Mar

26

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, awareness, balance, body acceptance, body image, body language, body love, connection, eating disorder recovery, embodiment, emotions, gratitude, inner voice

Five Steps To Becoming More Embodied: How To Be At Home In Your Body

Many of the clients that I work with report feeling “disconnected from”, “at war with”, “disgusted by”, or “dissatisfied with” their bodies.  To me this says that there has been some form of trauma that has caused a rift in the natural mind-body connection.  This could mean an actual traumatic event in one’s life, or, more commonly, it could mean that some form of internal experience (feelings) has felt too painful or too disregulated and we must disconnect from it.  Our bodies can be a battlefield for our emotions.  Castlewood Treatment Center defines one’s body image as:

‘Body image is comprised of how one sees their body, lives in and experiences their body and perceives how others see their body. Negative body image can serve a protective function to distract clients from painful feelings or emotions held in the body.’

To heal from this disconnect between mind, body and soul, we strive to become more “embodied”, to literally attach ourselves to our bodies once more, as we were when we were born.  To find a way to be accepting of our internal and experiences and thus more accepting of ourselves.

What does it mean to “be embodied”?  Being “embodied” signifies:

  • feeling at home in your body
  • feeling connected to your body in a safe manner
  • an increased ability to be in your body in the present moment and to feel all of its sensations (emotional and physical)
  • Safe and healthy expression of needs, desires, fears and wants through the body
  • an increased ability to self-soothe when feeling escalated or agitated
  • an ability to identify inner needs and tend to them appropriately
  • Connection to and acceptance of all parts of your body and of yourself
  • Connection to your sense of self; your soul
  • Ability to recognize and correct cognitive distortions related to your body

Here are a few ideas for beginning to implement these and be on your way to “becoming more embodied” in a safe, accepting, nonjudgmental, and joyous capacity.

1.) Bring your focus to the daily essential tasks that your body performs for you.  Have you ever noticed how many muscles, bones, and ligaments it takes to walk effectively?  It’s not just our legs and feet that need to be involved; our whole body is on the job as we walk down the street and keep us balanced. What about all of the steps it take to take a shower?  Have you ever slowed down and tuned into each step?  Your body does so much for you — much of it out of your consciousness — and you may not realize this.  By bringing attention and focus to the physical tasks it implements for you, you can begin to feel more present, grounded, and appreciative of your whole body and the miracle it is.

2.) Draw a body image timeline. What is the story of your body?  What would it say to you about its life if it could speak?  Begin with a large piece of drawing paper and some art materials.  Draw a line from your earliest memory of your body to the present.  Fill in each of the events that stand out to you (for example: ‘felt self-conscious in my bathing suit at the pool party, age 13′, or ‘gave birth to my first child, age 33′).  Use colors, shapes, words to describe the journey your body has been on until this point.  Add influential people to the timeline. This is not about weight, but about how it has felt to be in your body.  Then, draw a line from the present into the future: how do you want the story of your body to look from here on out?

3.) Pay attention to the messages you send to your body. These may come from both internal and external sources.  What kinds of statements do you send to your body?  That it’s not good enough? That it’s awesome and strong?  That it’s beautiful?  That ‘if only I could lose 5 more lbs, I’d be happy’?  Write these down in a notebook.  Then try to reframe the negative ones to thoughts that feel more accepting, validating, kind, and compassionate — the kinds of messages you would send to someone you love very much.  Offer kindness to what it’s been through — pains, injuries, surgeries, etc — and how resilient it is!

4.) Dance, dance, dance! We all can project feelings of awkwardness, uncertainty, or insecurity on our bodies.  Have you ever watched someone dance in a way with complete abandon, fearlessness, and joy?  Try it!  You can begin in your own home.  Turn on a song that you love, one that really gets into your soul, your joints, your body.  And let yourself dance to it with no rules and no self-consciousness.  Fling your arms around; gallop across the floor; jump in the air!  Do whatever your body wants to do — just follow it.  See how it feels!

5.) Spend a day tracking your emotions and your body signals.  We tend to hold our emotions in our bodies, and they can often show up as somatic concerns if we don’t address them.  Have you ever had a stress headache?  Or shoulder tension?  These could be the result of untreated emotional pain you are holding in your body.  When we take care of our bodies appropriately (and this means REST as well as movement!), then we send the message to our emotional selves that we deserve to be appropriately tended to as well.  Spend a day tracking the messages from your body and your emotions.  Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.  On one side, track any emotions you feel that day (sad, angry, lonely, surprised, etc).  On the other, track physical sensations you feel (headache, stomach queasy, muscle spasm in leg, tight hamstring, etc).  Just notice where these line up next to each other and if you see any connection.

These are only a few ideas to helping you become more embodied in your body, your soul, and your life.  This Saturday, March 29th, I’ll be facilitating a full-day workshop on this topic, using some of these techniques and so much more!  There are a few spots left, so contact me ASAP at 720-340-1443 to reserve yours!

Leave a comment below with ideas you have tried that have helped you feel more “at home” in your body.  What are the daily practices you use to facilitate this?  There are more great ideas as Embodiment Training as well.

This is the only body you’ll have.  Let’s see how we can celebrate our bodies and pamper them instead of judge and criticize them!

 

Feb

6

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: awareness, body acceptance, body image, body love, boundaries, eating disorder recovery, exercise compulsion

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What is ‘Fitspiration?’: This is not fitness. This is an exercise in illness

Today I am pleased to offer a guest post by blogger Lizz Schumer, who has known the dangers and pitfalls of disordered eating and exercise, and now advocates for healthy recovery and body image.

Here, she shares her experience with ‘fitspiration’ and describes her journey to balanced, intuitive exercise that fit her body’s unique needs:

I called it the “tyranny of the numbers.” I couldn’t be content to run x number of miles, burn x number of calories or spend x amount of time. The three x’s had to line up, like pictures on a slot machine, for me to hop off the treadmill satisfied. Bingo.

In this way, my compulsive exercising brain held my body captive, tied to a treadmill until one would let the other stop. If I skipped a day, I hated myself, my body, the weakness that I thought resting implied. I counted calories like I counted steps, minutes: obsessively. This was not fitness. This was an exercise in illness.

