December 22, 2013

Ideas for people with Eating Disorders to Negotiate the Holidays

Need a little extra help dealing with your eating disorder this holiday season? I am reposting this from last year because I think the information is appropriate this time of year. These are helpful ideas from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) about how to successfully negotiate your way through the holidays. Tips # 6 & 7 can be especially useful in talking about specific ways your support system can help you through this season.

I hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing, Holiday Season.

If you or someone you love are dealing with an eating disorder, please contact one of our Houston counselors to find out how we can help.

December 18, 2013

Shut down fat talk

I came across this video from the makers of Special K about women using "fat talk." According to the video, 93% of women use derogatory terms, or "fat talk" to describe their bodies. For example, they might say something such as "I look like a fat cow in this outfit."  Words are powerful. When you use "fat talk," it impacts how you feel about yourself. One of women in the video equated it with bullying. Can you imagine what a lifetime of this talk has done to your self-esteem?

This week, pay attention to the thoughts and words you use when thinking about your physical body. Write down any negative self-talk. Then next to the negative words, write down a rebuttal or a positive comment about your body. Sometimes it helps if you think about what you would say to a friend who was criticizing themselves. Battle your inner critic. Be vigilant about not allowing yourself to use bullying, degrading terms about your body. 

By the way, my inclusion of this video is not an endorsement of Special K, or their other campaigns and emphasis on weight loss. I always advocate that people focus on being healthy (emotionally and nutritionally) and not focus on simply losing weight. Some of the least physically healthy people I know are actually quite thin. However, I do think the video shares some important insights that can help all of us learn to be more accepting of ourselves and less accepting of that bullying voice that tears you down for perceived flaws in your body.

December 9, 2013

Learning to forgive: Lessons from Nelson Mandela

We lost a great hero this week at the death of president Nelson Mandela on December 5th. He suffered in prison for 27 years for his role in trying to end apartheid in South Africa. I can only imagine how I would feel if I was unjustly arrested, and forced to spend decades behind bars. I can imagine coming out bitter, broken, and revengeful. But Nelson Mandela understood that bitterness would come at a great price. Talking about his release from prison, he said, "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."

It is sometimes hard to let go of the bitterness, anger, and scorn we feel for the people in our lives who have wounded us. Very often those people are close family or friends, and the wound is made more difficult when we have to regularly face those individuals. I think about one of my clients who was sexually abused as a child by a family friend. He has struggled in many areas of his life because of the abuse. He has every right to be angry. And yet, that anger has also been a cause of suffering for him.

If you are feeling that kind of consuming bitterness, you know what a prison it can be. To be free of the prison, it will require the courage to give up your right to be angry and bitter. I encourage you to do something radically different in the way you think about those who have caused you to feel bitter. I encourage you to wish them well, to pray for them, to hope for positive and real change in their lives. Little by little, you will feel the bitterness melt away in your heart.

This does not mean you have to spend time with those individuals, or have any contact with them. It is still a good idea to maintain good boundaries with people who are poisonous in your life. But, in your mind, and in your heart you can start the long walk down the path of freedom from anger and bitterness. 

November 26, 2013

Sometimes a Turkey Is Just a Turkey

Every show I heard on the radio today was about food - not surprising considering Thanksgiving is just two days away. They talked about how to cook the perfect bird, what side dishes make good accompaniments, even how to smoke tofu to give it that seasonal flavor - yuck, smoked tofu???!! 

 For many out there, all the talk of food and the idea of those piles of food on the Thanksgiving table can be a little bit unnerving. People often categorize food as good or bad. A lot of the food that will make an appearance on your dinner table this Thursday may be categorized as "bad" and become triggers for you to overeat, or to feel guilty - anything white and starchy or sweet often makes the naughty foods list.

There is a way to prevent this, to be free to enjoy your meal, and the loved ones you share it with. There is a way you can slow things down, really taste your food and realize that food is just food, neither good nor bad in and of itself. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to slow down and learn to eat more mindfully. 

