Friday, January 23, 2015

How To Get Over A Mistake

When's the last time you made a mistake?  

Recently, to my dismay, I discovered a typo on the "thank you" pop-up on my mailing list opt-in.  Instead of "Welcome" it read "Wecome."  

Since thousands of people subscribed to the list (including many of you, dear readers) that meant THOUSANDS of people saw the error.

Total mortification.

How could I have missed it?
What would people think?
Yes, I went to that worst place scenario, imagining people would be completely put off and might think less of me.

I confided my concerns to a friend.  She started to laugh.

"I'm so relieved," she said.  "You actually are human."

She went on to tell me that my error, although understandably upsetting, made me seem more accessible and fallible in her eyes, which from her perspective was a good thing.  And she reminded me that all those subscribers still... well, subscribed.

It's easy to lose perspective and feel as if a relatively minor mistake is huge.  In my case, I realized I had highlighted the typo and minimized the overall value I strive to bring to subscribers.

Worrying makes things worse.

Stop obsessing about what happened:  Worrying about a mistake can lead to negative self-talk and an expectation of perfectionism, both of which affect self-esteem.  When you feel bad about yourself, you're more likely to use disordered eating as an escape, for comfort, or as punishment.

Start learning from it:  Figuring out what you can do to prevent another error (double proof-readers for me!) is important.

I often reassure people that it's okay to mess up, screw up, forget or just plain fail.  This experience forced me to put my beliefs into action.

Food for thought:

What does it mean to make a mistake?

What do you feel when you've made an error?

What is your inner judge telling you?

What would you tell a friend in a similar situation?

How bad is it in the overall scheme of things?

The next time you make a mistake (which is part of life and therefore inevitable), keep this in mind:

You made a mistake.  You are not a mistake.

And then give your perfectly-imperfect self a break!

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Friday, January 2, 2015

#$%^&* My Anorexia Said

#$%^&* My Anorexia Said

Guest blog post by Dana Lise Shavin

Dana is a recovered anorexic and author of The Body Tourist, a gritty, blatantly honest, and funny memoir about life after eating disorders. 

When I was fifteen, I went on a hike with some friends. One of their fathers chaperoned. On our way up a steep mountain trail, my friend’s father asked each of us what our number one goal in life was. I didn’t even have to think about it.
“To die thin,” I said.
He laughed. “You are thin,” he said. Which I was. But I couldn’t see it.
“If I was thin, I would be happy, and I’m not happy,” I said. “So obviously I’m not thin enough.” 

My friend’s father was not equipped to confront my growing anorexic mindset, with its dangerous and deeply addictive hypothesis that thinness equals happiness, and as I recall, the conversation moved on to my friends who had real goals, like becoming teachers and doctors and musicians. Four years after that conversation, forty pounds lighter, I still wasn’t happy. But I was still dieting. Not surprisingly, I was hospitalized.

            As a survivor of anorexia nervosa, there’s one question I get asked more than any other: What was the turning point in your recovery?  It’s an interesting question, I think, because it assumes that recovery is linear—that it progresses from unrecovered to sort-of recovered to completely recovered without backtracking, relapsing, or second-guessing. It assumes there is an eye-opening event or insight that turns a light on in the anorexic brain and makes her say, “What was I thinking getting so thin? I must stop this right now!”

           The truth, as we all know, is that recovery happens in fits and starts. You feel better one day and worse the next, eat healthily one day and starve the next. As time goes on, and you continue to do the work of recovery, maybe you eat healthily for two days or two weeks before you relapse. Maybe you eat healthily but feel terrible about yourself, or maybe you eat terribly or starve but feel a shift happening somewhere inside, and you know, without knowing how you know, that real change is coming. This is the true face of recovery.

           So while there wasn’t so much a turning point, so to speak, on my anorexic journey, there was, along the way, a growing awareness about my situation. At nineteen, I had been expelled from college and sent home to my parents. Instead of living in a fun, noisy dorm, attending interesting classes, and hanging out with friends drinking interesting herbal teas in beautiful, snowy upstate New York, I was confined to a hospital ward in my disliked hometown of Atlanta. My long black hair, the one thing about my appearance I actually liked, was falling out in huge hanks. Everything I prided myself on: my independence, my spunk, my academic ability, my close relationships with my friends and my boyfriend, anorexia had devoured.

