Food Issues May Increase Over Holidays

Presents are great, laughter with family and friends is nice, but some of us believe that the real enjoyment of the holidays is the abundance of food. Special meals and traditional dishes are prepared this time of year. Some of us are very mindful of healthy eating now, so that we may fully indulge in the sometimes not-so-healthy meals we will have over the holidays.

As our aunts, mothers, and grandmothers gather in the kitchen, (men in some families too) and create what can only be described as magical aromas, it is sometimes difficult to keep in mind that members of our family require dietary support. Not only can some of us have severe food allergies (e.g. gluten, nuts, dairy), but some of us also require a lot more TLC (tender, loving care) during the holidays. Disordered eating issues can also be worse during the holidays and family get togethers.

“As she reached puberty, her thin frame began to fill out, raising concerns about the effects of her weight gain on her performance as a gymnast. She began to restrict her intake of food, but found that after several days of semi-starvation she would lose control and go on an eating binge. This pattern of dieting and binging lasted for several months, during which her fear of becoming fat seemed to increase. At age 13, she hit on the ‘solution’ of self-induced vomiting. She quickly fell into a pattern of episodes of alternating binging and vomiting three or four times per week,” (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002).

Coping with disordered eating can be quite difficult over the holiday season.  Those suffering may feel like family members will be paying particular attention to them because they are the ones with “the problem.”  Uneasiness with meal times and menu planning is quite often present, making certain topics and particular foods become “off the table”. It may just be helpful to reduce tension by developing a “peace treaty” for the holidays, withdrawing stress raising topics and foods from the holiday menu because they are known triggers to unhealthy eating behaviours.

Over the Christmas holidays, we wish your family all the best as you cope with thoughts and situations that can easily hinder a fun-filled and relaxing holiday experience.

Should you want assistance with family relationship improvements and to recover from disordered eating patterns,  schedule your appointment for 2014 today!

You’re Not Alone in This… There Are Others Out There!

Today we hear from a young teen who admittedly struggles with being an only child. This is useful for others as well as for parents who are seeking a deeper understanding and ways to help their child grow and develop well.

Hello there!!!  Tell me, have any of you had recent fights with your siblings? Are you really struggling to fit in with your siblings, to try and prove you can be better than they are? If any of you have these problems or any other problems related to siblings, don’t come to me, or read this.

I’m an only child, as most of you probably guessed judging by the title, and here are some things that I deal with every day. This is to all those only children out there; you aren’t the only ones who feel like this.

First thing is, well we’re mostly alone. I personally have got nobody to hang out with at home.  I had to teach myself how to keep busy. With no siblings to turn to, what are you going to do?

After the loneliness comes the extreme boredom. What are you going to do? Ask your parents……. YEAH RIGHT, no siblings……. Face it!!!!

The only things we can do are read, watch TV, computer games, electronic devices, and these are the FUN topics. Yeah, I said the fun topics.

What about your personality? Are you shy, quiet, and unsociable like me? Or are you the carefree social butterfly with a confident attitude and yet desperately needs to hang out with friends? My guess, you’re probably like me.

It’s not your fault and it never will be. It’s because of the way you grew up; you adapted to a one-child lifestyle. I was anyways. You might’ve been too and if not, then you are very VERY lucky. I know I always wonder if I had siblings would I be different. Would I’ve been raised into a different person with a different personality and talents? I also don’t want that. What if I didn’t have the talents I have, what would I do? I just want to say you’re not alone in this; there are others out there with the same problems.

I know some of you read this because you want to know how to deal with it, the truth is that I don’t know. I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve never gotten over the fact that my childhood memories are about me playing alone; asking for people to play with me but always getting the answer no. I don’t know how to deal with it, but I’m trying, and all of you should try too.


When we hold our newborns in our arms, we are overwhelmed with feelings, emotions and thoughts. In fact, the term overwhelmed is an understatement of the first time this miracle appears in our arms. Yes, we had nine months to ponder what these tiny creations will look like, or how their personalities will develop and grow. We may sometimes even stress about all the dos and dont’s to keep our babies safe and as healthy as possible.

When they finally arrive, we whisper to ourselves (because no one can know that we’d ever ask such a question) “How on earth am I going to raise this child? How can I prevent her from being teased, or bullied? How can I get her to go to university and become successful? How do I get her to NOT have sex before marriage?”

If all these questions are screaming at you (even still today), know that you are not alone. You are not the first parent to doubt your capabilities. Not the first parent to want to keep any negativity and danger away from your child.

