Woman in Milwaukee, WI practicing self-care to improve her mental health and well being

Self-Care In The New Year

Did you know that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February? Do you have plans for this new year? Are you wondering if they will stick? Let’s explore dynamic and practical strategies to maintain mental and physical wellness throughout the year, not just in the fleeting glow of New Year’s resolution season. Read on, and together, let’s redefine what caring for ourselves in the new year means.

Caring for yourself goes beyond the occasional bubble bath or massage (although those are great!). It’s about setting goals, establishing boundaries, and creating a life that brings you joy and fulfillment. It’s about living authentically and intentionally. So, let’s dive into some practical strategies for nurturing your mind, body, and spirit in the new year.

1. Set Goals With Intention

Setting goals is essential to stepping into the new year with purpose. But it’s not just about what you want to achieve—it’s also about why. What values are driving these goals? How do these goals align with your true self? Setting intentional goals creates a roadmap that leads us closer to our authentic selves.

For instance, your goal is to embrace a healthier lifestyle in the new year. The “what” in this scenario might be “I want to exercise more and eat healthier.” However, the “why” is vitally important because you value your health and want to feel more energetic and focused daily. Having a clear “why” helps ensure your goals align with your values and makes them more compelling and motivational. Remember, your goals should reflect who you want to become, not just what you want to do.

2. Establish Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries are a powerful tool for self-care. They allow us to honor our needs and make space for our well-being. In the coming year, reflect on areas where you may need to establish or strengthen boundaries. This could be learning to say “no” more often, scheduling regular “me time,” or communicating your needs more clearly in relationships.

Consider the case of workplace boundaries. It’s common to feel obligated to be available around the clock in today’s digital age. However, this can lead to burnout and negatively impact your health and well-being. An example of a healthy boundary in this context is setting specific “work hours” and allowing yourself to truly disconnect outside these hours. This means no responding to work emails or answering work calls during your time. Establishing this boundary ensures you have the time and space to relax, recharge, and engage in activities you enjoy outside of work.

3. Cultivate Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the current moment, a powerful antidote to the modern world’s constant rush and distraction. For example, start a daily meditation practice where you spend 10 minutes each morning quietly focusing on your breath. Or, you could try mindful eating, where you entirely focus on your food’s taste, texture, and smell, rather than eating mindlessly in front of the TV. Cultivating mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve mental clarity, making it an essential wellness practice for the new year.

4. Nourish Your Body

Your body is the vessel that carries you through life—so treat it with love. This means eating nourishing foods, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and ensuring enough sleep. Remember, small, consistent actions are more impactful than drastic, short-lived changes.

Nourishing your body involves a holistic approach to wellness, balancing physical activities with mindful eating. For instance, you might begin your day with a nourishing breakfast comprising whole grain cereal, fruits, and a protein source like eggs or yogurt. This kick-starts your metabolism and provides energy for the day. Pair this with a routine of regular exercise. This could be as simple as a brisk 30-minute walk, a yoga session, or a more intense activity like running or weight training. Remember, the goal isn’t to strive for perfection but to make small, consistent changes that promote overall health and well-being.

5. Practice Self-Compassion

Finally, remember to be kind to yourself. You will have days when you falter, and that’s OK. Self-compassion means treating ourselves with the kindness and understanding we would offer a friend. It’s acknowledging that we’re all human, and it’s OK to be a work in progress.

Consider this example of self-compassion. Perhaps you missed a workout session one day because you were overloaded at work. Rather than berating yourself for not sticking to your fitness routine, understand that you had a demanding day and that it’s OK to take breaks when needed. Remind yourself that one missed workout doesn’t negate all your previous efforts. Instead of dwelling on what you didn’t do, focus on what you can do next. Maybe plan a calming yoga routine the next day or prioritize getting a good night’s sleep. This way, you treat yourself with kindness and understanding, exactly as you would treat a friend in the same situation.

Stepping into the new year is exciting—a fresh start brimming with possibilities. But remember, any lasting change begins with taking care of yourself. As you move through 2024, keep these strategies in mind. Nurture your mind, body, and spirit, and create a life that aligns with your true self. Here’s to a year filled with resilience, grace, and self-love. Happy New Year!

Want to learn about creating a self-care plan for 2024?  Contact us to schedule a FREE initial consultation with one of our experts, info@hillarycouneling.com, or fill out our contact form.
Child practicing intuitive eating

Raising An Intuitive Eater

There’s been a lot of talk about intuitive eating lately, which got us thinking: If we can learn to eat intuitively, when did we learn not to?

No matter how you diverged from your natural eating style, it’s possible to get it back—and support your children in maintaining theirs, say Sumner Brooks, MPH, RDN and Amee Severson, MPP-D, RDN, authors of How To Raise An Intuitive Eater. “We don’t need to teach intuitive eating; children naturally do this. We need to support them in their natural eating behaviors,” Brooks says.

