Anorexia and the Window of Tolerance

Warning: “informative read” aka kind of boring but really good insight #ifimaysaysomyself….

Anorexia Nervosa is physically visible as a disease of bodily malnourishment, and can be easily spotted in a struggling individual. Physical markers like shockingly low weight, gaunt face, cold hands and feet, inability to focus, among others, are easy to spot. However, the deeper seated malnourished inside the mind hides more than only the body shows. The psychological turmoil faced by those suffering ranges from abuse, trauma, pain, lack of control, a poor or non-existent self-worth, and more. Overall, the suppression of pain has been cultivated by the anorexic, in order to survive a life circumstance. Of the many causes, the reaction is the same, and can be expressed as an inability to stay within a symbolically thin window of tolerance. Mindfulness, and reconnecting with the lost sense of self as one learns to reacquaint themselves with safety in their own presence is key in healing from Anorexia Nervosa.

Trauma, regardless of the avenue experienced, is something many of us face in our lives. Through evolutionary coping mechanisms that instill a survival instinct, we engage in dissociation as a protective means to attempt to find peace and to live on. An eating disorder manifests in this way, by means of coping and controlling external stimuli when feeling out of locus of control. The Anorexic feels forced to dissociate from their body, to not live inside it, but to hover on the outside, where they feel safely disconnected from the source of trauma and pain. This is a very wise way in which to survive pain and threat, and is defined as the Fight or Flight response. The Fight response directly speaks to a feeling of emotional overwhelm, panic, feeling unsafe, angry, racing thoughts and anxiety. This can be named the state of “hyper-arousal”, and is a state of coping where we have left our window of the tolerable level of trauma experience in our lives, and are in overdrive of engagement. By contrast, hypo-arousal, the “flight” response, is where the individual numbs themselves, disconnecting from painful thoughts, engaging in feelings of shame and diving into a deep, isolating depression. It should be noted that both states cultivate a sense of isolation, as an Eating Disorder originates from feeling unsafe in one’s own body. And so, by receding from contact, the Anorexic is seeking to blanket themselves away from harm’s way.

Conversely, the happy window of tolerance that is to be cultivated for a physically and psychologically healthy individual is one that can be described as a condition where one finds it easy to carry on with daily life in a state of well being. When this window is in an appropriate range, life’s challenges are easy to cope with. When the window shrinks through dissociation, receding, numbing and when survival mode kicks in, many events are triggers into dissociation from the body, and the coping mechanisms harnessed are engaged. For anorexics, this being self-starvation.

Although the causes range drastically of why trauma occurred that shook the person so much that they found life to be unsafe, the idea of suppression and dissociation are always present. This is why the healing process must include a reintegration of the self back inwards. Emotional resilience results from a deep sense of connection with one’s needs, and is in a healthy state of balance within a range of tolerance when the boundaries of one’s limits are known, and able to be recognized in the present moment. Physical markers by form of body signals are shown, such as a rapid pulse, body temperature, observing racing thoughts, cold or hot flashes, restlessness or a sense of apathy. When these informative feelings surface, it is important to acknowledge them, and to reflect upon their source. This is the beginning of cultivating a sense of mindfulness back into the body, when the Anorexic has made it an innate habit to shut off the mechanisms of feeling emotions. By using meditative and mindfulness techniques, the healing journey can begin, and slowly, compoundedly, the Anorexic will gain awareness that the coping mechanisms that once saved them are no longer needed, as the threat is gone. In this way, the window of tolerance will widen, when occurrences are no longer seen as threats to one’s safety. A deep sense of ease will be reinstilled into one’s life, fuelled by an unwavering sense of self-knowledge, self-trust, and calamity to face life’s challenges. As this process takes place, the coping of self-starvation will slowly be weaned. Techniques like yoga, meditation, Qi gong, reflection, journaling, focusing on the breath, psychological therapy, and art expression are all means though which grounding self-knowledge provides a healing space to recover from loss of self, and from a life outside one’s shrunken window of tolerance.

