Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eating Disorders and the Holidays Guest Post on Pathways to Wholeness

Happy Winter's Solistice to you!

Janet Nestor, MA, LPC, DCEP of Mindful Pathways asked me to be her guest blogger for December.  This is the blog post I shared on her site:  Her book is on special for the holidays for only $5.64!! 

Back to wrapping gifts for me.  Thanks for your comments and readership. 

Eating Disorders and the Holidays

We are so lucky to have the opporutinity to welcome Becky Henry as our guest blogger. She is the Author of Just Tell Her to Stop, an award winning book for families who care for an member with an eating disorder.  She is the founder of Hope Network a wonderful support sommunity.  I recommend her book to clients with eating disorders and also to their family members as it is the only book of its kind on the market.
Families living with an eating disorder can find the holidays extra challenging with all the focus on food. There are so many different stresses and foods that can be frightening for people facing eating disorders.
Two years ago I got to have a conversation with Peter McClellan on his radio show 401k Latte about eating disorders at the holidays. We talked about the huge spreads of food that can be overwhelming and stress inducing. Take a listen:
Peter asked some great questions to open up the conversation about how both parents and health care providers can support someone with an eating disorder. A few things we talked about were:
  • As family member; put on your oxygen mask first-make a Top Ten list and do 1 self-care/fun thing each day.
  • Family members can help by: Learning to let go with love (easier said than done).
  • Don’t make comments about other people’s bodies.
  • Low fat – Low Calorie diets backfire – they don’t work – 95% failure rate.
  • Language from health care providers is important – telling patients to lose weight not only doesn’t help – it hurts.
  • Health care providers can ask open ended questions about what a patient’s health care goals are can enroll the patient in the process of making healthy choices.
  • The book: Just Tell Her to Stop can be ordered at:
  • Weight-ism is alive and well –notice our judgments about sizes.
  • People can be healthy at many different sizes.
  • Focus on overall health to achieve your health goals.
  • Insurance and eating disorders coverage – Academy for Eating Disorders works for mental health parity.
  • College professors can add the book to their curriculum as required reading.
  • Companies are invited to purchase the books to donate to eating disorders treatment centers.
What have you heard from your health care provider that has backfired for you? What comments have you found helpful while recovering from an eating disorder?
I hope you will focus on what you are grateful for this holiday season and have peace.
Hope Network:!/

Monday, November 28, 2011

What is "drunkorexia" all about?

When I was doing interviews for my book, Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders I heard an amazing story about a young woman with co-morbid eating disorders and alcoholism.  That is fancy lingo meaning she had both an eating disorder and alcoholism.  I chose not to use the story in the book because there was a lot of media attention about the outcome and legal proceedings.  I interviewed the former housemate of a college student who regularly skipped eating and drank instead.  Every day the young woman got so drunk that the housemates had to protect her from males who wanted to take advantage of her.  On what happened to be her 21st birthday this pattern caught up with her and she died as a direct result of what was being done to her body.  If a 2nd book happens I will write the whole story because it is so important to share the dangers of this combination that has come to be termed: Drunkorexia.  I'd like to share a blog post from the blog at addressing this dangerous phenomenon.  Please share your reactions in the comments section.

What Drunkorexia is Doing to College Students

At first, "drunkorexia" may sound like kind of a funny word, jokingly made up to describe a situation in which college students and others forgo food in order to be able to afford more alcohol and feel higher effects of alcohol on an empty stomach. But what some may brush off as crazy college-kid behavior is actually a serious problem that can have highly damaging consequences both in long- and short-term health. Of course, that hasn't stopped college students from engaging in this unhealthy trend, and a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia indicated that one in six students had practiced drunkorexia within the last year. Typically, drunkorexia is done by women; the study showed that three out of four drunkorexia respondents were female.
Students may not realize that drunkorexia is incredibly damaging to their health, but the fact remains that the practice puts them at risk for problems like sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, and even seizures and comas. Specifically, the University of Missouri study indicates that drunkorexia may lead to:
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • HIV
  • drunk driving
  • alcohol poisoning
  • injury risk
  • perpetrating or being a victim of sexual assault
  • passing out
  • malnutrition
  • heart problems
  • cognitive disabilities
  • seizure
  • comas
  • organ failure
All of the possible effects are disturbing, but perhaps the most worrisome are heart problems and cognitive disabilities that can stem from drunkorexia-induced malnutrition. STDs, injury, or sexual assault are without a doubt difficult to bounce back from, but malnutrition-induced heart problems and cognitive disabilities are something you just can't take back. Cognitive problems are especially disturbing for college students, as they can result in "difficulty concentrating, studying, and making decisions." These are long-term health issues brought on by drunkorexia that can follow a college student for the rest of her life. That is, assuming that the student survives past the possibility of seizures, comas, and organ failure.
So it seems that a practice that may be approached lightheartedly is in fact a very serious problem that doesn't just stop with fun (and possible weight loss) one night. Used as a regular practice, drunkorexia can scar you for life and even end in death. And although the long-term effects are certainly frightening, the short-term possibilities of drunkorexia aren't incredibly easy hurdles to get over, either. Just one night of drunkorexia can have serious consequences, with higher levels of intoxication and starvation putting students at risk for dangerous behavior. At high levels of intoxication, students lose the ability to make good decisions, which can lead to dangerous situations like having unprotected sex, or even being involved in a rape, driving drunk, and becoming injured as a result of stunts, fights, or simply an inability to function properly. In addition to these risks, just one night of intense drinking on an empty stomach can lead to blackouts, hospitalization, and death from alcohol poisoning. Clearly, drunkorexia has serious and lasting consequences, even for students who aren't repeat offenders.

