How to Navigate Family and Friends During the Holiday Season

  1. Talk about your triggers with your family. Give them specific ways they can support you.
  2. If you are going to a party where you are worried you might feel triggered. Or maybe most people there donn’t know about your eating disorder, bring a close friend or family member for support.
  3. Spend time with younger family members at family holiday parties. Play a game with them. They offer a nice distraction from more serious conversations.
  4. Make sure to spend time with older family members as well. Talk about past holidays or ask to hear stories from when they were younger. They offer great perspective on the important things in life.
  5. Prepare yourself with distractions for after meals:
    1. Offer to be the family photographer. Take pictures of everyone throughout the day/evening.
    2. Suggest that everyone play a game together after the meal.
    3. Watch a holiday movie with friends or family after eating.
  6. Holidays are busy and may interfere with self-care or recovery. This time of year, it is especially important to carve out time to take care of yourself and engage in whatever skills you tend to utilize to manage stress (e.g. deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, grounding techniques, etc.)
  7. Set boundaries! You may feel like you have a number of obligations and expectations to meet over the holiday season. Be honest with yourself on what you can do and remind yourself it is okay to say no.
  8. Know that it’s okay to not tell everyone about your eating disorder. Work with therapist, support group, or friend to come up with some planned responses to various possible triggering scenarios. You can come up with different responses based on whether or not the person you are talking to knows about your eating disorder or not. See this post from NEDA for some great ideas to get you started!

By Elyse Rocco, PsyD

Our Favorite Holiday Recipes

The holidays are often associated with food-related traditions. We can use these traditions as a reminder that food is not only nourishing, but also can bring us closer to others. Cooking and eating together is a great way to bond with family and friends over the holidays. So this holiday season, try to enjoy not only the food, but the company you are with. Here are some of our staff’s favorite holiday recipe traditions:

Blintzes (Elyse, Therapist)


4 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
Melted butter to brush bottom of pan

Ricotta cheese (large tub)

Any flavor of canned pie filling (e.g. blueberry, strawberry, apple tend to be my family’s favorites)
Sour cream

In medium bowl beat 4 eggs well. Add flour, milk, and salt stirring until smooth. Brush bottom of an 8 in skillet w butter and set on medium heat. It's ready when a drop of water will sizzle in the bottom of pan. Pour about  1/3 cup batter into pan and make into thin pancake. Flip when edges begin to curl. Makes about 20 cakes.

Mix ricotta, sugar, and cinnamon to taste. Put this filling on cake and roll. Top with pie filling (I recommend heating these up) and dollop of sour cream.

Funeral Potatoes (Hashbrown Potato Casserole) (Nicole, Therapist)

2 lbs. hash browns
1⁄2 cup butter
2 (10 3/4 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1 pint sour cream
1⁄2 tsp. salt
3⁄4 cup onion, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
2 cups longhorn cheese, grated, firmly packed
1 1⁄2 cups corn flakes, crushed
4 tbsp. butter, melted

  1. Saute onion in 1 tablespoon butter until translucent.
  2. Mix all ingredients, except cornflakes and 4 tablespoons butter, together.
  3. Put potato mixture into a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  4. Combine cornflakes and butter, and sprinkle evenly over top of casserole.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes or until heated and bubbly.

Christmas Dark Chocolate Bark (Caroline, Therapist)

1 and 1/3 cups dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Prepare a 9-inch square baking pan by spraying with nonstick spray and lining with parchment paper
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate on high for one minute. Stir and microwave for additional 30-second increments, stirring in between until chocolate is completely melted
  3. Pour the melted chocolate into the prepared pan and shake the pan back and forth to spread the chocolate out evenly. Sprinkle pistachios, cranberries, and walnuts onto the chocolate.
  4. Place in fridge to harden for about 30 minutes. Remove from fridge, peel bark off of parchment paper, and break into pieces.
  5. Voila! Super easy and can be made multiple times due to only needing a few ingredients!

Layered Jello (Karen, Patient Services)

4 3 oz. pkg. Jello, different flavors
6 packets plain gelatin (Knox)
1 8 oz. can condensed milk

  1. Melt each box of Jello with 1 packet of gelatin and 1 cup hot water

  2. Melt 2 packets of plain gelatin with 1 cup hot water. Mix 1 cup hot with the condensed milk. Mix together, divide in 3 equal parts.
  3. Use 9 x 13 pan and place in refrigerator. It takes about 15 minutes for each layer to harden.

