December 24, 2014

When you screw up, do the next best thing

Have you ever caught yourself saying, "Where has the year gone?" I feel this way at the end of every year. I don't know what happened to 2014. A full year gone. What have I done in that time? What do I wish I had done? This can be a pretty reflective time of year--the passing of one year, and the beginning of the next.

If you can find even one quiet moment to sit and reflect on your year, what comes to mind? For some of you, it will be the mistakes and regrets that haunt your thoughts. For those mistakes, you beat yourself up emotionally. For some of my clients, this might include a small chiding: "Why did I say something so dumb?"

Or a more cruel voice:
"I don't deserve to be loved."
"My family would be better off without me."
"I will never get better."
"I am a loser."
These words are soul crushing. If you really believe them, it becomes hard to change anything about your life. Imagine feeling you really are a loser, unworthy of love. There is not much motivation to change. It would be pointless. Even if your self criticisms are less harsh, they will still hamper your ability to make positive changes, or feel good about your life.

We all make mistakes. Sometimes, we make big mistakes. That is part of being human, and it is okay. But we are not defined by our mistakes (unless we fixate on them and continually define ourselves this way). My recommendation when you feel bad about a poor choice you have made is to pick yourself up and then make the next best choice. In other words, if you make one bad choice, focus on your next choice and make it a good one. It is very difficult to change the past, but you can have a lot of control over your present and future choices.

So, today, resolve to make the next year one in which you won't engage in shaming self talk, but instead grant yourself some grace. And when you make a mistake, make the next best choice.

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year! I hope 2015 brings you many blessings.

November 26, 2014

Dealing With Difficult People

I am kind of a sucker for Christmas music.  I will often listen to a local radio station that starts playing holiday songs on Thanksgiving day. Songs like "It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year" have such a feel good vibe. The lyrics remind you, "It's the hap-happiest season of all. With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings, when friends come to call." Sure, the lyrics are a bit dated, but you get the point. Be happy - it's the holidays!

Many of you will be heading out to gatherings with friends and family this holiday season. And some of those events can be happy times. But many of you will also be in close quarters with someone you don't necessarily enjoy.  Perhaps this person has treated you badly in the past. They have been selfish, mean, difficult,  judgmental, or just plain irritating, and you would rather avoid them.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I think this is the perfect time to use the discipline of thankfulness to help you deal with the difficult people in your life. Last year around this time, I wrote a blog post about the transformative power of gratitude in which I challenged people write down three unique things they are thankful for every day for twenty one days. If you incorporate this practice into your life, it will help you learn to focus on the positive and feel more optimistic in general.

This year I want to challenge you to use this principle when you have to deal with difficult people in your personal or professional life. Take the time right now to think of one person in particular. Whenever you interact with them, or bring them to mind, think of three things about them for which you are grateful. For example, when you go home for the holidays and start feeling irritated about your sometimes judgmental, critical father, list three things you are thankful for about him. That list might include things like "I am thankful for his health, I am thankful he was around when I was growing up, I am thankful that he taught me right from wrong, I am thankful for his dry sense of humor."

You may have to dig deep if the person is very difficult, but expressing gratitude has the ability to begin to lighten your heart and melt the anger and baggage in your relationships.

Try following this practice of gratitude for the rest of the holiday season. If it works for you, keep using it whenever you encounter people you find difficult.

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October 30, 2014

Four questions that will help you stop catastrophizing

One of the common traits of anxious people is that they tend to catastrophize events in their lives. For example, I might be worried that something I said to a co-worker might be construed as unprofessional and that might lead to me having a bad reputation on the job which might lead to me not being promoted, or even fired. I don't necessarily have any evidence to back this up, but I just feel like it is true. That is catastrophizing.

I was working with a client named Kim (not her real name) recently. She rated her anxiety at work at about a 10 out of 10 - in other words very high. Kim had a run in with a co-worker that had resulted in her being called into the human resources office. Ever since that time, she was highly anxious and afraid of any interaction with her co-worker. She avoided this individual, and any possible conflict, at all costs. She felt deep shame about being reprimanded. This was a woman who had twenty years of exemplary service with the company, but this one blemish seemed to define her view of herself.

