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Finding the Balance Between Rigidity and Flexibility

Finding the Balance Between Rigidity and Flexibility

Throughout my life, many people have described me as a “go-getter” type of person. Although that may sound like a positive personality trait, I realized that my “go-getter” personality was infused with other, less helpful, habits such as being overbooked, overstretched, with high expectations for myself that were both overwhelming and unrealistic. I realized that the rigid thinking patterns that I was being praised for created patterns of avoidance and feeling inadequate regardless of what I had accomplished. I realized that although my intention behind the rigidity was to be the best version of myself, those same rigid patterns had inherently impacted my ability to grow as an individual and allow myself to live in the present moment.

As I reflected on my current thought patterns, I also explored the concept of flexibility. Flexible thinking embodies the ability to change direction and adjust to unanticipated circumstances. And although my rigidity served me in many ways, I knew that balance was what I needed to embrace the unpredictability and chaos that life throws at me. 

My experience in incorporating both rigid and flexible thinking patterns into my life got me thinking about how both rigidity and flexibility serve a purpose in recovery. The ability to balance the two incorporates the idea of a recovery mindset that is not possible when falling too close to one extreme. Being able to balance the two means having clear expectations and goals, while also being able to adapt when faced with unforeseeable circumstances. 

Here are 5 journal prompts that you can use to explore balance within your own life:

  1. How do I define success?
  2. What is the difference between feeling panicked and feeling prepared? 
  3. What is the first sign that I have become imbalanced? 
  4. What do I need to let go of that is out of my control today?
  5. What would my day look like if I were more present? 

Regardless of where you fall between rigidity and flexibility, there is always room for continuous growth towards where you want to be. 

Eating Disorders in Older Populations

Eating Disorders in Older Populations

Surprising research shared by Harvard Medical School is highlighting the risk for eating disorders over a lifespan.  While eating concerns were once considered something impacting a more youthful demographic, research continues to shine a light on the impact of eating concerns in those middle aged and older.  

But what would drive an eating disorder to reemerge or even begin as a person ages?

“The importance of body image seems to be a key feature that makes women either return to or start an eating disorder,” says Dr. Bettina Bentley, a primary care physician at Harvard University Health Services. “With aging, many women are also disturbed by the lack of control over the ways their body is changing.”

As we age, our bodies undergo changes that we may find difficulty coping with.  Aging can also bring up unresolved or even new issues surrounding body image. During menopause, women often gain weight, and these changes might make you feel like your body is working against you or is uncomfortably out of your control.   

Interestingly, some researchers are noticing that eating disorders peak for women during critical periods of reproductive hormone change, like puberty, post pregnancy, or menopause.  These fluctuations in hormones, combined with the unique social pressures women face during each of these times of transition, can create a prime environment for an eating disorder to develop in.

While an eating disorder brings immense risk at any age, there are special concerns in older populations.  Women with anorexia are seven times more at risk of a bone fracture than the general population, for example.  Middle aged populations are also more likely to be on medication for chronic conditions, which increases the risk of complications when engaging in disordered eating.  Other unique concerns to this population include an increased risk of pneumonia for those who force themselves to vomit and poor wound healing due to improper nutrition. 

If you find yourself beginning to fixate or feel intrusive thoughts about body image or eating concerns as you age, know that you aren’t the only one!  You are worthy of care at any age, stage, or phase.  If you find your body is changing, you are capable of changing with it, and learning healthy ways to respond to your new needs.  



Body Dynamics

Body Dynamics

This week a client shared her distress and self-judgment around body image concerns rearing their head after years of solid eating recovery and body peace. First, I tried to reassure her that body image concerns does not negate her progress and stability in eating recovery. Then we talked about how (sadly) normal it is to have a resurgence of negative thoughts and fears about our bodies. Our relationships with our bodies are dynamic and ongoing. Sometimes these relationships are harder than other times. When new or familiar body image concerns arise, I try to practice self-compassion and frame this as an opportunity for growth.