Drunkorexia is a scary situation for any college student, but for women, the problem is compounded. Female students are not only more prone to engage in drunkorexia, but they are also at a higher risk of problems from its effects. Dr. Valerie Taylor, chief of psychiatry at Women's College Hospital in Toronto indicates that female college students are more likely to engage in drunkorexia due to social pressure to stay slim. Even worse, female students are more likely to experience higher effects (meaning: reach alcohol poisoning and organ damage faster) because women metabolize alcohol faster than men. These facts combined with a higher risk of sexual assault mean that girls in college are hit with an even scarier drunkorexia situation.
How did things get so bad? It's one thing to have an eating disorder, and another to have a substance abuse problem, but combined, they're an incredible problem to overcome. Dr. Bunnell, former president of the National Eating Disorders Association, says that college students often suffer from an obsession with being skinny, while at the same time noticing the social acceptance of alcohol and drug abuse. In a world where celebrities checking into rehab is a regular practice and can even be "downright chic," it's not hard to understand why college students, especially female students, might think that drunkorexia is OK. But on top of social pressures, psychologists share that eating disorders may also be rooted in deep emotional pain. Alcohol, binging, and purging can provide an outlet for mental anguish, including childhood traumas like sexual abuse and neglect.
Such deep problems don't often come with an easy cure, and in some cases, require hospitalization and rehab. Judy Van De Veen suffered from eating disorders for years, and also took up drinking in later years. Things got so bad, she had to join a 12-step program and spent two years in and out of rehab, which cost her $25,000 out of her own pocket. None of them helped, but after becoming pregnant and joining support groups to address her daughter's caloric needs, she found an "excuse to eat" and be happy about it. Although Van De Veen's case is an extreme one, it offers a cautionary tale for students who are engaging in drunkorexia. Without help, things can go too far, resulting in a problem that can haunt you for decades, cost thousands of dollars, and even put your future family at risk.
We hope it's clear by now that drunkorexia is not harmless and is actually quite dangerous to the lives and long-term health of college students. So what can you do to avoid it and stop the practice on campus? FastWeb points out that college is a great place to simply ask for help. There are resources on every college campus to deal with not only alcohol abuse, but also eating disorders. College counselors are there to help, and your student fees have already paid for the visits. If you or a friend are suffering from drunkorexia, don't hesitate to speak up and get help while you still can. Be supportive with friends who may have a drunkorexia problem, offering positive reinforcement as well as fun alternatives to drinking, like movies and going out to dinner. It's also a good idea to set a good example by making responsible decisions with alcohol or avoiding it completely.
November 21st, 2011 written by Site Administrator

Monday, November 7, 2011

What does it mean to live in a nation where one out of every three people is obese?

My response to this NPR query:
"My brief response to this question:
What does it mean to live in a nation where one out of every three people is obese?

It means that daily there are millions of people who are being subjected to bullying and harassment due to the stigma of obesity.  Due to lack of awareness it has now become acceptable to discriminate against an entire group of people.  This reminds me of when educated people thought it was perfectly acceptable to discriminate against people of color.

Another piece that is not understood is that there are healthy obese people and unhealthy thin people.  Yes, this is true.   Regan Chastain of says it so well: "The idea of "healthy weight" is a dangerous one. Health is multi-dimensional and includes past and current behaviors, genetics, environment, stress and access. There is no weight that someone can achieve that will make them healthy. If we want to have a real discussion about health, especially when dealing with the sensitive subject of eating disorders, we need to take weight out of the discussion completely and talk about health."

