Mindfulness

The Weather is Warming in Philadelphia, PA- 3 Tools to Reclaim your Body Image in the Spring and Summer by Melanie Taylor, LMFT

Philadelphia-counseling-eating-disorder-philly-therapy-center-city-rittenhouse-psychology-diet-weight-loss

It’s such a colorful time of year in Philadelphia when the weather begins to warm. More people frolicking out and about on the historic, cobblestone streets. Bikers weave in and out of SEPTA’s way. Rittenhouse Square is filled with picnic baskets and playful dogs. Tulips, cherry blossoms, and azaleas line Pine St., Delancey St. and Fitler Square. You catch the reflection of Center City in the flowing Schuylkill River from the South Street bridge. You walk past the smiling faces and clinking glasses of Philly locals and tourists alike at the French-inspired tables of Parc and Rouge, and you begin to wonder why you aren’t experiencing the same sense of excitement and joy as it seems your fellow Philadelphians are at the promise of sunshine and another Philadelphia winter passing us by. 

Rittenhouse-psychotherapy-philly-therapy-philadelphia-psychology-eating-disorder-diet-body-positive-haes-summer-body

In fact, all you can find yourself thinking about as you travel the Center City streets is how uncomfortable you feel in your body. You find yourself worried that others are judging the way your body looks in your newly purchased spring attire. You gaze at the peeking of skin in others you pass and you feel like you do not deserve to show your flesh. You wish you could hide safely nuzzled in the camouflage of your winter coat. You want so badly to feel happy in the changing of the seasons, but you can’t. You dread the warmer weather and the body shame it brings. You consider what some of your friends are doing like the Keto diet or the Whole 30 so you too can have a “summer body”, but you’ve tried diets so many times. Maybe you’ve lost the weight and gained it back and you’re tired of yo-yo dieting. You find yourself wondering if that “summer body” is really worth all the shame it brings with it.

 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.

But, we have good news! You don’t have to diet to find happiness!

We’ve described some tools below to help you start the process to reclaiming the excitement and joy that warming weather can bring! 

3 Tools for Improving your Body Image in Warmer Weather-

  1. Practice mindfulness to neutralize your thoughts about your body. 

•   Reclaiming your body image doesn’t have to mean you love how it looks all the time or you are never uncomfortable in your body. If that is our beginning goal, we may give up before we get there! Reclaiming your body image actually means that you can be with your body without the usual judgements or qualifications or evaluations and focus on living your life. 

•   Mindfulness (being with the present moment without judgement) provides a frame of mind to neutralize your experience in your body. Try using only objective, fact-based descriptors when thinking or talking about your body. For example, instead of “I hate my thunder thighs in these shorts!”, try “I can feel the way my shorts fit around my thighs”. 

•   The next tool is to eliminate the label of good or bad. So, when you notice that you feel your shorts around your thighs, instead of thinking “that’s bad (or gross or disgusting or enter negative belief  here)”, you can practice saying “I am learning that this is neither good or bad. It just is.”We only believe it to be bad because of the rigidity of diet culture ideals!

•   Lastly, when practicing mindfulness, don’t judge your judging. Its only natural that your mind will return to the habitual judgement patterns for a while. When this happens, simply name it- “I noticed a judgement thought”, then give yourself permission to practice recreating a new, nonjudgmental thought to follow it up. 

2. Surround yourself with AntiDiet, Health at Every Size, Body Liberation messages

philadelphia-anti-diet-haes-intuitive-eating-insta-ig-instagram-body-positive-therapy-eating-disorders-bulimia-anorexia-over-eating-binge-eating-psychology-rittenhouse-philly-diet

•   We are bombarded with harmful diet culture messages repetitively throughout the day. Do a quick experiment and see if you can notice how many messages about changing your body, losing weight, trying the next diet, getting fit, judging food,etc. you come across in a day. These messages live on billboards, internet ads, television and radio commercials, magazines and common talk. It’s everywhere!! And whether we like it or not, our minds are very susceptible to repetitive messages, so its practically impossible for our thoughts to not be influenced by the broken record of diet culture. 