A person only need spend five minutes on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or even Twitter, to notice the “Fitspiration” trend that’s taking over social media. Slogans like “unless you puke, faint or die, keep going” and “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch,” slapped across photos of tight bodies in tighter clothes flash across the screen in the name of fitness. But what are they really saying?

After years of fighting it, I’ve learned to listen to my body telling me what it needs. My body isn’t a machine and it isn’t a tool. It’s a part of me, and a part that I love and respect. If it’s fainting or puking, there’s something wrong. That isn’t fitness; that’s illness.

And no matter how slow I go, my body still needs rest days. It needs the couch, sometimes. And yes, it often needs potato chips and chocolate, too. And if I don’t give it some off time, my body will break down. Or my mind will, because neither can exist at maximum capacity for long without falling to pieces, because neither were made that way. That isn’t fitness either. But I can tell you what it is.

It’s a culture trying to sell fitness by encouraging shame in our bodies. Fitspiration encourages pushing a person’s body to the limit and beyond, implying that any less is failure. It’s an all-or-nothing attitude that isn’t just discouraging; it’s dangerous. Women are already taught that we’re not good enough. We’re taught that our bodies are imperfect, our efforts are less valuable, our work is worth less. None of these are true, but all of them sell beauty products, self-help gear and yes, workout clothes. We have to look beyond the fitspiration messages and realize that slogans that subjugate aren’t selling us anything we should be buying. That we’re stronger, smarter, better than that.

True fitness, the kind that leaves a person feeling better and living healthier, has nothing to do with fainting and puking. It doesn’t require, or even usually result in, glistening muscles rippling beneath branded spandex. And most of all, real fitness makes a person feel better, not worse. Because my personal fitness level, no matter where it is, is nothing to be ashamed of.

These days, I don’t treat a treadmill like a slot machine, just like I don’t treat my body as a vessel that needs punishing. I put a book over the numbers, cue up my favorite podcast and exercise until a chapter break, the end of the broadcast or my body tells me to. No matter what the numbers say.

Bio: Lizz Schumer is a writer, reporter and photographer living and working near Buffalo, N.Y. The Lizz_headshot copyeditor of a local newspaper, her work has appeared in a variety of forums. Her first book, “Buffalo Steel” is available from Black Rose Writing. She can be found @eschumer, www.lizzschumer.com and www.facebook.com/authorlizzschumer.

 

Do you want to read more about ‘fitspiration’, its unhealthy messages, and related topics? You may find out more about why fitspiration really isn’t that inspirational here; or uncover some of the most damaging fitspiration messages here, and read a report about the dangerous effects of fitspiration on mental and physical health as discussed by psychologists here.

With the news of The Biggest Loser contestant who dropped more than 60% of her body weight over the course of the show and fell to an unhealthy weight, The National Eating Disorders Association asks: ‘Who Is the Biggest Loser? All of Us.” A timely topic that we all must confront.

What are your thoughts or reactions?  Please feel free to leave a comment below!

Nov

11

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: anorexia nervosa, awareness, body acceptance, body love, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder recovery, photography

How many of us must wait until something life-transforming happens before we really appreciate our bodies?

images-24 copyWhile immersing myself in texts, articles, conversations and daydreams to begin putting together a body image group coming in January 2014 (updates coming soon!!), I came across a beautiful and brilliant photo book by photographer Rosanne Olson entitled this is who I am.  Within the book’s covers, fifty-four women are photographed nude, each with stories to tell to prove that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes:

“The portraits, taken by award-winning photographer Rosanne Olson with a steady, non-judgmental eye, speak loudly to the American obsession of feminine perfection — slim hims and full breasts, high cheekbones and tiny waists, taut skin and eternal youth — and even more loudly to the way real women, with real bodies and real lives, look.”

I was struck by the pure humanness and depth in the eyes and bodies of all of the women represented in the book — women from all walks of life, ethnicities, ages, and with their own unique stories.

Utilizing this book with clients who are struggling with their own various body image issues has proven to be an eye-opening and introspective journey.  We have found a richness in exploring how what we see on the outside does not necessarily tell us the true or whole story.  When looking at a photo of a twenty-two year old slim, blonde woman, one might be compelled to focus on her body first and assume (by society’s standards) that she is happy, rich, popular, and perfect.  Reading her story, you learn that she has had part of her lung removed as part of complications of cystic fibrosis and that she lives with other complications every day.  Look in her eyes and you sense a wisdom, perhaps one that delves into her soul and makes her look older than she is.  You sense that she knows her story and its twists and turns.

What do learn or assume if we focus on how a body looks as an assessment tool for how happy, peaceful, confident, healthy, wealthy, etc etc etc a person is?  How true of a measuring tool is that? What are the consequences to this approach?

Ms. Olson posed intriguing questions to her subjects in her “goal of complete revelation — not hiding behind clothing but exposing both body and mind.  What would we learn about ourselves? Would we — could we — become more compassionate?  Not only towards ourselves but towards another?”  I invite you to peruse through the other questions she posed and see how you would answer them yourself:

  • What do you love about your body?
  • How long has it taken you to arrive at acceptance/love of your body?
  • What frustrates you or what would you like to change?
  • Has your body let you down (if you feel that it has) or have you let your body down?
  • How have you supported your body?
  • How have your feelings changed towards your body since you were younger?
  • In general, how do you feel women feel about their bodies?
  • How do you feel the media have affected how women feel about their bodies? (read an excerpt and see some of the stunning photos here)

She then asked each participant why they agreed to be photographed.  Some of the women struggle with eating or exercise problems.  Some have suffered from medical issues or illnesses that have affected the way their body functions, feels, and looks.  They all have had experiences in their lives which have forced them to become more aware of their bodies — whether in a joyful or painful way.

What story does your body hold?  If photographed, what messages about your internal state of being would your body send to those looking at the photo?  Is your internal state congruent with the energy you exude out of your body?

