Cedric Centre for Counselling Inc.

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Archive for September, 2003

By Elianna Lev

On a winter evening in 1992, Michelle Morand was working up a sweat at the gym to burn off all of the calories she had consumed earlier. She would often exercise vigorously for hours at a time after one of her eating binges.
At the end of her exhaustive workout, Morand happened across a nutritional brochure that asked such questions as "Do you feel controlled by food?" and "Do you eat when you are physically not hungry?"

She considered all of the questions carefully and then to her surprise the 32-year-old recalls"answering ‘yes’ to six of them,"That’s when she realized her poor body image and compulsive eating habits were neither normal nor healthy.

Shortly after she had made her startling revelation, she tried to seek out help but there wasn’t any to be found. There was plenty of help for people suffering from anorexia and bulimia, but no one seemed concerned at that time about Morand’s particular problem.

"Seven years ago, compulsive eating was seen as lazy," she explains. So after a considerable search, she finally found a specialist in Vancouver who she visited with for six months. It was during her counselling sessions with the specialist that Morand decided she wanted to help others who were afflicted with her problem. She returned to school and completed her master’s degree in counselling from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington in 1995.

About four years later she decided there was a desperate need for a clinic that focused on compulsive eating and so she "dipped" into her savings to open the Community Eating Disorder and Related Issues Counselling Centre (CEDRIC).

Originally, the plan was for the centre to specialize only in compulsive eating but Morand decided that there should also be a focus on other problems. The clinic provides counselling to people who suffer from all eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. Staff members also address other issues that typically accompany eating disorders like low self-esteem, depression and abuse. All four of the counsellors who are currently on staff at the clinic have recovered from a disordered eating pattern.

CEDRIC sees about 100 patients per year. The centre provides group and solo counselling as well as physical therapy such as Reiki and zero balancing, a technique designed to align energy fields. And while Morand admits that some people might dismiss such therapy as "airy fairy", she says she provides it because there is a demand.
"So many of our clients saw a significant jump in their recovery with the use of this therapy," she explains.

Sandra (who asked that we not use her real name) is a recovering compulsive eater who has been meeting with counsellors at CEDRIC for the past two years. "It’s been overpowering, life altering," says the 34-year-old. "It’s been amazing overall." She learned about the clinic after a nutritionist at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital recommended it. She says she has been trying to cope with compulsive eating all of her life.

"I always knew it was a problem, but it got to a point where I didn’t know what I was doing to myself," Johnson explains. "(The CEDRIC centre) gave me the basic understanding as to why I was doing what I was doing."
She says that the clinic went beyond any other help she’s sought out. "It’s not a bandage," she says of the help she has received, "it’s a cure."

Morand has set high goals for herself in terms of the clinic. One day, she hopes to help other people like Johnson, all across the country. "Our goal is to educate the community about prevention. I have a greater vision than just the clinic in Victoria," she says. "It’s just the start."

The CEDRIC centre is offering a workshop for parents who want to raise their kids free of eating disorders. The workshop is aimed to educate parents about harmful eating patterns they might put on their children.
"Some parents may have their own concerns about weight that may not have been addressed," says the centre’s founder Michelle Morand. "But our intention isn’t to dump on parents for doing it properly or not."

The workshop is aimed to give parents the tools to guide their children towards a healthy relationship with their bodies and food. It will take place Saturday (Nov. 23) from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the CEDRIC Centre, 205-661 Burnside Road East. It’s recommended to call and reserve a spot. For more information call 383-0797.
Articles are published at The CEDRIC Centre website for information and tracking purposes, they feature qoutes from our counsllors and information about our work. We are not responsible for the content of any article and can only assume responsibility for direct qoutes.

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Taming the Beast: Writer’s Block – the writer’s deadliest foe

by Brooke Finnigan

If you’re reading this, then the drive to write is already there. You know both the intoxicating high of writing for eight hours straight, and the frustrating low of spending an hour on a single word choice. Doubtless, you’ve fallen in love with your characters and spent hours matching the words on the page to the vision in your mind. Writing is hard work, yet it’s fulfilling. But there’s one little thing we’re all hesitant to mention: writer’s block. It’s a jinx; just saying the words can mean you’re suddenly struck with the debilitating disease.

My pet theory is that writer’s block has nothing to do with writing. In fact, it has everything to do with your state of mind. If you weren’t a writer you’d call it a slump, a bad week, depression. But as writers, we tend to relate our whole world to our work; we eat, sleep, and even breathe writing. And maybe that’s why writer’s block is so common, so integral to being a writer.