In our body acceptance group, Embodied, I invited group members to write themselves a letter from the perspective of their own bodies. If your body could speak to you, what would it say? While I did not share it with the group, I also wrote a letter to myself from the perspective of my body. I will share this letter here in hopes that you may know our journeys with our bodies are always dynamic and growing.

Dear Anna,

I am so grateful for our decades of life and adventure together. I really appreciate all the work you have done to see me, respect me, and love me. It’s meant so much to feel your care back, as I continue to take care of you. I love when you invite me to play. I love how much joy I bring you. I love scaling mountains together and drinking in all the beauty our mother earth offers. I love how you see me as more than your earthly companion; you hold me with so much love and see me as a source of wisdom and growth for you. 

Speaking of growth, I have a wish for you. As we have officially entered middle age, you notice how I am continuing to change. I know you tell me that this change is fine and expected. I also know you say this partly to reassure yourself that we’ll be ok. I know some of my health concerns are hard for you to accept but I appreciate your compassion as you try to be gentle with me and some new limitations. We’ve had to settle into a softer way of being in the world. I can’t operate with fearless abandon anymore and more is required for my recoveries. In this new space, you have noticed I have softened even more around all my edges. 

This is what I want from you at this point in our journey together. I want you to see and recognize that I am your soft place. 

We don’t need a world with more angles and edges. I offer you softness. We have done so many hard things together. And I am sure we will do even more. And now I want to invite you to find respite and comfort in the softness I offer you. 

Consider how your children love my softness. I am their soft home. They gravitate toward me, snuggling into me, sitting on top of me, and smashing their noses into my soft stomach, breathing in the smell of their mother. 

I am your soft home too. 

I know there are parts of my aging that are unwelcome. Like the grey hair you try to hide under blonde highlights. And the annoying paradox of middle age acne. I know as we age and move away from the arbitrary cultural ideal of youth, paired with my increased needs and limitations, it is harder for you to love me as fiercely as you have. 

I want to reassure you that I am still doing my best for us. I am navigating these new changes right along with you. I also want to remind you of what a privilege it is for us to grow older. Aging is a sacred gift and I am offering it to you. Let us age and understand that I continue to be strong for you, not in spite of, but actually IN my softness. 

I look forward to many beautiful years ahead together. 

Always yours,

Your body

If you feel you could benefit from more concentrated relational work with your body, I hope you will join me for our next session of Embodied: A body Acceptance Group. In this community, you will grow in your relationship to your own body as well as connect in healing ways with others who are on similar journeys! I am taking group sign ups this month and hope to hear from you! 

Growth Can Feel Unfamiliar

Growth Can Feel Unfamiliar

The quote “there is no shame in admitting that you were previously speaking from a less informed place” really got me thinking about recovery and the mindset changes needed to embody a space that feels both foreign and full of uncertainty when working towards a place of healing. We often hear the phrase “healing isn’t linear”, and although that is absolutely true, there is much more to healing than what could ever be described as any specific trajectory. 

Getting stuck in one viewpoint, in one narrative, can inhibit your ability to view yourself as a holistic person with a story and background specific to you. Challenge yourself to gain information that will eventually create a broader narrative and aid in your self-confidence, power, and approach needed to influence growth and healing. Whether that means talking to a therapist, reading books specific to your needs, asking your support system for help, or engaging in open and honest self-reflection. And although growth can feel unfamiliar, there is no shame in acknowledging that your current mindset towards your body and/or food will hinder long lasting or attainable work within recovery. 

Broaden your narrative by challenging current unhelpful mindsets and reclaim your ability to navigate your own story. Don’t give your eating disorder the power to hold you back from uncovering new perspectives you could have about yourself, others, and your future. 

Coping With Mortal Bodies

Coping With Mortal Bodies

Coping with mortal bodies

We all live in bodies that will die someday.  (Nothing like starting off this blog post on a high like that, right?!)  

I tend towards a natural disposition of optimism, and as part of that, I shy away from more realistic or pessimistic points of view.  However, when it comes to my body- I find myself leaning into the very certain realities that my body will one day fail.  I will die.  Nothing within my power to control can change that reality.   