To help Kim learn to decrease her catastrophizing, I asked her a question, "What are you afraid will happen?" She replied, that she was afraid of getting into a conflict with her co-worker. I asked her to write that fear on a piece of paper. Then I asked her a second question, "If you get into a conflict, what will happen?" She said she might get angry. I had her write this down. To each of her responses, I asked her the same question, "If that happens, then what?"

Her responses looked something like this:
I will get into a conflict
I might get angry
I might cry or cuss
I will be embarrassed and or written up
I will get fired
I will lose my house
I will not be able to support my family
I will feel like a failure
I won't be able to face anyone

By writing out her thoughts, Kim was able to see why the possibility of getting into a conflict had such a paralyzing effect on her. When we got to the end of the list, I asked Kim a third question, "What do you think the chances are that these series of events will happen?" She indicated that she thought there was only a 10% chance it would actually go down that way. In other words, there was a 90% chance it would not happen. So I asked her a final question, can you live with those odds? Kim felt pretty good about her odds, and was able to feel her anxiety and catastrophizing diminish.

This technique can be really helpful if you find yourself catastrophizing. It is important to write down your thoughts. You already have enough noise in your head when you are anxious, you don't want to add any more to it. And there is something about seeing your thoughts written out that makes them so much clearer.

So, next time you start feeling anxious and catastrophizing, try asking yourself the following:
What are you worried about?
If that happens, then what?
What are the odds of that happening?
Can you live with that?

October 17, 2014

Movie Premier- America The Beautiful : The Sexualization of Our Youth

The premier of America The Beautiful is coming up on Wednesday, October 22nd at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public, but you do need to register here.

Below is the media release of the film if you would like to know more about it.

"Award-winning filmmaker Darryl Roberts takes an unflinching look at the insidious effects of our culture's preoccupation with sex in "America the Beautiful 3: The Sexualization of Our Youth" premiering this fall across the United States.  
"America the Beautiful 3: The Sexualization of Our Youth," is an important yet disconcerting film that both informs and warns viewers that our fixation with sex is adversely affecting our culture, leading to a public health crisis and even worse, the escalation of violence against women and children.    
*WARNING: This film includes scenes with graphic violence and pornographic imagery, which have the potential to trigger some viewers. Individuals with a history of sexual abuse, trauma or PTSD are advised not watch this film.  
Using interviews and storylines while weaving a personal narrative, Roberts deals with taboo topics, drawing his subjects out by being himself: curious, concerned and approachable. Roberts exposes the images and messages that desensitize our children to sex and the ultimate price our society pays through unlimited and uncensored access to sexually explicit material by increasingly younger audiences. 

Roberts covers topics including:
· How the Internet has made pornography affordable, accessible and anonymous

· How body image ideals and being "perfect" is shaped by the media

· The intensity of the baby and toddler pageant circuit

· One teenager's crusade re: Abercrombie & Fitch, and the surprising outcome of her efforts

· Aspiring actresses/models and what they will do to be famous

· How addiction to porn is changing expectations of sex for young men

· The mixed messages of safe sex versus abstinence

· Rape on college campuses: how universities have been ignoring the epidemic

· One in four women have been sexually assaulted, yet often little is done about it.

"The objectification of our youth creates such serious mental health issues and our desensitization to these issues, especially to violence towards women, may be impossible to reverse if we don't change how images are presented in the media and advertising. I want to shed light on these issues and bring organizations together to help eradicate the problem," Roberts said.

Monte Nido & Affiliates Eating Disorder Treatment Centers is the sponsor of the theatrical release and Carolyn Costin, founder/chief clinical officer, has partnered with Roberts on all three films: "Each documentary explores how our culture objectifies females and undermines their self esteem, leading to serious psychological and social consequences. His first film explored our culture's obsession with beauty, his second focused on our relentless pursuit of thinness, and now his third examines our fixation with sex. Darryl exposes how our cultural obsessions take an insidious toll on our health and well being," Costin said.

Costin's life's work has focused on how to help change the conversation about and our relationship to our bodies, to help people feel empowered rather than objectified or victimized by a culture that promotes image over substance resulting in body shaming: "The series is a wake-up call urging us to speak out and make changes in the things we have come to accept as unchangeable. There are many things we can do, and the young female heroine in "America the Beautiful 3" is evidence that we can turn adversity into activism," Costin said.