When we look at what the Health At Every Size community has learned it just does not make sense to make weight the goal in having good health but instead aim for creating health and let the weight land where it may. This took me a long time to understand but as I have read the work of many dedicated researchers I understand it now.  This takes compassion and not shaming fat people.

My biggest beef with this is that we have a worldwide epidemic of eating disorders and this anti-obesity war is only making that worse.  People with eating disorders have so much body shame and dysmorphia already and hearing this constant message that "FAT IS BAD" only adds fuel to the eating disorder.

The bottom line is that living in a nation where one out of every three people is obese means we must have compassion, work hard to find answers and learn from people who are actually helping people living with obesity.  We do have answers and bullying, shaming and war are not the answer. "

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No More Stigma Around Eating Disorders

This is my dream - that one day people will freely talk about eating disorders as we NOW freely speak about breast cancer or autism.  There was a time (not very long ago) that people didn't say the words, "breast cancer" because it was embarrassing.  Parents were shamed for having a child with autism - so they hid it.  These families have broken the silence and we have all seen how powerful it has been. 

Every where we look we see pink as companies and organizations support the fight against breast cancer.  Big NFL players sporting pink towels, gloves, shoes, etc.  A bridge in Australia all lit up in pink.

It has been a long time coming and now, thanks to the F.E.A.S.T. organization, the families of those with eating disorders and the professionals who support us are coming out and speaking up!

I shared my thoughts on the F.E.A.S.T. Symposium website
 “For me this symposium is the historic moment in which the trumpets blare and the world gets to know more about these complex life threatening illnesses.  For years I have been looking forward to the moment when we as advocates can launch the awareness campaign that will make eating disorders a household word.  Families of those with breast cancer and autism for example, have done an impressive job of creating world wide awareness as well as raising funds for those illnesses. This time has come.  I hope you’ll join us and attend this historic event.”

My dream is coming true.  We are being given not only permission but it is being requested of us to speak up and speak out about these most deadly of all mental illnesses.

I'll be there and hope you will join us!  I will have the privilege of moderating a Q and A with Dr. James Lock of Stanford University.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eating Disorders and Older Women

This article will appear on the Aging But Dangerous website shortly.  I wanted to share it with you here first.  Becky

Eating Disorders Consuming Older Women

Many of us, including health professionals think of an emaciated young girl with anorexia when we hear of an eating disorder. First of all, anorexia is the least common of all eating disorders. These deadly illnesses exist on a spectrum from anorexia (AN) and bulimia (BN) to Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) which includes Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

I found out the hard way (when it took two years to get my daughter diagnosed) that health professionals often aren’t taught that people with eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds and AGES.

Not all skinny people have eating disorders.
Not all fat people have eating disorders.
Some “normal” size people have eating disorders.

It is common for women over age 50 to feel dissatisfied with their bodies and report feeling “fat” to the point it is now “normal” to dislike our bodies.  An example is from a friend of mine who developed terminal cancer and began shrinking. Once she had reached a much smaller size she told me one good thing about cancer was that now she was thin.  Sad.

I have to wonder if a doctor was shown photos of my friend, one when large and one small-a year before she died, which they would believe is the “healthy” one.  I’m certain most would choose the smaller size.  Wouldn’t they be surprised to know she was very unhealthy—dying actually.

I can’t help but see the irony in our societal views.  A fond childhood memory is sitting on my great-grandmother’s cushy lap and feeling like I was on a soft fluffy cloud. To me she was perfect. To the rest of the world she was a fat old lady.

Books on the subject:
A Girl Called Tim - Escape from an Eating Disorder Hell by June Alexander – Australian author, international eating disorder advocate
Healing Your Hungry Heart by Joanna Poppink, MFT
Lying in Weight: the Hidden Epidemic of Eating Disorders in Adult Women by Trisha Gura

When we as society stop looking at the outside and start looking at souls and what is on the inside we will all become stronger and better.

