Dr. Keenan-Miller

Want to Improve Your Body Image? Try this...it's not what you think by Gia & Danielle

Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect? --Neff, 2018 (1)
If you are like most Americans, you often view your body as an object, rather than as an aspect of your whole self. Most of your body focused thoughts may revolve around changing, depriving, comparing, cajoling, punishing, or improving. The problem is that self-criticism is seen in a variety of psychological problems such as panic, social phobia, PTSD, depression, generalized anxiety, and eating disorders. (2) Take a moment to notice your thoughts. How often are your they based on appreciating and accepting the body that carries you through each day? How often are they gentle? While there is nothing wrong with seeking improvement, when change is paired with acceptance and kindness rather than disdain it is more likely to improve your mental health as well. That is, adding in self-compassion on the path to reaching your body based goals can make you feel better even if you choose to continue striving.

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Love, Simon: It Reminds Us We are a Social & Caring Species by Gia & Danielle

“Darwin argued that we are a profoundly social and caring species. This idea... that our tendencies toward sympathy are instinctual and evolved (and not some cultural construct as so many have assumed), and even stronger than the instinct for self-preservation.”  --Keltner 2017

People tend to want to relieve the suffering of others. However, when the other is a member of an outgroup, empathy may fail as a result of non-altruistic motivations. Love, Simon isn’t just another a rom-com set in a suburban high school. The themes -- of inclusion, bullying and coming out-- are especially relevant to teens, young adults, parents, schools and mental health professionals. If it is considered a critical and box office success it may be evidence to those struggling with oppression, suicidal thoughts, and the closet that they are not alone. It may even inspire other similarly themed films. It may inspire some of us to be kinder. It may reduce shame.

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Do You Overeat When Feeling Down? Try this... by Gia & Danielle

Most of us have found ourselves looking to food as a way to soothe a negative mood. Although it can work, hopefully it is not your go-to or only strategy to make yourself feel better. You’re better off if you can rely on it as only one of many ways of coping with feeling down. Some alternative possibilities include feeling and accepting the emotion, reaching out for support, problem-solving, exercising, taking time in nature, meditating, completing a task, or distracting yourself. The options are nearly endless. But, some people use eating as a primary means of dealing with feeling bad which can cause even more upset later. Does this describe you? A new study provides hope for interrupting this cycle. 

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As Vacations Approach, Is More Diet Talk Inevitable? by Gia & Danielle

For people trying to recover from eating disorders, the pervasive, socially acceptable increase in diet talk --as spring break and summer vacations approach-- can be very stressful and risky. Additionally, listening to the weight loss compliments bestowed upon family and friends who embark on fad diets and quick weight loss can lead them to idealize aspects of these illnesses, minimizing the potentially devastating consequences.

We are all potential helpers and healers. In every interaction and conversation with family, friends, partners, and strangers, we can either increase light or cast shadows. Yet, sometimes we are unaware of the impact of our actions, especially when cultural norms unintentionally lead us to do harm. We have settled into a destructive normalcy around conversations focused on cutting out food groups, weight loss goals and body size & shape comparisons. Complimenting someone's adherence to strict food rules or weight loss may seem kind and supportive, but it is not. 

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Weight Watchers & Teens: Will they get hooked on dieting? by Gia & Danielle

Did you hear the recent announcement that Weight Watchers will be offering free services to teens (ages 13-17) starting this summer? They have cloaked the program in a language of wellness, calling it a way to guide healthy behaviors. (1) The primary problem is they are a for profit company trying to sell their product … and their product is weight loss, otherwise known as dieting. At weekly meetings and check-ins, Weight Watchers does not check glucose levels, blood pressure, vitamin deficiency or other health markers. They check, track, validate, and celebrate weight loss.

This move has struck a chord with the National Eating Disorder Association and with medical/psychological/dietetic professionals in the world of eating disorders who recognize it as potentially getting teens hooked on dieting, body shaming, internalized self-criticism, calorie counting and scales during critical years of self-development.  Even after the immediate outpouring of concern, Weight Watchers maintained their position with a tweet saying “they take their responsibility seriously” and that the program “is not a diet.” (2)

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Helping Someone with an Eating Disorder? ...Follow the Research by Gia & Danielle

It can extremely scary, overwhelming and frustrating to provide assistance to a friend or family member who is trying to recover from an eating disorder. These illnesses are stubborn, life threatening and characterized by ambivalence. If you are wondering what to do to help, recent research sheds some light.

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Stuck in Eating Disorder Behaviors? Dare Greatly & Reach Out by Gia & Danielle

Most of us love to share fun times, joys and pleasures with the people we hold most dear. Those euphoric moments can bond us together and create happy memories.

"In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed” -Khalil Gibran

But what do you do when life feels burdensome? What heppens when you are stuck in eating disorder behaviors? Do you isolate yourself? Do you enter into a shame spiral? Do you put on a mask and wait until you feel better or stronger to authentically show up with your friends? If so, I hope you’ll try reaching out, without self-judgment instead. Regardless of how open you choose to be, reach out. Allow a friend to be your warm landing. Let her or him be your bridge. Communicate the problem and what you need...

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Eating Disorders and Vaping: What's the Link? by Gia & Danielle

Vaping is very much on the rise in adolescents and adults. (1) While early research shows that e-cigarettes are less dangerous to health than traditional cigarettes, there is no published data yet on cancer risks or the potential long-term impact on our lungs or heart. Here are some of the potential health risks we do know --  insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, increase in heart rate and blood pressure and may impair prefrontal brain development in adolescents.  In addition, there’s an increase in the risk of addiction to other drugs, flavored types may cause permanent damage to bronchioles, and certain vaporizers may generate large amounts of formaldehyde and other toxins. (2) Though better than traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are far from risk-free.Unfortunately, people with eating disorders are particularly vulnerable to the allure of vaping -- now using e-cigarettes to suppress their appetites.

