Q&A: From Fitness Fanatic to Intuitive Fitness Practitioner

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Recently I wrote about letting go of disordered eating patterns in a blog post. That post and the referenced NYTimes article Smash the Wellness Industry sparked some interest and questions from those interested in letting go of “diet culture” or exhausting food/exercise habits. Following is a common question and one I hope is asked more and more as our culture becomes increasingly interested in practices that ask “WHO AM I? WHAT DO I WANT?” versus “WHAT SHOULD I LOOK LIKE? WHO or HOW SHOULD I BE?”

Question: For years and years I worked out really hard and could get the results I yearned for…. But as I get busier, have more responsibilities with less time for extravagant fitness regimes, and have more interest in sustainable and more enjoyable fitness options, I feel confused and overwhelmed with where to begin. Plus, I think I tend to live in my head more than my body, so I can’t really even tell what my body wants! What do you mean by “intuitive fitness?” Where do I begin to know what I might enjoy as well as what my body craves and needs?

Answer: In short, there is no perfect blueprint or roadmap. There is certainly no plan consisting of reps, xx many days of cardio or HIIT, or food elimination practices. If you can start with the idea that becoming healthily embodied — or intuitive fitness — is a process of daily discernment that evolves into a richer journey of discovery of your mind, body and spirit, you can be well on your way to living from a place of wholeness and not just thinking, dieting, or clawing your way through it!

That said, I can offer a start of where to begin, which I recently wrote about in similar fashion in my last post regarding body-based boundaries. As Bessel van der Kolk, author of the Body Keeps the Score said,“If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations — if you can trust them to give you accurate information — you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self.”

  1. Pay attention to your body — Right now. Notice your heartbeat. Notice if both feet are on the floor or if you just must cross your legs in retreat. Notice any stiffness or opening. Notice if you’re leaning away from someone. Notice your belly tightening. Notice if your hips jut forward way ahead from your heart. Notice if your hands are clammy. Notice if your voice gets caught just behind your tongue. Get curious about all the sensations that might feel like too much, the ones that make you question your ability, the ones that make you doubt yourself. Get in your body, get curious like a friendly, loving investigator.

  2. Sensations over Content — After some practice, if the signals your body is giving you make you recognize a pattern of sensations or urges despite what you think you should be doing, these could be your guiding light. Many times our bodies know before our mind knows. If you have a desire to walk but you’re used to running (or even vice versa), give it a shot, and try that movement urge for a few moments. What happens? If you sense a need for a staccato type movement practice, but it’s Sunday and typically your “rest day,” be a rebel, break some rules and get outside and move. Garden. Take a walk with a neighbor. Play with your dog. Run in the sprinkler with your kids. Get grass all over your feet. Or if those things are typically your speed, take a rest. Sit on your front porch. Stay with your breath in more stillness. See what happens. Practice deciphering the sensations from the content, or the old narratives and shoulds, to know what might be your next step.

  3. Stay with Your Mind, Heart & Body as You Take Action — Once you’re on the journey to knowing your body more, it might be time to take action not just physically but in an intentional way cognitively, emotionally and spiritually as well. This could mean signing up for a class you’ve always dreamed of taking. This could mean taking risks like dating again, or looking for a new job. This could mean deepening a relationship and going to therapy because things feel too surface-level. Invite your brain to get handy and creative while staying with your body as you explore body and non-body-based patterns, movements or gestures that need to happen to healthily change or create a new dynamic in your life.

While these three things are far from complete instructions to becoming an intuitive fitness practitioner, they are a start to coming home to your body for wisdom and guidance. The possibilities and ways to explore are vast and unique to you. And, whether you believe me or not, your body does tend to be a lot more intuitive and wise than its often given credit, so offer your body your blessings and hope to trust its signals and guidance.

If you’d like to explore how we can deepen this practice in psychotherapy, please feel free call me for a 15-minute phone consultation. Contact me here.

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Beef Up Your Body-Based Boundaries

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I don’t really buy it when people huff they “don’t care what others think.” It can be true and empowering here and there, especially if they’ve played roles that hit the expiration date last summer. But overall, the “I don’t care what you think” bomb tends to be a defensive swing to one side after tip-toeing around certain people or situations on the extreme other. When we really don’t care in a healthy way, we don’t carry deadly ammunition through our words, actions or energy.

Here’s the deal: We are creatures of connection.

Even if we are of the introverted persuasion and less social and groupy, our nervous systems are primed for safe, engaged connection with others from the day we are born. Stephen Porges, the scientist who discovered the third type of the nervous system response called the Social Engagement System, paved the way for us to understand how the vagus nerve influences this connection. The vagus nerve affects the body above the diaphragm including facial muscles (eye contact), tone of voice (prosody = safe sounding vocal tone), and hearing (essentially, the middle ear’s ability to tune in to caregiver’s voice). (Experiment with yourself in the mirror to see what kinds of facial expressions and voices feel appealing, calming, repulsive, triggering. When you find the appealing/calming communication combos, try them with others and feel the energy shift to a sense of being grounded and okay versus contentious and threatening.)

How does all of this relate to beefing up your boundaries?

Instead of becoming the Dreaded Defensive Donna tearing through the world with iron fists, how about pausing with the practice of compassion. Start with compassion for yourself first. Have compassion for how you’ve hidden, shrunk, cowered, messed up, or dissociated in an attempt to just get through the hell you need to get through.

This practice of compassion might actually bring up tears, sadness, long-lost grief for what you’ve craved. This practice of compassion might also elicit stabs of anger that feel like urges to fight or to flee ever confronting what you need to do about a situation. The tears: Good. Tears are your bodies way of releasing stored trauma, stored emotion that is time to shed. The fighting and fleeing: Let’s find healthy body-based ways to move through those urges to fight and flee.

Body-Based Boundaries: What do they look like?

I recently came upon this conversation between Brené Brown and Russell Brand. The interview questioned “Are People Doing the Best They Can?”, but the gist of Brown’s research showed that the most compassionate people — the ones whose hearts seemed like saints — embody the strongest boundaries. In other words, those people who can practice having compassion for themselves and others don’t take shit from others. They can offer their hearts, their resources, their minds, but they do so with boundaries, with forethought, with mindfulness. And here’s a snapshot, a daily practice, of how to set boundaries in a body-based way:

  1. Know thyself, thybody — Know Thyself, standing alone, could be an awfully humongous philosophical pill to swallow (thanks, Socrates), so for today let’s aim to practice: Know Thyself, Thybody. Pay attention to your body. Notice your heartbeat. Notice if both feet are on the floor or if you just must cross your legs in retreat. Notice if you’re leaning away from someone. Notice your belly tightening. Notice if your hips jut forward way ahead from your heart. Notice if your hands are clammy. Notice if your voice gets caught just behind your tongue. Get curious about all the sensations that might feel like too much, the ones that make you question your ability, the ones that make you doubt yourself. Get in your body, get curious like a friendly, loving investigator.

  2. Sensations over Content — After some practice, if the signals your body is giving you make you recognize a pattern of sensations despite the content of the situation, this could be your guiding light. Many times our bodies know before our mind knows. Many times we think we are too sensitive, we think we are the ones who need to bend just a little more. This article on Gaslighting can help explain how to recognize patterns, when “It’s not Me, It’s You” actually applies toward manipulators. Many times we have to use deep discernment to know what is mine, what is theirs, what is a red light, what is growth. Practice, practice, practice getting to know these sensations. Practice deciphering the sensations from the content to know what might be your next step.

  3. Stay with Your Mind, Heart & Body as You Take Action — Once you’re on the journey to knowing your body more, it might be time to take action. This could mean meeting someone in the middle if you’ve discovered some rigidity or fear in yourself. This could mean Small Doses or Negotiations with certain people, places or things. This could mean Recycling of a Relationship (aka: let it go to invite the new…aka: farewell, adieu, adios, take a hike!). Taking action can result in a plethora of options, but the main idea is to stay with your body when you take action because you’ll need to use your cognitive, thinking, logical, creative and heartfelt skills too. Invite your brain to get handy and creative while staying with your body as you complete a pattern, movement or gesture that needs to happen to healthily change or create a new dynamic.

