Another word about gratitude from one of staff members...
This Thanksgiving -- Be Grateful But Don't Over Do It.
Carolyn Costin, MFT, recovered herself from anorexia, has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders and exercise addiction for thirty years. Keesha Broome is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. After recovering from anorexia and exercise addiction, she received her Master’s degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University... Read More
Books by Carolyn Costin
This is a book for anyone on the continuum of weight related disorders, from clinically-diagnosed eating disorders to excessive dieting... Read More
In this straightforward reference guide, Costin provides clear, in-depth answers to 100 often-asked questions on a wide range of pertinent topics... Read More
Written for parents whose daughters are caught in the struggle to be thinner, this book includes distinctions between diets and disorders... Read MoreSubscribe in a reader
Another word about gratitude from one of staff members...
This Thanksgiving -- Be Grateful But Don't Over Do It.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we will be sharing some thoughts on gratitude by various staff members. Enjoy this new way to practice your ABC's.
I fall asleep in a positive frame of mind, which effects my sleep, and my life.
Why Having Recovered Staff is Important
(adapted from, “Been There, Done That”, by Criag Johnson and Carolyn Costin, 2008)
Even though some of my best therapists have never had an eating disorder, there are advantages to having at least some staff members who are “recovered” from an eating disorder. It is not recovery alone that I’m drawn to, as I have interviewed many people with an eating disorder history whom I did not hire. I am drawn to someone who has suffered from an eating disorder and made peace with food and body issues and sees their eating disorder as a thing of the past. It is more of a “been there done that, over it,” attitude that I am attracted to in potential staff. “Over it” means being “recovered” rather than “recovering,” or in “recovery.” Recovered staff exude confidence in understanding and challenging eating disorder symptoms while offering hope and inspiration that they can be overcome.
Understanding, Hope and Motivation
Many of our patients, after years of struggling with the illness, are exhausted, defeated and quite hopeless. Staff who have successfully accomplished recovery are often able to quickly establish that one can lead a stable and productive life. Recovered staff members are a concrete representation of the “light at the end of the tunnel,” a living, breathing example that recovery is attainable. Patients consistently report that one of the most important aspects of our programs is the hope and motivation they experience from the staff members who “have been there.
Empathy and Trust
It is difficult for staff members who have had no personal experience with an eating disorder to fully grasp the profound struggle that recovery can pose for individuals. Recovered staff members can empathize authentically with the phobic-like fear of change and the need to take a “leap of faith.” They can discuss this and also offer proof that it can be done.
Many of our patients fear that if others discover the full extent of their thoughts, feelings and actions they will recoil in horror and disgust and/or abadone them. When patients see recovered clinicians being valued and occupying positions of status within treatment programs, it can be powerful. It can send a message that individuals who have had eating disorders can expose these shame-filled aspects of themselves, master them and then use the experience to consolidate a more authentic self system that can be valued by others.
Challenging Narcissism and Grandiosity
Some eating disorder patients wear their illness like badges of honor. Unconsciously, if not consciously, they enjoy the competition and "oneupmanship" around issues of size and shape. This is a subgroup of patients that can often “hook” staff and provoke them into nonproductive dialogue and behavior. Recovered staff who have personally experienced this seem to recognize it sooner and be given greater license by the patients to confront it.
There are also patients who are swamped in despair and hopelessness, becoming so preoccupied with their despair that they begin to drown in it. Staff members who have not experienced this kind of emotional hardship can become too sympathetic and can become immobilized by over identifying with the patient’s sad state, seeing the patient as fragile and tragic. Staff members who have confronted and passed through this process in recovery are usually quick to point out the folly of this way and are less ambivalent about confronting the patient’s immobilization. Patients seem to give more leeway to rcovered staff in confronting self-pity, helplessness, etc. because those staff have actually had to deal with it. The direct or indirect message that gets communicated by recovered staff is, “been there, done that; learned how to manage it and moved on. If I can do it, so can you.”
The traditionally trained, non-recovery staff can sometimes become caught up focusing on the process and underlying dynamics over the need for symptom improvement (i.e. weight gain, abstinence from bingeing and purging, exercise, etc.). Recovered staff members can be exceptionally effective at reminding the team to stay on top fo the patient’s thoughts, actions and feelings.
