National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is upon us! How can YOU raise awareness in your area?

I’m so excited that the 2012 National Eating Disorders Awareness week is almost here!!  Beginning February 26th and running until March 3rd, this week is all about raising awareness and education about eating disorders.  There are events happening all over the country — so raise your voice and help us eliminate these devastating disorders!

Here are a few things to check out in the Denver area:

Tuesday, February 28th from 6:30-8:30pm

Giving Voice to Hunger – An Evening in Two Parts

Part 1: Join poets Karen Douglass and Carolyn Jennings for an evening “meal,” a reading to explore many of our appetites, in recognition of both the physical need in our community and National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, two facets of hunger in our world.

Please bring a favorite poem about food, hunger or body image/eating disorders by anyone of your choosing to read at open mic. Please bring a non-perishable food donation for Food Bank of the Rockies.

Refreshments will, of course, be served.

“There is no happiness like mine.

I have been eating poetry.”

~Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry”

Part 2: Please join Mirror Image Arts for a preview of our original play “Breaking the Silence“, a series of vignettes that showcase the various faces of eating disorders. We will be performing two vignettes and will be available for a discussion, along with a licensed therapist, Kate Broyles Daigle, to help process the intense emotions surrounding eating disorders and disordered eating. Eating disorders thrive in silence. Breaking that silence and facing the issues is the best way to fight back.


For over twenty years, Carolyn Jennings ( has used her journal as a primary tool for recovery from an eating disorder and in creating a thriving life. This experience inspired her to write the award-winning Hunger Speaks: a memoir told in poetry and to become a Journal to the Self® certified instructor. She now guides others to uncover awareness, wholeness, freedom and abundance through their pens.

Karen Douglass writes poems, novels, a blog, and grocery lists. She lives in Colorado with three dogs, one cat, and her family. You can visit her at or you can come to Broomfield. Her books include Red Goddess Poems; Bones in the Chimney (fiction); Green Rider, Thinking Horse (non-fiction); Sostenuto, (prose poems) and The Great Hunger (poems), which is available from Plain View Press (2009). A new poetry chapbook, Two-Gun Lil, is scheduled for independent publication this year.

Mirror Image Arts is a non profit educational theatre company that uses their original play “Breaking the Silence” to raise awareness, inspire change and spark conversation about the emotional topics of eating disorders and body image. “Breaking the Silence”, written by a woman recovering from anorexia and bulimia, is a series of vignettes showcasing the various faces of both eating disorders and disordered eating. Mirror Image brings “Breaking the Silence” to area schools, churches and community centers free of charge. After the show the actors of Mirror Image, together with a licensed therapist, lead an in depth discussion with the audience. Mirror Image aims to break the silence surrounding these all to common issues. For more information contact Erin Jorgenson at or visit our website at


Thursday, March 1st, 6pm

Eating Disorder Foundation’s Fifth Annual Candlelight Vigil

We invite you to join us for our fifth annual Candlelight Vigil during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 26 – March 3, 2012). Take this opportunity to visit A Place of Our Own and join us as we remember those who have passed away and to honor those still on the path of recovery.

Mingling and hors d’oeuvres begin at 6:30pm with the candlelight ceremony to follow at 7:00pm.

Light a candle and say a prayer with us as we come together on this night to join in the spirit of remembering and healing.


A Place Of Our Own — the Eating Disorder Foundation’s new support center

The Eating Disorder Foundation’s new support center, A Place of Our Own® is open and ready to welcome you for a broad range of classes and support groups designed to enhance eating disorder recovery or for informal drop-in visits for those wishing to talk, find time to be alone or meet people on the recovery journey.

A Place of Our Own is located at 1901 E. 20th Ave Denver 80205.  For more information, visit;  this is a unique center with ongoing events – so keep checking back to see what’s going on!


Other events around the country!

To find out more information about Eating Disorders Awareness Week and to learn what you can do to support, visit the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week website.  I also came across a helpful post for those looking to learn more about eating disorders and how to help those suffering from an eating disorder heal.  You can read it at When Food Is Family blog.


Eating disorders thrive in silence.  Let’s break that silence!  If you know of any other events or ideas to lend support to this cause, please feel free to leave a comment here.  We are powerful individually, we are a unstoppable as a group!

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!

Loving Our Bodies, Loving Ourselves — a special Valentine’s wish from Kate Daigle Counseling

I had the pleasure of writing an article for Natural Awakenings magazine this month.  It focused on the power of self-love and acceptance, and how when this is disrupted in some way, eating disorders and negative self-talk can occur.  The Annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is coming up at the end of February, and I thought that with the arrival of Valentine’s Day next week, it would be an apt time to write about love of ourselves.  I wanted to share the article with you here so that the message can be spread as far as possible:


Loving Ourselves, Loving Our Bodies 

When we feel stressed, depressed, or anxious, our bodies often bear the brunt of this emotional strain.  Our lives get busy and complicated and our mental and physical health needs can be neglected as we try to balance the demands of life.  We may forget that taking care of our bodies and our emotional selves is crucial to living an optimal and joyful life.  Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder can develop when complex feelings are internalized and food becomes a tool to try to regain a sense of control in life.  These dangerous disorders can separate us from our body’s intuitive signals and they can develop into a vicious spiral of shame, guilt, and physical self-harm. 

Look inside of yourself.  What are you truly hungry for?  If we try to fill an emotional void with food, our hunger only grows in intensity; while food may seem to be a way to soothe uncomfortable feelings, control can easily get away from us if the hunger is caused not by physical sensations but by body image struggles, low self-esteem, or traumatic experiences.

