Monthly Archives: June 2007

carnival of eating disorders #7 (part 1)

welcome to the 7th carnival of eating disorders! this round, i’m trying something new. i’ll discuss the articles in a little more detail and break them up over two days. let me know how you like that!

today we’ll talk about the topic of addictions and habits (or lack of them).

corn products at the root of many addictions?
jolynn braley from the fit shack talks about some interesting research conducted by dr. theron g. randolph:

his article correlates to what i have been writing about sugar (that it is a drug), and he specifically points out that corn is the leading cause of chronic food addiction in this century. high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, these are all sugars made from corn and are main ingredients in most processed food and fast food.

i also learned that corn is the most prevalent ingredient in alcohol manufacturing, and that it is corn sugar that is used in cigarettes (i thought it was cane sugar)

fascinating stuff! read on in her article can food addiction lead to drug addiction?. i’m not sure that i would 100% subscribe to the “one addiction leads to another” theory but randolph’s research is most definitely worth pondering. he also talks about the connection between food allergies and food addiction, a topic much discussed by the 12-step recovery community.

emotions and the web of addictions
karen halls also talks about food addiction. her theory is that “food cravings and overeating are a symptom of us trying to tranquilise unresolved emotional issues that are leaving us with feelings such as emptiness, deprivation and inadequacy.”

that is the case for many people, although i personally find that addiction is often even more complicated than that. mental, physical and emotional patterns interact in very intricate ways, and there is rarely just one “cause” for an addiction.

this is one of the reasons why addictions are so difficult to eradicate – if we manage to resolve one cause of the addiction, the other ones often (not always, of course!) still remain and after a while even manage to “reawaken” the one we thought we had resolved. (that’s part of what i call the “i-thought-i-had-dealt-with-that syndrome”). constant vigilance is needed.

having said that, emotional reasons for overeating or any other addiction are often the strongest ones, so it’s certainly extremely important to deal with that. read what karen has to say about that in her article weight loss without cravings and no diet at her blog addiction recovery blog

unhealthy eating habits: lack of self-care
emotions are one part of the web of addiction. habits are another. phil from phil for humanity (isn’t that a nice name for a blog?) talks about the not-so-healthy eating habits of geeks in how to gain weight.

in his opinion, “there are two types of geeks: “fat geeks who eat badly and get little exercise, and skinny geeks (as i was) who defy the laws of nature who also eat badly and get little exercise.” his suggestions remind me a bit of a guest post here on by alex about struggling with being too thin.

his suggestion to “get a girlfriend” gave me cause for reflection. what’s behind that may well be the lack the motivation for self care – another strand of the web of addiction. what needs to happen for people to look after themselves as well as a loving partner would?

or we could even look at it in terms of looking after a precious houseplant. such a plant needs just the right amount of water, light and fertilizer – not too much, not too little. while caught in the web of addiction, this exquisite care is sorely lacking.

(by the way, chris pirillo has a bit of a companion article to phil’s – for geeks who eat too much – or maybe phil’s is the companion article since chris’s became so well known all over the web.)

pro ana / mia websites
terra attrill’s contribution at eating disorder talk is about the need “for a safe place to provide support for people with anorexia and bulimia that is not always about recovery, but is also not scripted within the ‘pro ana and mia’ sites.”

i am always grateful for articles like this, written by people who don’t pontificate about quick-fix solutions but rather share their very real experience in a thought-provoking manner.

terra discusses something very controversial: “pro ana and mia” websites, websites that either condone or promote anorexic and bulimic lifestyles.

the question i’m putting out there today is if these websites are as detrimental as they are being portrayed to be.

yes, these are places where people with active eating disorders can congregate. tips are often shared, though sometimes only via personal messaging or email, so as not to influence others. “thinspiration” pictures and stories, triggers for many, are posted to peruse and comment upon.

pro-eeating disorder sites are not positive in any of these aspects…

but if you’ve ever been a member of or happened upon one of these sites and taken longer than two minutes to form an opinion, you can observe an amazing vessel of support. not just for the eating disorders themselves, but for people active in their illness, depressed, suicidal and even seeking treatment. in my opinion, this is not a negative thing.

read more of terra’s important insights in her post a misinterpretation?

that’s it for today. in part 2 of this carnival. we’ll have GNIF brain blogger, dr. deb, fitbuff and sizenet, all taking various viewpoints on the issue of being overweight.

