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Kindness and Self-Respect

Loving kindness: genuine care and appreciation for the well being of another; a respect for everyone’s values. This is a worthy concept and also one that seems almost impossible at times. For people struggling with eating disorders, personal loving kindness is almost non-existent. That’s why it is so important to initiate this practice toward others so we can learn to translate it to ourselves. But practicing loving kindness should not just be saved for our favorite people. The true practice is offering this to those who irritate, frustrate and anger us—the people we have the most difficulty loving. Having patience with others allows space for separating people from their actions. Loving someone for who they are rather than what they do means honoring a person’s strengths and forgiving his or her weaknesses. By doing this we start to accept that we are all human, and it is this alone that makes us deserving of love. Once people struggling with eating disorders have mastered loving kindness toward others in their lives, it will be easier to practice the same self-respect. If we can recognize other peoples’ soul selves, we will then have the tools to recognize our own. We will start to understand that even though we have flaws, make mistakes, and aren’t perfect, we are lovable and worthy. We will know that souls have worth, not bodies. When we begin to shower ourselves with loving thoughts, kind and loving actions will follow.

Practice Kindness in Eating Disorder Recovery

One concept is called truth without judgment, and loving kindness speaks to this idea. Separating judgment from our true feelings and thoughts allows for deeper respect and more honest communication, which in turn, makes room for more love. When we are able to speak our truth in a kind manner, we can honor all people for their being and not their doing. We can value someone for their own sake regardless of how they are or aren’t towards us. And for those struggling with eating disorders, we can show that truth without judgment and true loving kindness begins in our relationships with ourselves. As we love ourselves, we can resolve personal conflicts and make way for global respect.

15 Ways to Help Children Like Themselves

1.    Reward children. Give praise, recognition, a special privilege or increased responsibly for a job well done. Emphasize the good things they do, not the bad.

2.    Take their ideas, emotions and feelings seriously.   Don’t belittle them by saying “You’ll grow out of it” or “It’s not as bad as you think”.happy

3.    Define limit and rules clearly, and enforce them.   But do allow leeway for your children within these limits.

4.    Be a good role model.  Let your children know that you feel good about yourself. Also let them see too that you can make mistakes and learn from them.

5.    Teach your children how to deal with time and money.   Help them spend time wisely and budget their money carefully.

6.    Have reasonable expectations for your children.   Help them to set reachable goals so they can achieve success.

7.    Help your children develop tolerance toward others with different values, backgrounds, and norms. Point out other people’s strengths.

8.    Give your children responsibility.   They will feel useful and valued.

9.    Be available.   Give support when children need it.  Check in frequently with them.

10.    Show them that what they do is important to you.   Talk with them about their activities and interests. Go to their games, parent’s day at their school, drama presentations, and awards ceremonies.

11.    Express your values, but go beyond “do this” or “I want you to do that”. Describe the experiences that determined your values, the decisions you made to accept certain beliefs, the reasons behind your feelings.

12.    Spend time together.    Share favorite activities.

13.    Discuss problems without placing blame or commenting on a child’s character. If children know that there is a problem but don’t feel attacked, they are more likely to help look for a solution.

14.    Use phrases that build self esteem, such as “Thank you for helping” or “That was an excellent idea!” Avoid phrases that hurt self esteem “Why are you so stupid”; “How many times have I told you?”

15.    Show how much you care about them.   Hug them. Tell them they are terrific and you love them.


By: Walker Wellness Team

Attachment is a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort, care, and pleasure.  It is a universal, enduring affective tie between a child and a specific adult.  The caregivers functions as a secure base from which to explore the world and a safe haven to retreat to in times of distress.  Although the roots of research on attachment began with Freud’s theories of love, John Bowlby is credited with much knowledge about attachment.  He describes it as a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.  There are four distinguishing characteristics of attachment:

  • Proximity maintenance:  the desire to be near the people we are attached to.
  • Safe haven:  returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety in the face of fear or threat.
  • Secure base:  the attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment.
  • Separation distress:  anxiety that occurs in the absence of the attachment figure.