“If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations — if you can trust them to give you accurate information — you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self.” - Bessel van der Kolk

In case you’re wondering or suspecting, this body-based boundary work is rich, complicated, fascinating and usually needs some support as it tends to open up buried stories and traumas of many kinds as well as a vast window of possibilities for empowerment and a dose or two of peace. If you’re interested in knowing more and want to have a 15-minute phone conversation, feel free to contact me here.

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Shape-Shifting Movement: M-Body What You Want

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We do a lot of interpretive dance in my household. Typically a really good 80s love song on Spotify influences some family member to whip out a move or two. We laugh, and I swear it’s the best way to turn frowns upside down or just shake off some silly second-grade homework “stress.” Yet, it’s also really important to me to remember being in my body is not only about play but also about experiencing a full range of emotions in my body and not just in my head. (Go ahead and turn up “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship - If that doesn’t move you, we need to talk!)

As someone who was a creative dancer as a child and a journalism major as a young adult, my thin skin is my greatest intuitive sensory tool, yet my love for words and stories can play games with my mind. I bet if you’re reading you somewhat resonate with that experience too. That’s why I love pulling together somatic and cognitive therapies to help connect the dots and find meaning, awareness and likely some freedom in the mix of life. Brené Brown says:

The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity. ~ Brené Brown

So here’s an exercise for you. Take 5-10 minutes and clear some space around you. If you choose to do this movement with music, try matching the music to the mood based on the instructions for #1 and #2:

  1. Imagine a problem, issue or challenge you’re currently facing. Maybe it’s an icky feeling that’s hard to articulate. Maybe it’s a relationship situation. Maybe it’s a conversation you had two hours ago. Feel it in your blood, in your breath, in your bones. Does it make you feel like curling inward, opening your chest, beating on something, reaching, stretching wide, creeping low to the ground, swaying around the room? Explore how the problem shows up in your body and move with it.

  2. Now, imagine how you want that problem, issue or challenge resolved. Maybe it’s closure. Maybe it’s an opportunity you’re not sure you deserve or are ready to live. Maybe it’s moving in a different direction. Imagine this resolution to the problem giving you new life, new playfulness, new breath, new hope. Suspend any disbelief or old, confining stories you live with, and imagine the positive possibilities. Now move with that hope, expansion, light, rhythm. How do you want to move? Is it possible to play with it in your private space? How does your heart feel? Your breath? Do you notice your knees, your hips, your feet? Do you reach up/down, side-to-side? Is it interesting to take a new perspective and get low to the ground, maybe roll?

Take a few minutes to reflect on what you just did. Be with the sensations for a few minutes, then journal if you wish. See if you can do this almost anywhere. Notice how your stories influence your breath, then your sensations, then your movement, etc. What if you opened to trusting the process and experience what happens to your breath? Or your gestures, or little movement habits. I bet you’ll gain a new sense of body awareness as well as an appreciation and curiosity for the stories (and possibilities!) that bubble up in your mind.

Interested in doing this work one-on-one? Contact me for a 15-minute phone chat about the possibilities.

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Shedding the Skin of Disordered Eating Behaviors/Distortions

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You might be contemplating whether to hold on to a disordered eating cycle of behaviors and thoughts — or — perhaps to find a new way of living, moving, nourishing, relating, dreaming, solving and creating. In other words, you might have some ambivalence or even embarrassment or shame about holding on to some old patterns, habits, rigidity and rituals surrounding food and/or exercise.

I want to tell you a secret: A LOT OF PEOPLE struggle with food, exercise and body image, and A LOT OF PEOPLE do really good jobs of masking, hiding and even touting their pain as health or wellness endeavors. Like alcohol, as this TIME article describes, the dieting crusade is one of the oldest socially acceptable drugs sold to you on a daily basis and/or talked about in peer groups and on the Today Show.

Or maybe you aren’t even sure what you’re dealing with is disordered eating or compulsive exercise. Perhaps you’ve been immersed in culture of wellness and cleaning eating as described in this popular NYTimes article, but it’s beginning to feel stifling, or you’ve sniffed out some BS fads and feel conflicted surrounding some ways of eating or viewing food and your body for a while now. Let’s face it, the latest contradictory and extreme advice about timed eating should be enough to make everyone pause and put on their critical thinking cap (and perhaps make one wonder how to tune into the belly for real hunger cues.)

“The wellness industry is the diet industry, and the diet industry is a function of the patriarchal beauty standard under which women either punish themselves to become smaller or are punished for failing to comply, and the stress of this hurts our health too.”

(And, PS, that quote above goes for men being subject to disordered eating and body image pressures too, so let’s make sure everyone is considered and treated with compassion surrounding how we nourish ourselves and heal from these antiquated, capitalistic beauty standards.)

I’m going to tell you another secret: When you are ready to want to know your truths and become empowered with your innate creativity, dreams and strengths just an ounce more than you give a flip about calories and weight loss, you will begin transformational, liberating work. And, this is where it will feel like shedding skin — not shedding weight so much, but shedding metaphorical skin. You will slowly release old behaviors and thoughts and step into a new way of living. You will face the more challenging but wayyyyyy more possible journeying of defending yourself as a deserving human being (not only to yourself but also to others) and promoting yourself as a worthy change-maker for yourself and possibly others.

This realization and work to discover that you already hold your light is where the power lies in your journey. (Wizard of Oz, anyone?) It’s not in the latest timing of food, or superfood, or exercise combo. It’s about taking off the cloak of deception and lies you’ve been conditioned to wear for various and complex reasons, leading you down a path of lies of what sort of exterior consumption will take you to a happier place. Taking one arm out of the armor, then another arm out of the armor, then letting the rest of the armor slide off your back will offer you that more possible, intuitive, authentic and empowered way of way of living, moving, nourishing, relating, dreaming, solving and creating.

Interested in knowing how this might work for you? Contact me for a 15-minute phone chat about outpatient psychotherapy. We might be a good fit, and/or I can make referrals for other levels of care, dietitians, etc. I’m happy to talk confidentially.

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How Seeking Eating Disorder Support Can Reveal Your Deeper Hungers and Empower Your Life

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A misconception about the spectrum of disordered eating — from clinically diagnosed disorders to chronic dieting and emotional eating — is the focus on body weight or shape. Sure, that weight/shape focus can play a part and can definitely exacerbate behaviors, symptoms and drives to control the body or use food or exercise against one’s own body. But, the underbelly of using food and/or exercise to control and cope is a complex field of emotions and struggles begging to be seen, heard, held and possibly managed.

Sometimes one is aware of the distress; Sometimes one is unconscious of the underlying turmoil. (Usually and especially in early healing, it’s the latter. Regardless, if you’re struggling with food, exercise or your body, and you’re reading this, you probably have a feeling there’s something deeper to chew on in a metaphorically, healing way.) But, the body holds the stories, and most definitely, the variety of coping mechanisms that show up as disordered eating are actually passageways to know one’s deeper truths.

How does someone begin to become aware of his/her underlying needs, truths and hungers? Whether a person seeks help via outpatient, inpatient or residential treatment (in a nutshell that means with an individual therapist or in a treatment center), feeling safe, heard and connected with a therapist or collaborative team sets the foundation to stabilize symptoms, then focus on trauma-informed cognitive and somatic therapies. (If you are reading this and want suggestions for treatment teams that offer medical and holistic approaches, which is an ideal combo, feel free to contact me for suggestions).

