“I Choose to be Happy”: Living a Life Defining Yourself From the Inside

I came across this TED talk today featuring Lizzie Velasquez, a woman who has published three books and been a motivational speaker for eight years.  Lizzie is a young woman who is one of only three people in the world living with a syndrome and physical deformity so mysterious that doctors still do not understand what it is.  Upon seeing her, a first glance might evaluate her to be “unattractive” by conventional standards; she describes her syndrome as “her body not being able to gain weight” and that she has never weighed more than 62 lbs in her life.  She is visually impaired and can only see out of one eye. She does not meet conventional beauty standards.

However, spend one minute listening to her and you feel an immediate connection, warmth, and confidence.  Her humor is sometimes self-deprecating, but also truly self-affirming.

She speaks some of her struggles with being bullied as a child but she speaks more about her life-long solid belief that “I’m a fun kid and everyone is missing out”.  Lizzie credits her parents raising her no differently than any other child for her ability to see herself as a person with physical impairments, but nothing else abnormal about her at all.

As I was mesmerized by Lizzie’s charisma, I reflected to myself:  “why do we define people by their outside appearance before looking inside?”

Lizzie asks the audience several times: “what defines you?” “how do you define yourself?” How does that limit you?

Have you ever struggled to answer those questions?  When asking yourself: “how do I define myself?”, what are the words or terms that come to your mind first? Are they words that describe you physically?  emotionally? spiritually? intellectually? relationally?

Now ask yourself: when you meet someone for the first time, what are the ways that you initially find yourself describing them?

In Lizzie’s case, she has had experiences with many people in her life — children and adults — describe and judge her in a purely physical way.  She has even been labeled “the world’s ugliest woman”.

We are all familiar with this type of judgment.  We get messages from the media, from friends, from other men or women that certain physical appearances are more desirable or “beautiful” than others.

That kind of evaluation can cause pain.  Why does ‘different’ have to mean less-than?

Lizzie says “in this situation where I saw this said about me, I had two options.  I could choose happiness, or I could choose to give up.”  She chose happiness.

What if you chose to be happy…from the inside?  What if you decided who you were, how you defined yourself, and how you viewed others from looking inside and not just the outside?

Where have you faced adversity and instead of giving up, just worked even harder and bigger?

I encourage you to watch the video of this remarkable, brilliant, confident and funny young woman and take notice of any initial observations that come to you about her.  Then, after the video is over take notice again of observations you have of her.  What changed?


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

While 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.

We 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.

 

 


Change is difficult, exciting, invigorating: Kate Daigle Counseling Autumn NEWS!

New Home, New Growth at Kate Daigle Counseling!

1392745_611989082175829_2109834145_nI am SO excited about all the new happenings and growth at Kate Daigle Counseling! It’s been a very busy summer and autumn here…In September I was honored to be a presenter at the Association for Contextual Behavioral Sciences Regional Conference in Golden, CO, where I presented to my esteemed colleagues “Embracing Our Bodies, Allowing Our Experience: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach to Treating Disordered Eating and Body Image Issues”. This was a fun way to stretch my wings at being a presenter and also to learn a lot about myself while confronting some uncomfortable fears (public speaking!) in order to achieve the experience I truly hoped for. Read more about this on my blog.

I’ve begun to do some supervision for Master’s level students who are working toward licensure or continued professional development! Currently, I’m really enjoying working with clinicians/new professionals who are passionate about helping clients struggling with eating disorders and body image and looking to deepen their own understanding of these issues and competency to help treat them and grow as a professional. I’m always eager to enrich this work and my own growth as a supervisor and am currently accepting new supervises. Contact me for more information!

In the new year, I will welcome my first intern in my practice. She will help me build groups, workshops, and other offerings to the community. Stay tuned for more information about this!
The biggest change at Kate Daigle Counseling has been moving to join a collaborative community of health professionals at Awaken Healing Center. Joining acupuncturists, massage therapists, reiki practitioners, rolfing practitioners, energy medicine workers, and other mental health professionals, I’m so excited to bring my practice to a new level and be a part of such a welcoming, healing, and warm center. It’s located very centrally at 1574 York Street, Denver, and if you’re in the area, please stop by!! Stay tuned for news about my upcoming open house.