Understanding Intuitive Eating—for Your Kids and for Yourself

There’s often a misunderstanding of what it means to eat intuitively. Many people think that intuitive eating is all about cravings and appetite—just eat what you want when you want. But that approach doesn’t consider the whole picture. A more complete definition is complex. The definition of intuitive eating that we use is from Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole (pioneers of intuitive eating), which encompasses the complexity of the human eating experience and our relationship to food: instinct, thought, and emotion.

Our instincts, which are controlled by our reptilian brain and help us survive, compel us to seek food when we’re hungry. Instincts are the reason restrictive diets don’t work long-term. If you are in a calorie deficit for an extended period, your body goes into survival mode, so you constantly think about food and you are determined to seek it out in order to survive.

We’re human, though, so we can also think and use our logic and reasoning to make our eating decisions. We can ask questions like: What am I doing today? How much energy do I need to do what I need to get done? What can I eat that will help me feel good throughout the day? Logic is a great benefit that helps us eat in a way that fuels us and keeps us feeling as good as we can.

Our unique instincts, thoughts, and emotions make up our personal intuitive eating experience.

What Disrupting the Intuitive Process Looks Like

Parents mean well, but sometimes, without even realizing it, they say things that can deter a child’s intuitive eating process. Some examples are asking, “Are you sure you’re hungry?” or “Are you just thirsty or bored?” before your kid eats something. Or it can sound like, “You don’t really need that.”

These little questions and comments can accumulate and eventually instill distrust in your child’s ability to follow their own instincts. Then they begin to question themselves: Maybe I am just thirsty or bored; maybe I don’t need this, even though it sounds really good right now.

Another thing that we often see is parents comparing eating styles with another child’s or labeling children as “good eaters” and “bad eaters.” This adds to the constant attention and judgment our society has concerning eating and food preferences. It can be overbearing for a child—they know when their parents care a lot about what they’re eating or when there’s not a certain type of food in the house—they notice and feel it all.

Ways Parents Can Help Their Child Eat Intuitively

It’s important to know that we don’t need to teach intuitive eating; children naturally do this. We need to support them in their natural eating behaviors and they will learn to self-correct, if needed. You can compare it to when a child is learning to walk. We don’t try to keep them from falling. To become competent walkers, they must explore, wobble around, and fall and get back up again. But we don’t let them learn to walk in a parking lot or on the street. We keep them surrounded by safe boundaries that allow them to find their way. There’s a balance of exploration and boundaries when it comes to raising an intuitive eater, too.

Tuning in to yourself and your child is essential. It’s ultimately about making mealtime a positive experience that leaves them feeling good and satisfied. Here are some things that can help:

Have a flexible and reliable feeding routine. This helps provide some structure but also a safe space for them to learn how to listen to their body, feed themselves regularly, get enough to feel satisfied and try new foods. We recommend keeping a pretty loose schedule. For example, plan for the family to eat a snack around this time each day and meals around these other times each day but with enough flexibility that allows for the natural flows of life—unexpected schedule changes, changes in timing of hunger, etc.

Have desirable food options. A child should know that at every single meal and snack, there will be enough food for them and there will be enough food that they want provided for them. For example, you can provide your child with a pound of Brussels sprouts in one meal—that would be more than enough food in terms of volume—but if your child refuses to eat Brussels sprouts, then that really is not enough food for them.

There should be something they want to eat with each meal. We don’t need to force them to eat things they don’t want. If you know they like strawberries, then make sure strawberries are on the table, rather than pressuring them to eat bananas if they are averse to them.

Offer a combination of familiar and new foods. This doesn’t mean every single meal has to include a new vegetable and a new fruit, but generally doing this over the course of a week or a month, whatever is best for your family, is great. Repeating staples and family favorites works, too.

Stop pressuring them to eat. Just stop. If you need to bite your tongue to stop yourself from making a comment, we suggest doing so. We’re (kind of) joking, but we use that example because it’s that crucial. If you feel the urge to say something about their food or eating, pause and notice the discomfort inside yourself. Let it dissipate and allow your child to make the decision—they are more than capable of doing so. Ultimately, we don’t want our children to develop disordered eating patterns.

Talk about anything else other than what they’re eating during mealtimes. Let the food be there. If you find yourself wanting to talk about food, you can shift the conversation and instead ask them how they are doing or feeling. It distracts from the food and helps you connect with your child. It’s okay to express enjoyment, pleasure, and satisfaction about what you are eating, of course, but the goal is to place more attention on your child than on the meal.