According to Bowlby, over time, children internalize experiences with caretakers and these internalized bits of data create what he calls internal working models of self and others.  The two key features of these internal working models of attachments are:

  • whether or not  the attachment figure is judged to be the sort of person who responds to calls for support and protection and
  • whether or not the self is judged to be the sort of person towards whom anyone, and the attachment figure in particular, is likely to respond in a helpful way.

The way these constructs are developed provide a ‘blueprint’ and guide our expectations and perceptions about how close relationship operate and how they are used in daily life and stressful situations.  When trying to make sense of our close relationships, it is helpful to understand how we form attachments to each other.  The way we form attachments in adulthood is based in part upon the kind of care we received as an infant.

Four Attachment Styles:

Secure:  Secure kids feel safe, comfortable and are able to explore and develop new skills with minimal anxiety or concern.  Secure adults have more satisfying and longer lasting relationships.  They like themselves and others.  They are comfortable being close to their partners.  They are more trusting, open and understanding; they approach problems and issues that may arise with their partners in a constructive manner.  They have a sense of positive self worth and believe the best of others.  They value attachment relationships.  In general their parents appear to have been supportive, warm, and accepting.  However, secure individuals may have worked through difficult early experiences.  Their positive self model is demonstrated by their confidence, warmth, and flexibility in coping.  While they use others as a source of support, they also see the importance of having time alone and standing on their own two feet.  Their positive other model is demonstrated by their strong liking for others, their comfort in crying in front of others, and their ability to self disclose.  Their friendships and romantic relationships are characterized by mutuality, closeness, and respect.  They are well liked and appraise others honestly.  Secure people are more balanced than people with any other style.

Fearful:  When caregivers are inconsistent or overly protective, the children attempt to stay by their caregiver’s side and respond more dramatically when in trouble.  They are more fearful and less confident than others.  Fearfully attached adults both long for and avoid intimacy because of fear of rejection.  In childhood they may have had rejecting, critical parents whose actual parenting behaviors could have ranged from abusive or extreme coolness to apparent unavailability.  Yet they have continued emotional involvement with their parents.  Fearful people come across as insecure, hesitant, vulnerable and self conscious.  Their negative self perception is reflected in their emotional dependence,  jealously, and intense separation anxiety.  They respond to distress with emotional reactivity but cannot express or take action to alleviate their distress.  While they would like to open up to others, they see themselves as unlikable and worry about never being wanted or found by a partner.  Consequently they avoid conflict and self disclosure.  Once in a relationship, they tend to take on a passive, dependent, and self blaming role and are more invested in the relationship than is their partner.

Preoccupied:  Preoccupied adults are constantly worried and anxious about their love life; they crave and desperately need intimacy and attention.  They are very concerned that their partners will leave them.  They are obsessed with their relationships.  They rarely feel completely loved and they experience extreme emotional highs and lows.  One minute their romantic partners can make their day by showing them the smallest level of interest and the next minute they are worried that their partner doesn’t care about them.  They are hard to satisfy and constantly monitor their relationship for problems.  They are also taken advantage of when it comes to love and romance, which in the long run can create even more suspicion and doubt.  They are more likely to experience jealously and are more likely to engage in too much self disclosure.  They are easy to commit.   They are likely to have experienced overprotective, inept or inconsistent parents within a complicated family history that may have included divorce.  They remain emotionally enmeshed with their family and shift between idealizing and devaluing their parents. Although they remember and elaborate on childhood relationships, their accounts are not coherent, suggesting that separation and other early issues are unresolved.  They are emotionally reactive and expressive, often crying.  Viewing others in a positive manner, they immediately seek them out when they are upset in apparently desperate bids for attention, affection and support.  Indeed they are dependent on others for their self esteem and score high on jealously and separation anxiety.  Because of their demands they often engender conflict and see others as unreliable, unavailable, or exploitative.  Best friends and romantic relationship are extremely important to them.  Constantly involved with others, they immediately start new relationships after the previous one ends.  Typically relationships are punctuated by emotional extremes.  While clingy and dependent, they also take the dominant role.  They often make major sacrifices to keep a relationship going.

