You’re going to make me do what??: Three biggest fears about going to therapy – and how to confront them

I’ve talked to a fair share of people —  those who have been to counseling before and those who have never set foot in a therapist’s office — who break into a cold sweat when thinking about talking with a therapist.  I have been in the client’s chair myself, and my experiences in counseling deeply inspired me to want to help others by becoming a therapist.  I believe in the power of therapeutic change and benefit and I’ve also “been there” and empathize with how daunting it might seem to enact change in one’s life.

Anxiety and nervousness can precede a therapy appointment.  They can cause you to drive around the block a few times before finally parking and walking into the office.  I know that sometimes it can feel worse after the appointment, instead of better.  I know that discomfort might be part of the protocol.  I understand that talking about personal matters can feel foreign, vulnerable, and risky.

So why do it??  Because change can happen.  Steps can be taken, with the trust and security of a therapeutic relationship, to achieve personal goals that bring peace, happiness, and clarity to one’s life.  This is absolutely possible.  But, you may wonder, what do I have to risk in order to achieve that change?  These common fears may keep some folks from calling a therapist and today I wanted to “normalize” those fears — and talk about what to do to overcome them.  Because everyone deserves a fair shot at a balanced and healthy life.

In working with clients in recovery from eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder, I often encounter some anxiety around change.  Through my own recovery from an eating disorder, I went through various stages of change and different levels of readiness for change.  I discovered that I needed to follow my own path, and it may take me up hills and down valleys; most significantly I found out that therapy, while terrifying at times, helped me make the changes that got me to the place I am today — healthy and fully in recovery!

Here are three of the biggest fears that those with an eating disorder who are contemplating therapy may experience.  These can also be widened to anyone who is approaching the decision to pursue therapy:

Three Big Fears About Going to Therapy – and how to conquer them:

1.)  My therapist is going to force me to change.  This is not only a fear about therapy, but also a misconception.  A therapist will never (should never) force someone to change.  We cannot.  It is your life and you make your own choices.  Sometimes when health issues are highly concerning, a client may enter a treatment center where he/she must follow certain rules.  These rules are for the therapeutic benefit of the client, and while the rules may limit behaviors that are self-destructive, it is ultimately up to the client to open his/herself up to changing thoughts, behaviors, and ways of relating to self and others.  If you enter therapy, you are in charge.  This isn’t to say that your therapist is not going to challenge some things you do or say, but confrontation is a therapeutic tool that is also for the good of the client.  Therapists point out what we sometimes cannot admit to ourselves.

2.) If I open up and am honest, my therapist is going to judge me.  Honesty is one of the biggest risks in therapy — because being honest makes us vulnerable, possibly subject to judgment.  Honesty is also a vehicle of change, as it allows us to connect with how we truly feel and explore those feelings.  A trusting, solid, connected therapeutic relationship can foster a healing and safe space for honesty and this is one of the cornerstones of therapy.  A therapist’s job is to be a non-judgemental and non-biased professional whom you can feel comfortable talking with about personal and sometimes painful subjects.  If you have concerns about judgment in the therapy room, this is certainly a topic that should be discussed.

3.)  If I go to therapy, I will have to keep going for the rest of my life.  Sometimes people are afraid of “opening a can of worms”, and feel it’s safer to keep the genie in the bottle.  I can relate to this.  When I share some of my personal therapy experiences with clients, they sometimes ask me how long it took me in therapy to feel healthy and stable enough to go out on my own.  As everyone’s path is different, the length of therapy might be conditional based on each person’s needs and goals.  For some, a few sessions might alleviate some presenting symptoms.  For others, a few weeks, or months.  In the initial few sessions, I go over goals with my clients and we keep track of how progress is going as we move on.  The goal of therapy is to help you find tools and strengths that you can utilize whenever you need them, and to empower you to know that you can walk on your own two feet.  So, while I empathize with the fear of “being in therapy forever”, this is not ultimately healthy, and an experienced therapist should continue the conversation with you about how you are feeling as therapy moves forward.