Model intuitive eating. Parents are often unaware of how our systems and culture influence our eating preferences and patterns, and we unconsciously pass these ideals, behaviors and anxiety on to our children. When parents relearn and model intuitive eating, it can make a tremendous difference, since our children are very attuned to our actions.

For some parents, this may mean eliminating diets or restrictive eating or doing deep inner-child psychological work (many of our eating patterns are ingrained from a young age). It could also mean making conscious decisions to release control of your child’s eating, trust that your child can self-regulate, and give them the freedom to experiment and learn.

Looking for more guidance, contact us to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with one of our Milwaukee Intuitive Eating Therapists.

 

 

Person holding the U.S. flag

Should We Make 4th of July Resolutions?

The 4th of July is a beloved holiday, but most of us spend more time planning our celebrations than thinking about what we are commemorating. The birth of the United States was a world-changing event, but it was also a complicated, messy project accomplished by real people who were struggling, with varied success, to solve complex problems.

Because of the ways our brains have evolved, they were wired, just as we are, to protect themselves and the things they cared about, and try to change circumstances they found unfavorable. However, they were also influenced by the social values of their time, some of which we no longer agree with, and others we are still grappling with. By looking at their success, and their failures, we can gain insight into coping with the challenges we face some 250 years later.

While it is a fictional account of the founding of this country, the musical “Hamilton,” written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, allows us to look back at the founding of this country through a modern lens. The most striking feature of the production is that the cast members represent a variety of racial backgrounds. Since the founding fathers were white males who were unable to abolish slavery when establishing the country, this casting choice is particularly thought-provoking and encourages us to think about the way our past is shaping our future.

Much of the show focuses on the personal struggles of men like Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. Although they loom large in our imagination, their struggles weren’t that different from ours.

Balancing the desire to live a comfortable life, to make a difference in the world, and to build caring connected families is never easy, especially when insecurity, greed, hubris, and jealousy enter the mix. While we would like to assume that they knew exactly what they were doing when they formed this country, the truth is that you can never be sure of how things will turn out when you are living through them.

When newscasters today announce that the country has become more polarized than ever before, it is worth noting that we became a nation because of a civil war, which divided families and communities and resulted in significant suffering, trauma, and death. When things look dire, it is worth drawing perspective from the past. The revolutionaries didn’t know if they would succeed but they were willing to keep trying to reach their goals.

The musical also highlights the fact that many of the things that happened during the founding of this country were the result of compromises, backroom deals, and shifting alliances. If you have ever wondered why our nation’s capital was built from scratch, in a southern state instead of operating out of an existing city like Philadelphia or New York, it is worth turning to a history book.

One major difference though, between that era and ours, is the changing media landscape. While the revolutionaries made ample use of printing presses to create newspapers and fliers, they didn’t have to contend with a 24/7 news juggernaut that captured and replayed their every action every hour on the hour, to a worldwide audience. Under this relentless gaze, it is harder for people to hide their personal foibles, or to compromise with their opponents.

In addition, there are so many media sources available that it is increasingly difficult to tell fact from fiction. This puts the onus on us as consumers to research and evaluate the veracity of the news we hear, and to stop supporting content producers who don’t hold themselves to the standards of reputable journalism.

It is also easy to assume that the Founding Fathers worked as a team to implement shared goals. The truth is that some of them couldn’t stand each other, their alliances changed over time, and some of their failures have had lasting consequences. Their failure to abolish slavery created a legacy of conflict and inequity we still haven’t resolved.

But recognizing that they were not romantic heroes should remind us that even regular people can be a force for change. You don’t have to be a gifted orator or writer to volunteer to teach children to read at your local school, participate in local politics, or work to support causes you care about. You just have to get involved. Great leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King can emerge just when we need them, but we all have the potential to make a difference in our own corner of the world.

We would like to make a 4th of July declaration. Since we are already used to making resolutions about the things we want to do to improve our own lives on News Year’s Eve, perhaps we could make more civic-minded resolutions on Independence Day. None of us can change the world alone, but there is power in numbers. Even small efforts from picking up litter in public places, to registering people to vote, to volunteering to use our skills or resources to help others, can add up.

We argue that the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) of this country deserve our thanks. But we also have an obligation to make things better for the future. If each of us resolved to do just one thing to make that happen, it could make Independence Day even more meaningful. In the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, let’s all “rise up” to make a difference.

