eating disorders

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

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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. 

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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

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•   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. 

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•   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.   

5 Things You need to know before you start counseling

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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!!