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Meditation: Tune into Your Recovery Thoughts, Quiet the Eating Disorder by Gia & Danielle

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there's room to hear more subtle things - that's when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It's a discipline; you have to practice it.” (Steve Jobs)

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Surprising New Findings about Wearable Exercise Trackers & Teens by Gia & Danielle

A new study in the American Journal of Health Education looked at the impact of a popular wearable lifestyle technology on teen exercise habits. At first, the 13 and 14 year olds reported being more motivated -- by guilt and competition to meet the fitness goals. But the positive trend in their desire to improve exercise habits did not last. The study revealed, it’s not that simple.

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6 Simple Tips for Success on Thanksgiving Day: During Eating Disorder Recovery by Gia & Danielle

By Dr. Gia Marson

A day that seems to be all about food can be very stressful if you are trying to recover from an eating disorder. Here are some tips that can help you manage well on Thanksgiving. Starting by...

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How to Tackle Bulimia Nervosa & Depression Together by Gia & Danielle

"Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging" --Joseph Campbell

As if overcoming a serious eating disorder isn't challenging enough, more than half of people with bulimia nervosa also deal with a depressive disorder. New reseach is encouraging for those working to recover from both. 

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Find Calm & Improve Your Health: Meditate Daily by Gia & Danielle

by Dr. Gia Marson

"The Intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind a faithful servant, we have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." - Albert Einstein

We live in a complex world, bombarded by media & technology. It is easy to default to spending our days reacting to external stimuli. This strategy can get you through days, weeks and even years. But it may not get you what you truly want. If you have been busy chasing your life as opposed to living it, I want to encourage you to make change-- to a life of acting rather than reacting. One well researched, simple method to shift away from responding to forces around you and toward being centered and value driven is meditation. Evidence shows it can improve your mental and physical health...and it feels good.

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Make 2 Friends and Call Me In The Morning: Building Social Connections to Improve Health by Gia & Danielle

By Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D.

In Western culture, which places a lot of value on the role of the individual, maintaining our physical and mental health is typically seen as a solo venture. It’s presumed that our well-being is largely under our own control, and improving our health is something we should be able to tackle independently. However, a large body of evidence from different fields of psychology and medicine are highlighting the key role that our relationships play in our health.

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Say My Name: The Power of Naming Emotions by Gia & Danielle

By Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D.

In the process of trying to avoid, push away, or minimize negative emotions, people often miss one of the most simple and powerful ways to change emotions: naming them. It sounds somewhat counterintuitive—why would saying I feel sad or anxious help me to feel better? In fact, when asked how much naming a negative emotion would help them to feel better, most people do not think that it will be a useful strategy.¹ However, a large body of evidence now exists to suggest that this simple, easy-to-use technique can be powerful for helping people to get a hold of strong negative emotions.

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The Tyranny of “Should” Thoughts: 3 Questions to Fight Back by Gia & Danielle

By Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D.

One of the most common and most problematic types of unhelpful cognitions are “should” thoughts.¹ Sometimes they take the form of thinking you “should” want or not want something, be some special way, or meet some particular (and usually arbitrary) standard. Other times, “should” thoughts are embedded in a deeper sense of whether our actions or someone else’s behaviors are right or wrong. These thoughts are often so deeply ingrained into our way of seeing the world that we might not even notice their presence.

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Should You Tell Your Boss About Your Depression? by Gia & Danielle

By Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D.

You may have recently read the story of Madalyn Parker, who emailed her boss to let him know she was going to take some days off to attend to her own mental health. Her boss, Ben Congleton, was not only supportive of her in his return email, but responded to reaffirm the “importance of using sick days for mental health” and praised her as an example for others to follow. The story quickly went viral¹, with many people lauding both Madalyn and Ben for being willing to tackle stigma and model the importance of mental health.

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Give Yourself Permission to Have Fun First by Gia & Danielle

By Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D.

It seems like there is never quite enough time in the day, the week, or the Summer for everything we want to do. As a therapist, I often encourage people to dedicate more time to self-care, particularly pleasurable and meaningful activities like spending time with friends, being in nature, exercising, or engaging in creative activities. Scientific studies have found that engaging in these types of positive activities improves mood and that increasing positive activities is as effective as more traditional cognitive therapy in the treatment of depression.¹

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Why the Way You Talk About Your Weight Matters by Gia & Danielle

By Dr. Danielle Keenan-Miller

I’ve worked with many clients who told me that they used harsh self-talk to keep themselves motivated. In fact, when the idea of using a kinder or more compassionate way of relating to themselves was introduced, many people have told me that they’re afraid they’ll no longer be motivated. There’s no domain in which this self-deprecating approach to motivation is more prominent or socially condoned than appearance, weight, and shape. Think about the last time someone paid you a compliment about your appearance...

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Learning to Live With Unhelpful Thoughts by Gia & Danielle

By Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D.

Your mind is not your friend. Don’t get me wrong-- your brain does lots of wonderful things, most importantly coordinating the many complex and intricate biological systems that must work in harmony for you to stay alive. And in many ways, our minds are responsible for the success of our species, our ability to anticipate, puzzle through problems, and build increasingly complex systems. But on a moment-by-moment basis, there’s a pretty good chance that your mind is not your friend.

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