All of these inspiring and invigorating changes would not be possible without the support and care of my loved ones, professional network, clients, and colleagues. I am deeply grateful that you continue to help me learn, grow, and challenge myself so that I can be the most effective professional counselor that I can be.

Wishing you a peaceful and bright autumn, filled with love and light!
~Kate

Simple Tips for Mindfulness at Work

1. Choose to start your day rather than letting the day start you — begin each day by noticing the sensations of the breath for a few breaths before jumping out of bed.

2. Use transitions wisely — choose some days to drive to and from work without the radio or phone. When you arrive at your destination, allow yourself a few moments to sit in the car, noticing the breath.

3. Nourish yourself — mindfully eat your lunch attending to the colors, taste and smells of the food.

4. Just walk between meetings — no emails or texts — feeling the feet on the floor, the air on the skin and the possibility of greeting colleagues you pass rather than bumping into them while you text!
Get More tips here!

(adapted from: Simple, Daily Tips for Mindfulness at Work)

How To Face Your Fears and THRIVE!

I don’t see myself as a “typical” risk taker — I don’t think I’d ever like to climb on the side of a jutted cliff or swim with sharks (yikes!). But sometimes something gets into me that pushes me to take a giant step outside of my comfort zone and push myself to my very limits. I recently engaged in one of the biggest challenges I have ever come across in my career: PUBLIC SPEAKING.

I was very fortunate to be chosen in April to be a presenter for the Association for Contextual Behavioral Sciences Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Regional Conference held on September 20-21, 2013. This association brings together professionals who utilize Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Relational Frame Theory with clients in many different capacities to help reduce suffering and facilitate healing. I put together a presentation entitled: Embracing Our Bodies, Allowing Our Experience: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach to Treating Body Image and Disordered Eating Issues. This topic is near to my heart and I am always excited to explore the ways that ACT is effective in helping clients from this population. (more...)

The Eating Disorder Foundation
A wonderful local resource and support center with many FREE support groups and workshops, The Eating Disorder Foundation is inspired to help eradicate eating disorders through support, education, and community. The EDF is uniquely positioned to help those who suffer from eating disorders and their families, to create an environment that fosters sustained recovery and to provide information that’s vital to prevention. The EDF provides high-quality, carefully focused educational and support services, and welcome your help and involvement as we continue and grow our activities, many of which take place in or originate at our new facility, A Place of Our Own ® . Check out their website for a full list of the more than 10 free weekly support groups, workshops and other activities!

A Place of Our Own is located at 1901 E. 20th Ave, Denver 80205. View Map.

Drop-In Hours:
Mon: Closed
Tue: 10am – 6pm
Wed: 12pm – 5pm
Thu: 10am – 6pm
Fri: 12pm – 5pm
Sat: 10am – 2pm
Sun: Closed

Kate Daigle, MA, LPC offers individual, couples and group therapy to those struggling with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and other related issues. She is expecially interested in supporting men, women in pre- or post-partum, or multicultural populations who are striving for recovery from body image struggles.
CALL TODAY for a complimentary consultation! 720-340-1443


Facing Your Fears and Soaring: How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Helped Me Confront My Demons and Thrive!

I don’t see myself as a “typical” risk taker — I don’t think I’d ever like to climb on the side of a jutted cliff or swim with sharks (yikes!).  But sometimes something gets into me that pushes me to take a giant step outside of my comfort zone and push myself to my very limits.  I recently engaged in one of the biggest challenges I have ever come across in my career: PUBLIC SPEAKING.

I was very fortunate to be chosen in April to be a presenter for the Association for Contextual Behavioral Sciences Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Regional Conference held on September 20-21, 2013.  This association brings together professionals who utilize Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Relational Frame Theory with clients in many different capacities to help reduce suffering and facilitate healing.  I put together a presentation entitled: Embracing Our Bodies, Allowing Our Experience: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach to Treating Body Image and Disordered Eating Issues.  This topic is near to my heart and I am always excited to explore the ways that ACT is effective in helping clients from this population.