•   Good news! Because our minds are susceptible to repetitive messaging and our brain is malleable, we can counteract this by filling our daily thoughts with messages of body liberation, food neutrality and self acceptance. If you are a daily scroller, one powerful way of doing this is by taking time to personalize your social media feeds. Delete accounts that promote unhealthy thin or fitness ideals, diet mentality, restrictive wellness and body shame and follow supporters of Health at Every Size, Anti-Diet, Intuitive Eating and Body Love perspectives. We’ve created a starter list for you below. (add IG follow sheet) Please feel free to share others in the comment section if you have them! Reclaiming our body image means reclaiming the stories we are told about our body and self worth, and paying attention to only the messages we choose to believe.

3.    Take the time to realize that you are so much more than your body.  

•   Like we said before, true body acceptance isn’t about always loving the way your body looks. It’s actually moving away from the idea that your body’s appearance is one of the most important aspects of you and toward a belief that you are much, much more than your body. 

philadelphia-counseling-philly-psychology-rittenhouse-therapy-summer-body-diet-body-positive-weight-loss-bulimia-anorexia

•   You consist of values and morals and dreams. You hold the ability to create and nurture and play. You’re worth is not determined by the shape of your flesh. Practice focusing on other aspects of yourself that make you you! Listen to music you are interested in, have conversations that ignite your passions and open your mind, connect with others who see your light. Paint, draw, dance, play, laugh, cry, feel, care, grieve, inspire, be. The more we connect with the deeper, more intrinsic and core aspects of ourselves, the more we lean into body acceptance, because we begin to cherish this container that holds our soul and provides us an ability to love and explore and be. Then we can appreciate our body for what it offers us- a way to travel about this life, to feel the warmth of the sun, to connect with other beings and our senses. Create a list (remember your mindfulness skills here) of other aspects that make up you and spend time each day engaging in these parts of you. Then, create another list of other ways your body can function for you during the warmer months besides as an illustration of your worth. Choose at least one to mindfully focus on each day!

If you feel you need more support, set yourself up with a body positive treatment team. Find a therapist and dietitian in Philadelphia who work from a Health at Every Size, Body Positive perspective. Maybe this Spring and Summer can be the beginning of a fresh, life- giving relationship with warmer weather, with your body and with yourself! 

Melanie Taylor, LMFT

Melanie Taylor, LMFT

Melanie Taylor is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist speacializing in Eating Disorders and Yoga Therapy. Melanie is the Assistant Clinical Director at Spilove Psychotherapy.

Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend by Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: 

Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend

 By: Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga therapy for anxiety and depression on the Philadelphia Main Line in Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Villanova and Lower Merion

 What if you could find a friend that would stay by your side always? Someone who’s sole purpose was to make sure you not only stayed alive but also thrived in your life. Someone who knew just what to do to provide you a pick-me-up when depressed or tired or could ease your body and mind when anxious or upset. What if you had access to this friend 24/7 and the only thing this friend needed from you was a willingness to accept their support? 

Well, my friends, I have some exciting news to share. This friend exists, and not only does the friend exist, it exists within you! Its your breath. You see, 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 can let you know how you’re feeling and if you’re relaxed or tense. Think about it… when panic sets into the body and mind, the breath oftentimes responds rapidly, assuming the need to prepare for survival. Your breath may become shorter and choppier or maybe even appear nonexistent and stuck. This same breath, the one coming and going from your lungs, can be trained to deepen and soften during panic, activating your calming nervous system, thus subsiding the panic in both your body and mind.  Or, maybe your nervous system is feeling too subdued, you’re falling asleep at work or feeling unable to pull yourself out of bed to face the day. In these moments, accentuating the inhale can increase energy and focus, even lifting your mood in the moment. 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.

