Happy Thanksgiving!

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As Thanksgiving approaches, now is a good time to increase your mindfulness in taking care of yourself daily and especially through the holiday season.

Some experience holidays as joyous, cheerful times to connect with family and friends. Others experience the holiday time as tense, sad and depressing. And of course, there is the huge spectrum that exists between those two experiences. But generally speaking, holiday times are usually replete with emotion. Likely, a mix of emotions.

Whatever your experience is, it is up to you to honor it. Absent of judgment. With connection and with consciousness.

And the food… when thinking of Thanksgiving food, we oftentimes conjure up images of large tables overflowing with food. For those struggling with eating disorders, or who have a more complicated relationship with food, it will undoubtedly trigger anxiety, fear and overwhelm.

When you approach this holiday season, and the many mealtimes throughout, slow down. Become mindful. Check in with yourself and notice how you are feeling both emotionally and physically. Continue to check in with yourself throughout the day, the meal, the holiday. Take a time-out if you are feeling overwhelmed. Confide in a family member, significant other or a friend. Text someone. Stay in touch with someone who knows what is going on for you and assure yourself that you are not alone.

Become curious about which emotions you honor and which you tend not to. Become curious about when you choose to honor your hunger and satiety and when you choose not to. And above all, have a meaningful Thanksgiving and make sure to give gratitude to yourself!


You’re pregnant?!?! Seriously?!?!

I have contemplated writing this blog post for months. At nearly 7 months pregnant, people continue to be in disbelief that I’m pregnant. In person, on Facebook and wherever else people have told me how great it is that I’m carrying so small, I’ve been gracious and said “thank you” while internally, these questions began making me feel badly about the size and shape of my belly. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with my pregnancy or the baby (everything is fine) and wondered why the tone in saying I am so small was one that seemed complimentary.

I’ve had many private conversations about my frustrations with people’s reactions and the comments that are made. However, I have to admit that I’ve done a poor job at expressing this more publicly because I didn’t want to make anyone feel badly for trying to be so sweet. I’ve also tried to be playful about it, thus not in any way addressing the issue at hand. Somehow my very strong stance in being person-focused instead of body-focused was derailed. I honestly didn’t know how to handle all of this commentary and so I didn’t. Very interesting, in hindsight, for someone who specializes in body image and eating disorders!

Undoubtedly, there is an enormous amount of pressure on women and body image (men, too) and this pressure does not abate during pregnancy. Are women supposed to carry small? Large? Elsewhere on their bodies besides their bellies? The truth is that everyone carries differently, just like everyone’s natural bodies are their own individual shapes and sizes. It’s not better to show sooner rather than later or vice versa. I’ve heard countless women express concern about how their pregnant bodies will look instead of enjoying the true beauty and amazement that is pregnancy.

The door to comment on women’s bodies seems to get blown wide open during pregnancy. Not only have I had comments about my belly, I’ve had many comment on my legs, my butt, my breasts, my face, etc. and have had many reach out and touch my belly without asking. Nothing is off limits. It seems that because the body is changing, it becomes free rein.

Consider this, saying “Wow! You’re so huge!” is no different from saying “Wow! You’re so tiny!” I can completely understand how more likely than not the intention of both is a good one. But both are a judgment and send unhealthy messages about body image. The best compliments I’ve received thus far have had nothing to do with my body. I’ve been told about my pregnancy glow, how happy I seem, etc.

I’ve spent months wishing I were bigger and looking forward to the day when someone offers me their seat on a crowded subway – wishing I were bigger instead of just allowing myself to be the shape that I am. But the truth is that I feel great, so far things have been smooth and I couldn’t ask for more than that. I love my belly (at whatever size it needs to be) and I don’t take for granted that my body can create this miracle.

This blog post is a step forward in addressing this issue more publicly. I hope that we can all make an effort to be as sensitive and respectful of pregnant bodies as we try to be (I hope) of bodies in general.


Health Activist Award!!!