Anorexia Nervosa is a debilitating illness, whose cause has a multitude of trauma. However, manifestation in dissociation from one’s body, and a loss of sense of self are all present and necessary in order for the disease to form patterns in the Anorexic. By becoming aware of the self through methods like Yoga, Mindfulness, Meditation, Qi Gong, talk-therapy, journaling, reflection, art therapy and more, an Anorexic is able to widen their window of tolerance and learn to feel safe in the world. As this regrounding process takes place, the window of tolerance widens, and one can slowly learn to end the coping cycle of self-starvation. The hope of recover is something that every hurt person needs, and getting support through this process is integral to a wholesome recovery. Pain is not a feeling that is enjoyable to experience, but by observing it and trusting in the self to overcome it, life becomes more safe. It is not that we tolerate more pain; it is that fewer of life’s challenges cause us to lose our ground, as fewer are experienced as pain. Knowing thyself is the gift of liberation, and there is hope.

Sources:

“Mindfulness And The Window Of Tolerance”. St. Michael’s Hospital Mental Health (2017): n. pag. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.

Melanie Sakowski is a Holistic Nutritionist, a Yoga Instructor, a Triathlete and an Eating Disorder warrior on a healing journey in Toronto. She believes in the power of self-connection through mind-body work in a holistic view of wellness, and looks forward to helping others heal from trauma through a multifaceted approach to wellness.

Free Example of a Daily Template

On Routine:

routine

The body likes routine.  I’m not referring to a totally calculated and pre-planned existence, but more-so a plan with relative regularity in scheduling certain daily patterns:

  • Eating times
  • Exercise times
  • Sleep/Wake-up times
  • Poop times

The body flows into a rhythm, a cadence, and a beat when we listen well to its needs, and fine-tune a schedule.  Believe it or not, this implementation of a plan is key to a myriad of health benefits like:

  • minimizing disease
  • skin issues
  • weight fluctuations
  • stress
  • headaches
  • chronic illness
  • fatigue
  • gut disturbances, and more.

Although a totally monotonous lifestyle is a recipe for lacklustre predictability, give or take a half hour of buffer space, eating times, exercise times, and sleep times are a good thing to routinize.

It takes some experimentation and individualization, because everyone is different, but ultimately, once a nice pattern is formed, and fine-tuned with love and attentive to moderation and deep intuition, I can say from first-hand experience that it transformed my life from a place of extreme self-harm, to utmost self-love, calm, self-awareness and peace.

As promised, here is an example of a daily template:

7:00AM Wake up
Say morning mantra and practice abdominal Pranayama breathing while still in bed
Brush teeth, wash face, use toilet

7:15AM
Morning walk, 10 mins

7:30AM
Prepare breakfast
Practice cultivating gratitude and focus on breath for 1 min
Eat meal in calm and peace, with no phone/technology/e-mail checking

9:00AM 60 swim minute Workout
WU

600 swim
10 x 50 as break-out/build @ 50s

MS 1
21 x 50 @ 50s as:
3x
1) break-out
2) 25!/25ez
3) 35!/15 ez
4) AO!
5) ascend
6) 25!/25ez
7) build

100 ez

4 x 150 @ 2:15 as: 25 scull/25 breathing-5/25 breathing-7/25 ALL OUT!/50K NB underwater on your side (25LS/25RS)

100 ez

10 x 75 as (100 ez after first 5)
first 5: breathing 3-5-7
last 5: breathing 7-5-3
ALL ODDS: ascending
ALL EVENS: descending

CD

300 ez
500 dr/sc/k/sw/pull

12:00PM
10 minute walk

12:15PM Lunch
Prepare lunch
Practice cultivating gratitude and focus on breath for 1 min
Eat meal in calm and peace, with no phone/technology/e-mail checking