1. A breathing practice to soothe the nervous system: Paced Breathing 

When to use:

To soothe anxiety, panic or restlessness, if you are having difficulty sleeping and/or relaxing, when you feel worked up or frazzled. 

How to use:

When attempting to soothe or relax the nervous system, accentuate the exhale. Paced breathing patterns the breath to increase the length of the exhale to twice as long as the inhale. You will count the breaths in your head. If able, breathe both in and out of your nose. If you need to breathe out of your mouth due to sinus issues, it can help to purse the lips so that the breath is able to stay long and controlled. Let your breath carry deep into your body… allow your stomach to expand on your inhales, and gently contract your stomach in on your exhales. Try the counts of 4 to inhale and 8 to exhale. If this feels difficult or creates more tension in the body, reduce the numbers, just making sure the exhale is 2x as long as the inhale. Our lungs often need time to practice expanding (in our society, we don’t usually use much of our breathing capacity from day-to-day), so be patient and just do what feels comfortable. Remember, this is intended to relax and soothe you. 

Here we go:

It can help to sit upright allowing spaciousness in your chest or lying down (especially if you are using this to help with sleep). Close your eyes if comfortable. If you prefer to have your eyes open, maybe gaze at a soft spot on the floor or in front of you. Now, inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, Inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, repeat this sequence multiple times. I recommend at least 10 rounds, but as many as you would like until you start to feel soothed, more at ease or fall asleep. 

Contraindications:

The only time to avoid this breath is if you are already relaxed or tired  and do not want to fall asleep of become more relaxed. If this is the case and you are looking for a pick-me-up, try the breath below.

2. A breathing practice to enliven your nervous system: Breath of Joy

When to use:

when tired, depressed, energy depleted, feeling stuck, lacking interest or focus.

How to use:

When attempting to lift your energy, focus or mood, accentuating the inhale wakes up the nervous system. Breath of Joy calls for 3 quick inhales and one large exhale. This breath can be done standing or sitting in a chair. Make sure you have arms-length of space around and above you. 

Here we go:

On your first quick inhale through your nose, swing your arms out in front of you. 

On the second inhale through your nose, swing your arms from in front of you, out to the sides in a “T” position. 

On the third inhale through your nose, swing your arms from the “T” position above your head in a touchdown position. 

Next, exhale forcefully out of your mouth with an audible “Ha” as you fold at the waist and swing your arms down by your legs

Repeat this at least 3 times, more if you like. 

Main Line Yoga Therapy, Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr, anxiety, depression

Contraindications- 

If you have any severe back issues, bulging discs, osteoporosis or hypertension, folding forward or hanging your head upside down is usually not safe. Good news, you can still do this breath! Just make sure to avoid folding over and instead swing your arms down by your side while exhaling a “Ha” forcefully.  

If you are interested in learning more about how to balance your mind and body through your breath and other yoga techniques, consider yoga therapy. To learn more about how to get connected with a yoga therapist, give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15-minute consultation.   

"We cannot love others until we love ourselves" by Mikala Morrow

love, bryn mawr, main line, therapy, counseling, villanova, philadelphia, love yourself

 "We cannot love others until we love ourselves"

by Mikala Morrow, Villanova Graduate Counseling Intern

This saying has been a cliché statement that has been thrown around as a way to encourage self-care or even used as a convincing statement to those who find it hard to love themselves. What does this statement truly mean?

It means that someway, somehow we must find, within us, love. This must mean that love is an innate ability and we all possess the ability to love ourselves without the assistance of others.

Personally, I do not believe this to be true. Can we truly have an innate ability to love ourselves without any help from others? If we truly cannot love others until we love ourselves, we have to be able to love ourselves without help, right? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, our innate ability to love? Or is love taught to us from our caretakers, partners, peers or a higher power?

love, counseling, bryn mawr, therapy, villanova, love yourself

What if, “We cannot love others until we love ourselves” becomes “We cannot love ourselves and others until we have been loved.” My argument is that in order to learn to love others, we must first be loved. We must learn how to love and what love is.