I’m so excited to share that I have been nominated for WEGO’s Health Activist Award!

Please take a minute to support both me and Destructively Fit by clicking HERE!

It’s simple, just click “Endorse” under my photo and follow the prompt!

This small moment of your time will put a smile on my face, leave me feeling grateful for you (tho, I’m already grateful for you!) and will inch me towards becoming a finalist! Also, being nominated and moving forward will help to spread the word about my work with eating disorders and about Destructively Fit!

Many thanks for the support you have already given me and thanks in advance for your vote!


How has my work with eating disorders impacted me personally?

About 7 years ago I created the curriculum on Eating Disorders for New York University’s Graduate School of Social Work. I LOVE teaching this course and feel a tremendous amount of gratitude for the opportunity to teach such eager men and women something that I feel so passionately about.

Someone in this past class asked me something that no one has asked me yet – How has my work with eating disorders affected my own relationship with food, my body and myself? I didn’t have a quick answer. I really had to think about it. Am I negatively affected in some ways? Am I positively affected in some ways? Do I eat more, as many people describe as a common “side effect” of working with eating disorders?

I gave it some thought and then very genuinely talked my way through my answer. It’s true that on days when the topic of actual food arises, I tend to leave craving foods I wasn’t otherwise thinking about. But I can generally get back in touch with what I really want and satisfy myself. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and the craving is really strong. I’m okay with that, too!

Regarding my body, I spend a lot of time with my patients discussing and exploring body acceptance, honoring ones body and doing all of this in the face of familial and societal pressures. I truly feel that body dissatisfaction, to some degree, has become almost a rite of passage for everyone, both men and women. Doing this work has offered me a daily reminder of the choice I have (we all have) to either reject or to succumb to these pressures and fall into the “I’m not good enough” thinking that lives in tandem with the “thin ideal.” Even in moments when I have a tinge of “not good enough,” I quickly find myself automatically catapulted into some sort of anger or frustration about being told that I have to look a certain way in order to be acceptable.

I shared the above and then continued, “Overall, it has made me more empowered! I never feel so healthy and empowered as I do when I leave my office at the end of the day – most of the time.” WOW! I was a little surprised to hear myself say this with such gusto but it’s true! Working with both men and women struggling with eating disorders has empowered me! Of course, it can be difficult, frustrating, devastating and many other things but what I feel the most is EMPOWERED! Why? I think it’s quite simple. Life in general, as well as doing this work genuinely and authentically, as I hold myself accountable to do, has forced me to develop my own personal ethos and it is from there that I try every day to live both personally and professionally. My ethos includes things like empowerment, authenticity, direct communication, vulnerability and compassion for myself and others.

Today I would like to invite you to consciously consider your own personal ethos and if it matches how you are living most of the time (and let’s face it, none of us are perfect – that’s not what this is about). If you don’t have a personal ethos, then I’d like to invite you to create one for yourself!


eating disorders, fitness, thinspo, fitspo and the lesson i learned talking about all of it

I’ve been lecturing and teaching for the past 15 years and aside from a healthy dose of nervous energy that quickly passes, I couldn’t be more comfortable in those roles. Being interviewed, however, is an entirely different story. I get incredibly nervous nearly every time and while I can calm myself down for the most part, the live and/or recorded interviews get me every time! Most notably (and I can’t even believe I’m drawing attention to it) was my television appearance. As soon as the camera began to roll, my brain fell out of my head and I felt like a deer in headlights – completely stunned and trying to remember what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

Most recently, I did my very first podcast with Kaila Prins for her Finding Our Hunger podcast series. When she asked me to do this podcast I desperately wanted to say “no.” But I said “yes” because I knew it was the right thing to do. I wanted to get the word out about Destructively Fit and saying “no” to an opportunity just seemed counterintuitive.

