Tag Archives: eating disorders

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.

eating disorders week

interviewi have an amazing talent for missing national eating disorders week in canada, which was february 1-7.  and i was even reminded by a number of people!  fortunately, clinically clueless, who has been posting about national eating disorders week in the US, has also sent me a reminder – so i’m getting in here under the wire.  phew!

here’s my idea:

i’d like to do some email (or perhaps chat/phone) interviews with people who have experience with eating disorders and issues around body image.

  • do you have anorexia?
  • have you overcome bulimia?
  • are you a yoyo dieter?
  • have you gone through periods in your life when you loathed your body?
  • have you ever had a strange relationship with food?
  • are you recovering from exercise anorexia?
  • do you have a relative who is struggling, or has struggled, with an eating disorder?
  • are you a professional who helps people with eating disorders?

if you’d like to be interviewed, please let me know.  you can leave a message here, use my contact form, or email me at moritherapy (at) shaw [dot] ca.  the interview will be treated as anonymously as you would like.

february buddhist carnival – on mental health (part 2)

this is part 2 of this month’s buddhist carnival. part 1 is here.

the wild mind and the wise body

i like this article by the wild moods that takes the actual here-and-now feelings and sensations of mental illness and uses them to get in touch with mental health

… take a second to think about how the wild moods sign themselves on your body. glurky stomach? acid stomach? headache? flushing heat in the chest? but it may actually take some concentrated focusing to see what the body is doing when depressed or anxious, because we can get so used to experiencing these signatures as depression and anxiety that we are not really aware of them as distinct and repeating physical sensations.

so why is this important, to become aware of these sensations? because when we are able to be aware of the sensations as physical events, then there is the opportunity to break the cycling whirlpool of mood, where negative thought causes unpleasant sensation, which generates another negative thought, reinforcing another negative sensation, and around and around, deeper and deeper.

the empty bowl

joanna poppink is a counsellor who helps people with eating disorders. she offers the buddhist ritual of the empty bowl as an active meditation tool, inspired by a thanksgiving post about how people struggling with eating disorders might get as well as give benefits by helping to provide food for hungry people. joanna poppink suggests entertaining an “unseen guest with an empty bowl” as if they were sitting at your table with you.

the idea is to make an extra place setting with an empty bowl at your eating place. before you eat, look at the empty bowl. pray or meditate or think about or send kind thoughts to people who face this empty bowl every day.

put money, as you can, small even tiny amounts are okay, in the empty bowl in appreciation for what food you have available today.

i propose that this is useful for anyone, with any problem. for example, when i went through my last fear-of-flying adventure (something yet to blog about), what helped me the most was imagining that i was connected to other people who were in pain as well, and imagining sharing with them whatever small goodness came my way (e.g. a drink of water, putting on warm socks). this is, by the way, also a 12-step principle. the suggestion there is that one of the best ways of dealing with the affliction of addiction is to help others with the same problem.

speaking of which …

buddhism and addiction

darren’s blog is about the intersection of buddhism and the 12 steps. here he talks about attachment and realization:

for us [addicts], teachings on attachment are a no brainer. tell us we’re attached to our betting, babes, booze or benzos and we’ll give you an eyebrow raise and an, “and your point is?”

… this process, looking at the condition of our minds, returning to the present moment, noticing our attachment, is kind of like digestion. the teacher echoed my thoughts in saying that zen practice is like adding the right enzymes. as we engage in observing, not reacting and being present to our lives, we become more familiar with what we really are underneath all the concepts, grasping, attachment and addiction. we take a bite of zen, digest samsara and shit out realization. clean like a whistle.

more addiction: hoarding

one city has a lovely entry on extending good wishes to a neighbour whose life is burdened by hoarding, an addiction perhaps, or an obsessive-compulsive behaviour (i tend to see a lot of connections between the two)

the real fruits of my internet search for information about compulsive hoarding turned into an extension of my meditation practice in cultivating compassion for someone i don’t even really know. i can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to live as a hoarder, but i can imagine the suffering and the courage that it takes to start the real, hard work on improving your life; sorting through things, throwing things away, decided what is worth keeping, how do you start over? and having to think about all the things that led up to the hoarding that could have been a trigger or a lingering cause. i think it really does take courage.

i would like to close this blog post by sending along some metta (e-metta?) to my neighbour across the way.

may she be healthy, may she have happiness.

stigma

finally, a post on stigma. echo pen touches on an aspect of stigma that, i believe, is not talked about enough – self stigma. i believe that one of the best ways to deal with mental health stigma in the world “out there” is to strengthen our own feelings towards our mental health. if i believe that i am deficient, it will usually come through in my communication with others. when i believe in my own strength and worthiness, i can deal with societal stigma from a place of strength.

recently, while meditating, irrational thoughts and memories of the stigmas issues i’ve dealt with [came up]. i have experientially recognized them as irrational self judging and self defeating. when these thoughts come during zazen… i explore them including feelings of apprehension, worry, guilt, resentment…the bodily feelings of anxiety… all in the context of the here and now..become aware of them accept them and then i let them go, and continue sitting with clarity and peace.

that’s it for this month’s buddhist carnival.  if you have any submissions for next month’s carnival (march 15, 2009), please send them to me here, or, if you have a hard time connecting to blog carnival, drop me a line.

11 from 2008

eleventhe other day i discovered postrank, (thanks, beth) which ranks your blog’s post according to some algorithm of popularity, interactivity, etc. these 11 are among the highest-ranked entries here for last year. it’s a nice way to look back on 2008, and also to start saying some much-needed thanks. for each post, i’ve included a link to someone who contributed to it.