Dismissing:  If caregivers are neglectful, infants are likely to develop a dismissing style of attachment.  They show few signs of needing their caregivers and they do not spend a lot of time trying to get their caregiver’s attention.  They do their best to cope with problems on their own.  They tend to have a very positive (sometimes unrealistically positive) self concept and believe they are worthwhile and independent.  Dismissing adults are uncomfortable with intimacy and they actually fear it.   They feel that they “deserve” a close relationship, but avoid actually getting close to someone because they expect the worst from others.  They do not like it when people get close and they don’t like being dependent on a partner or having someone be dependent on them.  They do not easily trust others; they are more self sufficient, cynical and independent in nature.  They are less likely to fall deeply in love and need a lot less affection and intimacy.   They are more apt to put their time into their careers, hobbies, and activities than their relationships.   They get easily annoyed with their relationship partners and often display negative feelings and hostility toward their loved ones.  They are less likely to experience jealousy and try not to reveal things about themselves.  They are uncomfortable with commitment.    These types of relationships are centered around emotional detachment.  They overemphasize independent and emotional control and/or achievement.  They have a poor memory for childhood.  Their parents are likely to have been rejecting, cool, unemotional and lacking in affection or focused on achievement and independence.  Unaware of the impact of their childhood on their current functioning, dismissing individuals tend to idealize their parents or justify early rejection.  They rarely express emotional upset or separation anxiety.  Claiming to be unaffected by rejection, they exhibit little jealously and separation anxiety.  They tend not to like others very much and are critical, distant, and unaffectionate, yet seek to avoid conflict.  Friendships are usually superficial and based on mutual interests or activities with little mutual support or disclosure involved.  Their romantic relationships lack intimacy and emotional expressiveness.  They are uncomfortable with commitment, dependency and conflict and are quick to feel bored or trapped by relationships.


Scenario: You are engaged and your fiancé is going out with his friends for the evening.  Your fiancé says that he will be home by midnight and that he will give you a call at that time.  It is now 1 a.m. and you notice the phone hasn’t rung.

If you are a secure style, you probably think that all is well, your fiancé is out having fun and he will call you in the morning. It is not a big deal.

If you are a preoccupied style, you are constantly caught up in your thoughts, you check the phone regularly to make sure it is working; you’ve thought about calling your fiancé, maybe you’ve even decided to go out and track him down.

If you are a dismissing individual, you probably wouldn’t even notice the phone hasn’t rung.

Now it is the next morning and your fiancé calls early in the morning.

A secure individual would respond by being pleased to hear from your fiancé and maybe ask ‘what happened last night?  You would then be satisfied with the explanation that is given.

A preoccupied person would likely be a complete wreck, having been up all night imagining the worst and most likely plotting some sort of way to get even.  By the time the phone rings, your anger and frustration can’t help but show.  You might sulk or put your fiancé on the defensive  by asking accusatory questions such was why didn’t you call, how could you do that, where were you, who were you with?

A dismissing individual would probably be wondering why your fiancé is bothering to call so early in the morning and might say ‘what do you want’.

Healthy Beginnings Have Happy Endings

“There is more difference within the sexes than between them.” Ivy Compton-Burnett

The objective will be to focus on relationships or Eating Disorder Inventory III scales for this chapter such as fear of intimacy, body dissatisfaction, binging episodes, and drive for thinness. Both men and women have a strong need for an intimate relationship and longevity through partnership. When people have intimacy in their relationships they feel less alone and more secure and confident. Knowing you have a strong support system to turn to in times of need provides important feelings of security, optimism, and hope, all of which are great antidotes to stress.

Healthy RelationshipsHowever, one of the most profound relationships an individual can develop is the relationship with oneself. Most individuals begin a relationship without examining their own values, ethics, and ideas. If an individual brings too many emotional needs or
baggage to the relationship it could be overwhelming for the other person. Consequently, the emotional dependency could result in emotional distance in the relationship.

More specifically, many patients who develop a formal eating disorder often socially isolate from others and they are dissatisfied with their interpersonal relationships. In addition, building intimacy is very challenging and may create emotional distancing. Furthermore, one may often avoid important events such as high school reunions due to their shame and embarrassment about their body image. Similarly, one may avoid becoming sexually active with their partner due to body shame. This chapter encourages readers to adopt personal autonomy and to build positive self-esteem prior to the commencement of any type of a relationship.

