By: Kristen Grimes, Masters level intern
A lot goes into our minds the second we look into a mirror. These thoughts can range from “I look great today!” to “I don’t like the way my stomach looks in this outfit” to “I don’t even recognize myself". It is near impossible to go a day without seeing a glimpse of ourselves in the windows, the mirrors, or even our phone. Sometimes it feels like we have no control over what our mind is telling us about our bodies. One day we like what we see and the next day we don’t. This can be such a frustrating back and forth battle with ourselves. The energy we spend wanting to change what we see in the mirror can be an exhausting experience.
So, how do we help ourselves? Well, what would it look like to rewrite your body narrative? First you may ask - what is a body narrative? Body narrative is essentially the story you have around your body – your thoughts, feelings, words that you use towards it, etc. Our body narrative is usually formed by different areas of our lives. These areas are usually – our upbringing, society/media, and our relationships. Taking a look at each of these areas and identifying and connecting them with what they have told us about our bodies can help us better understand out body narrative.
Get rid of the old narrative. Write out those negative thoughts about your body on
Look at that list and ask yourself – would you say those things to your younger self? Would you say those things to your best friend? If I had to guess, I would say probably not. And you are worth much more than saying those things to yourself. Get rid of the paper. Burn the paper. Shred the paper. Throw the paper into the ocean! Let this be a symbol of getting rid of the old narrative and welcoming the new. When you are ready, write a new narrative. Rephrase these lies you have told yourself for so long. Write to a version of you that you want to love and hold on to as you would a family member or a best friend. You are deserving of this new narrative. You are worthy of this new narrative.
By: Kristen Grimes, Master's level intern
Coming to terms with your Eating Disorder is hard. You feel alone and sometimes like you are the only person who has ever dealt with these feelings. It is easy to hold all of these emotions inside. Sometimes it feels like these emotions are too much to let out into the real world, almost like if we don’t talk about it then they aren’t real. It may seem easier to shove these emotions down when they start to seem overwhelming. We often think these things because we feel that our feelings and emotions are too much to bring to others. We don’t want to overwhelm anyone else with the baggage we are holding. But why should we have to carry that baggage alone? The good news is – we don’t. We don’t have to carry this baggage alone.
We are not alone in these thoughts, feelings, or emotions. There are people who want to help lead us to the most confident and best version of ourselves. We often cannot even picture what this version of ourselves looks like. This is where our support system comes in to play. The people who love and care for us sometimes have a better image of what this version of our self looks like and they can help us get a glimpse of that person when we can’t. We often look in the mirror for advice. On days that we are feeling down and our negative emotions are taking over, it is easy to get caught up in the negative thoughts that we are telling ourselves. As humans, we tend to create a tunnel vision and look towards ourselves to guide us. In order to find ourselves, we have to expand this tunnel vision to the people who support us and want the best for us.
This support system may look different for each person. Support can come from friends, family, therapists, mentors… you name it. Some people find support in community groups through their work, their church, and other extracurriculars. Through these groups of people, there are individuals who are struggling with something in their own lives. Becoming vulnerable can be difficult. But, being vulnerable is actually a sign of courage. We become more resilient and brave when we embrace who we truly are and what we are feeling – and often times this takes the help of others to guide us to find ourselves. Vulnerability helps us bring light to all our emotions and to help fully process them. Finding those safe people to be vulnerable with can be scary, but those people are out there and are waiting for the chance to help guide you back towards the path of becoming the best YOU there is.
Written by: Kristen Grimes, Masters level intern
As a little girl, I struggled with anxiety. My anxiety looked different through each phase of my life. Sometimes, my anxiety would look like a massive weight in the pit of my stomach, while other times, my anxiety would look like asking a million questions until I was out of breath. No matter what the anxiety was surrounding that day, month, or year, I would always hear the same phrase; “It is what it is”. I had therapists tell me this when I was a kid. I would discuss all of these irrational fears of worry that my parents would go missing or that I would be left somewhere. I would worry myself to tears and not know what to do about it. “It is what it is, Kristen”. Hearing the same thing got old after a while.