In order to shed the skin of behaviors/distortions that hold you back from a more liberated and authentic life, a variety of therapeutic approaches are important to explore along your unique journey. To name a few, these therapies might include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, Expressive Arts Therapies and Somatic Psychotherapy. (You can click on each of those for a quick summary of their approaches.) While they all have different and valuable approaches, the two things they all have in common are:

  1. They help to unpack and uncover why you use unhealthy food/exercise behaviors as coping mechanisms as well as explore what you specifically need to heal along your unique path.

  2. They provide you with tools of empowerment by offering new windows of possibilities, new ways to view problems and think, new communications skills, new ways to tolerate distress and emotions, new body and intra/interpersonal awareness and self-care, etc.

Many people are surprised and definitely disappointed that seeking treatment is not a one-and-done deal. It takes time, patience, courage and practice. It’s two steps forward, one step back. It’s a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Often it feels like shedding a skin, feeling perhaps even more sensitive than before, which might have led you to use unhealthy behaviors to cope in the first place! But, I’m writing to tell you healing from disordered eating is not only possible, the journey is invaluable and transformational as you apply what you’ve learned and embody the light you already hold. Think of it like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, like a show that surpasses your imagination and brings you possibility, creativity and freedom.

From an outpatient standpoint, I offer an integrative psychotherapeutic approach for eating disorders in Atlanta, meaning we can work through cognitive and somatic therapies based on what your body, heart and mind need. I believe in this work and am always happy to have a 15-minute phone chat to discuss your options or make recommendations. Contact me here if you’re interested.

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Thank You, Body, for Checking Out (& the Intelligence of our Nervous System)

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It might sound surprising or confusing to read “thank your body for checking out, for dissociating, for numbing out the moment, for forgetting, for blocking, and even for pleasing.” But, in life threatening situations — which is qualified by a person’s unique response to a unique life-threatening-feeling situation — this is our body’s way, our nervous system’s way, of making not only our sense-of-self check out but also to downsize our defenses to appear less tempting to a predator.

Let me back up and stress that what feels like trauma to me (my unique response to what I interpret as a life threatening situation) might be “no biggie” to you. And vice versa. What matters is how a person internalizes a situation and how her body and nervous system responds. Unfortunately, our culture has historically victim shamed and blamed, ultimately dismissing people who deserve compassion, support and many times, legal help.

I started writing this post after finding myself repeatedly finding it helps for people to understand their coping mechanisms of checking out as a part of their healing journey from various traumas. Checking out or dissociating isn’t caused by a defect of character or “laziness” or “apathy.” Checking out or shutting down doesn’t mean people deserve whatever happens. It’s actually a way to shield oneself from a life threatening situation. Instead of blaming themselves, by exploring the psycho-education of nervous system science, and how the body’s reptilian defense system sends the body into immobilization as a way to protect itself from further harm, explains how the body serves us in an instinctual way. This is the “freeze” or “shutdown” you might have heard about before. So that’s why I say, “thank your body.”

Thanking your body doesn’t soothe or resolve the situation, and that’s not the point; However, it is a way to practice building a compassionate dialogue with your body as well as shedding some of the shame often associated with not being able to fight back.

Survivors are shamed and blamed because they didn’t mobilise, fight and make an effort. That’s a misunderstanding. It’s a poorly informed explanation because the body goes into that state and they can’t move. The theory had traction because it gave survivors feelings of validation. Survival was really an expression of the heroic nature of our body in trying to save us. Sometimes it goes into a state in which we can’t move, but the objective is to raise our pain thresholds and to make us appear to be less viable to the predator. Within the legal system, there’s been a lot of issues when a person hasn’t fought off a predator. And I think this is being poorly informed about how bodies respond. ~ Stephen Porges, TheGuardian.com

If the subject matter of this blog brings up specific memories, thoughts, unexplainable feelings or sensations for you, it’s important to not only a) get support surrounding any trauma you or loved ones might have experienced but also b) begin to get curious about the intelligence that resides in your body through some nervous system science. Contact me if you’d like to talk about therapeutic support, and/or check out the resources below.

Book Resources:

One of my favorite easy-to-digest books is Stephen Porges The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory.

Also, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk.

Online Resources:

Polyvagal Theory Applied – Moving from Fight or Flight to Social Engagement for Sustainable Living - podcast

Polyvagal Theory in Practice - PVT explained in practice

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Know Your Hungers (+ How to Reach and Receive Them)

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Back in February, I wrote about the Satisfaction Cycle and how to use this developmental movement practice as a way to practice setting boundaries (literally saying NO) not only from a place of cognitive awareness but also from a place of healthy embodiment. What about using the Satisfaction Cycle as a way to heal from an eating disorder (or disordered eating), to get to know what your body wants to eat, to get up and reach for what your body wants to eat, to pick exactly what your body wants, and finally, to receive and appreciate what your body wants? (And, please keep in mind that while I’m talking food and listening to your body, I’m also talking about your deeper hungers. The two go hand-in-hand.)

As a refresher, the Satisfaction Cycle is a developmental movement therapeutic practice that invites one to process and practice infant movement patterns that offer psychological and physical growth parallels. Sometimes as we age and go through all life has to offer good and bad, we can feel stuck or disembodied, or perhaps something in our life feels “off,” so revisiting the Cycle can offer a re-patterning of foundational concepts.

So, what if you crave a tub of buttercream frosting or an entire bag of Lay’s potato chips? Isn’t that what the non-diet culture says is okay? What if your cousin keeps pushing the new fasting trend, but your belly begs to differ and wants a normal dinner at 6pm? What if you’re diabetic and have to be more mindful of your sugar intake than your margarita-drinking friends, but you also don’t want to deprive yourself?

The steps in the Satisfaction Cycle can help you unpack and use discernment in exploring what, how much, and when to have what you are hungry for. This might be a good time for journaling because while we will use food as a metaphor in the following steps of the Cycle, go wild and have fun brainstorming all the delicious things you want in life: relationships, family life, creative pursuits, your living environment, living in your body, adventures, a deeper sense of spiritual connection, etc.

  1. Get to know what your body wants to eat — Yield. It takes the presence of YIELDING into a situation with awareness, resting into knowing what is a no, what is a yes. Being able to sense what sounds energizing, nourishing and satisfying. Being able to sense what is draining, stuffing or not enough after you consume it. To yield, notice where your body meets a supportive ground, and give yourself time to reflect on what has nourished you in the past and what type of food(s) might nourish you for this meal or snack. Yielding is about mindfulness (“hmm, how are my senses reacting?”), discernment (“this sounds good but would make me feel foggy”), and wakefulness (“I probably need a bigger/smaller portion to serve my energy needs”). Yielding is the the opposite of rebelling with food, using your body to make a political statement, dissociating with emotional eating, or collapsing into a “what-the-hell” attitude. Use the yielding practice for reflection for literal and figurative nourishment meal-by-meal, day-by-day.

  2. Get up and go for it — Push. Now for PUSHING. Pushing away from old habits, pushing away from behaviors that don’t serve you, and even pushing away from the decision-making time of yielding and experimenting with something new, maybe out of your comfort zone. It’s wonderful to reflect, maybe sometimes to plan food choices (if that truly fits your healing path), but sometimes it’s also time to take action and try something even if it’s scary or it might not be just the right thing, or portion, or combo of foods to eat. Pushing is about empowerment from your core, pushing away from the old and taking yourself (and your belly) toward something new. On another note, in terms of pushing away from old habits or behaviors, many times twisting, turning the eyes, turning the head or body can help you set sail away from the old and toward the new, the energizing, the healthier nourishment.

  3. Move toward what you want — Reach. The beauty of the push — of the pushing away and "NO" leaves space for what will satisfy your taste buds and energize your life. You have the wide open space and view of possibilities of what you can have, what you do want. That's when you REACH. Try it right now. Put your hand in the air and imagine having an array of deliciousness and variety just within your fingertips. Close your eyes and imagine a rainbow of food possibilities. This is a great exercise if you’ve been restricting or if you’ve been binging. Imagine IT’S ALL ALLOWED, there’s ENOUGH TO GO AROUND so you don’t have to reach and grab it all at once. Practice trusting that the act of opening your arms and reaching can happen again and again, with curiosity, with playfulness, with empowerment, with a sense of agency from your belly, your (taste) buds and your brain.

