Kate Daigle Counseling Spring Newsletter – read the entire newsletter here:
It’s that time of year again. The media pressure to work out and have the ‘ideal’ body has waned a bit since the New Year’s Resolutions campaign, but now it’s coming back in force as the weather warms up and we are all eager to get outside and enjoy the sunshine: “get your best bikini body yet!”, “are you ready to hit the beach?”, “three tips to lose weight FAST to fit into that tiny bikini!”. Then there’s the comparisons to celebrities who have the “perfect bikini body” and whose pictures are spread throughout the internet and in magazines as the “ideal role models” for how your body ‘should’ look this summer. Whoa. I’m exhausted even thinking about it. I can feel my chest start to tighten as I almost fall into that trap: “how will I EVER get my body to look like THAT??”.
Who said that anyone had to have a certain body appearance or type in order to wear a bikini? Where is the logic in that? It doesn’t make sense to me and it feels very shaming, judgmental, and narrow-minded. For those of us who embrace and love our bodies no matter what they look like (or are desiring to do so!), these messages can be very harming. Bikinis come in all shapes and sizes, just like our bodies do. And we all have a right to enjoy our bodies, whether in a bathing suit, a dress, a towel, a jumpsuit, a clown’s suit, or whatever we may choose! I’m of the belief that if we are able to physically put on a bathing suit, we are ‘bikini-ready’.
I found this great article on the Huffington Post that inspired this blog post which asked readers to submit photos of their own fabulous, REAL, bikini bodies! What I loved about it was the energy radiating from these women (no men included in this exercise, though I think that would be a GREAT idea, as men are subjected to media and social pressures as well).
These beautiful bikini babes were jumping around, swimming with fish, enjoying the sun, and even in one case, running through snow, all embracing their REAL, healthy bodies. I could just feel how happy they were, and even if some of them have had body image issues come up (which can happen no matter WHAT your body looks like), they were not allowing those to bulldoze their fun in the sun and water (or snow).
An important point: your body might naturally look a certain way — thin, heavier, whatever. It’s not what your body looks like that matters as much as how you feel in your body and the amount of joy, acceptance and satisfaction you are able to experience in your body. Exercising and eating foods that feel great to your body are certainly healthy practices, but we must remain present and balanced in these pursuits so as to not damage our self esteem and body image.
I wanted to offer some food for thought on this topic as we head into summer and are bombarded with messages that (mostly) tell us that our bodies are not good enough and that we need to change.
If you are looking for support in embracing your beautiful, awesome, real bikini body or in accepting yourself in any other way, please feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation. You can reach me at email@example.com or 720-340-1443.
Forward on to enjoying the sun, the beach, food, friends, and OURSELVES!
Today is a snowy day in Denver! As the wind blows and the temperature plummets, I am reminded of the gift of slowing down. When something comes up that takes us out of our regular routine (whether it’s weather, illness, unforeseen obligations, etc), we might have no choice but to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. I greet this ‘slowdown’ with anticipation and also a bit of anxiety. What to do on a snow day? Play out in the snow? (did that, nose froze!). Read a book (yes, please)? Peruse the internet ? Have you ever felt this way?
As I noticed all of the feelings I was experiencing and the thoughts I was having, I brought myself back to the present moment and asked:
“What choices do I have with this experience?”
I realized that I have the power to choose acceptance of this moment, EVEN THOUGH I still might feel some anxiety (or whatever else). I became aware that this concept is something I have been working on with clients recently: finding a way to be with slightly uncomfortable feelings while making a choice that helps me to make steps towards being the person I want to be. And today I really want to be peaceful and embrace the cold and snow because I know that tomorrow the sun will come out again, the flowers will be nourished, and the birds will awaken. It will be spring once more.
Mindfulness can be effective in just a few minutes. What is mindfulness and how is it effective?
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
in the present moment, and
A great book for introducing yourself to this concept is: Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
Today, offer yourself the gift of slowing down, breathing deeply, checking in with your body awareness, noticing your thoughts but trying to not attach to them. This video is a great tool for experiencing the benefits of mindfulness — whether you have a snow day or a busy day – truly allowing us to feel our bodies and to follow their lead into our experience. I invite you to try it yourself — whether you have an hour to give or even just five minutes.
PERSONAL BILL OF RIGHTS
Remind yourself of these rights daily! It might be helpful to print a copy and post it where you can see it every day.
Have you ever had something on your “to-do” list for days….weeks…(in my case, months!)? And you keep saying, “I’ll do that later”, or “I’d rather do anything — even my taxes! — than do that”? I knew that I was certainly avoiding parts of my “to-do” list because I found myself cleaning everything in my house, office, car, instead of facing the looming elephant in the room.
That elephant, for me, was my professional video. I have made videos in the past, when I started my practice, but took them down because I didn’t feel like they represented “authentic Kate”. I tried again last year to film a video, with a new edge and twist to it, trying to be myself but instead getting emotionally overwhelmed. What was the deal?
So, this March I decided to truly look at what was keeping me stuck and to confront those factors. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an amazing type of behavioral therapy I was recently trained in, one of the guiding principles is to define what is meaningful to you and to pursue it, even if that means experiencing some uncomfortable emotions or feelings along the way.
I spent an afternoon writing about why I wanted to film a professional video. What did it mean to me? Here’s what I came up with:
I still was missing something. Those don’t seem too intense….why couldn’t I just map out what I want to say, and say it? With my meaningful goal in hand, I engaged in some “exposure therapy” (also an element of ACT), and tried to film some initial versions of my video. I was feeling quite uncomfortable. I reflected on a quote I recently heard: “I know that when I’m feeling uncomfortable, I’m about to grow”. Hmm.
After about an hour of filming, viewing, grunting because there was something “wrong” with it, I took a walk and laid down on a patch of green, bright, vibrant grass and took a deep breath. I breathed into my body and tried to focus on what was my barrier to creating a video that was “showable”.
I realized my Perfectionist was rearing her hair-sprayed, curly, gum-smacking head and was telling me “IT’S NOT PERFECT ENOUGH!!! YOU CAN’T BE FINISHED UNTIL IT’S PERFECT!”.
Oh, man! How did I not see this before? I know my Perfectionist quite well…we have coffee sometimes and chat…and I thought I’d be aware enough of her nosiness that I would realize she was interfering. I guess she tricked me. I took another breath and told her: “You are not going to control my video. But, you did show me something very important.”
So, I went back to my office and filmed my video in no time. It is entitled “Perfectly Imperfect”. Sure, it gives me the shivers to ‘put myself out there’ like this, but why not be myself? Being authentic, human, and showing that I am not perfect is one of the most healing aspects I can offer my clients as they find recovery from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or body image and self esteem issues.