Values directionIn April, this sounded awesome!  As the days, weeks, and months crept by, I found myself engaging in several anxiety-related activities that let me know that I was feeling quite nervous about presenting in front of so many national and international peers who have a vested interest and skills in ACT.  Looking through the ACT lens, I was definitely utilizing experiential avoidance.  I procrastinated by doing ANYTHING but work on my presentation (including cleaning and organizing), I filled up my schedule with other activities so I ‘wouldn’t have time to work on the presentation’, and I began having anxiety dreams, one of which included me standing naked in front of all of the mentors and people who have been meaningful to me on my professional path and not having a word to say.  All of these techniques did not help to reduce my anxiety, but just delayed it and actually helped it grow.

When it finally came time to present at the conference, I felt the anxiety shivering up and down my body.  I knew deep down that I was not nervous about my competency, as I have had training and lots of experience with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, but more about being vulnerable and speaking in front of so many peers that I deeply respect.

Having “survived” this experience, I wanted to share a few things I learned from it, as it has opened up my eyes to the courage, vulnerability, and strength that clients embody every day:

  • By being real and opening up to my audience about how nervous I was, I was able to find more space and acceptance for the feelings of anxiety and still go on with my presentation even though they were there the whole time.  In ACT terms, this would be called “acceptance”.
  • Beginning with a mindfulness exercise helped me reconnect with my breath and check in with my body and notice any tension, sensations, emotions it was holding.  This also aided my audience to reconnect with themselves as well.  In ACT, this would be called “contacting the present moment”.
  • All morning before it was my turn to present, I went to several other workshops that I found very engaging and inspiring.  I wasn’t able to be truly present, however, because I had intrusive thoughts such as “your presentation isn’t as expert as theirs is”, or “your nervousness is going to get in the way of effectively relaying your presentation”, and other annoying, damaging thoughts.  I actively tried to notice those thoughts and pin them as JUST THOUGHTS.  They don’t have to mean anything unless I believe them.  In ACT, distancing from unhelpful thoughts is called “defusion”.
  • I realized that I have had this experience before.  I sometimes get caught up in an anxious mindset that is almost paralyzing.  At the time of this newest challenge, I made a big effort to notice that I was going into that all-too-familiar frame of mind I could call “my anxious self” and then observe it.  I didn’t have to believe that this self was all of who I was or that it really has much relevance.  In ACT, this awareness and attention to my ‘anxious self’ is called “Self-As-Context”.
  • Much energy and effort had been expended to get myself to the conference and prepare my presentation, so was I really going to let the anxiety keep me from doing what I originally intended?  Why was I truly there?  I reminded myself that I was there to help offer tools to others about treating eating disorder populations with ACT, and this was important to me because it helps to advocate and spread the word about how this can help those in recovery.  By defining my “values”, I was able to keep them in my mind and move forward even though I was still anxious.
  • Finally, I did it.  I presented my workshop and got through it, and it went quite well.  I felt great!  By taking an action that is guided by my values, I am engaging in “committed action”.

Little did I know, I was utilizing all of the components of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help me get through my nerves and present my workshop on the very same topic!

This experience deepened my awareness of and empathy for the struggles that my clients engage with every day.  Those in recovery from eating disorders, body image struggles, anxiety, or self esteem issues can seem paralyzed by the challenge of recovery — much like I was before my presentation.  But I know from personal experience that it is possible to recover from an eating disorder and to face your fears and prove to yourself how strong you are!  

It still will be quite some time before I submit a proposal to present at a national conference again, though 🙂

 


Mindful Walking, Mindful Eating to Nourish Body and Soul: Kate Daigle Counseling Summer NEWS

Walking and Eating Mindfully to Nourish Body and Soul
(and have fun!)

family-walkWhat is mindful walking? Let me ask you this: when you are walking, how often are you distracted by a phone, iPod, or any other chatter that can take up residence in your head? Probably pretty often, huh? Even when we aren’t “plugged in” to something, we can so naturally “tune out” from our natural surroundings and really miss out on the experience of mindful walking (or you can trip on a slope on the sidewalk, as I tend to do when I’m not being mindful). Mindfulness of many different forms (eating, breathing, walking, yoga practice, even mindful DRIVING!) is proven to help us reduce stress, manage anxiety, be more present, and fully enjoy and invest in our daily living experience. Another benefit of mindful walking is that it can help us connect with our environments and with each other.