Imagine a child who is neglected by their caretaker. This child never truly learns love. Instead, to them, love means neglect. Later on in life when meeting new people, how will they love them? If all this older child has known is that love is neglectful, they too will neglect those that they love.

Compare the first child with someone who has a loving caretaker who has shown interest in who they are. This child will grow up with the idea that love is showing interest in others and will love in this way. These examples may not be true for all, but it is something to think about. The child in the first scenario may

learn somewhere how to truly love but this will not come as easily as the child in the second scenario.

self love, counseling, bryn mawr, therapy, love yourself

We need to learn what love looks like towards us and we also need to learn how we love.  We may love by giving others gifts or our time. We may show our love through compliments or by offering a shoulder to cry on. We all have a unique way to show love. In order to practice our ways of loving, we need people around us to accept our love. If our unique way of showing love is rejected, we learn that we are not good at loving, or our way of loving is wrong.

Let’s say you show love with your time but your partner becomes annoyed and tells you they just want space. Your way of loving has been pushed away. We need other people around us to affirm the way we love.  While the statement, “We cannot love others until we love ourselves” has a good message at the core, it can be damaging for those who have never learned how to love themselves.

We all need love whether it is from other humans on earth (maybe even from a pet) or a supernatural love. Then we can truly love others’ authentically and comfortably.

Mikala, Villanova Graduate, Counseling, Bryn Mawr, Love, Therapy

Mikala has an intensely compassionate and unique way of connecting with you to help you identify and express your feelings and your deepest sense of self.  She is persistent and encouraging in the face of hopelessness and despair.  She especially loves working with women to provide tools to alleviate anxiety and depression.  Mikala has a wealth of experience and is skilled in the mental health field working with domestic violence, food & body issues and addiction.  If you're struggling to tolerate your emotions and you're looking for a guide to help you get to know yourself better, give her a call now at 570-412-4516. 

 

3 Keys to Finally Make Peace With Food by Geneen Roth

Guest Writer: My Journey With Bulimia by Melissa King

Melissa King, Bulimia Story, Eating Disorder, Therapy, Counseling

A brief update from the author:

I wrote the following post just over 6 years ago. I had been fully recovered from bulimic symptoms for about 4 years at the time. It’s now been 10 years of recovery and I still deeply believe in all of the words I speak in this piece. The only thing that’s changed is that I feel even further away from experiencing desires to binge or purge. There was a time when it was hard to imagine feeling completely comfortable around food, easily stopping when full, and not thinking about the ice cream in the freezer constantly. I hope this article helps some of you! Be brave. Recovery is totally possible! - Melissa

Melissa King Eating Disorder Bulimia Story

My Journey With Bulimia

December 6, 2010

About ten years ago I developed a condition known as bulimia. I never would have guessed that a smart girl like me would struggle with something like that. I knew better. I had learned about eating disorders when I was younger and could never make sense of why someone would force themselves to vomit after eating or avoid eating all together.

I think very differently about eating disorders today. You can be intelligent, self-aware, and informed about eating disorders and still struggle with the “disease.” I remember the first time I displayed signs that I was at risk for developing bulimia. I was reading a book about how bad refined sugar was, and I was doing an excellent job of eliminating it from my diet—that is until I was tempted by a birthday cake brought into work one day. I decided to treat myself to a slice, and as I was finishing it, I felt deeply concerned about how the sugar might be harming my body. I don’t know what made me think of it because I had never chosen to throw up food before (nor did I know of anyone who had), but I quickly went to the bathroom and vomited in a stall.