Writer’s block is a process, an insidious dilemma that sneaks in and wreaks havoc. The good thing, though, is that we can prevent and treat writer’s block more effectively than we think. It’s not a curse, it’s a cue. If you’re working ten hours a day with no breaks, then you’re asking to crash. Many of us think of this as a naturally occurring phenomenon, that you can’t have the bout of extreme creativity without paying for it later. And we accept this as a necessary evil. Or maybe you’re not writing at all, and instead find yourself staring at an almost blank screen feeling alternately guilty, frustrated, and conflicted.

Both cases are more similar than they first appear. We’re attributing our success, or lack thereof, to something beyond our control. Something that happened to us, almost magically, rather than something we did. Just as a good streak builds upon itself, so does a bad streak; our thoughts reinforce our actions. If we reverse our thoughts, we reverse writer’s block. It really is that simple.

Underneath writer’s block is fear. According to therapist Michelle Morand, writer’s block is most often triggered by self-critical thoughts. Doubt creeps in and it grows. We become anxious. Then we indulge in behavior that isn’t helpful to reversing the onslaught of negative thoughts; we work ourselves even harder, and we speak to ourselves more harshly. And, because no one can work under such a negative and punitive strain, we begin to collapse under our self-imposed weight. The sad thing is that this confirms our worst fear: that we are just hacks, after all. Our critical thoughts increase, we get deeper into the slump, and then the process repeats itself over and over, ad nausuem.

On paper it sounds clinical, almost too easy to be true. But remember this, no one ever excelled under negative encouragement. That was the most difficult thing for me to accept when breaking the cycle of writer’s block. I had control, I created this situation, and my old patterns of thinking – to push, prod, and push some more – were not only ineffective tools for motivation, they were causing my writer’s block.

The last thing many of us want to hear is that we need to start treating ourselves gently. We buck against the suggestion. But that’s exactly what I’m proposing. And maybe the harder we resist such an idea; the more we need to consider putting it into practice.

The next time you find yourself slipping into a bad case of the dreaded Block, ask yourself these questions:

Are these self-critical thoughts about my abilities as a writer helpful to me or are they getting in my way?

Think of your next bout with writer’s block as a blessing in disguise. Morand recommends paying close attention to when your inner critic pops up. In particular, what does your inner critic say, and how does he/she say it? Pay attention to regional accents, gender, intonation, and choice of words. You might be surprised to realize that the voice belongs to someone close to you. Most often it’s a parent or a spouse, but it can also take the guise of a teacher, a sibling, or a boss. Once you’ve identified the voice, then work to neutralize it. Nip the inner critic in the bud with a phrase like: “That was my old way of thinking. What you’re saying isn’t true. I am a good writer.” Or, take it a step further. Morand suggests having a written dialogue with your inner critic. Challenge your negative voices and expose them to the light of day. That way, when they do pop up it’ll be even easier to dismiss them for what they are: nonsense.

Am I expecting myself to be perfect? Who else do I expect this of?

One of the best things you can do for yourself when the block is on your back is to switch perspectives. Look at yourself and your work from a different point of view. Depersonalize the situation. Would you be as critical of a friend as you are of yourself? Do you expect the people in your life to be perfect? No, so why should you expect it of yourself then?

Am I thinking in all or nothing terms?

This is a trap, advises Morand. It’s the perfect way to paralyze yourself into not writing at all. As long as you plan for the steps between the local paper and the Times bestseller list, it’s helpful to have lofty goals. But, when you box yourself in with unrealistic expectations, you’re asking to fail. The next question to ask is why are you making it so hard to succeed? Many writers are more afraid of success than they think. Get in touch with that inner critic again and find out why you don’t think you’re worthy enough to make it all the way to the top.

Am I condemning my writing on the basis of a single event/difficulty?

One rejection letter and a bad week do not a horrible writer make. Don’t let small setbacks keep you from seeing the bigger picture. Quell your inner critic and get back to writing. A writer writes. Period.

Am I concentrating on my weaknesses instead of my strengths?

Re-train yourself to accentuate the positive and to work around a problem until a solution utilizing your talents can be found. It may sound odd, but equate your strengths and weaknesses to training a dog. When the dog obeys, you lavish it with praise. When it doesn’t, you move on for a while and try something new. You wouldn’t whack Fido over the head with a newspaper because he doesn’t comprehend a concept, so why is it perfectly acceptable to beat yourself up when you uncover a weakness? Attacking yourself for weaknesses, perceived or otherwise, is counter-productive to becoming a better writer.

What perspectives might be helpful to me and how can I put them into practice?

When have you thrived most: under punitive conditions or positive encouragement? Which of the two is more conducive to writing? Be honest and realistic. Chances are, like most people, you work best when you feel supported and understood. Treat yourself as gently as you would another in your situation.

How can I create a nurturing environment for myself when it comes to writing?