Here’s a simple mindful walking exercise as taken from Thich Nhat Hahn’s book Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life (Bantam, 1992), which provides exercises to incorporate mindfulness into activities you already do every day! (Remember: there is no “wrong” way to practice mindfulness. A major component of mindfulness is non-judgment. If you notice your mind wandering or losing focus, try to just gently invite it to come back to the present moment).

  • First, set your intention to walk mindfully. Take a few deep breaths, and just acknowledge that during your walk you will try to be aware of your environment and your internal state (i.e., thoughts, feelings, sensations). There are no set rules for this walk, and it can be done in any location.
  • As you begin to walk, first notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground. Notice the process of moving your legs. What muscles tense or relax as you move? Notice where you are stepping, the quality of each step (i.e., are you stepping hard or lightly onto the ground), and the feel of the ground beneath your feet or shoes.
  • Expand your awareness to notice your surroundings. As you walk, what do you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel? How does the air feel on your skin? What do you notice around you?
  • Expand your awareness so that you remain aware of the sensation of walking and the external environment while you also become aware of your internal experiences, such as your thoughts and emotions.
  • As you complete your walk, congratulate yourself for your intention to practice mindful walking, no matter how many times your mind was pulled away from the walk, or how “well” you thought your practice went today. Just notice that the intention to be mindful is the key to practice, and pat yourself on the back.

Tips:

  • If at any point during your walk you notice your mind wandering to the past or the future, or being pulled away from the walk, just gently acknowledge that your mind has wandered and bring yourself back to the present moment and the walk. Remember that being pulled away and coming back is the key to mindfulness practice — no one has perfect focus.

Join Us this Saturday, July 27th from 9am-1pm for a Mindful Walking and Eating Excursion Through Denver’s Beautiful Parks!!

I’m so excited to be partnering with Jonathon Stalls, founder of Walk2Connect for an extravaganza of mindful walking, eating, and connection this Saturday, July 27th at 9am. Walk2Connect is ‘ a Colorado based social enterprise dedicated to taking individuals and groups on single and multi-day walking trips, instilling on-foot personal / communal connection and supporting improved walkability throughout our neighborhoods.’

Kate Daigle Counseling and Walk2Connect will bring their expertise together for a joint outing through Cheesman Park and City Park. Jonathon and Kate will facilitate a journey of connection, renewal, presence, and openness as we explore “Getting Into Your Body” mindfully, experientially, authentically. We will practice walking mindfulness as we explore the parks of Denver, and we will end with mindful lunch. This will be a really FUN, casual, invigorating way to learn more about mindfulness, empower your body, make new friends, and explore our beautiful city of Denver!

For more information, call Kate at 720-340-1443 or sign up at Reflective Walkabout: Get Into Your Body! Spaces are LIMITED, so reserve yours TODAY!!
(PS: this is only one of MANY walks that Jonathon facilitates through Denver and Colorado. Check out his website for more info!)

Curious about more ways to practice mindfulness? Check out Kate’s blog post about finding peace amidst a chattering mind (we can all relate to that!)

Want To Practice Mindful Eating? Join Us!!

Kate Daigle, MA, NCC, LPC is facilitating a FUN monthly group, Denver’s Mindful Eating and Mindfulness in the Park Group! Next group is Friday, August 2nd at 11:30am (held the first Friday of every month, only $5), we’ll meet in beautiful City Park in Denver, Colorado and join together to have some fun with mindful eating! We’ll begin by taking a short walk around the park, getting into our breath and our bodies. We’ll have a picnic and practice some of the mindful eating exercises listed above and MORE! This casual group is inspired by a need for a community of like-minded folks who desire to create a healthy and healing mind-body connection and truly appreciate the act of eating. We’ll incorporate all of our senses in enriching this experience! More info and SIGN UP!: Mindful Eating Group

Attention Denver Area Health Professionals!!