Looking for more guidance, contact us to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation!
Article By: Devon Frye of Psychology Today
Happy woman with great mental health

31 Ways to Beat The Blues

A happiness tip-a-day keeps the blues away…

Happiness expert Andy Cope, author of The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence offers 31 brilliant tips to keep us thinking positively as 2023 begins…

  1. Mondays are bad and Fridays good. Really? The average life span is 4000 weeks and a seventh of your life is spent on Mondays. Flip your thinking. Friday is, in fact, another week closer to death, while Monday is an opportunity to make a dent in the universe. Mondays…. bring ‘em on!
  1. Upgrade your knickers so every bit of underwear oozes confidence. Stop saving your special pants for a special occasion and wake up to the fact that life is the ultimate special occasion.
  1. Be a hugger. The average hug lasts 2.1 seconds but for the love to transfer a hug needs to last 7 seconds or longer (but warned, counting out loud spoils the effect).
  1. Be a lover not a hater. It’s so easy to be negative, and join in the barrage of hate on social media. Go with Michelle Obama; ‘when they go low, you go high’
  1. Do an act of kindness for someone else. This can be as simple as letting someone out in the traffic or buying flowers for the bus driver.
  1. If you have small children practice what Gretchen Rubin calls ‘gazing lovingly’. This means downing tools at the end of the evening and standing at your children’s bedroom door, watching them sleep (the modern world dictates that you only ever do this with your own kids and there is an age limit of 10. After that, the general rule is that you NEVER go in your kids’ bedrooms, just in case!)
  1. Practice the 10/5 principle; smile at everyone who comes within 10 feet of you and make eye contact & say ‘hi’ to everyone within 5 feet.
  1. Say nice things about people behind their back. This is a double-whammy because it gets back to them plus people think you’re a lovely person (which, of course, you are).
  1. Write a list of 10 things you really appreciate but take for granted. ‘Health’ and ‘relationships’ will almost certainly be on there. Stop taking them for granted!
  1. Every morning, appreciate that you don’t have toothache and that your kidneys are working. Being able to get out of bed is the best thing ever (linked to point 9).
  1. Write a list of the top 10 happiest moments of your life and you’ll realize that most of the things on the list are ‘experiences’ rather than ‘products’. Set a goal to have more experiences.
  1. Think of someone who has really helped you (given you time or supported you). Write them a letter, from the heart, that says how wonderful they are and what they mean to you. Read it to them.
  1. Instead of asking your partner/kids ‘how was your day?’ change the words and ask (with enthusiasm), ‘what was the highlight of your day?’ Then listen with genuine enthusiasm.
  1. Walk tall and put a smile on your face (not an inane grin, you will scare people!) Your brain will immediately think you are happy and you’ll feel a whole lot better.
  1. Change your aim. Stop setting your sights on ‘getting through the week’ or ‘surviving until my next holiday’. Raise your game. Set your aim to ‘enjoy the week’ or ‘to inspire people.’
  1. Write down your top 5 personal strengths. Be aware of them and start seeing opportunities to play to them more often.
  1. Reduce your moaning and always remind yourself it’s a 1st world problem.
  1. Watch out for the 90/10 principle. This states that 10% of your happiness depends on things that happen to you while a whopping 90% depends on how you react to these events. Make a conscious choice to be positive.
  1. When setbacks occur, ask yourself, where is this issue on a scale of 1 – 10 (where 10 is death). If it is death, you are allowed to feel down. Anything else, get over it.
  1. Most people have an internal voice that is very critical. Challenge it. When your inner voice is telling you you’re an idiot, firmly disagree. Find a positive inner voice (note, this conflict is best done in silence in your head. And if you have lots of inner voices, you need to see your GP).
  1. Spend less time on electronic friends and more time with real flesh and blood ones.
  1. Praise your children for effort rather than ability. For example, if they get a good grade in Math, don’t say ‘Genius, you are the next Einstein.’ Do say, ‘Brilliant! That shows what you can achieve with hard work.’
  1. Practice the 4-minute rule; that is, be your best self for the first 4 minutes of arriving at work, being in a meeting, getting home, etc. Your brilliance is infectious.
  1. Lose the word ‘try’. Instead of setting a resolution of ‘I’m going to try and lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to try and get a bit fitter,’ go with ‘I’m going to lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to get fitter.’ Yoda was spot on when he said, ‘Do or do not, there is no ‘try.’
  1. Appreciate that your happiness is bigger than you. It has a ripple effect and infects people 3 degrees removed from you.
  1. Read a bedtime story to your kids like it was the most exciting book in the world (note, it is doubly important for sons to see their dads reading books).
  1. Reframe situations. For example, a leaking gutter means you have a house; paying tax means you have some income; your teenage son spending hours on his X-Box means he’s not wandering the streets, etc. However, don’t overdo reframing otherwise you become Pollyanna; ‘Whoopee, grandma’s dead, what a fabulous opportunity for a funeral and some lovely sandwiches.’
  1. Rather than a New Year’s resolution, set yourself a HUGG (huge unbelievably great goal); this is something that is massive and that inspires you (to write your novel, to run a marathon, to be the best Mom in the world, etc).
  1. Ask yourself, if there was a version of you sitting on a cloud, watching you go about your tasks today, what advice would the ‘cloud you’ give the ‘earthly you’? How would they say you should walk, talk, think and behave? Take that advice.
  1. Be genuinely interested in other people (ask loads of questions about them). In a bizarre twist of quantum psychology, people will find you insanely interesting.
  1. Make sure that you use more positive than negative language. The ratio needs to be about 5 positives for every negative, so catch people doing things well and tell them.