  4. Hold exactly what you want — Grasp. Once you know and see and sense and feel what you are hungry for, you GRASP. You hold it with not only your literal or figurative hand but more so with your heart, your awareness, as well as with a trusting that you can have what you crave and deserve, but you just don't always get what you want. Sometimes we grasp, and it’s just not ready. Maybe you have to leave the house, and it takes an hour to cook in the oven. Maybe those blueberries are not in season. So that’s when you go with the next best solution. Or maybe, back to the diabetic example, you really can’t have that much sugar due to health consequences. That’s where you practice acceptance or maybe apply the Serenity Prayer or a variation of it. See how this Cycle works well with food but is not only related to food? :)

  5. Allow yourself to receive, digest and appreciate — Pull. Here’s where you PULL. You pull that deliciousness closer to you. You practice allowing yourself to receive something tasty as well as energizing. You practice trusting your body to digest and use the food to help you expand and glow. You practice appreciating the process of yielding with awareness and discernment, pushing to create boundaries and a clearer path, reaching for what you might want, grasping with empowerment and ownership and trust, then pulling toward your core with appreciation and allowance.

Hopefully, this gives you somewhat of a reflective blueprint and somatic practice to help notice how your body responds to a more mindful eating and living approach. It’s my wish for you to literally practice the postures and movements described (yield, push, reach, grasp, pull) just like a baby would aim for a toy just out of her reach. If that shiny object is there, she will do everything in her power to make a change, to move her body as much as she can to aim for what she wants. So can you.

Questions, or interested in how this practice applies to not only mindful eating but also how it applies to deeper hungers and patterns in your life? Let’s talk. Contact me here.

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH @elephantjournal

Your Body Begs to Be Heard

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Do you ever have these intuitions or knowings or feelings that are hard to describe, you just feel it in your body? Or maybe your body knows before you do? Maybe you get an overwhelming sensation to adjust your posture or move, or you have a underlying urge to move but you feel stuck? Maybe you feel something stuck in your throat, carry a heaviness in your heart, or hold tension in your shoulders? Or maybe you just know things that are hard to articulate, to know how to explain, and maybe your body cringes, shudders, tightens, closes, or twists away from a situation as a way to say “no, yuck, yikes!”

People who have experienced trauma — developmental trauma or complex trauma — often hold feelings, experiences, trauma and wisdom in their body. I’d even say:

  1. All of us have experienced a variety of traumas because we are human and we have this thing called life to navigate.

  2. Some of us feel a little more than others — especially if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person (read more about that here)

  3. Many of us “shutdown” developing tendencies to turn off the intuitive sense and/or body wisdom responses with coping mechanisms that leave us in more dissociated states. (examples: using disordered eating, or substances like alcohol or marijuana, or compulsive shopping, or compulsive social media, etc).

None of this is your fault, and neither can you do it alone! While we have a way to go, our culture isn’t always welcoming to social/emotional intelligence, so you often need support, an experienced human guide or two to help you explore the sensations and feelings that reside in your body.

The bright side is your body has richness to show you. Your body is begging to be heard. Your body has stories, guidance, intelligence and gifts to help guide you. And, yet, it’s okay to be scared of all that. It’s okay to feel so far detached from your body, like it’s sitting on the opposite side of the room despite your pounding heart, clammy hands and perhaps numbness from the neck down.

In somatic, body-based and other movement therapies, we explore your stories slowly, at your pace, in ways that organically arise through talking, art, movement and other mindfulness exercises, as a way to help not reactivate or re-trigger old traumas but as a way to help bit-by-bit move through them. This way it doesn’t feel like you’re in a rocky time machine needing to re-experience every bad thing that ever happened.

Your body has a wisdom and even a desire to serve you in a fruitful way if you are open to letting it guide you. Your body has a way of recycling the old in productive ways and birthing new life for your enjoyment, pleasure, growth and knowledge to pay forward.

Interested in learning how we might work together? Contact me to set up a 15-minute phone conversation.

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH

How to See, Hear & Hold Yourself through an Embodiment Practice (Part 2)

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While I meant to follow up with Part 2 weeks ago, the month of May (December’s ugly sister), held me hostage until all the school festivities settled. I could have pushed through in some way — stayed up too late, skipped a morning walk — but part of my own mothering myself is listening to my body for creativity cues. I’ve yet to embody Anne Lamott’s “butt in chair” advice if it’s past sundown or I’ve got the wiggles.

Like I mentioned in my last post, this embodiment work of seeing, hearing and holding yourself involves:
”somatic work as ‘womb-to-walking’ because it’s rich not only in physical developmental patterns but also our initial psychological development patterns. While the parent, therapist, bodyworker, teacher, or other loving/helping figure can offer a child the qualities of being seen, heard and held literally and figuratively, at some point, each of us — in one way or another — is bound to be challenged and even privileged to do this 'mothering' work for our own body and self." In a nutshell, we can be led, we can be guided and taught, the work can be modeled to us, but ultimately, it’s a process of attuning to oneself.

  1. It’s process- and reflective-based work. In other words, to see, hear and hold yourself like you needed to thrive as an infant, and like you still need today as an adult is daily work that takes time, compassion and curiosity. While you can read about it in a textbook, it’s feelings- and sensory-based work that cannot be intellectualized. Like a caregiver feeding a baby, one can watch the clock for a three-hour feeding schedule, but better yet, pay attention to the baby’s sound cues, twists toward the bottle or breast, or other hunger patterns (before baby gets too pissed and dysregulated!). You can have a cognitive awareness of a somatic response or urge, you can have a visualization of what you need or want — which are both worthy of helping to integrate the mind-body connection — but processing the experience from an internal, sensations-based inquiry offers the foundation of turning inward to yourself from a deeper place of holding not only physically but also emotionally. This processing is a practice, one that requires compassion (a softening toward yourself) and deep curiosity (looking at all your parts — the good, bad and ugly — with wonder, not judgment).

  2. Start where you are. There are a million different places to start, so let’s start where you are, right now, in this moment. How’s your jaw? Is your tongue locked to the roof of your mouth? Are you clinching your belly? Where’s your breath going? Where are you holding? Where do you want to be open? What areas might be numb or checked out? How’s your pelvis doing? Is it tucked under? What about your shoulders? Could they use an exhale? Are you standing when you have an urge to sit? Are you sitting when you have an urge to flow like water? Is there some place that needs to adjust, just an inch to shift your view? Do you need to shake off something? If you could reach for something, what would you reach for? What if you allowed yourself to move how your body wants? If you can’t right now, can you be curious about why not and still be present with the urge or desire?

  3. Notice, notice, notice. Deep urges, lingering thoughts, big dreams, postural tendencies, numbness in the body, dissociative tendencies, areas of tension, flutters of wonder. Notice these things, and keep noticing. And when you forget to notice, or you override an urge, just notice. This noticing practice is like the internal mother who provides unconditional love. When the baby takes that step, hooray. When the baby falls, that’s okay, try again. When the baby sleeps for more than five hours, hooray. When the baby cries every two hours, we rock and feed, rock and feed. Underneath all the body awareness lies an ocean of richness about who we are, what we need, where we’ve been, where we’re going, and ultimately, an okayness of what is.

  4. When and if it feels safe enough: It’ll be nice to get out of the proverbial chair, take off your shoes and even get on the floor. In other words, when it feels safe enough to make a change, depending on what your body needs, when it feels safe enough to move beyond your pattern of conditioning or habitual patterns, it will be okay to take that step because you’ll have an internal capacity to see, hear and hold yourself. You’ll be able to stay in and see the process, to sense your body and hear your own presence, to notice how you need to be held along the journey. And, finally, having a sense of exploration and playfulness is not a bad thing either! :)

Want to practice this in person? Come to my June 1 workshop (one week away) in Decatur at the Decatur School of Ballet. Click here for more details.

