From Emma Watson’s nude threat to abusive YouTube comments

This re-blog is a bit outside the realm of my usual commentary, but I think it’s important, and highly relevant. The cultural context within which our bodies live has a huge potential to impact our relationships with ourselves, and the ways others perceive the embodied female form (or male, for that matter). The more the female body is objectified and/or disrespected in the public eye, the more likely those beliefs are to leach into women’s relationships with their own bodies, or other’s attitudes towards them.

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“Stolen celebrity nudes are, by definition, not consensual. Someone who looks at them is complicit in the abuse — he is looking at something released explicitly against the will of the person depicted. That’s bad behavior. It’s also scary behavior. Because if someone doesn’t care about consent in that context, where else might he decide it doesn’t matter?”

via From Emma Watson’s nude threat to abusive YouTube comments: why women aren’t safe on the internet | The Verge.

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Female Athlete Triad

Spoiler warning: this article is written by a nutritionist who’s focused on helping people achieve a very specific lean body type. This is not me advocating a focus on that body type, and some of the language in this article may be offensive or triggering to some people who are working to decrease their focus on achieving a certain figure. Why am I posting it, then? Because I know far too many women (and men!) who think that they’re “being healthy” by restricting and over-exercising, and this is a really good explanation of why that’s profoundly not true.

Just ask your bones.

Precision Nutrition » Fitness & menstrual health: How to stay lean, healthy, and fit while maintaining your period..

What does gaining weight mean?

So, I just read the following, written by another therapist whose work I really respect. It mirrors many conversations I’ve had this week about “What happens when you gain weight?” She writes: “Instead of just trying to answer this question, try closing your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and feel the answer. Imagine yourself gaining weight…what do you imagine? Feel it. You likely imagine being teased, or rejected, or a desire to isolate. What would happen if you were rejected or teased or isolated? You would be alone, right? And if you were alone, how would you feel? Sad? Hurt? You might even feel unloved or unlovable. So if we follow this feeling back to the original fear and connect the two… your fear of gaining weight is really a fear of being unloved!” via The Link Between Love and Eating Disorders, Part 3 |.”

Because actually, the only thing that gaining weight means is that you’ve gained weight. If you are actually, medically, objectively overweight, that means only that. Your body is carrying extra weight. Period.

What makes the difference, and changes everything, is what we believe about what that weight means. There are certainly many culturally available meanings for us to latch onto about what thinness means, that one can “never be too skinny”, that fat represents laziness or lack of intelligence (it pains me to even write these things, but I’d be fooling myself if I thought they weren’t already in your mind), and many families and communities actively subscribe to these beliefs and teach them to their children. Fundamentally, all of these messages are about worth and goodness. So it’s far too easy for someone with fears about their own worth and goodness to latch onto the idea that if they can just control their weight, they will be worthy and loved. That’s why some people get eating disorders and some don’t (well, one of the reasons). It’s the vulnerability in terms of fears about worth and acceptance that can turn fat fear into a religion for some, and the relative security of attachment that allows others, exposed to the same messages, to get by relatively unscathed.

What really sucks, like, big time, is that when you’re driven by those beliefs, you feel better when you lose weight, and feel worse when you gain weight because of what you think those things mean and how that influences your behavior, which then provides you with “evidence” that the beliefs are true. For example, back when I was a weigh-yourself-every-freaking-minute lady, I would frequently notice that I received more compliments on “skinny days” (we’re talking ounces of difference here), which I took as reinforcement for my beliefs, never considering that it was the happiness and confidence fueled by my beliefs about that day’s number that were changing people’s perception of me, and the likelihood that I would be liked or loved.

This means something interesting in terms of recovery or changing patterns. If you want to change your relationship with your body, and hence your relationship with food, you have to change your relationship with yourself, and address your fears about your own worthiness or “ok-ness” as a human. It’s possible to make a great deal of progress in letting go of food and weight obsession without ever discussing food or weight because that’s not what at’s the core of the problem. Disordered eating is a symptom of a disordered relationship with the self. Sure, you’ve got deeply ingrained food and exercise habits that need to be actively addressed, but if you don’t work on your fears about what fat means, progress is limited. SO, think about it. What do you believe it would mean if you gained weight? If you’re currently living in a body larger than is healthier for you, what do you believe that means? The answers to those questions are a really excellent starting place for making change because if you can address those fears head on, in the ways that they have nothing to do with food and your body, you’ve got a fighting chance at normalizing your relationship with food once and for all.

Like, actually.

Recovering from anorexia on a health-obsessed campus : The Daily Collegian

A colleague recently shared this piece with me, written by a student at a local college, and it resonated with me and is right in line with a lot of conversations I’m having with clients this fall, who arrive at my office unsure why they are diagnosed with an eating disorder and “have to stop” when many of their peers, especially in the privacy-free dorm setting, are so obviously engaged in the same behaviors, but are not being labeled/diagnosed or sent to treatment.

