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Saturday
Mar142015

Supporting a Friend or Loved One with an Eating Disorder

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to talk with Lucy Vernasco, a health and science writer, who created an audio story for the Medill School of Journalism’s Medill Reports Chicago on how to support a loved one with an eating disorder. If you have 3 minutes and 16 seconds, check it out! For her written story on both social media and support, check out the full article here. Thank you for getting the word out Lucy!

 

Wednesday
Mar112015

High Points from the 7 Days of 2015 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

As always, NEDA's National Eating Disorder's Awareness Week was full and overflowing with face-to-face and social media events - here are just a few of my top favs!

1. Sunday, February 22nd: The 3rd Annual #AdiosED Twitterparty on "Self-Care in Recovery."

2. Monday, February 23rd: NIMH Twitter Chat on Binge Eating Disorder with Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., HuffPost Live's discussion on eating disorders among pregnant women, and NEDA's recorded Google Hangout "MarginalizED Voices."

3. Tuesday, February 24th: ASDAH's first Health At Every Size video, "Poodle Science" went live on the 23rd, but the retweets were going strong on the 24th! To read more about the story behind the video, visit here.

4. Wednesday, February 25th: A good reminder from Ellen Fitzsimmons Craft.

5. Thursday, February 26th: NEDA's Tweet Chat on "Identifying Disordered Behaviors Before They Go Too Far" and a shout-out tweet from the NIMH on Dr. Bulik's 2014 videos that bust 9 Eating Disorder Myths.

6. Friday, February 27th: NEDA's Tweet Chat on "What You Don't Know Can Hurt Your Patients: Medical Professionals and Eating Disorders." One of my favorite resources on this topic that is available at no cost *and* in 7 different languages, is the Academy for Eating Disorder's Guide to Medical Risk Management - please download and share with abandon!

7. Satruday, February 28th: On the last day, NEDA asked parents to share their words of wisdom. Two (from the week and beyond) that struck me are from Don Blackwell and IED Action, both calling out for larger scale changes to help those struggling with an eating disorder. If you'd like to get involved with this, please reach out to them and consider joining in the next Eating Disorders Coalition Lobby Day!

Now I would love to hear from you - what were your stand out NEDA Awareness Week events?

 

Saturday
Mar012014

10 Not To Be Missed Resources from the 2014 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 

As March kicks off, the 2014 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week comes to a close. It was a remarkably active week on social media and there were some valuable observations made by collegues that caught my attention. Both Carrie Arnold's post on "Who's ED Awareness Week for, anyway?" and Laura Collin's blog on "More information, less empty 'awareness'" brought up great questions and calls to action. With these in mind, and given the fact that the diagnosis of an eating disorder continues to carry with it some of the highest mortality rates but yet remains among the least federally funded in research, I rounded up my 10 not to be missed resources that can be used throughtout the rest of 2014:

1. NIMH's "9 Eating Disorders Myths Busted" featuring the fantastic Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D.

2. The Academy for Eating Disorders Medical Care Standards Brochure available in 6 languages, all of which are downloadable for free.

3. A no-cost Eating Attitudes Self-Test with anonymous feedback.

4. The National Eating Disorders Association toll-free and confidential Helpline: 800.931.2237.

5. Eating Disorder Recovery Support, Inc.'s list of treatment scholarships.

6. Men Get Eating Disorders Too Peer Support.

7. Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.).

8. Genetic research participation: Add your DNA to AN25K via ANGI in the U.S. and Charlotte's Helix in the U.K.

9. Ideas and inspiration on advocacy from Eric van Furth, Johanna Kandell, and AED from their twitterchat on "How Advocates are Reaching Eating Disorder Sufferers."

10. Information on how to gear up and participate in the Eating Disorders Coalition National Lobby Days on April 2nd and 3rd in D.C.

I would love to hear from you! What splash did the 2014 #NEDAwareness make for you and what ripples from it are you going to disperse during the rest of the year?

 

Thursday
Jan022014

Three Strategies to Having More Self-Compassion in the New Year.

If there were one resolution or intention I could add to the international agenda, it would be for us all to have a bit more self-compassion. Way too often I hear many of my thoughtful and kind-hearted friends say, “Oh, I was such a dork,” or “that was so stupid of me,” or “I’m so lazy!” when they talk about the lapses and missteps in their lives. I have to admit too that even in my own mind I have demands and accusations of myself that are not so nice. The cost of this kind of self-criticism though is really quite high – not only does it breed more self-criticism, it significantly lowers our motivation level and does a number on both our creativity and self-esteem.

Knowing theses costs, however, does not make it easier to institute a change, as we all know. The argument that most often boomerangs right back at me at the speed of light involves a robust fear and belief that if one stops talking to oneself like a coach who has gone over the edge, then one will lose all motivation and absolutely, undoubtedly, and most certainly, certainly become the deadly sin of sloth incarnate. What’s important to hold on to here is that self-compassion isn’t about letting go of your ideals or goals and being totally freewheeling, it’s about letting go of the harsh and judgmental way you go about talking to yourself when you are head-to-head with your mistakes and limitations. Self-compassion is about truly responding with warmth and understanding towards yourself when you are faced with a “failure” or a part of yourself that you’re not particularly fond of.

Does this sound good to you??? I know it does to me! Here are three ways you can sprinkle more of this good stuff in your day throughout 2014:

 

1. Practice midfulness.

Mindfulness is about both paying attention and how you pay attention. When you are truly observant to what is playing over and over in your mind, you can direct the monologue and not just take on your own personal Statler & Waldorf heckling as a given.