I felt much better after getting rid of the sugar and didn’t think of it again until a year later. I had begun a big transformation in my life. I was starting to question my faith, my choice of career, the reasons for my failed romantic relationships, etc. I decided to go to counseling, and after a few sessions the counselor asked, “Where is Melissa?” I didn’t understand what she meant, but after some back and forth, she finally explained, “You tell me everything you think you SHOULD do and SHOULD want, but you don’t tell me how YOU feel and what YOU want.”

No one has said anything that has impacted me more deeply than that statement. I realized that I had become so good at assessing what I thought other people wanted that I had become disconnected from my own desires, feelings, and opinions. It’s like they were crowded out by the noise of all the other expectations and demands I thought I had to meet.

After that session, I started concentrating on my inner world and made a lot of effort to to connect more deeply with myself. As part of that exploration, I went back to dance class. Dance was an innate joy for me. It was my childhood passion, something I knew that I didn’t do to please anyone else. I hoped that dance would remind me of what it was like to feel.

And it worked. The feelings that dance inspired in me became recognizable in other areas of my life. In an attempt to follow this, I started spending more time alone so that I could learn to hear my own voice. I stopped going to church so that I could figure out what I really believed about God, without pressure from others. I also got a second job and began saving to spend six months in New York studying dance. New York was a place I had always wanted to live and I wanted to gift myself with the opportunity. And lastly, I decided to finally lose the weight I had gained since high school. For the first time, I was choosing to take my dreams seriously and have confidence in my ability to achieve them.

Several months later the pounds were coming off and I felt amazing. I was losing weight in a healthy way and sticking to a diet plan longer than ever before. I felt like I was discovering my real body: lean, healthy, strong, and energetic. I felt beautiful inside and out.

Somewhere close to my goal weight, I gave in and ate something that I knew was higher than the amount of calories I needed. I became afraid. Seeing myself eat food that was not in my plan made me fear that I was stepping back into old behaviors. In the past, I would stick to a diet for a little while but would always end up giving into temptation, promising myself that I would start again the next day. It was a bad cycle that I didn’t want to continue. Not only that, but I was falling in love with the “new” me, the me that was living from her heart, the me that was committing to her goals, and the me who was coming out of her shell and no longer hiding under extra weight. I felt more confident. I was getting attention from boys, and I was interacting more with people. I didn’t want to lose those things. That’s when I remembered my experience with the sugar elimination diet. I realized that I could just get rid of what I ate in the bathroom and my problem would be solved. So I did.

I never imagined that I would do it again. I thought it was a one-time thing. But it did happen again. Not often, at first. But every time I felt unsure about the calories I had consumed in a meal or I knew that I had too many, I ultimately found myself in the bathroom.

At one point, I became concerned that I might have an eating disorder. I remember going online and looking up the symptoms for bulimia. The criteria noted that an individual must have a certain number of symptoms to be diagnosed. Although I thought I might need help, my symptoms didn’t match enough of the criteria. I wasn’t bingeing at all and I wasn’t vomiting enough over the course of a week. As a result, I worried that I would not be taken seriously, so I was too embarrassed to seek help.

Eventually the symptoms did grow. It became harder to vomit if I didn’t eat enough, so I started to binge. My bulimia began to look very “textbook.”

In May of 2001, I moved to NYC. I accomplished some amazing things and had some wonderful experiences. During that time, I had periods when I went for months without symptoms and others when I vomited every day. I eventually went to counseling again, and during those sessions, my counselor offered me one important insight about bulimia. She simply said, “Maybe you’re not ready to give it up.” For the first time I considered the notion that I could give myself permission to continue. What a scary idea, but she was right to suggest it. 

From the time my symptoms began, I was resistant to them. After every purge, I promised myself it would be the last time. My mind was filled with figuring out ways to keep it from happening again. By accepting bulimia’s place in my life, I was able to learn from it and understand why it was there. Since my mind was free from thoughts of guilt, criticism, and resistance, I had space to feel the emotions that bulimia was trying to bring to the surface. I started recognizing the feelings I felt when I would binge and purge and realized how they were connected to other challenges in my life. When I saw the connections, I could start resolving the problems in other ways.

