Friday, July 8, 2016

What A Tight Bridesmaid Dress Taught Me About Body Confidence

Today's guest blog is from Anne, who struggled with binge eating and knew that dieting wasn't working for her (in fact, it only made things worse).  When she gave up dieting and started examining "why" she was eating, instead of focusing on food, everything began to shift.  She didn't realize how much she had changed until THIS happened:

Anne's Story:

"I never realized how much I had changed until I had a bridesmaid dress disaster a few weeks ago.

My cousin Kate's wedding was a few weeks away and the bridesmaid dresses had finally arrived.   I was a little nervous--we've all seen 27 Dresses and know just how awful a bridesmaid dress can be! 

Well, my cousin pulled out a lacy, peacock blue dress out of the bag and I thought it was gorgeous.   I put it on, started to zip up, but as it got about halfway up my back, the zipper stuck. 

Kate came around and started yanking and pulling and tightening, but it didn't budge. The dress was simply not going to fit. 

In a very quiet and tentative voice, she said, "Are you going to be okay if we order a bigger size?" 

She was afraid that my self-esteem was going to plummet simply because I needed a different letter on the tag of my dress. 

A year ago, I would have been devastated.  But a lot can change in a  year.

I thought, "The size of the dress doesn't change my body! Just because this size doesn't fit doesn't mean I need to lose weight! 

And I'm certainly not going to keep the too-small dress around as motivation to diet. 

Heaven forbid I diet and the second the wedding ends, I turn around and binge on everything I've restricted the last three months. 

Why not order a dress that fits me and and makes me look like a million bucks?" 

To Kate's compassionate question, I cheerfully answered, "Of course we should order a different size! We don't want me walking around with my dress zipped down all day! What would grandma think?" 

She laughed, and together we called the company to ask about their exchange policy.  

And that's when I realized how free I was from all the body hatred and shame that I'd struggled with for so long."

Anne is a college student in the Midwest who's thrilled to have created a healthier, happier relationship to food - and most of all, to herself.

Wow, what a story!

I love Anne's body-positive response to the bridesmaid dress.  As I considered her experience, I started thinking about numbers.

Why do we allow our identity and our worth be determined by the letter or number on our clothing? 

Some of the world's largest crimes against humanity have been when we stripped others of their names and identities, and instead we assigned them a number. 


Promise yourself today to stop seeing yourself as the size of your jeans or the number on the scale, and instead see yourself as a person with wants and needs, likes and dislikes. 

Be more than a number... be YOU!

Today, refuse to say anything negative about your size. Assess the size of your heart, not the size of your jeans. Count the number of your friends, not the number on the scale.
Today, find positive attributes of your body to focus on. 

Today, challenge the thought that you will be happier when you are skinnier. 

Today, tell yourself that you love and respect yourself. 

That's how you win the diet war! 


Dr. Nina

Friday, June 10, 2016

5 Questions & Answers About Anorexia

I'm pleased to re-introduce today's guest blogger, Dana Lise Shavin, author of The Body Tourist, a memoir about the six years following her recovery from anorexia nervosa.   Last year she wrote a guest post about her experience and it was so well-received that I'm thrilled to have her back.  

5 Questions for the Anorexic—and Answers

by Dana Lise Shavin

If you’ve been told you’re anorexic, then you’re familiar with the questions below.

Aren’t you hungry?

Yes. I’m starving—literally and literally. It is excruciatingly difficult to severely restrict calories and at the same time maintain an exercise regime designed to burn off what little I still allow myself, so that I can continue to lose weight.

I am never “not hungry” except for in the minutes just after I (guiltily) ingested a few calories. I have never lost my appetite, only my ability to appease it. Because malnutrition interferes with the brain’s pleasure sensors, what I feel in the presence of food is powerful hunger wrapped up inexorably with extreme anxiety about eating it.

Can’t you see how thin you are?

No, I can’t. The reason for this lies partly in the realm of physiology and partly in the realm of psychology.

Physiologically my body, having used up its reserve of excess fat, turned to my muscles and connective tissues for fuel, and once those reserves were gone, it went after the neurons in my brain. Compromised (read: shrunken) brain capacity means I have serious problems with concentration, emotional lability (this is why I cry a lot or am otherwise moody), and difficulty remembering facts and events.

It has also thrown off my judgment, impaired my insight, deregulated my impulse control, and even interfered with my understanding of consequences.

Psychologically, I can’t see how thin I am because I have linked being happy with being thin, and although the number on the scale shows that I am extremely thin, I don’t believe it because I’m not happy yet.

And rather than question my hypothesis, I conclude I haven’t lost enough weight. I also can’t see myself clearly because I am emotionally unstable and wrapped up in control issues centering around my family, my body, and my independence, all weighty issues (if you will) that are causing me tremendous anxiety.

Also, look at our culture’s celebrities and models! Thin is in, and the thinner the better, right?  In short, I can’t see how thin I am because my brain is not processing information correctly anymore, I am anxious and emotionally unstable, I have erroneously linked happiness and thinness, and celebrities are modeling extreme thinness as desirable. All of this is why you telling me I’m sick and holding up a mirror to prove it just doesn’t work.

I dieted and I didn’t become anorexic. Why did you?
The short answer is that dieting alone didn’t lead to my eating disorder. Anorexia is a complex disorder that arranges itself around the seemingly innocuous behavior of dieting to lose a few pounds.

