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...
Body Image Issues: How to Love Your Self

Body Image Issues: How to Love Your Self

Love Your Self – it might seem like a great concept, but how can you put it into practice, when you struggle with body image issues? You might think, “I will love myself when ___.” Fill in the blank: I lose xx pounds, my thighs don’t jiggle, I have flat abs, my arms are toned, I can fit into my skinny jeans… When I sculpt/mold/change my body into… what? The perfect body. What is this, anyway? Would your body ever be good enough? Or, despite the changes that you make to your body, would you continue to have body image issues? What if your body is already good enough, just the way it is? The body others love. Whose love are you really seeking? Is it worth it to become someone you are not in order to get others’ praise? If others love your body, would you love your body? Or, would you continue to have body image issues? What if your body is already lovable, just the way it is? The body that is fit. Who determines what fitness is? If you can run a mile, 6 miles, or 26 miles? What does fitness look like? Even if you’re a fitness model, would you still have body image issues? What if your body has its own powerful abilities, just the way it is? The body that fits in. Are you looking to fit into society’s standards of beauty? Do you really want to just blend in with the crowd? If you look just like everyone else, would you be happy? Or, would you still have body image issues? What if your...
Wilderness Therapy & Eating Disorders

Wilderness Therapy & Eating Disorders

Wilderness Therapy in Eating Disorders Recovery My name is Kristen, I am the newest EDIT™ Counselor Intern at Positive Pathways, from the Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy Program at Naropa University. You’re probably thinking, “Wait – what kind of therapy?” Don’t worry, I am here to give you a brief introduction of myself and the world of Wilderness Therapy. Transpersonal psychology is a relationship of the Self and spiritual connection to our world. It is not only looking at the different parts of our Self – Body, Mind, Emotions, Spirit – but also connecting those parts to the earth, relationships, growth and human potential. Transpersonal psychology combines the teachings of the psychology trail blazers – psychoanalysis, behaviorism and humanistic psychology – as well as many other aspects of human experience and spirituality. We are conditioned from our past experiences; we develop a system that works for us as individuals in order to survive.  In this development, we acknowledge the “ego” and “Self” in all of its complexities, intertwined into our culture and history. We create relationships and intimacy through empathy for others and ourselves. The “transpersonal” are the experiences that we cannot fully describe, from our “heart space” that holds our limitless potential. Transpersonal psychology not only looks at the different parts of ourselves as a whole, but also acknowledges our wholeness as a part in the complexity and mystery that is the universe. Wilderness Therapy is about creating a relationship with nature, and also promoting a sense of self-sufficiency and autonomy. When we are in relationship with another person we cannot predict how they will react to our behaviors, and vise versa. When in relationship with another person...
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 DBT: Finding a New Relationship with Food

Eating Disorders and DBT: Finding a New Relationship with Food

Eating disorders and DBT skills can go hand-in-hand – to find a new relationship with food. We often think of spring as a time for new growth – flowers are blooming, trees are blossoming, and life begins anew. We can relate this to our relationship to food – making new choices, feeling rejuvenated and getting a fresh start in recovery. However, every so often we’ll be in the midst of powerful changes with a spring-like attitude – then a massive snow storm will occur, and we feel discouraged and set back! Exploring eating disorders and DBT skills – with the DBT skill called Radical Acceptance – you can accept where you are, change your attitude, and move forward in a healthy and powerful way! Radical Acceptance means to look at your life in a new way. Instead of striving for perfectionism, why not strive for being healthy and giving yourself permission to feel the way you feel, even on a gloomy day. Let’s say you have been making healthy eating choices and making changes in your relationship with food, then something stressful happens, or it’s snowing out, or you feel sad or lonely and you decide to binge eat. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP! Instead try these four Radical Acceptance steps: 1. What was your role in what happened? 2. What was another person or situation’s role in what happened? 3. Accept what happened, even if you don’t like it, but realize that you can’t change the past. 4. Find a healthy coping skill to combat the pain. Also, realize that you have the POWER to make a new choice next time and it...