Category Archives: eating disorder recovery

A Story Aout Eating Disorder Recovery

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago,  

 there was a King who had been away at war and was finally coming home. As he approached the castle, his dog ran up to him looking crazy: his muzzle was foaming and bloody, he was running round and round the King in circles, and then back toward the castle where the nursery was. The king followed the dog to his new baby’s room and, to his horror, found the baby’s crib and wall spattered in blood and a large wolf laying prone in the crib. The King, terrified and then horrified, turned toward the dog and plunged his sword into him, thinking the dog had allowed his baby to be killed by a wolf. Just then, he heard the baby’s cry from under the wolf. The dog had protected the King’s baby.

Now, you may be thinking, like my clients when I shared this, How horrible! What a terrible story! What the heck does this have to do with eating disorder recovery; why didn’t he just pause before killing the dog; and where is the Queen in all this?

In order to see how this relates to recovery, we have to look at it metaphorically and break out of literal mind. In this story,

  • the dog is our body,
  • the wolf is our critical, eating disordered mind,
  • and the baby is our most precious soul-self.

The King could be many things: he could be our Observer-self (if he had paused), he could be the fierce action-oriented part of our self (that is helpful when channeled in the right direction and destructive when not), he could be the part of our self that integrates other parts…

However, the most significant question I have for you is: how is your relationship with the dog? Because your body is not the enemy here. And, in recovery, your IMG_2222body needs to (and has the capacity to) become your greatest teacher, ally, and communicator. What would happen if you listened, with curiosity, again and again?

Many blessings and so much gratitude for Dr. Anita Johnston, author of Eating In the Light of the Moon: How women can transform their relationship with food through myth, metaphaor and story telling (Carslbad: Gurz books, 1996) for this story.  Dranitajohnston.com

Opposite Land: A Blog about parenting your child playfully (Oh, and you, too)

I stole the Opposite Land game from the most time-honored parenting resource of all: another mom. Here’s how it works: When you are going somewhere or doing something that requires a certain kind of behavior, visit opposite land first. So for example, before we go to the regular grocery store, we go to the opposite land one. In opposite land grocery stores, all the kids ride on IMG_1635the carts flinging their legs and feet into the aisles, toppling cans and boxes off the shelves. They race around banging into people, don’t say excuse me, and throw eggs out of the carton. They fill the cart up with cookies, chocolate, rainbow sprinkle doughnuts and NO GREEN VEGETABLES. Never. Not Ever.

This technique works if you really get into it and are silly, authentic, and loving. Then your kid knows your intention is to connect and stay connected with them. Kids are right brained and have not yet left the land of implicit knowledge, of being deeply connected with their bodies and felt-sense of another person. So if you’re not authentic and silly with opposite land, they will see right through you and know you are just trying to get them to behave in the grocery store (which, of course, you are, but in a child friendly and respecting-ly, playful way).

A Random Confession related to Opposite Land and Never Eating Tomatoes:

My child is a picky eater. Even though I am a HUGE advocate for the intuitive eating, there-are-no-bad-foods, philosophy, I still relapse into encouraging, bordering on nagging, my child to eat vegetables. As you can imagine, sometimes I “win” a particular battle, but I never (Never, Not Ever 🙂 ) win the war. My little one is all over implicit knowing on that. I know you are trying to get me to do what you want, but I am not going to leave what I know to be true in my body and my preferences. So I keep returning to presenting the food, being playful with it, model-ing eating vegetables, but not forcing them.

I recently was given a book in another great chain of motherhood wisdom (also known as passing-along-stuff-please-help-me-clear-a-little-space-in-my-house). It is fabulous. In it, Lola, the younger sister of Charlie, states that she won’t eat carrots (they are for rabbits), peas (too small and green), and:

“I absolutely will never Not Ever eat a tomato.”

IMG_1638

Her older brother, well versed in opposite land and creative, playful parenting, assures Lola that they are not eating carrots, potatoes, peas, or fish sticks. They are eating “orange twiglets from Jupiter, cloud fluff, green drops from Greenland, ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea…” You get the idea.

As you can imagine, by the end of the book, Lola is experimenting with trying all kinds of new foods, including the dreaded Never Not Ever (re-named moon-squirters) tomatoes.

IMG_1637

How does this apply to You?