Jump to 10 years later, my anxiety had turned into some disordered eating which lead me to extensive care. I started to hear the same phrase, “It is what it is, Kristen”. I heard this a lot when it came to eating. When I didn’t want to eat the food set in front of me, someone would mutter that phrase. It started to drive me crazy.
I let this phrase affect my mood most days until I finally told my therapist how it was making me feel. I opened up about how angry it would make me when everyone would say this to me. She asked me why it made me so mad and I responded with, “It’s making me feel stuck. It’s making me feel like I have to settle with where I am at in this moment and I don’t want that”. She responded with, “So it is what it is until you do something about it?”. I sat there wondering how I hadn’t thought about it that way before. I tried to remember my childhood and how I felt back when I was told that phrase back then. I had always felt stuck and like people did not believe
that I would get out of whatever the worry was in that time of my life. If only people had added on to that phrase, “it is what it is… until you do something about it”.
When I heard it said this way, my mindset switched. I challenged myself to beat what I had been told my whole life. I didn’t want to settle with how I was feeling. I had made an excuse for myself for so long that it is what it is, and that’s how it always will be.While I know that this phrase looks different for everyone and that some find it helpful, I find myself smiling whenever I hear it today. Such a small comment was making such a big difference in my life until I changed perspective. It’s funny how adding a little bit on to a comment can change the whole meaning. I think about this a lot in my work as a therapist today. We often feel stuck in our emotions and feel that there is nothing else for us. I am thankful for “It is what it is” because it made me view my anxiety different and pushed me to look for more than what I had in the moment.
By: Kelsey Brown, Master's level Intern
Have you ever reflected on what self-care looks like in the mental health field or considered the benefits to routinely engaging in self-care? Self-care looks different for everyone. What works for you might not work for someone else, and that’s okay! Finding ways to incorporate self-care into your life is an incredible tool that can be used at any moment in time. So, what are some self-care ideas?
By: Laura Deneen, LPC-MHSP, CEDS, NCC
Anxiety-it’s kind of a buzz word right now. You've probably heard about a friend or colleague who has it, read an article on it, or maybe you even experience it yourself. If you or a loved one has anxiety, learning to manage, regulate, and sit with your anxiety is so important because of how it impacts quality of life.
Shifting our relationship to our anxiety can positively impact how we interact with others or our own selves (our relationship to our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors we choose). Here are three things that have supported me in regulating my anxiety:
1) Naming it! When I can name what is making me anxious, and why that thing is making me anxious, this can take some of that “punch in the gut” feeling down. Part of naming it for me is also labeling where I feel it in my body and noticing my physical sensations. (without judgment!!) Maybe I feel tightness in my chest, tingling in my fingers, or heat in my face. Naming the anxiety along with the physically sensations helps me start the process of self-compassion and perhaps deeper understanding into my anxiety.
2) Challenging myself to sit with the uncertainty. What do I mean by this? As a human being, I want to know all the answers all the time. This is a natural reaction because we are not wired to enjoy things that are out of our control. For example, I can’t control someone’s emotions towards me. It may feel really bad to me not knowing whether a friend or colleague is upset with me. My responsibility is to sit with that possibility and act on it in healthy ways, versus anxiety-driven behaviors. This is just one example of many things that are outside of my control in this life; and, recognizing this has actually been super liberating for me. Oftentimes sitting with uncertainty is painful and hard, but also worth it in terms of our response to stimuli that are anxiety-provoking.
3) Asking myself what I need when I’m anxious? Do I need to talk it through with a loved one or safe person? Do I need to eat a nourishing meal or snack? Do I need to take a few deep breaths? Do I need to journal? Do I need clarity around a situation or conversation? The list could go on and on. We have lots of needs that may be going unaddressed in situations of heightened anxiety. Figuring out what we need is a skill and practice that takes time.
I hope this blog on regulating anxiety has been helpful to you! When in doubt, seek professional support if you are questioning whether you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety. I am here rooting for you!