 

2. Take in some self-compassion meditations.

For 16 to 20 minutes a pop, you can listen to the master of self-compassion, Kristin Neff, Ph.D., on one of her 6 free self-compassion mediation downloads.

 

3. Be your own Sweets!

Once you catch yourself going off on the 7-mile-blackberry-bush-path-with-no-berries-and-only-thorns critical loop, use your imaginary doppelgänger to wrap an arm around your shoulder and say, “Come on Sweets, I know this is a tough one. We got this.”

 

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What are you going to do today to give yourself the gift of self-compassion? Leave a comment below and let me know – and know too that what you have to say may be just what someone else needed to hear today!

 

 

Thursday
Nov222012

Recovery-Minded Tips for the Holidays

The holiday season is here and along with it can bring epic highs and lows that can hit hard and hit fast, especially if you are actively struggling with an eating disorder or have a loved one that is. Here are a few tips to focus on from both sides when you are feeling some holiday hopelessness about recovery:

 

1. Remind yourself that your awful feelings will pass - and truly they will.

Intense negative feelings, like hopelessness and grief, can feel overwhelming and very permanent, so it is important to keep reminding yourself that this is part and parcel of the very DNA of those feelings. It's also true that you won't really believe that those feelings will pass and if they do, you're likely to think that they're just destined to return to haunt you for the rest of your waking life. Try to find a quote that will be an inspiring reminder about this thinking error, send yourself an email, or post something on your phone that will help send a message from the other side. (Personally, I've always liked this one.)

 

2. Be mindful of your gaze.

What we pay attention to gains strength as it dominates our thoughts, which then influences how we feel. If you find that you are staring at your food, other people's food, the snack bowls, the buffet, your body, and so on, practice shifting your gaze up to other people, a window, or artwork to help you take your mind away from obsessive food and body image thoughts. Take a deep breath and let yourself engage in another way.

 

3. Stick to your concrete plan for meals.

This does not mean adhering to your "good/bad" foods or restricting at other meals to compensate for an anticipated large holiday meal, but rather this one is about staying on track with your meal plan that you set up with your nutritionist, treatment team, and/or loved ones. If your struggle is with restricting, then keep to your plan and refrain from skipping any meals or snacks, even if you are feeling full. Remember that not eating is just not an option. If you struggle with binge eating, be sure to set realistic meal goals for the day along with strategies to manage your urges to binge.

 

4. Have support in place.

Connecting with others goes a long way. Think back to a time that you spent a day alone, after which you had a brief positive interaction with a stranger that gave you some energy that wasn't necessarily there before. The same applies here. If we are stuck in our heads it can be hard to reach out, but it is the exact thing that needs to happen! Have a few trusted people in your support line-up (either in your head or by talking with them about this ahead of time) that you can talk with (about anything) and help distract you from eating disorder thoughts and urges - in person, on the phone, via video, or texting. Keep in mind it doesn't even have to be about feelings or challenges but something as simple and silly as exchanging awkward family photos in order to engage your brain in a different way!

 

5. Focus on what you want to see happen.

Putting your mind's energy towards what you would like to have happen in the day makes those things much more likely to actually come to be! Your brain has a lot of power behind it and helping it to focus on your desires rather than your "shouldn't's" can be the difference between trying to climb an icy hill in flip-flops to having some ice cleats attached!

 

6. Give yourself the gift of compassionate self-talk.

I'm not talking about using uplifting quotes or phrases here (although these can be helpful too), I'm talking about really paying attention to how you are talking to yourself and the words you are choosing. If your tone is demanding and the words are jagged, you can bet that your mood is going to be closer to cranky and a shark pool away from cheerful. Also, the words we choose have a tremendous impact on how we feel and subsequently how we behave - which in turn has a big impact on how we feel about ourselves. As this article underscores, language even shapes what we see, so it's critical that we create compassion in our internal worlds. Think of it as a Peace Snuggie for your mind.

 

7. Finally, if you have a lapse, recognize it as that and let it go.

This can be challenging. After all, if you've "messed up" by not go big? This is what is known as an "all or nothing" kind of thinking error and it can get you into trouble and create more problems that you started with. Give yourself the room to have missteps (as we all make these) and remind yourself that they are an integral part of not only recovery, but life itself. Persistence pays off and taking the next best step will feel much better than rolling into old habits that aren't serving you!

 

If you have a loved one struggling in their recovery during the holidays, here are a few tips for you too!

1. Give K.I.S.S.es.

I'm tweaking the KISS principle to, "Keep It Sweet, Sweetie." It can get frustrating to see a loved one hide food, find vomit (or remnants of), or see a loved one speeding down the slope of a binge. Instead of reacting, take a breath and respond with care. Let your loved one know that you are sorry they are having a hard time, that you love them, and that you are there for them to lean on. Then offer to team up with them to beat the card shark in your family (for the first time!) at Gin Rummy.

 

2. Distract, distract, distract.

Help your loved one come up with things to do to get their focus off of their negative thoughts about food, their body, or themselves. Have games, activities, and conversation topics lined-up that you can engage them in. The more fun and silly the better - remember that nothing loosens up a tense situation much better than humor and playfulness!

 

3. Have your own support system.

When emotions heat up and you are feeling hopeless or powerless to help your loved one, have a few trusted others you can lean on to help you to regain both your strength and your hope. The FEAST's Around the Dinner Table Forum is a great way to vent, get ideas, and connect with other carers who have walked (or are walking) that marathon in your shoes.

 

For some additional ideas, check out the recorded teleseminar "Empower, Don't Devour!" with Ondina Hatvany, MFT here. I'd also love to hear your thoughts or any tips that you have found most helpful and supportive during the holidays!

 

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