The Rocky Mountain Association for Contextual and Behavioral Sciences (ACBS) is hosting their Inaugural Regional Conference this September 20-21, 2013! ACBS is an organization closely linked with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (and other 3rd wave behavioral psychotherapies), dedicated to the development of useful basic scientific principles, applied theories and the advancement of therapeutic approaches based on such scientific knowledge. – See more and register for this exciting conference at: http://www.acbscolorado.org/. Keynote speakers include Joanne Steinwachs, LCSW and Michael Twohig, PhD and the conference will have many workshops teaching concepts such as how to utilize ACT principles with couples, and speciality populations.
Kate Daigle, MA, LPC will be presenting a 90 minute workshop entitled: “Embracing Our Bodies, Allowing Our Experience: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach to Treating Disordered Eating and Body Image Issues”.

 

Sign up for Kate Daigle Counseling’s newsletter here!


All or Nothing: The Dangers of Getting Trapped in Rigid Thought Patterns — And How to Break Free!

I was recently asked if I thought there was such thing as “good foods” and “bad foods”.  To me, this is like asking “do you want to get stuck in a rigid cycle of all or nothing thinking?”.  The answer is no!

For myself while I was going through my recovery many years ago, and for others who are actively engaging in recovery today, ‘all or nothing’ thinking can be a common yet very limiting and confining behavior centered not just around eating, but branching out to many areas of life.  ‘All or nothing’ thinking occurs in eating disordered behaviors but is not limited to this realm.

Many of us have caught ourselves thinking or feeling: “It has to be this way or nothing at all”, or “I am not able to enjoy my day until I do x, y, and z.”  These limiting thought patterns can make us feel like there are only two extremes to choose from, both of them so extreme that they are unhealthy to maintain and actually diminish our life satisfaction.  It’s like we’re keeping ourselves in a jail cell, yet we don’t have the key.  What gives?

For people who are struggling with disordered eating (and this concept can be applied across many realms, struggles, or concerns), they can arrive at a dichotomous crossroads where there is some sort of decision or classification made about themselves and their experience.  These choices might be related to weight, body shape, numbers, or certain food types and amounts.  Once there is a “rule” set about these things, it can become quite rigid and hard to challenge.  Some folks may decide that certain foods with lower fat or carb or sugar content are “good” foods, while everything else is “bad”.  This is based on a fear of gaining weight, but I also see it as a fear of letting go of control.

What is the function of the “all or nothing” thinking?  There can be numerous reasons for this, but one of the most common is that seemingly only having two choices (“good or bad”, or “right or wrong”) helps to create a focus where they can put their energy and attention.  Food might be something that they can control, when something else in their lives feels out of control — whether it be emotions, a family situation, a relationship, etc.  Food can be the “red herring“, the object that is focused on instead of what’s really going on underneath.  The problem is, when a rule such as “I can only have x y and z food (even if I don’t really like it), but not a b and c foods (even if I love those foods)”, the body and the emotional self begins to feel deprived and to crave those foods that “aren’t okay”.  This can commonly lead to eventual out of control behavior around food, such as bingeing or emotionally overeating and “feeling out of control.”

In recovery, I help my clients find the “grey area”.  This can be very scary at times, as living in the “all or nothing” has felt safe, albeit not healthy at times.  Only in the grey area can we embrace life’s imperfections, its joy, its silliness, its sadness, and to find ways to tolerate all of these without needing rules to govern them.  In the grey area, there are no rules about food, emotions, or the human experience.  So, to answer my original question, : “NO, I do not think there are things such as “good foods” and “bad foods”, as these trigger the dichotomous thinking and lead to a rigid, rule-driven, stuck emotional place.  By offering ourselves and our experiences compassion, we can eat all foods — especially the ones that we really love! — in moderation and enjoyment.

I don’t want to undermine the importance of nutrition.  Getting our nutritional needs met is very important! Some foods have higher and more diverse nutritional content than others, and these foods will make our bodies feel strong, energized, and healthy.

I think that sometimes when ‘all or nothing’ thinking becomes extreme, folks can become convinced that only certain foods with low fat, sugar, salt or carbs means “eating healthily”, when in reality, we need a good dose of those things for our bodies to function fully.  Consulting with a nutritionist is a great way to learn about your body’s specific needs.  When fear consumes certain foods for you, the true meaning of nutrition and health can go out the door, and the “food rules” can become more about control than about truly nurturing your body.  Don’t forget to also nurture your soul — sometimes an ice cream sundae is just what your soul ordered!