What are the warning signs of an eating disorder?  Eating disorders develop out of a sense of feeling “not good enough” or that something is out of control in life.  If a loved one begins having mood swings, expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies despite having a healthy body, gaining or losing a significant amount of weight in a short period of time, avoiding eating with others, or if you notice large quantities of food missing, these may be a few of the signs that an eating disorder has developed.  If you have any concern that a loved one might be developing an eating disorder or if you have been struggling with one yourself, please contact a mental health professional with expertise in this area.

February is a month to show love and appreciation.  Shower yourself with the same acceptance and admiration that you might give to a partner or family member.  When we struggle with eating disorders and body image issues, we often see ourselves as different or separate than others.  I encourage you to take care of yourself in ways that soothe your soul and listen to your intuition; give your body what it desires, and allow your emotional self to feel its true feelings without judgment.  Once we can learn to accept ourselves for who we are, inside and out, we can deepen the connection between our bodies, our minds, and our spirits and live in harmony and peace.


What is the relationship between anxiety and eating disorders? A guest post sheds light on complexities of the mind-body connection

Today I am pleased to feature a guest post written by Ryan Rivera who has personally experienced the symptoms of anxiety and now through his website the Calm Clinic, aims to help others identify these symptoms and decrease their impact on their lives.  He was gracious enough to write an article for my blog and include some of the ways that anxiety affects eating disorders and how eating disorders can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.  I felt that this would be helpful information for those dealing with anxiety, eating disorders, or both, as these issues are commonly experienced at the same time or trigger one another.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety Discussed by Ryan Rivera

As distressing as anxiety might feel, this mechanism was created for a purpose. All organisms are endowed with this flight or fight response to help protect and preserve them from all that is threatening and dangerous. It serves as an adaptive function to ensure man’s survival.

When a danger or threat lurks in the shadows, this flight or fight response sets off to pump adrenaline and other stress hormones into the body to arm it for action—the heart races, breathing shallows, and muscles tighten. After such rush, these incapacitating symptoms lose their sting and bring the body back to its normal, undisturbed motions.

So, why do these symptoms happen?

  1. Heart palpitations
  2. Rapid breathing
  3. Sense of suffocation
  4. Dizziness
  5. Sweating
  6. Cold clammy skin
  7. Trembling
  8. Intense apprehension

For those taunted by anxiety and panic attacks, their parasympathetic system, a sub-part of the peripheral nervous system, seems to be not working in proper order. This system which mainly functions to restore the body back into the normal state after experiencing an anxiety jolt fails to work promptly. No one is clear as to why it fails to conduct its job, however one thing is for sure: people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks remain keyed up as there remains a high level of stress hormones pumping throughout the body that have not yet been extinguished.

With adrenaline scorching the brain and body into an overwhelming state, the cardiovascular system is activated. This “red alert” status produces an increase in the beating action of the heart, leading to physically felt heart palpitations. This effect is crucial for the preservation of the body because this helps to rapidly pump more blood to areas of the body that needs it. Vital areas where blood needs to be transported immediately are to the muscles of the biceps, thighs, and legs. The flight or fight response is also designed so that the blood supply in the distal areas of the body, such as the toes and fingers, can be diverted to the vital areas to prevent the loss of too much blood in case injury happens. With the rerouting of blood, cold, clammy skin, and tingling sensations in the toes and fingers are obvious as well. Trembling is noticed in the lips and legs, too. These uncoordinated, clumsy movements are side effects of the increase in the sympathetic nervous system activity.

Alongside the activation of the cardiovascular, the respiratory system is also stimulated to complement the former’s effects. The breathing is accelerated to help send more oxygen to the tissues of the body. Oxygen is needed to fuel the activity of the cells. Without this element, the cells will not be able to operate properly, leading to further bodily harm. Some side effects brought about by the increase in respiratory cycles include the sense of suffocation and tightness in the chest. And because heavy breathing decreases blood supply to the brain, dizziness can be manifested by the sufferer.

The mind is also affected by the changes applied by the flight and fight response. People who are experiencing an attack become more focused on their surroundings. Their senses are keener as well to better see, hear, and feel incoming danger. Because of this change, difficulties with memory and performing chores and errands during an attack are reported by those suffering from anxiety.

Another anxiety symptom is that of the sweating mechanism.  Sweating prevents the body from overheating while in action. It cools off excess heat to stop the body from burning itself.

Anxiety is indeed complicated. When left untreated and unmanaged, it can lead to serious problems, for example, obesity or malnutrition (bulimia and anorexia nervosa). People with anxiety disorders are more likely to eat more and gain weight or to deprive themselves with food. Eating disorders can extremely aggravate anxiety symptoms. In addition, anxiety sufferers are at a higher risk of developing heart diseases, diabetes, liver and gallbladder problems, etc. as complications of their eating problems.

For the reasons mentioned, people who suffer from anxiety must soon seek professional care and advice: first, to maintain the function of the brain and its nerves; and second, to prevent from going down the road of emotional and psychological distress. Whenever discussed symptoms are experienced, it’s imperative that a doctor’s visit be prioritized. Another important thing to remember if you are dealing with anxiety is to avoid self-treatment, especially with medications. Drugs for anxiety should only be taken upon a doctor’s recommendation. Most of the time, they are considered as the last option, more so now that natural and alternative methods are known to have an equally positive effect with less to no side effects. Not everyone responds equally to the same type of treatment. We respond to treatment quite differently, so it’s vital that there is proper guidance.


Ryan Rivera went through these same anxiety symptoms. He suffered for 7 years and only recovered through natural means of treatment. To learn about these methods and techniques, visit