My podcast date was set and as it got closer, my anxiety grew and grew and grew. I made sure to tell Kaila how nervous I was, that this was my first podcast, and that I needed her help to keep the conversation going. Obviously Kaila was a pro and this was her plan anyway. So if I’m being completely honest with you (and myself), I think I was also telling her how nervous I was so that it could be my excuse if i completely blew it!

The dreaded day arrived and there I was, headphones on in the comfort of my own home. I was so nervous that I couldn’t sit down! I watched the clock and it seemed it was going backwards – this podcast was going to take forever! But we began and Kaila kicked off the podcast. She had a little (read: a lot) of an edge since this was her gig but I have to hand it to her, she was a natural! She was interested, interesting and spontaneous. I was even able to sit down! The podcast was easy, fun and the time flew. Wow! In fact, I’ve gotten lots of (unsolicited) feedback about it and I’m told that it’s my best, most natural and engaging interview yet!

I’m actually very proud of myself for saying “yes” to this opportunity but even more so for being open, vulnerable and compassionate with myself.

It’s funny, as soon as I got out of my own way things were great! I shut down that negative self-talk reminding me that I froze on television and that I have to choose my words carefully so that I sound intelligent enough. I just allowed myself to be present and engaged and that was all I needed to do! What a great reminder for me to trust myself!

I hope that you can learn from my experience, even reflect upon your own past experiences, and realize that your best self is your most authentic self!

Oh… and if you want to listen to my podcast, I’d love you to! Any and all feedback is welcome :-)
Here it is http://findingourhunger.com/2014/07/30/undestructive/


challenging negative self-perception… in your boudoir!

Photo courtesy of Lori Berkowitz

by guest blogger Lori Berkowitz, of Lori Berkowitz Photography!

At 43 I am more comfortable in my body today than I have ever been. It’s been a 25 year process to get to this place but here I am. Today I can easily quiet the voices that insist something about my body needs to change for me to be truly happy, and those awful comparisons to other women don’t happen quite as often.

In addition to decades of therapy, my work with women as a boudoir photographer has been a tremendous part of healing my relationship with my body. As clients have come in over the years I began to see how distorted our image of ourselves often is. Here is one example of story I hear almost daily.

When Dawn, a vivacious mother and business owner, arrived for a boudoir shoot a few weeks ago it was easy to think at first glance that she was thin, toned and had no body issues. As we started working together and I wanted to take some pictures of her back, she explained that she always hated her back and believed it to be fat. Somehow she had gotten this in her head and now it became her truth, regardless of reality. She couldn’t even remember when it started.

When I took these images and showed them to her in the back of my camera she cried. Dawn could see that her back was beautiful and the healing of her constant negative self talk began.

Photo courtesy of Lori Berkowitz

Clients having an “aha” moment about their bodies when they see their images is part of my passion and joy as an artist. It’s also a daily practice of self love, I heal my own body image issues as I help other women do the same. It’s my small contribution to showing women how beautiful we all are. Everyone has their body issues no matter their size and I want every woman to feel confident in her own skin. Without comparison. I’m thrilled to have found my calling in helping women feel incredible about themselves.


the secret to the perfect bikini body

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The weather is getting warmer! Talk and anxieties of the perfect “bikini body” are in the air!
Do this exercise, spot train this area, don’t exercise this area, don’t eat this food, definitely eat this food, only eat these foods, blah, blah, blah.

I have a secret – I know how to get the perfect bikini body! Are you ready?

Okay, here we go… grab your favorite bikini – or any swimsuit for that matter.
Put it on and stand in front of the mirror.
Stand up tall and proud with your shoulders back and your chest open.
Throw your hands in the air and gleefully shout “WOO HOO!” with a smile on your face. That’s it!
Yep, you already have the perfect bikini body!
Now it’s up to you to honor and love love love it!!!

Go on with your life and stop worrying so much! You’re already fabulous and you’ll be even more fabulous once you realize how awesome you are!

OH! That reminds me of one more thing. The other thing that makes for an amazing bikini body is confidence! Own it, flaunt it and shake what your mama gave ya!