Do you write best on your own, in bursts, or on the weekends? How can you turn off your inner critic and trust your innate knowledge as a writer? Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what’s right for you. Some people are night writers while others get their best work done in the early hours of the morning. Most of all, remember to be your own champion. There’ll always be people out there to criticize your best efforts or sabotage your peace of mind; don’t waste your time trying to beat them to the punch. If you don’t make yourself and your writing a priority, no one else will.

Every writer has a distinctive rhythm and style. As a group, we’re likely to judge our accomplishments, and even the volume of our work, against writers we perceive as more successful. Writing is not a contest designed to compare the merit of two people on the basis of their writing ability. Nor is it a race to see who can get to the finish line first. It’s an expression of the spirit, and
thankfully, no two spirits are alike.

Works Cited:
Morand, Michelle. Personal Interview. 6 November 2000

Appeared in Netauthor E2K:
http://www.netauthor.org/e2k/stacks/finnigan.html

 

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Vegetarianism or politically correct eating disorder?

Written by Brooke Finnigan for The National Eating Disorder Information Bulletin

Whether vegetarian diet and weight loss for health, religion or for ethics, research exists about the benefits of a plant based diet. Recent research also shows that a growing number of people, especially women in their late teens, are adopting vegetarian and vegan diets in order to lose weight, maintain low body weight, and mask restrictive eating patterns.

A study from the University of Minnesota found teen vegetarians are more likely to have eating disorders than non-vegetarians. In this study, vegetarians were more likely to contemplate and attempt suicide, and vegetarian males were noted as an especially high risk group for unhealthy weight control practices. The research indicated that teens who were already susceptible to emotional difficulties were drawn to vegetarianism as a means to lose weight and fit in, but that vegetarianism itself had no correlation with emotional difficulties.

In another study, conducted at California State University-Northridge, researchers found college women who claimed to be vegetarians had a significantly greater risk of developing eating disorders than their meat-eating peers. The overlap between eating disorders and vegetarianism occurs because vegetarianism is a way for men and women to openly control their food choices, without attracting negative attention to their behaviour. Also, many believe that restricting meat from a diet will lead to weight loss, believes Michelle Morand, founder of The CEDRIC Centre, an eating disorder counselling centre in Victoria, B.C.

“Family, friends, clinicians, and vegetarians themselves, need to know that the potential exists for vegetarianism and veganism to mask an eating disorder,” Morand said. This doesn’t mean vegetarianism is the cause of an eating disorder, or that people shouldn’t adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, but it may be a way for the individual who is struggling with food and weight issues to justify her or his restrictive eating behaviours.

Vegetarian Diet and Weight Loss

Carol Tickner, R.D. Nutrition Therapist with the Eating Disorders Program in the Capital Region cites two possibilities for the increase in popularity of vegetarianism. ” Vegetarianism has been promoted as a healthy way of managing weight. With weight being such a focus in our society, it makes sense to some as a way of managing weight, and health, at the same time,” she says. “For those teenagers who have disordered eating tendencies, becoming vegetarian can be a way of trying to respond to a changing body, (weight gain due to puberty), in a healthy way, vs. dieting like their friends.” However, this is just dieting for weight-loss in another form.

In many ways, beliefs about animal protein in diets versus plant-only diets are similar to the messages we hear about physical appearance in North American culture. In both cases, we are given conflicting messages. In one breath we’re admonished not to judge a book by its cover, and in the next, we can never be too rich or too thin . In a similar vein, we say one thing about the humane treatment of animals, and treat our pets as mini-humans, but frequently farm animals for food under dreadful conditions. This cultural hypocrisy is increasingly in the media with stories of unsanitary conditions and contamination of foods. And, at this stage in their lives, young adults are acutely aware of societal doubletalk.

“Teenagers are searching for meaning and a way of being in the world that expresses their individuality. This is exactly what they are meant to do at this stage in development.” says Morand. “They’re in the process of individuation, separating from their parents, developing and testing their own value systems, and learning about who they are. By choosing a plant-based diet, they’re choosing to exist on the planet in a different way than most of their parents’ generation. For many teenagers, becoming a vegetarian may be the first informed, adult decision they make.”

Why Go Veggie?

Vegeterian diets can reduce risk from certain cancers by up to 40%, decrease the possibility of heart disease by over 30%, and lower high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

A plant-based diet can also be environmentally friendly. By eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, less packaging and processing is needed. On the other hand, as popularity for vegetarian diets increases, more packaged foods are available to supplement and complement the traditional vegetarian diet, which means more waste from packaging.

Some religions advocate a vegetarian lifestyle. Some people choose a vegetarian diet over an omnivorous one out of ethical concerns for animals. Many vegetarians are concerned about the wide spread usage of factory farming, growth hormones, and abuse of animals designated for human consumption. It is also cheaper to consume a vegetarian diet than to include animal products in one’s shopping basket.

