Eating Disorders and Intimacy

Eating Disorders and Intimacy

Eating Disorders and Intimacy: Curing an Eating Disorder As a therapist, I often hear about the shame and secrecy surrounding eating disorders. Usually clients experience this pain behind locked doors, in their bedrooms and bathrooms, separate from the rest of the world. There is a fear that many clients have of feeling utterly alone whilst simultaneously thinking that no one could possibly love them if they were “found out.” Isolation feeds eating disorders. Connection feeds recovery. This begins by allowing eating disorders and intimacy to go hand-in-hand, and through this process the “cure” will naturally unfold. In my client work, I have seen two primary barriers to intimacy, which can block us from our inherent desire to connect. This causes us to feel alone, separate, and desperate. Here are some ideas to overcome these barriers to eating disorders and intimacy: Intimacy Requires Being Vulnerable: In order to feel connected to others, we have to reveal truths about ourselves, even the ones we don’t like to share. If I only share the positive aspects of myself with someone, then I am robbing them of actually knowing me. We are made up of good and bad, light and dark, and everything in between. How can we truly feel loved if we only share certain parts of ourselves? Many clients think that there is no possible way they will be loved or accepted if they share their deepest, darkest secrets. Although I think everyone has the right to keep things secret or decide when and where they want to reveal more about themselves, I also believe that true love and acceptance comes from an appreciation or understanding of...
Eating Disorders and Spirituality

Eating Disorders and Spirituality

What is the link between eating disorders and spirituality? Can healing an eating disorder also become a path of self-discovery? Are eating disorders and spirituality keys to the deeper levels of recovery? Perhaps there is a reason why the things that we consider bad, unhealthy, broken, and dysfunctional still exist. If it’s here, it is serving a purpose. Everything serves, and there is wisdom in all of it. A common practice used in working with eating disorders is to quiet the voice of “ED” or the eating disorder. However, I believe that no aspect of ourselves should be disregarded. Instead, everything about ourselves can be embraced in order for us to transcend or move beyond a limiting, painful perception of the world. I think re-encouraging a split within the psyche where the eating disorder is a problem only adds to the client’s feelings of internal conflict. Instead, we can include the eating disorder as a part of the client and find a deeper meaning in the experience. As a therapist, I will often ask the following questions: • What wants to be said or heard? • How did the eating disorder protect you when you were younger? • What part of the unconscious wants to become known? • And how is it perfect that it became intolerable and caused you to seek help? Many eating disordered clients can feel like they are living inauthentically. Maybe they are living according to family or societal standards that have been internalized or introjected. The eating disorder can be a form of rebellion, a reaction against the socialized self, and can provide insight into...
Eating Disorder Recovery: Shoulding on Yourself or Others

Eating Disorder Recovery: Shoulding on Yourself or Others

Shoulding on Yourself or Others: How Does this Affect Eating Disorder Recovery? What happens for you when I tell you this: You should lose weight. You should gain weight. You should eat more green vegetables and less carbs. You should exercise more. In other words… You are not OK as you are. How does that feel? Lisa Dion, the creator of a neurobiological-based form of play therapy, says that when we hear a “should,” our sense of Self is threatened. When shoulding on yourself, or when others should on you, your Authentic Self is directly challenged. You’re denying who you are in the moment and not seeing your own wisdom. This can create an internal dilemma between who you are and who you think you should be. The result is that the autonomic nervous system becomes activated trying to handle the discrepancy (Dion, 2015). Most clients in eating disorder recovery are already receiving a ton conflicting “shoulds.” These endless shoulding on yourself voices will often activate the trauma response in the body, especially when their actions don’t happen to match up with their perceived “shoulds.” If clients in eating disorder recovery are hearing endless “shoulds” regarding food, their weight, and following a specific plan, their nervous systems may be over-activated to the point of fight, flight, freeze, or collapse. Because their sense of Self is threatened, they are operating out of fear and are caught in their lower parts of their brain. These clients may not be able to access their prefrontal cortex and cerebral cortex, which are the parts of the brain that can hear rationalization and reasoning. This is why I would...
Eating Disorders and Stress: DBT Coping Skills for the Holidays

Eating Disorders and Stress: DBT Coping Skills for the Holidays

Eating disorders and stress tend to “feed each other.” Let’s be honest about that. This is often a triggering and stressful time of year; the holidays are rapidly approaching, the change in seasons can be tough, and it’s getting dark earlier. This particular year may be even more stressful due to the recent election, no matter what your political affiliation may be. It is very important that we pay attention to stress and try to prevent it from becoming too overwhelming. DBT can help you! DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The word “dialectical” is defined as, “concerned with or acting through opposing forces.” This can mean that there are often two truths, or more than one truth in any given situation. If you live in Colorado you may have noticed that in mid- November the temperature was in the 70s! The holiday season can often bring on a dialectical feel: on one hand it is a time of togetherness and celebration, on the other hand it can feel isolating or lonely. There are mixed messages around food and holiday eating, too. We are surrounded with sweets and other decadent foods, yet our culture expects us to “be healthy.” This all adds to eating disorders and stress. Using the Distress Tolerance and Mindfulness modules of DBT can be very effective for combatting eating disorders and stress. If you need immediate relief and want to improve a moment follow these steps. Think of the acronym IMPROVE to help guide you. I: Use IMAGERY. You can do this by imagining a relaxing scene – either a place you have been, or create a beautiful scene in your...
Drunkorexia: Health Risks & Recovery Tips