1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th layers = Jello
2nd, 4th, and 6th layers = Milk mixture


Peanut Butter Fudge (Briauna, Dietitian)

1 large and 1 small package of peanut butter chips (12 oz. and 6 oz.)
1/2 cup butter
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 large can evaporated milk
1 can marshmallow
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. peanut butter

In a sauce pan, bring the evaporated milk and sugar to a slow boil for 12 minutes. Pour mixture over peanut butter chips and butter. Add the marshmallow, vanilla, and peanut butter. Stir until well combined. Transfer to a cookie sheet, allow to cool. Cut into 1.5 inch squares and enjoy!

Cheryl's Brunch Casserole (Sam, Dietitian)

This recipe came from a close family friend of ours who passed away. We make it every year and have on Christmas morning with gooey butter cake.

1 lb. hot pork sausage
3 cups hash browns thawed (shredded)
2 cups milk
1 dozen eggs ( I usually use about 16)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 cups cheddar cheese
1/2 green pepper chopped
1/2 cup diced onion

Cook sausage and drain. In greased 9 x 13 pan layer hash browns, sausage, cheese, green pepper, onion, beaten eggs, and milk. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 min.

Autumn Toss Salad (Allison, Dietitian)

Salad Ingredients:
1 bag mixed greens or spring mix
1 Granny Smith apple
1 sweet red apple, like Gala or Pink Lady
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Dressing Ingredients:
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 container frozen apple juice concentrate, slightly thawed
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. grated onion
1 cup canola oil

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.

For the dressing, combine cranberries, sugar, vinegar, apple juice concentrate, salt, ground mustard, and grated onion in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Stream in oil and blend until combined

Gingersnap Cookies (Megan, Dietetic Intern)

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light molasses
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. ginger

Cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg. Beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix well. Roll into small balls. Dip into sugar. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) for 15 minutes. Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Pineapple Cucumber Green Jello (Rachel, Therapist)

1 small 3.5 box green Jello
1 cup hot water (to dissolve Jello)
1 1/4 cup peeled cucumber, diced small
1 cup pineapple (Dole’s crushed, don’t drain)
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped

Pour boiling water over Jello. Stir until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until completely mixed. Refrigerate until set (4-6 hours). It’s very refreshing!!

Self-Care During the Holiday Season

During this busy time of year, it is easy to get caught up in the festivities and gift-giving that we forget to take a little time for ourselves. And remember that self-care can look different for everyone. What is relaxing and life-giving for one person might be exhausting or draining for another. So, although you can get ideas on self-care from others, don’t judge or compare what you choose to do. 

Here are some ideas on ways to include self-care during the holiday season (and many of these ideas can be used year-round!).

  • Make sure to schedule some alone time. This time of year can be very busy with parties, dinners, and other get-togethers. But remember to take some time for yourself.

  • Go for a walk outside. Maybe there is a beautiful snowfall, or maybe it is nice and warm where you live. Either way, enjoy some fresh air.

  • Stay inside and curl up with a good book. Even better if you add in some comfy pajamas, a warm drink, and a fire in the fireplace!

  • Spend some time with animals. If you have a pet of your own, spend a few extra moments cuddling, petting, or playing with him. If you don’t have any pets, visit your local animal shelter. They are always in need of an extra dog walker or someone to cuddle with the cats.

  • Focus on gratitude. Try writing three things you are grateful for every night. This can even be something you invite friends or family to join you in during the holiday season.

  • Take a bubble bath. Make it more festive with holiday-themed scents.

  • Give yourself permission to enjoy the festivities. Many people spend more time worrying about how they “shouldn’t” be eating/drinking/doing something, that they forget to just let themselves relax and enjoy the treats.

  • Take some time each day to unplug from technology.

  • Decorate your room/apartment/office. Seeing decorations throughout the day can bring a smile to your face.

  • Drive or walk around the neighborhood to look at holiday lights. You can do this with loved ones or on your own.

  • Take a nap. (And also make an effort to get enough sleep each night.)

Just as important as it is to include these little self-care ideas into your life this holiday season, it is also important to take care of yourself throughout the day by setting boundaries and preventing yourself from becoming overwhelmed by all of the various activities. In next week’s blog post, we will be talking about ways to handle and prevent the stress that might arise with family and friends during the holiday season. 

by Megan Anderson, Ascend Dietetic Intern

Maple, The Fall Staple

Move over pumpkin, there’s a new hot flavor in town.