 

Do you relate to any of these common therapy worries?  Entering into therapy is an investment in yourself — your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.  To find balance and health, this may involve talking about uncomfortable things and confronting destructive coping mechanisms.  As someone who has gone through therapy and sometimes still checks in with my therapist, I can attest to the benefits of this process.  You are worth the investment!

If you or anyone you know is thinking about “dipping your toe” into therapy, please contact me and I’d be happy to tell you more about the process and what to expect:  720-340-1443 or kate@katedaiglecounseling.com.

 


Five mindful tips for leaving work at work and letting yourself PLAY this holiday!

It’s almost Labor Day weekend — the symbolic “end of summer” and a time to rest and rejuvenate before the start of autumn.  With all of the time we spend working, don’t we deserve a little break?  Then why is it that so many people have a hard time taking the whole three days to have fun?  Because we have a hard time saying “no” and letting go.

I am certainly guilty of this from time to time and have to mindfully remind myself that time off allows my brain to rest, my body to heal, my emotions to breathe, and my stress to decrease.  Only when I turn “off” my work brain and give myself a vacation can I assess what I need in order to be a healthy and balanced psychotherapist and human being.

Are you like me and have a hard time leaving work at work?  Instead of “laboring” this Labor Day weekend, why not try something radically different?  And if you work in an industry that requires you to work this weekend, there are still ways to relax and find some personal time for yourself.  Because you deserve it.

Creating boundaries between our personal and professional lives, no matter what your profession, helps us define our values, our purpose, our goals, and allows us to be more present with ourselves and with others.

Here are Five Tips to Mindfully Let Work Stay in the Office and To Allow Yourself to ENJOY!:

1.) Imagine it’s Friday and you are waiting to get off work for the weekend — you want to enjoy this time off, but know there’s going to be so much to come back to on Tuesday and this anxiety is already looming over your head.  What to do?  Make a list.  Write down everything you have to get done next week and allocate time in the coming week for each task.  If it still feels like too much, prioritize tasks in order of immediacy and importance, and focus on setting aside space for those high on the list.  Email this list to yourself.  If you have your emails linked and see work and personal emails together (really handy but impedes on personal boundaries!), turn off your work email until Monday night…or even until Tuesday.  You will have a plan for how to proceed and can get started while still feeling organized.

2.)  Try doing a visualization.  Imagine your office space.  See yourself there, doing your daily work tasks.  Notice what feelings you are having: anxiety? boredom? frustration?  Notice where you feel these in your body.  Now visualize yourself closing the drawers in your desk.  Shutting down your computer.  Lowering the blinds.  See yourself walking out the door and locking your office behind you.  Stand in the hallway for a moment and focus on this physical boundary between you and your office.  Get a clear picture in your mind of this separation.  Mindfully pay attention to yourself walking out the door and getting into your car/bike/bus.  Say to yourself a mantra, something to the effects of: “Work stays at work, I deserve this space to breathe, relax, and play”.  Repeat this as many times as necessary.

3.) Spend some time reflecting on who you are outside of work.  Work is one domain in your life (for more info on defining values in domains of your life, read about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).  What are the other domains of your life?  Home?  Spirituality?  Recreation?  Relationships/Roles?  Passions?  What gives you energy?  What activity or person makes you feel great about yourself?  Where do you go to renew and rest?  Spend the weekend following these other parts of you and giving them attention and time.  Being a whole, balanced person helps us to be proficient and happy in all areas of our lives.  Allowing yourself to not work helps you to define what else is just as valuable (or more so) than work is…and helps you be better at your job, too.

4.) If you have to work this weekend, focus on planning for some time to give to yourself.  Even if your schedule is hectic and demanding, carving out a few hours to spend reading, walking in the park, or going to a local festival, can be therapeutic as well.  Small doses of mindful and peaceful activity can help your stress levels to decrease and knowing that you have that time to look forward to can propel you through the work hours.