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH

How to See, Hear & Hold Yourself through an Embodiment Practice (Part 1)

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When my children detest my assertiveness and push back (“Sorry, time to turn off the tv,” which results in tears or developmentally appropriate defiance and furrowed brows), I recognize my own frustration. Luckily, I have not raised them to be fearful of me, so they tend to push back with defiant words (“poopy face!” from a 4-yr-old, anyone?), clever negotiating or avoidant behavior, which I recognize as their need for connection and empathy, not my need for aggressiveness toward them. I usually even ask during a tantrum, “hey, do you need to be held?”, which always results in a tearful “yes.” A big pause and genuine co-regulating hug, and wa-lah, my work is done (for the moment)! It’s the Victor Frankl quote:

Between stimulus and response there is space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

While I certainly do not believe everyone needs to become a parent to learn the greatest lessons of life (we all have unique opportunities and challenges to push us to grow, stretch and learn; doesn’t necessarily include parenting), my journey of mothering has and continues to teach me about the importance of a warm container, a safe place to anchor and be held. While good boundary setting is a necessary part of this container-relationship too, the main idea is the mother or primary caregiver’s being able to see, hear, and hold the WHOLE child — all the child’s behaviors and tendencies and energy as important parts of what make them whole, but they as parts do not define their essence.

As a psychotherapist who works from a body-based approach, I find the quality of the therapeutic relationship sets the stage for the client’s movement forward. Before my counseling work, as a movement teacher and personal trainer for eating disorders and addictions, I worked from noticing and building movement or breath patterns for people to increase their body awareness (this includes interoception and proprioception; in a nutshell, what we notice inside and outside of us, respectively).

When I entered the counseling world, I noticed these patterns usually on a more subtle, nonverbal, unconscious level. However, adding in the need for safety for a client to effectively participate in therapy, I found the value of inviting the body into the treatment environment: to slowly invite attention to a tone of voice, or a tilt of the head, or nervous tapping of feet underneath an otherwise steady demeanor.

Because I work a lot with folks who struggle with disordered eating as well as mothers whose own bodies are always in physical demand (many times to everyone else but themselves), I became really curious about the innate and universal gestures, movements and patterns that are all asking to be seen, heard and held. Therefore, why not return to our earliest place of being seen, heard and held from the most physical level, hence, my love for introducing developmental movement into the therapeutic work.

I like to describe this somatic work as “womb-to-walking” because it’s rich not only in physical developmental patterns but also our initial psychological development patterns. While the parent, therapist, bodyworker, teacher, or other loving/helping figure can offer a child the qualities of being seen, heard and held literally and figuratively, at some point, each of us — in one way or another — is bound to be challenged and even privileged to do this “mothering” work for our own body and self.

I consider this an opportunity for healthy embodiment, as we are often conditioned through complex or developmental trauma to split our psyche from our soma. We are taught to ignore our urges, sensations, “gut feelings.” We are taught to blaze ahead with a narrowly defined scope of intelligence and thinking, often cutting ourself off from the wisdom of the patterns and rhythms of our body. We are taught to “shake it off,” “you’re okay,” “chin up,” too often when even if it looks like the scraped knee isn’t bloody, that little person inside might just need two minutes of big holding for lots of other things she can’t quite articulate yet.

So — How do you mother yourself through mindful movement? How do you see, hear and hold yourself in an healthily embodied way? A few hints are:

  • It’s process- and reflective-based work (aka: it’s daily work that takes time, compassion, curiosity)

  • Start where you are (yes, how’s your jaw? is your tongue locked to the roof of your mouth? are you clinching your belly? where’s your breath going?)

  • Notice, notice, notice. Deep urges, lingering thoughts, big dreams, numbness in the body, dissociative tendencies, areas of tension, flutters of wonder.

  • When and if it feels safe enough: It’ll be nice to get out of the chair, take off your shoes and even get on the floor. (Having a sense of exploration and playfulness is not a bad thing either! :) )

***Part 2 continues in my next postClick here to check it out!

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH

JUNE 1, 2019 M-Bodied: Yoga & Therapy for Mothers

Welcoming mothers-to-be, new or seasoned mothers, and anyone who wants to nurture herself through mindful movement. This June 1, 2019 workshop invites you to attune to your body, its rhythms and deeper hungers.  We will practice all-levels yoga for all bodies through the lens of developmental movement, with a focus on finding nurturing shapes, postures and movement your body and heart crave for comfort, support and empowerment. This re-patterning of our own infant dances from womb-to-walking helps us to not only become more attuned to our own children's stages of growth but also our own process of practicing healthy embodiment within ourselves. We practice mothering ourselves through mindful movement.  Questions? Feel free to PM me.  FB event here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/442480966511516/   Caroline Gebhardt, APC, RYT is a mental health counselor and yoga teacher who helps women return home to the body and truest self through body-based psychotherapy and developmental movement. She is also a mother and is passionate about the rich, spiraling journeys encountered when birthing oneself as a mother.  Visit her at  www.bodybasedpsychotherapy.com   When: June 1, 2019 11am - 1pm  Where: Decatur School of Ballet, ***Church Street Studio  Register: 404-210-6752 ~ $45 by 5/29  "This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known." ~ Marion Woodman

Welcoming mothers-to-be, new or seasoned mothers, and anyone who wants to nurture herself through mindful movement. This June 1, 2019 workshop invites you to attune to your body, its rhythms and deeper hungers.

We will practice all-levels yoga for all bodies through the lens of developmental movement, with a focus on finding nurturing shapes, postures and movement your body and heart crave for comfort, support and empowerment. This re-patterning of our own infant dances from womb-to-walking helps us to not only become more attuned to our own children's stages of growth but also our own process of practicing healthy embodiment within ourselves. We practice mothering ourselves through mindful movement.

Questions? Feel free to PM me.

FB event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/442480966511516/

Caroline Gebhardt, APC, RYT is a mental health counselor and yoga teacher who helps women return home to the body and truest self through body-based psychotherapy and developmental movement. She is also a mother and is passionate about the rich, spiraling journeys encountered when birthing oneself as a mother.

Visit her at www.bodybasedpsychotherapy.com

When: June 1, 2019 11am - 1pm

Where: Decatur School of Ballet, ***Church Street Studio

Register: 404-210-6752 ~ $45 by 5/29

"This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known." ~ Marion Woodman

Yoga as Process and Presence, not Prescription: (and what i don't like about yoga 😉)

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FYI: Self disclosure time on what I don’t like about yoga. 😉

Since poet Mary Oliver’s passing in January, you might have noticed a surge of her poems showering social media. Her poetry has spoken to me for years because of her presence in life, in nature. She makes words out of her process of living, not of a “one day”, trite, dreamy, Pinterest-like magazine spread. She’s in it for noticing the sunshine and the unruly weeds.

Years ago when my older child was a baby, I began a nightly poetry practice where I gave myself 15 minutes to jot down specific sensory details of my day, and I allowed it to turn into a poem. I pushed away perfection by setting a timer. (Done is better than perfect - thanks, Mom). But the richness I enjoyed and what really steered the poem were the specific details of what I noticed:

  • swollen ankle where my boy accidentally rammed a monster truck into me

  • doctor handing my my warm and damp second born

  • my boy asking me “how do planets move?” while his feet wedge between my calves in bed

  • painful knees, bone-on-bone, leading me back to my slow center

Writing or journaling about my own unruly weeds, pains in my body or heart, has continuously opened a path of “okayness” and wisdom for me. It has led me to ask for support, to reach not only for support through my own therapy but also for what I want. Opening the lid on my own pot of dark has gently, gradually, led me to my truths revealing my deepest hungers. And they come to fruition organically, in due time, sometimes with bittersweet growth but always with deep satisfaction.