If you care about anyone with an eating disorder and want support please check out our fall tele-class series and our Date Without ED opportunities at

Becky Henry
President, Hope Network, LLC
National Award Winning Author of: Just Tell Her to Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders – Available at

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders Chapter 4

Many of you have been asking when the e-book version of Just Tell Her To Stop will be available.  Any day is what a thought a while back.  So for now here is a chapter I think will be helpful to some of you trying to take care of yourselves and your ill loved one at the same time. 
I'd love to hear your comments.  And, I'll keep you posted on when the e-book is out.
Until then, may you find joy and hope in your journey. Becky

Chapter 4
Yes, It Affects the Parents’ Marriage
Walking up to Chris at a coffee shop, I was a bit surprised to see how composed she appeared. She had shared briefly on the phone about the many trials she was facing in addition to her daughter Mary's eating disorder.
Occasionally, her coral-colored lips quivered as she spoke, but her calm, matter-of-fact manner was almost unnerving as she casually spoke of circumstances most of us could barely comprehend. Only sporadically did a tear or two escape from her tired eyes, one of the few giveaways of the toll being taken on her life.
She currently lives with her own health issues as well as the constant worry that her daughter will die from her eating disorder. This is her greatest fear.
I kept having to manage the thoughts going on in my head while interviewing her: How can she be so conversant? A person walking by would never suspect the stress this woman is under. Why do we feel such an intense need to hold it together when our lives are falling apart?  Is there so much stigma attached to eating disorders we can’t let others know about the extreme pain we are in?
It is amazing how we are sometimes able to keep our outer shells so put together when our hearts are breaking. We all do the best we can to manage the blows that life throws at us and Chris was doing a beautiful job of holding it together even though no one had guided her in the essential skills needed to help herself or her daughter. 
In a closer-to-perfect world, a parent with a seriously ill child would not face additional challenges. But they do continue and we are not handed just one challenge at a time; too often the challenges snowball. A lot of people lose their jobs, friends and family members die, car crashes happen. Even minor mishaps like the furnace breaking down can easily overwhelm us in a time of crisis. Soon the shoulders start to slump and our heads duck as we anticipate the next drama, the next upheaval.
Chris' story may be a useful tool for family members to share with friends or family who want to be supportive but are having trouble grasping the formidable challenges that exist during this illness. 