5.) Let go.  I know — easier said than done!  But really, what is the use of worrying/fretting about work for three days where there is nothing you can do about it?  Sure, I guess you could get caught up on work or get ahead of work during this holiday, but there won’t be anyone to email or discuss work ideas with because they will be on holiday too (or should be!).  Remember that you can get it done later and that this time, this present moment, is valuable.  Allow yourself to be present.  Work will always be there, but the gift of a long weekend won’t!

Note: if you feel stressed about letting go, be gentle with yourself.  Your career may be very valuable to you and an integral part of who you are.  The feelings you experience are very normal and won’t necessarily go away.  Accept them.  Live through them.  You can STILL enjoy your weekend and not allow those feelings to impede on your fun!

Do any of these tips sound like something you’d like to try to create some boundaries between work and home life?  I’d love to hear how it goes for you and how you practiced being mindful this Labor Day weekend.  Have a great weekend!!


A Gratitude Journal: What are you Grateful For?

The seasons of life cycle through our challenges and our joys.  As the fall air begins to color the Colorado skies, I am reflective of the changing tides, the laughs we have laughed, the tears we have wept, and the difficulties we have endured.  It has been a tough summer in Colorado.  It seems at times so simple to slip into the dark cave that beckons, and I find myself stepping inside.  But, what about the light at the other side of this tunnel?  A wise mentor shared with me the other day her philosophy on dealing with challenging times.  She said “sometimes I need to retreat into my cave, and that is okay.  I just try to imagine it lined with sparkling gems and jewels and beautiful rainbow specks of light.”

This philosophy reminds me of the ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) principle of getting cozy with our feelings and emotions, accepting them no matter what they are.  Today I read a guest post on Tamara Suttle’s popular blog Private Practice from the Inside Out by Ann Stonebraker, who is a therapist in private practice at Labyrinth Healing.  Ann wrote of the “green-eyed monster”, and how, when we feel the green eyes of jealousy churning up inside of us (as tends to happen sometimes, naturally), instead of running away from the feeling, we can ask it what it has to teach us.  Jealousy can also be approached in a way that reminds us what we are grateful for.

This post inspired me today to blog about the things I am grateful for in my own life personally and professionally.  Though our “caves” have much to give and teach to us, instead of dwelling in the darkness of the cave why not look towards the jewels that also line it?  Sometimes a darkness yields a gem.

I encourage you to add to this list as you may so desire.  A good practice to get into is to write down three things every evening in your own “Gratitude Journal” that you are grateful for that day.  I’ll get us started:

Things I Am Grateful For:

  • My continued and healthy recovery from my eating disorder
  • My family who has always supported me and continues to do so
  • My clients who give me the gift of their stories every day
  • The growth and success of my business
  • The house where I have created my home
  • My fluffy and loving dog who jumps for joy when I get home each evening
  • Colleagues from whom I learn and grow
  • The changing seasons
  • The Colorado mountains
  • Lifelong friends
  • A bounteous garden full of veggies, flowers, and herbs
  • A strong, resilient body that holds me up, lets me rest, and gives me breath
  • My self-awareness that lets me know when I need to tune inwards
  • The depth of experiences that my struggles have given me, and the ability to utilize those experiences to help others.

My list continues to grow each day.  I am grateful for all of you who stop by my blog and give your opinions and ideas.  I also encourage you to tune into Private Practice from the Inside Out, which hosts a weekly gratitude blog as well.

What are you grateful for?


Dishonesty in treatment and recovery: working the stages of change in eating disorder recovery

Recovery from an eating disorder is a complex and difficult process.  I believe that it takes a combination of several factors to fully recover:  honesty, accountability, compassion, and determination.   Treating eating disorders is also challenging because treatment may require holding all of those factors all at once and finding a balance with them in the therapeutic process.

Many people enter counseling because they want to create a new way of living their lives.  They have a desire to change.  The readiness to change, I think, it probably the single most determining factor in actually creating a change.  There are several stages of readiness to change, and clients may show up in any of these stages.