I have been journaling about my own journey with my body.  It has been through so much with me, and yet here it still stands, walks, talks, and dances, my ever dedicated soldier.  I am so grateful for my body, though my relationship with it can wind through sticky paths as well as bright ones.  In my own recovery, I have learned that I must take care of my body, and this is not negotiable.  My body is unique just to me, a gift.  I admire the women in these photos who allow themselves to be vulnerable, naked, and yet to connect to each other and to those who read their stories and see their photos in such a powerful way.

images-25 copyWe have so much to learn from the wisdom of our bodies. Why must we wait until something life-changing happens for us to tune into and adore them?

Stay tuned for my Body Image Acceptance Group coming in January 2014!  The group will be limited to few participants, so sign up quickly.  More info coming soon to my Events page.

 

 

Apr

26

By Kate Daigle

4 Comments

Categories: acceptance, body acceptance, body image, growth, insight

Tags: , ,

What Does “Bikini Body” Even Mean? Three Ways to Embrace Your Beautiful, Bold Body!

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??”.

Deep breath.

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 slide_289059_2281071_freesocial 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.

  • Instead of giving energy to “what’s not right” or “what I need to change”, try to reframe and notice what you already, splendidly love about your body.  We can lose awareness of our body and become disconnected, this giving way to letting the negative messages sway us.  What does your body do every day that you admire?  Which body part can you try to focus on and send love to for an entire day?
  • Take a step back and notice the underlying forces in media messages.  Most advertising has some subliminal message or force working for it — that may not have anything to do with what it’s showing you.  The diet industry (as well as the junk food industry) makes BILLIONS OF DOLLARS off of telling us that we need to be perfect and offering us “solutions” that may damage us more than help us.  Try to notice these marketing measures with a critical eye before you deem them true.  Do they really have your best interest at heart?  What will you sacrifice by doing what they tell you to do to “get that bikini body”?
  • Team up! Chances are, you are not alone in feeling these pressures.  Reach out to a friend who also might have some body image struggles and commit to embracing your bodies together.  Harming social messages can influence us sneakily, silently, and powerfully - so our response must be proactive, loud, and communal!  If you show others that you can enjoy and empower your real, beautiful bikini body, you will also empower them to do the same.

What else? I’d love to hear other ideas, thoughts, impressions, or questions about this topic.  It’s something we images-13can all relate to.

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 kate@katedaiglecounseling.com or 720-340-1443.

Forward on to enjoying the sun, the beach, food, friends, and OURSELVES!

Feb

27

By Kate Daigle

No Comments

Categories: anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, body image, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder awareness week, eating disorder recovery

How to Lend Your Voice to National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Let’s Eradicate These Disorders!

NEDAwarenesweek-300x125This 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!

Everybody

Feb

7

By Kate Daigle

4 Comments

Categories: acceptance, acceptance and commitment therapy, anorexia nervosa, awareness, balance, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder recovery, mindfulness

What Would it Be Like to Accept Your Emotions Instead of Fight Them? An ACT Approach to Mindful Recovery

images-11 copyI 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:

  • Cognitive defusion: when we are able to ‘step back’ and observe language without being caught up in it.  We can notice our thoughts at a distance, release some ownership of them, and tell our minds “thanks, mind, for that thought” instead of automatically believing it to be true or a real part of ourselves.  As we defuse our thoughts, they have much less influence.  This can be very effective with negative self-talk or eating disordered thoughts that could lead to destructive behaviors.
  • Acceptance:  making space for unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings, emotions, sensations, urges, and allowing them to come and go without struggling with them, running from them, or letting them “drive the bus” (a metaphor in ACT where emotions may feel overwhelming but you can still take charge of driving the bus of your life).  I find this to be quite powerful in eating disorder recovery because it allows us to be with our emotions and to find a way of accepting themimages-12 copy (even if we don’t necessarily like them) so that they don’t feel like big scary monsters that we need to flee from.
  • Contact with the present moment:   the practice of bringing full awareness to your here-and-now experiences with openness, interest and receptiveness.  This is akin to mindfulness, where we are able to engage fully in our present moment and be open to all that it has to offer without trying to change any of it or judge it.  The key here is: not trying to change anything.  Yes, we have painful experiences that we would perhaps like to change or erase.  The goal of mindfulness, which in this way is helpful to recovery, is to be in the present with openness so that we can feel our emotions and hear our thoughts but have some space from them so that we can make a choice about what type of behavior is associated with this experience.  This can lead to choosing less-destructive behaviors as a way of relating to the emotional experience we have.
  • The Observing Self: a way of experiencing directly that you are not your thoughts, feelings, memories, roles, sensations, etc.  In eating disorder recovery, this means disconnecting from the eating disorder and seeing who you are separate from the ED and empowering that self to heal, soothe, and find balance in accepting ways.
  • Values:  clarifying what is most important to you, deep in your heart what gives you energy, joy, purpose.  What sort of person you want to be, what is meaningful and significant to you, and what you stand for.  Finding and focusing on your personal values can facilitate the process of accepting your emotions and can be a motivation for sitting with uncomfortable feelings in pursuit of a value-driven life.  Values are what come after an eating disorder; our values are the parts of us that were suffocated by the ED and are powerful and eager to be free.
  • Committed Action:   This is the “action” piece; setting goals, guided by your values and taking effective action to achieve them.  This makes it all worth it!  This is the behavioral part of recovery where destructive behaviors become extinct and value-driven choices and actions replace them.

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:

Cultivating a Peaceful Relationship with Food

Read more about ACT: Embrace Your Demons by Russ Harris

Jan

9

By Kate Daigle

No Comments

Categories: acceptance, body acceptance, body image, body love, eating disorder recovery

New Year’s Resolutions? How About Embracing Ourselves As We Are?

Happy New Year!  

flat,550x550,075,f2013 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?

Some answers might be:happiness-1

  • happiness
  • self-acceptance
  • self-esteem
  • self-love
  • energy
  • feeling healthier
  • being accepted by others
  • fitting in
  • having something to be proud of

…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!

Nov

21

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, body image, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder recovery, gratitude

Gratitude in Recovery: What I Learned from my Eating Disorder and What You Can Too

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.