Take good care,
By: Amy Pfeffer, Master's level intern
There are many preconceptions about why an individual might struggle with an eating disorder and the steps that have led someone to succumb to disordered eating. For many who have never struggled with an eating disorder, it may seem easy enough to simply put food in one's mouth and "just eat" in order to quickly remove any "eating disorder" status. But for those who have walked the path of an eating disorder, there is a shared understanding that it is much more complex than simply "eating" and "food." Below is a list of five myths that tend to accompany eating disorders.
1) Myth: Attaining the perfect body will bring value, joy, and fulfillment to my life. Many of us have grown up watching movies, commercials, billboards, concerts, shows, and music videos that have been created in an over-sexualized and objectifying culture, particularly for women, but also including men. The message from diet culture is that weight loss elicit a life of perfection, attention, and satisfaction. However, what the literature tells us about perfectionism, in any regard, is that it reduces the capability for true human connection and the highest quality of life we could attain. This actually leads to decreased sense of self, decreased joy, and lowered fulfillment.
Oftentimes, those who struggle with an eating disorder may have anxiety and depression symptoms which mask the maladaptive perfectionism that lies underneath the surface. Learning to accept, or even love, our bodies, and reduce our perfectionistic tendencies, opens the door to true healing, connection, intimacy, and fulfillment.
~Maine, M. & Kelly, J., 2016, Pursuing Perfection: Eating Disorders, Body Myths, and Women at Midlife and Beyond
"It is a courageous act to accept your body in a society that is constantly telling you to take up less space." ~Laura Deneen
2) Myth: Eating disorders are only a "thing" because of body image issues. While many people with eating disorders struggle with their body image, eating disorders are also emotionally avoidant disorders. Whether you grew up in an environment that stifled emotional development or if you experienced relationships which drove the message home that feeling and expressing emotion was not appropriate, you may have learned to "can" your emotions throughout your life. Facing and challenging our thoughts, investigating and leaning into our emotions, and resisting shame of what our emotions might be telling us is an incredibly important part of your recovery.
"Are you turning towards or away from your emotions?" ~Laura Deneen
3) Myth: There is bad food and good food. Eating food that scares you is actually a part of eating disorder recovery. Breaking self-instilled boundaries to cope with outside factors is incredibly hard. Focusing on your thought process about food and challenging it with real truth is one way to beat this myth. Dietary allergies are real; and, putting food on a "banned" list (when it has nothing to do with allergies) may just increase the legalities that an individual with disordered eating places upon themselves. Individuals who have struggled with eating disorders understand that strict legalities only lead to further restrictions - whereas removing the labels of "good" and "bad" can be a freeing therapeutic and healing experience.
4) Myth: Recovery from an eating disorder is impossible. Thankfully, full eating disorder recovery happens every day! However, as Brene Brown points out, "Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change." It is very important for you to be aware of which part of you has the microphone in any given moment. Is it your eating disordered self or your true, authentic, spirit-led, healthy self who is yelling the loudest? If it is your disordered eating self, it may be a good opportunity to thank this part of you for trying to protect you, but that today, you are going to allow your healthy self to speak a bit louder. Over time, this part of yourself will grow to appreciate your healthy self and may even integrate fully which allows the healthy you to take full charge. Remind yourself that people with eating disorders recover every day and that one of these recovery stories can be yours!
~8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder
5) Myth: I can only achieve uniqueness through my eating disorder. Some individuals who exhibit disordered eating patterns may think: "I get a lot of attention from my willpower over food. My eating disorder makes me stand out and be different. " It makes complete sense why some individuals would feel this way, however, the fact of the matter is that your food choices and your body are not what make you unique! Beginning to notice your thoughts, understanding that your thoughts may not be true, challenging your thoughts, and replacing them with affirming true and positive statements which override these negative, false thoughts, is one way to approach a new, healthy way of looking at food and how it impacts your body.
