You may be living with or in recovery from an eating disorder or maybe you just know what its like to experience body shame with the diet culture we live in. Spring and Summer can be a trigger to restrictive urges, body comparisons and self-judgement. Learn 3 tools to strengthen your body image this Summer.
Your breath is both a complicated and conveniently simple process that weaves together the communication between your body and mind. Linked to your nervous system, your breath has the capabilities of keeping you alive, soothing your body and mind and increasing energy. Your breath holds a wealth of resources for you. All you have to do is attend to it. Here’s some ways to access its usefulness.
So, you’ve decided to start counseling and you’re ready to go. Perhaps you’ve never done therapy before or maybe you’re looking to take a new approach. Here are some things you need to know before you start counseling.
1. Finding a therapist that you feel safe with is most important.
You can line up a bunch of great therapists, but if they’re not the best fit for you, you’re not going to do the intense, deep work you’re looking to do. The role of a therapist is to be a guide through your journey, reflect back to you what we see and help you to overcome obstacles towards meeting your goals. If you don’t click with your therapist or don’t feel safe enough to trust them, reaching your goals with them is unlikely. Your therapist should be someone you can relax around and speak freely without fear of being judged. Trust and safety are of paramount importance when you’re looking to do deep work on things like eating disorders, trauma, PTSD, couples’ work or issues specific to the LGBTQIA community.
2. Specialties mean that there’s been special training in a particular issue.
Our training in graduate school and doctoral programs very rarely provides training for specific diagnoses like PTSD, eating disorders or addictions. So when a therapist decides to have a particular specialty, we need to seek out training geared specifically towards these issues. If you notice that a therapist you’re interested in has indicated that we specialize in a particular area, you might want to ask us what sorts of training we’ve done to qualify us as an expert. This will give you a better idea of how equipped we are to help you with your specific struggle.
3. When you hire a therapist, you are paying for a space that is yours, for you.
I’ve heard people say that therapy is like paying someone to be your friend. This is actually not true. When you hire a therapist and you pay money, what you are paying for is a safe, neutral, objective space and time where you can do your work. It is an energy exchange. You are not paying your therapist to care about you, you are paying for an hour in a room that is completely and totally about you and no one else. In friendships, there’s a give and take, there’s a social obligation to ask how they are and be a support to them. In a relationship with your therapist, you are taking time for yourself only and receiving support that is not reciprocated emotionally, only financially. This dynamic can be extremely healing and empowering and for many, it is the only time and space where healing can truly take place.
4. The more consistently you go, the more effective therapy is.
Sometimes, in an attempt to save money or save time, people want to schedule therapy sessions every other week or once per month. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with scheduling like this, you may want to rethink the frequency and consistency of your therapy schedule. You don’t have to be in therapy forever. You can establish and work towards specific measurable goals with your therapist and see regular progress. However, progress is more difficult to measure when you attend therapy inconsistently. You may be having symptoms of PTSD, for example, and when several weeks go by without working on those particular symptoms, it is more difficult to get traction. If you’re struggling with binging and purging and you go every week, you can check in with your therapist about the particular triggers and behaviors that may have lead to your binge and purge. Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Set a goal with your counselor and try going weekly, write down your progress and notice the differences between your weekly sessions over a period of at least 3 months versus bi-weekly or monthly progress over a 3-month period. You may be surprised with the results.
5. Therapy happens in stages.
Sometimes we think that as soon as we set foot in the door of a therapy office, we will be “cured” immediately or within a few sessions. The reality is that there’s a therapeutic process which happens in stages. The first stage is joining with your therapist or learning to trust them. When we meet a new friend, we don’t usually tell them our deepest darkest right off the bat, it takes time and trust building to get to a place where we know they are a good friend. A similar concept is applied in therapy. Depending on the client, the level and amount of trauma and defenses, this stage can take anywhere from about a month to sometimes a year or even more. Safety, trust and a therapeutic bond, known as a therapeutic alliance, is formed in order for the therapist to really know and understand the client and for the client to feel safe enough to open up and do their work.
The second stage is where the work is done. Since there’s now an underlying foundation established between therapist and client, the second stage is about vulnerability. There is an unpacking, uncovering, examining and exploring the process that happens with the client and their trauma or their history. This stage is where people see their patterns and make shifts and changes in their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. The second stage of the therapeutic process is where clients reach their goals.
The third stage may or may not be part of the therapeutic process, dependent upon the client’s preference. This stage is for maintenance. The client continues therapy but perhaps doesn’t come every week any longer. They use their therapist to check in with, get help with issues as they arise and review the goals and behaviors they established during the second stage. Some people choose to forego this step and skip to the fourth stage.