What My Eating Disorder Offered to Me and How My Recovery is Deeper Because of It:

  • I have feelings.  Some muddy.  Some sticky.  Some smelly.  And they are all ok!  I remember that before I developed an eating disorder, I experienced many complex and somewhat foreign feelings (maybe part of being a pre-teen!) and I didn’t know what to do with them.  I pushed many of them — ones that felt ‘unacceptable’ — inside and tried to forget about them.  Oh how they grew and festered!  This then caused me to feel overwhelmed and not know what to do with them.  Disordered eating was one way of trying to manage.  In my recovery, I have learned to find ways to sit with and sit through all of the feelings I experience and to understand that they are part of what it means to be a human being.  I am grateful for all of my emotions, as they give me depth, character, and space to grow.
  • I can eat!.  When I embarked on recovery, one of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t be able to eat foods that I really loved and feel satisfied by them.  I worried that my relationship with food would always be somewhat warped and abnormal.  I am so grateful for the relationship I have with food and eating today.  There is truly nothing  that I tell myself that I cannot eat, and I check in with my body daily to ask it what it is wanting.  When I am able to do that, I can eat until I am satisfied, enjoy my meal, and leave the table knowing I can have it again tomorrow if I wish.  Freedom from destructive eating behaviors is so liberating and my whole view on food has shifted!
  • I know myself pretty damn well.  One of the requirements for recovery from an eating disorder is a willingness to explore, accept, and challenge yourself.  Through my recovery journey, I have deepened my connection with my body, I have found acceptance with my emotions and feelings, and I have developed a peaceful perspective about who I am and what makes me unique.  These are things that I believe I learned so deeply (because I had to)  in my recovery and I’m not sure that I would have explored myself so intricately if I hadn’t developed an eating disorder.  I am still always growing, learning, and changing, and will forever be on a quest of self-discovery — and I feel like my eating disorder allowed me to be open to that challenge.
  • My body is mine.  And it’s beautiful.  I was walking down the street yesterday, noticing my steps, my pace, the way my feet felt in my shoes.  I realized that I didn’t want any other body.  I spent so many years wishing I had a different body.  But if I had a different body — blue eyes instead of brown, etc — then I wouldn’t be me.  I am the only person who could be me, and this body is a gift that I am given the responsibility to take care of.  And it will give back to me a hundred-fold.  And it does.

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!

Oct

3

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: advocacy, body acceptance, body image, body love, bullying

“And I am much more than a number on the scale”: A powerful message about body love, not body hate

Jennifer Livingston, a local news anchor in La Crosse, Wisconsin, spoke out yesterday on her news show about weight bullying, weight bias, and asserting that her self worth is NOT defined by a number on the scale.  Her words, delivered in a empowered and confident manner, touched thousands.  Jennifer’s message yesterday was in response to an email she got questioning why her “physical condition has not improved” and stating “surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular.”

Women and men, of all shapes and sizes, are continually bombarded by messages that “thin is healthy” and “fat is unhealthy”, where in reality health does not have much to do with weight at all.  You have been given this message.  I certainly have.  The message that we don’t hear as often is the strong, admirable, determined voice of those such as Ms. Livingston, who will not tolerate bullying about weight or anything else.  The email that Ms. Livingston received is a form of public bullying, and Ms. Livingston’s response was spoken for all children, women and men, who experience discrimination and judgment because of their physical appearance every day.  The message of this role model, one who promotes healthy self-acceptance and self-esteem is the most positive message that can young girls (and boys) can receive.

I felt compelled to write about this today for several reasons.  I deeply admire Ms. Livingston and proudly applaud her strength and efforts to speak out — when so many others feel like they cannot.  The video of Ms. Livingston’s response was viewed by 50,000 people yesterday — as much as the population of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  It has the power to continue to spread and affect lives if we continue to share its message.

In addition, October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  We all can do our part to speak up when we notice bullying, when we are bullied, or when we are playing the part of the bully.  There are safe and confidential people to talk to such as school teachers, school counselors, or a parent.  Ms. Livingston took a stance to state that the email she received could have taught children it’s okay to bully and that this is not acceptable.

Her words inspire me: ”Learn from my experience that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many,” she says.

Finally, this video touched home for me.  I am dedicated to helping others find self-acceptance, restore self-esteem, and empowering my clients to strongly believe in themselves and their innate strengths and values.  I believe that everyone is beautiful.  I also have had personal experiences with feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome in my own body and when I was younger, experienced a good deal of negative feelings about my body and myself.  Ms. Livingston’s message renews my energy to fight for body acceptance and body love for everyone that I can reach.  The story also saddened me to know that there is still so much work to do.

Local resources like Health and Every Size and the Boulder Youth Body Alliance help spread the word about celebrating body diversity every day.  You can do your part too!

What can you do?

– Leave positive, inspiring positive notes in random places to spread the word about beauty and acceptance.  See how it’s done at www.operationbeautiful.com.

– Speak up when you notice someone getting teased, judged or bullied about the way you look.  You can also tell a safe person such as an adult friend or teacher.

– Talk about beauty in ways that are not just focused on weight and appearance.  Beauty comes in energy, mannerisms, smiles, laughter, authenticity.

What other ideas do you have?

Check out the video of Ms. Livingston’s public message here:

Aug

9

By Kate Daigle

2 Comments

Categories: anorexia nervosa, athletes and eating disorders, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, body image, bulimia nervosa, exercise compulsion

Does Olympic-level athletic training increase the risk of eating disorders?

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.

Mar

20

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, bulimia nervosa, coping, culture, eating disorder, eating disorder recovery, education

Breaking through the gender stereotype: new resources to help men with eating disorders

While eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder have historically been thought to be “women’s disorders”, over one million men are suffering from these afflictions in relative silence.  My guess is that many more men and boys are struggling every day with an eating disorder than the numbers report.  With stereotypes looming about women feeling pressure to live up to societal beauty standards and using food to cope with stress, trauma, and anxiety, men who experience the very same struggles may be left isolated, feeling shameful and confused.  With the increased numbers of eating disorders around the United States, one positive aspect is illuminated: more education, advocacy, and support is beginning to become available for men struggling with eating disorders.

