January 23, 2018


Posted in Self Image tagged , , , , , , , at 8:54 am by kellyfdennis

Discover a New Day logo smallThe person across from me asks, “Am I attractive? What do others think of me?”

I respond, “What do you think of yourself?”

The person sitting across from me doesn’t know how to respond.  She is so accustomed to assessing herself upon others’ reactions that she doesn’t know the answer to the question.

I say “society says you must be thin, young, vivacious.”

She responds, “that’s right, people will accept me if I am those things.”

“Really?” I ask.

Beauty…the true campaign website has this to say about it:

“What you believe about your identity has a direct correlation to what you believe about beauty. For example, if you believe our culture’s message that says your identity is defined by your outward appearance, this belief will likely lead you to focus on what you can do to change, alter or ‘perfect’ your outward appearance. Or perhaps, it will lead you to give up on taking care of your body altogether – the images presented in the media too difficult to even try measuring up to. Ironically, the frustration, disappointment, anxiety and emptiness that accompany such pursuits are quite the opposite of true beauty. 1

Our culture teaches women that beauty is skin deep.

But it’s not…

Beauty is an inner quality. Character, Temperament, Love…

To experience true beauty is to live a life that embraces and expresses the beauty and goodness of life itself.

I think you’re beautiful.

March 24, 2017

Midlife Eating Disorders

Posted in Eating Disorders, Self Image tagged , , , , at 3:32 pm by kellyfdennis

clouds over the bayI thought I’d share an interesting article from AARP:

Think anorexia, bulimia and bingeing only occur in teens and young adults? Think again.

A woman with an eating disorder looks at her warped reflection in a mirror.
Although excessive concerns about weight can appear to be little more than vanity, an eating disorder is a mental illness.

Gayle Hodgins wasn’t planning on buying candy, but then she saw the sale sign in the window of her local drugstore.

She stopped in and bought six large boxes of movie-theater candy and a king-size chocolate bar with one thought in mind. She planned to eat every last bite and then force herself to throw up.

Hodgins suffers from bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder that compels people to binge on large amounts of food and then purge the calories through vomiting, pills or excessive exercise.

Although most people think of eating disorders as a young person’s problem, Hodgins is no teenager. She’s a 53-year-old mother of two living in Philadelphia, and she’s one of a disturbing number of middle-aged adults suffering from life-threatening eating disorders.

Midlife eating disorders
In June 2012 the prestigious International Journal of Eating Disorders published the results of a seminal study on the prevalence of eating disorders in midlife and beyond.

5 Signs You May Have an Eating Disorder
1. You make yourself vomit because you feel uncomfortably full.

2. You worry that you have lost control over how much you eat.

3. You’ve lost more than 14 pounds in a three-month period.

4. You believe yourself to be fat when others think you are too thin.

5. Thinking about food dominates your life.

Lead study author Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that 13 percent of American women 50 or older experience symptoms of an eating disorder; 60 percent report that their concerns about weight and shape negatively affect their lives; and 70 percent are trying to lose weight.

Those figures mirror the rates found among teens and young women, says Bulik, author of Midlife Eating Disorders: Your Journey to Recovery.

“Eating disorders affect quality of life, and this has a tremendous impact on society,” Bulik says. “It can affect productivity at work, well-being at home, and it can have very serious economic impacts” on families, as many insurance companies are reluctant to pay for care.

Although excessive concerns about weight can appear to be little more than vanity, an eating disorder is a mental illness with close links to depression and anxiety.

Besides bulimia, eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, which causes a person to starve herself even while underweight, and binge eating disorder, which causes a person to consume large amounts of food without purging.

Patients who meet some, but not all, of the criteria for anorexia or bulimia or have other symptoms (such as forcing themselves to vomit after eating normal amounts of food, or chewing and spitting out large amounts of food) may be diagnosed with other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED).

A mental health condition with a physical impact
Apart from the psychiatric impact of eating disorders — sufferers often isolate themselves from friends and family — these conditions also have a serious medical impact.

Anorexia is the deadliest of all psychiatric disorders, killing up to 20 percent of chronic sufferers. Starvation, binge eating and purging all damage the heart and gastrointestinal systems. Erratic eating can cause hormone imbalances that can lead to osteoporosis. Repeated vomiting and malnutrition damage teeth, too. These problems affect eating disorder sufferers of any age, but they hit harder and faster as people get older and their bodies become less resilient.