"America the Beautiful 3" premieres in cities across the country and includes local and national outreach campaigns in collaboration with public advocacy groups, universities and health organizations. A Q&A will follow each screening:

New York, NY ~ October 10
Los Angeles, CA ~ October 19
Dallas, TX ~ October 20
Houston, TX ~ October 22
East Lansing, MI ~ October 27
Chicago, IL ~ October 29
San Francisco, CA ~ November 3
Seattle, WA ~ November 6
Boston, MA ~ November 10
Philadelphia, PA ~ November 12
Atlanta, GA ~ November 17
Miami, FL ~ November 19

About Darryl Roberts: President of Harley Boy Entertainment. Roberts is a writer, producer, and director. Best known for his 2008 "America the Beautiful," documentary, Roberts received media attention from The Today Show, Good Morning America and CNN Headline News. 

Inspired by the people and events from his films, Roberts started the "Are You An Ally?" Anti-Bullying Campaign. The effort, spurred by work on the third film, was sponsored by Abercrombie & Fitch is now being extended to 10,000 high schools in October 2014 for National Anti-Bullying Month. 

About Carolyn Costin: Author, psychotherapist and founder and chief clinical officer of Monte Nido & Affiliates, Costin recovered from anorexia in the early 1970s and has specialized in treating body image disturbance and eating disorders since 1979. In 1996, Costin opened Monte Nido in Malibu, CA, the first-of-its-kind residential treatment facility. The success of this program led to four more residential facilities with a fifth to open in New York, October 6, 2014. Monte Nido also runs four day-treatment programs and two transitional living houses.

Monte Nido and Affiliates' programs are known as premier treatment facilities in the U.S. and abroad. Carolyn's books, The Eating Disorder Sourcebook, Your Dieting Daughter, 100 Questions and Answers About Eating Disorders and 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder are highly acclaimed by professionals, sufferers and the public."

Thank you and please contact project manager Shannon Grosswiler ( for questions.
Note: Although we require a reservation on EventBrite, this movie is free and a "first come, first seated" event unless you contact Ms. Grosswiler for a block of pre-assigned seats. All seats will be released promptly at 7pm to additional guests.

We hope to see you at premieres. 

October 3, 2014

Work stressing you out? Find out why less is more.

Most of the people I work with in my practice have come in at some point with high levels of stress. They are experiencing the kind of stress that makes it hard to sleep at night, that causes them to have trouble focusing, or to feel agitated and short tempered with people they love. It is the kind of stress that makes them question what is wrong with their lives, but then feel too exhausted to do anything about it.

Many of them are drained by demanding jobs that they spend a lot of their waking hours thinking about. Often, they even take work home. These are smart, hardworking, successful people. But, they have had the joy sucked out of their lives by the time they come to see me. 

I talk with them about creating more balance in their lives. This means working less, and getting back to things in their personal lives that they value and that energize them. In general I recommend that they leave work by a designated time every night, and do not take work home. It sounds so simple, but the suggestion is usually met with surprise and fear. These folks have strong work ethics and they believe they have been successful in their lives because they have worked so hard. And besides, what will their boss say when they start leaving earlier or not answering e-mail right away? 

When things are not working in your life, try doing something differently. I challenge my clients to try setting boundaries at work for one week and see how it feels to them. It is wonderful to see them come back the following week. Often there is a lightness in their demeanor, and a smile on their faces. You can physically see their burden has been lightened. They are working fewer hours, but they have more energy which usually translated into working more efficiently. And it almost always translates into enjoying their lives more. 

If you are feeling stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed, I recommend you review your life and see where you can start setting boundaries. Cut out things that are less essential. Add back things that you do to take care of yourself, and things that energize you. It may seem paradoxical, but by working fewer hours, you will often accomplish more and enjoy your life more. This is definitely one of those cases where less is more!

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September 19, 2014

September 1, 2014

Get unstuck - Learn to reach your goals

Life can be a very sticky affair. It's easy to get stuck in a rut and feel ambivalent about changing. Take, for example, something as simple as exercising. How many times have you told yourself that you are going to start working out, and then proceeded to do a hundred other activities, but not a single one of them involved exercise?