My Perfectionist showed me that, while I’m not going to banish her, she is not always helpful. She can get in the way of me being myself, which then can build up anxiety and stress…to levels that I don’t always want to stay at. Getting to understand the times when she is and isn’t helpful has been important for me, and you can also find a way to gently (or not so gently) ask your Critic or Perfectionist or Judge or whomever you have to take a hike for now.
If you are so kind, please view my video and leave a comment with your impressions. My hope is to model that we are all perfectly imperfect and that, in itself, is freeing. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and view this!
If you are looking to improve self-esteem or overcome destructive eating behaviors, I offer a FREE consultation so please give me a call at 720-340-1443!
This week is a very special week for me and for those that I work with and support in recovery from eating disorders. Every year, the last week of February the National Eating Disorders Association brings National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, this year falling on February 24-March 2. This is a very busy time of year for me, and also one that I eagerly await, as it brings an opportunity for us to shine attention on devastating eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and many other types of disordered eating and exercise behaviors. (Note: this is something that needs to be focused on every day of every year, not just one week per year).
Did you know that eating disorders are the #1 most deadly mental illness? Eating disorders kill more people than any one other mental disorder (source: anad.org). These often secretive, shameful disorders are hidden from public eye, leading to intense suffering and isolation. Just by naming them, we take away some of their power.
It’s time to focus on promoting healthy body image, self-esteem, and coping mechanisms and eradicate eating disorders! I truly believe that we can achieve this, though it won’t be easy. We have taken so many strong steps already!
This year, the theme of the NEDA Week is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. We all are affected by the issues that cause eating disorders and are touched in some form by these illnesses, whether we are aware of it or not. “In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their life.” (source: nedawareness.org).
What can you do to help spread the word? Are you hoping to learn more about how to spot these disorders and how to search for support? Here are some very helpful organizations and websites that can offer guidance to those struggling, and to their families, friends, and loved ones.
You Are Not Alone.
Highly Reputable and Respected Online Support Sites (recovery-focused):
Local Resources (Denver, Colorado area):
This week, I am offering complimentary 30 minute consultations and resources for those who would like to take a step on their journey to recovery. Please give me a call at 720-340-1443 or send an email to learn more!
I am passionate about and dedicated to the cause of supporting healthy body image, healthy relationship with self and food, and finding peace from internal struggles that can feel overwhelming. Sometimes the first step is the hardest, but recovery begins after that first step!
Happy Valentine’s Day! St. Valentine reminds us that life should be filled with love - for our friends, for our partner, for our family, for our community, and, extra importantly, for ourselves! Have you shown yourself love lately? Sometimes I think the greatest gift we can offer each other and ourselves is to slow down, notice, and be grateful for the world around us. Here are a few great tips for focusing on this reconnection and being present with yourself amidst a busy, chaotic world:
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to change something. When I was a teenager, the focal point of the thing I wanted to change was myself. This dissatisfaction with myself, or parts of myself, spiraled into an exhaustive effort and cycle of “if only I looked like…if only I could do…THEN, I’d be happy”. Let me tell you how that ended up: in an eating disorder. Only when I was able to accept myself, ALL of myself, and the range of emotions I experienced on a daily basis, was I able to stop destructive behaviors and lead a value-driven life. I know that I am not unique in the way I was thinking; I believed that my emotions were the problem and that my thoughts were “bad” and that I needed to change all of it. When I stopped struggling with all of those beliefs, I was free. That didn’t mean accepting the negative beliefs and talk I was saying to myself, but stopping the struggle with my emotions, as I learned that it is not the emotions themselves that create dis-stress or dis-orders, it is the struggle, or attempted control, over the emotions that is the problem.
Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, compulsive over-exercising and other types of disordered eating behaviors as well as body image struggles can be borne out of a desire to find happiness and peace — but somewhere that mission gets diverted into destructive behaviors that lead to suffering. It seems that there is a call to find a way to “be with” our emotions in non-destructive ways.
I am currently getting trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, an empirically-based therapy that “makes no attempt to reduce symptoms, but gets symptom reduction as a by-product”, writes one of its founders, Russell Harris. This approach is rooted in values, forgiveness, mindfulness, acceptance, compassion, living in the present moment, and accessing a transcendent sense of self, a therapy that encourages us to accept what is without judgment, and to be find some peace in our struggle (while acknowledging that some type of suffering is part of the human experience). ACT has been clinically proven to effectively treat eating disorders and other types of conditions such as OCD, anxiety, chronic pain, and stress, amongst many others.
ACT uses six core principles to help people develop more psychological flexibility and to get out of some of the rigid patterns that keep us stuck in self-destructive pattens:
I’m eager to utilize this approach with clients and am excited about the way that it encourages us to be ourselves, knowing that we are okay just as we are. To me, this is a big sigh of relief!
Are you interested in applying some of these principles in a hands-on experiential way? Are you ready to cultivate a more peaceful, accepting relationship with food and yourself? Join me and colleague (and ACT expert) Christine Allison, MA, LPC on March 2nd, 2013 for a workshop where we will practice all of this!
Early bird special ends on 2/15 so ACT now!!!
Held at my office, 709 Clarkson St, Denver, on 2/3 from 10am-2:30pm, the early bird rate is $65, and after 2/15 it will go up to $85.
Contact me to sign up TODAY — seats are filling up!
See the flyer here:
Read more about ACT: Embrace Your Demons by Russ Harris
Happy New Year!
2013 is opening up as a bright, fresh breath of air, full of possibilities! How do you approach the New Year? Are you one who makes resolutions to change something, start something or stop something? Are you one to focus on deepening practices that you are already currently doing? Whatever your approach, the underlying theme that I hear from clients (and from myself!) is: I want to be happy and healthy. This is a very doable, energized mindset — but what if you are setting yourself up to fail? The way that we approach this goal is critical to our end result.
The #1 New Year’s Resolution in America is to lose weight. We have all been there. I have been there. I committed myself to working out every day for 30 minutes and had a “goal weight” that I wanted to reach by a “goal date”. Then, when my stamina for getting up early to go work out wore down, I felt badly about myself. When I wanted those delicious foods that I really enjoy but couldn’t have them because they weren’t part of my “diet”, I felt badly about myself. When I lost 10 pounds, I felt proud, like I had accomplished a goal (more of an uphill climb). . . but then that satisfaction wore off and the weight I’d lost came right on back. I felt devastated. This is very common. Why?
Why does weight loss have such a powerful and motivating force upon us? It can make us feel elated — for a while. Then when it’s not sustainable it can make us feel some of those uncomfortable feelings (guilt. . . shame. . . disappointment) . . .when we don’t “succeed” at it. This sets us up to continually feel badly about ourselves, initiating a cycle of dieting and deprivation that only leads down a road of misery and yearning for that chocolate chip cookie. Dieting is the leading cause of eating disorders (note: not everyone who goes on a diet develops an eating disorder, however, the diet mentality is a strong trigger for those who might be at risk for eating disorders) and can also lead to bingeing, purging, and other self-destructive behaviors. Losing weight can “talk a big talk” and convince us that we will love ourselves if only we weighed X amount. It sure is convincing — and a lot of pressure! What’s the deeper need? And how can we meet that as well?