The stages of readiness to change are:

1.) Precontemplation – at this stage, almost all of the desire to change is external to the client, meaning they might be forced to come to therapy, they might be ambivalent about it, they may change only if the external pressure is significant enough — but this type of change is typically short-lived if not internalized.  People in the precontemplation stage might feel ‘demoralized and don’t want to think about their problem because they feel that the situation is hopeless. “There is certain comfort in recognizing that demoralization is a natural feeling that accompanies this stage-and in realizing that if you take yourself systematically through all the stages of change, you can change.”‘

2.) Contemplation.  People in this stage realize they might be stuck and desire for things to be different.  “People acknowledge that they have a problem and begin to think seriously about solving it. Contemplators struggle to understand their problem, see its causes, and begin to wonder about possible solutions.”  Often, people in this stage are not quite ready to risk taking action, and as a result can stay in this stage for a very long period of time.

3.) Preparation.  This is the stage where people begin to make changes — within the next few weeks or a month.  This intention is made public, perhaps by involving loved ones or support systems.  It is important to feel solid in this stage and to develop a foundational plan for how to follow-through with the change; moving too quickly through it might decrease the person’s chances for success.

4.) Action. This is a ‘busy’ period where behavior is overtly changed and modified.  These changes may be more visible to other people (for example quitting smoking or decreasing eating disorder behaviors), but some of the internal work of this stage and prior stages might not be as overtly visible.

5.) Maintenance.  This stage is where changes and steps taken up until this point are consolidated and continually reintroduced to the client.  These might be solidifying new coping mechanisms and preventing relapses.  This is the longest stage of change and requires commitment and ‘active alertness’.

6.)  Termination:  The final goal!  This is where prior issues or struggles are no longer present and recovery feels solid.  In eating disorder recovery, this may mean that behaviors have been eliminated for a long period of time (years) but that alertness is still required to take care of oneself and prohibit a relapse.

Change involves not only modifying behaviors but learning to cope with and manage  emotions in a healthier way.  Lying and dishonesty in treatment and recovery from an eating disorder can come up commonly in several stages of change.  Those where the most committed action is involved — Preparation and Action stages — can create confusing and conflicting emotions.  When the eating disorder is directly confronted and perhaps threatened, it can try to take back control in such a direct way that it may manipulate the client into being dishonest or lying to their therapist or support system.  This is an attempt to remain ‘safe’, even though it may be maladaptive.

Why is this?  There are a few reasons why dishonesty creeps up in recovery.  It may be that the client wants to be “perfect” at recovery, or to please their therapist or loved ones because external validation may feel like the primary form of inner comfort.  If they are struggling, they may feel like they are disappointing those who are supporting them.

It also may come up as the client begins to realize the enormous loss that is felt when an eating disorder is taken away.  This change requires forming new relationships with the self and learning to cope in healthier, more fulfilling ways.  If the client has used the eating disorder to cope with an inner hunger or emptiness, thinking that this needs to be let go can be terrifying.  It is when the client has ‘fed’ that inner hunger in a more loving way that the eating disorder loses its power.

It is important for clinicians to recognize the signs of dishonesty in recovery.  This is a great time to enact change in the eating disorder behavioral process and to show compassion for the struggle that the client is experiencing.  Holding clients accountable and challenging them is a crucial part of the recovery process.  Parents and loved ones can learn more about their role in this process in an article written for parents called Your Role.

It is possible to fully recover from an eating disorder.  Sometimes this might mean going through a few of the stages of change several times, or staying in one for a period of time before you are ready to move on.  If you feel like you or someone you know is ready to make a healthy change in your life, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation at 720-340-1443.


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.


The Bench: A Place of Respite for recovery and for all journeys in our lives

Today I am reflective of the journey.  

I have embarked upon a journey of significant life changes and milestones as of late, and am grateful for the twists and turns along my path as well as for all of the benches that have been provided and upon which I may rest.