I strongly believe that all eating disorder patients need to be exposed to individuals who are recovered. They need to actually know and experience that being recovered is possible.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconinc speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Reverend King passionately and poetically called for an end to racism in the United States. Referencing the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation and the United States Constitution he articulated his dream of an America in which people are "not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
In honor of his vision and his legacy, we had the clients at Monte Nido craft their own versions of an "I Have a Dream" speech and then collectively craft one for the group using parts of theirs. Here is that version:
"I have a dream...
That love is the only true power.
That I will give my body food, water, rest and movement all according to what it needs but also want it wants.
That I'll recover from my eating disorder and not relapse.
That no one, children or adults, will go hungry because they can't afford food, and no one will be unable to find affordable housing or affordable treatment for addictions, eating disorders, mental illnesses, or any other illness.
I have a dream...
Of loving myself in my flaws and my talents and vulnerabilities. I have a dream that one day my body, mind and soul will meld together in one heartbeat.
I dream of a world that looks to live by God and not by their own accord.
I have a dream that people value the content of their character over physical appearance.
That someday I'll have dreams and not nightmares.
That I'll be comfortable in my own skin.
And that someday I'll be at peace with myself.
I have a dream, and after that I have a thousand more."
"Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we're free at last." - MLK Jr.
May the brilliant words of Reverend King inspire and empower you to create your own declaration. What do you dream of for your self, your soul, your world?
I came across a blog, recommended by a friend, and through this blog stumbled upon another blog. Now I have plenty of reading to keep me busy. And a lot of inspirational information to keep me engaged. These two blogs were talking about the concept of Happier Hours. These started as a series of gatherings hosted by author Aidan Donnelley Rowley centered aournd female authors whose work inspires growth. The idea being that we can all be happier, if not all of the time, then even just for more moments in each day.
This is the idea that reached out and grabbed me. The thought that today, right now, this minute, I could be happier. I don't have to wait for some event, some magical instant, for happiness to find me. I can not only find, but create it for myself. I can choose what happiness looks like. I can choose to see it and cultivate it in ways big and small. And in doing this for myself, I can model and encourage others to do it for themselves. Imagine a world in which each person is focused on making their days happier. A world filled with happier hours. I can't wait for today's happier hours. I think I'll start now.
Fitting in: changing, growing, shrinking, nipping, tucking, coloring, shading, shadowing, shaving off, adding on something or everything or anything about ourselves in order to fit.
Belonging: to be rightly placed; to inherently know one's place without modification of one's self
These two words are used inter-changeably as if they are synonymous. But often people aspire to fit in when what they really want is to belong.
Brene Brown says that "belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it."
Fitting in becomes a meager, inadequte stand-in for belonging. We change our hair, our bodies, our outfits in an effort to fulfill some deeper desire to be accepted. If only people approve of our outsides, then perhaps they will approve of our insides. But this kind of approval actually prevents true belonging. What must happen instead is that we approve of ourselves from the inside out. We must not only tolerate, but celebrate, who we are - wrinkles, blemishes, insecurities, inadequacies and all.
Brown suggests "because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance."
Seek self acceptance and see how belonging follows. Let your soul self shine, and you will find that suddenly, certainly you will find your right place. You will belong.
The following is Carolyn's response to a recent artcile on the Huffington Post about recovered professionals. The link to the article is included below.Hi All,So as you know I have been speaking up and writing about the topic of being a RECOVERED therapist forever…well …. three decades at least. I was grateful that author Catherine Pearson wrote about the topic of eating disorder therapists with a personal history of an eating disorder. But I did not miss how her recent Huffington Post article was titled "When Your Therapist HAS an Eating Disorder Too…." As if all of us (therapists) discussed in the article, still HAD eating disorders. I actually wrote to Catherine and expressed my concern. The way this topic is often handled brings to mind other examples of therapists who in their life history had illnesses, either psychological or physical, and got over them years ago but end up with a patient who currently suffers from the problem …....like how about, "When your therapist has depression too" or "When your therapist has cancer too." It actually sounds ridiculous if you know the therapist got over their depression or cancer years ago.