Now get out there and enjoy yourself!


Can You Really Be Addicted To Food?

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I am frequently asked about the idea of “food addiction” and have wanted to formally address this idea for quite some time. Then I came across the amazing blog written by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Fiaedp, FADA. You may recognize their names and may even have their amazing book, “Intuitive Eating,” on your bookshelf!

Evelyn addressed the idea of “food addiction” clearly and concisely so I figured why mess with success! Here is her original blog post:

Can You Really Be Addicted To Food?

There has been a lot of media attention on food addiction research.  Scientists are curious about this possibility because the brain region (and neurochemicals) involved with substance abuse, are also implicated in overeating.   But there are a lot of reasons, other than addiction, that can explain the rewarding aspect of eating.

Survival of the Species – This brain-reward system is believed to be necessary in order to ensure human survival. This involves the brain chemical, dopamine, which triggers both a pleasurable feeling and motivation behavior. Engaging in activities necessary to survival (such as eating and pro-creating) triggers a rewarding-feel-good experience.

Hunger Enhances Reward Value-Hunger by itself, enhances the reward value of food, in which more dopamine is triggered.  For example, you might find yourself suddenly interested and motivated to cook a meal, if you discover you are hungry.   Dieting (which can be a form of chronic hunger) also has this effect.

Pavlovian Conditioning- The dopamine effect could be attributed to Pavlovian conditioning (recall the classic study, in which Pavlov’s dogs salivated at the mere ringing of a bell.  This anticipatory salivation occurred because the dogs were conditioned to receiving a treat after a bell rang, each time). This is not addiction.

Dopamine Deprivation? Many pleasurable activities trigger dopamine, including socializing, hiking, and playing games. The great majority of people I see in my practice who binge-eat, are often leading very unbalanced lives, which “deprives” them of the dopamine benefits. When needs are not being met, food becomes even more enticing, more rewarding.

Music Lights up Dopamine Brain Centers. Recently,a new study showed that when people listen to music, it lights up the same region of the brain (nuclear accumbens), which has been implicated in the euphoric component of psychostimulants, such as cocaine [Salimpoor 2011]. Just the anticipation of hearing the music lit up the dopamine brain centers. (Yet, I really don’t think you can make the case for “music addiction”)

Food Addiction Studies Limited & Flawed-The research on “food addiction” is way too early to be drawing any conclusions. The great majority of studies have been on animals. The limited research on humans has only been brain-imaging studies with a very small amount of people and not much exclusion criteria [Benson 2010].

Yale Food Addiction Questionnaire- has generated a lot of headline news.  Yet, upon a closer look, the questionnaire seems to actually be measuring compulsive eating or rebound eating from chronic dieting [Gearhardt 2009].  Here is a sampling of the questions:

  • I find myself consuming certain foods even though I am no longer hungry.  (Classic compulsive eating or distracted eating can cause this).
  • I worry about cutting down on certain foods. (Chronic dieting and overeating can cause this)
  • I have spent time dealing with negative feelings from overeating certain foods, instead of spending time in important activities such as time with family, friends, work, or recreation. (Chronic dieting and compulsive eating can cause this)

To read more questions and details on scoring the questionnaire see [ http://abcn.ws/dN8FcI and Gearhardt 2009]

Studies Show Eating “Forbidden Food” Decreases Binge Eating–Finally, there are three studies to date, in which binge eaters, eat their “forbidden foods” as part of the treatment process. [Kristeller 2011, Smitham 2008] Binge eating decreased significantly in all of these studies.  If food addiction was a causative issue, you would not expect these types of results. Food addiction theory would predict increased binge eating, triggered by eating “addicting food”. Yet, the opposite happened.

So rather than fear-mongering about food addiction, how about putting your energy into satisfying eating experiences, without distraction or duress; and working on creating a balanced lifestyle, while getting most of your needs met (which includes getting enough sleep).