           But I could only see this in glimpses. Because anorexia is an illusionist. Along with tricking me into believing happiness and contentment lay in a thinness I could never quite attain, anorexia obscured my ability to see my life, and the direness of my situation, clearly and consistently.
In the early days, weeks, and months of my recovery, I regained (and re-lost, and re-gained) a portion of my weight, each time allowing a few more of the pounds to stay. As my brain began to stabilize and my thinking began to clear, I became able—and (this is important) WILLING—to open my eyes to all the ways that anorexia was stealing my life, my friends, my independence, my joy, my sense of humor, and my future.

          There was a growing understanding that I had a choice to make: I could live the way I was living (if I lived—I was already having serious blood sugar plummets and seizures) for years or decades, terrified of food and of eating, denying my body’s wants and needs, forever racing around in a haze of exercise while battling intense hunger.

           Or I could put an end to the anorexic madness and get back to real life, which meant gaining enough weight to go back to college and pick up where I left off with my friends and my studies, and summoning the courage to face the difficult and the scary and the disappointing and the profoundly rewarding aspects of being human. The choice of whether to continue to live the painfully simplistic thin=happy fallacy, or to dig down deep inside myself and discover what was really keeping me from feeling happy—and then to do something about THAT—was mine and mine alone to make.
Easy? No. Worth the effort and the fear and the uncertainty and, yes, the restoration of my weight without any guarantees? Yes. My life is fuller, happier, more creative, more interesting, and more resonant than I ever believed it could be.

          Like an ocean liner, recovery doesn’t turn on a dime. It takes dedicated and consistent time and effort. You are at the helm. Ask yourself: how do I want to live? What would my ideal life look like? Will your greatest achievement be that you died thin?  Or will it be that you summoned your courage, faced your fears, and as a result you really, really lived?

About the author:  Dana Lise Shavin was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and now lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1986, she obtained her Master's degree in Clinical Psychology and worked for fifteen years as a therapist, behavior specialist, and psychological examiner. For the past fifteen years, she has made her living as a fine art painter, exhibiting at outdoor art fairs and in galleries throughout the United States. In 2011, Dana returned to her mental health roots and became a certified professional life coach. She specializes in finding balance and fulfillment in life and work, and goal setting with soul. Dana's essays have appeared in a number of journals, including Oxford AmericanThe SunThe WriterAlaska Quarterly Review, and many others. She has been a monthly columnist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press since 2002, and is the editor of the Chattanooga Jewish Federation newspaper, The Shofar.

Friday, December 26, 2014

This Year I Will...

New Year... New  You?
It’s that time of year again, when people start making New Years resolutions.  Lots of people intend to make changes next year:  they're going to try to lose weight, go to the gym more often, eat healthier – or they intend to stop self-defeating behavior such as bingeing, restricting, purging, and so forth.  

Does this sound familiar?   Do you end up starting off strong and disciplined, but somewhere along the line your resolve fizzles and you're back to where you started?

Here are three ways to do things differently this year:

Stop Trying So Hard.  Resolutions are often phrased in terms of “trying” to make changes.  I’m going to try to lose weight.  I’m going to try be healthier.  Keep in mind there is no trying; there is either doing or not doing.  If you’re trying (and failing) at your attempts to change, there is a reason.  Perhaps you’re afraid, not of failure, but of success.  Fear of success usually involves anxieties about expectations, impulsivity, and/or objectification.

Expectations: You may think that by changing your body, you’ll change your life. But, what if it doesn’t?  What if everything in your life stays exactly the same?  Maybe that’s too much to risk.

Impulsivity:  Maybe you’re afraid you’ll act in an impulsive manner if you are happy with yourself – leave your husband, cheat on your wife, take risks at work, that kind of thing.  If so, dealing with the wish to do those things – and most importantly, why - is a crucial step towards change. 