Although no one knows exactly what causes an eating disorder, researchers believe it results from a complex interaction between our genes and our environment. Eating disorders most commonly begin during adolescence, amid the swirling hormones, physical changes and psychological adjustments of puberty.

While some patients recover in their teens and 20s, others continue to struggle into midlife and beyond. Some of those who do recover will relapse later in life. And still others will develop an eating disorder for the first time in midlife.
Menopause and other life changes
The physiological and psychological changes that happen during menopause seem to echo changes at puberty, Bulik says, which may make this time a high-risk period for the development of new eating disorders or the reemergence of old ones. These changes occur against the backdrop of America’s youth-oriented culture, which embraces the idea that aging — and the extra pounds that can accompany it — must be fought at any cost.

A Weighty Problem

79 percent of American women say their weight and shape affect their self-esteem
36 percent of American women say they have spent at least half of the past five years dieting
“Women don’t have a way of talking about the physical changes that go along with menopause,” says Margo Maine, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in West Hartford, Connecticut, and author of The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to be Perfect. “Instead they seek to manage their bodies with the next exercise craze or taking the latest diet pill.”

These renewed concerns about weight and appearance frequently emerge alongside stressors unique to the 50-plus age group. Children leave home (or move back in), parents begin to age and boomers may begin to struggle with health issues.

Robin McKenzie, a 51-year-old resident of rural West Virginia, had suffered from an eating disorder since age 14, but it wasn’t until the illness and death of her father last summer that her disorder significantly worsened. McKenzie’s mother’s health was failing as well, and her father’s death had left the family saddled with massive amounts of debt. The burden of caregiving and financial management fell squarely on McKenzie’s shoulders.

“I began to exercise to relax,” she says. Plus, she began to eat less, and her weight plummeted to dangerous lows. Unable to concentrate at work, and with her heart, liver and kidneys beginning to fail, McKenzie was ultimately hospitalized last August. Despite being much older than the stereotypical eating disorder patient, she was far from the oldest patient on the ward. Several patients were in their 60s or older.

New ways to get well
Yet, maturity brings substantial advantages to fighting an eating disorder, experts say. Older patients have more life experiences and insights to draw on. In addition, they’re more painfully aware of the physical and psychological costs of maintaining their unhealthy eating patterns. Even those who have tried and failed to control disordered eating in the past can often succeed later in life.

“Lots of times older women feel such shame and hopelessness because they’ve had the eating disorder for so long, but I’ve seen great things happen in people who have sought help in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond,” Maine says.

A growing awareness of eating disorders in older women (and some men) has also led to more treatment options. Women whose illnesses are more severe or chronic may require hospitalization, or treatment at a live-in facility. There, all meals are provided, and women participate in a variety of therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, nutritional counseling and medication.

After a few small setbacks this past winter, McKenzie is maintaining her weight and working toward a new career. Hodgins remains in therapy and is making progress. “Slow and steady wins the race, right?” she says. “I just want to be well. I want to be a normal person.”

by Carrie Arnold, AARP The Magazine, August/September 2013|

January 22, 2015

Intuitive Eating is Associated with Lower BMI and Better Psychological Health

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:37 am by kellyfdennis

Public Health Nutr. 2014 Aug;17(8):1757-66. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013002139. Epub 2013 Aug 21.
Review article relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review.
Van Dyke N1, Drinkwater EJ2.
Author information
To review the peer-reviewed literature on relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators and suggest areas of inquiry for future research. We define the fundamental principles of intuitive eating as: (i) eating when hungry; (ii) stopping eating when no longer hungry/full; and (iii) no restrictions on types of food eaten unless for medical reasons.
We include articles cited by PubMed, PsycInfo and Science Direct published in peer-reviewed journals or theses that include ‘intuitive eating’ or related concepts in the title or abstract and that test relationships between intuitive eating and physical or mental health indicators.
We found twenty-six articles that met our criteria: seventeen cross-sectional survey studies and nine clinical studies, eight of which were randomised controlled trials. The cross-sectional surveys indicate that intuitive eating is negatively associated with BMI, positively associated with various psychological health indicators, and possibly positively associated with improved dietary intake and/or eating behaviours, but not associated with higher levels of physical activity. From the clinical studies, we conclude that the implementation of intuitive eating results in weight maintenance but perhaps not weight loss, improved psychological health, possibly improved physical health indicators other than BMI (e.g. blood pressure; cholesterol levels) and dietary intake and/or eating behaviours, but probably not higher levels of physical activity.
Research on intuitive eating has increased in recent years. Extant research demonstrates substantial and consistent associations between intuitive eating and both lower BMI and better psychological health. Additional research can add to the breadth and depth of these findings. The article concludes with several suggestions for future research.

