HOPE: A Life without ED. Tackling Mid~Life and Your Daughters Eating Disorder

I offer hope, faith, charity in the form of compassion when working with Moms, Dads and their daughters struggling with an eating disorder at the beginning and throughout treatment. For 37 years I have experienced families in so much pain, anguish, so befuddled as to what direction to take with their daughter. Anxiety and anger runs the gamut, usually severely ramped up. I often see a daughter’s ED as measurement of the barometer of the family.

With anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, what starts as a simple, “diet” or sneaking food, gets ramped up, often times preceded by a breakup, a serious disappointment, family strife, a life trauma and more. Most are unaware of feeling guilt riddled and cope with self sacrificing behavior while swallowing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. The ED moves to a reliable dependable “go to” symptom, a coping skill, that both self soothes and begins to develop a life of its own.

Restricting, starvation, binging/purging, binging. All coping skills, perhaps the best adaptive solution at the time, none the less, becomes highly addictive and begins to unmercifully take charge. Neuro-brain research has measured a release of dopamine that further reinforces one’s desperate attempts to cope with high levels of anxiety, rage and depression.

One recovered client of mine a gal in her late 20’s referred to ED as “screamy mimi.” When asked to draw a picture, S.M. was a skinny creature, hair standing up, with arms choking my client. S.M. had many snarky belittling remarks about her size, appearance, what she could and could not eat and was in total control of her every move. Carolyn Costin calls that part of self, “the unhealthy self.” Negative bullying self critical remarks voice themselves loud and clear, drowning out reasonable rational wise minded voices. The work, to strengthen the intuitive wise old soulful side, voices filled with forgiveness, blessings, self acceptance and love of Self.

Another mid life client calls those voices, “the blob.” She describes a “darkness, raging voices that tell her she’s “fat, useless, no point in trying to control my binges.” It kicks me to the curb and slams the door.” She’s been struggling with undiagnosed BED since her teen years.

S.M. was slowly neutralized, tamed with love and practicing mindful self care mantras during daily meditations. The “blob” has been tempered on and off with a well spring, a fountain of water within, guided visualization, positive self affirmations and a light that’s accessible under that slammed door.

Women in particular have a hard time with sustained self care which I believe is rooted in feelings of low self worth, not feeling that “I matter.”

I love it when I hear Moms and Dads affirming their daughters. It brightens my moments. In order for our daughters to be the jewels, the pearls that they are, being esteemed by their parents, their seeing the gleam in their eyes of pride, makes all the world of a difference in their relationship with themselves.

For my mid-life gals, it’s about learning how to esteem themselves, taking the time to tell themselves in word and in deed that they are So Worth It to take the time to deeply Self Care. To take a bite out of life, rather than the other way around is our goal.

Mindfulness, Gratitude, Counting our blessings, not taking us or our life for granted, making the most of every day, finding our Purpose, our Passions, Our gifts, Why we are here, is the essence of moving to a life without ED.

Intern Blog, Neelam Mahtani - Measure Someone by Their Heart, Not Their Image

“Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does!”

– The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

My sister and I come from a mixture of ethnicities, which results in physical traits that do not match the stereotype for each of the many ethnicities we identify ourselves with. Once when my sister was in elementary school, one girl attempted to overpower her in a situation by saying, “Well, you are way too skinny and way too dark, you look like a twig.” Distraught at this comment, my sister cried to my mom later that day and my mom angrily told her to go back and defend herself by telling the bully she looked like a big white cow. My sister did so, also throwing my mom under the bus, which resulted in my mom being called into the principal’s office. The unfortunate reality of this situation is that both sides of this argument failed to appreciate and acknowledge the importance of beauty in any size and color. We live in a society where we find it okay to use these differences as a resort of attack and defense. Women and men are often told what they are expected to be like. We experience this in all aspects of identity development including culture, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and generally fitting to whatever ‘norm’ society provides us. How are we supposed to find a true self identity during developmental periods when we are told we cannot be beautiful? Successful and secure identity development, which is a person's self recognition, can serve as a protective factor for many mental health issues. How can we ensure a healthy mind with a target on our own self identity?