I have felt like I have been in rut with writing this blog lately. It's strange because I actually love writing the blog, but things got so busy in the summer. And then a few weeks went by and I had not written anything. I got out of the habit, and it started to feel like it was going to be difficult to challenge myself to block off time to write. I also told myself I would get back to it as soon as I had more free time. Sound familiar?

If you sit around waiting for the right time to change, or more free time to make changes, you might never do it. So I got myself motivated with a technique that works for a lot of my clients who are having trouble making changes. I told myself that I can start small: start with baby steps. I could just turn on my computer and see what came out, no pressure. I would not judge myself or my writing. I would just take one step closer to my goal of getting back into the habit of blogging. It worked for me just like it can work for you.

I saw this technique at work in one of my clients who has been a binge eater most of her life. As a binge eater, Sarah (not her real name) has learned to tune out when she is binge eating. She goes into something we call a food coma. The food coma can provide a temporary escape from the fear, anxiety, and self-loathing, but it comes at a cost. Sarah has a litany of health problems, suffers from very poor self-esteem, and often chooses to isolate herself from friends and family.

In session, we discussed practical ways that Sarah could start making changes. She agreed, and seemed hopeful, but when she came in the following session, she was tearful as she discussed her inability to make any substantive changes. She was too scared and anxious to change the coping mechanism--binge eating--that had become such a big part of her life. I encouraged Sarah to start small. Whenever she felt nervous, she should remind herself that she only had to take baby steps. In fact, she decided to put post-it notes with the mantra "baby steps" all around her house. This small step gave her confidence, and when she came in the following week, she was hopeful. One small step at a time, she had begun to change her life.

If you feel stuck and have been unable to change, challenge yourself to do one thing differently today. Take one baby step. If you are still having trouble making real change in your life, a therapist might be able to help you get unstuck. Maybe your baby step is to make that phone call to schedule an appointment with a therapist, or go for a short walk, type up a draft of a resume, or write a letter to that person who hurt you. Whatever it is, start small and start today. You will be happy you did.

July 15, 2014

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

I was reading a beautifully crafted essay written by one of my friends and felt simultaneously thrilled by the brilliant analysis and beautiful prose, but I also felt a little pang of jealously at the ease with which he could produce such incredible work. Even if I  painstakingly edited 100 drafts of my writing, I would never come close to his talent.

Later that day, a different friend posted some photos on social media of an event he was attending. He looked like he was having the time of his life. So I started thinking about my own day, which felt a little, well, lackluster. I sighed, turned off my computer and reminded myself of what I already knew--comparing is always a trap, and it will not help me lead the life I want.

I see people falling into this comparison trap all the time in my practice. Social media bombards us with carefully selected detail of our friends' lives. What we often don't think about is the fact that those status updates and pictures don't tell the whole story. People generally only post or tell the most interesting, fun sounding parts of their lives. But when you start comparing, you can feel the joy fading out of your day or even start to criticize yourself.

One of my clients, Jackson (not his real name) came in feeling depressed about his weekend. He had been ruminating about how unhappy and lonely he was while his friends seemed to be thriving and enjoying their lives--at least it looked that way when he checked their status updates on Facebook. 

Jackson's brother works in the film industry in Hollywood. Although he does not do anything glamorous, on rare occasions, he does gets to interact with celebrities. When Jackson told his brother about how crummy he was feeling, his brother reminded him of how incomplete and sometimes artificial our comparisons can be. "Look at me," he reminded his brother, "my last Facebook post is a picture of me with Snoop Dog." And then he said something very insightful:
"Don't compare your blooper reel to everyone else's highlight reel."
In other words, be careful of comparing the worst aspects of your life with the best aspect of someone else's life.

Instead of comparing your life to someone else's, first focus on your own goals. Accept the things in your life you cannot change, and commit to changing the things you have the power to change. Second, express gratitude for the things you are thankful for, as I talked about in a previous post.  Expressing gratitude will give you new eyes to appreciate the things you do have instead of focusing on the lack of things you don't have. 

Life is not a contest; it's a journey. So make your journey meaningful!