To learn to eat more mindfully, try to follow these five tips:
Eat slower
Savor the flavor
Turn off all your glowing rectangles
Pay attention to the flavor
Know your food

Read more about mindful eating in this article from registered dietitian Jenni Grover.

Happy, Healthy, Yummy Thanksgiving to you all! May your hearts be thankful and full.

November 21, 2013

Slowing down this holiday season

We are just days away from Thanksgiving, and the marathon race towards Christmas has begun. Holiday shopping, holiday parties, hosting family and a full calendar of to-do's can make this season more hectic than holy. To enjoy the holidays in a way you may not have in years, I encourage you to do two things. First, learn to say not to unnecessary commitments. It can be hard to tell someone no, but learning to set boundaries will help you keep your sanity. Second, make time to set aside to just be quiet and meditate, pray, think...whatever you need to do to slow down the hurried thoughts in your mind and create a sense of peace and order. Even 15 minutes a day of this type of meditation, can will help you feel calmer, more empathetic, and allow you to see your life more clearly and with more perspective.

November 7, 2013

Ways to prevent eating disorders in your child

I am so impressed by the love and devotion of parents who bring their children into my office to help them deal with their eating disorder struggles. It is incredibly painful to watch your child suffer, but these parents try every day to understand their kids, to support them, and to walk with them through the emotional roller coaster of their disorder. There is hope for change for these children, but my hope would be that parents never have to walk down this road in the first place. ANRED has a helpful article with tips for prevent eating disorders in children. I will be expanding on some of these points in upcoming blog posts, but remember that the good news is that parents can be proactive in creating a home environment  that fosters healthy esteem which will make their children less susceptible to eating disorders. The article discusses some of these prevention techniques.

October 28, 2013

4 Easy Ways to Talk Yourself Out of Overeating Halloween Candy


Here are some helpful tips from psychologist Dr.Susan Albers on how to enjoy Halloween without overeating the candy.

Have a safe and fun Halloween!

October 24, 2013

Enjoy Your Body

I came across the wonderful song by Baz Luhrman. He offers his advice on how to be free. The whole song makes me smile, but I especially appreciated this line about being free in your body.

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don't be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own, dance
Even if it you have nowhere to do it but your own living room

If you have 5 minutes, listen to this and see if you don't feel inspired to be free!

October 20, 2013

The 21 Day Gratitude Cleanse

In my mind Thanksgiving has long been a holiday that is about food. Sure, I know that is not what the Pilgrims had in mind when they sat down with the American Indians so many years ago, but somewhere along the way, the mashed potatoes and gravy seem to have won out to giving thanks. But lately, I have been thinking about the importance of expressing gratitude. I have been thinking about the need to take time off to cleanse our minds on a daily basis.

There is a lot of research to support how transformative it is for people to intentionally express gratitude. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis has noted that practicing gratitude in a systematic way can actually changes people by changing brains that are "wired for negativity, for noticing gaps and omissions." He explains, "When you express a feeling, you amplify it. When you express anger, you become angrier: When you express gratitude, you become more grateful." This expression of gratitude has been shown to boost emotional health as well as physical health.

So, my challenge to myself, to my family, and to you reading this today, is to experience the transformative power of gratitude.  For the next 21 days, I encourage you to write down three distinct things you are grateful for every day. Do not repeat anything on your list. See if that does change your attitude in at least some small way. For my kids, I am going to make this easier by getting large rolls of paper that I will post on their bedroom door for them to write out in marker three things they are grateful for every night. If you take this challenge, you may want to try putting a reminder on your daily calendar to express gratitude, or keeping a journal by your bedside table - anything that will help you remember.

I hear about people doing cleanses all the time, and what a difference it makes for them. Think of this as a cleanse for your emotional health. The focus is on keeping negativity out by having a daily, focused intake of gratitude.

After this is all over, I would love to hear any comments you have about your experience.

Struggling with feeling more negative than grateful? We have counselors who can meet with you. Contact our Houston counselors to find out how we can help.