Beginning March 29th, a new and open support group is starting at the Eating Disorder Foundation.  Running every Thursday from 5:30-7pm, this group is sponsored by the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD) and is FREE and open to men who are struggling with any type of disordered eating or body image struggles.  Facilitators Kate Daigle, MA, NCC and Clinton Nunnally, MA, LPC, are hopeful that this new group will open doors for men to find support in recovery from eating disorders.

What is different about eating disorders in men and women?  Not a whole lot.  In a clip I found produced in Britain to shed light on National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, one of the men talks about how criteria for anorexia nervosa includes amenorrhea (the loss of a female’s monthly cycle) and that he sees this as a gender bias against men who may be dealing with the same disorder.  You can view the clip here:


According to the online eating disorder recovery site Something Fishy,

“The most common element surrounding ALL Eating Disorders, including Eating Disorders in Males, is the inherent presence of a low self esteem”.

Men are dealt with pressure to live up to standards, ideals, and stereotypes, just as women are.  The image of the strong, muscular male underwear model or the skinny, fashionable hipster affect the way that men perceive themselves.  They may be influenced by “what women want” in a mate and conform themselves to fit the desired ideal.  In addition, men are supposed to be “the strong, stoic, protector” — one who doesn’t show or admit to emotions — based on Western standards, and this can create a great deal of pressure to fit all expected roles.  Men, just as women, can control food in order to try to cope with feelings, or can feel out of control with food as a way of expressing underlying struggles.

We still have a ways to go to understanding how we can best support men in their recovery from eating disorders.  I think the first step is admonishing the shame that is often attached to eating disorders.  Shame is released by expressing it, addressing it, and letting it go.  Here are additional resources for men struggling with eating disorders and for their families and loved ones:

Males and Eating Disorders: Research

Eating Disorders in Straight and Gay Men

Men With Eating Disorders Often Overlooked (a Talk of the Nation special audio report)

Men Get Eating Disorders Too (a non-profit to raise awareness about EDs in men)

I am hopeful that with these resources and with research to come, that men will not feel so alone or shameful about struggling with an eating disorder and that they might break the silence and search for treatment.  If you know of any males who might benefit from the free support group please contact Kate Daigle at (720) 340-1443 or the Eating Disorder Foundation.

Mar

7

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, bulimia nervosa, coping, eating disorder, recovery from eating disorders

So…I’m in recovery from my eating disorder; what do I do now?: Strategies to fully embrace life after ED

I am often asked: “What is recovery?  How do I know when I am recovered from my eating disorder?”.  With these perplexing concepts, there is no single correct answer.  Recovery from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or any other type of disordered eating is individualized and unique for each person.  This special journey is what makes recovery from eating disorders both challenging and rewarding: during recovery, we each learn tools and embellish our strengths that will guide us to a life of balance and wellness for many years to come.  We also may slip and stumble a few times during this journey. But staying the course is the key to sustained recovery.

Today, I’d like to shed some light on what to do once you have come to realize that you are “recovered” or “in recovery” from an eating disorder.  Again, this is my perception — my feelings about my own recovery.  They may help others, they may not.  Take what helps.  I am safe in assuming that the majority of those in recovery will agree that eliminating destructive and self-harming behaviors is a central key to recovery (behaviors such as bingeing, purging, restricting, over-exercising, cutting, and others).  While it is normal to have occasional slip-ups of behaviors while working to find security in recovery, the true definition of recovery must involve a cessation of behaviors. Behaviors such as those listed above are symptoms of a deeper psychological issue.  When working to find peace and wellness from behaviors, the root of the issue must be defined and nourished.  When this is done, or is “in the process” of being uncovered, harmful behaviors will naturally cease because they will not be needed as a coping mechanism any longer.

One of my favorite quotes I heard recently by Cheri Huber reminded me of the complexity of recovery:

“Having an attachment ripped from deep in our being does not feel kind.  Yet when it is gone, when the wound is healing, we can see that the process was one of pure compassion.”  ~Cheri Huber

Eating disorders are like an attachment.  They are like a relationship.  They will never abandon us, deny us, leave us, or disagree with us.  We can always rely on them.  This is why it is so challenging to let them go — for all of the pain they have caused us, they have also satiated an inherently untended need.  I interpreted this quote to mean that when we have our eating disorder taken away from us — whether it was of our own initiative or not — there is pain.  The beginning stages of recovery are often the most excruciating; it can feel like ripping off a band-aid and exposing an open wound.  Sometimes, it is too painful to bear, and we feel we need to continue using our behaviors until we are stronger in coping.  When we sit with the feelings under the eating disorder, when we begin to heal, we can notice that giving ourselves compassion is one of the biggest keys in maintaining a solid recovery.

Here are a few ideas that might help in continuing to deepen your commitment to recovery:

1.) Define what the underlying struggles are, and always keep those in your awareness.  This may come in the form of anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties or remnants from a traumatic event.  You do not need to focus your awareness on these directly all the time, but tuck them into your consciousness so that you can be notified when you might need to cope with them in a healthier way.

2.) Remember what you have achieved.  Again, this needs to be in balance — don’t re-traumatize yourself by vividly placing yourself back into what it was like to be in the eating disorder, but reflect on the steps you have taken, the victories you have obtained, and the strength you have deepened within yourself.  Sometimes when I am feeling down, I summon up my gratitude for my own recovery and that I got myself there.

3.)  Connect with community.  It is always therapeutic to be part of a community that understands and supports you through your recovery.  Recovery can be a life-long process in stages, and you may have different needs as you take steps down the road.  This can come in the form of joining writing or poetry groups, if it is healing for you to write about your recovery.  You also might participate in volunteer activities with local eating disorder support centers.  In Denver, the Eating Disorder Foundation offers many volunteer opportunities or classes you can take and expand your horizons in their new support center “A Place of Our Own”.