I was delighted the other day to stumble upon an article where elderly persons were asked what advice they would give to their younger selves.  Predictably, much of the advice centered around cherishing relationships, straightening out priorities, and the pursuit of education.  None of the advice touched on things I frequently work through with my clients in therapy- themes of needing control over their bodies and appearances, many times, at the detriment to the other priorities in their lives.

While being realistic on what the certain end to our mortal journey will be, I find there is a lot of freedom in the perspective that controlling my body is not the central task of my personhood.  I am a whole person, with a mind that needs enlightening, relationships that need looking after and delighting in, and responsibilities that need attention.  My body is a part of who I am, but in the end, I will likely not be remembered- for better or for worse- by my body.  And I will likely not come to the end of my life wishing I had spent less time in work I was fulfilled by or with people I love and more time obsessing over my calorie count, pant size, or outward appearance. 

Illusions of control

An eating disorder so often can take over your thinking, causing you to grow numb to the reality that your body will be ever changing and fragile, even as you do all in your power to control it.  As part of being human, we are subject to frailties.  The thought that engaging in the strict control an eating disorder will have over your body will not exempt you from this reality.  The feeling of control an eating disorder can provide is in actuality just an illusion.  

Acceptance of what we can’t change

We can’t change the reality that our bodies are meant to age with the passage of time- no amount of botox can stop the process.  I often have clients ask me, “Why would I accept what I can’t change?”  This concept feels like relinquishing control or giving up entirely.  But I have found there is great freedom in the act of acceptance of things we can not change. 

Freedom in acceptance 

It can be helpful in understanding this concept to think first about what the opposite of acceptance is- denial.  When we are denying reality, we stay locked up in the pain and struggle within ourselves.  The ability to look reality squarely in the eye and move forward with acceptance is actually such a radical act of courage. 

Psychologist Christopher Germer suggests that arriving at  true acceptance is a process. He theorized the path to acceptance often happens in this way:

“Step 1: Aversion: We instinctively respond to uncomfortable feelings with resistance, avoidance, or rumination (repetitively reviewing a problem to solve it). You’ll do anything to escape the feelings or situation, or you lay awake at night going over and over it in our mind, without coming to any solutions.

Stage 2: Curiosity:  When aversion and avoidance doesn’t work, you may become curious about your problem. You are very gradually starting to see the issue with more objectivity and clarity. You want to learn more about it; even though you may not like it and you feel anxious. However, when you become curious, you may find your anxiety decreases. You are starting to try to find meaning and learn from the experience.

Stage 3: Tolerance:  In this stage, you begin to be able to tolerate and endure the pain you feel about a situation, even though you still wish it would disappear.  Tolerating means staying with the feeling or situation, rather than avoiding and resisting reality.

Stage 4: Allowing: As your resistance begins to disappear, you can begin letting feelings come and go—much like the tides come in and go out again.  You realize that no feeling lasts forever and you’re able to acknowledge feelings and really feel them.  You allow reality into your awareness, without pushing it away.

Stage 5: Friendship:  In this stage, you value and appreciate your feelings.  They are not something to be avoided anymore. It’s not that you want to feel upset or sad, but you can be grateful for the benefits that a situation brings to your life. Until you reach this stage, it can be very hard to see any benefit to a painful situation” (Germer, 2009). 

As we move away from the denial of the natural changes our bodies will go through and move towards acceptance, there is a very real peace to be found.  And as we make peace with our bodies, we are freed up to pursue lives full of meaning- meaning that we get to be very selective and intentional about!  


Germer, C. K. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. New York:Guilford Press.


A New Perspective on Body Image Concerns

A New Perspective on Body Image Concerns

As I write this blog, I am 37 weeks (9 months) pregnant. I have felt lucky in the sense that pregnancy and motherhood have, for the most part, been incredibly healing for my relationship with my body. I’ve learned to respect and appreciate my body in ways I never did before, and I’ve had some beautiful moments of true body love as my body, and I have worked together to bring my children into the world.