 

 

Want to learn more about finding happiness? Contact us to schedule a FREE initial consultation with one of our experts, info@hillarycouneling.com.

Christmas tree

How To Cope With Grief During the Holidays

The swell of grief around the holidays is a common reason clients enter our therapy office this time of year. People often seek help for the immense sorrow that starts surfacing right around Thanksgiving.

When you’re grieving, there may be times when you want to participate in the excitement and joy but simultaneously don’t want to participate at all or feel guilty for celebrating.

Grief is complicated and unique for everyone. While accepting loss becomes easier over time, it is often something we carry with us forever.

If you’re wondering how to get through the holidays this year without your loved one, these strategies can help:

1. Trust That Grief Is Part of Healing

Time doesn’t heal the pain associated with a loss; it’s what you do with that time that matters. Grief is the process by which you heal. Experiencing the pain—rather than constantly trying to escape it—can actually help you feel better in the long-term.

So while it may be tempting to pretend the holidays don’t exist—or to numb the pain with alcohol—temporarily avoiding the pain only prolongs the anguish. Eventually, the holidays will get easier, but only if you allow yourself to experience the grief of going through them without your loved one.

2. Set Healthy Boundaries

You certainly don’t have to force yourself to face every holiday event or celebratory tradition, however. If attending a tree lighting ceremony or participating in the office gift swap is likely to bring about too many painful memories this year, be willing to say no. Other people may try to convince you to participate, but you certainly don’t have to try to please everyone.

3. Focus on What You Can Control

There are a lot of things you can’t control about the holidays. You may be subjected to Christmas music in the waiting room of your doctor’s office or you may overhear your co-workers constantly talking about their holiday plans. While you can’t prevent those things from happening, there are some things you can control.

Think about what you can do to lessen the heartache when you can. It’s OK to limit your decorations or shop for presents online only. Pick a few things you can do to assert some control over the holiday cheer, and keep in mind that life goes on for other people and it’s OK that they’re happy to celebrate this year.

4. Plan Ahead

Often, the anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the actual event. So while Thanksgiving dinner may only last two hours, you could easily spend three weeks dreading it. Create a simple plan for how you’ll get through the holidays to avoid extending your anguish.

Often, it’s helpful to create an escape plan. Drive yourself to holiday functions or ride with a trusted friend who will take you home whenever you want. Just knowing you can easily leave at any time can help you enjoy the activity much more than you would if you felt stuck.

5. Allow Yourself to Feel a Range of Emotions

The holidays can bring about a wide range of emotions. You might feel joy, guilt, and sadness all within a few minutes. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judging yourself or thinking you should be happy or you shouldn’t be laughing.

6. Find a Way to Honor Your Memories

Create a special way to memorialize the person you’ve lost. Whether you decide to light a candle every night or eat your loved one’s favorite food, honoring your loved one can serve as a tangible reminder that although your loved one is gone, the love never dies.

7. Create New Traditions

Don’t be afraid to create new traditions this year too. It’s OK to get creative and do something a little out of the ordinary. You can also alter old traditions and make them fit better with the new phase in your life.

8. Do Something Kind for Others

Even when you’re in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness can be really good for a grieving person’s spirit. Donate gifts to families in need, serve meals at a soup kitchen, or volunteer to help people at a nursing home make holiday crafts if you’re up for it.

9. Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re struggling with the holidays. Reminding loved ones that you’re having a rough time may be enough, but you also may want to reach out for more support. Look for support groups or contact a professional counselor to help you deal with your grief in a healthy manner.

 

Want to learn about coping with grief during the holidays?  Contact us to schedule a FREE initial consultation with one of our experts, info@hillarycouneling.com.

jackolanterns

Intuitive Eating Tricks for Halloween Treats

“Halloween” and “candy” are almost synonymous, and this can be a confusing time for us to know how to handle the sugar overload that’s heading towards us like a high-speed freight train, especially for those struggling with and eating disorder and working in recovery.

Most individuals spend their time thinking about costumes, decorations and haunted houses weeks before the big day but individuals who are recovering from an eating disorder are often inundated with thoughts of body image and weight disturbances when shopping for a Halloween costume and walking the candy aisles.