August 3, 2014

Good Enough

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 5:20 pm by kellyfdennis

business-lady-celebrating-success-10084081I read an article from the Renfrew foundation today about recovery. Even though I am very aware of the different perspective on Eating Disorder recovery, I was struck by the differences in the ways that clinicians and clients define “recovery”. Some state that “all ED behaviors and thoughts about behaviors must be non existent for two years”. I was somewhat surprised by this idea. As I thought about this more and read further into this clinician’s definition of “ED behaviors”, I thought to myself, “I don’t have an eating disorder, but there sure are days when I have negative thoughts about my body.”

I resonate with Martina Verba’s idea of “good enough” recovery. She states that recovery is about embracing imperfection and experiencing recovery as a path rather than a destination. She found in her study while there were individuals who reported freedom from weight/food related thinking, most stated that they might experience weight/food related thoughts, however,they stated these thoughts could just be considered “fluid” and not “destroy the day.”

So recovery is different for each person struggling with an eating disorder. How do you define recovery? I’d love to hear your perspective.

June 17, 2014

Have the Second Damn Piece of Pizza

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:22 am by kellyfdennis

This blog describes very well the amount of mental energy Eating Disorders take up. Stop renting space in your mind to the numbers game. I agree, have the second slice of pizza and savor it!

Lion-Haired Girl

Friday night is supposed to be Pizza Night.

You know if you eat just one slice you’re going to feel like you’re still hungry in a few minutes. Better yet, someone else at the table will forget the unspoken dining rules and take what is clearly marked as your hunk of cheesy goodness because you all know you’re splitting the bill evenly anyway, and they know if they just keep the conversation going, everyone will lose track of who had what.

Everyone except you, that is. Because you notice, and because you’ve faced this before.

You’ve fought hard, and it’s an ongoing fight, but not just against the freeloader in your friend-group. You’ve fought against the mental numbers in your head.

The number of minutes you’ll need to exercise to work off the combination of dough and cheese (and mighty fine pepperoni, if you’re lucky), which leads your brain to remember the last

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June 4, 2014

Every Body is Different (source: NEDA)

Posted in Self Image tagged , , , at 11:31 am by kellyfdennis

purple-sunny-background-100214127It is important to remember that every body is different. We all have different genetic and cultural traits. Even if everyone started eating the same things and did the same amount of exercise for a whole year, we would not all look the same at the end of the year. This is because each person’s genetic inheritance influences their bone structure, body size, shape, and weight differently.
So, how can you determine your ideal body weight? Well, your “ideal” body weight is the weight that allows you to feel strong and energetic and lets you lead a healthy, normal life. For example, when your body is healthy and at its ideal body weight, you are not too tired and you have the energy to interact with friends and family, participate in sports, and concentrate on school or work. While being overweight can be associated with adverse medical conditions, your body weight can be healthy across a wide range of weights. When searching for your ideal weight, charts, formulas, and tables may be misleading and should be used under the guidance of a qualified expert. Focusing on eating balanced meals of nutritious foods and enjoying regular physical activity will help you to achieve balance and arrive at your ideal weight. Consult a qualified expert in medicine and nutrition for more information.
Most of all, avoid comparing your body with your friends’ bodies or the people you see in advertisements or on your favorite TV shows. If you compare yourself to others, try to remember that we are all naturally different, which means we all have special qualities. Make a list of some of your strengths. What do you like to do? What makes you unique?
To make it simple, remember these keys to an ideal body:
Treat your body with respect.
Give it enough rest.
Fuel it with a variety of foods.
Exercise moderately.
Resist the pressure to judge yourself and others based on weight, shape, or size.
Respect people based on the qualities of their character and accomplishments, rather than just because of their appearance.
Listen To Your Body
Choose a variety of foods that contribute to a healthy diet, and eat when you are truly hungry. Stop when you’re full.
Eat what appeals to you. Do this instead of any diet, and you’re likely to maintain a healthy weight and avoid eating disorders.