I’m not saying that it’s not okay to have goals, intentions, motivations — I think those can be very healthy and enriching things! I am asking us to contemplate the types of goals that we set and the reasons we are setting them. As I mentioned earlier, the most common desire for those setting resolutions is to be happy and healthy. Yes, for some this means losing weight in order to lower blood pressure or decrease the risk of diabetes or other health-related reasons. For those who are looking to lose weight so that they will feel better about themselves, I believe that there has to be more to it than that. Just losing weight is not going to make you feel better about yourself (see above). In face, it may have the opposite effect (again, see above).
I ask you: what are you really looking for? What do you truly need?
…and others. Does weight loss bring these things to you? I want to invite a radical idea: what if you accepted yourself just as you are today? What if you didn’t need to change/add/subtract/stop anything about yourself to be happy and accepted? Close your eyes for one minute and try to imagine what that might be like. You. Are. Beautiful. Just. As. You. Are. ! These are intentions that foster recovery from eating disorders, addictions, low self-esteem, and other issues.
Special New Year’s bonus: Download my “NewYearsIntentions” handout that encourages reflection of the past year and includes a guided meditation to embrace intentions for 2013. I hope that this year is a happy, balanced, nourishing year for you all!
Looking for a guide on your journey of self-discovery? Send me an email and let’s chat! I offer a complimentary consultation to explore what this exciting chapter of your life might look like!
A few months into my third year of private practice, I am reflective and grateful for the gifts I have been given since I opened my doors in August 2010. The courage, resiliency, and hope that is experienced and shared by my clients strikes me each and every day as I walk with them on their journeys. The professional colleagues and mentors that support me, offer me consultation and their expertise, and encourage me with a new perspective when I might feel stuck — I am so grateful for you! Kate Daigle Counseling is thriving and and growing and I could not do this alone! I’m eager and excited for what 2013 brings and am looking forward to offering support, hope, and empathy to those who are taking steps to make their lives as happy and healthy as they can be. I am offering a special discount for new clients in January and am pleased to offer two new workshops in the beginning of 2013. More details? Contact Kate!
Our nation has experienced a challenging year and as 2012 draws to an end, I hold in my heart those who are in pain, who have lost a loved one this year, who are in recovery from a mental health concern, or who are coping with difficult events. I stand encouraged that in the wake of tragedy, we come together with love and hold each other up. We are our each other’s greatest healers.
Growing up, I spent many giggly hours watching ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and reading the books about Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Roo, Kanga, Christopher Robin, and all of their friends. As an adult, I look at these stories and realize the powerful messages they send us: unconditional love and acceptance, the beauty of simplicity, that we are all unique and different. The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet offer extended meditations on these lessons of peace and understanding.
Today I re-watched one of my favorite episodes, “Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore”. The psychotherapist in me couldn’t help but focus on the different roles adopted by the characters as well as the humanity in the story. This particular episode centered on Eeyore, the gloomy donkey with a rain cloud perpetually hanging over his head. Many of us, myself included, can identify with the sadness and despondency that envelopes Eeyore each day. Perhaps there is a part of you that really relates to this. Do you allow this part to have a voice? Do you push it away and try to ignore it because it feels consuming and dreary? Do you judge it and tell it that it doesn’t belong? These actions are the very thing that Eeyore fears. . . that being himself is too heavy for anyone else to love or accept.
When Eeyore goes to hide away and isolate, Pooh goes to find him and try to understand why he is so gloomy that day. Pooh, finding out it’s Eeyore’s birthday, goes to round up his friends to bring him gifts and celebrate. Of course, things go awry (Pooh, unable to control himself, eats the honey that he was bringing for Eeyore, and Piglet trips on his balloon gift and it pops). In the end, all of these characters, who might represent parts of ourselves, sit down at a table and celebrate Eeyore’s birthday. Giving Eeyore space, love, acceptance, attention, and not trying to change him in any way — these actions allowed Eeyore to feel safe and enjoy himself after all. He found that the popped balloon fit better in the (empty) jar of honey than it would have it it was still intact — showing us all that sometimes when things don’t go as planned, they actually turn out better. The silver lining of an unpredicted experience.
Who are the parts of you? Do you have a Tigger — a part that struggles to focus or commit, sometimes says or does the wrong thing but is lovable just the same? Do you have a Piglet — a worrier who wants everything to be okay but doesn’t always know the answer? Do you have a Pooh — a thinker, with great ideas, a peace-keeper, also lovable for his faults? An Owl — wise, knowing, but overcompensating for not being perfect? An Eeyore — gloomy, sad, despondent, brought to life and empowered when his voice is heard and validated? Can all of these parts of you sit down at a table and share a birthday celebration without judgment, exile or banishment?
As Pooh says at the end of this story: “Everybody’s alright, really”. This is a very healing perspective on the essence of human nature — after all, Pooh is the bear that can heal us all.
Take a look at the video yourself and share your perspectives on what Pooh and his friends can teach us — as children, but even more meaningfully as adults.
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Try to think about the last time that you felt vulnerable. What were the circumstances? Do you remember what it felt like? How would you describe that feeling? How did the feeling show up in your body?
Was it akin to: feeling open and naked, wondering if you are going to fall off that very high limb that you just put yourself out on? Out of control? Free-falling? Terrifying? Exposed? These all might be words to describe the feeling of vulnerability — among many others. I’m currently engrossed in Dr. Brene Brown‘s newest book: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead in which Dr. Brown spends a lot of time uncovering different facets of vulnerability and tells her own story with this concept that many of us seem to avoid.
Dr. Brown’s definition of vulnerability invited me to pause and truly reflect on my own relationship with being vulnerable. She describes it as:
“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow — that’s vulnerability.”
Reading that might cause a ripple of anxiety go up and down your spine. Our society today has adopted a kind of fear mentality that breeds anxiety and avoids vulnerability. We have been through so much in the past decade — war, violence, loss, recession — that we feel we must protect ourselves. But what Dr. Brown asserts, and what many of us might now know, is that being vulnerable comes from a place of power. ”Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, creativity, belonging, joy, courage, and empathy. It is the source of hope, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path,” asserts Dr. Brown.
In short, vulnerability is feeling and feeling is connection to our life’s purpose.
In perusing this, I reflected on my own life story and the character that vulnerability has played. What has it taught me? How has it helped me grow? In exploring this, I am able to help my clients find their own empowerment through vulnerability (while holding space for fear of exploring this topic).