… It is so very frustrating to me that having an eating disorder and being recovered from it can't be seen the same way. People will say…"Yes but you could relapse" and I understand that, but in the examples above would anyone keep telling someone they had cancer or depression years after the all the symptoms were gone and lab tests were normal????This topic is so old for me that it feels a bit boring, but then I realize that there is a great amount of renewed interest in this area, eg., the academy has a new Special Interest Group devoted to it, and there were talks at the academy conference this year on the topic, and I keep getting people who want me to participate in research on some aspect of therapists who had or have eating disorders. So I do know that is important to keep talking about.Today what I want to do is respond to the belief that thoughts like, "I feel fat," mean that the person can't be recovered from an eating disorder. I often hear people saying they don't use or believe in the term "recovered" because people with eating disorders may stop the symptoms but will always have the thoughts which means they are not FULLY RECOVERED.SO to be clear…. is "I feel Fat" an eating disorder thought ..or a thought that most females and many males will feel especially those living in this culture.I get resentful when being recovered means that one has to respond far beyond normal human capacity to the world we live in.On the other hand, if the thought was, "I want to go throw up my food," or "I don't care if Im 80 pounds I still feel fat," then of course these could be considered eating disorder thoughts.We must be clear here…. being recovered does not mean that one never feels fat or never, ever, over or under eats. People do that, and it is not an illness.Those of us in the eating disorder field need to be clear about what we are expecting from, and where we are leading, our clients. If our plan is to lead them to a place only 1% of humans ever reach, then for sure our "success" rates will be low. Too many people with eating disorders give up trying to recover because they think the goals of recovery are unreachable. We must do whatever we can to dispel that misconception.-Carolyn
We wanted to share a letter we received from a former volunter at our day program, The Eating Disorder Center of California. Her words inspire thought about what it means to recover. Instead of just talking about what someone is recovering from, we often talk to our clients about what they are recovering to. This idea that we can transcend our former selves provides a greater sense of hopefulness and opportunity. How exciting to consider becoming who we are meant to be!
My name is Lindsay Gooze and I am recovered from my eating disorder. I am a graduating senior at UCLA in Women's Studies and I will be entering into an MFT program this fall.
I think your idea that full recovery is possible is phenomenal, and my personal experience supports the idea. However, I have come to believe that although "recovered" is a stronger term than "recovery," it is too weak a word to describe the personal growth that myself and others have experienced after their eating disorder.
I believe that the silver lining, so to speak, of eating disorders is that not only are they protective during stressful life situations, but that the recovery process also enables a great deal of self-exploration and personal growth. This is why I believe that while being "recovered" implies that someone is back to who they were prior to the eating disorder, it does not capture the true potential for self-fulfillment that being recovered allows. I believe that you can completely transcend your eating disorder and instead of returning to the person you were before your eating disorder, you can become the person you were meant to be. Therefore, eating disorder recovery is not just a process of regaining who you once were but transcending adversity and growing past old beliefs about what you are capable of and what you deserve.
I am excited to share this blog from Don Blackwell, a father and fearless supporter of eating disorder awareness, education, prevention and treatment. You can follow his inspirational, touching, informative musings titled "One Dad's Perspectives on Life, Love, Faith and Hope" on Wordpress.
A Little Girl, A BIG Red Balloon and A Radiant Reminder of What Being 'Beautiful" is All About
beau·ti·ful [byoo-tuh-fuh l] (adjective) - possessing qualitiesthat give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc.; delighting the senses or mind.
By now you’ve likely seen the link to the so-called “Dove Experiment” that is making the rounds on social media. Apparently inspired by the mind-numbing statistic that accompanies the post (i.e, that “only 4% of women around the world consider themselves to be beautiful”), the ingenious folks at Dove retained the services of a retired forensic artist to prove a point, namely that women are far more critical of their own appearance, specifically their facial features, than even other women are of them! And, as evidenced by the sketches that resulted when the two groups were asked to describe the same face – and the tears that flowed from those faces when the women were confronted with their “self-harshness” – Dove did just that! The video is quite moving and its implications are profound and important. Respectfully, however, it leaves several important questions unanswered: Where do these negative self-perceptions come from? Against what standards are these women self-evaluating? How do we begin to take steps to ensure that our daughters and other loved ones are not part of a similar “experiment” and shedding those same tears 5 or 10 years from now?