Selected Citations and Resources

Benton D. The plausibility of sugar addiction and its role in obesity and eating disorders. Clinical Nutrition 29 (2010) 288–303.

Berridge KC & Kringelbach ML. Affective neuroscience of pleasure: reward in humans and animals. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2008 August ; 199(3): 457–480.

Gearhardt An et al. Preliminary validation of the Yale Food Addiction Scale. Appetite 2009 (52):430-436.

Herrin M &  Matsumoto N. The Truth About So Called Sugar Addiction.  Eating Disorder News. March 2011.

Kristeller JL, & Wolever RQ (2011). Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for treating binge eating disorder: the conceptual foundation. Jan 2011; Eating disorders, 19 (1), 49-61.

Salimpoor VN. Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature NEUROSCIENCE. Feb 2011;14 (2):257-262.

Smitham.L.Evaluating an Intuitive Eating Program for Binge Eating Disorder: A Benchmarking Study.University of Notre Dame, 26 November 2008.

Reprinted with permission Copyright © 2011 by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD Published at www.IntuitiveEating.org

•Rights to Reproduce: You may reproduce this post, as long as you leave it unchanged, you don’t charge for it, link to it, and you include the entire copyright statement. Please let us know you have used it by sending a website link or an electronic copy to Etribole at gmail dot com.

DISCLAIMER: The information is intended to inform readers and is not intended to replace specific advice from a health care professional.


National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

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If you live in New York City, you may have noticed that the Empire State Building was aglow in green and blue yesterday, February 25th. Why?

It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 23 – March 1)!

Organized by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the aim of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to raise awareness and educate about eating disorders and body image issues, prevent eating disorders and to reduce stigmas surrounding these issues.

This week has been full of events to celebrate eating disorder awareness. To name a few, there have been NEDA walks, Art Projects, Art Exhibits, Scale Smashing, Support Groups, Eating Disorder Screenings, Film Screenings, Fundraisers, Recovery Forums. Love Your Body Zumba Parties + Yoga Classes! Visit the the National Eating Disorder Awareness website for events in your area.

Last year I created Destructively Fit in order to address eating disorders within the fitness world. It’s been a pure love-project for me and I’m grateful for all of the support that I have received. But… I would love your help to spread the word and to effect some serious change within the fitness industry as a whole. In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, please spread the word about Destructively Fit and get connected on Facebook and Twitter!

Help spread awareness and help make a difference with this ubiquitous and dangerous issue. Here are some stats for you:

  • 25 million American women are struggling with eating disorders
  • 7 million American men are struggling with eating disorders
  • 81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat (Dove Self Esteem Fund Initiative)
  • 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves when they are dieting
  • 45% of boys are unhappy with their bodies
  • 67% of women 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities, like giving an opinion and going to the doctor, because they feel badly about their looks (Dove Self Esteem Fund Initiative)
  • An estimated 90-95% of college students diagnosed with an eating disorder are members of fitness centers (McLean Hospital, 2004)
  • Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight (Martin, J. B. (2010). The Development of Ideal Body Image Perceptions in the United States. Nutrition Today, 45(3), 98-100.)
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives. (Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat! New York: Guilford)

If you or someone you know is struggling, get help now! Eating disorders are treatable and early intervention is critical! Remember, you are not alone and you can feel better!!!

To find resources in your area:
National Eating Disorder Association: 1-800-931-2237
EDReferral.com


the biggest loser, is anyone really winning?

I can’t begin this post without first stating that in no way is this about Rachel Frederickson. I don’t know her, I never met her and I’ve never had any contact with her. I am also not a part of The Biggest Loser and don’t really know what goes on the behind-the-scenes.

While writing this, it feels uncomfortably clear that Rachel will likely be reading much of what is written about her and her body. She will read the criticisms, concerns and maybe even how impressed and inspired people are. I want to express that the intention of this post is to draw attention to the larger issues at hand and not to criticize Rachel in any way.

