around food and eating to become better prepared to observe and address these problems in their students.

 

The Professional's Guide to using with When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder

Download the complimentary Professional's Guide for school professionals to using When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: A Step-by-Step Workbook for Parents and Other Caregivers (Natenshon, Jossey Bass Publishers) as a resource for students and parents. The workbook will also provide educators the insight and self awareness they require to effectively intervene with students and parents.

 
       
 
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