Monthly Archives: July 2007

carnival of eating disorders #8

welcome to this month’s edition of the carnival of eating disorders!

what are blog carnivals? they are like a readers digest of articles on just about any topic under the sun. imagine this one as a parade of blog posts – all about eating disorders.

anorexia in the media
at are you eating with your anorexic?, laura collins talks about how old, and damaging, ideas about eating disorders are recycled in the popular press. her article has the great title, man bites dog. anorexic bites burger. stop the presses!

bulimia of a different kind
trisha gura discusses something that isn’t talked about very often: chewing and spitting: having your cake and eating it too? in listing the dangers of doing this, she explains

the body reacts in unforeseen ways to continual chewing and spitting. seeing, smelling, hearing about and even the hint of food can trigger the release of insulin. this hormone regulates blood sugar and is a major player in diabetes. tasting food releases salivary enzymes and also triggers the release of insulin. excess insulin is a dieter’s worst nightmare, because the hormone stirs appetite, making a person feel hungrier

food diaries
keeping a food diary can be a very useful tool. chad sutton presents how to keep a food diary at his blog talkpsych.

at you can find more information on food diaries, including a daily page you can print out for your own use.

in second generation of nutrigenomics products – what to expect? at eye on DNA, rachel c. dechenne states that these products are “going to change the face of the functional food industry, providing it with the “scientific foundations” for its wider ambitions.” she adds that her concern

is that almost no research has been done on the broad societal implications of this type of nutrigenomics-developed products including their impacts on consumer’s perception of official dietary patterns. what about its impact on captive audience in lower socio-economic population in the north and in emerging countries? will they being able to buy these new superfoods? would this bring a more fatalistic attitude towards eating unhealthy food?

overeating – physical or emotional?
over at the fit shack, jolynn braley asks overeating – is it emotional or physical? she says

i’ve experienced a great reduction in the desire to eat over emotions when i’ve eliminated processed, sugared, foods from my diet. this leads to the question of whether emotional eating is purely emotional, or fuelled by physical cravings (food addiction).

that concludes this edition. submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of eating disorders using our carnival submission form. we’ll take a break in august and will be back on september 30, 2007!

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

a meditation on webs and connectedness

what most of life is really about is relationships. connectedness.

that’s what we need. if we have enough of good connectedness, if we are comfortable in our web, we’re ok.

a fly caught by a spider, by the way, is definitely not comfortable in the web. i just want to make that very clear.

it seems that in order to have connectedness, we devise transactional rules, or game rules and roles. in order to connect with the guy on the street, for example, i take on a role and he takes on a role.

“can you spare some change,” he says, and he uses a certain body language and a certain facial expression that gives him the label “panhandler”. i look him in the eye and we both smile as i drop some money into his hat. the game of panhandling allows us to connect.

it comes up in many other situations. in the next few days i am going to meet with someone who is doing something that i have a lot of respect for, and she is doing it in a way that really pleases me. i want to honour her for that. but i don’t know her very well, and i think we both don’t have a great need to change that. so we will get together and i will buy something from her. it’s something that i have a bit of use for but i certainly don’t need it.

this commercial transaction is a vehicle for honouring each other. she will play the role of “salesperson” and i will play the role of “customer”.

sometimes we are comfortable with these roles, and sometimes we aren’t. sometimes the roles don’t fit and slipping into different ones works much better. one of my clients used to have a boss with whom she constantly had little battles about job procedures. she resigned and a while later ran into her ex boss in a social situation. they are now very comfortable acquaintances – that role fits them much better.

sometimes we want to get rid of roles altogether, and just deal with each other as we are. sometimes? maybe it’s often. i don’t know. of course, as a therapist and from my buddhist teachers i’ve heard that ideally, we would want to always deal with people without the encumbrance of roles. but do we really want that? is that possible?

as an example, i don’t know who is reading this right now. all i know about you is that you can read english and have some rudimentary understanding of the internet. unless someone printed it out for you. unless someone read it out to you. unless someone is now translating it for you.

so – all i know about you is that you can take in information, either visually or by listening. as i’m writing, then, it’s easier for me to think of you as a “reader” or “perceiver of information” than as some nondescript someone-out-there. and so i’ve assigned you a role.

perhaps we cannot escape the fact that there are roles. but what we can do is always be open to knowing that there is much more to the “other” – the person with whom we interact – than their roles. and what we can do is reach out and be curious about the other.

who are you? what makes you happy? what’s weighing you down?

these questions help us not only explore but also explode roles. so that we and the other are well connected in the web, not caught in it. the panhandler is more than that – a brother, musician, teller of jokes … ?

bobby mcferrin

god, bobby mcferrin is good. last friday, being in the presence of such a big man (of such slight stature) who is so thoroughly imbued with music gave my heart – not just my musical mind – a larger canvas to sing on. country and western, classical, african, children’s songs, jazz – nothing is foreign to him, he enfolds everything in his marvelous four-octave voice.

bobby mcferrinhe was in complete control of the audience, who he brought into in many of his pieces, making 2,000 people sing gounod’s ave maria over his bach prelude as easy as clapping their hands.

everything he did was done with easy grace and generosity.

as he left: “listen people, do a lot of singing, it’s good for the soul.”