4PM Snack
Prepare snack
Practice cultivating gratitude and focus on breath for 1 min
Eat meal in calm and peace, with no phone/technology/e-mail checking

6:00 PM
Evening walk, 10 mins

6:15PM
Prepare dinner
Practice cultivating gratitude and focus on breath for 1 min
Eat meal in calm and peace, with no phone/technology/e-mail checking

8PM
Small evening snack
Night time meditation, sitting and focusing on breath for 10 minutes, and reviewing the day

10PM Goodnight 

  • Notes:

    Try to eat only so much that you know you will be hungry in 3-4hours.
    Be aware of your self-duty in this process of finding your balanced state of being and mind.
    Be aware and accepting that this process might take some tweaking, patience is key.
    Re-assess, re-assess, and re-asses!
    Namasthe 🙂

Here’s a good song, have a sweet Thursday!  Stay tuned for a package to individualize a jump-start weekly program, and 30 day re-set including recipes, and applicable workouts.

Elephant Journal Article: 12 Ayurvedic Tips for Healthy Eating. ~ Julie Bernier

I’d like to post this great article from Elephant Journal that explains some tips for healthy eating that are even more important than WHAT we’re eating, but HOW we’re eating.
This is one of the biggest themes in my life, and sharing how I’ve learned some great lessons to tailor my own healing journey is one of my most intuitively integral purposes in my life.
lifestyle design
I am creating a Lifestyle Design Package for a template, as well as a free daily example of what a well-designed, routinized day looks like.  I’ll be offering the package for a 30 day deal, with a one-week jump start to reboot your life, and begin to make changes to engineer a life with healthier habits for finding your ideal weight, lowering stress, improving digestion and gut health, as well as calming the mind and dispelling chronic illnesses and insomnia.
The plan will include:
  • Scheduled eating times throughout the day
  • Movement and walks prior to each meal
  • Mindful breathing practice for 60s prior to each meal
  • 7 Thirty minute workouts for each day of the week (one active rest day of stretching/Yoga included)
  • Ayurvedic/Paleo/Sattvicly inclined meal options including recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and snacks
  • Highlights on where to focus on mindfulness meditation techniques including: awareness of body and mind-state, stress state, intuition, commitment, self-duty, authenticity to self and others
  • Emphasis on maintainable plan that is fine tuned to the individual, for longterm change, CONSISTENCY, slowing down, surrendering to intuition, and a sense of calmness and being grounded.
Side effects include: improved immunity, happy demeanour, positive attitude, good poops, more fun, and wholesome, holistic health. 🙂

It’s More Than What We Eat: 12 Ayurvedic Tips for Healthy Eating. ~ Julie Bernier

Julie Bernier

Via on Oct 13, 2013

holiday-eating-binging-nutrition-health

A lot of us really care aboutwhat we eat.

We buy organic, avoid GMOs, weigh up antioxidants, evaluate the glycemic index: all factors relating to the quality of the food entering our bodies.

Props to us for doing our research and making healthy choices, but it’s all done in vain if we don’t give as much attention to the process of eating itself. It’s not only what we eat, but alsohow we eat that matters.

Ayurveda, the science of life, teaches us how to eat.

This concept may seem a little silly at first. After all, we’ve got decades of practice under our belts!

But let’s face it, the norm in our busy American lives is eating in the car, standing up, when we’re stressed, in a rush and chowing down on cold leftovers straight from the fridge. Under these conditions, we don’t digest properly and even the most wholesome food becomes unwholesome to the body. There’s certainly room for improvement.

For this reason, Ayurveda gives us upayoga samstha: the art of eating.

Here are the guidelines:

1. Eat when your food is warm.

It shouldn’t be too hot or too cold. Warm food ensures we don’t snuff out the agni (digestive fire) and makes for good digestion.

2. Eat freshly cooked food.

Fresh food is full of prana (life force) and nutrients. These start to diminish soon after it’s cooked. By the time it’s a leftover, the properties have changed and it’s heavy for the body to digest. Cooking every single meal may not be realistic but at least try to avoid food that’s been cooked more than 24 hours before.