June 27, 2014

How to choose a therapist

I often get asked by people who know me personally how they can find the best therapist for them. The strength of the therapeutic relationship will have a major impact on the success of your therapy. If you and the therapist don't have very good rapport, it can feel kind of like going on a bad date. It just won't click. But that does not mean you give up on therapy, or dating for that matter, it probably just means they were not the right person for you. So, how can you choose the right therapist?

Psychology Today has a helpful article that will give you some tips. I would recommend that you do some research before scheduling an appointment with someone. Ask for referrals. Check the therapist's website. And I would also recommend that you call the therapist and ask some basic question including:

  • How many years have you been practicing?
  • What kind of experience do you have working with (whatever problem you are experiencing)?
  • What are your areas of expertise?
  • What kind of treatments/techniques do you use and have they been proven effective for people with my kind of problem?
  • What are your fees?

If you feel comfortable with what you hear, schedule an appointment. It can be hard to tell if a therapist is a good fit until you meet them. If after several sessions you still don't feel comfortable, it may be time to find another therapist. A therapist can connect you with powerful resources to help you learn to live the life you want to live. It is worth some leg work up front to find the right person.

June 12, 2014

Letting go of bitterness : Lessons from Maya Angelou

The great Dr. Maya Angelou passed away last month. Though her passing is a loss to all of us, I am thankful we have such a large body of written work and interviews so that we can glean from her life experiences, her mistakes, and her wisdom. Dr. Angelou speaks with a fluid elegance and authority that makes people stop and listen. It was riveting to watch her interview with Dave Chappelle from the Sundance show Iconoclasts.

One of the quotes that really stuck with me was her discussion of anger and bitterness. Dave Chappelle was asking her about her experience with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's.  Angelou was involved with the movement and was friends with people like Dr.Martin Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X.  Chappelle asked her something to the effect of how can you not be angry when there was so much unwarranted violence against your friends? This was her response:

“You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.” – Maya Angelou

You can start the video of the interview around minute 5:15 to hear the rest of the conversation about anger and bitterness.

There are times when you have every right to be angry. I spoke with a client yesterday who is struggling with forgiving her biological mom. Her biological mom gave her up for adoption as a baby. As an adult, my client tried to initiate a relationship with her mom. But, the relationship stalled out time after time because her mom would rarely treat her well. Ultimately, my client decided to end all communication, but she still feels eaten up with resentment and bitterness. 

The challenge for all of us is to learn to let go of the bitterness. There are so many outlets we can use to channel the bitter cancer out of ourselves. As an artist, Angelou found it cathartic to use her gift of writing to deal with bitterness. Think about the ways you can let go of your bitterness. It may involve talking it out with a friend or therapist, going for a long walk, praying and meditating, painting your feelings, or some other creative outlet.  Find your outlet and you can begin to feel the lightness and relief that come with having the courage to forgive.

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May 28, 2014

Initiating sex: How a loving touch can mean more than you know

I was reminded recently how powerful and healing a loving touch can be. One of my clients,  Jimmy (not his real name) was talking about the feelings of insecurity, loneliness, resentment, and self-doubt he felt after having sex with his girlfriend. Jimmy had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and has felt conflicted about sex for most of his life. The perpetrator of the abuse had coerced Jimmy into performing oral sex repeatedly and would yell for him to do it again and again. Jimmy felt he was never good enough to please her. He carried this need to perform into all of his sexual relationships throughout adolescence and into adulthood.

It is particularly difficult for Jimmy to feel wanted if the woman he is with does not initiate physical contact. In his current relationship, his girlfriend has expressed a preference and a need for him to "be the man" and initiate sex. He feels further pressure to play the role of leader/initiator that he thinks is expected of him by our society. Ultimately, this puts him in a role where he does not feel wanted by his girlfriend, but used.

Jimmy trembled when he shared how important this need to feel wanted was for him. His words were poignant and beautiful. "Feeling wanted would make me feel like I exist. I'm a living breathing person. Sometimes I just don't feel human. I am floating around in life (like the feather in Forest Gump), with no connection to anyone or anything. I could fall in love with anyone who made me feel human. The simple touch means so much. The whole world could be falling apart around me and it would not matter."

