My Body Is a Wonder, and So Is Yours

My Body Is a Wonder, and So Is Yours

Recently, I was watching my 9-month-old baby as he played on the floor. Laying on his back, he held his hands up in front of his face, staring at them intently. I watched him clasp and unclasp his hands, clap, stretch his tiny fingers, twist and turn his pudgy wrists, seeming captivated by the movement of his own little body.

What would it be like for each of us to notice our bodies with wonder and curiosity? What would change if we could see our bodies with fascination and awe, instead of with criticism and disdain?

There have been some monumental moments in my life in which I’ve felt profound wonder towards my body. Seeing my body change through pregnancy, witnessing its power through childbirth, and feeling it heal from significant injuries have all been experiences that have made me acknowledge how astounding my body is. There are also many, many everyday moments in which I can’t help but be fascinated by my body. Over the years, I’ve tried to develop a habit of paying more attention to my body as it does everyday things. As I’ve done so, I’ve connected with a truth about my body that grows more meaningful and deeply felt as time goes on: my body is a wonder. 

I find wonder in my body as I sit on the floor and stretch before bed. Each movement of my limbs is the result of the complex mechanics of muscles, tendons, and ligaments working together.

I find wonder in my body as my fingers type this blog post. My fingers tap the keyboard with rapid, reflexive, fine-tuned movements that I create consciously but that also feel automatic and intuitive. How many neural pathways in my brain are firing at once as my fingers type?

I find wonder in my body as I stare out the window. There are six extraocular muscles that surround each of my eyes and control their movement. Those muscles contract and relax automatically, letting my eyes move and change focus from the window pane in front of me to the tree across the street. I don’t tell my pupils when to dilate, but they do, responding seamlessly to changes in the light around me. As my pupils allow in light from the outside world, photoreceptor cells on my retina turn that light into electrical signals, which travel through my optic nerve and to my brain, where my brain creates and interprets images. And that, somehow, is how sight works. (I had to look all this up, by the way. https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/healthy-vision/how-eyes-work)

I am fascinated and amazed by my body! Even as she ages, and even with her weaknesses, she is a wonder. 

Not all moments in our bodies are filled with awe and amazement. Sometimes, having a body can be difficult, painful, frustrating, or embarrassing. Regardless, I believe there is healing to be found in acknowledging the truly amazing things our bodies–of all ages, sizes, and abilities–are constantly doing for us. Noticing the wonders your body is working can be a piece of finding greater peace in your relationship with your body.

How to Stop Binge Eating: A Place to Start

How to Stop Binge Eating: A Place to Start

Being stuck in binge eating can feel like torture. The physical discomfort and pain, the guilt, shame, and frustration, and the dread of the aftermath of a binge can feel awful. The good news is it’s possible to stop binge eating and start feeling more at peace with food. If you’re struggling with binge eating, this blog post is for you.

First, a little bit of transparency. Our integration team at Balance Health and Healing does a lot of research to help the information we share get to the people who could benefit from it. As part of that research, they found that one of the most searched-for phrases from our audience is “How to stop binge eating at night.” I share that so that if you’re reading this post looking for support on how to stop binge eating, you’ll know that you’re not alone. Binge eating is a struggle that many, many people are trying to overcome. Even though binge eating is a common struggle, it still carries a lot of stigma. Many who are dealing with binge eating feel shame talking about their behaviors, even within the eating disorder recovery community. I hope we can change that by shedding light on some of the reasons why binge eating happens and how to find healing.

Let’s dive right in. My primary recommendation if you are struggling with binge eating:

Eat more food.

That seems VERY counterintuitive, right? I know. But hear me out. If you are struggling with binge eating, there is a high likelihood that you actually need to eat more regularly and consistently in order to stop binge eating. One of the most common cycles of binge eating I hear about as a therapist is the binge-restrict cycle. If you binge, you might feel guilty or panicked and start trying to eat less to “make up” for the binge. In reality, that restriction primes your body for more bingeing. Your body is wired to protect you from starvation. If you restrict your eating, your body will sense that it needs to eat more food more quickly than usual the next time food is accessible. Even though it can feel very difficult to eat consistently after a binge, one of the most helpful things you can do is continue eating meals and snacks and include a variety of foods. Eating enough and eating consistently might feel overwhelming when you are already feeling guilty about bingeing, but feeding your body adequately throughout the day is key if you want to break out of the binge-restrict cycle.

Another recommendation for stopping binges:

Actively manage your stress.