” There is an increased societal awareness about where our food comes from and more people taking an interest in how animals are treated. This was especially brought to the forefront last year with mad cow disease and the chicken flu,” says Tickner.

In addition to eschewing meat and animal by-products in their diets, a large number of vegetarians purchase animal friendly cosmetics, and cleaning products that haven’t been tested on animals, as well as alternative sources for leather, silk and wool products.

The Incredible Lightness of Being Vegetarian

Adherents of a vegetarian lifestyle have always touted the health benefits, and in recent years, as coverage of the obesity crisis continues to influence public policy, some organizations have linked a plant based diet with slenderness. Given our cultural preference and pressure around thinness, (which is seen as an indication of a person’s worthiness in North American culture), it seems inevitable that vegetarianism would be adopted as yet another tool in the quest for weight loss.

In his book, The Obesity Myth , author Paul Campos argues that we use body weight as an indication of “moral fitness”. Culturally, we idealize people who have managed to sublimate their appetites and become, or remain, slender. In this puritanical atmosphere, fatness isn’t just a body type description, but an alleged indication of how a person really is: undisciplined, stupid, and unworthy. Fatness is one of the last socially sanctioned forms of discrimination in our culture, and avoiding fatness is often used as an added allure to becoming vegetarian.

On vegetarian websites, in magazines and books, weight loss is often included as a benefit of switching to a plant based diet.

PETA, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), in particular, correlates a vegetarian diet with being thin. Recent advertising campaigns have included “jokes” about fat passengers needing two airline seats as a reason to go vegetarian,and equating letting children eat meat to child abuse.

While PETA is notorious for its overstated style of linking health, body weight, and vegetarianism, most other groups are subtler. But the connection between health and weight continues to thrive in the minds of many people. In fact, for many, health and thinness are synonymous.

The reality is, it’s possible to be a healthy, happy person, at any size, vegetarian or not. And creating false categories for health based on body size is one way in which the health and weight loss industry overlap, and, reap sizable profits.

A person’s weight will tend to fall into a certain range that the body is happiest and healthiest at, called our “set point” or “natural” weight, and will tend to want to return to this weight range despite strict calorie restriction or excessive exercise. Many other fact
ors affect a person weight, not only the type of food they eat, but the quantity of food they eat, the amount of activity they get, and their genetics.

A healthy vegetarian, Carol Tickner explains, is someone who “t akes the time to ensure that they are getting all the nutrients their body needs. This person would be eating vegetarian sources of protein at all meals and making sure they find alternate sources of protein, which is required to maintain a healthy metabolism, repair and build new tissue, and boost immunity, calcium, iron, zinc, and Vitamin D & B12 as well as omega-3 fatty acids.”

Morand adds, “To me, a healthy vegetarian is someone at peace with their decision to avoid animal products, and is committed to enjoying foods that nurture their bodies and spirits. A healthy person is someone who has energy, listens to his or her body, and feeds it accordingly.”

Feeding the soul

Morand has worked with many young women over the years who have used vegetarianism to cloak an eating disorder. “Typically, they don’t want to worry people in their lives, and saying they can’t eat something because of their moral commitment to vegetarianism is a safe way to avoid conflict or suspicion, especially since many people aren’t educated on the topic.”

“Some are in denial about their behavior, or if they have just begun down the path of disordered eating, they are still in that period where they believe they are “benefiting” from the behavior. They may be getting positive attention and reinforcement from their family and peers for their commitment and/or weight loss.” In any case, Morand continues, “it’s important to remember that the eating disorder, whether masked by vegetarianism or not, is a coping mechanism, and the person struggling has adopted it to camouflage other, more painful issues in their lives. They aren’t lying or manipulating, they’re just trying to cope in the best way they know how.”

It isn’t necessary to give up vegetarianism in order to recover from an eating disorder. However, an honest exploration of the motivations behind the choice to cut animal products from one’s diet is fundamental to the recovery process. If someone is truly dedicated to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle for ethical reasons, then he/she has to be true to themselves and honor their decision. But, if the original impetus was weight loss or gaining a sense of control over their relationship with food, the greatest gift that they can give to themselves is to authentically explore what may be currently taking place in their lives, or what may have occurred in the past, to lead them to feel that they lack control to the extent that they are seeking it in their relationship with food. Then they are in a position to solve the real problem, and no longer expend their energy trying to control the symptom.

 

  • Neumark-Sztainer D., et al. Adolescent vegetarians : a behavioral profile of a school-based population in Minnesota . Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 1997 Aug; 151(8): 833-838.
  • Klop, Sheree, et al Self-reported vegetarianism may be a marker for college women at risk for disordered eating, Archives of Journal of American Dietetic Association , 2003, June, 103:745-747
  • http://www.vegsoc.org

 

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