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Guest post from Priya Thiele LPC, Integral and Bereavement Counselor in Eugene, Oregon

We live in a very stress filled culture and society and most of us have many responsibilities we have to attend to everyday. From the time we wake up till we lay our heads down for the night our time is spent doing things and keeping ourselves busy with activities.   We become stressed and overwhelmed at times and our health and sense of well-being can suffer.   Too much stress can trigger a fight or flight reaction in the body and our minds experience fear and anxiety.   We can relieve this reaction and calm our body and mind naturally with a simple breathing technique.

When we are stressed and anxious our breathing gets shallow and rapid, and we may experience racing thoughts which spin out of control thus further increasing feelings of anxiety and fear.  The remedy for this distressing state is to slow down your breathing.  There is a connection between the breath and your thoughts so slowing down your breathing slows down your thoughts and calms the body and mind.  Notice when you first start to feel agitated or anxious, are you holding your breath or breathing in a shallow manner?  Take a moment to stop what you’re doing and take a few deep breaths.
Sit down and bring your awareness to the present and breathe.  Take in a long deep breath, bring it down into your belly, do it with me now.  Inhale to the count of four, hold for a second then release, release the tension and fearful thoughts, letting them go.  Take in another deep breath, hold for a second then release and let go.  Do this a couple more times or as long as you need until you feel more relaxed and at ease.   You will notice your worries have melted away and in this moment all is well and you are at peace.
If one practices a structured deep breathing meditation everyday then it will become second nature to do this at the first signs of stress and your overall stress and anxiety levels will decrease significantly and you will feel better in body, mind, and spirit.
Priya Thiele is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in adult individual therapy with a holistic perspective which honors the connection of body, mind, and spirit. She holds a Masters of Arts degree in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Learn more about her on her website www.priyathiele.com. 

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Maybe you’ve found yourself in this position before: a friend or loved one is struggling with an eating disorder or addiction and you try to talk with him or her about what they need to do to get better. You get frustrated when those things don’t happen and in your mind you ask, “How in the world can this person not see this?” You try yet again to talk with the person, hoping that this time will be the kicker and he or she will finally “get it,” begin creating change, and life will move on in a more effective, healthy way!

Truth is…sometimes the things we say to loved ones who are struggling with eating disorders or addictions are precisely the things these individuals can interpret in ways that keep themselves sick. How? Well, for each person it’s different, but particularly for those with eating disorders, control is often central to the maintenance of the disorders and if someone perceives that control as being stripped away, enter in more ineffective behaviors! Now, that’s not to say that those behaviors are the fault of the person trying to help. They’re not! You’re not to blame for how anyone interprets what you say to them.

As it relates to eating disorders, I’m frequently asked by parents or friends of someone who is struggling, “What should I say to my daughter/son?” “What should I not say to my friend?” For this reason, I wanted to outline some key statements/questions that can be helpful and not so helpful to say when a loved one has an eating disorder. This is in no way an all-inclusive list, nor is it a list that holds truth for everyone because, again, each person is different.

10 Things to Avoid Saying:

  1. “Just eat!”
  2. “You’re not fat, you’re crazy!”
  3. “How do you stay so small?”
  4. “You eat and aren’t underweight so you can’t have an eating disorder.”
  5. “Oh, you should see so-and-so, their eating disorder is really bad.”
  6. “You look good!” (In fact, any comment about weight, appearance, etc. is not a good idea. And beware…sometimes those with EDs will fish for such comments, “Do you think I’ve gained weight?”)
  7. “You’re being so selfish/You don’t care about anyone but yourself.”
  8. “I will make you eat!”
  9. “You have to get better right now.”
  10. “What in the world are you eating?”

