Category Archives: eating disorders, body image & similar topics

beating ANA – one relationship at a time

women singingrelationships replace eating disorders. period. the end.”

this is the central message of beating ANA – how to outsmart year eating disorder and take your life back by shannon cutts. it’s a book i’d recommend to anyone who wants to work their way out of an eating disorder.

the more loving, supportive, therapeutic relationships that exist in your life, the more the odds of recovery shift in favour of a return to health.

what kind of relationships are these? for shannon cutts, these are mostly mentoring relationships.

a mentor is a trusted guide who has knowledge and experience in a certain area, and is willing and able to share it.

a mentee is a person in need of guidance and instruction, and is willing to receive it.

shannon describes how being mentored made a huge difference in her life, helping her turn away from anorexia and bulimia to a place where she says

i sing again
and i speak
i speak out against some
but mostly towards all of us
who have splintered off our hearts and souls
from our minds and bodies …
who have forgotten that we are all whole by design
and that whole is the only way.

whole is beautiful.
whole is worth living
and loving.
whole is exquisite – utterly unique.
whole is believable – the only believable you and me.

and most of all, whole is the only thing worth dying,
living and fighting for … do we ever really realize –

you are the only you who ever was, is, or ever will be.
and i am the only me.

TRUST. HOPE. FAITH. LOVE. LIVE. TRIUMPH. BELIEVE.

more at her web site, key to life.

this is a great book, and i’m hoping to speak more about it in the coming months.

image by thomas hawk

the helping hand

the helping hand - bloggers helping each otheri am way, way, way, waaaaay overdue in passing along sojourner’s helping hand emblem to others. first of all, sojourner, you honour me with this. one of the reasons why i am so passionate about blogging is that i believe we are truly building a community of the future here. a community of a better world. you and all the other helping handers are actively working on building this world. thank you, thank you, thank you!

the idea behind this emblem is to think of 5 bloggers you consider your blogging helping hand. then you “pay it forward” by extending your helping hand to another 5 bloggers in support and encouragement for their efforts.

i have been helped by many, many bloggers. today, i will just name 6 (sorry, i just have to do it a bit differently : )

  1. hummingbird 604 has been an inspiration from the moment i first met him (yes, i still remember that evening in january 2008). enthusiastic, helpful, terribly smart, and the generous co-organizer of our mental health camp
  2. everyone needs therapy is simply the best therapist in blogtown! there is so much i can learn from her.
  3. liz strauss is the grande dame of social media. her generosity, creativity and deep understanding of human nature continue to lift me up.
  4. netchick brings social media to life here in vancouver. her online meet and greets and question and answer games are light and fun and connect people in a really easy-going way.
  5. wellbeing and health is probably my most frequent commenter. his comments are always not only thoughtful but thought-provoking. my blog would be empoverished without him.

and here are some bloggers to whom i would like to send encouragement. in keeping with our main theme right now – remember, this is change therapy’s eating disorders week month spring – they all blog about eating disorders and haven’t been blogging that long. i’ve never met them before but i’d like to extend a greeting to them:

keep going, you’re doing awesome work!

  1. inside i’m still dancing
  2. live.life
  3. recovery from bulimia. maybe
  4. just for today in OA
  5. losing waist!
  6. body image council

if you’d like to pass on the emblem of the helping hand, sojourner asks you to do this:

1. select 10 bloggers: 5 you consider your blogging helping hand then “pay it forward” by extending your “helping hand” to 5 additional bloggers in support and encouragement for their efforts.

2. in passing on the emblem, each recipient must provide the name of blog or blog author with a link for others to visit. each recipient must show the emblem and put the name and link to the blog that has given it to her or him.

3. link the emblem to this post: helping hand: much obliged and paying it forward so that others will know its origin and impetus.

4. if you have not already done so, show your recipients some love by adding them to your blog roll, technorati favorite list, or in any other way to further let them know that their blog voice is important to you and being heard.

5. add your name to the helping hand meme and don’t forget to leave a comment as a permanent record of all helping hand recipients.

6. display the rules.

and here is the list of those who are part of the helping hand community so far.

1. black woman blow the trumpet
2. hagar’s daughter
3. yobachi
4. vanessa
5. shiela
6. sj p
7. mimi lenox
8. danielle vyas
9. rawdawgbuffalo
10. janet shan
11. c.s. stone
12. amy- happy momma
13. mac daddy
14. clnmike
15. keith
16. dee
17. s ha e- s ha e
18. roschelle
19. isabella mori from change therapy
20. villager
21. marvalus
22. revvy rev
23. uglyblackjohn@ att. net
24. running mom
25. pjazzypar
26. miles per hour
27. sista gp
28. kim (bk86queen)
29. sylvia washington
30. shawn williams (dallas south)
31. sharon brumfield
32. regina
33. mista jaycee
34. jessie
35. denise
36. [ fung’ ke] [blak] [chik]
37. donetta at a life uncommon( medical provision)
38. tracy @ thirsty for him
39. keith
40. gail w.
41. mizrepresent
42. alicia benjamin
43. irene@ the green greek
44. alex
45. jennie
46. hagar’s daughter (1/ 5/ 09)
47. allison @ simple christian living
48. curvy gurl
49. lorna
50. jodi
51. larie
52. vikki @ molding a lump of clay
53. maria wilson
54. jennifer
55. whiteshadow
56. christina
57. believer 1964
58. curious
59. silverhartgirl
60. angel
61. darla