Even though binge eating ends up feeling awful, it often starts off as a way to try to feel better. Eating is soothing, and it’s supposed to be. From the time we are infants, eating is a source of physiological soothing and comfort. If binge eating is serving as a coping mechanism for stress, it makes sense why! Bingeing is not about lacking self-control. It’s more likely about not having adequate ways to cope with distress. Finding other ways to help your body manage stress can help you stop bingeing. Make a list of three to four simple, easy-to-do coping strategies that you can use when you notice yourself feeling stressed. Having this list ready to go before you need it can help you choose a different way to manage your stress when you’re feeling the urge to binge. Here’s an example of the kind of coping skills list I mean:

  1. Dance in my room to a high-energy song
  2. Step outside my apartment and spend 5 minutes looking at the sky and breathing
  3. Lay on the floor in my room and stretch

Binge eating, whether on its own or in combination with other symptoms of disordered eating or body image distress, is complex. The suggestions in this post represent just a small piece of things that might help you find healing from binge eating. Working with a therapist and a dietitian to explore other factors in your binge eating (like nutrition, metabolic factors, trauma, mood disorders, relationship struggles, and other factors) can also be helpful. Wherever you are on your path to healing, I hope you’ll know that it is possible to stop binge eating, and there is hope for things to feel better!

Navigating Recovery While In a Relationship: Part 2

Navigating Recovery While In a Relationship: Part 2

Welcome to part 2! Here are some more answers to common questions I get about navigating eating disorder recovery while in a relationship. While these answers probably won’t feel like a perfect fit for your individual situation, I hope you’ll be able to draw some ideas and support from this post!

Q: How do we keep the eating disorder/recovery from taking over our lives? It feels like that’s all we talk about!

A: Eating recovery should be a big priority in your relationship, but it can’t be the only priority!

  • Have fun together, go on dates often, and make some time for some activities that don’t involve food. Recovery can be hard work for both of you and setting aside time for fun is important.
  • Commit to keeping your partner in the loop. More consistency in communication will help your partner feel they don’t have to check on you all the time.
  • Keep getting to know each other outside of the emotional work of recovery. Ask each other questions about your hopes and dreams for the future. Ask specific questions about successes and struggles in each others’ lives that aren’t connected to the eating disorder. Whether you’ve been together a short time or a long time, it’s important to keep deepening your connection by being a part of each others’ inner worlds!

Q: How do I ask my significant other for help when I’m struggling with my eating disorder? I feel ashamed, and I don’t know how to bring up the fact that I’m having a hard time.

A: Reaching out for help can feel intimidating for a lot of reasons. Some practical ways to get the conversation started:

  • Write out what you want to say before you say it. It’s okay to lean on a script for support. Try to be specific about what the struggle is, and give an example of what might help. Your therapist can support you in finding what you need to express. For example, “I need your support. I’m struggling with ____ (eating disorder behavior or thought). One way you could help me is ____.”
  • Remember that struggling sometimes is normal! There are zero people who go through recovery without needing extra support sometimes. Asking for help when you need it is a good thing for both your relationship and your recovery. It’s healthy to be direct about what you need.

Q: I’ve been secretive about my eating disorder, and now my partner has a hard time trusting me. How can we rebuild trust?

A: Acknowledging that trust has been broken is the first step. Now you can set the intention to rebuild trust.

  • Rebuilding trust takes specific, deliberate action. It won’t just happen on its own. If you can make a structured plan for accountability and honesty moving forward, you can take steps toward rebuilding trust. See my other blog post (part 1) for details about making a specific plan for checking in with each other.
  • Allow your partner space to talk about their feelings. If they’re feeling hurt, angry, or frustrated about an aspect of your recovery, the best way through those difficult emotions is to talk about them together. These conversations might be heavy and will require significant courage and trust from both of you. Getting support from a couples therapist can help you as you work through the emotional aspects of recovery. 

I know we haven’t even scratched the surface on how complex recovery and relationships can be, but hopefully, this can be a place for you to begin. I hope you’ll remember this: asking for support in your relationship and FOR your relationship is an important part of moving forward in recovery. 

Navigating Recovery While In a Relationship: Part 1

Navigating Recovery While In a Relationship: Part 1

An eating disorder can impact every facet of life, especially the relationships that matter most to you. If you are in a romantic relationship, and have an eating disorder, there have likely been some difficult conversations about how your ED impacts your relationship, and vice versa. Even though it’s challenging, navigating through eating recovery while in a relationship can also bring depth and strength to both your recovery and your connection with your partner.  

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be answering some common questions about handling different aspects of recovery while in a relationship. Let’s dive in!

Q: How do I help my significant other understand my experience with my eating disorder?

A: It can feel really hard to explain the experience of an eating disorder to someone who has never had one themselves. Here are a few thoughts that might help:

  • Don’t stress about explaining yourself perfectly or getting a complete understanding from your significant other. Gaining understanding is a process, and will take time and experience together. Remember that you and your partner don’t have to understand each other perfectly in order to give and receive meaningful support. 
  • Invite them to join a therapy session with you. Talk with your therapist about the possibility of inviting your partner to join a session occasionally. Your therapist can support you in explaining how you’re feeling, and in addressing concerns that you and your partner might have about recovery.
  • Share part of a journal entry with your partner, then talk about it together. Sometimes sharing something you’ve written down can be a starting point for a conversation about how you’re feeling.