September 24, 2013

Odd is Awesome

I have a very creative, artistic seven year old daughter. She often sees her world through a totally unique lens. Several years ago, I walked into her bedroom and found that she had cut some holes in her blue bed sheets. Puzzled about why she would do this, I asked her why she cut her sheets. She replied, "The horses needed water." Although I am not really sure what she meant exactly, I could imagine in her creative mind that the blue bed sheets were a cool stream and she wanted her toy horses to have access to a drink.

I love seeing the world through her minds eye, and I try to tell her how much I appreciate her creative side, just as I try to appreciate each of my children's unique qualities. But, somewhere along the way, she started to feel it was not good to be different. One day, seemingly out of the blue, she told me, "Mommy, I am an odd ball. I don't fit in our family." I was taken aback.

I tried to protest and tell her that we all have differences and being different is what makes us special, but she seemed unconvinced. Later that day, we were looking at an illustrated encyclopedia of marine life. The variety of colors and shapes and sizes of the animals was awe inspiring. If you have ever seen a picture of a humpback whale jumping out of the ocean, or a school of brightly colored fish, you know what I mean.

So I said to my daughter, "There sure are a lot of different animals. Why do you think God made all of the creatures so different?" A big grin spread across her face, and she said "God loves oddballs." And just like that she realized that it was good to be different - it was good to be her with all of her eccentricities.

Today if you are feeling unhappy with some party of your body or comparing yourself to others and feeling as if you fall short, I want you to remember that it is your uniqueness that makes you special, and that makes the world interesting. 

If you are not convinced, that odd is awesome, check out this clip about the top ten weirdest sea creatures. You've got nothing on these guys! Or, look around at the faces of the people you see today and check out their noses. I think it very cool to see how many different kinds of noses people have. Each one is unique. Pick one thing about yourself today express thanks for that difference.

September 11, 2013

Retract the Distractions In Your Life

Today is a busy day. You know you have a lot to get done and not enough time to do it all. You start your work day with a quick read of the e-mails in your inbox, but that quick read soon leads down a rabbit trail of distractions. Your friend sent out and e-mail with a video link to some music video about a fox on YouTube. You know you should watch it later, but curiosity has got you... Three minutes and 45 amusing seconds later you chide yourself for the distraction and try to get back to work - if you can divert yourself from the other string of amusing videos, facebook updates, e-mails and articles that are cluttering up your inbox and your mind. There are so many things competing for your time. So, how can you stay on track?

First, start by managing the distractions in your life. Review your day and prioritize what is critical to get done that day. It often helps to make a written list. Say no to things that are not a priority. Saying no will allow you to say yes to something more important.

Second, leave some down time in your day. There will inevitably be something that comes up in the day you have not considered. If you leave some scheduled down time, it will give you wiggle room to deal with those things without feeling so stressed out.

Finally, forget doing everything perfectly. Perfectionism can be a huge distraction in and of itself because it will slow you down, and even stop you from getting started on your to-do's. Cut yourself some slack and learn to be okay with doing the best you can and then moving on to the next thing you have to do.

Then, when you have completed the most important things on your list, take a little time to reward yourself - a nice cup of tea, doing your nails, a few minutes on your favorite blog, whatever feels relaxing to you. It is the perfect way to unwind and get you ready for the rest of your day!

August 12, 2013

Transitioning to college life with an eating disorder

I have several clients with eating disorders who are starting college for the first time in the fall. Freshman year in college can be a difficult transition for anyone, but the food situation is particularly challenging if you struggle with an eating disorder. This article has some good information about how to help the people you love transition to college life. I especially like the sample transition contract that you draw up with your student. It has specific target behaviors that your student will maintain if she is to stay in school. With a contract, everyone is on the same page and your student know what is expected and how to stay on track with recovery.

June 14, 2013

I don't hate swim suit season...

I have never liked going to the store and trying on a swim suit. Having a short, curvier body type, it felt particularly challenging, and those mirrors in the dressing room seem to magnify everything! I know this is a huge struggle for my clients as well. I remember one client who had fun beach vacation planned with her friends, but it was ruined for her after she saw a picture of herself in her swimsuit. She felt fat and could not stop comparing herself to her "skinny" friends. This led her down the path of restricting her food intake, and further down the path of her eating disorder.