(oh, and if you’re a blogger and have an article that talks about pertinent topics – anything from anorexia to bulimia, orthorexia, anorexia athletica, obesity and body image – please submit it to the next edition of carnival of eating disorders using our carnival submission form.)

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

6 steps to chasing away the naysaying gremlin

surinder: “hey, wanna come to the beach tonight?”

petra: “oh, i don’t know if i can make it to the beach. the weather probably won’t hold.”

steve: “sure, i’ll come!”

brian: “yeah, i’ll show up. if it rains, we can always leave early.”

dorothy: “no, i’m sorry i can’t make it. i’m busy working on my book.”

if all you knew about these five people were these little snippets and you’d have to judge who to hang out with for an afternoon, with whom would you most like to spend the time? who would be the least likely candidate?

i bet petra would be the least popular. poor petra. but she’s just a bit too indecisive and pessimistic, isn’t she?

we all have little petras inside of us. a gremlin that hems and haws and is supremely concerned with keeping everything as safe as possible.

these overly cautious nay-sayers keep us from having fun and thinking big. and they’re the most dangerous when they don’t talk out loud, when they just whisper in our ears, give us funny feelings in the pit of the stomach, or show us scary internal movies.

how do you deal with these hemmers and hawers and super-cautious pessimists?

  1. figure out what you want (e.g. spend time with your friends)
  2. notice the gremlins, notice what they’re doing – drag them out into the light!
  3. find out which of the gremlins’ concerns are valid and which aren’t.
  4. decide whether to address the valid concerns (e.g. even if it does look like it might rain – does it matter?)
  5. look for options
  6. say what you want. out loud!

practice 1-6 over and over. these gremlins don’t usually leave right away. but if you let them know often enough that they’re not welcome anymore, eventually they’ll disappear.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

(this post has been included in the personal development carnival of august 5, 2007)

about birds and books

my friend aaron zacharias – not aaron the walker but aaron the painter – shares this beautiful story:

thursday, one of my clients, on a whim wanted us to go downtown and visit the library. then he asked if we could look around in a couple of antiquarian bookstores on pender.

in one of these stores i came across a book that was very familiar to me. i’d run across this book before in this bookstore, but didn’t pay it much heed: it’s titled “birds of america”, and it is very beautifully illustrated.

when i was eleven years old my mother had given me a copy of this book as a gift, because she wanted to encourage my love of birds and art. i kept this book with me (it is very large and quite thick) until i became homeless in 1998, and i had to give up most of my personal possessions.

this thursday, while visiting this bookstore, the book caught my eye for some reason. i looked carefully at the worn cover, the markings on it, then i skimmed through the pages. i suddenly realized that this was the very book i had given up! and i knew that i must get it back.

over the next couple of days i thought and prayed about it. then, yesterday i acted. i returned to the bookstore. the book was still there. i bought it, and told the proprietor about its significance to me. he seemed genuinely moved, and did not charge me tax. i thanked him for keeping it safe for me and took it home.

now that i have this book at home, i know beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt that this is the book my mother bought me. the art work in it also has strongly influenced the way i paint birds. i feel that this book represents something much larger that has just been restored to me and i feel, in a word, overwhelmed.

rant: anglican qualifiers

“may i ask what age group you fall into? ok, thanks. do you work for a marketing company? no? good. and your household income? thank you. last question, what postal code do you live in? oh, V5W? i’m sorry, we already have the quota for people with your profile filled.”

i’m sure you’ve all heard that spiel before. it’s something that market research companies do very openly but it’s the same thing that most salespeople are asked to do more discreetly.

it’s called “qualifying.”

it always feels a little strange when it turns out that you don’t qualify, even if you don’t want to qualify (did you really want to spend 20 minutes answering inane questions about your tooth brushing habits?) it feels strange and uncomfortable because you’re excluded.

now the anglican church, perhaps a bit more important than market researchers, has voted to continue in favour of qualifying. are you the right customer for them? if you’re straight and not too radical, you’re fine. if you’re gay, well, tant pis. well, maybe if you sit quietly in the back they’re going to accept you.