Growing up, Log Cabin syrup was a staple in my family’s pantry. The concentrated sweetness of the amber liquid poured over breakfast favorites like pancakes, waffles, sausage, and bacon are smells and tastes that will linger for a lifetime. It wasn’t until I was 23, semi-fresh out of college, and expanding my collegiate palate that I would come to know of pure Maple syrup and grow a deeper appreciation for the spectrum of delicate maple flavor.   To my delight, it is getting its due recognition from culinarians and foodies alike. And while it takes its step into the spotlight, often being compared to pumpkin spice as the new fall flavor, I assure you Maple and its culinary lineages, surely, stand in a lane of its own.

Maple syrup is made from concentrated sap of Maple trees. Grades of Maple syrup are based upon the changing colors of sap in response to seasonal changes. If you’re interested in learning more about the Maple syrup grading check out this infographic from the Maple Source (right).

A tablespoon of Maple syrup provides one carbohydrate exchange and can be a great way to condense the volume of meals down while meeting exchanges.  It’s also a significant source of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Manganese, and Zinc. Riboflavin is important for the metabolism of other vitamins and supports the production of energy (ATP) in the body.  Manganese is an essential cofactor for enzymes and also plays a role in energy production and antioxidant activity. Zinc, serves as a structural and functional component of enzymes in various metabolic processes and antioxidant activity, and is also integral for maintaining taste sensation.  The added benefit of eating something that helps me taste the flavor better is incentivizing enough to keep me inspired to use Maple syrup.

Fall is a great time to get inspired with the various ways you can use Maple syrup in preparing and cooking dishes and beverages. You’ll also find maple syrup-inspired items at familiar retail outlets like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

Check out retail offerings and recipes that have been inspired by the new trend of the season: Maple!


Retail options

●      Starbucks maple pecan latte – grab a tall drink as a great, balanced on the go snack!

●      Dunkin Donuts maple pecan latte—a small with skim provides 2 CHO, 1PRO exchange to keep you feeling energized and satiated

●      Coffee and Tea exchange’s Maple Walnut coffee beans for home brewers, because nothing beats a good cup of home brewed java



Active Parenting Leads to Active and Healthy Children

An article published in The Washington Post in June, “When Fathers Are More involved Kids Obesity Rates may Go Down,” highlights on the tenets of the UnWeighted model: a balanced and thoughtful approach to one’s entire lifestyle and environment can positively shift health.  The article shares that:

“Researchers examined how often fathers participated in parenting activities such as caregiving, making meals and playing outside, and how much they participated in decisions related to nutrition, health and discipline when the children were 2 and 4 years old.

Children were 30 percent less likely to be obese at age 4 if their fathers had increased their parenting time in the preceding two years than were those whose dads did not.

Each additional daily caregiving task that fathers handled — such as help with getting dressed, baths, brushing teeth and bedtime routines — was associated with an additional reduction in their child’s odds of becoming obese, the study found.

“It is possible that when fathers are more involved, the total amount of time both parents dedicate to child caregiving increases — it’s not just the mother providing care but the father as well,” said lead study author Michelle Wong of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.”

This study points to several of the more often overlooked factors potentially relevant in trying to improve one’s health: self-care, balance, enjoyment, attachment to positive activity and change.  These findings could deduce that increased flexibility between parents, shared caretaking and decision making, among other factors, helps create an environment of positive health.  The UnWeighted model reinforces this notion.  It permits choice in flexibility and change in decision-making over a person’s lifetime.  Just as seen within positive family frameworks, the UnWeighted model defines success as unique for each individual.  Thus, when families create space for shared responsibility, shared positive change may occur.

The Brain on a Diet: Why Diets Don’t Work

In a national NBC news story on September 19th, reporters continued to explore dieting and the brain.  More succinctly, why diets don’t work.   In UnWeighted Nation, Dr. Jenny and Jason Conviser thoroughly explain why weight-loss is the burdensome focus of most health improvement plans.  In contrast, the UnWeighted model allows health-related decisions to be considered along a continuum.  The model embraces self-care; focuses more on the process; focuses less on the outcome; develops greater internal control; and fosters emotional awareness, among other critical factors that sustain behavioral and medical changes.  By escaping the yo-yo dieting approach, previously shown to increase overall weight with time as described in this news story, the UnWeighted approach helps individuals navigate a more successful path to better health and more satisfying life.

Body Acceptance: A School Against Weight Discrimination

A local Chicago school district, Evanston Township, made national headlines in September for their body-positive dress code changes. 

The new changes were based on an Oregon chapter of the National Association of Woman.