This is only the beginning of a list of ideas to maintain recovery.  What are some of your ideas?  Remember always that the journey is challenging at times, but there is hope for a full, sustained, and healthy recovery from anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

Feb

16

By Kate Daigle

No Comments

Categories: anorexia nervosa, body acceptance, eating disorder, eating disorder recovery

There’s a new word in the dictionary: the advent of “thinspo” and its menacing grip on young girls’ self worth

There’s a new word in the {Tumblr} dictionary: thinspo (n.): short for “thin-spirational”, photos of wafer-thin girls, pro-anorexia quotes.  The culture devoted to thinspo is primarily found on Tumblr but also is awash in blogs and sites all over the internet.  Those who are active in it use acronyms across the top of their webpages, like a banner to describe their work: CW (current weight), SW (starting weight), UGW (ultimate goal weight).  Carolyn Gregoire of the Huffington Post recently wrote an article THE HUNGER BLOGS: A Secret World of Teenage ‘Thinspiration’ wherein she uncovers “this codependent sisterhood of bloggers uses Tumblr for one sole purpose: to lose extreme and unhealthy amounts of weight.”

Throughout my work with eating disorders and during my own struggle, I have encountered “pro-ana” (pro-anorexia) and “pro-mia” (pro-bulimia) sites which give “advice” and “tips” on how to have the best eating disorder possible.  These sites are incredibly toxic for the influence they can have on young girls and boys who may not know anything about eating disorders before coming upon them.  Harriet Brown, author of Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle with Anorexia wrote a blog post piggy-backing onto Ms. Gregoire’s post, during which she acknowledges that “thinspo” and other pro-ED sites are technically allowed because of the First Amendment’s liberty of self-expression, but “thinspo is not self-expression because it’s not these young women’s true selves that invite emaciation and worship at the altar of jutting hipbones. The longing for extreme thinness, for the self-annhilation of starvation, is not rational. It’s not a choice. It’s the expression of an underlying terror and compulsion that controls a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.”  In other words, the eating disorder is writing the words for these young women.

Ms. Brown’s post, entitled “A Mother’s Plea to Shut the Hunger Blogs”, is written from the heart — from someone who knows  what it’s like to have a daughter affected by the messages from these sites.  She writes: “If my older daughter had never developed anorexia, I might be more sympathetic to the notion that thinspo is a genuine form of self-expression.”  One of the dangers of thinspo is that the words and intent can come from a vulnerable place of wanting to express something.  Eating disorders develop for some kind of reason, they help to cope with something, and behind the dangerous messages of thinspo lie millions of hurt, scared, and sick young women who underneath it all just want to be loved for who they are.  They just don’t know how to express that and are afraid to be rejected.

This may be why Ms. Brown says that she has empathy for these young women “even as their words nauseate me”: the real issue isn’t the development of these sites but the underlying cultural acceptance of the drive to be thin.  And to do almost ANYTHING to get there — thinness is more valued in our culture than intelligence, curiosity, creativity or JOY.  Now that is pretty twisted.

Yahoo says it has dismantled over one hundred thinspo sites due to “violation of the site’s terms of use”; this is a start, but the sites will keep on coming.  We can take all of the sites off the internet, and this will be a great step in the direction of decreasing “pro-ED” education.  However, the real issue is the way that thinness, fitness (yes, there’s another new word: ‘fit-spo’, short for ‘fit-spirational’, showing photos of fit girls and inspirational fitness quotes), and competitive drive are placed in the spotlight as qualities that lead to happiness and success.  Yes, they may lead to a healthy lifestyle, but if these messages are heard by ears that are consumed by our culture and are already pre-disposed to eating disordered behaviors, they can lead to a full-blown eating disorder that takes their lives away from them.

As Ms. Brown cites: “In part because of our cultural obsession with thinness, we have trouble seeing anorexia and other eating disorders as illnesses. As real illnesses, the kind you can’t snap yourself out of. And that’s the main reason I would shut down every thinspo blog and Tumblr if I could: Because the girls and young women who so eagerly perpetuate them are ill. They’re not stupid or vain or misguided; they are profoundly, mortally sick.”

We are making ourselves sick.  We consume and purchase, trying to fit the standard that must be the way to find a lifetime of happiness.  The truth is that we will never find what we are looking for in that way; the only way we will find what we yearn for is to look within ourselves, listen to our voice, and take the steps to follow our own unique, authentic path back to ourselves.

On the advent on Eating Disorders Awareness Week, let’s hear your voice!

Jan

25

By Kate Daigle

No Comments

Categories: anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder recovery, freedom, self-acceptance

It’s miserable, but it’s also seductive: eating disorders and the ‘impostor syndrome’

Yesterday I found a raw, heartfelt blog post about what it is like to live with an eating disorder.  I remember that through my own recovery process, one of the things that was most meaningful to me was reading the words of people who “got it”.  It seemed few and far between to find someone who truly understood the way I was feeling…mostly because of the mysterious and hidden nature of eating disorders themselves.  We hesitate to expose them, despite the fact that millions of people do understand what we are feeling.  Today, I utilize an empathic approach to my therapeutic philosophy as much as is helpful for my clients.  I want them to know that I get it, because I do.

Reading the blog post yesterday, titled Eating Disorders and the Fear of the Ordinary , I was instantaneously drawn to the writer’s reality.  She wrote about something she called “the impostor syndrome: the gnawing fear that you don’t really belong there, that you don’t have what it takes, that you somehow slipped through the cracks in the admissions process and are actually an intellectual embarrassment, an incompetent fraud who knows jack-all about anything — and that sooner or later, like the Wizard of Oz, you will be found out and exposed for the humbug you really are.”

I reflected on my own journey.  Did I feel like an impostor?  Certainly I did, trying to fit in with crowds of people who did not accept me, trying to mold myself into something I wasn’t in hopes that I would be accepted.  The most significant way that I was an imposter was in relating to my own self.  I was not living within my own skin, my own body; I was detached from the neck down.  I couldn’t believe that the body I had was mine, and for many years, I didn’t want it to be mine.  Now I know that it was not about my body at all, but about accepting myself for who I was, inside and out.  Accepting my sensitive nature, accepting that I had a streak of perfectionism in me that would always peek through.