march 2009 buddhist carnival – in reverse

roses are blooming on the rosebush.
there is nothing strange.
the flower blooms silently and falls quietly without sound,
never again to return to its branch.
her total existence is expressed in that one moment.
one place on the branch.
that is the voice of the flower,
the truth of the single flower on the branch.
therein lies the joy of life, infinitely brilliant and everlasting.

a single rosethis poem appears more than once in sensei ogui’s zen shin talks, a book that i have been slowly savouring over the last seven weeks.

for the buddhist carnival today, rather than featuring posts from various buddhists writers, i want to start with a story from the book. it is a story about sensei ogui, who is a buddhist minister in the shin or pure land tradition, going to visit a dying man.

when i walked into the hospital room of the dying man, i heard family members crying. the man dying was an issei pioneer, a first generation japanese american. his son said, “papa, priest is here.”

with his whole strength the dying man extended his hand to shake my hand. i shook his extended hand. he said, “thank you very much for all kinds of things.”

i kept quiet. i couldn’t find any adequate words to describe my feelings. i shook his hand tightly.

the son with tears in his eyes said, “papa, i shall see you again the pure land [which could be roughly translated as the shin buddhist term for heaven]. i learned this in sunday school.”

i was quiet.

the dying man began talking with all his strength. “say, my son, do i have to go to some other place to meet you again? i have already met you and i’m meeting with you in nembutsu. na man da bu. na man da bu.”

[“nembutsu” is short for “namu amida butsu”.  “namu” refers to “refuge”, and amida buddha (“butsu”) is the buddha of infinite life and light. infinite life manifests as infinite compassion and infinite light manifests as infinite wisdom. the chant “na man da bu” is the sound of oneness with amida buddha.]

at the end of this chapter, sensei ogui turns this into a question to ponder over for a lifetime – he calls it lifetime homework.

do i have to go to some other place to meet you again? i have already met you and i’m meeting with you in nembutsu. na man da bu. na man da bu.

what is this?

i am so intrigued by this question, and i do want to spend some time mulling this over, tasting the question, sleeping on it, dreaming about it …

perhaps it means …

we are already where we need to be. this is it. no striving, no “tomorrow i will …”, no “what if yesterday … “. we are all connected in light, compassion and wisdom.

or perhaps it means … what are your thoughts?

so for buddhist carnival today, i want to ask some bloggers this question. and since i’ve dedicated my blog posts in the last little while to the topic of eating disorders, i’ll ask both buddhist bloggers and those who blog about eating disorders.

do i have to go to some other place to meet you again? i have already met you and i’m meeting with you in nembutsu. na man da bu. na man da bu.

what is this?

i am inviting all of you to reflect on this, among others, these people:

the conservative buddhist.blogspot.com
american buddhist
woodmoorvillage
a buddhist catholic
the f-word
anmol mehta
urban monk
joanna poppink
12-step buddhist
daily buddhism
operation lola
eating with your anorexic
dano macnamarrah
ED bites
angel
eating disorders foundation

image from jepoirrier’s photostream

eating disorders: learning to let go

this is the second interview for this blog’s very own eating disorder’s week month spring. the first one was a three-part series on eating disorders and relationships. here is an interview with a vancouver woman who has struggled with recurring eating disorders, including anorexia, orthorexia and bulimia, and is currently maintaining a healthy weight with a healthy diet.

isabella: you say you’ve learned to stop obsessing about food. do you find that stopping that obsession is absolutely crucial for recovery, or does it just happen to be a tool you find useful for yourself?

vancouver woman: i’ve not been witness to anyone who’s recovered the same way i did. most people i knew who were in recovery were as obsessive as me about their diets; they were being told to eat more calories but they were still being tallied.

for me, letting go was critical. my ED phased between bulimia and anorexia with orthorexia; the orthorexia was very obsessive because it wasn’t just thinking of fat and calories but also the quality of the food and pesticides and additives, etc. i was vegan for a time too, which added yet another layer of concern and guilt. (now there’s the carbon footprint to worry about too!) it got so extreme that when i went into market there would be barely a half dozen items i was “allowed” to buy. that restrictiveness spiralled, i was vegan too and there was hardly anything i “could eat.” so i had to eliminate all restrictions and learn to get over the guilt and self-monitoring and calculating. to eat naturally again i had to start letting myself eat *anything* and not measure consequences.