I came across a poem today entitled “The Bench” by Anne Edwards on a wonderful site called EatingDisordersRecoveryToday.com and found it so touching that I wanted to repeat it here.  I hope it can provide encouragement and support for those on any life journey…and in recovery from an eating disorder:

The Bench

By Anne Edwards
©2010 Gürze Books

I know the journey is hard.
There’s a bench just up ahead
Under some trees.
Let’s sit down,
Stop for a while.
We don’t have to talk
Unless you want to.
We can listen to the birds sing,
Feel the wind,
Enjoy the view,
And see,
Really see
The life that’s out there for us.
Then,
When we are both ready,
We can continue
Our journey of recovery.
I know it has its bumps
And steep hills,
But it also has its
Easier, smoother valleys and vistas.
The most important thing,
My friend,
Is that we not travel it alone.
It is a journey meant to be taken
Hand in hand.
Take mine.

 Where are you on your journey?  Where have you come from?  Where are you going to? Do you have a bench where you can sit awhile, until you are ready to continue?  There may be mountains to climb, but remember that there are “beautiful vistas” as well.  This poem is so inspirational to me and comforting as I continue on my own journey of recovery, wellness, balance, and health.  It is helpful to have a hand to hold along this journey, for support, for guidance, for warmth, for grounding.
Hold out your hand to another on this journey.  Ask for support on your own journey.  You are not alone…and the view is amazing.

A poem for the victims of the Aurora tragedy

I have struggled with the words.  The tragedy last Friday morning in Aurora, Colorado left me without breath, without sense, without energy.  As many of us try to pick ourselves up after this devastation, my heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones.  There is no understanding of this senseless act, and healing has just begun.  I am floored by the outpour of love and support that has enveloped Aurora and its surrounding communities and this gives me some sense of hope that light will shine again.  What do we do in times of crisis?  We cope in the way we know best.  We come together, or we isolate until we can face the light.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and we all experience loss uniquely.

 

If you or someone close to you is affected by this tragedy, please know there are many sources of support, many of them free or low-cost.  Please contact me at kate@katedaiglecounseling.com for more information.  I am here to support you.

I wanted to share a poem that I wrote about this tragedy, as it helped me release some of my pain and I hope it might provide some encouragement for others.

 

A Poem for the Victims of the Aurora Tragedy

A violation of personal safety

An explosion of broken boundaries

Chaos, fear, pain, then silence

To the victims

To their families

To their loved ones

I hold you

The words dissipate

The wounds are deep

Yet a community embraces

Each and every one

Light and hope are passed around

Like bread at the dinner table

Take a piece

Let it fill your belly

As it nourishes your soul

It empowers your body

This energy fills our limbs

So that we may embrace

One another

So that we may come together

So that we may stay together

So that we may hold one another

So that we may breathe

the healing has already begun

 


Eating Disorders and the Workplace: What are these afflictions really costing us?

Bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder — these most commonly defined eating disorders, along with an array of other types of disordered eating behaviors — can impact all parts of our lives.  We have spent time discussing the effects of eating disorders on personal relationships, on self esteem and self care, and on physical health.  What about in our workplace?  A new article in the Huffington Post speaks about the “cost” of binge eating disorder at the workplace: Binge Eating Disorder and its Impact on the Workplace  gives some insight into the positive correlation of binge eating disorder and loss of work productivity.

Dr. Bedrosian, a clinical psychologist with experience treating anxiety, depression and eating disorders states: “Binge eating is more than simply a behavioral problem. Binge eating is associated with greater psychological distress, as measured by increased frequency and intensity of negative emotions, and greater occurrence of negative thoughts and beliefs (e.g., poor body image or obsessive worries about one’s weight). It’s not surprising then that it is also associated with diminished capacity to discharge one’s day-to-day responsibilities.”  I would like to expand this statement to include other types of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia — disorders who have similar underlying symptoms such as low self-esteem and feelings of being out of control — and state that ALL types of eating disorders can affect work productivity (focusing, concentrating, and also achievement in school).