Chris' Story
One of my biggest frustrations is that I know my daughter Mary’s eating disorder is much more serious than my husband Tom thinks it is. Hearing Becky say that she hears this often when speaking to mothers instantly reduced my feelings of isolation. Even though I know men and women experience trauma differently, it has been lonely not having Tom acknowledge the seriousness of her situation. Seeing Mary lose interest in her friends, school, hobbies, and activities has been like watching my child emotionally shutting down before my eyes. When I try to talk with him about how very ill she is, he just says, “She looks okay to me. I don’t know what you’re so worried about all the time."
When I am lying awake worrying about Mary, I wonder, How can he just fall right to sleep? I feel so alone. My annoyance has started to turn into resentment. My logical brain tells me Tom is dealing with this frightening situation his way but the emotional side of me perceives his reactions as a lack of sensitivity and empathy.
Mary got married young and within months her new husband had found someone else. He made a point of telling her that his new love was slimmer.
The day after her husband left, Mary came over to our house. All Tom did was pat her on the head before walking out of the room. I was beyond frustrated.
Like so many parents who are trying desperately to save their children’s lives from these illogical eating disorders, I find it helpful to do research. It is a coping mechanism that is helpful for me, as knowledge helps me reclaim some of the power and control the eating disorder stole when it invaded our lives. Even though some of what I learn is frightening, overall, I feel that being informed helps me support Mary more effectively and helps me know what my role needs to be. There is little else I can do as a parent to help my child.
I am often told by my husband and friends, “Don’t do that research because you’ll just freak yourself out more.” This kind of statement just increases my feelings of isolation and helplessness. I wish they could understand that researching helps me support Mary as she regains her health.
The failure of her short marriage was the beginning of Mary’s long downhill journey into sadness, pain, and self-destruction. She is a kind, loving, sensitive, caring person; all she ever wanted was to be married and have kids. After her new husband made it clear that this newer, sleeker woman was what he really wanted, Mary became obsessed with how she looked.
She became very negative about all aspects of her appearance. Nothing was good enough—her hair wasn't right, her clothes made her look "fat," etc. Then she stopped wearing makeup and wouldn't even shower regularly. It was quite apparent she was becoming depressed.
She wouldn't see friends, then lost her job and wouldn't even look for a new one, so needed to move in with us. About the time we thought things couldn't get worse she was diagnosed with the eating disorder.
Mary had been so secretive about her odd eating behaviors that it took quite awhile to get her to a doctor who could properly diagnose her. Tom and I had hoped that once she was seeing some treatment providers she would improve, but it has been a slow, painful process.
Today, Mary is trying to keep a job and go to school but things keep happening that make it impossible for her to maintain her schedule and stick to her commitments. Sometimes she cannot force herself out of bed; other times she is so down and dragged out from the medications that she just can't function. We see her daily struggles, and it just breaks my heart.
It is a challenge to not feel guilty about any role Tom and I may have played in this. Is it genetic? Did we give her genes that caused this? In addition, it appears that she inherited polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) from me, which, ironically, is a condition common in people with eating disorders.
It hasn’t helped that some of the “professionals” seem to know less about eating disorders than I do. One doctor actually said to her, "Just push away from the table," which did so much damage. Yet that comment was not as hurtful as when the doctor said to me, "If she had anorexia it would be much worse. You don't have as much to worry about with bulimia." Unbelievable. It may be true that more people die from anorexia than bulimia, even though more people have bulimia, but this doctor obviously has not seen the way bulimia sucks the life out of its victims and steals our loved ones from us. Our daughter deserves treatment that works.
Right now the daughter I knew is gone, replaced by a shell of her former self. I miss her terribly and my broken heart grasps for the slivers of her that randomly appear. One Sunday afternoon we played cards. Her mind was sharp and she was actively engaged in the game. It was fun and we all even had some laughs. Then, just as quickly, that glimmer of her former self was gone; the zombie that had taken over my daughter's mind, body and soul was back. Those rare glimpses of her former self keep my hope alive and tell me that she's still in there somewhere.
I don’t know if our marriage can withstand this. Tom and I are both so tired and at a loss because it seems there is nothing we can do. I already have lost so much of my daughter—I can’t lose my husband too. The frustration, fear, and helplessness have us grasping at straws and we fight about what to do next. Something as simple as cleaning up after dinner can spark a major disagreement as I freak-out about Mary's plate left filled with food while Tom just brushes it off.
With the current job and unemployment stresses, (I recently had shoulder surgery and can't work). What little energy I have left is focused on keeping Mary alive. Tom also lost his job a few weeks ago but we still make time to spend a few hours together free of eating disorders conversation so we can have fun.
Most people would never know that this is yet another of the challenges facing families fighting these unrepentant disorders. People have no idea why we have found it hard to maintain a social life or even keep up the garden. The constant tension, arguments, and continual attempts to motivate her drain us.  Some days, just getting food on the table is a great accomplishment—and even then the battles begin again.
Through my research I’ve learned that relationship coaches and therapists can give some insights into how to maintain marriages and respect the male-female differences in reacting to a crisis. In the meantime, I think it is essential to give ourselves permission to stop trying to get the men in our lives to grasp the seriousness of these illnesses. We need to find support elsewhere for ourselves as well as our loved one.
I have one sister in-law who is sympathetic, because she has a niece who had severe anorexia. My sister-in-law and a woman at work are the only people, besides the therapist I see, who are able to give me any comfort, sympathy, or empathy.
I have found it useful to spend extra time with girlfriends as well as consciously remembering what attracted me to Tom in the first place. It has also helped that Tom and I have agreed to not play the blame game and respect our differences. We are determined to save our marriage from being a casualty of this illness. We know we both love our daughter: we just have different ways of responding to her illness. 
Here are some tools I've read about that couples have found helpful:
  1. Date night—have a firm rule to not talk about the ill child during the entire date.
  2. Family therapy—find a competent therapist (preferably one who understands eating disorders) that the entire family can see regularly.
  3. Get yourself individual therapy—or an objective third party to talk to.
  4. At home (not just date night), have a time block set aside with no discussion of your ill child or illness.
  5. Give one another backrubs or foot massages.
  6. Exercise together or agree to individual exercise.
  7. Find a fun hobby to do together.
  8. Read to one another about eating disorders (or share books).
  9. Take warm baths.
  10. Weekend getaways—if they don’t cause added financial burden.
  11. Meditate or practice yoga.
  12. Listen to your favorite soothing music.
  13. Go to a comedy club or rent funny movies regularly.
  14. Talk with other parents of seriously ill children who “get it.”
  15. Tag team when the child is extra challenging to be around.
  16. Consciously choose to be a “united front.”

Becky's Reply to Jess Weiner's Article In Glamour

August 11, 2011

Hi Jess, I’ve never been known as quick on my feet (well except when I had a toddler running herself towards some danger), I need to think about things a while.  Your article in Glamour gave me a lot to think about.

I am confused.

So, when I am confused I ask questions.  My coach hat has to go on for this because I am seeing what we call in our coaching lingo,  ‘collapsing’ of concepts.  It looks to me like all the confusion of Health At Every Size (HAES) and Body Acceptance has combined with scary messages from your doctor and has you collapsing the accepting of your body (regardless of the size it happens to be on a given day) with taking responsibility for keeping it healthy.

