Category Archives: holidays

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!

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The Holiday Stress of a Guy with an Eating Disorder

BrianCuban

Photo by James Bland
(courtesy of Brian Cuban)

by guest blogger Brian Cuban!
Brian Cuban is an author whose best-selling book “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder” chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from eating disorders, addiction and Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD). Brian speaks regularly about his recovery and breaking the male eating disorder stigma.

Anyone who has suffered from an eating disorder is probably skilled in the art of hiding it from his/her loved ones and friends. Such deception is an integral part of the disorder, a part of dealing with the shame of self and fear of being discovered. For me, this caused extra stress and increased depression during the holidays. While everyone else was celebrating the love of family and the anticipation of the new year, I was worried about my disordered eating behaviors being discovered. Ashamed that I felt I had to hide my “dirty secret.” That’s what it was to me. For many years, I had no idea there were words such as “anorexia” or “bulimia.” It was just a routine I engaged in like breathing. I also knew it was not something guys were supposed to experience. It was a “girl thing.” Guys are leaders. Guys watch football on holidays. Guys don’t stick their fingers down their throat or starve themselves. This was 1979, before Karen Carpenter tragically passed away from complications related to anorexia, putting eating disorders into the national spotlight but also solidified the stereotypes of eating disorders being a female issue.

While there has been some progress since then, for the most part that perception remains unchanged. It is the perception of many men going through it. The perception of those who have heard about it and read about it. The perception of the media who report on it. The hard reality? I was anorexic, then bulimic for twenty-seven years staring in 1979. More hard reality? Depending on which study you look at, 15-25 percent of those diagnosed with eating disorders are male and recent studies have indicated that that percentage could be even higher.

For me and most other sufferers it was not about percentages. It was about loneliness and shame. I thought I was the only male suffering, especially during the holiday season. How could I feign a normal relationship with self-image and food during a time when it was deemed acceptable to not eat “normally?”

Fortunately, in 2007, I was able to begin recovery and gain control of the thoughts that led me to believe that the only normal relationship with food was through eating disorder behaviors. Through considerable amounts of therapy and self-discovery of how my childhood filled with fat shaming and bullying over my weight led to those feelings, I became able to channel them in to positive thoughts about myself and the reality of how I deal with food and self-image.

A positive thought for me is the realization that even if I eat a little too much or way too much holiday food, it’s only one or two days out of a long life filled with other days of a relatively healthy eating routine. It has no effect on what people think of me, and their thoughts are none of my business regardless. I still have tough days. Recovery is a process. During the process I have found that the following mental exercises help me avoid extra eating related stress during the holidays. Stress that can trigger unhealthy disordered eating thoughts:

  1. Going into the season I plan to have a regular exercise and eating schedule. I force myself to eat regular meals during the day. This prevents me from easing into thoughts of binging and excessive exercise. I am aware that the binging can lead to thoughts of purging. I am also aware that trying to make up for a binging session with extreme exercise routines can trigger me into an exercise anorexia mindset.
  2. I rely on the support of family, friends and my shrink. They are the primary system of trust that I developed once I realized that there is no shame in seeking treatment and speaking out about my disorder. I allow them to support me and listen to my fears without judgment. This has been one of the biggest tools of my recovery.

But the realization that it’s okay to plan for the thoughts that have plagued my past and realize they are not me is reassuring and should be for all of us who have an eating disorder. We’re all loved as individuals and there is plenty of support to be found during the holidays. If you are ashamed and worried about the stress and guilt of this time of year, seek out those who love you. Seek out those who have been where you are. We are out here. And we are ready and willing to help. You just have to step forward, even just a little one.


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!


it’s 2013… now what?

It’s February 2013. By now the mad rush of everyone trying to live up to their resolutions may be dying off. Now what? Figure out what you want and go get it! It’s all about imagination, honoring yourself and intention (here, too!). Don’t underestimate yourself, there are plenty of people around who will do that for you.

By the way, I’m not talking about resolutions here. I actually don’t believe in them. It’s difficult for me to feel passionate about any statement that is made solely because of a date on the calendar. I do, however, strongly believe in intentions (you may know this by now if you have been following my blog). I also believe that you can consider your intentions at any time!

Given the ubiquitousness of January resolutions and promises, this year I encourage you to trash your grand resolutions and consider what it that you want more/less of? More free time? More sleep? Less anxiety? Deeper relationships?

The best place to start is recognizing the things getting in the way and what would it be like to remove whatever obstacle (or belief) is preventing you from having met your intention. Work it out and watch yourself soar!


personal resolve (a reminder)

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Year-end is a marker of time and offers a natural moment to both reflect and look forward. During this time of year, it seems most people are talking about resolutions. What kinds of decisions, changes, etc. they will be making in their life beginning January first.

While these tend to be done with good intention, the truth is that most of these new year’s resolutions are quickly forgotten or broken, leaving behind a feeling of failure. While many remain entrenched in the new year’s resolution cycle, some sway in the complete opposite direction by making no resolutions. And of course, let us recognize that there are those for whom these resolutions stick.

No matter what your experience, I invite you to make this year different by replacing your resolutions with personal resolve.

What is personal resolve? A lifelong commitment to yourself. Knowing your own personal truth no matter what. It parallels the age old existential questions, “who am I?” and “what defines me?” When we know our own truth we become grounded in ourselves. Thus, less likely to become emotionally wiped out by other people or events. When we know our own truth, we make better choices and decisions, as they match our internal value system, ultimately creating more satisfaction in our lives.

This year I challenge you to get to know yourself better and to understand what makes you tick. I encourage you to cultivate your own personal resolve. Begin by noticing your actions and reactions. What gets you excited? Angry? Sad? Passionate? What are your intentions?