Objectification: What are your associations to intimacy?  What do you fear will happen if you’re perceived as more attractive to others?

A Different Kind of Resolution:  New Years Resolutions are often only about behavior.   But, what if they were about changing your relationship to yourself, instead of changing your behavior? 

Would you be kinder to yourself, listen to your needs and wants, and be curious (not critical!)?
Make a list of the ways you wish other people would be towards you, such as responsive, open, supportive, and kind.  Then, resolve to be that way towards yourself.

It’s Not About Willpower.  If you don’t address the underlying reasons for why you’re bingeing, restricting or purging, it is difficult to stop.   You must identify and process the underlying emotions and conflicts that are leading to the disordered eating, instead of addressing the behavior itself.

Focusing on food, weight and body image issues takes you away from what you’re feeling and thinking and serves to distract, numb or express what’s going on inside.

What emotions are you protecting yourself from feeling?  Anger? Sadness?  Fear?  Anxiety?

What are your conflicts?  In what areas of your life are you torn?  Job?  Family?  Relationships?

Disordered eating is a way of coping with painful and upsetting emotions and situations.  When you identify those underlying conflicts and find new ways to respond to yourself, you make peace with food.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Some cool & helpful infographics

Courtesy of, here's why the scale can do more harm than good.  

"Drive Your Health in 2015" is courtesy of the American Recall Center, which empowers consumers to take care of their health and also alerts them to the side effects of medications

For those of you who want a graphic about anti-depressant meds, here's a handy guide:


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Friday, December 5, 2014

The Monster Inside My Head

Guest Post written by John Bukenas

"I have been on a quest to lose weight for over 30 years. And like most people, I’ve tried every diet plan, every lose weight quick pill.  And they would work at first, but nothing stuck.  

You know the deal, lose 25 and gain 35.  Adding 10 pounds a year to your frame can really take a toll on you in 20 years.

In 2011 I was totally out of control.  I was almost 500 pounds, I couldn’t walk a hundred yards without being in pain and out of breath.  

I decide to try again.  But this time it would be different.  I would do research, stay focused, learn what went wrong in the past.  And as usual, it worked. For awhile, but this time the difference was I decided to go public.  I decided for accountability I would start a podcast and maybe others would come along for the journey.

The podcast is a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because of the wonderful people that have come into my life.  A curse because failing publicly is so embarrassing.

Because of my podcast I had lost 108 pounds.  

I learned more about nutrition, and exercise but there is still something out there that I have not figured out.  It’s the why?

Why do I overeat?  Why do I medicate with food?  Why does nothing else I’ve tried not ease the my stress, my negative feelings?

I’ve tried meditation, tapping or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), journaling.  Nothing seems to work as well as food.  And as I write this I realize how silly it sounds. Because as soon as there was stress and pressure in my life everything I learned went right out the window. So I realized.

There is a monster inside my head.

This monster is killing me and I don’t know how to stop it.  For years I secretly fought it, but it always won.  Because the monster knows me better then I know myself.  If I build a defense, it knows just how to counterattack.  It’s patient, it’s relentless, and after a year of battling It’s won.  I gained all my weight back, I have stopped podcasting.  

Because I don’t have any answers.  I could go on every week and tell you about all the new research that has come out.  I could show you all the great technology there is to help monitor diet and exercise.  And I could interview others who have successful, and how they accomplished their goals.  But that is not why I started the podcast.  It was to come up with answers and a plan to have success.

So I’ve been trying a new plan.

I’m trying to make peace with the monster inside of my head.  It’s not easy, we hate each other.  But my conscious is no match for my subconscious.  I realize I am so mean to myself.  I demand perfection.  If I make a mistake, I really attack.  I say, “I know better, I’m weak, I’m lazy, I’m worthless.”  This attack on myself starts the depression spiral.  Then it starts over again.

I don’t do this with anyone else.  I don’t expect perfection from others because I know it’s unrealistic.

So I’m starting again.  I promise to be kind to myself.  To be understanding.  To forgive my past failures and put it in the past.  To reach out for help when I’m struggling.  And to be there for others who struggle.