Because here’s the troubling reality: As disturbing as the 4% figure in the Dove piece is – and, make no mistake, it’s deeply disturbing – I believe it also is grossly overstated! The fact is: In my 54 years occupying this planet, I don’t think I’ve ever met a single woman who, if asked, would say that she considered herself to be beautiful – and, over the years, I’ve met (and I continue to meet) many beautiful women. Conversely, if you were to ask women (and, again, I’m talking about 99% (if not 100%) – not just 96% - of all women) if there is a physical feature or characteristic about themselves that they wish they could change, all of them would readily find at least one thing, if not several. Ask them why they would change those things, however, and the response is not likely to be as quick. I know, because I did just that yesterday with a young attorney friend, who recently celebrated her 33rd birthday. She not only is a great person, she is beautiful. And yet, she will tell you she’s one of the 100% (i.e., there are things about her that, given the chance, she would change and she certainly doesn’t “consider herself beautiful”). Ironically, she was the one who insisted that I see the Dove spot. We chatted about it at some length in anticipation of this post and I presented her with the following:
“If I were to go out on the street right now and select 50 men at random – of all shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds and ethnicities – and ask for a showing of hands as to how many of them think you’re beautiful, I am 100% CERTAIN that every hand would go up, without a moment’s hesitation. I’m equally CERTAIN that if I did the same thing in 50 different states and 100 different cities, I would get the same response – with a possible exception or two (allowing for the fact that since the cross-section is completely random, we might stumble upon one or two blind people!).” At this point she was blushing a bit, while simultaneously trying to allow herself to ponder the prospect that I might be speaking the truth. “Here’s what I’d like to know,” I asked: “If I were to do that and the results turned out the way I expect, would it move the needle? Would you be any more likely to consider yourself beautiful?” She paused for a moment and then, ever the honest one, conceded it (and she) wouldn’t! “What then is the standard?” I asked. “Is it other women, because I’m fairly confident they would reach the same conclusion as the men.” “I don’t think so,” she said. “I guess I just compare myself to other women and wish I had some of what they have . . .”
How do we start to move away from all of this – men and women? My cut: We’re looking in the “wrong mirrors” to assess our beauty and, in turn, to define our self-worth. It’s probably easier for me to say and think that, given the fact that I don’t have a chance in the mirror. After all, I have a really BIG HEAD. I’m not talking about big in an egocentric, swollen kind of way. I’m talking about geometrically disproportionate-to-the-rest-of-my-body big. I’m talking about make-a-child-party-hat-look-like-the-size-of-a-snow-cone-cup-on-a-basketball big. I’m talking about don’t-bother-trying-to-buy-me-a-hat-because-it-will-never-fit big. I also happen to be one of the only people on the planet to have been born with an “upside-down” smile. And then there’s the “small” issues relating to my ears (one of which is slightly lower than the other), my legs (one of which is shorter than the other), my eyebrows (one of which is higher than the other) and my shoulders (which, truth be told, are more than a little on the “relaxed” side, as opposed to being squared as I’ve repeatedly been told “they should be”). Bottom line: If studied too closely, I’m a veritable “mess” in the mirror, which probably accounts for the fact that come next year I will be left off of People Magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People” list for what will be the 55thconsecutive time!
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the last person on Earth to trivialize body image issues or the obvious power they have to influence the lives and behaviors of others, especially women. I am, however, convinced that the path to feeling good (okay, I’ll settle for better) about ourselves and, ultimately, to true happiness depends on our willingness and ability to care less about the reflection we see in the bathroom mirror each morning and more about the reflections we create in the sometimes radiant, often tear-filled eyes of those whose lives we touch with gifts that will never be captured by a mirror—gifts of friendship, kindness, trust, compassion, empathy, encouragement, understanding — even the simple gift of our mere presence and our willingness to listen. How can I be so certain? I’m certain because I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to see those reflections dozens of times in my own life—and, not surprisingly, none of them had anything to do with the size of my head, the shape of my smile, the levelness of my ears or the length of my legs. In fact, I saw it again this past Saturday, when I politely arranged for an adorable little girl to get a BIG red balloon at Chick-fil-a! That simple gesture, made anonymously to a complete stranger, led to a smile that lit up the entire restaurant – a smile that reminded me: “You know what, Don, you’re beautiful!” There, I said it . . .
"Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful."
-Thich Nhat Hanh
What if each of us believed, really believed, that our unique smiles contributed to the overall beauty of the world? What if when we looked in the mirror, we saw meaning, purpose and grace? What if we were certain that the world would not be the same, would not be as full, if we were not a part of it?
It is our duty, our responsibility, to love and respect ourselves. We must look at ourselves with gentle, loving eyes. We must speak words of kindess to ourselves. When we start treating ourselves well, we start treating the world well. In loving ourselves, we find that our spirits are lifted, our worries lighter, our perspective more positive. We find smiles replacing frowns and beauty all around.
Today, believe that you are beautiful. Believe that your smile is necessary for the greater good of the world.