It was interesting to find an article such as this one that gives a broader understanding about the complexities of eating disorders, as oftentimes people who struggle with food issues are either judged as “lazy or unproductive”.  Eating disorders can also go under the radar at workplaces where there is a ‘normalized culture’ where food is brought in and consumed throughout the day and those who struggle with an eating disorder can have behaviors while ‘flying under the radar’.  Dr. Bedrosian concurs that “in general, eating disorders are typically not identified or treated.”  Why is this?  Why are some eating disordered behaviors “more acceptable socially” than others?  When someone who struggles with anorexia, for example, restricts her food, she can get encouraging comments about her “ability to control herself”, and someone who struggles with binge eating disorder can have behaviors that also are not deemed as “disordered”, thus decreasing the rate of intervention and treatment opportunity.  This social acceptance of ED behaviors can only increase the feelings of shame, hopelessness, and guilt that are experienced by those struggling.

The article states also that, due to the unnatural and embarrassing nature of eating disordered behaviors, “some people are more likely to report potentially stigmatizing behaviors (e.g., unsafe sexual practices, substance abuse) to computer-based assessment rather than face-to-face assessment with a health care provider.”  Providing confidential screening for eating disorders as well as other types of stigmatizing behaviors can potentially increase the disclosure rate and open the door to treatment and recovery.

Finally, the article gives notes to employers for important things to know about binge eating disorder (and other types of EDs):

What are three things that employers should know about binge eating?

1. This is a common problem, but a treatable one.

2. Screening and treatment for binge eating disorder need to be part of all workplace health promotion programs and every effort we make to contain the obesity epidemic. That means that all employer-based health risk appraisals and weight management programs should be asking participants about binge eating behaviors and either providing them with or referring them to the appropriate services for the problem. As described … above, our experiences indicate that this will result in identifying and triaging substantial numbers of people whose difficulties might otherwise go unnoticed or unacknowledged

3. We need to provide alternative forms of self-help or self-management (e.g., digital health coaching) for people who might be reluctant to acknowledge their symptoms or come forward for treatment. As described … above, our experiences indicated that by doing so, employers may be able to reach a group of people whose eating difficulties might not have been identified or addressed in any other way.”

What are your thoughts on employer screening for ED behaviors and the subsequent effect on health and wellness in the workplace?  Is this a helpful procedure, or one that further stigmatizes those who struggle?


Idleness: An Unexpected Gift in the Midst of a World Spinning on Busyness

Last week I had several colleagues suggest to me that I read the article “The ‘Busy’ Trap” in the New York Times.  ‘Oh, yes’, I responded to them. ‘I noticed that…but I was too busy today to take a look at it.  I’ll try to put it on my list for tomorrow.”  Ironic, right?  When I finally sat down today to read the piece, I was left with tears in my eyes by the end of it.  The message of this article speaks so true to me, as well as to many others, which is why it was posted all over social media;  I am guessing I was not the only one who was ‘too busy’ to read it.  Trust me, allow yourself the several minutes out of your day to read this piece; it will take you by the shoulders as well, shake you, and ask ‘why do you feel the need to be so BUSY all the time?’.

Several points struck me about this piece: one, that we ‘choose’ to be busy.  It’s almost a distraction, a buffer, from our raw, naked selves.  The author, Mr. Kreider, points out that those who work three jobs and don’t have a spare minute to sit on the couch because they need to provide for their families are busy….but mostly really tired.  They don’t have a choice.  The rest of us are busy because it can make us feel important, worthy, useful, productive.  But if we are too busy to slow down and truly live our lives, to allow ourselves to do activities that feed our souls instead of drain them, then we are losing a part of ourselves and not gaining anything.

I am one of the busy ones.  Mr. Kreider speaks of fleeing the city to an ‘Undisclosed Location’ where he could write in the morning and play in the afternoon, but where he had no phone or internet and he ‘remembered buttercups, stink bugs, and the stars’.  Being a business owner, a perfectionist, and a recipient of society’s pressures and expectations to SUCCEED, I often feel like I should be busy.

When I went on vacation in June, a whole week was spent in the countryside with no phone, no internet, no television, and only the canal, the cows, the sheep, and the birds to provide distractions.  It was incredibly difficult for me to sit and be idle.  I realize now, after being back in the busy-ness of work, that idleness is not just challenging for me.  Mr. Kreider realized that “idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.”