For many of you, it may feel inevitable that you will feel insecure, fat, or even ugly in a swimsuit, but before you start on that summer diet, please consider that there are many healthy ways to feel good and enjoy your summer. Check out this article about 5 things you can do to stop stressing about your bikini body. I especially like the body positive affirmation. When you are feeling bad, repeating these affirmation in your head can help calm you. Getting control of the critical voice in your head will be the first step to accepting your body and enjoying your summer.

May 22, 2013

How to not screw up your kid's body image

I had a Houston client today talking about his parenting abilities. "When you break it down", he told me, "I am just trying to not f*** up my kids." I appreciate his honesty so much. I think good parents often worry about whether their choices will help or wound their children. My precious six year old walked into my room first thing this morning, looked straight at me and asked me if she was skinny. I faltered for a second- taken aback by her question. 

As a therapist who works with people who struggle with body image and self identity, I am very sensitive about this topic. I try not to label my children with terms like "skinny" or "chubby" or say anything that will give them a stigma about their bodies. My hope for my kids would be that they would appreciate and be thankful for the unique qualities in the bodies they have been given.

Parents are not solely responsible for how kids feel about their bodies, but we do have a big influence. The good news is, there are thing we can do to help kids boost their body image. The following tips from WebMD might be helpful starting points as you think about how help the kids in your life.

  • Help children understand that there is not one "ideal" body shape
  • Watch what you say about your own bodies and the comments they make about other people's bodies 
  • Avoiding stereotypes, prejudices, and words like ugly and fat
  • Helping children focus on their abilities and personalities rather than their physical appearance
  • Promote physical activity and exercise. Girls who play sports tend to have higher levels of self-esteem and healthier body images. "Be fit, not necessarily thin, and you will be healthy for life," is an excellent motto.
  • Discourage children from weighing themselves too often 
Your kids are listening, and they want to know that you love and accept them, whatever their body type or weight may be. 

Need help dealing with the stresses of parenting? Our Houston counselors are available for face to face session. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

May 1, 2013

12 Ways you sabotage your mental health

If things feel off-kilter in your life, you may be doing some of these twelve things listed in this article that sabotage your mental health. The great thing about the article is that it also give you practical ideas for what you can do to change those behaviors.,,20694928,00.html?xid=healthyliving05012013

April 25, 2013

Why friends can be better than a Xanax

It feels like we live increasingly busy and yet increasingly isolated lives. Our lives are filled with so many activities involving interactions with so many people, and yet rarely do we stop and make deep connections with any of them. How can you stop? The to-do list is too long. Who has time for the luxury of quality time with friends? For me, I sometimes feel guilty taking time away from my family, or my job to just hang out with friends.

But there is a cost to this type of isolation from friends. There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests that people with close friends are much healthier than those without. People with friends tend to live longer, have better brain health, are more likely to recover from diseases like breast cancer, and are even less likely to get colds (perhaps due to lower stress levels). It is not quite clear why this is the case, but it is a consistent finding. Social support will help you live a healthier, happier life.

So if you are looking to improve your physical and emotional health, start cultivating your friendships. Call that friend you have been meaning to talk to, or invite some people over for a meal, or join a book club. This may be the biggest single thing you can do to take care of yourself.

April 5, 2013

Is an MBA the way out of your career search blues?

Most of us have at some point had a job we just did not like. Perhaps your boss resembled one of the supervisors in the black comedy Horrible Bosses - the Psycho, the Man-eater, or the Tool! Okay, maybe they are not that bad, but you still don't love working for them. Perhaps your paycheck isn't cutting it. Perhaps your job does not seem to have any opportunities for growth, is not stimulating, or perhaps it just feels like your job is sucking the life out of you and you need out, NOW!

That is the point at which some of my career counseling clients come to me. They are smart, determined, skilled people who are burned out and need some help figuring out what the next step is for them. Many of them are considering getting an MBA as a way to expand their option and their paychecks. When I talk to them about the MBA, they have often not done the research to find out if it will really lead them to what they are looking for.

