Eating Disorders Unveiled: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

“To eat or not to eat?”… Is that really the question?

OK. Everybody knows somebody who has struggled with an eating disorder. Or maybe you are that someone who battles the daily decision to eat, not eat, under-eat, or over-eat. It is time that we stop pretending that anorexia and bulimia nervosa are “just a control thing”. Eating disorders are complicated and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and recovery.  If you suspect you or someone you know has an eating disorder, there are a couple of thoughts you might like to keep in mind.

Did you know that:

    • Eating disorders can cause abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which may mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower. An ED (eating disorder) may also cause one/some of the following: reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones; muscle loss and weakness; severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure, fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness; dry hair and skin; hair loss, or growth of a downy layer of hair—called lanugo—all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.
    • Focusing on body appreciation instead of body criticism is a novel idea. Constantly looking at, touching, or pinching a certain area of the body can lead to self-loathing or guilt. Instead, aim to find some sort of value in that area of the body. For example, I might challenge a woman or teenage-girl who “hates” the part of her belly that makes a “pudge” to appreciate its potential value: it has been or might be the precise place that has/will allow(ed) her to bear a child.
    • Providing a good example is more feasible than you think. People, particularly your children and teens, pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body. So, refer to yourself with respect and appreciation. Discuss your goals, accomplishments, talents, and character when you are around your family and friends instead of  allowing your body weight and shape to determine the course of your day and attitude.
    • Talking less, not more, about food and body weight might help to direct the focus away from eating disorder tendencies. Take my week challenge: for 7 days, try not to comment to anyone on what they are wearing, what they are eating, or their weight. Can you do it?  Can you see someone and refrain from complimenting their style or beauty?  Instead, ask a question about their day or weekend. The goal is to stay neutral about body weight, food choices, and body image. A person’s body weight or muscularity says nothing about their character, personality, or value as a person.

If you think that you or someone you know might have an eating disorder, consider gently expressing concern and support the idea of meeting with an experienced professional counselor and/or dietitian. For this type of support, you can contact us at 713-365-9015 or

For more information or for eating disorder awareness tools/skills, consider visiting  the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at

I Hate Valentine’s Day!

By Jerry Duncan, M Div, LMFT and Jill Early, M Ed, LPC-Intern

When the 14th starts looming over the mid-February horizon, MANY people who are not in the mythical, perfectly loving, and romantic relationship start thinking something like:  “Oh no, another Valentine’s Day SEASON!  It’s like Christmas… they start advertising at Halloween about the perfect gifts and how wonderful the SEASON is going to be.  I’ll be glad when it’s over!”

This group of people often feel the pain and/or sadness of not being in a “special” relationship for any of the reasons that are a real part of life… breakup, divorce, death, thinking they are unlovable or unwanted, etc.  Like most people, they have accepted the myth as truth that it SHOULD be a super special day.  However, day 45 of the calendar year is just like days 44 and 46, in terms of relationship.

There are at least three things on which to focus that have the potential for being helpful if Valentine’s day creates these kinds of feelings.

  • Honestly evaluate what our role might be in not being in one of the so-called SPECIAL relationships, learn from that evaluation, and make a plan for how to change ourselves in the next 364 days so that we can experience what we might prefer.
  • Accept and rejoice that we are not faced daily with the challenge and effort required to create and maintain a healthy relationship that might slightly resemble the mythical one which is the focus of Valentine’s Day.
  • Focus on the other significant relationships we have and challenge ourselves to give THEM the experience of knowing how they are important, loved, adored, valued, and cherished by at least one person, us.  How wonderful it might feel to anticipate the day knowing that we were going to offer those SPECIAL feelings for someone else to fully experience and enjoy.  How wonderful it might feel to go to bed (yes, alone) that night with the feeling it would give us knowing what we had done for someone else that day.  Focusing outward on what we can extend to others can be even more rewarding than focusing on what we lack.

Decoding Valentine’s Day

By Jill Early, M Ed, LPC Intern and Jerry Duncan, M Div, LMFT

Valentine’s Day is a time designated for demonstrating how much we value another person. Some people associate it with things like chocolates, jewelry, expensive dinners, and/or greeting card companies making billions of dollars.  Unfortunately, it is also a time when many people feel anxious about whether they are right in their “guessing” what would demonstrate that sense of being valued for the other person.

Therein lies the problem in most relationship decisions.  We tend to operate as though “I should just know” or “he/she should just know” when it comes to most decisions regarding what helps the other person feel loved in a close relationship.  This could include holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, weekends, social preferences, or simply where to go to dinner. This belief often leads to a fear of simply asking or simply telling each other our preferences. We act as if telling each other what we prefer diminishes the thoughtfulness of what is given, done, or expressed, and then “it doesn’t mean as much”.

This belief also reveals another relationship challenge called “ignorance”.  That word may sound pretty harsh and is laden with emotion; therefore a definition is important for clarity.  It means the absence of information.  Our culture, our families, our schools, (pick someone to blame if you want), only teach us to talk, not communicate.  If we ask for the solution to above-mentioned problem, most don’t know the answer because we were never taught or had it modeled for us.

The solution is to learn how to:

  • express our honest feelings
  • ask for information that we need but don’t have
  • discover what another person INTERPRETS as being an expression of love, adoration, and being highly valued

Consider these steps:

  • Both partners read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  • Discuss what you read
  • Clearly TEACH the other person what helps YOU genuinely believe you are loved

An example for Valentine’s Day that can be applied to everyday situations might sound like this:

“Because I love you so much, it is really important to me that I make Valentine’s Day the best day it can be for you in ways that you would most want for me to do them.  Would you be willing to let me know what some of those ways might be?”  The answers will vary widely from the usual to the unexpected, from jewelry/chocolate/flowers to vacuum out my car, clean the big window in the den, give me a massage that isn’t sexual, or just ignore it altogether.  The list of answers could be infinite and surprising.

May you have the courage to ask then act on what you learn.  May your Valentine’s Day and your relationships be more rewarding and intimate because of your efforts!

Dating Danger Signs

Do not be fooled, this article is for you! Whether you are currently in a dating relationship, hoping to date soon, or even if you are in a long-term, committed relationship and want to be able to provide good advice to your loved ones who are in the dating world, pay attention to this information!

We’ve all heard it said, “He’s the one. He’s perfect.” As joyful as those words sound and how desperately we long for the fairy tale love story, the butterflies do eventually flutter away. We find that this “perfect” person is actually human and does make mistakes after all. Every relationship will have its trials and tribulations and every couple will have differences. However, it’s extremely important to know when these differences are too much? The red flags below are significant signs that your relationship is at risk or has the potential to become hazardous.

Your relationship may be in dangerous waters if you:

• Participate in frequent arguments over the same issues.
• Get involved physically sooner than you desire.
• Experience abuse of any kind: verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual.
• Avoid sensitive subjects in fear of hurting your partner’s feelings and/or starting an argument.
• Notice an absence of spiritual compatibility.
• Remain in the relationship out of fear.
• Always do what your partner wants to do and have few shared interests.
• Find the people who love you are strongly against the relationship.

Beware if your partner:

• Displays a lack of trust: overly jealous, suspicious, or questions your motives.
• Continually makes excuses for not keeping a job or lacking money.
• Responds with angry outbursts, extreme reactions, or highly defensive remarks.
• Constantly criticizes who you are or what you do.

If any of these danger signs resonate for you, PAY ATTENTION. Take a step back and further evaluate the situation. Have the confidence to ask for help. Trust yourself. If your heart tells you that you need out, RUN, don’t walk!