I think we often overlook how the small things we do either tear people down or build them up. For Jimmy, small, gentle loving touches initiated by someone who loves him would mean so much. In your life, consider the things you can do that can meet the unmet needs of the people you love. If you are in a relationship, talk to your partner. Ask them what you can do that helps them feel loved, and  then do it frequently and with a willing heart. It may mean more to them than you will ever know.

May 8, 2014

The secret to feeling loved, connected and supported

The title of this post may sound very dramatic, but I think it is important to get the word out.  If you are feeling lonely, left out, unimportant, or even ashamed, there is way you can change all of that. This change, however, will come at a cost.

One of my clients, Brooke (not her real name), tearfully shared with me how dumb she felt about her choice to keep going back to her ex-boyfriend over and over for the last 6 years. Her friends had told her a hundred times to leave him, but it had been too difficult to completely sever ties. Now her ex had moved on and was dating a much younger girl. Brooke felt old and rejected. She wondered if any man would ever want her, and she felt too ashamed to open up to her friends who she thought must be tired of listening to her. As a result, she felt completely isolated.

I encouraged Brooke to open up to a trusted friend. It takes great courage to be open about our vulnerabilities, but it is the best way I have found to start letting go of the shame and start feeling loved. 

Brene Brown has a wonderful TED talk about this topic. Check it out if you want to hear more about how to live whole heartedly. In the talk, Brown says that "vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, and love." In other words, if you want to be creative, have joy, and feel a sense of belonging and love, you must first have the courage to be real and vulnerable with those around you. 

Brooke came back the following week and told me that she had opened up with her girlfriends over dinner. She was surprised to find out that her girlfriends did not express judgment. They listened attentively, spoke kindly, and supported her in her pain. "I guess I do have support in my life" she said. Brooke's courage to be open about her struggle allowed her to feel loved by her friends.  

Brene Brown suggests some ways that you can start to feel this sense of joy and connection in your life. 
  1. Let yourself be seen.  Be open about who you are and what you are struggling with.
  2. Love with your whole heart. Even though there is no guarantee you will receive love in return.
  3. Practice gratitude and lean into joy even when life is difficult and you feel like catastrophizing.
Being vulnerable  seems counterintuitive to what our culture has taught us about not showing weakness and presenting a perfect facade. Don't believe the lie. Your vulnerability is often what makes you beautiful.

April 21, 2014

Facebook and Heartache : Getting Over A Break-Up

My client John (not his real name) came in and sheepishly told me "I did something I should not have done. I got on Facebook and I looked up pictures of my ex with his new partner." As you can image, these images were very painful. John spend the rest of the night wondering how his partner could move on so quickly. He went over all of the things he had done wrong in the relationship and berated himself for his flaws. Would he now be alone for the rest of his life with no hope for love or a family? This thought haunted him: he may never be happy.

We live in a very public society. People post everything on social media from what their relationship status is to pictures of what they are doing on a Friday night. It can be fun to get on a site like Facebook and connect with people without making any real effort. And when you feel lonely and vulnerable, as most people do after a break-up, social media seems like the quickest way to not feel so alone.

I can honestly say I have never had a client come in and tell me they were on Facebook after a breakup and it made them feel better about themselves. More often, John's story is common to people going through a difficult break-up. Getting on social media can be a derperate attempt to peek into the lives of an ex, but it is a link to a dead relationship. It is painful and ugly to peer in and see what is left of your relationship. It usually brings back all of the painful feelings and insecurities you are trying so hard to work through.

If you are going through a break-up, I would recommend you take a social media hiatus. Get off all social media for a couple of months. Instead, spend the time calling a friend, or meeting up with people who care about you. Real live human contact will take you forward in your search for peace in a way that social media rarely will.

If you want to read more about how to let go of broken relationships, check our my blog article for tips.

April 3, 2014

Having Trouble Changing Habits? Turn Your Life Into A Game!

Procrastination is a problem for all of us. Most of the time we accomplish what we need to accomplish to keep things moving in our lives. But there are always those pesky, irritating, boring to-do's, and even big lifestyle changes that we just can't seem to get around to.

Exercise is one of those things. We vow that we will start exercising...tomorrow. But when tomorrow comes, we're tired at the end of the day, so we sit in front of the television and binge watch episodes of Dexter or Orange is the New Black.