By exploring what’s really going on underneath, and having compassion and tolerance for those feelings, we are able to move forward and walk the life of value that we’ve always wanted.

Tell me, what is your experience with “food rules” or “all or nothing thinking” and what are some ways to find more balance and flexibility?


The Labyrinth of Recovery: An Ancient and Mysterious Archetype in “Eating in the Light of the Moon”

“In surrendering to the winding path, the soul finds wholeness.”

As I embark upon research and reading for my presentation at Friday’s Conscious Living Book Club event, I have come across the metaphor of the labyrinth.  This metaphor is truly speaking to me at this moment.  In Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston, PhD, the symbol of the labyrinth highlights each of the chapters as Dr. Johnston explores how metaphors, stories, and fables can describe our relationships with food and can help us understand and heal from disordered patterns of eating and experiencing our bodies.

“The labyrinth walk is a request to nature for harmony.”

A labyrinth is a pathway that loops back repeatedly upon itself, reaches the center, and then winds its way back out again.  It’s different from a maze in that there are no barriers, false turns, or dead ends.  You cannot do anything wrong.  There’s only one path to the labyrinth, and you have no choice but to follow it.  The labyrinth is typically in the form of a circle, with a meandering but purposeful path, from the edge to the center and back out again.  On the spiritual journey we meet fellow travelers, obstacles and unexpected turns. The labyrinth walk is a process meditation that seems to suspend time as well as judgment and invites us to embody our experience in a completely new way.

Many see the labyrinth as a symbol of the journey of life, death, and rebirth and our journey through life.  In recovery from disordered eating or from any other type of addictive behavior, says Dr. Johnston, the journey requires you to follow a twisting, turning, winding path to your center.  You must leave behind perceptions of yourself that you have adopted from others and you must reclaim your own inner authority.

On your path, listen to your inner voice and allow it to offer guidance and support as you search for true thoughts, feelings, and desires.  Let go of linear expectation of progress, disengage the rational mind, embrace the power of emotion and intuition.  When you are able to do this, you can find freedom from behaviors and compulsions that have seemed to be holding you hostage, and your inner voice can guide you to nourish the TRUE hunger that you are feeling.

One of the cool things that I love about the labyrinth is that you can actually, physically, take this walk.  There are hundreds of labyrinths dotting our earth, many ancient and naturally born.  They have been healing tools for us for thousands of years!

As you wander the maze either literally or figuratively, imagine that you are wandering to the true center of yourself, you inner voice, your pure soul.  However, when you get to the center, when you find the essence of who you truly are, this is not the end of your journey — your task then becomes to find your way back out again and exit the labyrinth, and as you do so, integrate this new vision or understanding of yourself with a new way of being in the world.  This is the most pure definition of eating disorder recovery.

A mentor of mine uses the labyrinth concept regularly with the clients she helps, and envisions someday creating a real labyrinth for them to follow as they are working through healing issues in their own lives.  She had the idea that as they wandered through the labyrinth they could share all of the worries, anxieties, doubts, or negative self talk that plague them every day, and offer space to these feelings.  But once they reach the center and turn to find their way back out, they will come up against these feelings again on the path and this time they must offer them compassion, hope, and grace.  This exercise allows our FULL experience to be accepted and all feelings we might have, but as we integrate a new worldview on our way out of the labyrinth (or on our way in recovery) we can show ourselves that we are able to fully experience joy, peace, and love as well as the “negative” feelings.

Tell me:

  • How do you think the labyrinth could be a rich tool for eating disorder recovery?
  • How could it help you heal parts of yourself and discover what you are TRULY hungry for?
  • How does the metaphor of the labyrinth fit in with your own life journey and soul searching?
  • What other metaphors can be used in recovery?

Leave a comment with your own thoughts on this concept and any other ideas for how it can be healing!


Addictions as metaphor: What are you TRULY hungering for??

closeupofdancingitlotmI thrive on being inspired. Experiencing others’ wisdom feeds my soul.  Today I am particularly inspired by two amazing women: Chela Davison and Anita Johnston.  These two women are writers, healers, and visionaries.  Chela writes in poetic prose on her blog, words that we can all relate to: “Our addictions keep us all wrapped up, entangled in the illusion of release”.