As the Today Show described it,

“The school emphasized that its new dress code "is written in a manner that does not reinforce stereotypes and does not reinforce or increase marginalization or oppression of any group based on race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural observance, household income or body type/size.

Staff members are now being trained to use body-positive language in explaining the code. Also, "shaming" by staff members — defined as measuring straps or skirt lengths, or accusing students of "distracting" others with their clothing — is also prohibited.”

The UnWeighted model applauds Evanston Township for their awareness and progressive notions of what “should and “should not.”  Shaming does not promote positive change, quite the opposite, and often with potentially dangerous consequences. 

Is There a Shift from Weight Loss to Wellness in the Dieting Industry?

On Sunday, August 2nd, the New York Times' Sunday Magazine published a refreshingly honest story on the weight loss and dieting industry written by a Times’ reporter, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, who reveals her own personal struggles with dieting and body image.  Brodesser-Akner visits Weight Watchers Corporate headquarters and speaks with leadership on their shift with “weight loss” to “wellness” yet this shift in language is a guise for what it always was: dieting. 

In the article she discusses scientific findings that may frustrate some and also may cause some relief from their battles with unsuccessful and unrealistic weight loss goals:

“The change had been spurred not just by dieting fatigue but also by real questions about dieting’s long-term efficacy. In Weight Watchers’ own research, the average weight loss in any behavior-modification program is about a 5 percent reduction of body weight after six months, with a return of a third of the weight lost at two years. There were studies that appeared to indicate that the cycle of weight loss and weight gain could cause long-term damage to the metabolism. Those studies led to more studies, which suggested that once your body reaches a certain weight, it is nearly impossible to exist at a much lower weight for an extended period of time.”

Dr. Convisers thoroughly explore this not often known fact of dieting in UnWeighted Nation.  Furthermore, the book describes that the “patterns of weight cycling with repeated patterns of gains and losses, are associated with an emotional and chemical rollercoaster that can impair the best efforts to maintain a healthy and stable weight.”

The proposed UnWeighted model is not a steel-framed approach; it is fluid.  Different people at different times in their lives have different preferences and interests.  Each will have different goals and a unique path in reaching their goals.  The UnWeighted model is not a one-size-fits-all fix.  Even more importantly, it is not a “fix.”  In reality, the UnWeighted model is finding a healthier and more simple process.

Setting Boundaries with Your Roommate(s)


As part-two of our “Back to School” series, Ascend wanted to focus on the important aspect of thinking and talking with you roommates in this new school year.  Open and thoughtful conversation can really help alleviate stress and the dynamics that can arise with many people living in the same space.  Whether you are just beginning college and living with a randomly assigned roommate or in your last year and looking forward to living with a close friend, setting boundaries is important.

Below are tips from Ascend staff to help with setting boundaries with your roommate:

Shared Living Spaces:

  • Discuss a “lights out” time if you have roommates sleeping in the same room.

  • Establish rules/guidelines about visitors (for example, if you don’t want visitors after a certain time or around the time you have an exam).

  • Talk about how you will split the cleaning responsibilities. Consider setting up a cleaning schedule.


  • Use colored stickers to label items: Each roommate gets their own color sticker. There can also be a color designated for “food I want to share”, otherwise food is not for sharing without asking.

  • Set up a cooking/shopping schedule, if you will be having meals together.


  • Consider having a large whiteboard calendar to write important dates such as tests, projects, birthdays, sporting events, travel, etc.


  • Discuss if there is a time which you do not want visitors.

  • If you have a particularly busy week, would you prefer no visitors? How would you communicate this? The shared calendar might be a useful tool for this.


  • Face-to-face communication is always best. Set up a time to meet early in the year to discuss these boundaries and plans.

  • As stated above, avoid this communication via text.

  • Remember to use “I” statements when discussing these boundaries.

  • Come to the conversation with some solutions in mind.

  • Be honest in the beginning about your expectations and your preferences for communication.

  • Know what your needs are and be open to hearing others.

  • Be patient and know this an ongoing process.


  • Establish time for yourself and your self-care (and don’t forget to communicate this to your roommate).

  • Find places where you feel safe and happy outside of your apartment or dorm room.

Remember that navigating living and roommates can be tricky!  Try to be as thoughtful and direct as you can while also trying to consider all points of view.  If you feel unsafe, or do not know what to do in a particular situation, reach out to a RA, dean, counselor, or someone you trust to get support and guidance.  We at Ascend share these thoughts in the hope of a productive and fun school year.  We know many dynamics in college overlap, and if there is a way we can assist in lessening stress and opening up communication, we hope to do so!