The author talks about feeling as if we are impostors who “are horribly afraid that somewhere along the line somebody will figure this out. We are convinced in the teeth of the evidence that there is something fundamentally flawed about us, something that needs fixing and yet is unfixable.”  This can lead to hurting ourselves through destructive behaviors and feeling as if we are different from everyone else.  This would-be self-absorption makes us feel different, special, unique.  This feeling, she says, is “miserable, but also seductive.”  Thus one of the reasons that eating disorders are so difficult to recover from: we must realize that we are not so different from others, that we belong, and that we are deserve the same self-confidence that others do.  But that is also, in the author’s vein, ordinary.

The author also points out that when struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge eating disorder, one may feel very alone and separate, but

“what’s so funny about this whole self-fulfilling prophecy is that we aren’t really alone, and our methods aren’t really as terribly original as we’d like to think they are. The statistics don’t lie: there are eight million [reported] eating disorder sufferers strong in this country alone, each and every one of us absolutely convinced that we are unlike all the others, that we are somehow Extraordinary.”

What are we trying to achieve by being extraordinary?  Do we want to be noticed? loved?

I encourage you to read the entire post, and to reflect upon how it relates to you or to someone you love who has struggled with an eating disorder.  The final words are written as if from my own mouth: “I’m not extraordinary, and I’ve nearly killed myself trying to be — but what I am is perfectly imperfect. That’s what I have to offer this world — and that’s fine by me.”

Jan

19

By Kate Daigle

4 Comments

Categories: balance, body acceptance, culture, eating disorder, eating disorder recovery

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Divorcing the fat stigma and embracing health, wellness, beauty at ANY size

Everywhere you look, there’s an advertisement to help you lose weight — especially this time of year! Celebrities talk about fasting for days before an awards show and commenting on how “AMAZING their body looks after losing all of that baby weight!!”.  As if that is the most important thing in the world.  Why is everyone so afraid of fat?  We are conditioned to believe that the thinner we are, the happier, the more successful, the richer, and the more popular we will be.  We will have it all.  But what about already having “it all” — no matter how we look?  This perspective is revolutionary in mainstream Westernized culture, and quite controversial at times, pushing against such rigidity about what we “should” look like and “should” do.  Tell me this: does thinness REALLY cause happiness?

I was curious about this question so I asked a few of my acquaintances who are affected by this social pressure.  After thinking for a moment, my subject said: “well, yes, it will make me happier because it will give me more self-confidence.”  I asked another colleague the same question and she said: “no, thinness will not make me happier because my body is balanced at its natural set point; no matter how much I could starve myself or workout, my body will always look this way.  If I decided that I needed to be thin to be happy, and my body was not where I wanted it to be, I would be choosing to make myself miserable.”  In both of these perspectives, I gleamed a similar theme:  confidence in our selves could influence happiness.  Many of us look for happiness by changing the way we look, feeling as if that is something we can control.  And we can, to a certain degree.  But if we are choosing to control how we look and doing so in a way that is not focusing on health and wellness of our bodies as well as our minds, this can lead down a dangerous path to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

I am a huge fan of the philosophy of the Health at Every Size organization (HAES), whose mission “is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:

  • Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
  • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.”

Already over 3600 people have signed the HAES pledge to honor and respect their bodies.  Imagine what our world could be like if we chose to love and accept our bodies instead of abuse and control them?

We cannot talk about the fat stigma in the US without discussing the growing problem of obesity in our country.  Statistics show that nearly one third of adults in the US (33.8%) are obese.  The same HAES principles can be applied to those who are obese as can be applied to any other person:  if we choose health and wellness, meaning giving our bodies nutritious and delicious foods and eating in a manner that is mindful and pleasurable, exercising so that our muscles can be strong and active, and finding joy in the beauty of our bodies, then we might have healthier connections to our bodies.  What about embracing terms like health and wellness instead of fat or skinny?

post from the “Dances with Fat” blog written in response to Paula Deen’s recent admission that she has type two Diabetes and those who are criticizing her states:

Public health does not mean public thinness.  It also doesn’t mean being a judgmental busybody who shames or stigmatizes people who don’t look or act like you think they should.  Being for public health means that you are for people having access to the foods that they choose to eat, safe movement options that they enjoy,  and affordable evidence-based medical care.”

There is a movement that has formed to push against the our society’s fear of fat.  We each have our own experiences and opinions about this topic, as it is very close to our hearts and our daily lives.  I invite you to leave a comment, raise your voice, as we need more dialogue to shut out the noise of unhealthy eating and mindsets about food!

Dec

29

By Kate Daigle

1 Comment

Categories: acceptance, anorexia nervosa, awareness, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, body image, bulimia nervosa, coping with the holidays, eating disorder, eating disorder recovery, education

Concerned that a loved one might have an eating disorder? Five tips for helping to promote body-love and self-acceptance

The holidays are a time of togetherness for family and friends.  They bring a certain warmth of sharing love and memories, often coupled with catching up with loved ones who have been away for some time.  The holiday season is also filled with food, drinks, and more food — another way that families show and share love.  What if you start to notice behaviors with a loved one that are abnormal or self-destructive?  I recently read an article by the Huffington Post entitled Parents are the First Line of Defense Against Eating Disorders in College Freshmen.  This article gives helpful tips for noticeable signs that your college freshman may have developed an eating disorder after their first semester away from home.

Going away to college can be a perfect storm for eating disorder development:  the child’s first taste of freedom and choice, the endless array of dorm food and late night pizza runs, the desire to fit in with new friends through food, drinking, and overindulgence.  In the article, some of the signs are noted as: a noticeable weight loss, a withdrawal from family and friends, and over-concern with meal preparation, discussing that college is very stressful or anxiety-producing, and excessive exercise.  While one or two of these symptoms might not necessarily mean that an eating disorder is present, these can be signs to keep in mind and notice if they intensify or inhibit the student’s life.

So, say you are concerned about a loved one’s behavior and mood changes and worry that he or she might be developing an eating disorder?  How do you approach them so that the disorder doesn’t get worse and he or she might seek out help?  This is a very tricky and touchy area, as eating disorders such as bulimia and binge eating disorder are plagued with feelings of guilt and shame and often are kept in a place of denial.  Anorexia nervosa is also difficult to approach due to the rigidly-controlling and overwhelming feelings that this disorder might inflict on the loved one.