Now what is it that I don’t like about yoga? And how does it relate to a Mary Oliver poem? I believe in the practices of yoga - from meditation, to self-inquiry and self-knowledge, to service, to an asana/posture practice, etc. Yes, I do. I believe whether they are performed in Lululemon or in dusty basements, the practices are gateways to noticing, to tolerating distress, to strength, to learning (or being subjected to) surrendering.

But I also believe yoga practices can be applied like prescriptions of bypass. Wear this, look like this, meditate like this, act like this, eat only that, detest that, buy this, do this sequence, learn from this teacher, perfect that pose…. Sometimes yoga culture can feel like diet culture. Lots of promises, lots of quick fixes, and some rigidity that tastes stale, suffocating and slimy. And that makes me — and many people I know and care for — run like the wind. And we should run.

Because yoga should be about connection. About process. About compassion. About effort with loving discernment. About noticing the reach, noticing how we react when we can’t have what we want, noticing how we project onto others, noticing how our bodies are shaped differently and can’t be forced into a certain shape, or sometimes are too watery and bendy and need to push away a too intense practice and say “no more.” It’s about discernment for what works for you. For what gives you energy, for what takes you to your truth, for what lights you up and gives you your spark back. It’s not about restriction and getting smaller in your body, your mind, your experience or your heart.

In the process of reaching for strength (literal and figurative), awareness, stillness, bliss, flexibility, truth, wanderlust, one has to taste the process along the way. Not only the warmth of the sun salutations but also wrestling with wanting something you can’t have, noticing the fidgety feelings in a yin pose, seeking support for trauma or sensations that get stuck or scarily activated. The dark, the shadow, the part you don’t want to see about or for yourself, has just as much value — if not more — than the light.

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.” (Carl Jung)

This Mary Oliver poem talks about reaching, opening with “there are things you can’t reach,” but her own rapture and digesting of life shows up in the process, the richness of living, the journey of wakefulness (and I might add “bliss”) shows up in the process of everyday living. In noticing the details. And she starts closing with “Everything in the world comes. At least, closer.”

This takes me back to my last blog post where I wrote about the embodiment process of YIELD, PUSH, REACH, GRASP, PULL. Check it out and notice where you need to go. If you’re a yogi, think of a shape that is a parallel to one of those patterns. Stay in it. Be in it. It’s not about “getting to a pose”. Yes, it is about “reaching” for a pose, but it might not be time. There might be more interesting and healing fish and snakes to notice and digest along the way. 🌞🦋🌞

Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End? 
By Mary Oliver

There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.

The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.

And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.

The snake slides away; the fish jumps, like a little lily,
out of the water and back in; the goldfinches sing
from the unreachable top of the tree.

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.

Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.

And thinking: maybe something will come, some
shining coil of wind,
or a few leaves from any old tree–
they are all in this too.

And now I will tell you the truth.
Everything in the world
comes.

At least, closer.

And, cordially.

Like the nibbling, tinsel-eyed fish; the unlooping snake.
Like goldfinches, little dolls of goldfluttering around the corner of the sky

of God, the blue air.

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH

How a NO Feeds a YES

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We can't always have everything we want. And, frankly, it can really stink to deal with hearing a No from someone else or have to provide the No and remain the steady container perhaps as a caregiver during a tantrum. But every time I receive a No or say a No and stay with the sensations and presence in my body, it gets a little easier, a little less hairy and less distressful, and overall healthy boundaries for all parties. Many of us -- most of us -- well, we all -- have had instances where we couldn't say No for various reasons. Some we remember, some we don't.

It's an important practice to re-pattern or practice that No. We have to practice knowing from our core what deserves a NO, then pressing into Earth while we twist our head, turn around and leave, and/or vocalize a No. From a body-based perspective, and thanks to Body-Mind Psychotherapy and Body-Mind Center’s technique of the Satisfaction Cycle, it can go like this: 

1) It takes the presence of YIELDING into a situation with awareness, resting into knowing what is a no, what is a yes. Being able to sense what is okay, what is not, with your body, noticing where your body meets a supportive ground, and perhaps with resources, time, appropriateness of a situation. (Yielding is more about mindfulness and discernment and wakefulness even when it's hard -- the opposite of dissociation, denial, apathy or collapsing into a position). 

2) Then it takes PUSHING. Pushing away. Many times twisting, turning the eyes, turning the head or body - from a "no, thank you", to a "not today, honey", or to a "hell no." All have their appropriate places.

3) The beauty of the push -- of the pushing away and "NO" leaves space for what you want. You have the wide open space and view of possibilities of what you can have, what you do want. That's when you REACH. Might take a minute or a while, but you have the space and allowance to reach.

4) Once you know and see and sense and feel what you want to reach for, you GRASP. You hold it with not only your literal or figurative hand but more so with your heart, your awareness, as well as with a trusting that you can have what you deserve, but you just don't always get what you want.

5) Then you PULL. You pull it closer to you, having appreciation for the process of yielding with awareness and discernment, pushing to create boundaries and a clearer path, reaching for what you might want, grasping with empowerment and ownership and trust, then pulling toward your core.

This is a beautiful practice that can be applied to many facets shape-shifting not only your cognitive awareness or functioning but also your somatic awareness, connection and integration. Try it in the morning as a way to set your intention for the day. 🌞 

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH

 

Come Home to Your Body to Be Home to Your Child

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Dear new moms and/or seasoned moms,

Practice being with your own body so you can resonate with your child. This helps them to feel connected, seen, heard, not alone. This helps them to lean back in to you, so you both feel more connected, in sync.

Our culture wants to cut us off from our neck down. Resist! Come home to your body so you can come home to your own wildness, your rawness, your sensations and inner knowings. Seek help if reconnecting with your body is too uncomfortable, makes you triggered or highly anxious, or brings up lingering trauma (it’s a high possibility if never explored before, but a trained trauma helper can guide you thru it).

Once you can be with your own body in a way that feels safe and secure and “like home” to your nervous system, you can be more attuned to your child, and he will feel it. He will know it and respond in a more connected with you. He might even sleep a little longer or finally pick up his sweaty socks. (No promises there!)

What a beautiful practice to connect with yourself, to return home to your cells and blood and bones and intuition not only as a pathway to your deepest, wisest, brightest self but also as a pathway to connect in a richly present way with your loved ones. Whether you are in the middle of infant sleeplessness or adolescent attitudes, your children need you, you need you, and yes, that connection can happen. And yes, the dishes will pile in the sink somewhat, but embracing the messy, that “this too shall pass,” and acknowledging the cycles from your feelings, to nature’s ebbs and flows, to the ever-changing tidy->messy->tidy->messy (literally and figuratively) is how it’s supposed to be. In other words, imperfect but wildly, beautifully awake.

Sometimes resonating with your own body needs a helping hand, someone to travel with you to keep you safe and steady as some deep psychic excavation and holding might be necessary to help unplug some stuck, perhaps dark, stubborn places. But the rewards, riches and treasures of reconnecting, of reintegrating what it means to be able to receive breath into your cells, to receive a breath of fresh air and possibility into your spirit.

Peace and aliveness on your journey. I’m happy to provide a free 15-minute phone conversation if you’d like some help on your mothering journey. Click here to connect with me.

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH

Antidote to Disordered Eating? Spiritual Mothering and Divine Feeding

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Just came across this beautiful piece on disordered eating. (*details in story are potentially triggering) Indeed, it does look different for everyone.

And a common misconception is that disordered eating (or a clinically diagnosed eating disorder) is about body shape or weight. Even the DSM-5 uses criteria of disturbance of or self-evaluation of weight/shape as qualifiers for anorexia and bulimia. It is an unfortunate lapse of judgment to claim weight/shape focus as criteria because it can limit treatment options to those whose dis-order or dis-ease does not embody a body weight/shape focus or presentation.

While disordered eating can truly stem from body shape at times, especially with history’s and modern culture's extreme and bizarre expectations and appearance-laden pressures of women's and even men's bodies, the ritual of eating (or not) can serve as a defense or coping mechanism to the sometimes brutal parts of life which can fall along the spectrum of being a highly sensitive person, to generalized anxiety, to complex trauma, or to PTSD. It bears repeating: disordered eating or eating disorders - however defined - can but do not always include an obsession about body weight/shape.

I wish for us to never make assumptions or comments about someone else's body, about their struggle (or lack thereof). We come in different shapes, sizes, lengths and colors and need not only healthy, diverse, pleasurable feeding and eating experiences, but we need deeper psycho-spiritual nourishment that surpasses the quantifiable checks and balances our culture adores. In my personal and professional practices, it's a return to deep inner nurturing, a practice of spiritual mothering and divine feeding. 

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #FOODADDICTION #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS #MATERNALMENTALHEALTH

Your Shadows Birth Your Spring

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“Faithful followers, there is no shadow of me and a beautiful spring it shall be.”

What a statement and promising idea - not only that Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this February morning but also the dreamy denial of his shadow. Of course he has a shadow! And so do we all. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing, so let me explain. In her book, The Way of Woman, Helen M. Luke, a beloved Jungian psychoanalyst, says:

“The shadow personifies all the inferior and rejected sides of the personality. These shadow qualities are not all negative but may also be potentialities for which the ego has not taken responsibility.”

If you’re reading this, you probably have tasted a sample or two of your own negative shadow - maybe a part of you that makes you cringe, that you want to shove into the basement, that makes you ooze shame. Or maybe it’s something that flickers here and there, like a part of you that carries a deep habit or belief that in your daily, external life, you abhor or vote against. Perhaps you’re actively working with your shadow, to understand her, getting really curious as to why she shows up when she does. That’s hard work and takes courage, determination and deep vulnerability to explore.

But what about the shadow that carries possibility? The possibility of something new, radical, powerful or seemingly impossible but actually within hands reach? What a relief (albeit still scary) that your shadow — negative or potentially positive — can birth this richness to help you become more you, make your life full, more wakeful and sacred? Marion Woodman, another Jungian psychoanalyst and women’s movement figure, said:

A life truly lived constantly burns away veils of illusion, burns away what is no longer relevant, gradually reveals our essence, until, at last, we are strong enough to stand in our naked truth.

From my professional experience as a counselor and from my personal experience of traveling this journey as a human being who’s interested in getting to know herself fully, I seem to notice a pattern. We tend to initially unpack our more “negative” shadow first. After all, that’s what usually drives us to therapy — like the game whack-a-mole, it rears its ugly head in various, sometimes unconscious ways until we finally pay attention.

An example of both negative and potentially positive shadow might be someone whose bulimia, anxiety and rage drive her to therapy. When we start practicing unpacking the bulimic behaviors, anxiety and rage with curiosity and compassion, we start to recognize the roots — her compulsive caretaking stems from her buried and deep hunger for care and attention that she never got in her early developmental years or beyond. Instead of recognizing and asking for what she needs now because she doesn’t have the tools or belief of worthiness, she continuously says yes to everyone and everything, wiping up everyone else’s spills until she’s had it and privately, secretly, shamefully at home, binges and purges alone in the dark, and then out of disgust and exhaustion, she rages at her kids, spilling and spewing her anger and resentment on her loved ones.

Her caretaking might look like the Perfect Mom on the outside, but her negative shadow shows up as compulsive caretaking — unsustainable and ultimately hurtful to herself and others. She might not even recognize the caretaking as “negative” or harmful. She might deny it for years. But eventually, the cracks and crevices of excessive caretaking widen and deepen perhaps physically, mentally, or spiritually, and she realizes she has to find another way, which usually involves exploring why caretaking gives her such a charge and seeming self worth.

Once she recognizes the caretaking as a shadow part of herself that she uses as a bridge to worthiness, acceptance and approval, she’s ready to step deeper into her potential. An example might be her power hiding behind taking care of everyone else. Instead of saying yes, instead of swallowing what she doesn’t really want (obligations, shoulds, ought-to’s), what if she began saying NO with her words instead of purging a “no” or purging grief at what she fears she can’t have? What if she realized that by saying no, by not caretaking compulsively, she had more room and creative energy to fuel her deeper hungers and interests? What if by saying NO, by owning her power of caring for herself, her true spring would indeed come early?

While this is just one example, often it can be harder to step into one’s own potential and power than meeting one’s own negative shadow. It can be way more challenging to get BIGGER, BOLDER, TRUER than to wrestle with or accept your “ugly” internal parts. Why? Because like the months of February and March, who are both pregnant with possibilities of Spring’s fruits, the qualities of being exposed, frostbitten, dry and dark still remain early in the year. Who wants to walk in the dark? Who wants to strip and bare her bones of boldness when the butterfly bush has yet to bloom?

Maybe someone like you. Maybe someone whose trips around the sun have shown her enough of her own eclipses to know the dark, walking in the dark, is not something to deny or bypass but something to plant and embody by putting one foot in front of the other. Welcome, Spring.

Instead of transcending ourselves, we must move into ourselves. ~ Marion Woodman

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS

Exercise as Embodiment: redefining exercise with curiosity, exploration & sustainability

Exercise tends to be tricky when introducing or re-introducing into a person’s life who has typically struggled with exercise by means of avoidance or compensation. (If you’re wondering about the signs/symptoms/consequences of compulsive exercise, read NEDA’s checklist.) If medically stable, exercise tends to be strictly prescribed and monitored, which can be a useful way to set boundaries and offer a safe container when moving the body again from the definition of traditional exercise. But ongoing embodiment and wakefulness through staying connected with the body should be valued and offered not only within the treatment plan but also as a long-term goal.

Before becoming a counselor, I worked full-time as a personal trainer due to my love of movement as a pathway to connection. Most of my clients were also in therapy for a variety of reasons, many of whom were healing from disordered eating and/or addictions. The beautiful thing about having already exposed themselves to therapy was they were mostly ready and willing to be curious and exploratory with movement options, after all, they had invited me into the privacy of their homes.

The lid had been lifted from the pressure cooker of intense treatment and therapy, and they could let off some steam through learning about their bodies and different exercises while choosing their own music, props and qualities of movement. I brought the smorgasbord of options, they got to lead the way. My gentle instruction of safety, flexibility and alignment, and our relationship offered the safe container and boundaries for their exploration, and ultimately, their empowerment.

Because I’m a pattern person (perhaps from my dance and step aerobics days), I tended to notice patterns among many of my clients. While unique to each individual, the general trajectory of our experience together tended to be:

  1. traditional work (resistance training)

  2. body-based training (walking together, yoga asanas for body awareness)

  3. subtle but deeper connection between the body and self (breath work, yoga asana as connection to the process in lieu of a geometrically-shaped pose, or even a return to the dumbbells with new awareness)

Once my clients started exploring movement in this third way of deeper connection — whether with dumbbells or in staff pose while rooting their sitz bones to the earth — I often referred them back to their therapist because such rich information would come up during our time together. Some of it was body-based and contained unpacking trauma work with a trained counselor. Some of it was the cognitive processing of their own stories, patterns and rigid thought patterns. Most of the time, it was both.

Regardless of the personal details of reintegration of body-mind-spirit, I became fascinated and passionate about witnessing people discover their bodies and their minds and hearts in a new way. Again and again (*and not without work and courage and time), possibilities of new ways of living and relating to themselves and others were birthed. It was like a bonding experience not only with their own flesh and blood but to something bigger. It was the process of discovering their own embodiment wasn’t something they had to study or strive for, but a quality of being that rested within simply because they could return home to the roots of their flesh and blood for guidance, connection and hope. This entire process enlightened not only my path to become a psychotherapist but also showed me how the somatic exploration — on physiological and psychological levels — start early through developmental movement from womb-to-walking.