Here are some things that I have done that have made me vulnerable:
And this is how I felt: naked, somewhat raw, but also solid. Dr. Brown surveyed many people with this same question — what did you do to be vulnerable and how did it feel? — and the most common response was “naked”. Naked is what we are when we were born and despite all of the layers we put on throughout the years of our lives, naked vulnerability is the place where we find the inner peace we’re looking for. Why? Because we are expressing ourselves honestly, directly, and wholeheartedly, a light shining from our true selves. When we are our true, open self, we are in touch with emotions that make us human — all shades of emotions, from “dark” ones to “light” ones. And if we can offer acceptance and not judgement to our wide range of emotions, then we are able to overcome challenges and build resiliency.
Dr. Brown suggests that we shy away from vulnerability because we feel we need a “shield” in a society that constantly tells us that we “don’t have enough” or that we “aren’t enough”. This passage, taken from the book The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist, really struck me:
“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time”. Whether true or not, that thought of “not enough” occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of. . . Before we even sit up in bed, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. This internal condition of scarcity lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, our arguments with life. . . “
What if we embraced that we are enough just as we are today? We don’t need to do anything else? Would that make being vulnerable less scary? What change might happen if we were to embrace vulnerability? And what if being vulnerable was the vehicle for the change that you’re yearning for?
As we continue to explore the complexities of vulnerability and its relationship to shame and other emotions, please take a look at Dr. Brown’s talk about the power of vulnerability — a video that has touched people around the world.
How can you “dare greatly” today?
I love this time of year because there is so much energy given to gratitude. Thanksgiving is a holiday that may bring trepidation and anxiety to folks recovering from eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder, but it is also a day where we are invited to sit down and be thankful for what we have.
There’s not a day that goes by where I am not giving thanks for my recovery from my eating disorder. As I sit and hold space with my clients who are finding their own journey to recovery, I am regularly reminded of my own process and the steps that brought me to where I am today.
The recovery process of an eating disorder is fraught with ups, downs, twists, and turns, and many frustrations and confusions about these peaks and valleys. Why can’t I just stop these behaviors? some might wonder….or, Why am I not able to see myself the way that others do? I have had to answer these questions myself, and the passion I felt for my own health and healing ignited my career path to becoming a psychotherapist who helps others get here too. Sometimes my clients and I contemplate what they could learn from their eating disorder. What is its function? What are its needs? What is it trying to tell you? And even: What is it wanting to help you with?
I know, thinking of an eating disorders as “helpful” might seem bizarre and unconventional. Eating disorders are painful, destructive, and demeaning, you might say. I agree — they are those things. But by looking at it in a new way, in one that invites gratitude and healing instead of illness and pain, we might find a more peaceful path towards the end goal: recovery.
In the spirit of gratitude and thanks, I wanted to offer some insight into what I learned from my eating disorder (perhaps that I might not have learned in the same way if I hadn’t ever had an eating disorder) — and what you can too.
These are a few thoughts that came up as I was contemplating gratitude today, Thanksgiving Eve. I learn new things every day that I am grateful for in my recovery as well as things that my eating disorder has taught me.
I invite you to think about what you are grateful for today and every day and to foster some energy in that direction. If you have recovered from or are in recovery from an eating disorder, what are you taking from the process? What do you want to look back on in ten years and remember about this journey?
Recovery is lifelong. Every day brings a new opportunity to utilize skills, tools, and learnings from our life’s path. And I’m always growing and learning.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving. I am grateful for all of you!
Are you looking for support on your journey to recovery? Please contact me today or call me at (720) 340-1443 to schedule a complimentary consultation!
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am enrolled in a writing class through Original Impulse where I am delving deep and becoming more connected to my writer self. This week, we did an exercise where we introduced ourselves to our inner critic (or gremlin) and tried to get to know it instead of avoid it. This technique made me think of principles in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), as it encourages going into the emotion and engaging it with acceptance instead of trying to rid ourselves of it.
I often work with my clients in a similar way to identify and get to know their critic voice. For those struggling with an eating disorder such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating, there can be an “eating disorder voice” or “critic voice” that speaks negatively or destructively to them and damages self-esteem and healthy coping. In getting to know the voice, speaking back to it, individuating ourselves from it, we can feel empowered and free. We can even utilize the voice’s power for our own good — try to understand what it needs, what it wants, and how it can help us instead of harm us.
I thought I’d share the exercise we did in writing class, altered slightly to speak to the eating disorder voice or whatever the critical voice means for each of us. We all have an Inner Critic. How can we reach across the aisle and enlist his/her support?
When we challenge ourselves or commit to a difficult task (like recovery), sometimes our inner critic can get LOUDER and try to convince us that the effort isn’t worth it. Have you ever had that experience? This is common, so if you come across it don’t let the critic voice get in the way of pursuing your goals. Instead, get to know it – give him or her some direct attention:
Once you have a clearer picture of your Inner Critic’s way of life and personality, you can separate yourself from her and notice your voice as opposed to hers.
Some tactics in working with your Inner Critic:
If your Inner Critic is full of “should’s” and is driven towards perfectionism (as mine sometimes is!), try to remember that the drive for perfectionism keeps us stuck and away from our goals. Recovery (and life) is messy and certainly doesn’t fit into neat little boxes. I like the saying that “Perfect is the enemy of beginning.”
Finally, ask your Inner Critic two important questions:
I notice that sometimes the drive under the critic is actually desiring to help us in some way. For example, my critic’s drive for perfectionism is actually her way of trying to help me find whatever I’m looking for to cultivate inner peace. When I am able to notice that, I can reframe the voice, change the words, and funnel that energy into self-care activities.
After you’ve tried this exercise for yourself, feel free to leave a comment about how this was for you or anything you discovered about your inner critic. Has your relationship with her changed? In doing this, we can connect with, utilize, and befriend all parts of ourselves and not feel like we need to “banish” any of them — even our Inner Critic.
I’m invested in my first online writing course with renowned Denver writing, creativity coach and mentor Cynthia Morris. Her business, Original Impulse helps writers just like me find their “writing juju”. This is the first week of the course “Make Writing a Happy Habit” and I was struck today by Cynthia’s coaching question: “How can you be more honest about your relationship with time?”. She asked us to list our five top priorities and denote how they take up our time every day (along with other things that take up time but aren’t top priorities). Here’s a sneak peek as to how I answered this question:
” I think that I try to set too high of expectations for my time. I also allow myself to get distracted easily by technology, animals, noises, the internet. I think that if I scaled back what I expect of myself every day, then I would be able to feel more productive with my time. This also goes the other way: if I don’t have a lot planned that day, I’d like to enjoy my free time instead of feel like I “should be doing something”, as commonly occurs. I would describe my relationship with time as circumstantial. I think it’s common to feel that time speeds up when I am enjoying it (ie: weekends), and it slows down on days where it feels like I am bogged down in work or when I am bored. Unstructured time has felt exceptionally anxious at times in my life and it has typically been something that I avoid. “
I wanted to pose to you this same question. In my work with people recovering from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, I often process with clients this very same issue:
Sometimes we uncover deeper roadblocks to scheduling time; perhaps over-scheduling one’s day can also be a way to avoid being alone with thoughts or emotions. Often, we forget or neglect to schedule in time for daily self care. Don’t allow a day to go by without doing some form of self care, and make this a priority — a minimum of 15 minutes a day! What do you do that gives you joy?