One of my clients was having this exact problem. She couldn't focus at work. She was highly anxious that her lack of productivity would lead to her being fired. And yet, as stressed out as she got, she could not seem to change her behavior and get motivated. She knew that exercising in the past had helped her sleep better, feel more rested, and concentrate better. So we set exercise goals and discussed the specifics of what days and what types of exercise she would do. Then she put the exercise to-do's on her calendar. But it was still not enough for her to get off the couch and start exercising. 

So we talked about finding another tool that made the idea of exercising more fun, more gratifying, and created accountability for her. She was able to get what she needed from a website The concept is really interesting. It treats life as if it were a game. You designate a habit, or to-do's that you want to accomplish. Then you create an avatar who is in the world of habitica. You can gain  points/rewards when you accomplish certain tasks. If you fail to complete your tasks, you lose points and can even die. You can also add friends to the game to encourage you, or join a guild of people with similar interests. This creates a sense of accountability and a social community which can be motivating.

This idea of turing life into a game is called gamification. If you want to find out more about the psychology of ramification, and listen to a TED Talk about the subject, check out this article. In the meantime, if you are having trouble breaking bad habits or starting new ones, try turning your life into a game with an app like  Gamification is not going to work for everyone. But sometimes the hardest part of creating a new habit is getting started. So this tool might just give you the initial push you need to be successful.

Happy gaming!

March 27, 2014

Live radio interview - Embracing your body at any size.


I was invited to speak with radio host Dr.Carolyn Clansy Miller on Monday at 9am. Tune in to the show to hear more about how to embrace your body at any size and start feeling confident and strong.

March 14, 2014

4 Restorative Yoga Poses that Help You Relax and Unwind

We all have times when it is hard to relax. You may have a lot on you mind, feel overtired, or just can't seem to get to sleep. Instead of using alcohol or t.v. to help you sleep (both of which often cause you to have a poorer nights sleep), try these yoga poses, from an article in Women's Health, instead. You will reap both the emotional and physical benefits. And, you might actually have fun doing it.

March 6, 2014

Breaking The Spell - Learn To Control Your PMS Mood Swings

During that "time of the month" it can sometimes feel like you are under an evil spell. The circumstances of your life look grayer, people are more irritating, and nothing seems interesting. Some months it is more severe than others. But, even though it happens every month, many of us are taken by surprise every month. We fall into the depressed mood and negative thoughts as if they are the reality of our lives.

I had a client who came in this week looking down and agitated. The spark she normally has in her eyes seemed to have dulled. After sharing the long list of things she was upset about, it came out that she was about to start her period. She had not realized how much this had affected her mood and general outlook on life. 

People often buy into their negative feelings as if they are facts. For this particular client, she felt like she woke up feeling ugly and fat, and so she was sure she looked uglier that day. She did not want to see people or have them see her in this condition. When we talked about the effect that PMS has on her, she seemed relieved to acknowledge that her feelings were likely affected by hormones, and not by the reality of how she actually looked. We talked about the fact that our feelings are not always the facts of our lives.

But what can you do to break the spell when you are feeling down because of PMS? First, track your cycle. There are apps that can help you do that such as Period Tracker. The app helps you keep track of when you will start your cycle as well as keep a log of your mood on different days. Knowing what your body is about to experience gives you a way to anticipate the down mood that might be coming. 

Second, talk back to the negative thoughts that pop into your head. For example, when my client's brain told her she was ugly and fat, she could have responded with comments like, "It is not physically possible that I became fat over night,  or I think my hair still looks shiny and pretty today." Don't allow the negative thoughts to linger or they will poison your mood. Remind yourself that you feel this way because of your period, and that the spell will soon lift and you will feel back to normal. Those PMS mood swings do not have to control you life. Be aware and use the tools at your disposal to fight the spell.

February 20, 2014

When the Scale Becomes Your Enemy


I had a client, Sandra (not her real name) who came in this week feeling particularly down about her weight. She is anorexic, and at least 25-35 pounds under what most doctors would consider a minimum healthy weight. She avoids looking at herself in the mirror, afraid of looking at her "fat body." When Sandra gets in the shower, she checks herself out to see how far out her ribs stick out. It never feels like enough. 