What I say to these folks, and what I’m saying to you if this rings true, is: if they’re doing what you’re doing, then they’re doing just as much damage to their health and psyches as you are. The eating disordered part of your mind may be crying “Unfair!” and wishing to use this as evidence that your behavior is normal and need not be changed. But the reality is, if you ended up in my office, or in another office being “diagnosed” then your suffering at the hands of your own choices was apparent enough to you or to another person that your functioning could hardly be considered normal. Average and normal are very different things! Your undiagnosed, untreated friend who is restricting, binge eating, purging, over-exercising or abusing laxatives is not the lucky party – you are. You are being offered a chance to heal your relationship with your body and with food such that extreme and damaging behavior no longer feels like the only possible path to ok.

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“I recall my therapist at the time describing the situation like that of a recovering alcoholic taking up a bed in the local bar. The temptation to relapse was evident from day one. After all, I could be certain nobody was monitoring my behaviors – if anything, UMass seemed to be providing the very tools I needed to fuel an all-consuming focus on health.”

via Recovering from anorexia on a health-obsessed campus : The Daily Collegian.

Eating Disorder Recovery Skills Group Forming

Hi, folks – I’m putting together an eating disorder recovery skills group at my office in South Hadley, MA. The group will begin on Sunday October 5th, and will run on Sundays at 1pm until the first week of December. 
 
This group will be insurance-based (students with a referral will not have a copay if they have their college’s insurance); interested clients should contact me directly at kwaggoner@jameslevineassoc.com so that I can arrange for an initial screening, which will be a brief phone call to assess acuity and appropriateness, but basically if you’re at an outpatient level of care you’re probably going to be fine to join. Current clients need not go through a screening – just let me know you’re into it and I’ll sign you up.
 
If your insurance does not have a group benefit, the self-pay rate for the group is $20 per group. Clients may NOT attend on a drop-in basis. Although obviously if someone calls out sick with 24 hours notice I’m not going to yell. The age cut off for joining is 18, with no upper age limit. The group will run as long as I have a 5 person minimum, and I’m going to cap it at 15. Thanks!
 
– Katharine 

Jedi Mind Trick #1

I had a recent request from a current client to make this available, so here goes:

How do we get ourselves to do things? Motivation or lack thereof, procrastination, stagnation, and lack of inspiration are frequent topics of discussion in my office. Many factors can influence these internal forces that propel us or hold us back, including depression, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, fear, or a history of failures (perceived or objective). Or all of the above. 

There’s something particularly crazy making about knowing you want to make a change or start a project or finish a project, knowing how much better you’ll feel once you’re actually engaged in making it happen, knowing how solid the finish will be in terms of your sense of self… And then just sitting there. And sitting there. 

I have certainly experienced these kinds of soul-crushing (really, it’s not an exaggeration, it feels really, really bad) stalemates (known as problems with behavioral activation in the biz), particularly in the early stages of my recovery (that’s, like, a decade long early stage, just in case you were going to start judging yourselves people), and unwinding the motivation and keep on going riddle for myself was a major breakthrough in my ability to move forward and keep moving.

So, what do I do when faced with a change or a task I feel paralyzed about? I start. 

Now, please don’t yell at me. I know that sounds like a really mean and b@#chy thing that someone without these troubles would say to you. “Just start! It’ll be great”.

The problem is that that’s what you have to do. After years of my parents and therapist and guidance counselor trying to jolly me into just taking the first step, which, may I add, did not work, I came up with my own strategy, rather by accident.

The first glimpse of the power of starting happened for me during a month long hospitalization when I was 19, and on a year off before college because no one felt that I was well enough to take on that challenge and my weight had dipped down to a scary place I don’t like to think about anymore.

We had these little paper menus to fill out every day, and everything on the list of options was something I would, at that point, never have considered eating outside of a binge/purge cycle. It was terrifying. In fact, it was so terrifying that my mind broke. I literally could not engage in the activity from my mind in the place that it was. But, that’s when the magic happened. I discovered that I could do it anyway. If I cleared away the rubble of fear and did the first thing, which was to pick up the pencil, and then circle a selection of foods that a person would maybe eat, and then if I sat at the table and put them in my mouth, it happened. It had happened. It was happening. It was crazy. It was like a Nike commercial.

Now, I know that this is subtle. But, essentially, the way this mind trick works is that you gently explain to yourself that the action that needs to occur is inevitable. It’s going to happen. So, you might as well start now rather than go through a whole bunch of mental torment and then start, which is the same result just more unpleasant. Once you’ve pulled off this little bit of self-trickery a few times, and experienced the total rush that is discovering that YOU DID IT! it starts to become more intuitive, and to seem like a pretty good idea.

The way I use this skill in my life now is to use my mindfulness net of awareness and notice when I feel resistant to doing a task. The minute I catch myself in that experience, I make the feared/avoided thing the very next thing I do. It’s a muscle that takes exercising, but the more you train yourself in this methodology, the more success it will bring you and the more likely you will be to pull it out of your back pocket the next time.

Now, go try it. Like, now. Right now. You only have to do the first thing. The rest will follow.