Then it hit me.  I realize the monster I’ve been fighting actually loves me.  The monster hates it when I attack myself, it wants me to feel better.  The monster and I just need to figure out how to do that without food.  Because failure is not an option."

John Bukenas hosts the Let’s Reverse Obesity Podcast.

John’s contact information can be found at  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How To Survive The Holidays - Part 2

CLICK HERE to listen to the interview.

In a recent interview with eHealth network, I was asked if family issues are the main cause of anxiety during the holidays.    

I answered that there are two main causes:  

Family, definitely.  And, food. 

The holidays start with Thanksgiving (at least they do here in the United States) and Thanksgiving is often referred to as “National Binge Day” – the whole day is a tribute to excess. 

You’re expected to overeat.  It’s even considered bad manners not to try everything on the table.  If you struggle with food, this can be extremely challenging.

Another problem with the holidays is everyone talks about food.  A lot.

Some relatives get offended if you don’t try everything.  Someone will say, “I know you’re watching your weight but you’re just GOT to try my pecan pie.  One bite won’t hurt you.  Go on, have some.”

And then there are the people who watch every bite they eat – and every bite YOU eat.

They say, “Oh, I shouldn’t have this.”  Or worse, “Do you think you should eat that?  Do you really need that?”

And then there are people who talk about food as if it’s a person.  “Oh, what a beautiful turkey.  What a gorgeous ham.  Everything looks beautiful.  I’m so in love with this meal.”

Personally, I don’t think food is beautiful or gorgeous.  People are beautiful (inside and out).

Love belongs to relationships between humans.  You love your husband, your wife, your girlfriend, boyfriend, your kids, your parents.  Food isn’t worthy of your love.

All this focus on food can lead to a lot of stress – you’re anxious, upset, and sad – and if you don’t have other strategies to deal with those stressful emotion, that makes you more vulnerable to using food to cope. 

So it can be a vicious cycle.  The key is to learn to express feelings in words, instead of behavior.

How do you stop the cycle?

People often think they are triggered by food but they’re not.  They’re usually triggered by situations and experiences that are painful or upsetting, and make them want to turn to food to cope – to numb, or distract from what’s upsetting them.

Start by asking yourself some questions:

*What is the most difficult part of the holidays?  Food?  Family?  Lack of family?
*What do you like about the holiday season?  What do you dislike?
*What helps during this time?
*What doesn’t help?
*What are the emotional triggers?

This helps you understand yourself better and know what your true triggers are – situational and emotional.  When you deal with and process those situations and feelings directly, you won’t use food as a coping strategy.

What is my top survival tip for the holidays?

Be a social anthropologist.    

When you're watching and observing, you're not a participant.  Observing means creating some distance and that distance can be very illuminating.

When you hear your mom or dad or grandparents criticize your sister or brother or cousin, or even themselves, you can see more clearly how you learned to criticize yourself. 

When you realize that your mother apologizes for every bite she eats, you’ll recognize how you learned to feel guilty for every bite you take.

It doesn’t matter whether you celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanza, or nothing, pay attention to what’s going on around you.

Which category does everyone at the table fit into?  Are they drunk, jealous, show-offs, or relentlessly perfect?

What do you like about them?  What do you appreciate?  What do you dislike?  Give yourself permission to hold the positive and negatives about others – it’ll make it easier to hold both about yourself.

Do you like people better because they’re thin?  Probably not.

When you’re observing others, you don’t feel as much under observation.  That makes you feel less self-conscious, and you feel better.  When you feel better, you’re less likely to use food to cope.

Add some gratitude!

It’s the holidays, and ultimately the holidays are about gratitude, so be grateful.  Think of one thing you appreciate; whether it’s a person or a situation, because hanging onto one good thing can keep you going when things are challenging.   

And with that in mind, be grateful for yourself, and practice self-acceptance and self-care.  You’ll feel better, and when you feel better, you’re less likely to use food to cope.  And as I like to say to my listeners and viewers, that’s how you win the diet war.

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