Signing up for this writing workshop was a form of self-care for me personally, as well as productive for my business and my writing goals.
I came across another great blog post about self care and self-love today. Tara Sophia Mohr writes on her blog wise living about how to actually foster and develop self-love in tangible steps. Sometimes this is easier said than done, as Tara writes: “How we feel about ourselves is like the color of our inner skies. If we could just change the color to a prettier one, we would.” Check out her post to learn how to make self-love a daily practice in your life.
How can you be more honest about your relationship with time? And how can you approach that relationship to help you deepen self-love? I’d love your comments and feedback!
I’m very excited to be selected and featured on the Inaugural Private Practice From the Inside Out Blog Carnival! Private Practice From the Inside Out (PPIO) is a blog and professional resource center created in 2003 by Tamara Suttle, M.Ed, LPC, and is “designed to help [therapists in private practice] cultivate an openness to new and different ways of developing your practice into a vibrant story of possibilities”. She has been an invaluable resource to me as I build and nurture my own private practice and I encourage you to sign up for her weekly blog posts of you are thinking of starting your own practice!
The theme for this blog carnival was “Creative Responses in Building a Private Practice”. Below you will find my reflections on tending to my hungry practice and “feeding” its needs. Please note the links at the end of the article to posts by my colleagues who were also featured in the blog carnival. I’m so grateful to be among such talented, creative, and dedicated colleagues.
The day I founded my private practice, Kate Daigle Counseling, I breathed life into a dream I’ve always held. Today, more than two years later, my practice can breathe on its own, as I continue to tend to its hunger, its fullness, its voice, its energy.
I have imagined my journey to developing my private practice as akin to nourishing a living being. My practice grows; my practice breathes; my practice slows its steps and stops for reflection. I find I can best support my practice by not only becoming informed in business-building skills, networking opportunities and clinical best practices, but by also approaching my practice as a creative and unique entity whose needs are always evolving. By relating to my practice in this way, I am also able to tune into my own needs in my personal, clinical, and professional life and notice where I am starved, where I am satisfied, where I am growing my branches to connect with others.
Developing a successful private practice involves embodying multiple roles, some of which might feel out-of-sync with our clinical therapist training. Therapists, myself included, can feel uncomfortable standing up for the financial needs of their practices and shy away from the business side of this career. Networking with large groups of other professionals might feel intimidating to a therapist who thrives in small one-on-one environments. At times, the work involved in this journey can feel exhausting and overwhelming and might dry up our internal resources. When this occurs, I try to tune into what my practice is asking for. As I use body-centered techniques in my work with clients to try to heal the mind-body connection, I similarly need to support my practice and myself in the healthiest and most authentic way so that my business can grow deep roots and I can maintain energy to breathe into it.
What do living things need? How do trees grow deep and sustainable roots so that they may provide clean air and shade to those in need? How can I tend to my practice so that I can continue to offer support to clients and take care of my own personal needs, allowing me to be as present, open, and connected as possible?
Wearing my “new” therapist shoes – I am of the mindset that I will always be learning and growing throughout my career – I have settled with a few observations as to how I can support the authentic, creative, and organic growth of my private practice.
By approaching my private practice as a living, breathing being who has needs and hungers, its heartbeat enables me to offer compassion and space for it to grow. In this way, I can creatively plan ahead for how my practice might look as it matures over the years, and how I can continue nurture this meaningful dream.
Don’t forget to continue your ride at the PPIO Blog Carnival! Other informative and interesting submissions include:
Please feel free to comment on my post and any of these unique posts and begin a discussion about your own creative responses to building a private practice!
As we welcomed the arrival of autumn on September 22nd, we opened a new chapter of crisp fall air, changing colors, brisk mornings, and harvest dinners. This is what fall is all about and for many, it brings an inner comfort and a desire to snuggle under the blankets with a big cup of hot tea. What else does autumn represent? As each season passes, I am always mindful of the gifts from the outgoing season and the promises of the one yet to come. As nature cycles through her natural patterns, humans and all animals alike take notice of this change.
Change is embraced by some and feared by others. When one is in recovery from an eating disorder such as bulimia, binge eating, anorexia, or any other type of disordered eating, change can bring overwhelming anxiety as it suggests a shift in an all-too-familiar routine. I often sit with clients and hold space for them to share these anxieties, excitements, worries, and anticipations of upcoming changes in their lives. I like to remember that with every change comes a loss as well as a new birth. Moving into a new home is a significant change in someone’s life, bringing new things to adjust to, new neighbors, new routines. Going back to school similarly offers some “unknowns”, some uncertainties of what is yet to come which might feel unsettling for some. A birth of a new child is a huge shift in a family, as the child is welcomed into the fold and the parents adjust to new responsibilities, expectations, and roles.
If you feel stuck in a destructive cycle of bingeing and purging, negative self talk that devastates your self-esteem, or any other type of harmful behavior, you might be ready to make a change in your life. Clients bring with them this hope for change, for a life without self-destructive behaviors or thoughts, and with a hope for accepting and loving themselves. They can also admit to some fears about what they might have to “give up” or “confront” when making this change. This is completely normal! Just as fall eventually turns into winter, a time of hibernation and reflection, change is inevitable — and it can feel simple to slip into a mindset of “dreading” or “avoiding” change.
I try to remind my clients (and myself, if I find myself getting stuck), that winter has its own gifts to offer and that spring will come again. While some may see winter as a time of cold and darkness, you also might approach winter as a time of rejuvenation, slowing down, resting, and preparing for the birth of spring. A new routine, a different way of approaching and caring for yourself, trying to accept your feelings instead of push them away — these all represent change in our lives. And instead of focusing on what is wrong about them, perhaps we could ask ourselves to notice the benefits of this change and remind ourselves that a re-birth is yet to come, whatever that looks like for each of us.
Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself about your relationship to change in your life:
– What am I losing in this change, and how can I offer myself kindness and compassion around this?
– What am I gaining with this change in terms of growth, healing, and self-care?
– How can I be mindful about this change, and check in with myself daily around my feelings about it and try to remind myself of the gifts of the present moment?
Don’t forget to turn your attention inward and notice your emotions around this transition. New beginnings, like autumn or any new beginning in your life, might bring up unresolved feelings or issues from previous life cycles. Perhaps autumn reminds you of a friendship that was lost last autumn which you haven’t allowed yourself to feel in some time. Maybe autumn brings the birthday of a child and each year you are reminded of the pure joy you felt the day he or she was born.
allow yourself to feel. Journal about what you feel, draw what you feel, sing what you feel, dance what you feel. There are no “good” or “bad” feelings, and like a wave in the ocean, each feeling will eventually ride out.