It took awhile, but I eventually let bulimia go. I would stop for several months, have a bout, then stop for many more months, have another bout, then stop for a longer period of time, etc. It’s been over three years now, maybe almost four, since the last period of symptoms.

I believe my bulimia represented a step toward healing. It often felt that people around me viewed bulimia as a problem, as a step backward, as something I was doing wrong. At first, I joined them in this conclusion. But bulimia came into my life when I was beginning a fight to be true to myself and resist the external pressures around me to please others, to follow another’s lead, to do what other people thought was good rather than what I felt was good. I didn’t know how to say “no.” I didn’t know how to negotiate. For years I had been taking in, absorbing and adjusting to what others wanted so that I could gain their approval and respect, ultimately depending on them for assurance and confidence. Simultaneously, I ate all the time. That’s how I gained weight in the first place. I just consumed. I dealt with my problems by eating. I couldn’t say no to food either. 

I was finally coming to a point in my life where I wanted to trust myself, but I was scared. It was a battle. I was taking food in (symbolically, others’ opinions, desires, and expectations) but realized that I didn’t want it. So I would push it back out. I was starting to say no and bulimia represented a violent fight inside me. 

It’s hard to be yourself in this world. There are a lot of demands, many that are indirect, and it was hard for me to resist the impulse to meet all those demands. Food was my vice, so it makes sense that my relationship with food symbolically paralleled my relationship with myself and with the world.

I think my bulimic episodes ended when I started trusting myself more and worrying less about others’ opinions, worrying less about someone being upset if I told them “no.” I knew that I didn’t want to continue bingeing and purging because the health risks weren’t worth it to me. So, eventually I chose to stop, probably when I had the internal strength to make that choice for myself (rather than just to appease others). Much of it was learning how to have boundaries. Just like I had to learn how to have boundaries with people, I had to learn how to have boundaries with food.

Does this mean that I have perfect boundaries with people now, that I never overeat, that I trust myself completely all the time? No. I still struggle with these things, just like everyone does. But the experiences I had while dealing with bulimia transpired into major changes in my life, changes I certainly benefit from now. My boundaries are much stronger and clearer, and I have more awareness of when I am compromising who I am. In fact, if I ever have the urge overeat or vomit, and I do sometimes, it’s a great clue to me that I’m not dealing with something in my life the way that I need to. I know that now, so I can take a step back, look at the problem, and figure out a more productive solution. It’s funny, because that solution often means asking for help or making myself more vulnerable with someone (letting someone in), or saying what I feel and risking possible rejection - again, all connected to boundaries. 

Bulimia is complicated and very layered. I haven’t addressed all of those layers here. Furthermore, I can only speak from my own experience; I don’t mean to represent others’ experiences. Over time, I’ve learned that people’s stories and the reasons behind their personal challenges are varied and don’t all fit into a neat little defined box. But I do believe that for many people, symptoms of bulimia actually symbolize an attempt toward health, the body reacting in order to make something right. I believe the symptoms are symbolic of the internal fight of an individual trying to find their voice, to find confidence, to look for a way to move out of whatever problem they have been dealing with, a problem that existed before symptoms of bulimia showed up. It’s never just about bulimia, it’s always about something much deeper. I think that many individuals with bulimia are trying to figure out how to finally have boundaries—with themselves and with the world. If they can find support to understand and transition through it, support to trust themselves, then the stage after bulimia can be fuller health, greater self-esteem and confidence, and healthier boundaries.

ABOUT MELISSA

Melissa King, LMHC is now a psychotherapist in New York City who works with women, gay/bi men, and couples in the first 10 years of a relationship. Find out more about Melissa here. https://www.myheartdances.com

If you have any questions or need support, please feel free to call me at 610.314.8402 for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Please comment below and tell us your story !