(image courtesy of 22fra)

on blogging and research

a few days ago, i promised you the fourth instalment of the report on our little research project that explores the thoughts of people who view images of nude or scantily clad anorexic women.

i need a bit more time with that, and today i’d like to share with you my reflections on why.

it has something to do with the tension between blogging and research.

blogging is personal, transparent, just-in-time.

research is impersonal, filtered, and time consuming.

of course, this characterization is simplistic but by and large, i think most people would agree.

so when research occurs in the context of blogging, the blogger (me) finds herself pulled by opposing forces.

as this blogger, even though i point out that this project is not very scientific, i feel my academic training and passion for research shine through. so i just cannot / don’t want to bring myself to write a little piece that just glosses over and perhaps distorts all the interesting and useful information contained in the raw data – after all, only a short while ago, i criticized exactly that!

as a researcher, i also refuse to pull some conclusion out of the hat. as a blogger, on the other hand, i often and comfortably dance on the edge of immediacy (“i have 30 minutes, let’s see what i can cobble together.”)

as a researcher (back to the first hand again), i need time to think, to let ideas and impressions ripen. i guess at some level i must have thought that because this was “just a little not-very-scientific project”, and on my blog to boot, this maturing process could either be left to the side or be dealt with swiftly.

what’s a blogger to do? what’s a researcher to do? one could argue that this situation is not much different from scientific reporting – both the report writing that one engages in after a research project and the reporting that happens in the media ABOUT such projects. and to some degree that’s true.

it’s still different, though, when this happens in the context of blogging. personal, transparent, just-in-time. the fact that it was i, no-one else, who conducted this little study, is much more direct and palpable than even in feminist research, which is already quite centered on the personal. the fact this piece of research was born out of blogging, carried out in the context of blogging, and is now reported on via blogging takes me as a researcher to a raw and new edge that, frankly, surprises me.

so what’s a blogger to do? a blogger writes about it. shares the questions, the process, the learning, the reflection. transparency.

(this post is part of a series of articles:
understanding internet users

anorexia and sex
anorexia and sex: survey results are in
anorexia and sex: survey results, part 2
anorexia and sex: survey results, part 3
anorexia and sex survey: pulling it all together)

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

living with compulsions, living with the devil

today: a few excerpts from a book i’m reading right now, living with the devil: meditations on good and evil, by stephen batchelor. it’s not just “a” book – it’s one of the best books on buddhism i’ve read.

the path
a path is created by one’s aims and removing what gets in the way of their realization. it is carved from commitment and opened up by letting go. it entails both doing something and allowing something to happen. a path is both a task and a gift. in exerting too much control, one inhibits its spontaneous unfolding, whereas just by letting everything be, one loses sight of a guiding vision. the art of creating a path is to do neither too much nor too little.

compares compulsions to “bands of thieves” who lie in wait for an opportunity to invade us and “steal the treasures” of our minds. as soon as there is a lapse in self-awareness, a compulsive thought or image is liable to erupt, triggering a torrent of longing or despair that leaves us rattled and bewildered. as creatures of mara [the buddhist equivalent of “devil”], compulsions act as if they were autonomous forces. we suffer anxiety or panic “attacks” and feel overwhelmed by unwelcome thoughts. we are seized by feelings and images that we cannot seem to shake off.

who owns desire?
the depiction of mara as an autonomous being who argues with buddha illustrates how such drives feel as thought they
happen to one. i do not choose to be lustful, lethargic, conceited, or deluded; i find myself feeling that way. i do not decide in advance to think a thought; it comes to me as a ready-made phrase. i talk of “my” desires, “my” fears, and “my” doubts as though i somehow owned and controlled them. but when i try to let go of them, i find that it is not so much i who have them but they who have me.

compulsion and the path
compulsions obstruct the path by monopolizing consciousness. the hypnotic fascination they exert prevents us from attending to anything else. we behave like a rabbit dazzled by the headlights of a car. not only do compulsions make us lose sight of our goal, they inwardly paralyze us. to escape their grip does not entail suppressing them but creating a space in which they are freed to let them go and they are freed to disappear.

neither condemning nor condoning
“as soon as i know the mind is distorted,” says shantideva, “i should remain as steady as a log.” without condoning or condemning what is breaking into consciousness, calmly note that an emotionally charged complex of phrases and images has erupted. you do not have to think of it as “me” or “mine.” having risen of its own accord, it will pass away of its own accord. given the space to do so, a compulsion frees itself.