~8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder
As I sit down to describe my best friend in words on paper, I realize this is a bigger task than I initially thought it would be. Kind, thoughtful, brave, gracious, safe, trustworthy, loyal. These are just a few words that come to mind. She has a fire in her when talking about something she cares about or defending people she loves. She has been there, through many hard things, many good things, many laughs, and many tears.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder, you may feel as if your eating disorder is, in some way, your best friend. This makes sense for a lot of clients, as their eating disorders have been present in many seasons and chapters in their lives. I have compassion for this association, and absolutely want to address this subject with respect and sensitivity; perhaps looking at a few of the differences between the two may be helpful for your recovery process.
1. Your eating disorder is unsafe and cannot be trusted. When I think of safety, I think of security, shelter, a refuge, being protected. Safety can embody an emotional, physical, and for some, a spiritual meaning. Ask yourself: does my eating disorder really keep me safe in my emotional experiences, or does it increase my dishonesty with myself and those I care about? Another important question to consider: physically, how is my eating disorder affecting my health? Spiritually, am I connected in a way to God (or my higher power) that I desire when I am engaging in behaviors? People who are safe and relationships that are safe lead us back to, instead of away from, ourselves.
2. Your eating disorder is not kind or gracious. I hope that everyone has the opportunity to experience a friend whose loving care is ever-present. Your eating disorder does the opposite and knows how, when, and where to knock you down with self-criticism and judgment. Spend time reflecting on your last eating disorder thought. What do you notice about it? Is it encouraging or critical to you? My guess is the latter…
3. Your eating disorder doesn’t (actually) show up for you. If you have an eating disorder, I can imagine there is already so much suffering going on in your life. If you are experiencing an increase in behaviors or negative thoughts about yourself, your eating disorder is not actually showing up for you; rather, it is only increasing your suffering and keeping you stuck in a cycle of pain. When I compare this concept to my best friend showing up for me (even when I didn’t think or know I needed her), I remember feeling supported and nurtured, rather than feeling worse about myself. When your eating disorder shows up in your life, it is not out of a desire to support you, but to tear you down.
Maybe this is an opportunity to evaluate the types of relationships you desire in your life, beyond your relationship with your eating disorder. My encouragement for you is to process this with a trusted therapist, dietitian, or in group therapy.
Sending you hope,
By: Laura Deneen
We are all looking for answers. Perhaps you are deciding on college next year, in search of a career change, or meditating on ways to live a more meaningful life. If you have taken the step towards recovery from an eating disorder, there is already some form of pursuit of life without this kind of suffering. In the beginning of treatment, it is very normal to seek answers to questions, and to feel as if your questions around the process won’t ever stop. One piece that I think is important to address in this process is the myth that there is a “one stop shop,” so to speak, or a “right way” to recover from your eating disorder. A few things to remember if you have had this thought:
Sending you hope,
By: Christine Snipes
I remember watching a video on social media of a woman mocking how she imagines her anxiety. There is a scene in the kitchen in which she is performing a normal task such as putting away dishes, while a darker, more ominous version of herself is lingering in the background. As she thinks about her upcoming day, her anxiety is simultaneously chiming in with remarks of what could possibly go wrong. I couldn’t help but laugh. But in reality, anxiety is no joke. If you’ve struggled with anxiety, then you know how uncomfortable and sometimes paralyzing it can feel.
For me, anxiety has been a familiar experience. Honestly, there were times when it was like a faithful friend who was merely looking out for me. It made sense. I mean, possibilities are endless, right? So, I felt inclined to consider every “what if” scenario, because somehow that made me feel more in control and prepared to handle whatever curveball life decided to throw.
It was exhausting…
The truth is, fear, which is at the root of anxiety, does serve a purpose. Our fear response is trying to keep us safe, and its job is to let us know when potential harm is coming our way. We need fear. We need it to speak up and let us know when we are in danger. If I’m walking into a busy road with oncoming traffic, then you bet I want fear to speak up and tell me to get out of the way!
Fear becomes a problem when it is holding us back or disabling us from the unknowns when there is no real eminent danger.
We have developed fears that are triggered by experiences representing emotional pain. Our anxieties can also show up as the fear of failure, rejection, abandonment, or not being good enough. Anxious thoughts that arise about similar painful experiences cause people to run for the hills, fight some imaginary beast, or freeze like a deer.