Shopping for a Halloween costume, navigating parties, and being faced with Halloween candy, treats and drinks are just a few of the many ways that Halloween can trigger your eating disorder in unexpected ways. Being mindful of these potential triggers and arming yourself with coping tools to support your recovery is vital. Whether you are trick-or-treating, attending a Halloween costume party or passing out candy with your friends, these triggers may creep up on you before you know it.

Halloween Treats and Binge Eating

Halloween in recovery can mean binge eating can be more likely during times of stress and increased anxiety. During this particular holiday, stress and anxiety may be caused by feeling pressure over Halloween to dress up, attend a Halloween party or potluck, pass out candy and purchase candy. From chocolate bars and candy corns to lollipops and gummy bears.  Halloween can lead to candy overload, which can lead to intense urges or action to binge. Depending on your eating disorder, you might have kept yourself from indulging in Halloween candy in the past; you might have binged on it after everyone had gone to sleep, or some combination therein. If you are still in recovery for your eating disorder it is recommended that you have a recovery action plan to help with the triggers.

Understanding your reasons for binge eating, along with learning how to deal with stress and anxiety through other coping strategies are beneficial to your health and recovery. Here are some tips for your recovery action plan to help you avoid binge eating on Halloween this year.

1. Practice Mindful Eating. This starts with allowing yourself to use all of your senses in choosing to eat foods that satisfy you while nourishing your body at the same time. You obtain the opportunity to acknowledge your genuine responses to food, such as your true likes and dislikes, without any judgement. Eat with awareness of your senses.

2.Remember to have regular meals/snack throughout the day. Try eating three regular meals and two snacks to prevent cravings that can lead to overeating. Have a game plan for the potluck. Meaning look at all the foods before you take a plate. Figure out which foods seems the most appetizing to you and which foods you know you are hungry for. Plate your food, allowing yourself to enjoy what you are eating. Give yourself permission to stop eating when you feel satisfied.

3. Feel empowered to use your voice and seek support. Identify who you support system is going be for the Halloween festivities. Strategize with your support system on what type of support you may need and what that will look like.

4. Practice Self-Compassion. When you start experiencing feelings of guilt and shame, practice self-compassion. Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment? ~Kristin Neff

Halloween costumes and body positivity

There are many ways that Halloween in recovery can be challenging. Clothing shopping can be triggering for individuals who are in eating disorder recovery, especially costume shopping. Costumes tend to be on the skimpier side and our society tends to praise women who show more skin and wear less clothing on Halloween. Regardless of where you are in your eating disorder recovery, it is important to feel comfortable in any costume you wear. Whether it is a homemade costume or a store-bought costume, you should feel comfortable and exuberate self-confidence in your costume.

If you feel that a costume will trigger you to have negative thoughts then here are some ideas to try instead of dressing up; 1.  to try a different costume that you feel comfortable in 2. buy a Halloween t-shirt instead of dressing up 3. wear Halloween colors in clothes that make you feel good.

Regardless of where your Halloween takes you, the most important part is practicing self-care. This is at the root of most recovery-minded decisions. Self-care means spending time with people who support your recovery, and giving yourself permission to enjoy that Snickers!

If you feel like you would benefit from support when it comes to your relationship with food, reach out to us at info@hillarycounseling.com to schedule a FREE initial consult with one of our eating disorder therapists.

 

Woman practicing self-care

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Check out our health coaching page for more information or message us to schedule a FREE initial consult with our Health Coach, info@hillarycounseling.com. ?⁠
Woman with great body image

7 Tips For Building A Better Body Image As An Adult

When you catch a glimpse of your reflection in a window, or see yourself in a new picture that a friend posts on social media, what thoughts immediately come to mind?

Are they generally positive (I look so happy!), or more negative (Well, at least everyone else looks good)?

If they are positive, that’s great! But if they’re not, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle to feel happy with the way that we look, especially when it comes to our bodies.

While getting older may bring with it a certain sense of self-acceptance and the ability to reject the unrealistic beauty ideals that we see around us, aging also brings with it a new set of challenges to our self-esteem. You know — the messages and products that encourage us to “minimize those wrinkles” and “cover up those grays.”

“You can be reading a magazine and on one page there’s an article about how to love yourself the way you are, and then you flip the page and there’s an ad for a diet plan or an anti-aging cream.

All of those messages can be discouraging. But making some tweaks to your thought patterns can help you get back on the road to a positive body image. Start with these ideas.

Show some appreciation

A good place to start is to refocus your self-talk. Rather than nitpicking over the appearance of your body, try recognizing and appreciating the amazing things that it does for you every day. Appreciate that your strong arms allow you to carry your child and the diaper bag and the groceries up the stairs in one trip. Or that your skilled hands prepared an amazing dinner.