Take a moment and consider your own personal resolve. What do you know to be true about yourself no matter what?


have a happy + a merry!

Happy + merry whatever holiday you choose to celebrate. If you don’t celebrate a holiday during this time of year, chances are that you are surrounded by holiday hoopla, events, parties, food, obligations, family and friends. If you’ve chosen to skip town and managed to escape it all, have a fantastic vacation!

So for those of us who are in the midst of so-called holiday “bliss,” I’d like to acknowledge that holidays can be a difficult time for many. Frequently people experience a mix of emotions ranging from joy to sadness, from connectedness to loneliness. The best gift that you can give to yourself is to make room for these emotions to move through you and out of you. Squelching them can actually make this potentially complicated time even harder. If you feel joy and love, express it! If you feel sadness and loneliness, express that, too! Keep talking and keep sharing. You might realize that you are not alone and this, in itself, can be very powerful!

So I wish for you an authentic holiday season (that has already begun, so apologies for my tardiness!) that is replete with what makes you smile!


boy toys + girl toys

The fact that eating disorders cross all gender, race, age, culture and socioeconomic lines has been clear for decades. Somehow, the fact that there is increased pressure on boys has escaped much of the spotlight.

A recent study published in Pediatrics yielded statists that show both boys and girls engaged in muscle-enhancing behaviors (e.g.: changing eating habits, increased exercise, used protein powders/shakes, used steroids, used another muscle-building substance), the large majority of which were boys.

Beginning in childhood, heroes like G.I. Joe and The Incredible Hulk model bulging muscles. If G.I. Joe Extreme were life-size, he would have a 55-inch chest and a 27-inch bicep. In other words, his bicep would be almost as big as his waist and bigger than most competitive body builders’. Seems like in this, and many other ways, buff is the new skinny!

We continue to creatively perpetuate new and unrealistic ideals and expectations for our little boys and girls, who grow up into our men and women (and us!), and in some ways shaped by these confusing paradigms. You may have heard about 13y/o McKenna Pope’s petition to Hasbro asking them to make gender-neutral toy ovens. Ultimately, McKenna was saddened by a pushback by Hasbro explaining that boys do play with their products but never addressed the fact that these toy ovens are marketed towards girls.

And what is Barbie doing these days? Saying nothing about her unrealistic shape (in real life she would stand six feet tall with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips), she’s still hanging out in her Dreamhouse, tho, she has upgraded to 3-stories, has a beach house and a castle (in the country?). She goes camping now but sports high heals and a denim mini while doing so. The “Barbie I Can Be…™” series is impressive however, again it seems that Barbie can be anything she wants so long as she wears her high heals and a mini skirt! It would be great if they made a “Barbie I Can Be…™” ME doll.

I can go on and on about gender specific toys and the impact of them on the psyches of boys, girls, men and women but you get the idea. I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts/experiences (in “comments” below). Since the holiday season has already begun, I encourage you to be a little more mindful and aware of the toys that stock the isles (and your shopping cart) and form an opinion about it! What do you think and feel about what you see? About what your kids (or children in your lives) see? You can empower yourself, like McKenna Pope and many others, to take a stand and push back. If not by creating a petition or writing to these toy makers, by choosing where you spend your money and on which toys fill up your playroom!


Barneys, leave Minnie Mouse alone!

Change.org has begun a petition against the Barneys’ “Electric Holiday” display for this upcoming holiday season. See here for the details about this outrageous display and then go here to sign the petition.

Please pass this along to everyone who you feel might be a potential supporter. Thank you!


skinny minnie

Women’s Wear Daily reported yesterday that Barneys teamed up with The Walt Disney Co. to create “Electric Holiday,” an exciting film for the upcoming holiday season. Merging the concept of Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade with high fashion, the film will feature Disney’s most famed characters on a Paris catwalk.

When interviewed about the project, Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman detailed the immense time spent reviewing, “The world of the Paris fashion shows, of fashion, of people in fashion, of the rituals, all of the idiosyncrasies. The important thing to me was always that it had to be authentic. It really had to hit the nail on the head in every detail… When we got to the moment when all Disney characters walk on the runway, there was a discussion,” Freedman recalled. “The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress. There was a real moment of silence, because these characters don’t change. I said, ‘If we’re going to make this work, we have to have a 5-foot-11 Minnie,’ and they agreed. When you see Goofy, Minnie and Mickey, they are runway models.”

It seems that the bodies of the original Disney characters have been deemed unacceptable for the runway. These iconic characters needed to be turned into supermodels. In order to fit the mold, they were severely slimmed down (read: made gaunt and anorexic).

Needless to say, Electric Holiday has sparked generous amounts of controversy. What do you think about it? High fashion or highly disturbing?


happy independence day

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Happy Fourth of July! Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, declaring the United States independent from Great Britain. It’s typically a time of celebration, barbecues and the quintessential fireworks.

Today I implore you to create your own personal independence day. Declare your independence from the things that hold you back.

Take time to consider what keeps you feeling stuck. Decide what you would like for yourself.
Some examples:
I will share my opinion.
I will pay down my debt.
I will be kinder to myself.
I will create daily “me time.”

Remember, it’s not about luck or willpower. Set your intention.
Some examples:
I will share my opinion with others instead of going along with decisions made for me.
I will pay an additional $100/month to my outstanding credit card debt.
I will begin each day with a healthy, self-affirming mantra.
I will make sure that I actually take a lunch break instead of working through it.

Get to it and allow today’s fireworks to also be a celebration of YOU!