Before you invest the considerable time and money it takes to get an MBA, there are some basic questions you will want answered. This brief, but very helpful article in Bloomsberg BusinessWeek will give you some pointers about what you should consider, and the questions you want to ask business schools before applying to their programs.

March 21, 2013

Best and worst foods for sleep


What you eat before bed can affect your sleep. This article lists the best and worst foods for sleep:,,20628881,00.html

February 20, 2013

Spotting an eating disorder in someone you love

Between 8 and 10 million Americans have an eating disorder. It is estimated that 50% of Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder. Check out this video for ways to spot an eating disorder within someone you love.

February 16, 2013

Land a job by networking through professional organizations

Networking with professional organizations is a great way to find out about job opportunities, meet professionals in your field, and get support as you find work or try to launch into a new career.  For a handy list of Houston professional organizations in your field, check out this free resource on 

February 6, 2013

Living in the moment to stop stress fast

It felt like the theme of the day for my clients yesterday was stress. The teen with so much school work she was up until midnight, the twenty-something worried about what her boss thought of her work performance, the middle aged man stressed out about the self-destructive choices his adult son was making.

These clients were in different stages of life, but they all experienced their stress in a similar way. They felt anxious, had interrupted sleep, preoccupied thoughts, and just generally had trouble enjoying all of the individual moments of their lives. Sound familiar to anyone? 

It is so easy to get caught up in the stresses of daily life. From the moment I get up my mind starts thinking about everything I have to do for the day, and the week, and even what needs to happen by the end of the month. I need to take the car to the shop, pick up snacks for my daughter's girl scout meeting, work on a new blog post, do my taxes, and get dinner ready. I feel myself tensing up just writing about it. 

The Christian scriptures provides some wisdom on this idea of stress. "Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34) In that scripture, there is the one of the best keys to stress reduction I have found. 

Focus on what you have to do today - and only today. If you can handle what you have to do today, tomorrow will take care of itself. Breaking that down even further, ask yourself, can I handle what I have to do in the next hour? When I look at my life that way, my day feels pretty manageable. I can finally learn to live more in the moment and start to enjoy each part of my day. 

The trick here is to stop yourself when you have racing thoughts about your long list of to-do's, and remind yourself, I only have to think about what needs to be done in the next hour. It sounds simplistic, but learning to live and work in the moment will help you stop stress fast.

February 1, 2013

Do I have an eating disorder?

Image: tofu-2011 project

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at a local high school with a panel of specialists on eating disorders. I was impressed with the large crowd of students who voluntarily showed up on their lunch break to hear about eating disorders. This was clearly a topic that these high school students cared about. I guess it is not surprising considering that some estimates show nearly 11% of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder (

During the question and answer portion of the presentation, several students asked how they can know if they have an eating disorder. I think it is pretty safe to assume that nearly everyone in the room struggles with their weight and body image, and may have tried dieting to control those factors, but how can they know if they have a full-blown, this-feels-out-of-control, I-need-to-get-help type of eating disorder?

There is a great assessment you can take online to quickly help you determine if you might be at risk of an eating disorder. It is kind of like one of those Cosmo quizzes, "Is He the One???," only it will help you figure out if you have a diagnosable eating disorder.

If you think there is any chance you might have an eating disorder, take the assessment, and then contact an eating disorder specialist. You can find a list of specialists on the Houston Eating Disorder Specialist website. The sooner you get help, the more likely it is that you can beat the disorder.

January 24, 2013

Negotiating a flexible work schedule


How much money would you give up for more flexibility at work? A recent study done by staffing firm Mom Corps, found that 45% of people would give up part (about 8.6%) of their salary to have more flexibility at work. And that number is up approximately 3% from the prior year's survey. Flexibility is becoming increasingly more important to workers today. In my coaching practice, I  regularly get asked for help from clients looking for more flexible work options. But in the wild world of work, how can you trap that elusive beast - the flexible job?