Nature allows us endless opportunities for healing, re-birth, renewal, and getting back in touch with ourselves. How are you going to embrace this new season in your life?
I’ve talked to a fair share of people — those who have been to counseling before and those who have never set foot in a therapist’s office — who break into a cold sweat when thinking about talking with a therapist. I have been in the client’s chair myself, and my experiences in counseling deeply inspired me to want to help others by becoming a therapist. I believe in the power of therapeutic change and benefit and I’ve also “been there” and empathize with how daunting it might seem to enact change in one’s life.
Anxiety and nervousness can precede a therapy appointment. They can cause you to drive around the block a few times before finally parking and walking into the office. I know that sometimes it can feel worse after the appointment, instead of better. I know that discomfort might be part of the protocol. I understand that talking about personal matters can feel foreign, vulnerable, and risky.
So why do it?? Because change can happen. Steps can be taken, with the trust and security of a therapeutic relationship, to achieve personal goals that bring peace, happiness, and clarity to one’s life. This is absolutely possible. But, you may wonder, what do I have to risk in order to achieve that change? These common fears may keep some folks from calling a therapist and today I wanted to “normalize” those fears — and talk about what to do to overcome them. Because everyone deserves a fair shot at a balanced and healthy life.
In working with clients in recovery from eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder, I often encounter some anxiety around change. Through my own recovery from an eating disorder, I went through various stages of change and different levels of readiness for change. I discovered that I needed to follow my own path, and it may take me up hills and down valleys; most significantly I found out that therapy, while terrifying at times, helped me make the changes that got me to the place I am today — healthy and fully in recovery!
Here are three of the biggest fears that those with an eating disorder who are contemplating therapy may experience. These can also be widened to anyone who is approaching the decision to pursue therapy:
Three Big Fears About Going to Therapy – and how to conquer them:
1.) My therapist is going to force me to change. This is not only a fear about therapy, but also a misconception. A therapist will never (should never) force someone to change. We cannot. It is your life and you make your own choices. Sometimes when health issues are highly concerning, a client may enter a treatment center where he/she must follow certain rules. These rules are for the therapeutic benefit of the client, and while the rules may limit behaviors that are self-destructive, it is ultimately up to the client to open his/herself up to changing thoughts, behaviors, and ways of relating to self and others. If you enter therapy, you are in charge. This isn’t to say that your therapist is not going to challenge some things you do or say, but confrontation is a therapeutic tool that is also for the good of the client. Therapists point out what we sometimes cannot admit to ourselves.
2.) If I open up and am honest, my therapist is going to judge me. Honesty is one of the biggest risks in therapy — because being honest makes us vulnerable, possibly subject to judgment. Honesty is also a vehicle of change, as it allows us to connect with how we truly feel and explore those feelings. A trusting, solid, connected therapeutic relationship can foster a healing and safe space for honesty and this is one of the cornerstones of therapy. A therapist’s job is to be a non-judgemental and non-biased professional whom you can feel comfortable talking with about personal and sometimes painful subjects. If you have concerns about judgment in the therapy room, this is certainly a topic that should be discussed.
3.) If I go to therapy, I will have to keep going for the rest of my life. Sometimes people are afraid of “opening a can of worms”, and feel it’s safer to keep the genie in the bottle. I can relate to this. When I share some of my personal therapy experiences with clients, they sometimes ask me how long it took me in therapy to feel healthy and stable enough to go out on my own. As everyone’s path is different, the length of therapy might be conditional based on each person’s needs and goals. For some, a few sessions might alleviate some presenting symptoms. For others, a few weeks, or months. In the initial few sessions, I go over goals with my clients and we keep track of how progress is going as we move on. The goal of therapy is to help you find tools and strengths that you can utilize whenever you need them, and to empower you to know that you can walk on your own two feet. So, while I empathize with the fear of “being in therapy forever”, this is not ultimately healthy, and an experienced therapist should continue the conversation with you about how you are feeling as therapy moves forward.
Do you relate to any of these common therapy worries? Entering into therapy is an investment in yourself — your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. To find balance and health, this may involve talking about uncomfortable things and confronting destructive coping mechanisms. As someone who has gone through therapy and sometimes still checks in with my therapist, I can attest to the benefits of this process. You are worth the investment!
If you or anyone you know is thinking about “dipping your toe” into therapy, please contact me and I’d be happy to tell you more about the process and what to expect: 720-340-1443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s almost Labor Day weekend — the symbolic “end of summer” and a time to rest and rejuvenate before the start of autumn. With all of the time we spend working, don’t we deserve a little break? Then why is it that so many people have a hard time taking the whole three days to have fun? Because we have a hard time saying “no” and letting go.
I am certainly guilty of this from time to time and have to mindfully remind myself that time off allows my brain to rest, my body to heal, my emotions to breathe, and my stress to decrease. Only when I turn “off” my work brain and give myself a vacation can I assess what I need in order to be a healthy and balanced psychotherapist and human being.
Are you like me and have a hard time leaving work at work? Instead of “laboring” this Labor Day weekend, why not try something radically different? And if you work in an industry that requires you to work this weekend, there are still ways to relax and find some personal time for yourself. Because you deserve it.
Creating boundaries between our personal and professional lives, no matter what your profession, helps us define our values, our purpose, our goals, and allows us to be more present with ourselves and with others.
Here are Five Tips to Mindfully Let Work Stay in the Office and To Allow Yourself to ENJOY!:
1.) Imagine it’s Friday and you are waiting to get off work for the weekend — you want to enjoy this time off, but know there’s going to be so much to come back to on Tuesday and this anxiety is already looming over your head. What to do? Make a list. Write down everything you have to get done next week and allocate time in the coming week for each task. If it still feels like too much, prioritize tasks in order of immediacy and importance, and focus on setting aside space for those high on the list. Email this list to yourself. If you have your emails linked and see work and personal emails together (really handy but impedes on personal boundaries!), turn off your work email until Monday night…or even until Tuesday. You will have a plan for how to proceed and can get started while still feeling organized.
2.) Try doing a visualization. Imagine your office space. See yourself there, doing your daily work tasks. Notice what feelings you are having: anxiety? boredom? frustration? Notice where you feel these in your body. Now visualize yourself closing the drawers in your desk. Shutting down your computer. Lowering the blinds. See yourself walking out the door and locking your office behind you. Stand in the hallway for a moment and focus on this physical boundary between you and your office. Get a clear picture in your mind of this separation. Mindfully pay attention to yourself walking out the door and getting into your car/bike/bus. Say to yourself a mantra, something to the effects of: “Work stays at work, I deserve this space to breathe, relax, and play”. Repeat this as many times as necessary.