(Parents, Non-parents, and people recovering from Eating Disorders, Depression, Anxiety or General Self-Hatred)

Opposite Land looks different for adults. It includes such blasphemous ideas as:

“You ARE good enough.”

“All foods are possible to eat without guilt, including chocolate cake.”

“Recovery from an Eating Disorder (Depression, Anxiety, General Self-Hatred) is possible.”

“Mistakes are allowed.”

“You can be loved the way you are.”

“There is nothing wrong with you.”

“What happened in your family of origin was not your fault.”

“It is okay to feel angry, sad, ashamed, or insecure.”

“You are not bad.”

I get it- these may seem to live in a fantasy world if you are accustomed to believing the opposite. They may seem even more preposterous than eating cloud fluff or orange twig-lets from Jupiter. But considering the possibility can be the beginning of believing it. Having a trusted loved one (spouse, therapist, supportive peer) help you in this process can be the most healing. You may even, like Lola, decide that you can sometimes, Not Always but Not Never, have the experience of being Good Enough. And that can be even more phenomenal than eating a moon-squirter.

Special thanks to Lauren Child and Candlewick Press for permission to reprint the beautiful images from:

WILL NEVER NOT EVER EAT A TOMATO. Copyright © 2000 by Lauren Child. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

The Every Body love your Body Project (5 minutes for 8 weeks)

embodyingart_f

“It takes no time to open your heart, but when will you do it? That is what takes the time.”

After working with women recovering from body hatred for the past decade and a half, I have noticed a few pitfalls that people get stuck in during the process of learning to love (and/or accept more on this soon) their bodies. One of them is:

“I don’t have TIME.”

In eating disorder recovery, it often shows up as “OK, I’ve stopped bingeing/purging/starving/overeating(insert disordered eating behavior here), so I should love my body now. When will that happen? 1 month? 2? Because I don’t have the patience for years. I’m ready to move on and be “normal.” What I say to this is Ummmm, sorry. There is no “normal,” and if there was (if “normal” means not having an eating disorder) then many of those people don’t like their bodies either.  Leaning to love and accept yourself at a deep fundamental level (which is what body image issues are really about) takes time. Usually years. It cuts to the fundamental core of the self. (But don’t worry this project is 5 minutes PER WEEK for 8 weeks. You can do that. You can do this!)

In mommy hood, it often shows up as “I’m too busy taking care of everyone else! I don’t have time for that superficial body image stuff! I’m lucky if I get a pair of sweat pants on and a haircut once/year!” To which I would say first of all, you can’t afford to NOT have the time because your child is picking up on every single nonverbal cue you give them as to your relationship with your own body and you are passing it on. So if there’s any suffering there that you wish your child to NOT experience, you have to do your own work. And second of all, it doesn’t actually take that much time. It is more about quality rather than quantity.

The Power of Intention

This is a new project, but not a new idea. It is about the power of intention to shift your relationship with your body. The good news is It won’t require much from you except willingness. And, actually, it won’t take too much time. 5 minutes/week for 8 weeks. But let me tell you a bit about the premise. As a clinician assisting people cultivate a different relationship with their bodies and themselves, I work with willingness. I also work with assisting people identify and shift the ways they talk to themselves, including both the content and the tone.  A large part of this is actually dis-identifyig enough from the parts of yourself, particularly the often overdeveloped Superego Critical part, to find and cultivate other parts. The other part(s) being kinder, more self-advocating, non-shaming loving parts.

There is a well-know study in which experimenters were told to observe rats in a maze, but one group of experimenters were told that their rats were “bright” and another group were told that their rats were “dull.” (Rosenthal, R. & Fode, K.L.1963) They were actually all from the same group of lab rats, but guess which rats performed better? Yep. The ones that were supposedly “bright.” When looking at why, it was found that the experimenters had an intention of them doing better and encouraged these rats more. I want to invite you to bring this “experimenter bias” back to yourself: loving kindness, attention, intention.

Which brings me back to the issue of how you talk to your body. How do you speak to your body? Do you say “You should be smaller/larger/less wrinkled/not have cellulite/be less flabby/stop being so disgusting”? Then this is an opportunity for you to practice treating your body more “bright” and less “dull.” Really- if you’ve been saying unkind things to yourself for decades, what do you have to lose by trying to say something different?