May 25, 2014

Listen to Your Body. (Source: nationaleatingdisorders.org)

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:12 pm by kellyfdennis

20140525-181723-65843226.jpgSearching for the perfect diet? Always worrying about counting calories and fat grams in order to control your weight can be difficult and tiresome. Is there really a “perfect diet” out there anyway? After all, 95% of attempts to diet fail not because there’s something wrong with you, but because diets don’t work. Why else would people have to keep searching for new ones all of the time?
When was the last time you truly had fun dieting? Most likely you won’t remember it as a pleasurable experience. After all, it doesn’t feel so great to get hungry for lunch but force yourself to wait an extra hour. Do you remember feeling irritable? Did you get a headache or feel your stomach growling? And didn’t those “forbidden” or “off limits” foods seem to be calling your name even more than usual? It’s not very much fun, is it?
The reason strict diets don’t work and aren’t much fun is because your body needs food for energy, just like a car needs gas to drive. Food is fuel for your body! Your body knows what it needs in order to keep running efficiently—it needs the fuel of vitamin and nutrient-rich foods from a variety of food groups. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body and respond to its natural hunger. It will tell you what it needs. And if you don’t listen, it will find ways to keep reminding you—like headaches, a growling stomach, and obsessing about food.
Three Keys to Listening to Your Body
The first key to listening to your body is being able to detect when you are getting hungry. If you are indeed truly hungry, and not just looking for food to cure your boredom, stress, or loneliness, then it is time to refuel.
The second key is being able to know when you have had enough. Listen to your body. When you begin to feel full, you will know that you have had enough to eat. The goal is to feel content—not uncomfortably stuffed but not starving either. For some people this means planning 5 or 6 smaller, well-balanced meals a day instead of 3 large meals. And remember, it takes about 20 minutes for your body to realize it’s full. Be aware of what you are eating—eat sitting down, chew slowly, enjoy the tastes, smells, and textures of your food. Learn about mindful or intuitive eating.
The third key is moderation, nothing to extremes. Often people hear this advice and think it means they can eat whatever they crave, all the time. Obviously we cannot survive on potato chips or peanut butter cookies alone. And if you tried, chances are you’d probably start to crave a balanced meal or fresh fruit or vegetables after awhile. These cravings are your body’s way of helping you get the nutrients it knows you need.
Eat what you want, when you are truly hungry. Stop when you’re full. And eat exactly what appeals to you. Do this instead of any diet, and you’re likely to maintain a healthy weight and avoid eating disorders.

May 22, 2014

The Numbers Game

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:33 am by kellyfdennis

numeral-background-10088353Do you play the numbers game? Do you look to see how many fat grams are in the food you eat, or how many carbs, serving sizes, jean sizes, number of time you eat in a day, the number on the scale? Have you gotten so trapped in your “system” that you’ve lost track of how to listen to your body? If you have an eating disorder, the answer is probably “yes”.

Donna from The Begin Within Blog writes: “Numbers are a dishonest, fabricated replacement for intuitiveness. They are arbitrary, counterfeit ways of feeling in control. They are useless. They render you powerless, NOT powerful. They don’t give you control over anything. They merely give you the illusion of control and disable your inner means of determining your needs. Why are you afraid to give them up? Most likely because you distrust yourself, yet you ARE the best, most trustworthy determinant of what you need. Perhaps society has influenced you. Perhaps you have heard of, or embarked on numerous diet plans that are based on numbers. Perhaps you have been made to feel that you are GOOD when you are following numbers, and BAD when you aren’t.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Numbers seems so concrete, yet playing the numbers game, just makes your thinking even more disordered. When you find yourself playing the numbers game, ask yourself what you really need right now, what you crave, your level of hunger. Then begin to make small changes to allow you to trust yourself and your ability to make good choices. Believe it or not, there is freedom in separating yourself from the numbers game.