When we become addicted to something — alcohol, food, sex, gambling, drugs, work — this forms a way of coping with a particular sensation that is uncomfortable.  “But it’s not the vice that we crave”, writes Chela, “it’s the relief from the arising sensation.”  What if we found a way to eliminate the suffering that can come with pushing away uncomfortable feelings, and instead found a way of being with them in an accepting way?  

Dr. Johnston is a clinical psychologist and the author of one of the all-time flagship books of my own journey to recovery and ultimately helping others, Eating in the Light of the Moon.  I am fortunate enough to be invited as the guest speaker at the Conscious Living Book Club on June 14, and I have chosen this book as a spark for discussion and deep meditation.  Why? Because it invites us to explore, through storytelling, myth and metaphor, our relationships with food and emotions, where “stories help us connect with our inner world, to the natural rhythms and cycles of the earth, and to the power of our intuitive wisdom.”

Chela and Anita both draw us deeper — they invite us to truly meditate on what nourishes us and how food or other “things” can become ploys for trying to meet some deeper need.  Can we find what we are truly looking for and stop the seemingly endless race (sometimes in a hamster wheel, spinning, spinning) to avoid what we are feeling?  What if we already have everything that we will ever NEED?

I invite you to begin a meditation on what your “drug of choice” — whether it be food, alcohol, sex, relationships, shopping, exercise — truly does for you (or used to help you with, but doesn’t work so well any more).  What’s your metaphor?  What are you truly hungry for?  Could it be love?  Attention?  Self-acceptance?  Companionship? What is its symbol?

We are taught from a young age that pain is something that is bad to feel.  That we shouldn’t feel it.  That we should do everything we can to change it.  This might involve eating, drinking, or taking drugs as a way to try to change that feeling.  However, pain is a normal, human feeling that we all feel.  It’s okay to feel it.  The true struggle comes when we exert endless amounts of energy to try to avoid it, and then we develop eating disorders and other addictions because it doesn’t work.  Food, at that point, is not what we’re truly hungry for.   

As infants, we eat intuitively.  We don’t want to eat when we’re not hungry.  Sometimes, as a way to try to meet selfLoveFortune-500x375our needs, our caregivers may feed us when we actually are tired, lonely, in pain.  Thus begins the cycle of trying to soothe an emotional need with a physical thing.  Food can take on a whole other role: companion, soother, nurturer.

How do we free ourselves from these struggles?  First, we must understand what we are truly hungering for.  Then, we must find a way of connecting with our bodies and our emotions (ALL of our emotions, even the scary ones) in a healthy, accepting way.  At this point, we are able to shift the way we experience our emotions and find a way of being with them that is nurturing, not self-destructive.  Your need to use food or other substances in unhealthy ways will no longer be so forceful!

So what’s your story?  How does food talk to you?  Eating in the Light of the Moon uses a metaphor of an old woman in Japan who followed her hunger to a dark cave filled with scary creatures who tried to keep her captive.  Only by finding a way to give them what they TRULY needed, was she able to escape.  Reading this, and other stories in the book, can help us sort out what’s going on under the surface in a fanciful, endearing and enlightening way.

Interested in learning more?  Attend the Book Club on June 14, or email me for your own FREE copy of Eating in the Light of the Moon. I would love to hear your own thoughts and musings!

Tell me: What are you TRULY hungry for? And how can you nourish that hunger in a compassionate, accepting way?

 


Chew On This (Hopefully Not Your Cheek!) – and Other Mindful Eating Perplexities

Kate Daigle Counseling Spring Newsletter –

Chew On This (Hopefully Not Your Cheek!) – and Other Mindful Eating Perplexities

Have you ever taken a good strong CHOMP on your cheek as you chewed up your dinner?  Did it hurt a lot?  Did you say, “OUCH, how did that happen? I must not have been paying attention to my eating!.”
When you hear “Mindful Eating”, do you wonder what in the world it means?  I certainly did.  For me, mindfulness and eating did NOT go together for a very long time as I struggled to find a healthy connection between mind and body.  Today, it’s not perfect (I’m not perfect), but I am much more aware of how to utilize mindful eating in my daily life and it has helped me to ENJOY eating so much more!  Whatever your relationship to food or eating is, these mindful eating tips can by fun to try.  Did you know how tuned out we can be to the exercise of chewing (and how complex a process it is?).  There can be so many benefits to slowing down the process of eating.