Frantic to know that she was skinny enough, she weighed herself and found that she was "only" about 25 pounds underweight. Considering how little she eats, she was sure she would weigh less. Sandra was crushed to see the number on the scale. She ruminated for days feeling disgusted about how much she weighed.

I had a second client who came in this week, Claire (not her real name),  also feeling down about her weight. She had started exercising regularly and eating better. Yet, when she was weighed at the doctors office, she found she had not lost any weight. Claire was discouraged at first, but after a few days was able to turn around her thinking and realize that the number on the scale is not the whole picture. She admitted that although she had not lost any weight, she had started to have more energy, less pain in her knees, and felt generally happier. 

There are many ways you can tell if you are healthy, and the number on the scale is just one of them. But it can often be the most dangerous. People can feel discouraged when they see the number. It can cause a lot of anxiety, anger, and self-doubt when your weight does not seem to match up to what you want it to be. The clients I work with often become obsessed with weighing themselves. Untold hours are lost to thoughts about how to lose weight and decrease that number. 

I would encourage you to instead focus on your overall health. Assess your fitness routines and nutritional intake. Pay attention to how your clothes fit, how much energy you have, if you have any muscle tone. These can all be more helpful indicators of your health than your weight alone. If you need to, get rid of your scale. 

February 6, 2014

Free Online Seminars For Those in Recovery From An Eating Disorder


The Renfrew Center is offering a FREE upcoming recovery webinar series. These one hour webinars are open to anyone in recovery or currently struggling with disordered eating.

February 19, 2014
12pm - 1pm & 8pm - 9pm EST
March 19, 2014
12pm - 1pm & 8pm - 9pm EST

April 16, 2014
12pm - 1pm & 8pm - 9pm EST

May 21, 2014
12pm - 1pm & 8pm - 9pm EST

June 18, 2014
12pm - 1pm EST & 8pm - 9pm EST

January 31, 2014

Accepting Your Body at Any Size : Lessons from Roller Derby

In a culture obsessed with thinness, it was sort of surprising at first to see a sport that encouraged women  to embrace whatever body type they had, but that is exactly what happens in the sport of roller derby. If you ever go to a roller derby game, you will notice there are thin girls, short girls, amazonian girls. It is a wonderful motley crew. Each of these body types carries some advantage in the sport. If you are short, and small, you may be able to get low enough to get past your opponents, whereas being bigger may give you extra strength to block or hit your opponents.

Roller derby turns all of the regular conventions of the "right" body type on its head. A prime example of this is a player named Beyonslay. She learned to use her larger size to her advantage. She is pretty amazing as the video link below attests. And because she is so amazing at using her larger body, it starts to subtly change the way everyone on the team looks at weight and body type.  
The Queen City Roller Girls,  who wrote a piece about how roller derby encourages a positive body image had this to say,

The importance of "looking your best" is taught to girls from a young age and is continually stressed as necessary for success. Unfortunately, this lesson in proper self-care too often forgets about what may be your best and instead teaches us that we should aim to achieve whatever is considered to be the best, an ideal. The western ideal of an unrealistically thin, feminine and toned physique prevents many women from feeling satisfied with their own bodies, but it’s never too late to break the cycle.

Because roller derby defies the notion of an "ideal body type" skaters often enjoy a more positive body image and an increased confidence in what they and their bodies are capable of, a confidence which often carries over from the track to other aspects of living. When asked how roller derby has affected her self-image one Houston skater responded, "I was so excited to be part of a sport where you could be any body type, personality or background and still be accepted. This alone helps me to view myself as worthy and not needing to change anything.”

Before you spend a lot of time, energy and money trying to change your body, I encourage you to first focus on how you can embrace the unique and wonderful body you were given. Find ways to use your body that help you feel strong, beautiful, and useful. For some women, roller derby has done that.  For you, it may be something else. Don't be afraid to try something new, or to even get the wind knocked out of you. By using your body to do something you didn't think possible, you may find yourself feeling more capable and accepting than ever.

Photo of  Houston team Yellow Rose Derby Girls by Steve Beard

Struggling with your body image? Our Houston counselor are available for face to face sessions. Contact us to find out how we can help you feel good in your own body.