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...
Sugar Addiction: Eat More Protein and Crave Less Sugar

Sugar Addiction: Eat More Protein and Crave Less Sugar

Sugar addiction – a behavior of binge eating sugary foods – is a problem reported by many people, especially at this time of year, when Halloween candy is so prevalent! Some “sugar addicts” attempt to abstain from sugar, only to find that restriction can trigger binge eating. As I discussed in my last blog (August 18, 2016), carbohydrates are essential for health, and sufficient carbohydrate consumption can reduce cravings for sweets. Now, let’s look at the importance of protein. I find very few of my clients are fearful of protein, which seems to stem from the messages from the media telling us that if we consume lots of protein, that means we will lose weight and fit into society’s view of perfection. I specifically just read an article saying protein can help us lose belly fat. Honestly? Let’s think about that a minute. How can eating a chicken breast cause fat in our belly to shrink? Keep in mind that everything we eat breaks down into calories. If we over consume calories, we gain weight; if we restrict calories, we’ll lose weight. We should consume a variety of nutrients from all food groups. We do not gain or lose weight from certain foods, but rather from calories. For example – if we eat fat, it does not immediately turn into fat in the body, nor does protein foods immediately turn into muscle in the body. All food breaks down to calories and the body uses them where they’re needed or burns off what isn’t needed. To better explain this, let’s say you overall eat a balanced diet and your weight is...
Core Issues in Eating Disorders

Core Issues in Eating Disorders

What are some core issues in eating disorders? Are there themes that almost always show up in eating disorder recovery? Why is art therapy so effective to explore these core issues in eating disorders? My name is Abby Hansen and I am an EDIT™ Counselor Intern at Positive Pathways. I am currently finishing up my Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Transpersonal Art Therapy from Naropa University in Boulder, CO. I have been working with folks struggling with eating disorders at various levels of care for the past six years. Over time I have picked up on a few themes or core issues in eating disorders treatment that almost always show up. I’d like to share why I believe art therapy can be such a beautiful part of eating disorder recovery, where healing of these core issues in eating disorders can unfold.  1. Identity – “I am sick, and if I am not sick, who am I?” The eating disorder often began as a very useful coping mechanism utilized to help during a difficult situation in life. Over time, the eating disorder becomes less effective as a way to cope, and winds up holding one back from who they really are. Art is innately unconscious – every mark we make on a page is the visual language of our soul. When we take the time to slow down and pay attention to our imagery we realize we have never left ourselves. I believe the more time we spend with our artwork the more time we spend with ourselves. 2. Perfectionism – “If I can’t do this perfectly, I am a failure.”...
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...
Sugar Addiction: Why Am I Constantly Craving Sweets?

Sugar Addiction: Why Am I Constantly Craving Sweets?

Do you constantly crave sweets? Do you try to avoid sugar, but eventually binge? Do you wonder if you have a sugar addiction? We are constantly bombarded with conflicting nutrition messages; “Eat only foods that are fat-free or low-fat,” “Consume high fat food and lots of protein,” “Avoid all carbohydrates,” “Everyone should follow a Paleo diet,” etc. Let’s step away from the fad diet band wagon for a moment, and consider why it’s important to consume all nutrients in moderation – including carbohydrates. Foods containing carbohydrates are broken down to glucose in your body, which is the key nutrient. Examples of a few carbohydrate-rich sources are foods containing sugar like desserts or candy – as well as bread, rice, grains, lentils, potatoes, pasta, juice and fruit. Carbohydrates are an important energy source for your body, which you likely are aware of already. Not only are they important to provide energy for your body but they also provide fuel for your brain to function. Glucose is the only nutrient that can cross into your brain to be used as fuel to allow you to concentrate and think clearly. What is often not talked about is how important carbohydrates are for the production of making the messenger’s in your brain, specifically serotonin, which is responsible for functions such as making you feel happy and relaxed, as well as helping you sleep, regulate your blood pressure properly, have pain sensitivity and control your mood. Have you put carbohydrates into a “bad food” category? Especially sugar – have you told yourself that you should never eat sugar, because you have a “sugar addiction”?...
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...