So now she’s 11 and growing into a beautiful young lady. She is beginning the steps of… “puberty” displaying hints of physical and emotional maturity. She does, however, not know it all yet (although she may portray that she does). She knows every song on the radio by heart, every new fashion trend, and all the celebrity gossip information. But she doesn’t know how to spell every word she speaks, still needs help comprehending math problems and is not yet equipped to conquer the world.

She dances beautifully, is confident in her own skin (so far), and shows love, respect and loyalty to her family (although she still needs gentle reminders to give kisses to her grandparents). So for the most part, she’s perfect! So what’s the problem? Why do parents feel like their babies are slipping away? ……they are not babies anymore.

All those questions we asked when we first held our babies in our arms and have stuck with us through their childhood; but now it is time to switch gears and throw those expectations away. Your child, now a preteen is growing, developing, forming moral opinions and has hopefully adopted a positive and healthy belief system. Pat yourself on the back for the work you’ve done (so far).

Our job as parents is to stay consistent with our love and support while providing increased flexibility alongside clear structure and boundaries. It’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s okay to grow and develop as a parent as your child is growing and developing as well. Reading parenting books may not be high on our piorities or something we have much time for. Find time anyway… yes you too fathers! Get books, audio books for the commute, find videos to learn from and even seek wise counsel as you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing and enhanced parenting approach.

Staying consistent with love means that the foundation of support and meeting your child’s needs is solid. It helps if we as parents attain patience. Santosha, a Sanskrit word meaning contentment and satisfaction, is a great way to allow ourselves to be patient in good times and in not so good times. We have shared many blogs about family relationships, conflict-resolution and sexuality that can help parents with those “not so good” times. Embracing Santosha helps parents when stages in our child’s development arise and may be difficult to cope with.

Flexibility involves awareness. Awareness that the time we were 11 is much different than the times for 11 year olds now. So things may seem to be happening too fast and our kids may know way more than we did when we were that age; but it’s okay!

Flexibility also involves honesty and open communication. The ability of a parent and child to speak openly and honestly, hear each other’s point of view and share opinions is truly powerful. More powerful than trying to control environments, set strict and unrealistic rules and refrain from the child’s input.

Being a parent is a life-long job and we can support you through the most challenging parts of what may be the most rewarding experience of your life. Call us today!

Help For Eating Disorders Saves Lives – Durham Region

In a “sweeping” analysis of 77 studies, involving more than 15,000 subjects, University of Wisconsin researchers post-doctoral student Shelley Grabe and psychology professor Janet Hyde found that “exposure to media depicting ultra thin actresses and models significantly increased women’s concerns about their bodies, including how dissatisfied they felt and their likelihood of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviours such as excessive dieting.” (

My earliest memories about my appearance were of my mom and me (although I think I had insecurities about my appearance prior to these recollections). She would say that I would look prettier if I didn’t have my father’s nose. Absurd, I know now; however, that was a comment that stuck by me for the rest of my childhood and well into being a young adult.

So here’s how stinkin’ thinkin’ worked. It took that one silly comment from my mom and planted it into my head (like a seed being planted into the ground). Then, it would look at all my experiences to come and water the seed so that that one comment would grow and other related thoughts would sprout. Thoughts such as, “I’m ugly” “I’m not good enough” “I’m fat” “I don’t want to eat” “If only I was skinny like her.

Much of my experiences revolved around the media. Going to school and developing friendships, most of our conversations included the latest fashion trends, the hottest celebrity gossips or the fittest athletes. Body images were ingrained in me and consumed much of my eating, clothing, and activity choices.

I eventually became so tired of thinking about my body appearance. My body’s health and well-being now overshadow the superficial ideations exposed by the media. I’ve been blessed with education on disordered eating, self-esteem building, healthy body-image thought processes and family conflict and dynamics.  This has allowed me to discover that with healthy mind management, my external environment can have little to no control over who I am, what I look lik, and how I feel about myself. I learned that the cultural ideal of beauty is unrealistic and prejudice.

The authors of the study cited above emphatically conclude;

“We’ve demonstrated that it doesn’t matter what the exposure is, whether it’s general TV watching in the evening, or magazines or ads showing on a computer. If the image is appearance-focused and sends a clear message about a woman’s body as an object, then it’s going to affect women.” (Postdoctoral researcher Shelly Grabe)

For some of us, more help and assistance is required. And that’s perfectly OK! Some of us suffer from feeling powerless against our thoughts, images from the media, and difficult relationships in our lives. There are few safe outlets in our community that provide us with the strength to cope and heal. Disordered eating behaviours can develop unknowingly and unconsciously, often masquerading as our best and only way of coping within an unsafe and chaotic environment.