3.) Spend some time reflecting on who you are outside of work. Work is one domain in your life (for more info on defining values in domains of your life, read about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). What are the other domains of your life? Home? Spirituality? Recreation? Relationships/Roles? Passions? What gives you energy? What activity or person makes you feel great about yourself? Where do you go to renew and rest? Spend the weekend following these other parts of you and giving them attention and time. Being a whole, balanced person helps us to be proficient and happy in all areas of our lives. Allowing yourself to not work helps you to define what else is just as valuable (or more so) than work is…and helps you be better at your job, too.
4.) If you have to work this weekend, focus on planning for some time to give to yourself. Even if your schedule is hectic and demanding, carving out a few hours to spend reading, walking in the park, or going to a local festival, can be therapeutic as well. Small doses of mindful and peaceful activity can help your stress levels to decrease and knowing that you have that time to look forward to can propel you through the work hours.
5.) Let go. I know — easier said than done! But really, what is the use of worrying/fretting about work for three days where there is nothing you can do about it? Sure, I guess you could get caught up on work or get ahead of work during this holiday, but there won’t be anyone to email or discuss work ideas with because they will be on holiday too (or should be!). Remember that you can get it done later and that this time, this present moment, is valuable. Allow yourself to be present. Work will always be there, but the gift of a long weekend won’t!
Note: if you feel stressed about letting go, be gentle with yourself. Your career may be very valuable to you and an integral part of who you are. The feelings you experience are very normal and won’t necessarily go away. Accept them. Live through them. You can STILL enjoy your weekend and not allow those feelings to impede on your fun!
Do any of these tips sound like something you’d like to try to create some boundaries between work and home life? I’d love to hear how it goes for you and how you practiced being mindful this Labor Day weekend. Have a great weekend!!
The seasons of life cycle through our challenges and our joys. As the fall air begins to color the Colorado skies, I am reflective of the changing tides, the laughs we have laughed, the tears we have wept, and the difficulties we have endured. It has been a tough summer in Colorado. It seems at times so simple to slip into the dark cave that beckons, and I find myself stepping inside. But, what about the light at the other side of this tunnel? A wise mentor shared with me the other day her philosophy on dealing with challenging times. She said “sometimes I need to retreat into my cave, and that is okay. I just try to imagine it lined with sparkling gems and jewels and beautiful rainbow specks of light.”
This philosophy reminds me of the ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) principle of getting cozy with our feelings and emotions, accepting them no matter what they are. Today I read a guest post on Tamara Suttle’s popular blog Private Practice from the Inside Out by Ann Stonebraker, who is a therapist in private practice at Labyrinth Healing. Ann wrote of the “green-eyed monster”, and how, when we feel the green eyes of jealousy churning up inside of us (as tends to happen sometimes, naturally), instead of running away from the feeling, we can ask it what it has to teach us. Jealousy can also be approached in a way that reminds us what we are grateful for.
This post inspired me today to blog about the things I am grateful for in my own life personally and professionally. Though our “caves” have much to give and teach to us, instead of dwelling in the darkness of the cave why not look towards the jewels that also line it? Sometimes a darkness yields a gem.
I encourage you to add to this list as you may so desire. A good practice to get into is to write down three things every evening in your own “Gratitude Journal” that you are grateful for that day. I’ll get us started:
Things I Am Grateful For:
My list continues to grow each day. I am grateful for all of you who stop by my blog and give your opinions and ideas. I also encourage you to tune into Private Practice from the Inside Out, which hosts a weekly gratitude blog as well.
What are you grateful for?
Recovery from an eating disorder is a complex and difficult process. I believe that it takes a combination of several factors to fully recover: honesty, accountability, compassion, and determination. Treating eating disorders is also challenging because treatment may require holding all of those factors all at once and finding a balance with them in the therapeutic process.
Many people enter counseling because they want to create a new way of living their lives. They have a desire to change. The readiness to change, I think, it probably the single most determining factor in actually creating a change. There are several stages of readiness to change, and clients may show up in any of these stages.
The stages of readiness to change are:
1.) Precontemplation – at this stage, almost all of the desire to change is external to the client, meaning they might be forced to come to therapy, they might be ambivalent about it, they may change only if the external pressure is significant enough — but this type of change is typically short-lived if not internalized. People in the precontemplation stage might feel ‘demoralized and don’t want to think about their problem because they feel that the situation is hopeless. “There is certain comfort in recognizing that demoralization is a natural feeling that accompanies this stage-and in realizing that if you take yourself systematically through all the stages of change, you can change.”‘
2.) Contemplation. People in this stage realize they might be stuck and desire for things to be different. ”People acknowledge that they have a problem and begin to think seriously about solving it. Contemplators struggle to understand their problem, see its causes, and begin to wonder about possible solutions.” Often, people in this stage are not quite ready to risk taking action, and as a result can stay in this stage for a very long period of time.
3.) Preparation. This is the stage where people begin to make changes — within the next few weeks or a month. This intention is made public, perhaps by involving loved ones or support systems. It is important to feel solid in this stage and to develop a foundational plan for how to follow-through with the change; moving too quickly through it might decrease the person’s chances for success.
4.) Action. This is a ‘busy’ period where behavior is overtly changed and modified. These changes may be more visible to other people (for example quitting smoking or decreasing eating disorder behaviors), but some of the internal work of this stage and prior stages might not be as overtly visible.
5.) Maintenance. This stage is where changes and steps taken up until this point are consolidated and continually reintroduced to the client. These might be solidifying new coping mechanisms and preventing relapses. This is the longest stage of change and requires commitment and ‘active alertness’.
6.) Termination: The final goal! This is where prior issues or struggles are no longer present and recovery feels solid. In eating disorder recovery, this may mean that behaviors have been eliminated for a long period of time (years) but that alertness is still required to take care of oneself and prohibit a relapse.
Change involves not only modifying behaviors but learning to cope with and manage emotions in a healthier way. Lying and dishonesty in treatment and recovery from an eating disorder can come up commonly in several stages of change. Those where the most committed action is involved — Preparation and Action stages — can create confusing and conflicting emotions. When the eating disorder is directly confronted and perhaps threatened, it can try to take back control in such a direct way that it may manipulate the client into being dishonest or lying to their therapist or support system. This is an attempt to remain ‘safe’, even though it may be maladaptive.
Why is this? There are a few reasons why dishonesty creeps up in recovery. It may be that the client wants to be “perfect” at recovery, or to please their therapist or loved ones because external validation may feel like the primary form of inner comfort. If they are struggling, they may feel like they are disappointing those who are supporting them.
It also may come up as the client begins to realize the enormous loss that is felt when an eating disorder is taken away. This change requires forming new relationships with the self and learning to cope in healthier, more fulfilling ways. If the client has used the eating disorder to cope with an inner hunger or emptiness, thinking that this needs to be let go can be terrifying. It is when the client has ‘fed’ that inner hunger in a more loving way that the eating disorder loses its power.