3. Eat the right quantity of food.

Overeating leads to indigestion and undereating leads to loss of strength. There’s no standard amount that’s right for everyone because we’re all different sizes and have different needs. Find your right amount by filling your belly 50 percent with food, 25 percent with liquids and leave 25 percent empty for digestive action.

4. Chew your food thoroughly and eat at a moderate pace.

Digestion starts in the mouth.Chewing your food properly makes it easier for the rest of the system to process.

5. Wait until the previous meal is digested before eating again.

Ayurveda says that feeding the system too soon is a major cause of ill health. How to know if your food is digested? You should feel light, enthusiastic, hungry, and thirsty.

6. Eat around the same time each day.

The body thrives on routine. The digestive system does well when it can expect its meals at a certain hour. It’s prepared and ready for action.

7. Eat when you’re hungry.

Hunger (meaning true hunger, not the munchies) is a natural urge that should not be suppressed. Once you’ve got an eating routine going, you’ll find that you’re hungry when it’s meal time and won’t crave snacks. Listen to your body’s hunger cues when given.

8. Never eat when you’re upset.

Wholesome food will lose its wholesomeness in the digestive tract if it’s eaten with a negative state of mind. If you’re upset, angry or crying, postpone eating until you feel better.

9. Eat in a quiet, settled atmosphere.

A calm environment promotes a calm mind. And the state of mind has a direct impact on the physical body and the process of digestion.

10. Always sit down to eat.

Try your best not to eat in the car, while walking or even while standing. The body doesn’t want to multitask when you’re eating. Sitting ensures that all your energy is given to digestion.

11. Concentrate on your food.

When you give it your full attention it will taste better, you’ll enjoy it more and you’ll be less tempted to overeat because you’ll notice those cues of satiation. Avoid distractions like eating in front of the TV, reading or working.

12. Sit for a few minutes after each meal.

Don’t eat and run. Just be still for a little while to let your digestive system do its thing.

These guidelines are simple but make a big difference. When you choose seasonal, local, organic foods appropriate for your body andeat them in the right manner, your body can process the food the way it’s supposed to.

Good health starts with good digestion.

When you can’t stop thinking, Sing.

indian princesses

At The Yoga Institute where I got certified as a Yoga Instructor, the Director, Hansaji Jayadeva Yogendra shared with us a few healthy habits to incorporate into our lives.

Simple Good Life Tips from a Yoga Perspective: (basically, from a “self-love” perspective)

  • walk for 10 mins before and after eating, faster before, slower after
  • breathe deep for 60 seconds before eating a meal
  • practice Jalneti, or clearing of the nasal passage daily 
  • practice asanas, or yoga postures daily
  • think less

Sooooo, the bolded point.  This is tricky.

During a walk with Hansaji one morning, I was humming and hawing about my life troubles, like: my ass that had been injured, a sense of “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life”, being broke, and wanting to travel.

She let me ramble, and then said, “Canadian girl, you think too much.  Less thought will mean more peace, and then you will see how your life will just happen as it is meant to.”

To this, I replied, “I know, way too much, and am struggling with how to stop so that I can just live.”

She then said this brilliant thing, “When you find that you cannot stop thinking, sing.”

I love this, have loved it since, and have followed it.  It is wonderful, I suggest to try it!  By singing, the mind is unable to multitask, and it focuses instead on the beauty of the melody that you are singing along to.  It’s like laughter, an instant vacation, so calming and blissful.

Here’s a sweet lil mantra that I fell in love with.  It’s a pop version of a powerful mantra, that is one of the oldest and most powerful of Sanskrit mantras . It is believed that by chanting the Gayatri mantra and firmly establishing it in the mind, if you carry on your life and do the work that is ordained for you, your life will be full of happiness.  You can often find me singing it on the Scarborough streets, among other songs 🙂