Disordered eating involves a wide range of abnormal eating behaviours, such as chronic restrained eating, compulsive eating and habitual eating. Eating patterns are chaotic and the physiological aspects of eating (like feeling hungry or full) are ignored (

Some people, even the ones who love us the most, have a difficult time understanding disordered eating or what is required to provide support during recovery. This is normal, however, the lack of understanding may create increased conflict and stress for the entire family. The process of overcoming disordered eating patterns takes a lot of work and a supportive and informed environment is essential for success.

Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, a registered, professional counselling service in Oshawa, Ontario, works with the individual engaging in abnormal eating and their family members. Treatment is catered to their individual needs and goals. It is important to include family doctors and registered dietitians in the recovery process. We also strongly encourage family members and loved ones to participate in family sessions.  This can help families improve and strengthen their relationships as well as learn to create loving and supportive environments for those in recovery.  To start your road to recovery, call us today.

Where are the instructions?

Our previous post “Am I the Ugly Duckling” came from a son describing the trouble he is having in his family.  Today we bring you the father’s point of view.

“Growing up on a small island, I became accustomed to very structured roles of what it meant to be a man, and a father. So having two boys of my own, I was thrilled at the opportunity that my life learnings may be shared and transferred onto my children.

Somewhere I did something wrong. From the time they were toddlers, I tried to spend as much time as possible with them. Then, when I got the opportunity to introduce them to sports, I thought, ‘This is the best life.’ What became hard for me was accepting that my boys had in different interests. I think I tried my best to support my son’s magic card acts, which eventually got him into playing poker.

But disconnect from my son has become almost unbearable, and I feel a bit hopeless. Wanting to see both my sons happy and also not being okay with some of their decisions is difficult to express. All I am seeing now is a son who is smoking pot and not making any attempt to find a proper job or look into furthering his education. So needless to say that the conflicts in our home are increasing; my sons are no longer talking; I just don’t know what to do.

A part of me feels like I have failed as a father, and I do not handle failure very well. My sons are young adults and my wife and I are in our early fifties, so we can either endure this broken home for another 30 years or we can get some help. But where do we start?”

Often times, the trouble in families is built up from years and years of difficult behaviours, troubling thoughts, and increased conflict. With this amount of pressure on a family, it becomes even more difficult to find solutions to cope, mend broken relationships, and improve each other’s lives.

It is never too late to improve family!  The first step to getting help is reaching out. Contact us today and take that first step to helping your family.

* Tune into the next post as we provide information on family conflict and a few tools and strategies that help families cope better.

Sometimes being the ugly duckling is not just looking different from what is familiar. It also involves acting different, choosing different paths, and making choices that others may not agree with. This can create tension with the people close to us and it can be difficult to cope with and handle when we don’t have the right tools to deal with it. The next two posts will be reflections from a son and father’s point of view. The third post to follow will provide some information on family conflict and strategies and tools that families may apply to their relationships.

“I began to feel like an outsider, partly because I would sleep in the day and play poker games at night until sunrise. Somewhere along graduating high school and poker games I felt like an outsider to my own family. Conflicts got more heated and became a daily routine. I felt like no one in my family understood me. I still feel like this, four years later…and I have nowhere to turn.”

Many teen and parents struggle to find common ground, to discuss tough subjects in a respectful and effective manner and to communicate in ways that build bridges rather than walls. When distance sets in it is quite common for teens to turn to hurtful behaviours to cope, begin failing at school and even resort to cutting, drug misuse and running.

Call us today for more information on how our Oshawa counsellors can help.

Tomorrow, in the post Am I a Bad Parent?, we hear dad’s point of view. It is hoped that these posts help families, who share similar challenges, not feel so alone and learn new strategies for positive growth.

Probably the single most challenging issue we face as humans, compared to other mammals, is the length of time it takes us to raise our young. Depending on the area of the globe you live in, this can range anywhere from sixteen to twenty years. In most families, ongoing support of various kinds is still being provided for years or decades afterward.

Rapid changes in the pre-teen and teen years challenge and push parents to acquire new information and develop new skills.  Teens are merely doing what comes naturally, changing socially, emotionally, physically, intellectually, ethically, spiritually and psychologically and stressing parents as part of this magnificent metamorphosis. Enjoying this stage of life can be hard, especially if we listen to all the negativity out there about teens.

Don’t buy into the negative story. Children and parents struggle as part of normal family growth and development. Keeping upbeat and positive about child rearing is a monumental task rarely done very well without help. There are many books… so change the age old negative phrase to say, they do come with a manual, in fact, many!”.  Further, mentors, coaches or counsellors are available who are equipped to teach new strategies and provide you with the tools necessary for raising confident, healthy and highly effective teens.

If you find you are struggling too much, are stressed and worried about your young person and unsure what to do then … contact us today !