It is important for clinicians to recognize the signs of dishonesty in recovery. This is a great time to enact change in the eating disorder behavioral process and to show compassion for the struggle that the client is experiencing. Holding clients accountable and challenging them is a crucial part of the recovery process. Parents and loved ones can learn more about their role in this process in an article written for parents called Your Role.
It is possible to fully recover from an eating disorder. Sometimes this might mean going through a few of the stages of change several times, or staying in one for a period of time before you are ready to move on. If you feel like you or someone you know is ready to make a healthy change in your life, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation at 720-340-1443.
In light of the XXX Olympic Games currently underway in London, many media outlets have been commenting on the training, bodies, expectations, and pressure on these Olympic athletes. To qualify for the Olympic Games is a momentous triumph, requiring rigorous training and high standards from coaches, parents, teammates, the public, and the athletes themselves. Does this high expectation increase the risk for development of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and compulsive over-exercising?
I came across an interesting article about this issue entitled The Price of Gold: Eating Disorders in the Olympics, in which the author describes the complexity of becoming an Olympic-level athlete and the strain this training can put on bodies and self-concept. Though not all athletes are affected by this pressure in a way that leads to an eating disorder, many Olympians struggle with eating disorders, the risk being higher in: “Sports with weight limits, revealing uniforms (like beach volleyball), and where scores are based on form have higher rates of body image issues and eating disorders. Exercise and perfectionism can be risk factors for eating disorders, so presumably any number of athletes, male or female, at this high level of competition and motivation are at an increased risk, but it doesn’t necessarily cause an eating disorder,” says Douglas Bunnell, vice-president of the Renfrow Center Foundation.
Two athletes currently competing have come forward to speak out about their own experiences with eating disorders and to raise awareness of this issue. Brittany Viola, a diver, suffered from bulimia when she was 15 and states that she felt pressure to have a certain body type to compete professionally in her sport. In her recovery, she has come to accept and love her body as it is, and has performed very well in the Olympics. Hollie Avil, a triathlete, withdrew from the Olympics and ended her professional career as she worked on recovering from her eating disorder. She remembers being triggered by a comment from a coach that she “needed to lose weight” and now, in her recovery, wants to raise awareness about eating disorders in triathletes and other types of athletes.
An important distinction was noted by Bunnell in this article; he wants to highlight the difference between athletic training requirements and disordered eating. Many sports require rigorous training schedules, dietary plans, and goal-setting performances in order to compete at world-class level. This does not necessarily lead to an eating disorder. Eating disorders can be triggered by fear of weight gain, body dissatisfaction and clear intent to avoid weight gain, self-esteem that is tightly connected to body image, and fear of being out of control. Eating disorders are much more complex than food and exercise behaviors.
I agree that pressures of Olympic-level (or any other serious athletic competition) training do not lead to eating disorders for every athlete. I do think that the strict guidelines in terms of body weight, speed, and appearance that are present in many types of sports can increase the risk of an eating disorder, especially if the athlete is being judged on form and physical body characteristics.
Parents and coaches are the first line of defense against their athlete developing an eating disorder. Parents know their child best; they should keep an eye out for any changes in eating behavior or increased pressure to perform that stretch beyond reasonable limits. Parents and coaches can team together to make sure the athlete is not being trained to focus on body image and weight as much as other areas of performance.
Ten warning signs of eating disorders, provided by Bunnell via a press release, that parents and coaches should be aware of include:
1) Exercising even while sick or injured.
2) Skipping class, work, or other important duties to exercise.
3) Preoccupation with food and weight.
4) Repeatedly expressing concerns about being fat.
5) Increasing criticism of one’s body.
6) Frequently eating alone.
7) Exercising alone and avoiding interaction with others, especially coaches/trainers.
8) Making trips to the bathroom during or following meals.
9) Use of laxatives.
10) Exercising beyond the normal training regimen.
Serious athletes are very competitive; eating disorders thrive on competition and pressure to be perfect. As there will always be ups and downs in sports competitions, an athlete can internalize the disappointment of not achieving the score or place that he/she had hoped. This, if combined with body dissatisfaction or high expectations, can increase risk of an eating disorder being used to cope with these seemingly out-of-control feelings. One patient at the Renfrow Center reflected on her struggle after an injury took her away from playing softball: “Anorexia gave me something to obsess over and focus on as my softball thoughts dissipated, and it protected me from dealing with the devastation.”
If you know someone who might be at risk for an eating disorder, please seek help. It is possible to catch an eating disorder before it becomes severe, and recovery from these illnesses is fully possible. More information can be found at my website: www.katedaiglecounseling.com or for a free consultation call me at 720-340-1443, and at the Eating Disorder Foundation: www.eatingdisorderfoundation.org.
I have embarked upon a journey of significant life changes and milestones as of late, and am grateful for the twists and turns along my path as well as for all of the benches that have been provided and upon which I may rest.
I came across a poem today entitled “The Bench” by Anne Edwards on a wonderful site called EatingDisordersRecoveryToday.com and found it so touching that I wanted to repeat it here. I hope it can provide encouragement and support for those on any life journey…and in recovery from an eating disorder:
By Anne Edwards
©2010 Gürze Books
I know the journey is hard.
There’s a bench just up ahead
Under some trees.
Let’s sit down,
Stop for a while.
We don’t have to talk
Unless you want to.
We can listen to the birds sing,
Feel the wind,
Enjoy the view,
The life that’s out there for us.
When we are both ready,
We can continue
Our journey of recovery.
I know it has its bumps
And steep hills,
But it also has its
Easier, smoother valleys and vistas.
The most important thing,
Is that we not travel it alone.
It is a journey meant to be taken
Hand in hand.
I have struggled with the words. The tragedy last Friday morning in Aurora, Colorado left me without breath, without sense, without energy. As many of us try to pick ourselves up after this devastation, my heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones. There is no understanding of this senseless act, and healing has just begun. I am floored by the outpour of love and support that has enveloped Aurora and its surrounding communities and this gives me some sense of hope that light will shine again. What do we do in times of crisis? We cope in the way we know best. We come together, or we isolate until we can face the light. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and we all experience loss uniquely.
If you or someone close to you is affected by this tragedy, please know there are many sources of support, many of them free or low-cost. Please contact me at email@example.com for more information. I am here to support you.
I wanted to share a poem that I wrote about this tragedy, as it helped me release some of my pain and I hope it might provide some encouragement for others.
A Poem for the Victims of the Aurora Tragedy
A violation of personal safety
An explosion of broken boundaries
Chaos, fear, pain, then silence
To the victims
To their families
To their loved ones
I hold you
The words dissipate
The wounds are deep
Yet a community embraces
Each and every one
Light and hope are passed around
Like bread at the dinner table
Take a piece
Let it fill your belly
As it nourishes your soul
It empowers your body
This energy fills our limbs
So that we may embrace
So that we may come together
So that we may stay together
So that we may hold one another
So that we may breathe
the healing has already begun