While most people will not become anorexic as a result of dieting, those who, like me, are also struggling with depression (50% of those with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression) (source: National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: ANAD), familial instability, a history of physical or sexual abuse, and/or who have absentee or weight-focused parents, are at a much greater risk for eating disorders.

Magical thinking also plays a role in the development of anorexia, whereby individuals who will become anorexic erroneously believe that weight loss insulates against pain, disappointment, and even death.

What will help you recover?

This is such a wonderful question, and one that will figure prominently in my treatment. First and foremost what must happen is I must be restored to a non-starvation weight, so that my brain can begin to function properly again. Without this, I cannot know that I am ill, and thus cannot begin to do the emotional work of recovery.
The second most important thing that will help me recover is posing this question to myself: Do I want to do this (i.e. starve, exercise myself into oblivion, live in the hospital or in my parents’ home) for the rest of my life? At twenty, despite my illness, what I know is this: I am unrelentingly hungry, always cold, and very lonely.

Losing weight has not dispelled my depression or won me more friends or a boyfriend, like I thought it would; in fact, it has pushed people away, isolated me, and made me MORE dependent on my parents: I’m unable to live independently because I’m a danger to myself.

Is this what I was going for when I set out to lose ten pounds? No. Is this what I want for the rest of my life? No. Is this what I’ll have if I don’t do the work of recovery? Yes, if I don’t die first. Because here’s a fact: eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of any of the mental illnesses (source: ANAD).

What should I do if I think I, or someone I know, is in danger of becoming anorexic (or having any kind of eating disorder)?  

When I was 16, a friend confided that she had lost twenty pounds and couldn’t stop dieting, although ten pounds had been her goal. I called her mother. My friend was furious. But she got help.

There are professionals specializing in the treatment of eating disorders, and inpatient, outpatient and day treatment centers across the US. Getting help—for yourself or someone else—begins with your understanding that disordered eating can consume years of your life (at best) or, if allowed to go unchecked, can take your life.

If you are struggling with anorexic thinking—even if you’re of normal weight—make an appointment to talk to a professional. If it’s a friend or family member who’s suffering, don’t get into in a power struggle around food, eating, or weight loss.

You won’t get her (or him) to see herself clearly no matter how many mirrors you hold up. You will be of the most help if you invite her to talk, are supportive, and offer to make an appointment and go with her to speak to a professional. If it’s a friend and she refuses your help, tell someone else close to her (a parent, teacher, or spouse) what you suspect. If it’s your child, you must insist on treatment. Look into ANAD or the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) for help about how to proceed.

Dana Shavin, M.S., CPCC, is a certified professional life coach, speaker, and author of the memoir, The Body Tourist, about the intersection of her struggle with anorexia with her mental health career. 

Her book has been featured on the Remuda Ranch treatment center website, on, and on the San Francisco Review of Books list. New York Times best-selling author Jacqueline Mitchard called The Body Tourist “…riveting reading, the biography of an illness as stubborn as the woman determined to kill it. Dana Lise Shavin can write with both hands, by turns comic and tragic, and always fiercely honest.” 

In addition to her long-running personal column in the Chattanooga Times Free PressDana speaks often about recovery and best life practices at both nondenominational and religious institutions and universities. She was a guest educator this past fall at the Meacham Writers Conference at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Her essays have appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines including Oxford American, The Sun, and The Writer.  Her website is

Saturday, May 28, 2016

How To Get Through The Summer Without Food Issues

Summer is coming.  That means barbecues, pool parties, beach parties, and more. Just thinking about it might make you nervous. Here's how to get through the summer without focusing on food, weight or diet:

How to deal with food
The anticipation of deprivation only makes you want something more.  If you're trying to be "good" and NOT eat hamburgers, chips, ice cream or whatever, then you're constantly thinking about food while you're at parties, instead of connecting with people and having fun!

When you think you can't have something, you'll just want it more.

What to do?  Give yourself permission to have whatever you think is forbidden.

Yes.  Have what you want!

You may be afraid that you'll start eating and never stop.  That won't happen if you consistently allow yourself to eat what you want.  If you "can" have it, sometimes you'll have it and sometimes you can decide not to have it.

How has dieting and restricting yourself from having certain foods worked so far?  I'm guessing, not too much.  Give this new way a try!

How to deal with people
Do you get mixed messages from your friends and family?   Someone might say, "Oh, one bite won't hurt you.

And someone else may say, disapprovingly, "Do you think you should eat that?"

If you think everyone's watching what you eat, it's enough to make you hide from people and turn to food.  
Also, people often talk about food at parties.  Again, this puts the focus on food instead of on... well, other things in life.

What to do?  Say you're on a diet.  A word diet.  Announce that you're not talking about food or dieting or losing weight (yours or anyone else's).   There are lots of other topics of conversation - suggest one! 

How to enjoy yourself
Focus on your senses:  sight, smell, touch, listen, taste.  Look around the party and notice what you see.  Is it a beautiful day?  Does it make you happy to see friends and loved ones? Do you see the sand, the sea, a pool, a grassy yard?
What are you hearing?  Laughter?  Music?  Conversation.

What does the water feel like?  Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. 

Keep in mind that the sun and water won't feel better if you are thinner.
When you find new ways of relating to yourself and your world, you stop using food for comfort or distraction. And that's how you make peace with food!

Want even more support on your journey?  I can help!  Imagine feeling FREE of food cravings and being at peace, all without dieting (yes, it is possible)!

Sign up for my FREE 3 Day Challenge to crack the code of emotional eating.  CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP: