Recognizing a healing resource is part of achieving and sustaining recovery. More, it's part of celebrating and nourishing your life. Articles and discussions here guide you to the many forms a healing resource can take. This includes: animals, wilderness areas, recovery books, class experiences, affirmations, tips to help you tolerate and grow through strong emotional experience, workbooks exercises, private time, treatment programs and more.

Los Angeles As Eating Disorder Co-Therapist

120px-LA Skyline Mountains2Los Angeles as a recovery support

Los Angeles can be lonely and just too big when you are anxious, and your eating disorder isn't leveling you out. This city has many riches to offer you in terms of fun, education, relaxation, culture, sports and opportunities to meet like minded people. But imagination shuts down when you are frightened.

Fear and Trust in Recovery Work

joy beneath fear450px-Luiz 007That Feeling of Terror

With or without recovery work, a person with an eating disorder periodically experiences a terror beyond imagining.  She feels she’s falling endlessly down a black abyss. Often she makes her first call for psychotherapy when she is in the midst of these terrors.

Within her recovery process these experiences diminish in frequency and length—but not necessarily in intensity.  In an unguarded moment her defense system fails to block what triggers her fear.  Her psyche cannot cope. She needs her therapist and relies on the trustworthiness of the relationship to see her through her crisis.

Separations can trigger a terror episode,  So can memories and dreams. If she doesn’t have supportive resources to rely on in such an intense time, she will act out in any way she can in an attempt to save herself. She is at her most vulnerable. She is also at her most sensitive point of healing if she is in treatment with a trustworthy mental health professional.

I see it this way in my private practice.

Trust is Key to Recovery Work

Trust in recovery work is many layered.  First, she needs to feel or sense that I, as her therapist, am a survivor and can tolerate her experience.  She neds to know I can tolerate her terror.  She needs to know I can appreciate her terror and the circumstances, real or imagined, that bring her to this emotional anguish.  Part of my job is to see that her belief is based on fact.  Through my own recovery work and life work I need to develop enought health, experience and emotional sturdiness to deserveher trust.

She doesn't have to make her experience "nice" for me.  She doesn't have to withhold any of it.  She doesn't have to minimize the circumstances or attempt to hide her self-perceived flaws or weaknesses. 

As I remain present for her she learns that together we can face whatever her torments may be. Nothing has to be censored or denied.

In fact, the more she can clearly share her fears the more opportunity she has to develop strength and awareness to cope with her experience. As she learns this, our meetings and our relationship deepens and her treatment brings her more solid healing. 

I listen with caring without being caught in her fears. As she learns to rely on my stability she develops more of her own.  Then we can explore the range and depth of her emotional experiences that are normal and part of the human condition.

This includes all that she feels or felt when confronted by her own great terror.  It gives her an opportunity to know that such a state is knowable, understandable and survivable.

Her vulnerability to a terror state is one of the key reasons for the existence of her eating disorder. As she develops more awareness and a sturdy spirit based on her practice in therapy she can bear her terrors and dissolve them.  This is fundamental to her eating disorder recovery.

What part of this discussion is relates to you?
How has the issue of trust affected your willingness to seek treatment?
How has the issue of trust affected your ability to remain in treatment?

*  Painting by Luiz Carlos Cappellano

What do you see in this painting? Can you see why I may have chosen it for article about fear and trust?

Eating Disorder Recovery: Follow Your Practice Gently


Be soft in your practice.
Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall.
Follow the stream, have faith in its course.
It will go its own way, meandering here, trickling there.
It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices.
Just follow it.
Never let it out of your sight.
It will take you.
- Sheng-Yen 

Joanna Poppink, MFT
Los Angeles psychotherapist
author: Healing Your Hungry Heart
08/11 Conari Press

Fat or Thin, Hungry or Not, Eat at Least Every Four Hours

Like It, Love It or Not You Must Eat

If you have an eating disorder and you are overweight, you still have to eat.  If you are anorexic and want recovery you have to eat.  If you binge or eat compulsively, you have to eat.

In the early stages of treatment the fact that the human body must be nourished to live and must be nourished well to be healthy dismays people.  Human beings need to eat.   I remember one person, many years ago, jumping up and down in my office shouting, "I don't want to be human."  She was in a rage that she could not change her species.  Of course, even if she could, she would still have to eat.  All species on the planet require nourishment to live.  Her frustration at the unalterable fact of her being a living organism is an example of just how far thought disotrtion can go when the brain is starving.

Judy Mayer wrote a simple and sound post in  "Simply Health: The what-to-eat list to end all lists" answering the forever asked question, "what should I eat?" She offers some excellent suggestions about food, and she goes on to say:

Keep fueling throughout the day – let your body know you care and feed it at least every four hours – or your metabolism is in trouble.

This is a statement I would like to see in billboards and flashed in neon across America.  When I say this statement to my patients they are often shocked.

Reality of Needing Nourishment Can be Shocking

If you have an eating disorder (and even if you don't) you may believe that you are giving yourself freedom and wiggle room if you skip meals.  You think it's great if you are not hungry or if you forget to eat.  If you don't eat for hours (or days) you believe you will be okay if you need to binge later.

And no one seems to recognize until they are well into recovery that not eating starves brain cells and causes thinking and perception distortions. The bizarre rationalizations continue because the starving brain doesn't have the ability to modulate the mind so the person can think clearly and realistically.

Yes, fat or thin, hungry or not, eat at least every four hours. Think of food as medicine or think of it as fuel to keep your vehicle going.  Recovery involves eating well and eating appropriate amounts. But at any stage in recovery, we must eat at least every four hours.

Mini Billboards as Part of Recovery Support

If creating billboards is impractical, you could put signs up on the wall of your kitchen, bathroom and bedroom that remind you to "Eat At Least Every Four Hours, Hungry or Not."

This could be a powerful aspect of your eating disorder recovery work. If you are committed to eating every four hours - and holding the food in you so it can digest and nourish your body - you will start to think differently and be open to more opportunities to help yourself be well.

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