I want to highlight the influence of these expectations on children and adolescents, because the impact of the issue of cultural beauty and thinness is one that is prevalent in any culture and ethnicity. Having a strong and positive body identity as a young person can highly influence your adulthood. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a marketing campaign to, “celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves.” (Dove).  The following video shows how the culture of beauty and body image across all ethnicities have an effect on a young girl’ identity: 

        The previous video from Dove's campaign stresses the influence a mother's identity can have on their daughters. Take for example the woman of Asian ethnicity, who says that she does not like her eyes and her nose. Her negative identity has influenced the way her own daughter identifies herself. This video shows the importance of a positive image of beauty, and the consequences of not being able to have that. On the other hand, the Caucasian mother who loved her legs because she could run with them, had a daughter who embraced her larger sized legs as well. I love this video because it makes us more aware of how our own identities can affect others around us, and also makes me upset that it is so easy for young girls to have a negative identity based off of a society with unrealistic norms.

              Additionally, a New York Times article “Why Does the Beauty Industry Ignore Curvy Models?” emphasizes the lack of size diversity in marketing of the beauty industry. To have such a large, powerful and influential industry portraying an unrealistic identity for women, men and children, results in a society with normative views that are distorted and dangerous to the mental health and stability of so many people across so many cultures. I loved the creative director and senior vice president of MAC cosmetics view on this issue: “There is no formula… if a model has confidence in who she is and how she carries herself, size is irrelevant.” This is the mindset I wish that most companies had. The problem, however, is that the issue of body image acceptance becomes a cycle – how are these women of different color and size supposed to reach that level of confidence when the rest of the industry tells them they can’t? Much of these ‘idealistic’ elements of patrician features, height, white and thin, as stated in the article, can tie back to class and racism of the 1920s when American consumer culture and the modeling industry grew. Luckily, we are in an era where light is being shed on to this culture of beauty.

Beauty does not only come in different colors and sizes, but gender and sexual orientation too. Take former male Olympian, Caitlyn Jenner, who transitioned into a woman after being male for 60 years. While society has not yet reached a full sense of appreciation, some campaigns show us hope for the future. MAC paired up with Caitlyn for her campaign in designing a lipstick named ‘Finally Free’. Even though this campaign was highly controversial, it is amazing to publicize beauty in all forms, and it speaks out to our 'idealistic' society that beauty doesn't have a single image!

It is unfortunate that this narrow mindedness affects identity development in so many children, teenagers, and adults across all races and cultures. As stated by Arden, “It takes lots of fearlessness, courage to love and like yourself, to measure yourself by the size of your heart and not some preconceived image of perfection and beauty, in any race, gender, sexual orientation, and culture”. All sizes, colors, genders and disabilities are beautiful! Embrace it.

20 Year Old's Perspective on Women Empowerment in US Politics

Working in Congress for Carolyn Maloney, Representative of the 12th District of New York, was a wonderful and eye opening experience. Coming from the island of Jamaica, American politics was not something I grew up experiencing. However, attending a boarding school in Connecticut and eventually coming to The George Washington University in DC, being involved in US politics was inevitable. Luckily, my experience as an Intern at Capitol Hill was the best transition I could ever receive into the world of policy making and supporting important values that are worth fighting for on a political level.

As a Psychology Major, I would not have expected the exposure to Psychology in the political world until my Internship. I attended a Congressional briefing on the early detection of mental health disorders that included a panel of 4 speakers, who were all lobbying to put Early Detection training on the floor for voting. They argued that if we all have access to first aid training, then why is there no option for early detection training in mental health? Specifically, one speaker - Kirsten Haglund got my attention immediately as she specifically focused on the importance of early detection training for eating disorders. I immediately texted Arden saying that I would be part of this congressional briefing and funny enough, she had previously met Kirsten too!