A great place to start would be to explore the website On the website, there are downloadable workplace proposals that you can use when talking to your boss about getting a more flexible schedule. There are also lots of great articles on how to build your confidence, and how to help you plan your strategy before talking to your boss. If you have been hoping to find more flexibility at work, now is the time to start taking action and start making time for your life!

January 17, 2013

Resource for eating disorder struggles

Eating disorders can lead to feelings of hopelessness, but recovery is possible. Join us on 2/23/2013 for the Houston Eating Disorder Specialists Conference for a day of education and hope as we explore the latest advances in eating disorders care with local and national experts - including Carolyn Costin, one of the foremost experts in the treatment of eating disorders. This conference will benefit anyone wanting more information about these treatable illnesses, including students, professionals, and those affected by eating disorders. You don't want to miss this.

If you are interested in attending the conference, you can register through the link below. Hope to see you there!

January 11, 2013

What to leave off your resume

Don't tell them that...What not to say on your resume!

At some point in your life you will need a resume. Resume can be tricky to craft well. And the stakes are high. If you have a bad resume, you will likely not get the interview you want. No interview = no job. So, be careful about what you put on your resume. Check out this article that I contributed to for more on what not to put on your resume.

January 7, 2013

Battling a bad body image?

I recently finished reading Margot Starbuck's "Unsqueezed - Springing free from skinny jeans, nose jobs, highlights, and stilettos." Starbuck addresses from a Christian perspective, a dilemma many of us face on a daily basis, What do I do when I don't feel good in my own skin?

Those pesky thoughts pop into your head, "If only I could change my hair, get rid of those unfortunate wrinkles around my eyes, and deal with some of that cellulite on my thighs, maybe then I would finally feel good." As Starbuck points out, these insecurities are only intensified by a culture that seems to have "effectively marketed the myth that women's bodies exist for no higher purpose than to be viewed."

With wit and humor, Starbuck addresses the issues that often lead us to feeling less than, and discusses practical ways to embrace who you are. There can be real freedom if we accept our bodies and use them for the purposes for which they were created. After all, "God seems to be dealing in an entirely different currency than we've been working with, when it comes to the value and purpose of our bodies."

The really wonderful thing is that when I am freed up from the obsessions about my body, I can really use my body to reach my goals and to care for others. When I stop worrying about how my thighs look in a bathing suit, I can start using those thighs to help my elderly neighbor walk her groceries into her home, or carry laundry to my daughters room,  or to walk up the stairs to get to work to counsel others who are struggling with their own body image. The coolest part is that I already have everything I need to do those things.

So today, instead of lamenting what my body is not, I am going to be thankful for what I have been given and try to enjoy using my body for the purpose for which it was meant - to live and love!

January 2, 2013

Ice cream therapy - How to stop feeding your emotions

What foods do you crave when you are sad, or angry, or bored? Many of us will reach for some ice cream or potato chips when we are moody. It feels like that bowl of Blue Bell will make everything better, but sadly, you still feel pretty rotten when you get to the bottom of the bowl. You may have tried to feed your emotions with food but have completely ignored the fact that you feel sad about a disagreement you had with a friend or your spouse.

That is called emotional eating--eating to feed an uncomfortable feeling, not your physical hunger. Emotional eating is a major cause of overeating. In fact, according to experts, 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.

Turning to food can become a bad habit that can stop you from learning the skills you need to actually take care of yourself when you are upset, and it can lead to overeating and lower self-esteem.

By identifying your own personal triggers, you can find better techniques for taking care of your yourself. This WebMd article talks about how to tell the difference between physical and emotional hunger, and gives some helpful ideas for managing emotional eating. A good first step is to ask yourself if you are actually hungry. If you are, find a healthy snack. If not, find other activities that are enjoyable to you such as reading a good book, taking a bubble bath, or talking to a friend. Keep a list of these activities so that you can go to it when you feel the urge to eat. The urge to eat will often pass after you engage in these types of activities. You can learn to stop feeding your emotions.

If you are having trouble getting hold of your emotional eating, a counselor can help. Please contact one of our Houston counselors to find out how you can make changes today.