(this post has been listed in the addiction and recovery blog carnival)

“don’t should on yourself”: albert ellis dead at 93

what’s the goal of therapy?

“to minimize the client’s central self-defeating outlook, and to acquire a more realistic, tolerant philosophy of life.”

that is one of the the central tenets of rational-emotive therapy (RET), founded by albert ellis in 1955.

albert ellis died yesterday at the age of 93. albert ellis; courtesy of waltzzz

albert ellis walked his talk. he was a humorous, brilliant, sensitive, perceptive and stimulating man. he also didn’t mince words. i remember when i first started studying psychology, that was one of the things that i found attractive about him. apparently, he stayed true to this until the end.

supposedly, he had a falling-out with the albert ellis institute- but that did not keep him from sticking to his stoical values: the board members were, he said “fucked-up, fallible human beings, just like everyone else.”

that’s a realistic view of most of the animals of the genus homo (the members of which are sometimes more sapiens, sometimes less). ellis always liked to point out both sides of our coin. we have a propensity, he said, to

  • be loving
  • communion with others
  • self preservation
  • happiness
  • thinking
  • verbalizing
  • growth
  • self actualization

and on the other hand, we also have tendencies to

  • self-destruct
  • blame self and others
  • procrastinate
  • repeat the same mistakes over and over again
  • avoid thinking and self-actualization
  • be superstitious, intolerant and perfectionist

ellis was the man who coined the phrase “don’t should on yourself”.

according to ellis, the therapist’s first task is to assist the client in realizing all the irrational shoulds, oughts and musts with which they are burdening themselves. the role of the client is to learn to live more logically and rationally problem solve.

thus, ellis is often seen as one of the fathers of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), the most widely espoused therapeutic method these days. however, unlike in some CBT theories, the relationship between therapist and client is central. says gerald corey:

“therapists show their full acceptance by refusing to evaluate their clients as persons while at the same time being willing to relentlessly confront clients’ nonsensical thinking and self-destructive behaviour.”

also, unlike some CBT, ellis’ approach, deeply influenced by philosophy, is part of the humanistic therapies. it’s not a quick fix – it is thoughtful, holistic and engaged.

some of the ideas in RET that i use in my practice are changing one’s language, which helps changing one’s thinking process; imagery; role playing; and homework assignments.

albert ellis was one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, and one of the “first generation” psychologists who initially embraced freudian psychoanalysis with great passion. ellis founded RET when he became disillusioned with that process, finding the therapist’s role too passive.

ellis is the person who first advocated the idea of separating the behaviour from the person (“you can judge the behaviour but accept the person”). also, rational recovery, an approach to alleviating addiction for people who do not do well with a 12-step program, is based on his work.

ellis is quoted as saying, “i hope to die in the saddle seat.” it sure looks like that’s what happened.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

(image courtesy of waltzzz)

for another article i wrote on albert ellis, go to albert ellis: empirically, logically and self-helpingly

don’t wait for inspiration to strike

get a pen and paper (or keyboard and monitor) and do it!

that’s what i always come back to – so i guess i could call that my first rule of writing (and i have to tell you, the word “rule” makes me squirm). rory over at clean cut blog (and check it out, his blog is definitely clean cut) asked that question in his “first rule of writing” group writing project.

“get a pen and paper and do it” means, among other things: “don’t wait for inspiration to strike”. it occurs to me that that the reason we want inspiration so much is because we want control – the control that comes, for example, when we suddenly have a colourful vision of what the writing project will look like. inspiration brings knowledge, and knowledge means power/control.

for example, we may not want to start writing a short story until we know whether the protagonist will die at the end. if we don’t have control over something, we often don’t want anything to do with it. giving ourselves up to the flow of the story (on paper and in real life) can be pretty scary. however, i find that in the end, it’s the only thing that really works.

so – whenever i meet someone with writers block, i always suggest simply plunging in and “copying” what runs through their head. it’s a terrific way to start. chances are that what runs through your head is related to what you want to write about in the first place anyway. and then suddenly, without trying, inspiration will often strike.

(by the way, it’s interesting that i’m ending up writing about inspiration – that’s how i got to know rory at clean cut blog: through vivien’s group writing project about inspiration.)

on a very personal level, “get a pen and paper and do it” also means the excitement of a blank piece of something, ready, willing and receptive to whatever scribbles appear on it. it’s like the promise of a new morning, or a brand new dress. it’s the chance to start something new, invent a tiny little corner of the world all by myself, and to do it through the sensual experience of hands and mind forming letters, words, sentences …

that’s not a rule or a guideline but perhaps a guiding light, a pleasurable knowledge: writing as a delectable experience of the senses.

do you have a “most important” writing guideline you want to share? if you have a blog, go over to rory’s article to participate in this group writing project; if you don’t have a blog, feel fee to post your ideas here.

i’m also alerting a few of my blogging friends to this: jobmob, verve coaching, the fit shack, massage your mind, and reiki blogger.