However, Rachel is at the center of this long overdue firestorm around The Biggest Loser and is an example of what I’ve been ranting about for years.

260lbs to 105lbs (a 59.62% loss of total body weight) in 7.5 months time. At 5’4″, that equates to a BMI of 18 – clinically underweight.

I have enormous respect for the men and women who choose to wage their internal battles and to do so publicly, is another level of courage. We all need motivation and if going on a reality television show is that for someone, then who am I (or any of us) to judge.

Some are entertained and maybe even motivated by these heartfelt stories. The network and staff make money from these same stories. It’s a fair trade. Participants get services for the fee of doing it publicly. As long as everyone is consenting and willful, so be it.

I do, however, have an enormous problem with the treatment of those who are willing to be vulnerable (body and soul) in front of an audience of millions and share the innermost struggles that have haunted them for years, most times decades. Their willingness to do this does not give license for inadequate and improper treatment.

To my knowledge, most (if not all) of these participants at some point in their journey have an emotional epiphany that their relationship with food is actually related to their relationship with themselves and that this is the root of the problem. This is an eating disorder defined! So if we acknowledge this, now we have a show about men and women who are struggling with eating disorders and we are watching them deal with the food and exercise part of their treatment. Except… where is the treatment? Where is the intense psychotherapy that is necessary to deal with the underpinnings of eating disorders? We know that a positive prognosis for eating disorder recovery has to do with three things: specialized treatment, adequate amounts of treatment and long-term follow-up. The Biggest Loser offers none of these things. So in essence, The Biggest Loser is treating the symptom of the eating disorder (the food piece) without addressing the things that will actually affect real, long-term and meaningful healing and change.

My other concerns are about the fitness professionals on the show offering some sort of intermittent therapy throughout these weight loss journeys. Offering any type of therapy falls outside of their scope of practice and is in direct conflict with their Code of Ethics.

We also know that losing a large amount of weight in a short period of time is dangerous. Additionally, having formerly sedentary individuals take on rigorous and intense exercise regimes is also dangerous. I realize that there is a full medical staff who monitors them but the fact that this is necessary is my case in point.

I can go on and on about how these types of shows are exploitative but the fact remains that these are the types of shows that bring in ratings and money to those involved so there is an investment in keeping them alive and running. I will table that for another time.

But I will say… if we are going to have shows like these, despite my stated opinion, then they need to be done responsibly. The issues need to be dealt with appropriately and the participants need to be taken care of.

The Biggest Loser finale seemed uncomfortable for everyone. Rachel Frederickson’s transformation was undeniably extreme and the looks on the trainer’s (and everyone’s) faces reflected that. I can understand the way the show unfolded because it would have been even more awkward and even unfair to Rachel for the show to have been halted and an intervention be made right there, on the spot, in front of millions. The show progressed as it needed to.

Since then…

Jillian Michaels’ Twitter response was this:
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The Biggest Loser’s Twitter response was this:
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Rachel’s The Biggest Loser trainer’s, Dolvett Quince’s, Facebook response was this:

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Rachel Frederickson had a media conference call yesterday morning (you can see the transcript at realityworldtv.com) and when asked about her food and exercise routine, Rachel explained that she was given a 1600 calorie budget by her “support system” at The Biggest Loser and would take “maybe three or four classes a day and just really have fun with all the people in the room. It was pretty cool! I’d be in Zumba and then I’d be going to spin class, and actually, I never used to like running. And so now, I really like running.

The interviewer’s response: “That is a lot of exercise in one day though! Impressive.

“Impressive?!?!” – REALLY?!?!?!

What is critical is what happens now. I don’t point a finger at any one person in particular but collectively, there is a huge problem here. Do we accept this transformation as “impressive” or do we dig a little deeper and stay with the uncomfortable truth that there is more here than what meets the eye? And will “we” as a society turn the other cheek and thus, sign off on the irresponsibility that is happening here with The Biggest Loser and shows of the like?


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