The fourth stage of counseling is a closure process. After attaining goals in the second stage, and maintaining new behaviors and thought processes in the fourth stage, this last and final stage is a review of accomplishments, work together and closure of the therapeutic relationship. If the client chooses to end counseling, this practice of review and closure can be especially healing for those who have experienced traumatic grief or loss. Saying goodbye in a healthy way, honoring the relationship without suddenly cutting it off is a beneficial process to learn about emotional maturity and sophistication.
I hope these tips have been helpful. Please feel free to comment below with any other tips or feedback you have on this topic. If you’d like to speak further about starting counseling or have any other questions about some of the things I’ve mentioned, please contact me at TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com or call 610-314-8402. I wish you luck in your endeavors and look forward to hearing from you soon!!
At times, all of us have eaten a bit, or a lot more than is comfortable in our bodies. Holidays, celebrations or sometimes mindless eating in front of the TV can leave us feeling overly full. For some, this way of eating is more common and happens more frequently than we’d like. The new DSM-V, the Psychiatric Association’s manual on diagnosis, has created a diagnosis under the eating disorder umbrella called Binge Eating Disorder or BED. Whether you meet the criteria for this disorder, for bulimia, anorexia, or you just find yourself overly stuffed at times, these tools can be helpful:
1. Notice what types of foods you’re binging on and write them down.
It helps to look at your behavioral patterns. Some people find themselves eating excessive sweets, some are more geared towards fats or starches. Some people with emotional eating tendencies excessively eat any kind of meal including vegetables. See if you can find a pattern in your binge choices.
2. Notice what you DON’T binge on.
Are there any types of foods that you’d never consider in a binge or never feel the need to over-eat? In a recent session, a client was relaying the guilt and shame he felt after a binge. He reported that he doesn’t usually allow pastries in the house, but was feeling strong recently and thought it’d be okay. He found himself finishing off the pastries he had in one sitting. Upon further investigation into what foods he was allowing himself to eat regularly, the client determined that he felt very satisfied when he ate waffles and allowed himself to eat waffles multiple times per week. I asked him if he ever binges on waffles. He was shocked when he thought about it and said that – no – he never binges on waffles. Ok, great, so there’s no waffle binging going on, but how does that help? Follow me here.
3. Take a look at what you ‘allow’ yourself to eat regularly.
What foods do you consider safe? In an attempt to be healthy, lose weight, or just get control over your food choices, you may be very rigid or restrictive about what you allow yourself to eat on a regular basis. Perhaps your choices look benign enough like chicken and veggies multiple times per week. Write down what you’ve eaten over the past 3 days to 1 week or track your food for a week. What do you notice?
4. What is missing from your regular eating habits?
Take those same meal journals and notice what you don’t have there. If we consider all the food groups: protein, fat, starch, veggies, fruits and dairy – are there any food groups missing? Are there lots of repeated meals without much variety?
Now I know this might seem completely insane and a bit scary, but HERE’S THE KEY to quit binging. Ready?
5. Allow yourself to eat the foods you binge on.
Try adding a portion or 2 of the foods you don’t allow yourself to eat and some of the most common foods you binge on to your regular meal schedule. I know this might seem counter-intuitive. Our society tells us to resist, have discipline, diet harder, avoid sugars and carbs and fats and this may be the only voice you’ve ever heard that encourages these things, but just give it a try for a month or even a week and see what happens. If you are on the anti-carb kick, but then you find yourself binging on carbs, try adding a normal amount of carbs to each meal and see what your body craves after a while.
Here’s the rub – We are creatures of desire.
Food is part of life! It’s nourishing and delicious and sensual. When we restrict ourselves from eating foods we love, we may lose weight in the short run, but this does not happen without consequence. Our animalistic nature, our Id, it craves pleasure and passion and vigor. If we force ourselves to live inside a rigid box of rules around food and body, we will always desire to break free and stepping outside of that box causes immense shame and fear. I am not telling you to overeat or teaching you how to binge differently, but what I am suggesting is that you try to take the power out of the foods that haunt you.
If you regularly binge on entire cartons of ice cream, see what happens when you have a cup every night for a week. What emotions come up when you eat it? Can you journal about them and bring them into your therapist? What do you find yourself craving after that week of glorious freedom with ice cream?
If you live near The Main Line of Philadelphia or West Chester and want to learn more about binging and how to quit, or you’re not sure where to find support for your feelings around food, you’re not alone. Please feel free to contact me at 610.314.8402 – I’d be happy to help you find support.