To say or not to say…. That is the question?

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” 

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Working in the field of addiction and eating disorders, as well as being in eating disorder recovery myself, I have experienced and witnessed first hand the lack of knowledge and understanding many people have about eating disorders. 30 million people in the U.S. will suffer from a diagnosable eating disorder during their lifetime, while many more cases go unreported. Eating disorders are often suffered in silence and while there is a sterotypical idea of how someone with an eating disorder should look or act, that is simply not the case. Anyone and I mean anyone can suffer from an eating disorder. No matter the age, race or gender, eating disorders do not discriminate. It is important to not only be aware of signs to look for when you suspect someone in your life may be suffering from an eating disorder but also to be aware of the sensitive nature of this disease. With any form of recovery there will be good, positive days and then there will be dark challenging days. Often times certain words or statements will be enough to send someone who struggles into the dark tangled web of negative thoughts in their head. This is why education and awareness is so important. It is not the fault of those who do not understand, supporting someone with an ED can be difficult and frustrating, it is hard to watch people hurt themselves and know you can only do so much about it. This is why it is so important to educate and increase awareness for those who may not be able to understand the power of this disease. To help people gain understanding is where true change can occur.

“Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.”

Listed below are some things you should not say to someone with an eating disorder-

1.) You look healthy– To many people this seems like a very normal, harmless comment often times meant to be supportive but to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder this comment can be one of the most triggering. The eating disorder mind has a way of turning many comments and twisting them into something negative. The ED mind hears “healthy” and associates that with being fat, being like everyone else, being normal or someone noticing a change in their appearance. Being called healthy can send someone spiraling downhill into anxiety, depression or trigger them to engage in their ED behavior. When in recovery from an eating disorder it is a very sensitive time, people are challenging themselves in many ways and if they feel their body changes are noticeable to others it can re-trigger those negative ED thoughts back in a very strong way. I advice many people I work with to not comment on the weight or appearance of their loved ones and focus on discussing inward positive emotional changes instead.

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2. Comments about food– Another big trigger that can effect someone with an eating disorder is when someone else comments on their food, labels their foods as healthy or unhealthy or comments on the amount of food someone is eating. For someone struggling with an eating disorder they are already hyper vigilant about what they eat and are trying to break away from stringent rules or judgments on food. For someone trying to overcome their eating disorder, eating in front of people is a huge milestone in itself, eating in front of others is a common fear for someone struggling. Commenting on what they eat or how they eat only puts the hyper focus and fear of eating back into action. Try to refrain from commenting and instead enjoy the company of who you are with and be in the present moment.

3. Why don’t you just eat?– This comment can be very hurtful to someone struggling with an eating disorder, if eating disorder were as simple as just starting to eat or stopping when full then this wouldn’t be the deadly disease that it is. Anorexia is the number 1 cause of death among all mental health issues. Eating disorders like any other mental illness or physical illness are not a choice, no one chooses to go down the eating disorder path. It is an all consuming disease that takes over someones life. I educate people that I come across that eating disorders are more than just about the food or appearance. There is often a deep wound or pain often times eating disorders become a way to cope with many different aspects of life. Try and be supportive and ask helpful questions to gain understanding of someone who may be struggling.

4.Commenting and criticizing your own weight- Those who are struggling with their eating disorder are constantly judging and criticizing their own appearance so to be around someone who is picking themselves apart only emphasizes the negative thoughts and enforces them in the ED mind. It is best to be kind to ourselves in thought and in action, one negative thought or comment feeds off another.

5. Don’t use or talk about numbers or calories-–  This is one of the worst things you can do to someone with an ED. Many times someone with an eating disorder is trying to stop behaviors, stop the obsession of the scale, stop the focus on a dress size or weight and calorie counting. To be around someone who brings that focus and attention back to numbers will only trigger someone trying to avoid those behaviors. 

6. You don’t look like you are someone who would have an eating disorder– This comment goes hand in hand with rule #1, do not talk about someone else’s appearance. Like I stated earlier eating disorders can affect anyone. Eating disorders come in many forms and the majority of sufferers are not the stereotypical image we have of a severely underweight emaciated person. Anorexia only represents 10% of eating disorders. Bulimia affects three times as many people who struggle with ED and binge eating has the highest incidence. Many times many people can experience traits of different eating disorder behaviors going back and forth from restricting, binging, purging or over exercising. When someone who struggles hears they don’t look like they have an eating disorder the ED mind twists and distorts this comment to mean that they don’t look sick enough, that they don’t need help. There is no one way to look, to be struggling with an eating disorder and by increasing awareness this is how we challenge the stereotype. 