March 10, 2014

10 Ways to improve Body Image

Posted in Eating Disorders tagged , , , , at 11:41 am by kellyfdennis

Be honest and kind to yourself as you examine your beliefs, thought patterns, and assumptions about your body and the bodies of other people. This is fruitful but demanding work.

• Expand your idea of beauty.

Expand your concept of what is beautiful. View art. Observe different cultures. Spend time in nature. Constantly remind yourself that everyone is beautiful in his or her own way. Think about people you admire. In what ways are they beautiful?

• Let go of perfectionism.

In the same way that you are learning to accept yourself—flaws and all—you will also be learning to accept your unique body. Striving to reach an arbitrary idea of physical perfection is a form of self-sabotage, and is not possible anyway.

• Fully experience your senses.

Get more in touch with your body by noticing all of your senses. Concentrate on smells, sounds, colors, and touch. Best of all, connect with taste! Eat something you love (that’s not triggering). Try something you hate! Your body enables you to have physical experiences, so get brave and enjoy them.

• Reconnect your mind and body.

Certain activities—yoga, stretching, dancing, Pilates, Tai Chi—bring the mind and body together by focusing on the physical experience of the moment. These are wonderful practices for both quieting the mind and building a friendship with the body.

• Tolerate negative body talk without acting on it.

You don’t go from bulimia to loving your body in one day. Acknowledge that it’s a process, and that negative body talk is inevitable. But don’t act on the thoughts by turning to old habits. Instead, learn to talk back, or decide that you just aren’t going to listen right now.

• Understand the deeper meanings of negative body talk.

Negative body talk is a symptom of an eating disorder, just like bingeing and purging. There can be deeper meaning behind the phrases “I feel fat” (I feel worthless), “I have to lose weight” (My life lacks meaning), and “I hate the way I look” (I hate my life). When you have these thoughts, recognize that they are code for bigger issues, and investigate.

• Talk back to harmful body thoughts.

When you hear yourself being self-disparaging, talk back. Use positive affirmations and use rational, rather than emotional, language.

• Process body trauma with support.

Sometimes, body image issues are symptoms of past trauma, such as teasing, abuse, rejection, or abandonment. Healing the pain of trauma is a challenging and intimate process. I recommend working with a qualified therapist.

• Write a love letter to your body.

Thank your body for all the good things it does for you. Appreciate it for giving you a life. Tell it the kinds of things you would say to a soul mate, because, after all, your body is your soul’s companion!

October 10, 2009

Mirror Experiment- Day 3

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:07 pm by kellyfdennis

glass-wall-of-office-building-100188547Yesterday was day 3, the completion of the “no mirror” experiment. On one hand it was easier…I don’t see clients on Fridays.  Therefore, I didn’t stress about the clothing selection, jeans and t-shirt are always ok for me.  I just let my hair do its own thing.  I didn’t do eyeliner, only mascara, so I didn’t have to use the compact. Once I was ready, I headed off to the grocery store.

At the store I was pretty involved in price checking and whatnot, so I really didn’t think too much about the experiment or my appearance.  As I was standing in the check out line, though, I found myself looking at the other people waiting in line and wondering if it would be difficult for them to be doing the mirror experiment.

I took my groceries out to the car and I was a little taken aback that I had an urge to look in the window to check my hair…what was that all about, I wasn’t expecting to be concerned about my appearance today.  I fought the urge and headed home.

I put away the groceries and had lunch, all the while thinking about why I was concerned about my appearance.  My theory had been that it was attached to my professional persona, which is true, but clearly no one in the grocery store knew that I was a therapist. Hmm…

A little later on in the day, I was cleaning the bathroom and the towel I had hung over the mirror fell off (I guess the thumbtacks just got tired).  So there I was, standing in front of myself.

It felt good to see my reflection once again.

This was a very interesting experiment.  Even though I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who struggles with negative body image, I learned that I certainly worry about how my appearance is perceived by others.  As I reflect (no pun intended;)), I realize during the past three days, there has been an underlying uneasiness within me.  When that towel fell off my mirror, I actually felt relieved!

So does all this mean that I obsess over my appearance?

I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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