During this briefing, Kirsten spoke about her personal experience with eating disorders and how early detection personally could have affected her life. She mentioned that she had suffered with her own eating disorder for quite some time until she got treatment. This simply shows that we must all be aware of signs and symptoms of eating disorders - or any mental health disorder - amongst our family, friends, peers and coworkers so that the process for recovery can come much faster before it is too late. My experience listening to Kirsten’s speech was very powerful and moving, and instilled in me a drive to support and fight for issues I believe in. I learned through this internship that while one person compared to the powerful group of politicians seems intimidating, a collective voice matters and is extremely powerful.

Even more so, I was in the middle of a historical period for this country, and for women. I received multiple calls during my internship of constituents calling to voice their opinions on bills for the Congresswoman to pass, and worked alongside legislative assistants to bring light to many issues and concerns risen from the 2016 presidential election. After the conclusion of the election, I was moved by the massive number of people flying and taking trains in DC for the Women’s March the day after the presidential inauguration. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had to be a part of these wonderful experiences in American politics. It warms my heart to see the power in people’s voices and the passion to fight for people’s health, safety and rights. I am so lucky to have been able to be a part of this.

- Arden & Neelam

Love Your Body! It's The Only One You Have

As a Radically Accepting Body Image and Eating Disorder Expert, I often connect with like minded women. I virtually met Fiona on Twitter. She’s a true advocate of Women’s empowerment. Her Body Image campaign intrigued me. We connected and both Samara, my Life Coach daughter,  and I agreed to be part of Fiona’s amazing inspiring campaign! It was a sheer delight to receive her beautiful necklaces and take a selfie or two, send and wallah we are on her Web and part of her campaign!

 

Read all about Fiona and her mission  http://www.trinketsjewellery.com/jewelryblog/trinketsjewellery-realwomen-everybodyinads/  

Former Miss America, Kirsten Haglund Making a Huge Difference

Does it get any better than getting to know a terrific woman than breaking bread and giant shrimp cocktail at PJ. Clarkes in Manhattan and going to a Saturday matinee of the New York City Ballet? Initially I wanted to interview Kirsten for my Dance Book in progress, however the more I listened to her narrative the more I realized, this is a gal here making a very passionate big difference in girls, boys, women and men’s lives that struggle with Eating Disorders!

I first met Kirsten Haglund at NEDA, National Eating Disorder Association, where she was talking about her personal struggle with anorexia. Kirsten works and represents Timberline Knolls, an eating disorders facility.

Recently, my Summer intern Neelam Mahtani, had the occasion to listen to Kirsten speak at a Senate Briefing in Washington D.C. with the Eating Disorder Coalition, and National Council about how crucial it was to pass The Mental Health Reform Bill. She is an activist and advocate of early detection for the prevention of anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. Looking back she realizes that her eating disorder was not recognized by her family, nor in school. That with early detection, awareness of warning signs and an emphasis on prevention, can make all the difference.

As an eating disorder, body image expert, I would agree with Kristen. She is all about preventing years of suffering and derailment from living one’s life fruitfully and with passion.

 

Me: “Tell me about you, your family background, What interested, inspired you as a child, teen, young adult?” I adore the performing arts, the sweat, hard work, discipline is admirable. What inspired you to dance? The pitfalls and the accolades?

 

Kirsten: “I started dancing at the age of 3 and just danced ballet from the age of 12-17. During a Summer program in Pennsylvania I met Ashley Bouder, NYCB. At the age of 12, I started to throw away my lunch and that was the beginning of my eating disorder. As a ballet dancer, I saw myself in the mirror all of the time. Food was an issue! I started to hate ballet. This was a dark period in my life. I was perfectionistic and restricted my food intake. I started to see a nutritionist and went on a food plan. I realized, How could I continue ballet and stay on a food plan? It wasn’t possible. I dropped out of ballet. I started working on changing my mindset and moved to Musical Theater. While I had no real voice in Ballet, I found my voice in Musical theater. I made a choice, I wanted to have more fun again.”