This pregnancy, however, has thrown me more body image curveballs than I’ve had to deal with in years. My capacity to respect and honor my body as it has changed and expanded (and expanded, and expanded!) has been challenged. For the past nine months, I’ve felt pretty grumpy in my body. I’ve felt frustrated with the physical discomfort, exhaustion, and limitations brought on by this pregnancy. I’ve officially outgrown some of my maternity clothes, and choosing outfits has sometimes felt stressful. At times, I’ve felt very uncomfortable with my body’s appearance, and haven’t loved seeing photos of myself or catching my reflection in the mirror.

Even though the physical and emotional discomfort with my body has felt challenging at times, I’ve also felt increased commitment to being kind to my body during this time. For me, kindness has meant getting as much rest as I can, continuing to feed my body the foods and portions that taste and feel good, and slowing down significantly on physical activity. I’ve also chosen to step on the scale backwards at all of my doctor’s appointments, because I know that being aware of my weight has the potential to make it harder for me to fulfill my intentions to care for my body’s needs. My body is softer, rounder, fleshier, and probably heavier than it has ever been. Even though these changes have made body image more of a challenge, being patient with and kind to my body is more of a priority now than it ever has been.

I share all of this for a couple of reasons. First, I want to normalize body image struggles. I am a licensed therapist who specializes in supporting clients with eating disorders and body image concerns. Generally, my body image is pretty good! And, I am not immune to occasional body image woes of my own. I have enjoyed full recovery from my own eating disorder for years, and I still have some ups and downs with body image. If you have body image struggles, know you’re not alone. (An important note: I do live with body privilege because of my body type. My privilege doesn’t exempt me from body image struggles but is a factor in how I and the world around me experience my body.)

Second, it’s important to acknowledge that body image struggles can exist alongside respectful, caring treatment of our bodies. Yes, you can feel uncomfortable with your body’s appearance, AND you can choose to continue to take care of your body. You can feel upset by how your body looks, and not try to force it to change. It’s possible to feel multiple ways about your body at the same time. Mixed feelings about your body are to be expected because having a body is an inherently complex experience. Here are a few of the mixed feelings I’ve had about my body during this pregnancy:

I don’t really like how my pregnant body looks sometimes. I’m also awestruck by the amazing feats my body is capable of.

I feel frustrated that my body is uncomfortable, in pain, and exhausted. I also know my body is doing her best for me and for my baby.

Part of me wishes to be in a smaller body. I am also committed to nourishing and respecting my pregnant (and postpartum body), even if I don’t love how it looks.

Sometimes the harder parts of “mixed feelings,” the ones that lead you to criticize yourself and feel like you need to change your body, are easier to notice than the kind, accepting parts. If you are struggling with your body image, and feeling the pull of dieting or disordered eating, please remember that you don’t have to go there. You can remind yourself that your body is doing amazing things for you, constantly, and deserves your respect and care. You don’t have to love how your body looks in order to be kind to it. You can be struggling with your body image, and still remain committed to recovery and body respect. Body image can be full of challenges, but it doesn’t have to pull you off track in your recovery.

Lessons From My Mental Health Journey

Lessons From My Mental Health Journey


I was so grumpy. I hated the world and everyone in it. It was grey, and dark outside and I felt the same inside. My children were grating my nerves, and my husband couldn’t do anything right. I wanted everyone to go away and be left alone with my self-loathing.

I knew I could turn to my “toolkit” for help with my mood, but I resisted. Sometimes I just want to let the storm rage rather than rally the strength required to quell it.  

Hours later, reluctantly, and almost angrily, I decided to try one the strategies that had helped me in the past. I started looking through my camera roll at happy memories from the last year and started writing a gratitude list. It took about 30 minutes, but I felt better. 

I’m NOT about to give you an advertisement on the power of coping strategies. I have a love -hate relationship with coping strategies as much as my clients do. I share this experience because I want you to know I was surprised at how well this strategy worked for me in this moment. This usually isn’t the case. Coping strategies are important elements in our wellness toolkits but they are often disappointing. Coping strategies are exactly that…ways to cope. They aren’t strategies to produce miracles. 

Because mental illness doesn’t like to play by rules or respond perfectly to “formulas.” We can always do things to help ourselves in difficult emotional spaces…but the degree to which those emotional spaces change in response to our efforts, varies from time to time.