 

These are a few key points to keep in mind when you are speaking with or supporting someone who struggles with an eating disorder. Remember to try and be supportive, instead of focusing on food or appearance focus on how they are doing, how they are feeling and ask them how you can best support them.

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A Call To ACTION: National Eating Disorder Week

Many people do not know that there is such a thing as National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  On February 23-March 1 is NEDA. week. This week is important for many reasons, yet is rarely acknowledged in our culture. Eating disorders are commonly looked down upon, and I feel a big reason is because they are misunderstood. Eating disorders are an ever-growing epidemic. Many are not aware of how many around them could be suffering from this disease. Mothers, Grandmothers, Sisters, Daughters, Brothers, Sons, Grandfathers and Dads may be suffering from an eating disorder. It is a hidden secret that is often guarded, protected, and veiled with fears of judgment and shame. It is time to break down the walls. It is time to empower and fight for those suffering from an eating disorder, as well as educate those who are unsure of how severe of an issue this may

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Over 24 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder (anad.org). Eating disorders, specifically Anorexia, are the number one… the NUMBER ONE killer of all mental disorders. NUMBER ONE!!!
Eating disorders can be difficult to understand, but they affect more people than we realize. Dialogues must be started. Media stereotypes and the messages we send to the youth of America must be challenged. This growing epidemic will only continue to get worse, unless we shine a spotlight on this issue and increase our awareness.Young children are not immune to this disease. I have seen patients who have stated that their eating disorders started as young as the age of 5. How can children that young learn to hate their bodies? How do they learn to harm themselves in such a physical way to cope with internal pain? Information about this issue must spread; we cannot stay silent any longer. It is time to speak up, to learn, grow, and face this problem. For someone suffering from an eating disorder, it may feel like being locked in a silent prison that slowly kills.
 
By talking about eating disorders and reducing the stigma associated with them we can start to make a difference
There are many misconceptions about eating disorders and people who have or are currently struggling with one. I’ve heard time and time again, “Why can’t the behavior just be stopped?”, as if it were as easy as turning an on switch off. What many people don’t know is that an eating disorder is a disease, and also an addiction. Eating disorders are more than just a behavior; it is a mindset and a thought process that takes over many aspects of a person’s life. There is more eating disorders than an obsession with weight and body image; there are factors that contribute to the extreme mindset and feelings that come with an eating disorder. If we can better understand the mindset and find ways to help then maybe one day the recovery rate of won’t be as low as it is now.The purpose of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to ultimately prevent eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment. Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses – not choices – and it’s important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder. We have come far in the last two decades but eating disorders research continues to be under-funded, insurance coverage for treatment is inadequate, and societal pressures to be thin or look a certain way remain rampant. Some doctors fail to recognize the signs or offer the help that many people suffering from an eating disorder need. Education is vital. 
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We need acceptance, we need love, and we need hope. Most of all, those who suffer from an eating disorder need support. The more we can make them feel safe to share their stories and feel understood, the more we can continue to combat for and help those in need. I have hope that one day we will live in a society where our shape and weight are not what define us. I have hope that one day those suffering will continue to find the courage and strength within themselves to fight and know it’ll be ok; that recovery is possible and that they have a voice we want to hear.This is a call to action. Please do your part and increase awareness with eating disorders. You can visit nationaleatingdisorders.org. The smallest things make the largest difference. Thank you.By talking about eating disorders and reducing the stigma associated with them we can start to make a difference.

Finding The Artist Within: Art Therapy & Eating Disorders

Art Therapy is becoming a powerful and effective coping skill that the eating disorder community has embraced. Art therapy helps and challenges a person to create and to reflect on the process of the art making experience and the art work they create. This process is powerful especially for someone who is suffering from an eating disorder because it helps gain new insight and awareness about themselves and their eating disorder.

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Having worked with the eating disorder population for six years one common thing I have seen is how difficult it can be for so many to express or identify their feelings and thoughts. For many words are not a viable and comfortable outlet for them to use. This is why art therapy can be so powerful. The transformations I have seen in someone who with words alone could not express the pains within, utilize different avenues of art for expression is inspiring. I wanted to share with the world how art therapy can be used to help those who suffer from an eating disorder in their recovery process.
 
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Art Therapy for Bulimia or Binging:
 For so many people out their suffering from bulimia or binging the behaviors they exhibit is that of a binge then purge cycle or a binge cycle. For someone who suffers with bulimia the purge is their avenue and way to get rid of or releases intense emotions. The purge serves as the outlet for release and a physical act of expression. This physical act on themselves is the attempt to get rid of unwanted feelings & emotions that feel to much to cope with. The binge cycle is an act of no control, a person feels lost and numb during the binge often times this serves as a way to not only disconnect with the body and mind but emotions as well.  The binge and purge cycle are often attempts to cope with unresolved emotional issues such as depression, rage, powerlessness, frustration and sadness. Art therapy is a unique way of tapping into those feelings both conscious and unconscious. 