I write this to express the importance of boundaries and quality of care when introducing or redefining exercise to anyone vulnerable body-based work. Prescribing doses of exercise needs to be followed up by processing as well as a safe relationship to help walk along as the experience of reconnecting is felt, understood and expressed.

*While I still lead and participate in movement group work as an educator and as a counselor (when I offer group psychotherapy), most of my work now happens within individual therapy sessions from the lens of Somatic Therapy’s developmental movement and attachment-based therapy. Questions or interested in therapy? Contact me for a free 15-minute phone conversation.

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS

Wholeness v. Balance

Props to this tight-rope-walking woman pictured below, but when I think of balance, or if someone asks me about exercise “balance”, or food “balance”, I feel a little angsty in answering (and possibly disappointing) because in real life “balance” seems a little unattainable and imaginary like Perfectionism. Yikes. As you can guess, I feel the word balance can be loaded and lofty. Here’s why:

I was lucky to be in a beautiful discussion yesterday regarding the nervous system and how “balance” is defined and/or ideal within the realms of sympathetic and parasympathetic states of being. (in case you’re wondering, that’s a rabbit hole of nuanced language and science that as we all agreed is rather too elusive to sum up sometimes via language as it is still being unpacked by scientists, researchers and therapists.) But we did agree on the word WHOLENESS.

Wholeness means you identify with, know, can relate to, are aware of, own, hold, contain, are getting to know, embrace, keep in check, or dance with All Your Parts. From an Internal Family Systems Therapy perspective, sometimes our Parts (maybe the part that harbors a painful wound, maybe the part that is unconsciously jealous of others, maybe the part that automatically restricts or overeats to numb layers of feeling) get really rigid or extreme and initially seem separate from each other. But upon closer and compassionate inspection, they’re related, and they all affect each other. So when we identify, become aware, hold, get to know and dance with all those parts within the safety of healthy re-patterning, they might still exist but at a lesser degree. You can step back and see them and know how to work with them. They can even serve you in teaching you how to move forward in a healthy way.

All that to say, it’s not about a perfect balance of xx minutes of cardio, xx minutes of weight training, a particular style of yoga class. And it’s certainly not about a perfect ratio of carb cycling, or weighing your food to get a perfect measurement. That stuff might “work” (as in, give you preconceived “results”) in the short-run, but in the long-run, they are unsustainable practices. They keep you tethered to rigidity and labor that results in burnout, boredom and/or injury.

All that to say, it is about WHOLENESS. If we translate “balance” into “wholeness”, we can approach life in a more playful manner. We can release the reigns in our jaws and heart centers and settle into an okayness that we are supposed to be exactly where we are. We can invite the breath deeper into the body with an experience of being able to be with all those sensations that arise.

As I’ve experienced and taught others for many years, some days your body needs to dance or garden, some days it needs to push and pull, some days it needs a non-traditional dinner that might not have a speck of green. (Or, can’t help it, but maybe it is indeed green eggs and ham!) When you allow MORE, when you allow ALL of you (the good, bad, ugly, sparkly, spiritual, irritable), you naturally need less control, and therein, the unhealthy, unproductive, painful behaviors naturally fall away. You trust the process. You trust the cycles. You trust today is different tomorrow. You trust your meaning of balance is fluid and, most brilliantly, keeps you awake to your unique needs, desires, dreams, urges and ideas.

“The moon is a reminder that no matter what phase I’m in, I’m still whole.” ~ author unknown

*Interested in tuning into your intuitive movement, to your body’s sensations? Come to a free workshop in Atlanta for Love Your Body Month on February 23, 2019. Click here for info.

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS

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*free* Mindful Movement & Fueling workshop!

Mindful Movement & Fueling Workshop    FLOW Training (Caroline Gebhardt, APC, RYT) and Nutrifit Sport Therapy (Page Love, RDN, LD, CSSD) will be hosting a free *Mindful Movement and Fueling* workshop offering experiential fueling and movement. Along with balanced snacks/drinks and nutrition education, we’ll practice a blend of developmental shapes and yoga postures followed by rhythmic movement meditations to experience creative and sustainable mind-body awareness. Attendees will have a chance during our closing circle to ask questions and process their experience with both Page Love, a registered and sport dietitian, and Caroline Gebhardt, a body-based psychotherapist.    Date: February 23, 2019, 3-5pm    Address: 1117 Perimeter Center West Conference Room, ATL 30338     *No yoga/fitness experience necessary, every BODY is welcome! Please bring a yoga mat, journal, wear comfortable clothing.  *Please RSVP and/or direct questions to NutriFit Sport Therapy at    770-395-7331    or FLOW Training at    404-210-6752   . We welcome donations to help support EDIN, the Eating Disorders Information Network -    www.myedin.org    *Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/233959674172507/    #EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS


Mindful Movement & Fueling Workshop

FLOW Training (Caroline Gebhardt, APC, RYT) and Nutrifit Sport Therapy (Page Love, RDN, LD, CSSD) will be hosting a free *Mindful Movement and Fueling* workshop offering experiential fueling and movement. Along with balanced snacks/drinks and nutrition education, we’ll practice a blend of developmental shapes and yoga postures followed by rhythmic movement meditations to experience creative and sustainable mind-body awareness. Attendees will have a chance during our closing circle to ask questions and process their experience with both Page Love, a registered and sport dietitian, and Caroline Gebhardt, a body-based psychotherapist.

Date: February 23, 2019, 3-5pm

Address: 1117 Perimeter Center West Conference Room, ATL 30338


*No yoga/fitness experience necessary, every BODY is welcome! Please bring a yoga mat, journal, wear comfortable clothing.

*Please RSVP and/or direct questions to NutriFit Sport Therapy at
770-395-7331 or FLOW Training at 404-210-6752. We welcome donations to help support EDIN, the Eating Disorders Information Network - www.myedin.org

*Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/233959674172507/

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS

Mindful Movement for the Treatment of Eating Disorders: attachment-based techniques and experiential movement as an integrative approach

Are you a #yoga teacher, therapist, or allied healthcare practitioner with an interest in using yoga and mindful movement for eating disorders? Are you wondering how to help clients or students to reconnect with the mind and body in an attuned, sensitive way?

Our time together will include:

  • a discussion of attachment theory and its influence on psychological and physiological therapeutic parallels that when imbalanced often show up in unhealthy behaviors or patterns often seen in eating disorders.

  • we’ll practice several ways to notice and experiment our own patterns and needs through yoga postures and developmental movement as a way to offer these tools first to ourselves, then to our clients on the mat or on the couch.

  • this also offers a brief reminder of nervous system science and how it applies to the therapeutic relationship, a person’s stage of change or readiness, and as a reminder for using a trauma sensitive approach for the ED population.

This workshop is aimed at yoga teachers, mental health clinicians and other practitioners who have an interest in treating disordered eating with sensitivity while carefully inviting the body into treatment. 
🙏🏼🙌🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼

WHEN: Sunday March 10, 2019 from 2-5:30PM
WHERE: Gathered and Grounded in Decatur 
HOW MUCH: $75.00

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/yoga-mindfulness-and-movement-for-the-treatment-of-eating-disorders-tickets-54762813048
*space is limited

**CEs for LPCs and LCSWs pending (3 hrs)

For more information, check out http://www.southernyogatherapy.com/ or contact Caroline 🦋

#EATINGDISORDERS #YOGAFOREATINGDISORDERS #RECOVERY #ANOREXIA #BINGEEATING #BULIMIA #DISORDEREDEATING #EMOTIONALEATING #INTUITIVE EATING #BODYBASEDPSYCHOTHERAPY #DIETING #YOGAFORANXIETY #ATTACHMENTBASEDYOGA #YOGAFORRECOVERY #OVEREXERCISE #EXERCISEBULIMIA #MINDFULMOVEMENT #YOGA #DEVELOPMENTALMOVEMENT #NATIONALEATINGDISORDERS

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