I am blessed to be given the gift of providing support to those who are struggling with eating disorders and I am grateful that I am allowed to be a witness of their journey towards wholeness and recovery.  I have learned from my own recovery as well as from supporting the recovery of my clients that sitting with idleness is a challenge.  We feel we should be busy, doing something, or distracted in order to be at peace or of worth.  At the end of the day, it feels good to say ‘I did this today’.  It is a great feeling to accomplish a goal, but I am reflective now of how I define these goals.  I would like to place as much value on reading a book in the hammock as I do on ‘getting tasks done’ from my to-do list.  Shifting this perspective replenishes my vital energy and supports my life-long recovery.  Sitting with myself in an idle space is not a piece of cake, but it is the pathway to embracing all parts of myself and finding value in the simplest things.


The muddier the better: Why we need to get comfortable in our stuck-ness before we can break FREE

With Independence Day coming tomorrow, I am thoughtful –as I am every year — about the freedoms I am grateful to live with every day.  I am grateful to have the freedom of speech and to pursue the career of my dreams.  I am grateful for freedom from the eating disorder that plagued me for many years.  I am grateful to be able to choose where I live and what I eat.  When I have a rough day, I try to spend time with my gratitude journal, where I list several things I am grateful for this day.

What I have learned over my years of searching for and embracing the freedoms of my life is that I have to remember where I have come from in order to appreciate where I am today.  It’s about perspective.  It’s about remembering the losses and the gifts I have endured and been granted.  It’s also about remembering that there are many, many people who do not enjoy the same freedoms that I do.  It’s about having goals to learn about as many cultures, policies, therapies, ideas, opinions as I can so that I am informed to help my clients and live a mindful life.

As I reflect on FREEDOM, the theme of the 4th of July celebrations, I am also reminded of the significant losses that thousands of people in Colorado have recently suffered because of the wildfires plaguing our state.  How does freedom connect to these experiences?  How can those of us who are watching these struggles connect with the experiences and lend our support?  I have spent much time over the past few weeks reflecting on this juxtaposition.

 

Here is what I am aware of today:

  • The more honest I can be with myself about my struggles, the greater chance I have to get through the mud and onto the shore.  The clearer in can be in my own “mud”, the more available I am able to be to give of myself to others.  This entails a balance: reminding myself of where I have come from, but not letting myself dwell in that suffering so that I am “stuck” in it.  By looking back, I can also look forward and out.
  • I am not perfect.  Trust me, I never thought I was! — though there were many years that I experienced great pain in attempts to be perfect.  Today, I try to embrace my imperfection so that I can move forward and be present in what is REALLY important to me:  family, friends, simplicity, connection with the earth, and helping others.  Going through my own therapy has allowed me to sit with myself in an accepting and aware way…though this is not always easy!
  • FREEDOM has so many different definitions.  My definition of freedom may be different than yours.  In this way, I try to meet each of my clients with a curious and hopeful approach, so that I can learn what their own unique freedom looks like to them.  We are connected in the way that we are all searching for freedom and embracing it when it is ours.  I have learned not to impose my definition of freedom on others, but to support others in their own journeys to be released from pain and suffering that holds them back.
  • Freedom can be muddy.  As in the title of this post, I have learned that freedom is not perfect, clear, clean.  Freedom means making mistakes sometimes and moving on.  Freedom means having conflict with another person and setting a goal to resolve it in a peaceful and respectful way.  Freedom can mean having pain sometimes but still moving towards a valuable goal.  Freedom is not perfection.

I work often with those in recovery from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, and today I was struck by a quote from St. Frances de Sales that spoke true to me and to those that I support, even more than four hundred years after it was spoken:

A habitual moderation in eating and drinking is much better than certain rigorous abstinences made from time to time.”

Freedom from food struggles involves balance, moderation, and listening to your inner voice.  This, I believe, can be related to so many other areas of our lives.  What does freedom mean to you?  I encourage you to reflect on this as Independence Day draws near and to share your freedom with others.