  1. progressive dinner is served was an interesting project by kilroy. it was a sort of online dinner party. lots of fun!
  2. unexamined belief and spiritual atheism was part of an interesting conversation between my vancouver blogger friend jan and myself.
  3. cognitive therapy – the 10 distortions was a guest article by damien, father, teacher, writer, and one of the most prolific bloggers i know.
  4. two views of depression started like this: “the other day, marc challenged me with this idea: can depression, or any other challenge such as alcoholism or bipolar disorder, be an entity of its own, with its own agenda and will to survive?”
  5. easter: wrestling with the church was an attempt to come to grips with a somewhat unsettling experience of going to a christian church for the first time in a while. evan was one of the people who contributed to the ensuing conversation.
  6. helping a friend with depression was inspired by a post on PsychCentral, predicting that january 21st would be the most depressing day of the year.
  7. the 3rd edition of the buddhist carnival was the most successful buddhist carnival this year. there is an interesting conversation about zen and martial arts in the comment section, with some contributions by chris – something that i’d still like to follow up on.
  8. a solution for “but” is about ego death, solution focused therapy, and the little word “but”. it was greatly helped along by a blog post by my buddhist blogger friend william harryman, ego and the self.
  9. early on a wednesday morning: wordless, with a beautiful image by luke carter, is a nice sample of the wordless wednesday series, which i really enjoy.
  10. bullying stops here was a quick post about the international stand up to bullying day, well illustrated by vancouver blogger jordan behan wearing a pink t-shirt.
  11. and finally, the carnival of eating disorders #13 included a post by angelique about eating disorders before the internet.

image by imago

blogathon: metabolism and circadian rhythm

missing link found between circadian clock and metabolism

two new research studies have discovered a long sought molecular link between our metabolism and components of the internal clock that drives circadian rhythms, keeping us to a roughly 24-hour schedule.

the missing link is a well-studied mammalian protein called SIRT1, which was previously known to be switched on and off in accordance with cells’ metabolic state and is perhaps best known for its potential life-extending properties.

“we all have noticed in an intuitive manner that the body requires more energy at certain times of day,” said paolo sassone-corsi of university of california, irvine. “that’s why we have lunch or dinner”there is a cyclicity in feeding behavior and energy requirement. that suggests there must be a link between the clock and metabolism. now, in SIRT1, we have found a molecular connection between the circadian machinery and metabolism.”

“while it remains a matter of speculation, the findings suggest that drugs that inhibit or activate sirt1 might have an effect on the clock” …

the physiology and behavior of mammals are subject to daily oscillations driven by an endogenous circadian clock … the circadian timing system is composed of a central pacemaker in the brain and subsidiary oscillators in most peripheral tissues. while light-dark cycles are the predominant cue for the brain’s pacemaker, cyclic feeding behavior has a strong effect on clocks operating in many other tissues …

the findings also open a door on the possibility that epigenetics might influence behavior, sassone-corsi added, with potential implications for understanding the obesity epidemic.

“genetics can’t be the answer because the incidence is on the rise,” he said. “something else must be going on and perhaps epigenetic regulation is the key. in broad terms, that’s where we’re going.”

(if you like to read about the more obscure scientific stuff, read the whole article here)

while my ability to remember scientific facts is, well, let’s say below par, i am nevertheless fascinated by this kind of research. as i’ve mentioned in an earlier post about obesity and nutrigenomics, i think that fields of study like epigenetics and nutrigenomics will make a real difference in terms of how we look at nutrition, weight gain, and ultimately eating disorders.

canadian mental health association

this is an entry for my participation in the 2008 blogathon, a 24-hour marathon of blogging. please support the cause and donate – however much, however little – to the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch). to donate, email me or use this URL: www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=d2252. you should be able to get there by clicking the link; if not, just copy and paste the link into your browser. it will take you to the appropriate location at canada helps.

thank you for visiting, reading, commenting and, if you can, donating!

blogathon: weight loss dude’s 5 diets

this is an entry for my participation in the 2008 blogathon, a 24-hour marathon of blogging. please support the cause and donate – however much, however little – to the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch). to donate, use this URL: www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=d2252. you should be able to get there by clicking the link;if not, just copy and paste the link into your browser. it will take you to the appropriate location at canada helps. thank you!

and here is another entry to the carnival of eating disorders, which happens on this blog every last day of the month. a blog carnival is a sort of readers digest of blog entries on a specific topic. because of the blogathon, i’ve decided to feature three entries that i thought were interesting. this is the last one, by the weight loss dude, entitled five lifestyles that do lead to weight loss

there have been at least five times in my life where my lifestyle did lead to an ideal weight or weight loss at a rate that would lead to my ideal weight.  i’ll cover each in more detail in the future, but i thought i would list them for you to ponder:

his list includes

  1. running and eating well.
  2. the high fat experimental diet i mentioned in a prior post … it apparently leads to poor overall health based on how i felt during that diet.
  3. methamphetamine addiction. this is not recommended for obvious reasons.
  4. the carbohydrate addicts diet.
  5. atkins style low carb dieting.

he goes into a bit of detail of how these diets worked for him. read the rest here.

i usually don’t feature a lot of “how to lose weight” articles here because that’s not what eating disorders are about. they’re about behaviours around food, food addictions, and often enough about obsessing over diets (which is one of the reasons there are similarities between overeating and anorexia).  so talking a lot about diets would be a bit counterproductive.

having said that, i have to confess that i find the weight loss dude’s approach amusing and engaging. his idea is to try a new diet every week or so. by doing this, he says, he won’t get bored. he has lost weight and, what i find more interesting, he gains a lot of insights along the way. there’s also a certain down-to-earth feel to his blog that i like. i guess when you try one diet after the other, you can’t really keep up the i-have-found-the-diet-of-a-lifetime hype that comes with a lot of other diet blogs.