Initially, if one partner fosters positive self-esteem it attracts another partner who also has positive self-esteem. However, if one partner has low self-esteem they may also attract a partner who has low self-esteem.  Once the relationship has developed and one partner begins to build their self-esteem, it often threatens the other partner and results in conflict. Moreover, self-esteem and body image are strongly correlated for women. For example, the higher one’s self-esteem, the more accepting one is of their body image. Therefore, if one day your jeans are too tight or your weight goes up on the scales, it does not affect your self-esteem as much if you have positive self-esteem.

Conquering the Art of Communication: Conflict Resolution

Susan Parish-Walker

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa

When you observe your surroundings what do you see and what do you hear? In the hustle and bustle of our busy lifestyles, many of us have forgotten what it is like to listen carefully to others and to be cognizant of our atmosphere. Most couples are oblivious to the subtle messages that their environment or partner sends to them. If one becomes an active listener and observer of these nonverbal messages, it may improve the communication process in your partnership.

listenMost people want to be listened to and understood, when communicating with their partner. Couples with mutual respect and trust in their relationships are able to achieve more effective decision-making and communication. Couples can more easily resolve conflicts in an egalitarian relationship, one in which power and control issues are not a battleground. Implementing ineffective communication styles, such as “blaming and shaming” your partner only harbors resentment and anger.

The art of effective communication involves the ability to incorporate assertiveness skills into your communication style and to be respectful of others. When one becomes assertive they consider other’s feelings and use the following types of statements. “I would prefer that we discuss this matter more thoroughly prior to making a final decision.” In other words, each partner expresses mutual respect and regard towards one another and incorporates “I” statements when communicating with one another. Simply, the difference between assertive styles versus aggressive styles of communication is that assertiveness takes into account the feelings of others, whereas aggressiveness does not consider others’ feelings.

“Conquering the Art of Communication” is a gender’s guide to understanding effective verbal and nonverbal communication. It improves the couple’s ability to incorporate conflict resolution skills into their partnership. Hence, “Conquering The Art of Communication” educates both genders on methods of relating feelings, thoughts, and ideas in a positive and productive manner.

EQ Versus IQ

Dr. Daniel Goleman, published a thought provoking book on understanding the significance of emotional intelligence which includes self-awareness and impulse control, persistence, self-motivation, and empathy. According to Dr. Goleman these are the qualities that mark people who excel in real life: whose intimate relationships flourish and the character of the individual conveys one of self-discipline, altruism and compassion. Marital therapists have attempted to address the difference between communication styles and the gender gap for years. Perhaps the origin of the communication conflict stems from the differences between the emotional and language developmental changes.

Through the years of working with children and adolescents it has been interesting to observe in a clinical setting how parents introduce and cope with emotions with boys and girls. For example, parents in general process emotions with the exception of anger more with girls than with boys. According to the research, mothers demonstrate more of a wide range of emotions when playing with their daughters than their sons. Moreover, girls develop facility with language more quickly than do boys, which  allows them to articulate their feelings more freely. At the onset of adolescence, girls become more adept than boys at artful aggressive tactics like gossip and participating in the grapevine and indirect vendettas. Conversely, boys continue being confrontational when provoked to anger and are unaware of the more subtle strategies.

Historically, when girls play together they do so in small and intimate gatherings such as playing school or house and the objective is to be cooperative and there appears to be a sharing spirit. On the other hand, boys play in larger groups, with the major emphasis on competition such as cowboys and Indians or sports. In general, boys appear to be more autonomous whereas girls seem to seek a sense of belonging or bonding with one another. In short, this may lead to the genders pursuing very different agendas during the course of conversations. Many studies support the theory that women are more empathic than men, at least as measured by their ability to interpret nonverbal cues. In addition, the emotional gender gap may allow couples to not resolve some of their conflicts in a productive manner to enhance the intimacy in their relationship.

What In the World Are You Talking About?

Classical music is one of the most cherished gifts that great composers such as Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart have offered to our society. Beethoven’s expanded music broadened the scope for emotional expression, giving voice to the revolutionary spirit of the age. He was a passionate artist and composer and when he wrote the Ninth Symphony, a triumphant setting of Schiller’s Ode to Joy, he stood stone deaf on the stage, oblivious of this masterpiece, until one of the soloists turned him around to see the thunderous applause from the audience.

What if you were like Beethoven and you simply could not completely understand verbal messages that were conveyed to you by your partner? If one becomes more observant of their environment and the nonverbal communication process it does not mean that you read too much into this without clarifying the communication process.  Do you feel that you have the ability to read someone’s mind or look into a crystal ball and predict the future? A rational human being who does not have distorted thinking or cognitions may not be able to read their partner’s mind or predict human behavior.

However, many arguments among couples occur because one or both individuals start mindreading or fortune telling their partner’s moods, thoughts, and behaviors. An example of mindreading would be that your partner forgot to kiss you goodbye before he/she left for the office so you assume he/she is upset with you. An example of fortune telling would be that you anticipate that your partner will not be loyal or committed to the relationship and you have no basis for this prediction. Perhaps you are projecting your own insecurities and past relationships onto your partner and he/she is very committed to the relationship. Unfortunately, this type of communication may be very psychologically damaging to your relationship and a self fulfilling prophecy sets in because you may began to sabotage the intimacy and become intimate enemies. During the communication process, it is important to clarify your partner’s communication and to not make assumptions so you can avoid mindreading or fortune telling.

On the other hand, the majority of our communication styles are interpreted through our nonverbal communication skills such as our body language, hand gestures, and facial expressions. Thus, we may be conveying more information than we would like to self-disclose through our nonverbal communication. Particularly in the case where couples are having conflict over an issue and one or both partners will not acknowledge verbally that they are angry, but nonverbally it is very evident through their behavior and body language. Therefore, it is important for both genders to be cognizant of the differences in their communication style and how to learn to resolve conflict effectively.

Who Is The Chatterbox?

Prior to examining the differences in the genders in terms of their communication style, it is imperative to understand the enormous diversity in their communication style within gender groups. Most men and many women have at their disposal a variety of conversational and speech skills, any one of which they may draw upon, depending on the situation, their purposes, the roles they are assuming, and the context of the conversation.

More specifically, in mixed-gender groups such as public gatherings or informal settings, men spend more time talking than do women. Furthermore, the men with expertise talked longer than the women with expertise and men initiated more interaction than do women.
Interesting enough, men are more likely than women to interrupt the speaking of other people. Some of the interruptions that women experience come from other women. In other words, when women do interrupt, it appears women are more likely to interrupt the same gender versus men.

On the other hand, in formal group meetings, men lead the conversation more often, and keep the floor for longer periods of time, regardless of their status in the organization. Women tend to take less time in asking questions than men do and they ask fewer questions as well as phrase their questions in more personal language. In contrast, when the meetings are informal, collaborative venture, women display a fuller range of language ability. Here, in the kind of conversation where women excel, people jointly build an idea, operate on the same wavelengths, and have deep conversational overlaps.

He Said… She Said…

Does it really matter who talks more? According to the research, those who talk more are more likely to be perceived as dominant and controlling of the conversation. Interrupters are perceived as more successful and ambitious, but less socially acceptable, reliable, and companionable than the interrupted speaker. However, when women are interrupted often or her comments are ignored, she may come to believe that what she has to say must not be important. Women are less likely than men to have confidence in their ability to make persuasive arguments. Could it be that this may be one reason why some women are conflict avoidant because they do not have the self-efficacy or self-confidence to formulate an argument? Many women feel inhibited in formal, mixed-gender groups. Therefore, when women do have something to say they tend to talk too fast as though they know they are about to be interrupted.

Regardless of the gender differences in communication patterns, what really matters is how do the genders communicate in their interpersonal relationships. First of all, it is important to not become conflict avoidant, but to address each issue as it arises in the context of the relationship as soon as possible. In other words, do not let the sun set on your wrath! Conflict resolution skills are the most powerful communication techniques that may be implemented in healthy relationships. For example, assertive behavior exhibited by females and males is typically viewed as very positive by both genders. Many studies show that the healthiest individuals were the ones who appear more assertive, decisive, and intellectual, rather than nurturant, responsive and emotional.

Researchers hypothesized that women feel vulnerable in their relationships, especially with men. Women’s sense of vulnerability would be particularly salient in conflict situations if there is potential for aggressive behavior or physical violence. Studies show that women more often reported feeling scared or vulnerable than did men. Women were significantly more likely to feel vulnerable in conflicts with men than in conflicts with other women. Women were more likely to talk about being afraid of normal conflict and of being the victim of aggression or violence. Women reported that concerns about children, identity and status contributed to their vulnerability in conflicts. Lack of support from significant others and lack of trust in the other party also reinforced feelings of vulnerability.

In the midst of  conflict, men become unclear as to what women are trying to communicate because women tend to go around the world to make a colorful description of their side of the argument. Thus, it would be helpful if some females could simply get to the point! Studies reveal that during the course of the conflict, women talked in-depth and at length about the context of the dispute, particularly focusing on their involvement in the relationship with the other party. Moreover, men often speak with less emotional intensity and more logic in formulating their position regarding the argument. Men used more rational, linear and legalistic language to talk about their disputes. Women talked about fairness in a way that incorporated both their material interests and the network of relationships in the dispute.

Siamese Cats – Strategies and Solutions

The Siamese is the quintessential cat: this elegant, lithe feline has been the subject of many myths and legends throughout the ages, and it remains among the most popular breeds of cat. More specifically, the Seal Point Siamese is very verbal, intelligent, and displays its moods more obviously than most. On our sixth wedding anniversary we had planned to purchase a Seal Point Siamese kitten, however, we quickly changed our minds the moment we saw only two kittens left in the litter. Once the pet owner took the kittens out of the cage they initially acted intoxicated because they had been in such close quarters, but they suddenly began to play with one another and melted our hearts! Needless to say, we brought both kittens home with us. We attempted to find suitable names for these adorable kittens and initially I wanted to name them Chopin and Chardonay due to my passion for the poet of the piano and French and California wines. However, my husband is British and he wanted to incorporate the English cockney language and use the famous saying: Brahms and Liszt got pissed which means they got drunk! We compromised on my love for the classical composers and the cockney language used in English villages and pubs.

Likewise the gender gap will continue to play a vital role in how couples negotiate and compromise. Women and men in interpersonal relationships will inevitably experience conflict. It does not mean that this will lead to separation or divorce. It simply means that they will not see eye to eye on all of the issues. However, because of the risk factors previously discussed such as feeling vulnerable, the emotional intensity during the course of the conflict may be challenging. First of all, establish a relational goal prior to discussing the conflict and this may call for a time out to cool down and collect your thoughts and ideas. Emotional distancing may allow both partners the opportunity to formulate their ideas and facilitate the conversation. During this initial stage, each partner may want to spend some time reflecting on their specific accountability over the dispute and do a personal assessment by taking responsibility. By and large, women appear more critical than men during conflict, and it is better to approach the conflict by using the sandwich theory. As an illustration, get to the meat of the matter last by taking the two slices of bread and presenting a positive approach to your partner such as “I feel that I was inconsiderate when I did not listen to your position and I would like to take responsibility for being hasty in drawing conclusions.” Lastly, articulate the meat of the matter such as “I would like for you to understand that when you raise your voice inflection, I become nervous and I cannot respond to your concerns as well.” It is important to not damage the relationship that you have established with your partner by saying unkind words that you may regret later.

Secondly, do not build a triangle where you contact others to process an issue that should be between you and your partner. Consider the implications or the consequences of involving your friends and family. The objective is to build an intimate and conducive communication climate between you and your significant other. Triangulation only incorporates more stress for the third party person and hinders the communication process for you and your partner.

Thirdly, avoid being passive-aggressive with your partner by acting out your feelings versus communicating them in an assertive manner. Over the years in private practice, I often hear men report more often than women that they become very frustrated when their wives clam up and will not talk to them or cut them off sexually. Clearly, either party may participate in acting out their feelings versus learning to articulate what they are experiencing. In fact, during the initial course of psychotherapy, individuals may act out their emotions by engaging in some addictive or unhealthy behaviors such as shopping too much, eating too much, or drinking too much. Once new coping skills or stress management skills are introduced, the patient appears to decrease the frequency of the aforementioned behaviors. Lastly, both partners may want to educate themselves on the aforementioned communication styles and the gender differences and take this into account during the conflict resolution.

Purpose and Planning Outside of an Eating Disorder

By Natalie Hutson, M.S., L.P.C.

The eating disorder serves a purpose in a sufferer’s life. For some, the eating disorder may be a defensive retreat from the world, which is viewed as dangerous or untrustworthy. One may feel as though he or she is not allowed to experience being truly loved for oneself. Instead of withstanding expected failures in healthy, intimate relationships, one may feel he or she must be beautiful, perfect, and compliant to be loved. The eating disorder may help one establish a sense of adequacy one cannot achieve in other areas of life because of the faulty belief that one is unable to live up to the real or imaginary expectations of family, friends, or significant others in one’s  life. One may use the magical thinking of the eating disorder to feel safe. Children often use magical thinking to claim anxieties about the unknown, but as the real world offers more safety, they begin to give up the magical world. People with eating disorders; however, sometimes return to this magical thinking of childhood, creating individual rituals and behaviors to give a false sense of security.

Whatever purpose the eating disorder has served in one’s life, it  has been there not by accident, but for a reason.

Achieving recovery from an eating disorder involves understanding and appreciating one’s complexity as a person and relinquishing the need to retreat to obsessive simplification of emotional conflict. It involves developing a trust in oneself and in relationships with others. Most important of all, recovery involves not just a will to recover, but a REASON to recover…a reason to move on and experience life.

The Art of Developing Healthy Relationships

By: Susan Parish-Walker, M.S., L.P.C.

Clinical Director at The Walker Wellness Clinic at Cooper Aerobics Center

Healthy Relationship Help Eating DisordersWhy are relationships so important in the world that we live in? First of all, having a healthy relationship with others helps prolong one’s lifespan and gives one support, encouragement, and hope for the future. When one has developed a formal eating disorder, it impacts their relationship with others and often social isolation sets in and that individual feels lonely and disconnected from their support system.The question that this individual often raises is whether or not they emotionally distanced from others or did their friends and loved ones move away. In my years of treating eating disorder patients, it was always interesting how often the patient viewed the social isolation as rejection and that their friends and loved ones had emotionally abandoned them. The Eating Disorder Inventory III is an assessment that we use in the clinic and one of the clinical scales measures intimacy. Patient are perhaps reluctant to build relationships since they may have been betrayed (i.e., date rape, termination or divorce of significant relationship). Hence, this makes it very challenging for them to learn to trust again and reach out to others.Patients often report that they are not cognizant of the fact that they no longer respond to emails, text messages, social invitations, and do not return or acknowledge phone calls. Moreover, they sometimes do not feel that they fit into their peer group because they are one of the “good girls or boys” and do not conform to some of the peer pressures such as using alcohol and drugs, engaging in premarital sex, or other behaviors such as acting out? Hence, this was not popular in certain social circles and they no longer felt that they belonged with the “in crowd!”

Regardless, of where the social isolation and emotional distance lies, it becomes very lonely and emotionally painful for the person who suffers from the eating disorder. Most social settings are centered around food such as pizza parties, happy hours, football games with snacks, dining out, etc. and this in itself can be very anxiety provoking for someone who struggles with a food addiction. Perhaps for them it is easier to avoid being in a social setting since you do not have to cope with eating in front of others.

Once the recovery process from an eating disorder begins, the social isolation dissipates and the patient begins to value the meaning of a support system and the anxiety of eating in front of others begins to be less stressful. If one has a dysfunctional relationship with food, it is challenging to learn to have a relationship with others and build a healthy support system. Therefore, the road to recovery is imperative to incorporate how to overcome the fear of rejection or intimacy and embrace the significance of building healthy relationships with others as well as a healthy relationship with food!


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