I can see how this happens, the two are very intertwined.  When I have a client who is collapsing concepts into one we ‘peel away’ the layers of the proverbial onion.  This is where the questions come in.  I respect you Jess and want you to know that no matter what size you are I will respect you – that includes if you are bigger or smaller.  The statement you made about wondering if your audience would respect you should your focus on improving your health result in weight loss confuses me.  Why, given that HAES truly focuses on health and not weight, would those of us in that world respect you less if you weighed less?

I really would love to hear your thoughts on that.  From what I understand of HAES, if we love our body where it is at that does not also equal choosing to do nothing about improving our health.  Two different things here.  This is the ‘collapsing’ I hear.

I totally get it about wishing to be a different size, sitting (way too much for my comfort) and writing my book about eating disorders I gained weight.  Fortunately I have never had an eating disorder and I am able to laugh about this – mostly.  Now that I can get out and move my body more often in fun ways and get back to eating things that will nourish my healthy body and give me energy I am doing that, my weight may change, it may not.  Yes, I’d love it if my clothes were not tighter than they used to be and my almost 50-year old body looked like it used to…but my main focus is my health and well being.  I want to be able to ski, swim, kayak, bike ride, hike, be alive and healthy until I don’t wake up one day.  That is why I do what I do to keep my body healthy – that is the focus, not weight loss.  This does not mean I am doing it right.  We each have to find out own way.

Next (since we aren’t in a coaching session and I cannot follow up to your answer to the question about respect) I am curious about what it was you (or your eating disorder – that you have publicly shared is still alive and well) heard from your doctor that pushed you in the direction of having weight loss as a goal rather than improving your health as a goal?

I am sad to hear you say, “Still, personally, I never would have gotten my healthier numbers without confronting my weight.”  I believe you and others can and do improve health indication numbers without confronting the weight. 

So, please help those of us who are confused, some angry about the shift in focus of your advocacy.  Deb Burgard, PhD has some interesting thoughts in her blog that I’ll also be commenting on.   There are a lot of people that your article and actions can influence and I hope that the eating disorder’s voice doesn’t overtake your voice on educating about Health At Every Size.  We need your strong voice in this community Jess.

 Another insightful article on HAES:

Please share your thoughts and responses here. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How do I find balance when my child has an eating disorder?

How do I have balance during my child's eating disorder?  And, why do I need to even think about having balance?
The short answer is, this looks different for each of us and different during the different phases we go through.  And, you'll burn out very fast if you don't have balance.
The longer answer and my invitation for you to share what worked for you begins here.
I know balance is necessary because I didn't do it well in the early phases of parenting a child with an eating disorder.  Then I learned how to do it and practiced until it was effective.
I am not kidding about burning out.  It really is true that if we don't get our own oxygen mask on and fill our cup up we will run dry and not be of any use to anyone.
Our sick children/loved ones with eating disorders need our help (whether or not they agree with that is a different blog post).  If we are completely drained, fried and exhausted we will be of no use to them or ourselves.
Here are some of my ideas of what balance might look like during some experiences of caring for/about someone with an eating disorder (please share what has worked for you):
Potential Scenarios:
Parenting a young child/teen who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder and being treated with Family Based Therapy (FBT), Traditional Outpatient, Traditional Inpatient or Residential.
Being a college roommate or friend of classmate with an eating disorder.
Parenting an adult child who is in denial that he/she has an eating disorder.
Parenting an adult child who is being treated for an eating disorder.
Being the spouse/partner/housemate of an adult with an eating disorder.
Other potential scenarios that I didn't think of, please add in comments.
Balance creating actions:
Meditation / time alone to rest.
ED Free Zone/time with significant other.
Date Without ED - going out and doing something fun with friend or significant other.  See more on my notes page on FB
Making a Top 10 List (of fun activities) and doing at least one thing per day from it (ie- watch a movie, talk w/a friend).
Go to private space (ie- bedroom) with significant other and be alone without discussing the illness or the sick child for 2 hours.
Getting enough sleep and moving your body in a fun way.
Talking with a professional (therapist or coach) about coping tools/skills/techniques as well as resources for helping yourself and your sick child.
Journaling about your fears/worries/frustrations.
 These are just a few ideas, I would love to hear what works for you and if you need help finding more balance I would be happy to schedule some coaching with you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do you care about someone with an eating disorder?

Tool for coping with Loved one in pain - When we have someone we care about who is suffering in any way shape or form, it is hard to not worry...we all know how unproductive WORRY here is a quick tool to help!
Picture the face of your loved one in front of you in a white balloon.  Think about how much you care about him/her.  Then silently or out loud, say his/her name 10 times while envisioning the balloon raising up and out of your peripheral vision and up to the universe where a higher power can help them with their troubles.