Drunkorexia: Health Risks & Recovery Tips

“Drunkorexia” – it’s not a medical term, but literally, this term implies a combination of excessive alcohol consumption (“drunk”) with desire or appetite (“-orexia”). On college campuses, this term means much more than “an appetite to be drunk.” It’s used to describe the behavior of deliberately avoiding food intake and/or exercising excessively before drinking. Drunkorexia is also used to describe the behavior of self-induced vomiting after eating (to empty the stomach of food before drinking alcohol), or purging in the midst of an evening of heavy drinking (to allow for continued alcohol consumption). This is a very dangerous behavior, which can result in severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and sudden heart attack – or, an accidental overdose of alcohol, coma and sudden death. A recent article cited research by the University of Houston, which studied 1200 students who reported at least one episode of heavy drinking in the past month. 80% of students disclosed drunkorexia behaviors – including meal-skipping, self-induced vomiting, and/or laxative abuse prior to drinking. The study revealed that males are just as likely as females to engage in this behavior. (Source: Yahoo News) It’s speculated that drunkerorexia behaviors are motivated by the individual’s interest to prevent weight gain from the calories in excessive alcohol consumption, by avoiding calories from food itself. Another possibility is that the lack of food in the gut will result in a “quicker buzz,” and an overall intensified effect from alcohol consumption. Is drunkorexia a type of Eating Disorder? In part, yes. One of the diagnostic criteria for Anorexia Nervosa, a type of eating disorder, is “intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behavior that interferes with weight gain, even...
Eating Disorders and Art Therapy: Separating from ED

Eating Disorders and Art Therapy: Separating from ED

When considering eating disorders and art therapy, how can clients enhance their recovery through the separation from “ED” (what they might call their eating disorder)? Common with clients suffering from disordered eating, is the assumption that the internal dilemma is truly about calories, weight and food (Johnston, 1996). In introducing art to the therapeutic process, we can begin to access that which hides behind the disordered eating pattern (Brooke, 2008). Though there are several effective eating disorder and art therapy interventions that can help access our deeper selves, the “Create an Image of the Eating Disorder” intervention is extremely powerful. Using clay or paper and oil pastels (or any other drawing material), the therapist invites the client to create and image of the eating disorder. They will then invite the client to give this disorder a name, a face, does he/she have a body? How big is this character? This eating disorder and art therapy intervention assists clients in recognizing that they have both an authentic self and a voice of their disordered eating pattern. By externalizing and characterizing the eating disorder, the client can begin to separate their true self from this false self; the disordered eating that developed as a coping strategy. Further, the client can begin to dialogue with the eating disorder, give it a name and express their true feelings about the influence that this character has had on their lives. Additionally, the individual can also thank the character of the eating disorder for the coping methods that were provided during the clients time of need. As the separation process begins, a lot of thoughts, feelings...
Eating Disorders and Trauma: Journaling for Recovery

Eating Disorders and Trauma: Journaling for Recovery

Journaling can offer a cathartic release from issues you are going through in life and also what you are experiencing in therapy – whether it is for eating disorders and trauma, or something else. During therapy sessions with me, clients often bring a notebook or ask for a notepad to write down key points or homework. I also encourage clients to be open to journaling outside of the therapy office. Eating disorders and trauma(s) can elicit a myriad of unanswered questions in which continuous exploration is necessary. So why not keep that notebook or journal handy to document your journey, including triumphs and struggles? Approach journaling with curiosity by becoming a detective on your own life. Too many people overthink the process of journaling, and feel a pressure to write a specific number of words or paragraphs, but it’s much simpler than that. Push aside that critical voice that shouts,  “You cannot write,” “You have awful grammar or punctuation,” or, “Your journaling needs to be perfect.” Be raw! Let it go! Take a few deep breaths and mindful moments, then write down simple one-word answers. If words do not come naturally, you can jot down a picture to answer each question you come up with. Here are a few journal prompts to get you started: I am… I need… I love… I want more of… I want less of… I enjoy… I see… I smell… I feel… I taste… I think… I believe… I wish… I wonder… I fear… I am learning… I am grateful for… Start small and remember nobody is looking at this unless you share it with him or her. Take...
Eating Disorders Therapy: How Is Therapy Like Doing Laundry?

Eating Disorders Therapy: How Is Therapy Like Doing Laundry?

Eating disorders therapy can be very beneficial, and in fact necessary – and yet, eating disorders therapy can also seem like a lot of work, so it might be tempting to let issues pile up until they absolutely have to be dealt with. And then, by facing these issues a little bit at a time with lots of guidance and support, the work in eating disorders therapy isn’t so hard. The outcome of fresh perspectives and a sense of freedom from past pain is worth it! Isn’t eating disorders therapy a little bit like doing laundry? Introduction to Erica Faulhaber’s blog post written by Dr. Dorie McCubbrey, MSEd, PhD, LPC, CEDS, Owner & Clinical Director at Positive Pathways ***** Laundry – the necessary evil to get out dirt, grime, stains and unwanted stench.   A task resulting in revitalized, fresh and clean garments to go forth into the world. Doing laundry for most involves time, sorting, detergent, water and folding skills. Manufacturers provide labels that suggest hot or cold water, low or high heat and “lay flat to dry” or the fan favorite “dry clean only.” Who really likes doing laundry? There may be a few folks out there that enjoy this task, but for the most part it is just something that needs to get done. Like laundry, therapy is an option to get out the gunk – it may take longer than the standard seventy-minute wash cycle, but it will be well worth it! I think of coming to therapy (including eating disorders therapy) like coming into a laundromat. You bring a bag or two or three, and we will start to work...