but if you want to get married, nay, not even married – if you’re gay and anglican and you just want to have your union blessed, you’re out of luck. you don’t qualify. in the anglican church in canada, christ’s/god’s love is not that unconditional.

yes, yes, i know. these things take time. maybe next time, they’ll vote in favour. people have their sensibilities. etc. etc.

i’m sorry, that just doesn’t wash. the people who voted against same sex blessing want to have a right not only to be homophobic but also to let their homophobia dictate an extremely important part of other people’s lives.

you know what, if you don’t like queer people, then here’s something you can do: don’t watch brokeback mountain, don’t go downtown when the gay pride parade is on, use the remote when the L word comes on, hey, you don’t even have to go to a church that’s gay friendly! but don’t tell others, who you obviously don’t even know and like, what to do and not do! is that so hard to understand?

i don’t let my dog poop on your sidewalk, i don’t throw rotten eggs on your windshield. when i know you’re really sensitive to non-christian religions, i even hide my pentagram pendant from your precious eyes.

i even defend you guys – i get into hot water when i tell my pagan, buddhist and atheist friends that there is such a thing as progressive, liberal christian churches and the anglican church tends to be one of them!

all i’m asking you, stay out of other people’s business, don’t thwart their happiness and read the bible: “whoever comes to me i will never drive away“. and don’t tell me that accepting gays and lesbians in your pews but not blessing their unions is not driving them away.

geesh, you guys! get your act together!

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

p.s. just found out that today is the 10th anniversary of a U.S. supreme court enshrining freedom of speech on the internet. as tris points out, without that, blogs as we know them may not even be possibe. i’m grateful.

treating alcohol addiction

according to, there is more and more agreement that alcohol abuse occurs on a continuum. it needs to be treated accordingly; traditional methods of helping alcoholics work for less than half of them. project MATCH, a project involving over 80 therapists, is now looking at ways to match patient preferences with different kinds of therapy. as many of you know, that is one of my pet peeves: therapy absolutely needs to be tailored to your needs; one size does not fit all.

as the field moves away from all-or-nothing thinking about alcohol use, some interesting findings emerge, for example:

support from friends and family
as i mentioned in a previous post, peer and family support may be the “missing link” that allows some alcoholics to quit on their own, without any formal treatment. of course, this support does not mean continued enabling of the drinking; however, it can create enthusiasm and trust in both the drinker, her family and friends that a life without alcohol is possible.

mental health
around 20% of people who have problems with alcohol are dealing with mental health issues and may be attempting to medicate these with alcohol. finding more appropriate ways to help with these psychiatric problems can help with both the alcohol abuse and the mental illness.

your father’s genes
one of the key genetic factors in alcoholism is an ability to metabolize liquor too well, because of the presence of the liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. indeed, a common trait among alcoholics is the early ability to “drink others under the table.” of course, that does not mean that this applies to everyone. an alcohol-dependent man i knew a while ago could get very drunk after three beers.

just as in smoking, motivation to quit reigns supreme. research shows that brief, motivationally based interventions, where counsellors work with patients for one to four sessions can be as effective as far more intensive therapy.

quitting without help
20% of alcoholics can and do quit successfully on their own. researchers are just beginning to explore what is “special” about them and how to apply it to all alcoholics.

readjustment and relapse prevention
no matter where and how an alcoholic recovers, this powerfully complex condition imposes three requirements for recovery:

  • high, sustained motivation to stop drinking
  • readjustment to — and building — a life that includes family and peer support;
  • and relapse prevention based on specific, well-rehearsed strategies of “cue” avoidance.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

(this article was part of the 18th brain blogging carnival)

monday bullets

hot coffee girl, a blogger i met through damien riley, introduced me to the idea of “blogging bullet points” – short little tidbits to blog about. so here are some random things that have been rattling around here these last few days:

  • reading the marlowe chronicles righ now. an aging actor (ham?) is facing death and sees the whole thing as one big chance to put on yet another act. but is it really an act? is the act truer than the truth? an old theme, wittily and entertainingly presented by lawrence sanders, one of my favourite lightweight authors.
  • just came from a meeting with alice zhou, vancouver’s networking queen. what a dynamo!
  • my new friends at skype pointed out this story to me: a student is expelled because he conspired on facebook to kick a teacher. as you know, i am completely against violence of any kind. however, i wonder what expelling the guy will achieve? i’m into restorative justice. why not instead have him start yet another group at facebook, this time an anti-violence, anti-bullying group? and do some volunteer work with someone who has been hurt by violence? (like my friend gene, who is still suffering from the after-effects of his swarming last summer)
  • my birthday yesterday was interesting. lots of well-wishes from people i don’t know very well, and silence from other places, especially my mother. hope she’s okay. she had a fall a week ago. gave her a call but had to leave a message.
  • yesterday was also st. jean baptiste day, an important day in our beautiful canadian province of quebec, as well, supposedly, brotherhood day for the freemasons
  • oh, and as i was sitting here in take 5, a downtown cafe in vancouver, working on this blog entry, along comes vivien from inspiration bit. now we’re sitting across from each other, each typing away on our laptops.
  • while looking for a blog to link to give you more info on st. jean baptiste day, i came across one week job, a fascinating project by sean aiken:
    • i can’t tell you what it is that i want to do with my life. help me figure that out, while raising money and awareness for child poverty in canada at the same time. i will be traveling week to week throughout the country working different jobs offered to me, with all my earnings donated to make poverty history. read how it works.
  • 10 blogs i’ve read in the last week:
  1. OCD on a stick, a blog by someone dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder
  2. urban monk, a personal development blog that focuses on putting the ego in its proper place
  3. emi’s universe, a blog about eating disorders
  4. the fit shack,
  5. from manic to mommy,
  6. everyone needs therapy,
  7. 3 quarks daily, a great design and science blog
  8. a blog by a venture capitalist,
  9. roger von oech’s creativity blog,
  10. and linguistic mystic (love the title of the most recent post: i’m very pregnant that i’m late)

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

six good acts

“don’t chew your moustache (or anyone else’s)”

that’s part of what robert c. carson call’s the “pleasant person’s act”. in my last post i mentioned his book, taming your gremlin and you may remember how he talked about the discomfort, even pain, that can come from following your self-concept rather than just being yourself.

in the same vein, he also talks about “acts”, or roles, that we habitually play out, with the same dissatisfying results. acting, he says, can be fun and useful, but it gets pretty uncomfortable when our act turns into a habitual way of being and we even forget that we are acting. the act and the self-concept meld.

an act i used to play as a teenager was “the cool hippie”. acting cool was very important to me, and i’d gladly suffer for it, for example, when i smoked cigars or walked barefoot through the snow.

a client of mine, let’s call her francine, used to play the act of “the PTSD victim”. whenever something got even slightly uncomfortable for her, she would explain that because of her post-traumatic stress disorder, she could not do this/go there/wait for that. (i’m happy to report that both francine and i are over these acts! and please don’t get me wrong, PTSD or any other mental health problem are not an act – but defining your self identity through them is not useful).

but as long as we know we’re doing an act, and we’re doing it from choice rather than out of habit or fear, both we and the world around us can get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it.

that’s where the “pleasant person’s act” comes in. that’s when we happily and consciously act as a pleasant person. apart from not chewing anyone’s moustache, here are a few things robert c. carson suggests as part of such an act:

  1. ask questions and marvel at the answers
  2. don’t expect children to act like adults
  3. take responsibility for being clearly understood
  4. give up trying to be something special
  5. don’t be anxious to always verbalize a parallel from your own experience
  6. don’t let your sadness turn you into the kind of grump who is a pain in the ass to be with

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

(i’d like to gratefully acknowledge that this post was included in the AgG carnival)

solstice 2007

gentle rain links this soft night
with soil, still steaming from the day –
ride upwards to those stars in wafts of early summer.

and already the seed of fall is getting ready,
yawning, stretching, scratching the green of a blade here and there.

solstice tonight, and everything here contains everything.

those clouds that cover the dark, dark blue that is not quite yet midnight,
they make the evening look blacker than it need be,
and as they lurk there by my window, i think of colder nights.

and still, there are so many flowers yet that will need more nights, more rain,
until they show their virgin heads, their fragile, fragile petals,
so many leaves of green still embryonic, far from ready to unfold –

this solstice: winter frost is calling, crunchy leaves afoot,
and even daffodils, i know they’ll come again;
but until then
tomorrow morning
the birds will wake up early
and the roses, red, pink, orange,
they will greet me with their laughing thorns.