Record the positives

Here’s a little homework assignment: Write down five things you love about your personality. Easy, right? You’re a great listener and incredibly giving when it comes to helping others.

Now list five things you love about your body. “For most people, it’s easier to do the first, but it’s equally important to do the second.” Putting your feelings into written words (the old fashioned way!) helps you process your thoughts and commit things to memory.

Create little reminders

Write positive affirmations, goals or words of gratitude on sticky notes or note cards and putting them in places where you’ll see them throughout the day – the bathroom mirror, your wallet or by your computer at work. Remind yourself of your positive qualities, skills and goals.

Commit to doing things that make you feel good

Life is about so much more than how we look. Yet, how we feel about our bodies can dictate our mood and our behaviors. Have you ever canceled plans when you’re feeling bad about yourself? Resist the urge. Spending time with friends who aren’t focused on body image may actually help quiet your own body dissatisfaction.

Studies also show that exercise, yoga and helping others are great self-esteem boosters.

Occupy your mind

“We have another exercise that asks people to live their life as if they had 12 months, 5 days, 1 hour or 30 seconds to live,” Dr. Peterson says.

“In these circumstances, you would most likely focus on people, places and things that you love and that make you feel good – not on how your body looks.”

Don’t fear the mirror

If you have unhappy thoughts about how you look, you might find yourself dodging anything that shows your reflection. But, “avoidance breeds avoidance.” Ignoring those unhappy feelings won’t make them go away. She suggests noticing those negative thoughts that come to mind when you see yourself in the mirror, and applying the above tactics to turn them around.

Shut down the comparison game

Comparing your own body to others’ may be the quickest way to send your self-esteem plummeting. Instead, objectively admire the good qualities you notice in other people, and make a point to compliment them – it will make both of you feel good.

Feeling good at all sizes

It’s beneficial to love your and appreciate body no matter your shape or size.

In fact, if you’re overweight and taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle, research suggests that’s even more of a reason to work on building a healthy body image.

In one study of girls who were overweight, those with the highest levels of body satisfaction gained less weight after 10 years than those who were least satisfied with their bodies. Another study found that obese women who improved their body image were also better able to self-regulate their eating.

There’s no wrong time to work on feeling more comfortable in your own skin.

Need more help?

If you ever feel that your negative body image is affecting you in a distressing or disruptive way, reach out to schedule a FREE INITIAL CONSULT with one of our body image experts, info@hillarycounseling.com!

Woman with eating disorder who is searching 'eating disorder treatment near me' on her phone

Does Emotional Avoidance Fuel Your Eating Disorder?

“It seems like I’m actually experiencing my feelings, now that I’m no longer bingeing and purging my emotions,” my client in recovery from bulimia shared.

Eating disorders are believed to be caused by a combination of factors including, genetic, temperamental, and environmental influences.

However, one thing that almost all of my clients with eating disorders have in common is difficulty in expressing, processing, and coping with their emotions.

Emotional Avoidance and Eating Disorders

Emotional avoidance, is described as actions that are intended to prevent an emotional response from occurring, such as fear, anger or sadness.

People struggling with eating disorders often turn to their eating disorder behaviors in an unconscious effort to try to help themselves to “feel better” and to cope with difficult emotions or life circumstances.

For instance, for many people struggling with anorexia, their response when it comes to coping with feelings of anxiety, sadness, or loneliness, is to restrict their food. This may give them a false sense of “control” and specialness. For individuals with bulimia, bingeing and purging provides them a momentary feeling of comfort, “control,” or relief. For people struggling with binge eating, eating often feels like “an escape,” comforting, calming, or a way to numb out.

The reality is that eating disorder behaviors often provide short-term relief or satisfaction, and long-term feelings of increased depression, loneliness, and misery.

Let Yourself Feel

Eating disorder treatment involves a variety of tools and strategies for helping clients to reclaim their lives. However, one important element is helping them to learn how to identify, process, and cope with their emotions in ways that align with their life values.

Many of my clients struggle with being able to sit with themselves and their emotions. Often eating disorder behaviors are used as a way to try to regulate or distract from intense emotions.

I often say to clients that trying to suppress our emotions, is kind of like trying to hold a beach ball under water. It takes a lot of effort and eventually the beach ball will fly up above the water with force.

As a culture, we are often not taught to express our emotions. However, emotions serve important functions in our lives, as they are signals of things that we need to pay attention to.

There is a quote that I love from Norah Wynne, which says “Feelings will not kill you. No one has ever died from experiencing an emotion, but people have died trying to stuff them down.”

It’s important to share with clients that their eating disorder behaviors are often coping strategies that they are using to try to regulate their emotions. These behaviors may have helped them to get through some difficult and traumatic times, however they are also no longer serving them.