We are launching a new online support group for parents of loved ones in recovery in college, slated to start Tuesday, September 12th in the evening.  This group will meet via a secure, private online platform for an hour each Tuesday for six weeks.   For more information, please contact Katherine McClayton ( 

Image Source

Back to School!


We are gearing up for “back to school” time here at Ascend.  Each of our three locations have specific needs for their clients and clients’ families with returning to school or starting at in a new environment.  Over the next month, Ascend staff will share tips, thoughts, and resources for students and families alike. 

We are launching a new online support group for parents of loved ones in recovery in college, slated to start Tuesday, September 12th in the evening.  This group will meet via a secure, private online platform for an hour each Tuesday for six weeks.   For more information, please contact Katherine McClayton ( 

We asked our staff to share thoughts on ideas to keep in mind when returning to school:

For students:

  • Your new class schedule may interfere with you regular snack and meal times. Plan ahead! Pack a few non-perishable items to keep on hand and plan out your day to accommodate both your class and eating schedules!

  • Have a list of people you can talk to if you feel stress adjusting to the first week of classes.

  • Grocery shopping independently may feel as though it is a challenge for a college student. Start with a simple list of the basic items that you always have on hand, and then build from there.

  • Keep easy-to-grab snacks on hand for days when you're in a hurry, such as granola bars, crackers with nut butter packets, or trail mix.

  • For freshman in college it can be hard to balance health and convenience. Utilize your dining hall's salad bar to keep pre-chopped fruits and veggies on hand in your dorm room to add to convenience items like Easy Mac or Ramen to help meet your exchanges and get more nutrients (E.g: Add chopped grilled chicken and broccoli to easy mac or chopped nuts and fruit to oatmeal packets).

  • For improved stress management, plan to take breaks from texting and checking social media.  This may seem like an outlet, but can often lead to elevated stress levels.  Plan a snack break with a friend instead, for example.

  • Get enough sleep! It is easy to let sleep be one of the first things to go, but remember that it too is vital to your well-being. If necessary, change your schedule to allow for a solid 8 hours of sleep each night.

  • The school year will most likely bring about business with both schoolwork and extracurricular activities. You may feel tempted to skip out on appointments with your therapist, dietitian, or supported groups. Resist this temptation and keep yourself accountable. Staying connected to your critical support structures is paramount to your recovery.

For parents:

  • Ask your child what they need to feel the most supported.

  • Pack lunches the night before to save time in the morning.

  • Prioritize family meal time as much as possible. It doesn't have to be complicated--frozen lasagna and a salad, for example--but having that time set aside will ensure space to connect amidst the busyness.

  • Talk with your child on effective communication methods for checking in.  Timing, methods (texts vs. calling) and the boundaries that make each person feel comfortable and safe.

Image source

Dr. Jenny Conviser Attends Big East Mental Health Summit at Georgetown University


 “Big East” Mental Health Summit
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
June 15 & 16th, 2017

On June 15th and 16th, AscendCHC Founder and CEO, Jenny Conviser PsyD, CEDS, CC-AASP, traveled to Georgetown University to participate in the “Big East” Mental Health Summit. As a follow up to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) recent publication on “Best Practices for Student-Athletes Mental Health” (2016), representatives of NCAA’s Big East Conference member institutions gathered in Washington D.C. to discuss strategies for addressing the mental health concerns of collegiate student-athletes.

Representatives attending the summit included athletic trainers, coaches, mental health care providers, athletic department administrators, medical directors, team physicians and student athletes. This multidisciplinary gathering was hosted by Fox Sport’s Rachel Bonnetta, and included panel discussions, lively debate and presentations by many experts including Mary Wilfert and Jessica Gonzales from the NCAA, Darcy Gruttadaro from the National Alliance on Mental Health, ESPN’s Kate Fagan, US Naval Academy’s Jessica Mohler, Georgetown University’s Head Field Hockey Coach Shannon Soares, Georgetown’s Team Physician Blair Heinke, and DePaul University’s Men’s Basketball Team member Peter Ryckbosch.

A sample “coaches training program” targeting supportive communication strategies was introduced by Carol Lucas, Jeff Milroy and David Wyrick from University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and professional basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw spoke eloquently on the topic and some of her experiences as an athlete. 

It is hoped that this information and discussion regarding mental health in sport will prompt increased awareness of mental health risks among athletes and improve access to mental health support and treatment for student-athletes by 1) increasing awareness of mental health risks among athletes, 2) improving awareness of and access to services and support, 3) improving communication related to emotional well-being, and 4) reducing stigma and bias associated with mental health matters overall.