  • not overeating
  • learning to notice your body’s fullness and hunger levels and signals
  • enjoying the pleasure of eating delicious food
  • being aware of your environment so as to drink in the sights, sounds, and perhaps company you keep as you eat
  • explore new foods and find ones you truly love (and some that you might not!)
  • potential weight loss
  • decrease feelings of guilt and shame while increasing feelings of satisfaction and joy
  • many more!
Here are five fun activities to try when practicing mindful eating, as adapted from EATING THE MOMENT: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time by Dr. Pavel Somav.1.)The Admittedly Annoying Thorough Chewing Exercise

One of the commonly overlooked phases of digestion is chewing. Chewing takes time, and time facilitates fullness. Conscious chewing is a good way to slow down eating to give fullness time to emerge.  I suggest you study chewing. What side of the mouth do you chew on? What’s your natural average number of chewing motions per bite? What’s it like to have food in the mouth and not chew, just letting it sit there for a moment. How do you decide when you have chewed enough and it’s time to swallow?

2.) Slow Eating Record

Buy a bag of Hershey kisses. Take one out. Stow the rest away. Now that you have only one Hershey kiss, make this kiss last. Make love to it the way you would to the lips of a parting partner. Kiss it good-bye. Let your tongue slow-dance, gradually unlocking the nuances of the flavor. Of course, you can’t always freeze-frame in this type of gusto-sensual reverie when you eat. But, at least, set the record straight: you can slow-eat when you choose to.

3.) Reminiscence Eating

Eating links people, places and things of our pasts, and as such, can be a great way of going down memory lane, on a journey of self-remembering. Reminiscent eating is an opportunity to turn a simple act of eating into an existentially meaningful experience with the added advantage of slowing down the process of eating (and thus giving fullness time to emerge). Next time you eat, look at the food in front of you and allow yourself to free-associate about the past. What does this dish, this smell, this taste remind you of? Give yourself a taste of the past and turn what could have been mechanical and meaningless into sentimental and mindful.

4.) A Cooling Off Period

Think of the times you burnt your lips on a bowl of soup: isn’t it amazing that we are in such a rush to eat we are willing to burn ourselves?! Next time you have a bowl of soup in front of you give it a few moments to cool off. Stir it, mindfully, watching the vortex of colors swirl. Gently blow air on it, unlocking the aroma. Look around. Enjoy the wait, exhale the impatience, chill.

5.) Rest Your Hands Technique

Resting your hands between bites will help you slow down the pace of eating to give fullness time to emerge. Lay down the utensils, rest your hands on the table for 10-20 seconds. No need to keep track of time. Just a simple touch-down of your hands on the tablecloth. If you eat alone, get two tiny touch bells and put them on each side of the dish. When you rest your hands, you’ll hear a ring tone as your hands touch the bells. During the pause, take a breath and listen to the sound fade. Wait to eat another bite until the sound of the bell has faded into silence.

Curious about more ways to practice mindfulness? Check out Kate’s blog post about finding peace amidst a chattering mind (we can all relate to that!)
Want To Practice Mindful Eating? Join Us!!
Kate Daigle, MA, NCC, LPC is starting a NEW monthly group, Denver’s Mindful Eating and Mindfulness in the Park Group!  Starting this Friday, June 3rd(held the first Friday of every month), we’ll meet in beautiful City Park in Denver, Colorado and join together to have some fun with mindful eating! We’ll begin by taking a short walk around the park, getting into our breath and our bodies.  We’ll have a picnic and practice some of the mindful eating exercises listed above and MORE! This casual group is inspired by a need for a community of like-minded folks who desire to create a healthy and healing mind-body connection and truly appreciate the act of eating.  We’ll incorporate all of our senses in enriching this experience!  More info and SIGN UP!: Mindful Eating Group

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!