Q: How can my significant other support me without smothering me?

A: It makes sense that you need both support and space from your partner as you work through recovery. You can’t do recovery alone, but your partner also can’t make recovery happen for you by watching your every move. Some tips for balancing support and space in your relationship:

  • Make a structured plan for checking in with your significant other about recovery. Schedule the times you’ll check in, and make an agenda for what you’ll talk about. 
    • For example:

Check-in every night at 9:30
1. Be accountable for any ED behaviors from the day.

  1. Share a recovery victory that happened today.
  2. Make a plan for any challenges coming up tomorrow.

Scheduling daily or weekly check-ins can help you and your significant other stay connected, without feeling like you have to constantly be talking about the eating disorder and nothing else. Let the schedule of your check-ins do the work of starting the conversation.

  • Share your treatment goals with your partner, and involve them where possible. Tell your partner what you’re working on with your dietitian and your therapist. If your partner has no idea what’s happening in your recovery, they are more likely to feel like they have to monitor your every move. If you feel like you’re being watched or babysat, you’re likely to feel frustrated and irritated. On the other hand, if you can share what your goals are, and specific ways your partner can help with those goals, you can get support without feeling suffocated.

Q: Won’t talking about my eating disorder just make my partner feel worried and stressed?

A: This is a very common concern that can feel really complicated. A few things to remember:

  • Communicating consistently about your recovery is likely to be more helpful than harmful. Your partner is likely to worry more if you don’t talk consistently about how things are going.
  • You are not responsible for managing your partner’s worry or stress. It’s up to them to ask for support from you or from others as they manage their own emotions and needs. Allowing your partner to feel their emotions and seek needed support is a healthy way to manage challenges in a relationship. Likewise, your partner should not assign you responsibility for their emotions.
  • Sometimes worry and concern can be helpful to your recovery and relationship. If your partner is genuinely expressing concern, that may be valuable feedback that can support your recovery process.

Tune in to my next blog post for more Q and A on relationships!


Your First Therapy Session

Your First Therapy Session

So, you’re feeling like you might be ready to try working with a therapist. You’re not sure how it will go or what to expect. You’re wondering if talking to someone about your struggles will actually be helpful. What happens if you don’t like your therapist? Or what if talking about your struggles starts to feel overwhelming?

If you’re having any of these thoughts as you consider starting therapy, I want to reassure you that you’re definitely not alone! It makes sense that coming in for your first therapy session can feel a bit intimidating. As a therapist, I’d say that most people feel some nervousness about coming into therapy for the first time. In this blog post, I’ll share my answers to a few of the questions I often hear from people about what to expect from a first therapy session. If you’re thinking about starting therapy, I hope you’ll find something helpful here!

What will my first therapy session be like?

Many therapists will have you fill out a simple questionnaire before your appointment, so they have a bit of information about why you’re wanting to come to therapy before you meet with them. When you first sit down together, your therapist might talk about privacy and confidentiality, and might explain some of the office policies. They might ask you about what made you decide to set an appointment, and what circumstances in your life are relevant to what you want to talk about in therapy. Your therapist might also work with you to set some specific goals for what you hope to get out of therapy. Your first session is also a chance for you to ask your therapist any questions you have.

What should I do to prepare for my first session?

Having some notes on what you’re needing from therapy can be helpful. Same goes for any questions or concerns you’d like to bring up with your therapist. There’s really nothing “required” for the first session except for the paperwork the therapist’s office sends you before your appointment (consent and privacy information, your payment agreement, contact information, etc.,). Having your paperwork filled out before your appointment will help you have all the session time available for talking with your therapist. Planning ahead to get to your therapist’s office a few minutes early can also help you feel less rushed and stressed.

What do I do if I don’t like my therapist?

I can’t speak for all therapists, but I like to let my clients know that it’s important to me that they find a therapist who feels like a good fit for their needs. If someone legitimately feels I’m not a good fit for them, I fully want them to let me know so I can either make adjustments to meet their needs better or support them in finding a therapist who feels like a better fit. You always have permission to do what feels right for you, including bringing up concerns with your therapist, or finding a therapist who feels like a better fit.

What if therapy feels too overwhelming?

Therapy is not always easy. In fact, most of the time, it can be a challenging experience. I know this firsthand as a therapist and someone with lots of experience going to therapy myself! Talking with a stranger about the most difficult parts of your life can be hard. Ideally, your therapist will help you go at a pace that is challenging, but not completely overwhelming. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can talk with your therapist about what you’re experiencing.

Starting therapy can take a lot of courage! I know I am biased, but I am a firm believer that therapy can be an incredibly helpful experience. You deserve to find the support you need, and I hope this blog post is helpful to you!