She also connected family stresses at that time. “My mom had breast cancer, my brother was struggling with OCD and I became anorexic.”

“In my darkest times, I used to think that taking care of myself was a sign of weakness, going soft. Once I left ballet slowly I realized that it takes a lot of strength to take tender loving care of myself, that’s about being more highly evolved.”

 

On a lark, Kirsten at the age of 19 entered the Miss Michigan local pageant and won. She went on to win the State and in 2008 she won both Miss USA and Miss Swimsuit.

Kirsten spoke fondly of her Maternal Grandmother, literally following in her footsteps and taking it further. “Grandma was Miss Michigan, sang, danced as a teenager into her early 20’s and got married before her husband went into the service.”

 

Kirsten continues to find her voice in a bigger way on Cable T.V., CNN as an advocate, activist and commentator for millennials. She regularly appears on Fox 5 as well.

Kirsten is a dedicated, hard working, beautiful gal inside and out with a big compassionate heart who married Ryan Smith in 2012! I feel so blessed to call her my friend and dance buddy!

 

I Just Love Outspoken Feminist Young Curvy Women!

After reading NY Times July 7th Thursday Styles, Skin Deep article, “Why Beauty Brands Ignore Curvy Models, I was struck by a few of the outspoken, assertive Shapely Models. They all had this is common, they have navigated savvily with social media, around our cultural narrow mindedness and they were all determined to become a BRAND.

We live in a very celebrity driven culture and after all it’s all about making a profit, selling, driving up a following and monitizing a site. That’s how Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat are successfully doing it and it’s a prototype for any “new kid” on the block that wants notoriety.

Iskra Lawrence, a curvy young gal, models for Aerie, lingerie and swimwear. Talk about pride in herself and lovin her body and being. She’s all about her brand and making sure that she is being seen especially via Ads, Utube and Instagram.

Clementine Desseaux posted a video while in Paris, wind blowing her hair, of her wearing Louboutin red lipstick that went viral on Instagram.

Ashley Graham, beautiful larged sized gal, is the first plus size model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Paloma Elsesser, a self described Plus sized model and so much more, talks about beauty brands slowly being “inclusive of women in all different sizes, shapes, colors, gender and sexual identities.”

I’m thinking of Rue Paul for MAC Cosmetics, a very forward thinking progressive company.

So what’s going on here? I’d say my friend, and body image advocate and activist, spokeswoman and former Elite Runway Plus Size Model, Emme Aronson could talk to that the times they are a changing albeit, very slowly!

It’s takes lots of fearlessness, courage to love and like yourself, to measure yourself by the size of your heart not some preconceived image of perfection and beauty. Just be who you are meant to be, your authentic self and do your thang!!!

Teen cutting: Aerial. Mindful. Self-Care Approach. Ask Arden Greenspan

As a Teen Expert, Family Psychotherapist and Author of What Do You Expect? She’s A Teenager!, I see so many teens cut themselves and self mutilate. One in every two hundred girls between 13 and 19 cut themselves regularly. Girls are 4 times more likely than boys to self harm. Why? Some teen girls say they feel, “unacceptable, invisible, that they don’t matter,” and suffer from severe “self hatred and self loathing.” In my practice some teens that cut struggle with depression and panic attacks.

My “Aerial Mindful Self Care” Cognitive Self Loving Approach has been very successful in providing them with self soothing tools to manage and self regulate their distress. Regularly practicing Mindful Self Care Blessings while looking into the mirror, on rising and preparing for bed like, “I am worthy, I matter, I am self kind, I am self compassionate, I am lovable, I am self and body accepting, I am grateful to be alive,” moves the negative mindset to a more neutral and ultimately a more positive mind place and space. Nature walking and yogic breathing works beautifully with these daily self blessings.There have been many studies about the plasticity of the brain and it’s capability of creating new neural pathways.