I would love to hear what you notice when you try this!  Please share here or on my facebook pages: http://www.facebook/HopeNetworkBeck

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eating Disorders Advocacy and Authenticity

Yesterday, Kathleen MacDonald of the Eating Disorders Coalition (the organization the receives a portion of the proceeds from sales of my book, Just Tell Her To Stop; Family Stories of Eating Disorders), gave me a wonderful acknowledgment.  She appreciates that I not only understand the vast complexities of eating disorders in families but also am authentically walking the talk on claiming joy.

You see, while I am coaching other families to reclaim their joy from these destructive and challenging illnesses I am daily doing so myself.  Our story is not tied up with a pretty ribbon with a happy ending, or any ending.  We live in limbo as the eating disorder has taken our daughter out of our lives, we have no idea if this is permanent or temporary.  It was so refreshing to hear Kathleen say that she loves that about me, that I am one of the walking wounded leading other injured soldiers to fill their cups up, put their oxygen masks on and PARTY!  Yes, party. 

My mantra is joy in all circumstances, and though I don't do it perfectly...what is that anyhow?  I strive for it and model it.  We do not help anyone else by being miserable and sad.  No one. Not even ourselves.  I believe in smiling, how about that?  A mom who has a broken heart, smiling.  How could I?  I say, "How could I not?"

Speaking of smiling...a wonderful woman in Denver, CO named Katie Haley is aiming to get at least 10,000 people in Denver to smile tomorrow at 3pm MDT.  You are invited to join her in person or in spirit

So, what am I doing to get parents/carers of those with eating disorders (ed) to party you ask?

Launching events for a campaign called: "A Date Without ED"
Campaign: "A Date Without ED"
Purpose: Carers get out & have fun again with a significant other. They pledge to not talk about ed or the  person with ed for the whole date.
Origin Story: This came from my husband and I realizing  (almost too late) that we only talked about our sick daughter and never had fun with each other anymore.  We like each other and like to have fun together. We committed to having a date night now and then in which we pledged to not speak about the crisis du jour, the ED or our daughter.  We had to find fun things to  talk about and do.  It saved our sanity and our marriage (probably our  overall health).
Details: Carers receive “kit” by signing up on the <>  page.
Restaurants will contribute to a non-profit supporting eating disorders.
Kit includes :
Stickers that say: "I ATE without ED" 

Story on how this began
An invitation to share their story
TIP sheet on talking points (as they may have forgotten what they used to talk about).

This will begin locally, in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN (USA) and will expand (exponentially) nationally and internationally.  I am looking for help in launching this campaign as there are many moving parts.  The Aliveness Project does similar events with their "Dining Out For Life"  to raise money for those living with HIV/AIDS. 

Any skills, help are welcome.  I have a few people who have already said they will help and we are looking for a few more dedicated passionate people who can help get thousands of carers out there reclaiming joy and at the same time raising funds (and supporting wonderful restaurants) for eating disorders non-profits.

If you are part of a non-profit and would like to be involved just contact me.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Turn

Not much gets my blood boiling these days.  Lots of breathing and choosing my thoughts helps that. But as a parent of a child with an eating disorder when I encounter the old treatment beliefs about families being a piece of the "What causes eating disorders" may as well have told me, "You stink as a mom and it's all your fault that your daughter nearly died and is still sick after 11 years."  Whatever.

Here is my response to a treatment provider who blogged about eating disorders causation and the only puzzle piece (out of dozens of potential causes) that she focused on was family dynamics. Puuhhhlleeezze.  Stop it now.

Here is my response for the record (been waiting a really long time to say this to professionals who still feel that if it weren't for pathological parents we wouldn't have eating disorders)....One actually said that to me last fall - I remained calm...but let me tell you, when people ask me about therapists in NYC...her name is on the "DO NOT CALL" list.

As a parent who is now living with the heartbreaking effects (long term estrangement from my adult daughter) of the treatment model now referred to as "parentectomy" I was very saddened and angered to see the focus on family in your blog post about Causation.,sb=587689,b=facebook

As "Charlotte - UK" stated so eloquently: " even imply that they do may put at risk the health and lives of eating disorder patients, by alienating the carers who continue to love and care for them long after the insurance money runs out." 

And, as Dr. Sarah Ravin says, "But if there are no obvious familial or environmental issues fueling the disorder, please don’t waste time searching for them. You aren’t doing the patient or the family any good by “being curious,” or “just exploring.” You are simply satisfying your own voyeuristic drive..."

I too am 100% for more research, do not get me wrong.  We need it. In fact I am starting a world wide campaign with the AED to raise millions of dollars for eating disorders research. Private funding. From parents.  There are at bare minimum 70 million of us out there who love someone with an eating disorder and we can and do make a difference.  AND we are not all pathological. Thank you for stating that, "I've also seen an extraordinary array of health and resilience."  I completely understand that you see and hear about tons of pathology.  AND as other commenters have shared - not all children of pathological parents develop eating disorders.

What I am very curious about is with the vast complexity of contributing factors to eating disorders what the reasoning was for focusing on the family piece.

Why was there no mention of the fact that these are neurobiologically-based, genetically transmitted diseases?

What is the purpose of putting the family under the microscope when, as you state, "For these kids, it is unclear what in the family may -- or may not -- have contributed to the heartbreaking disorder that can destroy a teen's life as well as that of his or her family."?

As you shared, focusing on the family was for so long the treatment protocol. It is challenging to shift gears when we were trained in a certain paradigm and then learn years later that it was wrong.   Especially when there is evidence of pathological families parading through your office daily, not to mention the distorted thinking often present in eating disordered patients which often sounds real to the care team.

I appreciate your apology and I hear a 'but'..."That being said...bingeing...can all be turned to...".  It is time to really truly embrace the scientific evidence as well as be aware of the long term damage that can be caused to a family by seeing them as part of the problem.  We have not done that with chemical dependency for years.  It is time to stop with eating disorders.

I am grateful to see your sentence showing that shift, "Whether they lock in as a significant disorder most likely has to do with genetics and physiological predispositions, not the family."

I would be willing to bet that in any other life threatening illness we would find pathological parents...but no one is looking at the "family dynamics" when a child has cancer...that would be cruel and a waste of precious time.
Becky Henry

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Just Tell Her To Stop Wins National Book Award!

In the previous post I shared some of the updates and here is the link to the   Just Tell Her To Stop National Book Award I won (I found out on May 5th 2011and awards were presented in NYC May 23rd).

I am still positively giddy about it as this will help get the book out to more families around the world who want to feel less alone in their struggles with these life threatening illnesses.

 And, so much has been happening, I forgot to put this in the list on the last post.  Local Twin Cities Playwright, Cynthia Holm wrote and directed a short 10 minute play based on Just Tell Her To Stop about one woman's recovery from an eating disorder.  You can see the play here.
If you would like to use this in your educational presentations please use these credits with it: Written by Cynthia Holm for Becky Henry at Hope Network, LLC based on the concepts in the Infinite Hope Publishing book by Becky Henry: Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Back to blogging

December to May is a long time to be away. (Oooh, this could be a poem...don't worry I won't).   After getting Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders published 1/1/11 via my newly formed publishing company: Infinite Hope Publishing, I am finally rested up and have found enough balance to resume blogging. (Trying to walk my coaching talk here...)

There are so many exciting things to share, for now a list will do and I'll share updates on each one as I blog  to get things caught up. 

Since December:
  • Book Published and Printed 1000 paperback copies
  • Distributor Itasca Books stores 500 of those copies and is distributing to wholesalers 
  • Amazon and Barnes and Noble online start carrying Just Tell Her To Stop
  • January 2011 Becky becomes board member of F.E.A.S.T.-ed (Families Empowered and Supported in Treatment of Eating Disorders)
  • National Speaking Tour began in Baltimore, MD at Eating Disorder Network Maryland's 5th Annual Eating Disorder Awareness Event in February, 2011
  • Gurze Books begins carrying Just Tell Her To Stop in its online bookstore
  • Plans underway to collaborate on research on Hope Network/Pivotal Crossings Tele-Classes with Emily Program and U of M in MN.
  • Timberline Knolls, Chicago, IL to sponsor August Tele-classes for parents
  • IPPY Award - Independent Publishers Book Awards given to Just Tell Her To Stop in the Mental Health/Psychology National category in May 2011
  • Plans underway to begin Eat Out Without ED night.

Holy Moly - no wonder I've been tired and haven't had time to blog.  That is it in a nutshell for now.  If you want more info on any of these before the next blog post...check out my FB page (I'm there everyday...I swear it isn't procrastinating...not at all...)!/pages/Hope-Network-Inc/135653374380

Oh, almost forgot - the day changing review I saw on Amazon today (go ahead make my day - post your review): (thank you to "Robin" whoever you are - you made my day!)