The Summit promises to be one of many continued forums for identifying and developing strategies to preserve emotional well-being among athletes.  The useful Big East Summit prompted much discussion and identified several critical topics for future learning.  When Dr. Conviser discussed the summit with Ascend staff the perspectives shared at the Summit align with the values and goals of AscendCHC’s work with athletes.  AscendCHC looks forward to more dialogue and attention brought towards the mental health and well-being of our collegiate athletes on the national stage.

Written by Jenny H. Conviser, PsyD, CEDS, CC-AASP, 
Founder & CEO ASCEND Consultation in Health Care

Photo Credit: Big East Conference

Emma Thompson’s Stance on Weight Shame

Photo credit:  Vanity Fair

Photo credit: Vanity Fair

This week an article in a recent copy of Vanity Fair caught the eye of CEO and Founder Dr. Jenny Conviser.  Actress Emma Thompson highlighted the firm stance she took on above set when a female co-star was asked by producers to lose weight for her role.  Thompson responded by telling producers she would quit the movie if they did that again and to retract their request from her co-star. 

Thompson shared, “I said to them, ’If you speak to her about this again, on any level, I will leave this picture. You are never to do that,’ ” Thompson revealed. “It’s evil what’s happening and what’s going on there, and it’s getting worse...Sometimes there are just some subjects that you absolutely have to make noise about because it’s so tedious and it’s gone on and on.”

Dr. Conviser shared this article with staff.  She said, "Unfortunately, one voice will not change the tsunami force of the idealized thin messages in the current culture. We hope to add more voices to this healthier chorus."  The culture continues to shift in a positive light, and simultaneously things become more complicated.  We at AscendCHC recognize the strong voices that public figures have and applaud Emma Thompson.  We also feel reinvigorated to continue our work with our clients and spread the word of acceptance and prevention against hazardous dieting and weight shame. 

AscendCHC Leadership Presents at World Congress in Florence, Italy

Dr. Jason Conviser shares new findings on Osteogenic Loading in Adults with Low Body Mass

ASCEND Chicago bioDensity member Jason Conviser presented finding of a paper by Jenny Conviser, Sam Calcaterra, and Kristen Webb and himself regarding new preliminary evidence for the safety and effectiveness of osteogenic loading to increase bone density in individuals with low BMI at the World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, and Musculoskeletal Diseases in Florence, Italy. 

Osteogenic loading has been documented as safe and effective technique for increasing bone density, but no studies have focused on osteogenic loading's safety for individuals with a history of low body weight, in part due to concerns regarding bone weakness and injury risk. 

The results of the study revealed that underweight adults had sufficient strength to safely use compressive forces associated with bone formation, strongly suggesting that osteogenic loading may have restorative potential and low injury risk for underweight individuals.

For more information about osteogenic loading, visit ASCEND's bioDensity page, and learn more about our team here.

Eight Traits of Successful Athletes

March Madness is in full swing. Tonight we will watch the remaining games in the Elite Eight to determine who gets to the Final Four. It has been a tournament filled with upsets and excitement. We wanted to share a piece we often use with our athletes at AscendCHC. Please contact us with any thoughts or questions. Good luck with your brackets!

Whether it's on the court, in the pool, or on the field, listed below are eight psychological attributes that help facilitate success.

Maintaining concentration under pressure:

  • An athlete who is able to recognize the “here and now,” during competition is the athlete whom often finds the most success. These athletes learn to focus on the tasks in front of them instead of paying attention to past failures or previous successes. By focusing appropriately on each individual moment in competition, the athlete determines how best to be in charge of that moment.

Setting short and long-term goals: 

  • An athlete is able to self-regulate their own progress. Creating short and long-term goals helps an athlete or any individual form self-motivation. By discerning between those short and long-term goals, an athlete can regulate how realistic each of their goals are, which can often give that individual a sense of progress and accomplishment throughout training.

Using mental imagery: 

  • By mentally picturing the environment an athlete will be in during competition, they can be more prepared for the performance. Through simulating detailed and specific images of the challenges in front of them, an athlete is able to train their mind to be ready for the environment he/she will step into when it is time to perform.

Effectively dealing with anxiety: 

  • At AscendCHC, we want our athletes to know that anxiety is a natural part of competition and that everyone feels some form of anxiety whenever they perform. We also want our athletes to know how to reduce anxiety when it becomes too strong, without losing their athletic intensity. Successfully dealing with anxiety is essential in any areas of life, not just for athletes and not just when they are performing.

The pursuit of excellence, not perfection: 

  • Even though many of us strive for perfection, we all know that it isn't a reality, especially in athletics. Successful athletes are ones who realize that along with themselves, their teammates and coaches also aren’t perfect and they shouldn't expect perfection from them either. By choosing a positive attitude towards your training and competition, this will also help an athlete achieve excellence, and not perfection.

The ability to sort through emotions:

  • Instead of pushing away from the emotions often associated with athletic competition such as excitement, anger or disappointment, an athlete must be able to embrace these emotions. Processing emotions and learning from them helps athletes chart their own progress from a physical and psychological standpoint.

A realization that they are a part of something larger: 

  • Although the prospect of success in athletics might drive daily motivation, sometimes athletes must realize that their sport is only a small part of who they are. Athletes have to realize that family, friends, coaches and the support system they’ve built, will all be there after the game, season or career ends. The game itself might be temporary, successful athletes must find a balance. Acknowledgement that while scoreboards and winning streaks may be of high importance today, that a support system will help them through what comes after all that ends, temporarily or not.

The ability to self-regulate: 

  • Whether it is emotions, performance, or even body control, these aspects come down to the athlete themselves having the skills to analyze and relish in the ups and downs that naturally come with athletics. We feel sports psychology is a great way for an athlete to overcome their mental difficulties, and we hope to equip our athletes with the skills that they themselves can use with, or without, our help.


ASCEND C-U Is Talking About It

Our therapists spread the word about eating disorders during NEDA Awareness Week 2017: 


Ascend Champaign-Urbana team member Christina Figueroa, MS, RD, LD presented a guest lecture titled, “Eating Disorders in the Community” on February 16, 2017 to undergraduate students at the University of Illinois. The goal of the course is to provide an introductory overview of some of the most prevalent mental health conditions within the community. Ascend was invited for the second time by Dr. Robyn Gobin, licensed clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health. Christina reviewed statistics and key characteristics of eating disorders (ED), potential risk factors and causes of eating disorders, and what “warning signs” to look for. They also discussed Ascend’s multidisciplinary approach to ED treatment and reviewed community resources available to residents should they need to seek therapy or nutritional counseling services, including Ascend’s outpatient & intensive outpatient programs (IOP).

"Reflecting back on my time grade school and university, I wish there was more education regarding mental health topics. It seems that the focus has always been on physical health or sexual health and somewhere in between mental health just got brushed aside. I think it’s important to bridge that gap and decrease the taboo around mental health topics. After all, how can you truly be “healthy” if you are not taking care of your WHOLE self?"

-Christina Figueroa

70% of people suffering from ED do not seek treatment, but of those that do seek treatment, it is estimated that 80% will go into remission or recover. 

NEDA website 


Therapist Nicole Busch, MSW and dietetic intern Briauna Pate visited with University (Uni) High School students on Wednesday, March 1st to discuss eating disorder awareness and answer questions submitted by the students regarding nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Topics included building a balanced plate, debunking fad diets, causes and warning signs of disordered eating, other mental health challenges, and community resources. Ascend staff was invited to speak as part of the Nutrition Unit in the course curriculum, which is timely with #NEDAwarenessWeek and the first day of National Nutrition Month!

NEDA Awareness Week

It's Time to Talk About it!


This week is the National Eating Disorders Association's (NEDA) Awareness Week, running from February 26 to March 4, 2017. In observation of the 30th annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (#NEDAwarenessWeek), 67 landmarks across the country will be lit in NEDA's signature green and blue to raise awareness about the seriousness of eating disorders. This year’s theme is It’s Time to Talk About It, encouraging the general public to shine awareness and put resources into the hands of those who need them: individuals, parents, health care professionals, schools, the list goes on.

In the words of NEDA, "It’s time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns. It’s time we bust the myths and get the facts. It’s time to celebrate recovery and the heroes who make it possible. It’s time to take action and fight for change. It’s time to shatter the stigma and increase access to care. It’s Time to Talk About It!

In Illinois, four landmark building will light up this week in honor of NEDA Awareness Week. We have printed the information below. Ascend staff will try to take pictures of the lights and share.  We have some fun activities planned for the week to partner and share our support for NEDA.


Buildings Participating in NEDA WEEK 2017:

· AON Center, Chicago, IL - March 1-3

· Prudential Plaza, Chicago, IL - March 1-3

· The Crain Communications Building, Chicago, IL -February 26 – March 4 (<3 NEDA will be displayed on the slope)

· John Hancock Center, Chicago, IL - February 26 – March 4

Loving Oneself Through Self-Care

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Ascend CHC wanted to focus on a simple act that can bring love to oneself: self-care. For many, self-care is difficult, putting others needs and priorities in front of their own. Yet it is the recognition and prioritization of one’s own happiness that can bring one more compassion and self-love. To love and take care of oneself can be difficult, and small acts of self-care remind us to take time for oneself, the capacity for love for others increases simultaneously. We asked our staff what a small actions they take in their own lives for self-care. We hope they may inspire you to think about what you can do on a daily or weekly basis to bring a little more love and care into your life. 


I prioritize getting a good night’s rest. I charge my electronics away from my bed and make sure to not watch too much television before lights out.  By having a bedtime as an adult, I make sure I am rested. When I get enough sleep my life feels more balanced, improving my perspective and mood.” – Katherine McClayton   


"Scheduling “family dinners” with my girlfriends mid-week is a way of showing love to myself. This gives me something to look forward to and equally helps me relax as much as it refills my cup to take on the second half of the week."  – Sam Calcaterra


"My favorite self-love activity is anything that combines music and gentle movement. This usually is dancing around my apartment with music, taking a dance/aerial arts class, or taking a leisurely walk outside and listening along to my favorite jams." – Christina Figueroa


"Self-care for me is always about making my home a comfortable place to be at the end of a long day. I will stop by a candle store to grab a new candle, or buy fresh flowers for my bedside table. It is so comforting knowing that I can come home to something that will make me smile, even if the day was hard."  – Taylor Marge

Positive Affirmations

Redirecting negative thoughts into a theme of positivity is difficult. When one makes the effort to be mindful and focus energy through affirmations or constructive thinking, benefits unfold. Improving one’s thinking and using positive words and phrases lessens negative thoughts. Critical thoughts damage how we treat ourselves and others. Often, people are so accustomed to their negative viewpoints, they do not realize the pattern of this harmful thinking.

At Ascend, we believe that shifting in one’s approach of how to view oneself is transformative.  First, recognizing the pattern of negativity and “catching” one’s caustic thoughts. Moreover, having the inner resources and patience to reframe one’s point of view requires. Affirmations can be viewed as “fluff,” yet, if you challenge the fundamental way you look at yourself, that is hard work! And, it's worth it.




What kind of affirmations could be beneficial to you?

Use a statement that starts with “I” and ends with something broad, yet realistic. It does not have to be something you believe right now, but by reaffirming it on a daily basis it will hopefully become something you believe in. If it helps, write the affirmation on a notecard to keep with you. 

Is negative thinking affecting your day-to-day life?
Do you wish you could change your thinking?

Affirming constructive words will help support those same written words, hopefully creating a stronger belief.

Super Bowl Tips - Navigating the Party

Super Bowl Sunday is a day heavily concentrated on parties surrounding watching the game. This can include lots of food and lots of drink.  If you are in recovery from substance abuse or an eating disorder, parties can be especially triggering. Below please see a few tips from our staff on how to plan for a fun and safe night. 

Tips for those in recovery from substance abuse:

  • Make a plan with your sponsor beforehand—ask that either they or a loved one be available should you need to make a quick phone call to check-in.

  • Practice the buddy system. Have a friend accompany you who knows what is going on and can support you in the moment should you feel triggered or experience urges.

  • Bring a non-alcoholic beverage that you enjoy to sip on. Don’t wait to see what options are available for you to drink as there may not be any. Bring a fun craft soda or sparkling water. If feeling inspired, make a batch of mocktails to share with the group.

  • Tips for navigating food:

  • Have balanced meals beforehand. “Saving calories” for the big game typically backfires and can result in a binge later on. Try to have a protein-containing snack beforehand so you enter the party feeling satiated.

  • If you are unsure of what food will be at the party, volunteer to bring a food item. Pick something that you will enjoy and can be shared by all. Keep it simple: cheese and crackers or premade dip and veggies for example.

  • Do a walk through: Often times at Super Bowl parties there is a lengthy buffet spread and it can be overwhelming. Peruse all the options before even picking up a plate. This way you can choose the foods that you really enjoy and determine how much you might need to fit your meal plan before serving yourself.

  • Plan ahead: If you are feeling anxious about the food portion of the party, try to plan ahead and decide what you might choose to have given the foods that are typically available. Knowing your food game plan ahead of time allows you to enjoy all the other aspects of the Super Bowl, like football or the commercials.