Incorporating art therapy into someone suffering from bulimia or binge eatings treatment could help with the binge and purge symptoms and a greater understanding of what the binge and purge behavior represents or how its used to help one cope. Using art therapy could become a replacement behavior or coping mechanism for the binge and purge behavior.

Art Therapy for Anorexia
: For someone struggling with anorexia there is a restricting of not only food but emotions. Those who suffer from anorexia severely restrict their food content and this serves many emotional purposes. Starvation depletes the body of essential nutrients that the body needs to feel energy and function. Someone who suffers from anorexia feels a numbing of emotions when in severe starvation. They no longer feel any troubling emotions inside, starvation allows them to numb the pain they feel internally. Art therapy provides an outlet for anorexics to explore buried feelings as well as reconnect with their feelings and perception of themselves and their body.

Art therapy can be used like a key to open doors and hidden things. I empower you if you are struggling with expressing or identifying negative emotions to channel them into a creative form of expression. This allows the development of a new language to find a healthy way to cope with emotions. 

Some examples of utilizing art for coping:

– Creative Journaling

– Scrap booking

– Vision Boarding

– Collage Making

– Painting.

– Writing 

– Pottery/ Clay Making

My hope is to increase the awareness of utilizing art therapy and give so many out there hope that there are healthy powerful ways to confront and get through the pain without turning to the eating disorder behaviors. There is hope for recovery, it’s time to find the artist within

Breaking the Silence: Eating Disorders and the men who suffer

Eating disorders are commonly associated as a struggle that only women go through even commonly referred to as a “woman’s disease”. Preoccupation with image, body,  and self is highly associated to be issues that women struggle with and think about. I am here to break the silence and inform you that this stereotype is far from true. The reality is that out of the 8 millions people who suffer from Eating Disorders in the US 10 percent of them are male. In fact between 1999 and 2009 the government estimates indicate that the number of males admitted to hospitals for complications from eating disorders rose by a whopping 53 percent. Recent studies and surveys show that young males have admitted to vomiting, restricting or have used laxatives to control their weight as well as taken diet pills. This can be rather shocking as men stereotypically are not thought of to suffer from an eating disorder. I estimate that the rate of men who suffer is probably a lot higher but the embaressment and shame that many men feel stops them from speaking out and seeking treatment for themselves. I am here to shed some light that yes men suffer from eating disorders too.

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I can speak on this personally because I have worked in three residential treatment centers and I have seen many young boys and men come into treatment. I have seen boys as young as 10 and the ages range up to the age of 50. Speaking with these boys and men shed so much insight into the gripping affect body image and pressure that men themselves can feel. I have noticed this especially among male athletes who must meet weight requirments for different types of sports. Men feel their own pressure to achieve a certain look or body image type.

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Today men are more aware and conscious of their bodies. Media portrays the look of lean, fit built men with muscles and depending on the sport or peer groups, more men are feeling pressured to achieve a certain look. I have noticed that especially men who are involved with wrestling, running, football and other sports feel intense pressure to be above or under a certain weight class. This leads men to either overeat, restrict, purge or use laxatives to meet this criteria. The bottom line is we need to end the stereotypes that eating disorders are a woman’s disease. I want to educate and increase the awareness that an eating disorder can affect anyone! No matter what your age, gender, status etc eating disorders are on the rise and affecting more people. Education needs to start at an early age and that begins with parents and in the schools. We also need to end the shame associated with having an eating disorder. It already is a disorder that those who suffer feel guilt and shame and have a hard time reaching out for help, but the men who suffer feel an even heightened shame to seek help.  Treatment and groups have  traditionally been targeted to women so we need to branch out and make avenues of help more open so people feel more comfortable reaching out. It’s time to end the invisible struggle, its time to break free, its time to heal!

Project HEAL’s new social media & marketing chair… ME!

Happy Tuesday Everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday vacation. I have been keeping very busy and have so many exciting and wonderful projects to announce. I am so excited to announce that I will be Project HEAL’s Southern California Chapters new social media and marketing chair! 

ImageI have always seen my mission as a person and as a therapist to spread hope and love to people who may be struggling not only with eating disorders but self-esteem issues, depression anxiety the list goes on. My heart has always been tied to the eating disorder community and a passion to increase education and spread awareness of just how prevalent eating disorders are in our society and how so many people are suffering from an eating disorder.