A new opportunity? Anxiety tells me that I may blow it. Fear of failure. Nope. Bye! A new relationship? Anxiety tells me that I’m not good enough, everyone has betrayed me, and true love isn’t possible for me. Why bother. See ya. A new experience that may be fulfilling? Well, my anxiety has already given me every worst-case scenario, so you know it’s better just stay at home – safe and sound. Nothing bad can happen then.
Insert analysis paralysis.
If you’ve struggled with anxiety, I don’t know what your specific fears are. I can tell you that breathing, guided imagery, heart-tapping, and mindfulness exercises can be useful in decreasing anxious thoughts about perceived fearful situations of the future. These techniques help to calm the nervous system while enabling the brain to logically, rather than emotionally, assess a situation. Adopting skills that maintain balance between logic and emotion is essential to finding well-being in everyday life.
With that, there is also a difference between paranoia and intuition. The key to maintaining this delicate balance is searching for evidence and having patience. If your intuition is speaking up, then you can trust that the information that you need will become available to you. Either way, you do not have to make any decision or put yourself in any situation until you’ve gathered enough evidence and information that may give you a “green light” to move forward. What has helped me the most was approaching fear with curiosity rather than attempting to avoid it, shut it down, or distract myself from it. This approach was a total game-changer, because it stopped making fear the enemy. Changing that perspective from enemy to protector helped me have much more compassion and care for that scared part of me.
For instance, imagine the woman in the kitchen facing her fearful counterpart and becoming curious about what she’s afraid of. Then, simply saying “Thank you for looking out for me. I wonder if you could relax and trust me to handle it. I’ve got you.” After all, you can’t transform what you avoid, and it’s never as scary as you think.
By: Laura Deneen
As a little girl, I begged my parents to buy me a new bike that I had my eye on. It was decked out with pink streamers, glitter, training wheels, and a basket in which I could place my finest 5-year old gadgets and toys. As I remember, a few of these toys included a Polly Pocket Watch and my walking pony. Anyway, when I started riding that bike, I felt like I could do anything and be anyone. My twin brother and I raced along the driveway, pedaling as fast as our 5-year old legs could take us. You see, I wasn’t afraid as long as I had my training wheels promising to keep me afloat. One day, I tried riding without the training wheels in the grass. Fortunately, when I fell, the lush grass was a kind rescuer. On days when I was feeling more adventurous, I attempted the pavement. This did not go as well. There were many days when I came home with bruises or a scraped knee.
In the beginning stages of recovery, it may be difficult to follow meal plan, or it may be tempting to go back to eating disorder behaviors. (Like scraping your knee, falling, or not being able to maneuver your bike). Our culture is inundated with diets, restrictive eating, compulsive exercise, and fatphobia, and may be whispering lies in your ear that make it feel easy to abandon your recovery process. However, just like that little girl who was determined to learn to ride her pink bike without training wheels, you can also live in freedom from your eating disorder. “Falling off your bike” ....aka the process of learning what does and doesn’t work in your recovery process is a normal part of this work. What actually matters is that you give yourself the permission and freedom to put your helmet back on (very important) and get back on the bike. From a recovery standpoint, this would look like following your meal plan or eating intuitively (if that is where you are in this process), keeping appointments with your therapist, dietitian, and physician, and reaching out to your support network. Falling off your bike when you are in recovery is a part of the process. Each time you get back on the “recovery bike,” you are not only honoring yourself instead of the eating disorder, but also challenging its roots and loosening its grip on you.
Recently, I took a vacation to the beach and rode my bike everyday with my husband. As I breathed in the salt air, I remembered how much I loved my pink bike with streamers. I also recognize that this metaphor may not resonate with everyone, so I would encourage you to take with you what you can relate to, and to discover what you need to commit to your recovery process.
Sending you hope,
The clinicians of Anchored Counseling Co. are authors of the blog, which includes content on eating disorders and co-occurring issues.