Sometimes we can overcome mental illness. And sometimes, perhaps more often than we want to talk about, mental illness is something we manage

For me, this is my on-again, off-again relationship with depression. 

Depression entered my life when I was a young teenager, but I would not understand it as depression until much later. I interpreted it as teenage heartbreak and body self-loathing. It wasn’t until I recovered from my eating disorder that I saw depression quietly abiding beneath and I was able to name it.

Medication and therapy changed everything. Later, in graduate school, I successfully went off my antidepressants and sustained my “recovery” from depression. I was doing well. I was hopeful that depression was a thing of my past, part of my broody teenage, young adult life. I believed the dogged optimism I inherited from my father, paired with the valuable skills I learned training as a psychologist, was everything I needed to leave depression behind. 

That’s not how my life progressed. At this point, I honestly can’t count the number of depressive episodes I’ve had. Sometimes they last months and months. One episode, postpartum, lasted two years. And then sometimes depression visits only for days, which technically means it doesn’t qualify as an “episode” but is painful nonetheless.

Each experience with depression varies by degree and intensity. Sometimes the episode is so subtle that it’s not until the depression lifts that I realize I was depressed at all. Other times the darkness is so visceral and consuming it is physically painful.

I have done a lot of work to understand my experience with depression and my relationship to it. In my 20s, when I was between depressive episodes, I lived in constant fear, wondering when the next episode would come. That is no longer my experience. 

I am not afraid of my depression anymore. I still hate it, but I know how to manage it. I know how to take care of myself when it comes knocking and decides to stay for a while. 

When I recognize it, I let depression help me grow. It stretches me, and it increases my compassion for others. It connects me to the humanity all around me as we each fight our own battles. Depression forces me to slow down, prioritize, and live more gently in this chaotic world. It forces me to plunge depths I don’t want to explore, but when I emerge, I am more deeply appreciative of the light. If I let depression be my teacher, it sure helps the visit pass more tolerably. 

Sometimes, depression just sucks. Part of managing mental illness can be letting myself ride the waves without having to tell myself “This is great because I’m learning to swim!” Sometimes I just feel dark, alone, scared, and broken. And that’s ok too. Those feelings, like all, will ebb and flow and I don’t always have to paint them pretty or make them meaningful. 

In summary, here’s what I’ve learned from my personal experience: Mental health matters. But mental health doesn’t always look or feel like what we expect. Sometimes mental health is full recovery. Sometimes mental health is resiliency. Sometimes mental health is growing through pain. Sometimes mental health is being gentle with ourselves in the torment.

Colder Weather and Mental Health

Colder Weather and Mental Health

As the weather changes and winter begins, many of us find ourselves adjusting and staying indoors in effort to avoid the cold temperatures. Although there is comfort in that, there is also value in getting outside and honoring your mental health throughout the winter season. When the daylight becomes shorter and the temperatures drop, you may find yourself needing to challenge your current habits to create a healthier mental make-up throughout the season.

Find ways to celebrate winter and express gratitude for the season while it is here. Being in the sun increases the release of a hormone called serotonin in your brain that can aid in mood regulation and the regulation of your circadian rhythm. Making changes to your daily routine can assist you in avoiding a decrease in serotonin levels and a change in mental soundness.

Here are 5 things that you can do to explore honoring your mental health throughout the season:

  • Bundle up and get outside. Whether you go on a hike, engage in winter activities such as sledding and skiing, or take a walk around your neighborhood. 
  • Open your blinds and sit by the window. Enjoy the sun within the comfort and warmth of your home.
  • Keep your social relationships active and stay connected. Plan a get together with coworkers, friends, or family, and engage with your ability to connect throughout the season.  
  • Enjoy a warm beverage to celebrate the colder weather. Try the new holiday flavors and get a taste of the winter season.
  • Get on a sleep schedule that is compatible with your needs. Not getting enough rest hinders your ability to perform daily tasks and keep up with your mental and physical well-being. 

If you find yourself experiencing symptoms that are heavy and overwhelming as the weather changes, seek out a therapist that can support you in working towards a healthier mental make-up.