Here are a few tips for trying to show you care about a loved one who might have an eating disorder or body image struggles; I found many helpful hints in the book Good Girls Don’t Get Fat by Robyn J.A. Silverman, PhD which is a very powerful book about “how weight obsession is messing up our girls and how we can help them thrive despite it”.

1.)  Your teenage daughter stands in front of the mirror and says she is ‘ugly and fat’, pointing out the flaws in her thighs and waist.  What do you say?  ”I think you have a beautiful body.  Think of all of the amazing things that it does for you: ride your bike, play soccer, dance, run, jump.  When I look at your body I see a body that is open to a whole world of exciting possibilities.”  Try to re-direct the focus away from negative thoughts about the body towards positive, accepting, and hopeful thoughts about the amazing capabilities of our bodies.

2.) Do you notice your daughter or son starting to control food and avoid certain types of food due to potential weight gain?  What can you do?  Model for him or her a positive relationship with food and your body.  Try out many types of foods and express how delicious they taste.  Love food for the energy it provides, for the way that it makes your body feel.  Be adventurous, be brave.  Treat your body with kindness by exercising, eating intuitively, and not worrying about how much or what type of food you are eating.  Your children will notice this body-acceptance and hopefully adopt it themselves.

3.)  You are a father and are noticing your daughter comparing herself to others, not ‘measuring up’, and starting to refuse food so as to lose weight.  What do you do?  Compliment her for things about her that are amazing and are not tied to appearance or weight.  Help her see her strengths in writing, sports, or theatre without using the way she looks as a defining component.  Tell her she is beautiful and remind her of this often.  Model a safe, secure, and loving environment so that she can feel okay to be just who she is.

4.)  Your daughter does not make the volleyball team, feeling excluded and ‘not good enough’.  She begins to isolate herself and work out in her room for several hours a day in order to ‘get in better shape’.  What do you do?  Perhaps you had an experience in school where you felt rejected or that you didn’t measure up to the standard.  Share that experience with your child, show her that it is a normal, if painful, growing up experience, and that she thrives in many other areas.  Help her understand how you got through that experience, what you learned from it, and that you are always there to talk with her.  Help her to channel that energy into self-esteem building ways, such as joining a yoga class or volunteering at an animal shelter.

5.)  You notice large quantities of food disappearing and that your partner has little energy, significant mood swings, and wants to be alone a lot.  What do you do?  Don’t confront her right away, but try to spend more time with her where food is involved:  cook together, eat together, and talk without distraction (like tv or computer) while sharing a meal.  Don’t criticize her food choices or amounts.  Show her that you care but offering to spend time doing her favorites activities.  If she is isolating, invite her to watch your favorite television show together.  Create a positive, safe, and nurturing environment and model healthy eating habits to her.  Offer yourself as someone she can talk to and not be judged.  She will do so when she is ready.  Also secure support for yourself: go to therapy, talk with loved ones, do research.

Struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues is devastating for the loved one as well as her family and friends.  The more that this is talked about and normalized, the less hidden and shaming it will be.  There is always hope, and there is always a time and space for recovery.

Oct

26

By Kate Daigle

No Comments

Categories: body acceptance, body image, pregnancy

Loving the shape of a mother: the beauty of a postpartum body and the struggles it can spark

Women in today’s society are sent message after message about how they should look.  What generous gifts these messages are!  According to Western society, women “should” be not too tall, have tanned, unblemished skin or perfectly alabaster skin, shiny modern hair, and of course, you can never be skinny enough.  When a woman becomes pregnant, an event that is the most natural and beautiful process a woman can embody, the messages she is sent about her looks are intensified:  you can’t gain more than xxx amount of weight!  You must wear pregnancy-flattering clothes!  You must not ‘let yourself go’ (my favorite)!  When is a woman just allowed to be?  Allowed to experience the magic of another person growing inside of her without being told she needs to “do this and be that” for the whole nine months?  There also appear to be rules that change when a woman gets pregnant — I have had several pregnant friends lament about the way complete strangers come up to them and put their hands on their belly.  Would anyone do that to you if you weren’t pregnant?

I was recently introduced to the site The Shape of a Mother, which is an inspirational, and amazingly real forum where new mothers “of all ages, shapes, sizes and nationalities can share images of their bodies so it will no longer be secret. So we can finally see what women really look like sans airbrushes and plastic surgery. I think it would be nothing short of amazing if a few of our hearts are healed, or if we begin to cherish our new bodies which have done so much for the human race. What if the next generation grows up knowing how normal our bodies are?”.  The intent of this site’s creator is to throw away the shame that be felt when a new mother is not comfortable in her new body — often due to the influence of society’s messages.  When actresses and celebrities are “losing the baby weight” within a few weeks of having a child, it’s difficult to not feel insecure about your own post-baby body.  But this is not Hollywood, and this site is a safe place for women of all backgrounds to share their stories.

The site is filled with photos of “real bodies”, adjusting to life after giving birth.  These pictures might shed light on parts of the body that would normally be hidden by clothes out of shame or embarrassment.  Here, they are proudly expressed, openly celebrated, and joyfully worshipped.  Women of all ages share their stories — not only of body insecurities and observations, but of what their pregnancy and birth experience was like.  Women share photos of their children, their bodies, their families.  They emphasize what is most important to them: health, family, love.  Some share about wanting to hide their post-pregnancy belly or stretch marks, and with encouragement from other new moms, these women find support for being thankful for the gifts they have received from their experience.

One new mom shares: “The only message I have from this post is to love your body, not matter what size and shape.I realized how much time I wasted on wishing I was thinner. Because when I look back, I dont think about how much I hated the way I looked, I think about how my daughter has grown and how smart she has become and how beautiful she is growing up to be. Be your own kind of beautiful, because we are all beautiful!”

The Shape of a Mother is a light amidst a swirling and menacing hurricane.  The honesty shared here is hard to find; society doesn’t talk much about the reality of accepting a post-baby body.  I am inspired by these women and know that this website is a wonderful resource for women who are thinking about getting pregnant, who are pregnant, or who are adjusting to life as a new mother.