With treatment and support, people with eating disorders can learn how to heal their relationships with themselves, food, and their bodies.

They can also learn how to express and process their emotions, without the constant strain of trying to suppress or run from their feelings. Part of living a meaningful life is being able to experience all of one’s emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant.

One of the great privileges of doing this work is being able to see the light return into someone’s eyes, for them to be exploring their true passions and interests, for their brain space to be no longer ruled with thoughts about food and their body. Full recovery and living according to your true values, is completely possible.

An assignment to put this into practice:

What emotions (if any) are you trying to push down, avoid, or distract from?
What behaviors are you using to try not to experience this emotion?
How is doing so serving you, and how is it not serving you?
What would be on healthy way that you could process the emotions that you are experiencing, i.e. writing, an alterbook, talking to a friend, drawing, talking to a therapist?

Article By: Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C,Founder of The Eating Disorder Center

Woman practicing self-care by writing in a journal

Take Time To Reflect On The Past Year…

The end of the year is a time to reflect, take stock of the year past, and plan for the year ahead. Each year we share an article with 12 questions to help guide a year-end reflection. A year has passed yet it feels like a nano-moment since the last year-end reflection. Not surprising – our lives, work and society move at an unprecedented pace.

To help you take stock and prepare for the year ahead, take time to reflect on this year’s questions.

THE YEAR BEHIND

What went well? This is a staple question we ask each year. It’s far too easy to bypass the wins and the good that comes within any year. Take stock of what went well this year and know that nothing is too small to own, celebrate and bring forward as positive fuel for the days and year ahead.

What surprised you? The pandemic aside, life is always full of surprises. Whether for better or otherwise, the skills of the day are adaptability, heartiness, and resourcefulness. Reflect on the surprises that came your way – and then on how you responded. What do you notice about your ability to adapt and pivot within the unexpected?

What did this year teach you? Every experience for better or worse can be a ‘teacher’ if we use it well. How did you grow from your year? What insights, knowledge, skills were gained or reinforced?

What are you noticing or even having hunches about? Sometimes if feels like change comes out of the blue. But often there are early signs and/or hints abound. Think about the year past and your world of work (and life). What signs or even inklings of change need to be heeded? Where might the opportunities come from? What are you ignoring that can put you at risk? Paying attention with an open mind and some self trust can prepare you better for even the seemingly unknown.

What needs to be left behind? Old ideas, poor habits, and self-limiting behaviours – ahh, who doesn’t have at least a few of these? When life and work pressures demand the best of us it is a good idea to take stock of what’s no longer working and might be holding us back. Also, ask yourself if it’s time to let some doors close this year (if they must) and shift your energy to new areas of opportunity? Where do you need to discard ideas, strategies, and ways of doing things that don’t work any more despite your best efforts?

Wrap up your year with a name that fits: Give 2021 the distinctive, memorable quality it deserves by considering the stand-out experiences and lessons and complete this phrase: “2021 was the year of ___.

THE YEAR AHEAD

Where do you need to go next? Think about the changes showing up (internally and externally). What’s next for you personally and professionally? Even if you don’t have precise answers yet, staying in this question will keep you on your toes so that you can plan and pivot to opportunities more easily. To paraphrase the famous words conveyed by Wayne Gretzky, ‘Focus on where the puck is headed and skate towards there.’

How will you evolve in the year ahead? While you can’t predict the whole picture, it’s a good idea to get intentional in your development and identify new skills, experiences and knowledge that will help you grow. Visualize yourself at the end of 2022 and ask in what ways will you have grown? This is your chance to reflect so you can plan for this to happen.

What are your top goals? Now it’s time to get specific and concrete. Forget resolutions – they don’t work. But goals – if meaningful, relevant and backed up with a plan – can provide focus, direction, a sense of purpose, and energize you with new motivation. Got any goals for yourself?

Who will you connect with? Don’t wait for sudden change to test the strength of your network and relationships – invest now. Take stock and make a commitment to connect meaningfully, authentically with those important to you. Expand and/or deepen your professional and personal network and find ways to show reciprocity by giving back to others.

How will you navigate ambiguity and uncertainty? Ambiguity and uncertainty often comes with disruptive change. How do you cope (thrive) in the unknown? Those who do well tend to foster flexible, resilient, hearty mindsets – along with other skills. Take heed, if not yet natural strengths, know that we can all tap into our deep-rooted capacities to adapt, learn, and find heartiness even in challenging conditions. Start by setting the intention and then commit. Then don’t be afraid to seek support in developing these skills.

What’s your mantra for 2022: What stands out for you that marks your intentions for the year ahead? Create a mantra to hold on to this by completing this phrase: 2022 will be the year of ________.

Article By: Eileen Chadnick of the Globe