The Every Body Love your Body Project

5 minutes (or less) of writing an affirmative statement toward part of your body every Wednesday (You can write yours on whatever day you would like but I will pick an affirmation winner and post the next part on Wednesday). Write your statement in the comments, and I will randomly pick a winner every week. I invite you to write this statement on a note and post it on your mirror for the week.

Each week we will look at a different part of your body and say something kind to it. That is IT. The only “rules” are:

1) It must be authentic to you.

2) It has to be kind, accepting, or neutral in tone.

3) If it is negative, it must be directed toward your body image CRITIC, not your body.

Then every week, I will pick a winner from the comments and that person will receive a free affirmation from Dr. Linda!

This week’s body part: the FACE

I’ll get us started on some examples here. Since we are starting with the face, I could say (going with the three choices above):

1) I like my little wrinkles around my eyes. They show empathy, wisdom and kindness.

2) I have nice cheekbones.ama

3) Those furrows between my eyes and on my forehead are hard-won! If I were to Botox those wrinkles, my face would lose its character. Shut the F*ck up! (That is to my body image critic, which says “Maybe you should think about getting bangs because did you know that bangs are the new Botox?”)

You may notice, when you write something kind toward your body, part(s) of you roaring in protest “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?” That is good. That means you are on the right track with shifting from treating yourself as a “dull rat” to a “bright” one 🙂 Keep going!

See you next week!

It’s Eating Disorders Awareness week!

Before recovery, everybody knows there is a problem except you. After recovery, no-one knows there is a problem except you, and it is your job to live in the solution. It is the challenge and opportunity of every recovering person to acknowledge the problem and live the solution.

It is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. In my mind, that means all the people still struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating are putting their heads in the sand and pretending everything is ok. They don’t want to talk about it, everything is “fine,” let’s get on with the business of being perfect, trying to be perfect, or at least look ok so nobody knows what’s really going on. And all the people who have recovered, are willingly trying to recover, or work assisting people to recover are running around like Chicken Little saying “Hey! Everything is NOT ok and that is ok! Let’s celebrate imperfection! Let’s talk about what’s really going on! Let’s raise awareness! Let’s get our heads out of the sand!”

I never thought I would have an eating disorder. Eating Disorders were for models, popular girls, adolescents or athletes. I was none of these. I was a feminist. I was going to join the peace-corps and go to Africa and save the mountain gorillas from extinction. I was 20 years old and ready to save the world. Except I couldn’t pass the physical exam to apply to the peace-corps due to complications from my eating disorder.

I also never thought I would become a therapist. But life takes us in interesting directions, not always the places we plan.  Ad here I am, 17 years recovered, 15 years working in recovery, still at it. I turned my passion for advocacy to helping all of the actual people suffering with eating disorders, not just the models and athletes, but the feminists, the environmentalists, the men secretly struggling with “a women’s disease,” and the middle aged moms. Because in the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011). That means either you or someone you know.

People suffering with eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Emaciated, overweight, “normal” weight, men, women, adolescents, people of all skin colors, children ALL suffer from eating disorders. Though it may seem like it, eating disorders are not about food or weight. Eating disorders are hidden diseases that are notUnknown “a superficial problem with dieting” but deadly and complex diseases that deserve to be treated and eradicated. I’m speaking up for those who are still hiding, who are still suffering, who are not yet ready to “be in the solution” of freedom from shame, but want to know that it is possible. It is possible. You are not alone. Come out when you are ready. We are here for you, in a long lineage of healing, those of us who have recovered, who are recovering, who assist others to recover.

For More information on National eating Disorders Awareness Week and how to get involved: http://nedawareness.org/social

Why I Love Expressive arts in therapy (and in life)

Creativity is the original anti-depressant.  -Andrew Brink, Creativity as repair: Bipolarity and Its Closure

It is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.  -D. W. Winnicott

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  –Pablo Picasso

 1. Art (re)connects with the authentic self.

 The well-respected psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott coined the terms “True Self” and “False Self” that children develop as a result of their attachment to early caregivers.

As adults, the false self, the one that needed to be compliant as a child, can become maladaptive, stunting the power of the true self. One woman, recovering from an eating disorder that had her acting pleasing towards other people in her life while stuffing down her anger with food made the following images titled “The good girl” and “What’s underneath”:

mask

unmask

To see full article, click here:

http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/love-expressive-art-therapy-life/

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