Therapeutic Tidbit of the Month
“In like a lion out like a lamb,” such is the reputation of the month of March. Weather fluctuations aside, March is a month where the symbolism of dualities and transitioning is evident and many challenges await for those dealing with Eating Disorders and Body Dissatisfaction.
Spring is officially sprung on the 20th of March, St. Patrick’s brings us challenges of alcohol consumption and food centric holidays abound with the 23rd being Purim and the Seders of Passover commencing on the 25th. Then Easter rolls in on the 31st and is yet another holiday centered on candy aka chocolate eggs and marshmallow peeps. And just as an aside, did you know that March is both National Nutrition Month AND National Frozen Food Month?!! Talk about duality!
As people begin shaking off their winter coats and emerging from their layers of down and sweaters, the prospect of more skin showing becomes a reality. This may trigger body image panic to come out of hibernation and the overwhelming urge to “do something drastic” in the guise of spring cleaning for many folks grappling with disordered eating and body dissatisfaction. We can ameliorate some of these urges by taking a proactive approach so let’s look at some of the associations with spring.
The season is about rebirth, reemerging from sleep, blooming. Springs of water are replenishing and circulating. Springs are not stagnant. Springs have bounce. Spring coils have the power to propel. When we look at a spring we see that although it is circular and gives the impression of redundancy and repetition, it also has the sense of upward movement, support, and resiliency.
So while we may be tempted to go from one extreme to another, from hibernation to full action, let’s remember that this is a time of transition and thoughtful movement. As we let go of old habits and behaviors that are self-destructive, reinforce our negative self-image, and impair self- acceptance, let’s remember to hold on to the aspects of ourselves that are working for us. This is NOT an all or nothing proposition. Let’s use our inner strength and self-devotion as foundations and spring boards to healthier relationships with food and a blossoming acceptance of the wonders of our body’s natural shape.
Some things to consider
- There may be a compulsion to start a restrictive diet with the onset of the warmer weather.
- Fear of bingeing related to St. Patrick’s and Easter rituals will be challenging for those with Eating Disorders.
- Beware of an onslaught of ads by Diet Companies promoting programs promising quick and magic transformations. Messages like, “Springing into the NEW YOU” result in extreme restrictive dieting and self-loathing.
Each month I offer an Expressive Arts Therapy directive that focuses on Body Image and or Eating Disorders and is associated with the theme discussed in the Monthly Therapeutic Tid Bit (see above). These directives may be used in individual or group therapy sessions or as self-help activities. Sometimes the activity itself is nothing new or brilliant but the OBJECTIVE of the directive is unique and specifically tailored to exploring issues related to body image and disordered eating. ENJOY! Fun is the main ingredient!
Title: Spring Gleaning – no that is not a typo 😉
Objective: There is a fine line between an opportunity for self-evaluation and renewal and the compulsion for a TOTAL MAKEOVER. Unfortunately our society promotes the latter and people with body dissatisfaction and who struggle with eating disorders are extremely susceptible to the media pressure to SPRING into the NEW YOU, diet your old self away, and strip away your winter fat through surgery and starvation. But we have choices. When we emerge in the spring, there are wonderful aspects to ourselves that we can opt to hold on to, to cultivate, and nurture. This activity is designed to facilitate the exploration of the fertile middle ground that the transition into spring offers.
Materials: Basic variety of art supplies for collage and or drawing including but not limited to: Paper, pens, pencils, markers, magazines, scissors, glue sticks
- Have the participants sit quietly for a few minutes and contemplate on the expression, “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” If that phrase was applied to you what words would you use instead to describe how you entered winter and how you are emerging into spring?
- Using collage and or drawing techniques create a representation of the before status on one side of the paper and the after image on the other side. You can also use two completely separate pieces of paper.
- Now focus on the transition itself, the middle ground so to speak. What parts of you will you hold on to as you spring into the new season? What parts of you would you like to leave behind? Why?
- Using collage and or drawing techniques either on the same piece of paper or on a third piece of paper create a representation of this ‘middle ground.”
If this is an Expressive Arts Therapy Group, have the participants form small groups and stage their finished art pieces into scenes. Note the similarities and differences among the group member’s work and facilitate discussion about healthy transitions.
This expressive arts idea is from contributing guest author Dr. Deah Schwartz. Once a month, Dr. Schwartz shares an art therapy exercise or idea to facilitate exploration, increased awareness and healing in the areas of body image and eating disorders. Some of these activities may need to be facilitated over more than one session, or modified for different ability levels, size of group, budget and size of work space. These directives may be used in individual or group therapy sessions or as self-help activities. Sometimes the activity itself is nothing new or brilliant but the OBJECTIVE of the directive is unique and specifically tailored to exploring issues related to body image and disordered eating. ENJOY! Fun is the main ingredient! Learn more about eating disorder therapy.