When I discovered Project HEAL my heart nearly exploded with excitement and delight. For those of you who may have never heard of Project HEAL they are a non profit organization that was started by two young girls who met while undergoing treatment for anorexia nervosa. They helped each other to reach full recovery, and then wanted to help others achieve it as well. In the spring of 2008, they founded Project HEAL to raise money for others suffering with eating disorders who want to recover but are unable to afford treatment. Unfortunately, insurance coverage for eating disorders is severely lacking, leaving many unable to get the help they need.Additionally, and equally important, Kristina and Liana have expanded Project HEAL’s mission by serving as mentors and consultants with the hopes of diminishing the societal obsession with body image that often contributes to eating disorders.

Project HEAL has since expanded to many different states as well as other countries. When the opportunity came to apply to be Souther California’s social media and marketing chair I jumped at the chance and was so happy to have received the position. Eating disorder awareness in my opinion is lacking, there is little to no education and it such a prevalent disease that affects so many people it leaves me frustrated at times wishing there was a way to spread the message, to tell people what to look for, to spread a message of hope that recovery is possible. Project HEAL is an outlet and organization that is doing all of these things. I love their saying ” I choose to HEAL because.?” I believe that such a simple question yields powerful results. So today I ask the world why do you choose to heal? 

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 I want to thank Project HEAL for allowing me to partner up with your organization so I can continue to fulfill my passion and my purpose which is eating disorder awareness, education and hope. Please visit their website for more information 
visit on Twitter: @ProjectHealSoCa
visit on Instagram: ProjectHEALSoCal
Visit on Pinterest: Project HEAL Southern California Chapter
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Emotional Reactivity? Our Emotions are linked to our body.. What?

One thing I have noticed working with eating disorders is how much the emotional reactivity of someone affects their thoughts, actions and their body sensations.  The eating disorder behavior whether it be through restricting, purging, over exercising, or binging is usually an emotional reaction to a triggering event. I often hear stories such as a mother or father making a comment that is triggering, friends isolating or alienating someone, bullying, a romantic relationship gone awry, the eating disorder behavior is a way for someone to act out their chaotic emotions. I often ask a client of this reaction ” You did this to get back or punish the person who did you wrong or caused you pain but in the end who is it hurting” It often is reflected back to them, it hurts them and feeds into the cycle of self loathing and affirms the belief that they deserve to be punished. In attempting to punish someone else, the cycle ends up punishing them. One of the emotions that I hear come up is anger, anger is one of the most triggering emotions for someone who suffers from an eating disorder. Anger however is a secondary emotion, there is always a bigger emotion almost like the elephant in the room lingering behind anger. Often times we don’t know to to contain or process anger, that is why many people have coping outlets to deal with anger, shame, frustration etc. It can be alcohol, drugs, or eating disorder behaviors. Many times we respond in anger to the words or actions of someone in our life but not only are we responding to what they did or said but how we interpret the meaning of what was done or said. Your body takes on that energy and then inside you feel anger. Our body takes on our feelings and our emotions are what follows. 

One thing I really love to educate my clients on is how to separate from their emotions which is done by teaching emotional regulation. Those who suffer from an eating disorder often have a hard time even identifying the emotions that are stirred up in them so helping them to not only identify their emotions but how it affects their thoughts and body and then being able to regulate them is a powerful thing. That is why I love to work with clients to help them identify these emotions and learn how to think about them, cope with them so they can feel their feelings but not stay stuck in them. There are many great techniques for dealing with emotions, calm music, journaling one thing I find really helpful is opposite action. Opposite Action is a skill from DBT ( Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) .

This skill educates you on one basic fact, every emotions has a leading action. If we feel fear we have an instinct to hide or run away, if we feel sadness we cry etc.

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The second point of Opposite Action is that our actions affect our emotions. It is described as a cycle so if we change our actions we can in turn change our emotions, just as if we change how we deal with our emotions we can change our actions. The big question to ask yourself is ‘Does the situation actually justify the emotion?’ This question will help you know when to apply opposite action & to reverse the cycle. To achieve opposite action it requires you to be very present and in tune with yourself and emotions and you do the work to change the initial thoughts and reaction patterns. 
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It is important to accept your feelings and not judge them or allow yourself to feel guilt or shame for experiencing emotions. My hope is that you realize that your feelings thoughts and emotions are valid and meaningful. We cannot help how we feel sometimes, sometimes our mind and emotions sneak up on us when we least expect it, but through work and time and self awareness you can control how you handle your emotions. 

New Eating Disorder Recovery & Support Group In Orange County!

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