On the flip side, there are helpful statements as well…

10 Supportive Statements/Questions:

  1. “How are you feeling today?”
  2. “Is there anything you need from me?”
  3. “I’m concerned about your health.”
  4. “I can sit with you while you eat.”
  5. “While I can’t see you as fat, I hear you and respect that that’s what you see.”
  6. “I’ll support you as you recover.” (Note that you can certainly set boundaries with someone behaving in ways that aren’t conducive to a healthy relationship/friendship: “I need to step away from this situation for awhile in order to take care of myself.”)
  7. “I love you, care about you, and it’s difficult for me to see you struggle.”
  8. “Would you like to go somewhere/do something that doesn’t involve food or eating?” (Of course, not if it’s dinner time).
  9. “Can I help you find help?”
  10. “I remember when we used to…”

For more information, visit the National Eating Disorders Association. If you are in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area and are seeking help for yourself or a loved one struggling with an eating disorder, you may contact me at mthomascounseling@gmail.com for a free consultation.

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No, I’m not a model (as if you thought I was). But just like many of us, escaping the modeling world is a difficult task especially since we’re bombarded with advertisements every minute of the day. Whether it’s the cover of a magazine, a television commercial, or an Internet ad, we are continually faced with beautiful faces or bodies aimed at leading us to feel like we simply don’t measure up.

Recently I read an article via a friend’s status update and was appalled by the way models are now being recruited in some countries. The article focused on scouts waiting outside an eating disorder clinic to grab up severely ill patients when they stepped outside. It was mentioned how the modeling industry is allegedly guilty of weighing girls in public and I saw elsewhere recently how women are forced to do a Fashion Week cleanse. It’s a tragedy and yet so many young girls aspire to step into this world for the chance to be noticed.

Individuals in a treatment facility for eating disorders most often are battling deep-rooted issues that make them especially prone to accepting that business card from a modeling agent while on a daily walk outdoors. “Hmm, maybe staying sick isn’t such a bad idea. See, it can get me work and I can survive.” It can compromise the very goal for the individuals who are in treatment and can thrust them deeper into or back into a cycle that was already difficult to break. The insensitivity of the scouts mentioned in this article is sickening, disheartening, tragic, and flat out wrong!

I’m able to read this article and see the tragedy of the attempt to take advantage of vulnerability. Eating disorders, whether anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive overeating, are severe mental illnesses that kill thousands of men and women. And although popularly believed, these disorders rarely begin as an “I’m going to lose weight” scheme. In fact, research shows that many sufferers have been sexually abused, bullied, ignored, raped, etc. and the eating disorder is an attempt to regain some control within their lives. It may appear to those on the outside that these individuals are narcissistic, self-absorbed, weight-loss obsessed persons who will do anything to avoid gaining weight for the sake of beauty.

Certainly, these characteristics and behaviors can develop as a result of an eating disorder, but to say this is the total of an eating disorder is way off the mark. Those seeking treatment for these disorders often discover that they were trying hard to do everything for others and to be that “perfect” friend, spouse, daughter, employee, or student in an attempt to protect others from experiencing negative emotions or situations. Often, we are known as givers, selfless givers, who only want the best for those we love and are willing to put others first and ourselves second. We are frequently givers afraid of showing emotion because we want to be strong for everyone else. In the process, we lose ourselves and attempt to gain it back by engaging in unhealthy behaviors that we believe only has an impact on us.

The news of this latest attempt by modeling scouts to recruit severely ill eating disorder patients is the final straw for me. I stopped reading fashion magazines more than 5 years ago and have not missed them. I stopped watching America’s Next Top Model after hearing the critical feedback provided to naturally beautiful women. I’m saying a final goodbye to all things model for the sake of myself and those who are trapped by expectations of beauty.

The bottom line is that beauty is subjective and we all possess some level of it. My hope and prayer is that modeling scouts will either change jobs or stop hanging outside treatment centers like desperate panhandlers.

*If interested, here is a link to the article: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/04/22/modeling_scouts_recruit_teen_patients_at_swedish_anorexia_clinic_are_you.html?fb_ref=sm_fb_share_blogpost

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