do other people need to do that? i would say it depends how deeply obsessed they are.

isabella: can you give a “before and after” example of a particular type of food or behaviour around food?

vancouver woman: i had a small handful of recipes i made all the time because i knew what the calories and fat were thanks to online calorie counters; tally up the ingredients then divide and plan meals. that meant fewer and fewer convenience foods. might sound great, right? ultimately i was eating only homemade vegan soup with few ingredients because otherfood was too hard to make, to control and justify with all my rules. i never ate out, either. the more spartan and virtuous my diet became, the more rewarding it was (so was the weight loss) which kept it going.

now i don’t consult calorie counters at all, and don’t follow diets that require it. i admit i still look at labels when shopping but it’s for general quality info (like avoiding MSG).

isabella: “letting go” sounds so simple – and can be so difficult to do. do you have some tips about how to let go of the obsession about food?

vancouver woman: i had to stop all forms of restricting. all at the same time i stopped counting calories, stopped being vegan, stopped buying organic-only food. all the rules and barriers i’d created to keep myself from eating.

but the disorder wasn’t just about food, it was obsessing over my body too, so i also stopped weighing and measuring myself. all the numbers, conditions and pre-requisites had to go.

from there it was a matter of being mindful of having chosen to remove those restrictions. reminding myself again and again not to feel guilt or fear about food. “no guilt” became a mantra.

isabella: having learned how to let go of the obsession with food, do you find that this letting go is helpful in other areas of your life, as well?

vancouver woman: i can’t think of anything, no. my mindfulness skills were acquired before my recovery (independently of it; i never had a therapist work with me on my ED, nobody covered by insurance had special training) so i was already practicing.

isabella: is there anything else you would like to add?

vancouver woman: i do have a small regret about giving up veganism, because i support it in principle and have friends who are vegan (some people judge me for it now, not knowing my history). i don’t often eat meat beyond seafood, but fear that if i relabel myself i’d go back to scanning ingredients for reasons to put food back on the shelf (eggs are in so many things) and it could be a slippery slope.

i do choose healthy food a lot anyway. i genuinely prefer the taste of tofu!

recovery

happiness - what recovery looks likehere is the last instalment of my conversation with joanna poppink. this is part of a series of interviews about different topics in eating disorders.

originally, i was going to tack the answer to my last question on to the second part of the interview. however, i realized that the answer to this question is applicable to a much wider range of audience than “just” people with eating disorders, so i decided it deserved its own entry. here it is.

isabella: in your replies, you have often used the term “recovery”. what is your definition of recovery?

joanna: recovery is a noun that describes a continuing process. to start recovery is to start a journey.

to be on that journey is to be on your path to health and emotional and intellectual
development. the path leads to your true self, to your inner resources of courage, creativity, self respect, strength and ability to be committed and dedicated.

recovery from bulimia or anorexia or binge eating or compulsive eating is not just about making peace with food and developing healthy eating habits. recovery is not just about developing or forcing yourself into living with a realistic sense of your body.

recovery involves living a balanced life. it means feeling all you can feel and digesting your feelings so they inform and enrich your entire personhood. they don’t spill out for others to take care of. they don’t create such distress that you need to use food or drugs or sex or shopping or high drama or manipulations or dissociation to get relief.

recovery is about being real in the real world. it is about having the ability to live, cope, adapt, work, love, play in freedom. it means being responsible for yourself and your actions. it means respecting and honoring boundaries so you can truly take care of yourself while respecting and being in relationship with others.

it means more serenity, joy and smiles in your life. and it means being able to eat and enjoy food in freedom.

recovery is an endless journey where life continues to get better as you go.

image by tarzan

eating disorders: mothers and daughters

mother and daughterthis is a continuation of my conversation with joanna poppink about adults recovering from eating disorders, with an emphasis on how that impacts relationships. joannna poppink is a psychotherapist with a private practice in los angeles specializing in eating disorder recovery (you can see her blog at stop eating disorders.) yesterday i said i was going to present it in two parts; actually, i’ve decided to present it in three parts because … well, you’ll see why in the last instalment.

here joanna talks about how women with anorexia or bulimia (and, by extension, with any kind of eating disorder) relate to their mothers.

isabella: women with anorexia or bulimia often have complicated relationships with their mothers. when that is the case, how can these relationships become a little easier?

joanna: this is a huge question with, in my opinion, some wishful thinking attached.

first of all, women without anorexia or bulimia have complicated relationships with their mothers. the mother-daughter relationship is one of the most complex relationships of all. so please, all women suffering from bulimia or anorexia, take a breath and ease up on your self criticism, your judgments and your desires for wish fulfilling ease with mom.

that said, what is an approach that can bring some ease to the relationship?

the fast answer is the simple and straight forward one. get well.

eventually, if you stay on your recovery path, you will get well. as you gain more health and emotional stamina you will be able to use your emerging creativity along with your strategic thinking and core of love you have for this woman who is your mother to negotiate your relationship.

what does this mean? well, it means you can’t have what you want. your mother may change. she may not. but you are changing. so it’s up to you to find a way to relate to her as she is, not as you wish her to be. it can be a shock to your system to look at your mother as a woman.

if you always argue about certain topics, don’t try to win. as you would with a friend or acquaintance, sidestep the subject and bring in a topic that is pleasant and interesting for her. give her the gift of peace and ease. it’s a gift to you too.

let go of your need to win and your need to be seen in a particular way by her. focus on conversation and activity areas where you are compatible or where you can be patient and generous.

your great gain in life is recovery itself. you get a healthy life that you live with more responsibility and satisfaction than you ever had while living with your eating disorder. with your increased health and life energy, you can afford to be generous with this woman who is your mother in all her imperfections.

you are an adult now. you can extricate yourself from situations that go against your health and your values. you can accommodate with generosity when the situation brings no harm to you and brings space for peace and ease with your mother.

to do this, you have to let go of many wishes and hopes for responses you felt you were entitled to. but that sense of entitlement may be a leftover from your eating disorder. if you drop those entitlements from you psyche (not so easy) or drop them into your journal (much more doable) you can free yourself and your mother from the past and be with her as she is.

you may discover a woman you didn’t know was there. you’ll certainly discover more about who you are and how you can be increasingly present and competent in this world.

stay tuned for part 3!

image by deederdoll

eating disorders and relationships

remember last week i asked people to be interviewed about eating disorders? well, some people volunteered. today i am happy to introduce you to joanna poppink, MFT, a long time private practice psychotherapist in los angeles specializing in eating disorder recovery. her blog is at stop eating disorders.

joanna will talk about how eating disorders affect relationships. she has a lot of very interesting things to say, so we’ve decided to present her wisdom in two parts. i’ll be posting part two by sunday.

isabella: i am often contacted by people whose boyfriends or girlfriends suffer from anorexia or bulimia. they want to help and have no idea where to start. what advice do you have?

joanna: i’m a trained licensed psychotherapist in practice since 1980. i’ve specialized in treating people with eating disorders since about 1984 and have attended countless 12 step meetings. and, helping someone with an eating disorder is still challenging for me.

so, then, what can a loving friend or family member or caring colleague do to help?

first is to separate the person from the illness. you support the person you care about, but not the eating disorder. you make no special arrangements to defer to the demands of the eating disorder, don’t make special foods, avoid certain restaurants, keep secrets for the person or go against your own values and principles to help them feel better.

the best thing you can do is let them know you care about them while you continue to live a healthy life yourself. let them meet you in health. let them be inspired to find their way to recovery so they can join you in a healthy life. let them see what they are missing when you don’t compromise your values to accommodate the eating disorder.

you can’t force a person into recovery. but you can show them the benefits of living a healthy life and perhaps, by so doing, inspire them into recovery.

isabella: once a person starts on the road to recovery from anorexia or bulimia, how does that impact on their relationships – romantic and otherwise?

joanna: anorexia and bulimia are illnesses that affect a person’s body, mind, heart and soul. a person with an eating disorder often believes her perception of herself, her values, her strengths and weaknesses, her intelligence and even her loves and hates are her own. she doesn’t realize that all these aspects of her lived experience are powerfully influenced by her eating disorder. her dreams and visions for herself are limited and distorted. she doesn’t know who she is, and she thinks she does.

everyone, and i mean everyone, in her life is present in a relationship with her based on who they think she is. many are in relationship with her because of who they need her to be.

when she moves into recovery mode, her genuine personhood begins to appear. her taste and preferences become clearer. she is surprised by her strengths, and often, so is everybody else. instead of trying to please or deferring out of fear, she finds herself saying, ‘no,’ where she used to say, ‘yes.’

some people benefited from the gifts she has but never used for herself, like intelligence, creativity, education and various skills. some needed to be with a dependent and frightened person so they could be in the powerful, rescuer/savior role.

the people who can grow themselves, who can live a mature and responsible life with respect for another’s boundaries, goals and lived talents as she follows her heart can remain in relationship with the recovering person. the relationship will become more equal.

but it’s difficult for people to grow and change if they are set in their ways and committed to a particular way of life and sense of themselves. many will not be able to tolerate the recovering person’s emerging self and her self respect.

a challenging part of recovery involves dealing with the shock and pain of discovering how vested others were in the eating disorder symptoms. when the symptoms fall away and the true person emerges, many old relationships fall away.

the new relationships are based on who the recovering person is now. people who are attracted to a sick person are different from people who are attracted to a healthy person.