I Drank the Unicorn...

Yep, that is exactly what you thought I was referring to.  The now infamous, Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino.  (and a mighty nice looking manicure, done by yours truly!)

This picture was taken on April 19, 2017.  My (gasp) thirty-third birthday.  It was day 5 of my yearly birthday stay-cation (a tradition I started when I turned thirty).  I was out enjoying my day, doing typical girly fun things, and decided I would see what the hype and negativity was all about.

If you are involved in the nutrition and wellness community in some way, you probably saw all sorts of blog posts or social media posts about this little drink.  Specifically, the paleo and "clean" eating community repeatedly trash talked and bashed this special limited edition offering from Starbucks.

As soon as the drink was announced, and listed on their menu, the trash talk started.  Things from the mainstream news media like "... tastes like sour birthday cake and shame..." to Food Babe's blog post analyzing all the ingredients and discouraging parents from buying it for their kids and many many others expressing outrage over the sugar content, and perceived marketing toward kids, yada yada yada.

So with all that negative feedback, why would I, a health and wellness minded counselor who treats eating disorders, order and ENJOY the unicorn?  There are a few reasons.  I'll start with the complaints about the ingredients

The unicorn frappuccino is honestly no worse than any of the other Starbucks Frappuccinos.  Anyone that thinks a frappuccino is a healthy snack is kidding themselves.  Just check out the ingredients and nutrition information on their website. In fact, MOST of the drinks at Starbucks are far from nutritious.  You can definitely make better choices, and there are options such as hot tea or coffee with whatever add ins you choose (whole milk, almond milk, stevia, honey).  But, come on, most people are not ordering those things. I view any drink at Starbucks as a treat or indulgence, I can make hot tea or coffee at home.

Next, the issue with marketing to children.... while I agree there are definite problems with our food industry marketing crap fake food products to children, this is nothing new! Starbucks has a Pokemon GO! Frappuccino for crying outloud.  Fast food restaurants sell KIDS MEALS with TOYS in them.  Cereals have cartoon character mascots. These are all BIG FOOD businesses, who are ultimately interested in the almighty dollar.  I don't have kids yet, but I can tell you, my kids will be allowed occasional well thought out treats, and yes, that might mean, a unicorn frappuccino (likely shared, with a discussion about mindful eating and why these are occasional treats.) And, to be honest, the unicorn was probably more marketed to instragramming basic white girls. Not 5 year olds.

Ok, so my main reason for choosing to drink the unicorn was simple.  I wanted one.  Plain, and simple.  It looked pretty. It peaked my interest (way to go Starbucks Marketing, you accomplished your task.) It was my birthday.  There were so many mixed reviews on the flavor, I was curious.  But, what about being health conscious and working with those who have eating disorders?  What about the fact that I, myself, have struggled with binge eating and sugar addiction (and, to be honest, still do at times)?  When it comes to recovery, and clean eating, my philosophy is simple: 80/20 eating, mindful eating, and all foods fit once you are IN recovery.  Would I recommend that one of my new clients who is still regularly binge eating, and has not gone through "detox" from sugar and crap food drink the unicorn?  Nope.  Would I recommend it for everyone?  Nope. When I chose to try it, I shared the choice with my binge eating group, so that I had accountability.  I ordered a small.  I drank it slowly, and mindfully.  I thought about the different flavors and textures.  I laughed at the insane colors and funky sprinkles.  I thought about all the outrage, and wondered what all the hoopla was about.  I decided, it was OK as far as flavor is concerned, and realized how much more I enjoy my whole food fruit smoothies, coconut milk ice cream, and thick creamy Greek yogurt these days.  Later, my husband and I ate a yummy home cooked dinner (steak, roasted potatoes, green beans, grilled peppers).  I enjoyed my birthday, and really had no regrets about the indulgence of the unicorn.

For me, that was THE best part about drinking the unicorn.  No guilt, no shame, no fear about the food choice I made.  

I enjoyed it.  

I had FUN.

And afterwards, it was back to healthy whole foods, and I enjoyed those too.

So, cheers to the unicorn and an occasional well thought out treat.


Train Your Brain!

Train Your Brain with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

You might be thinking to yourself "What is dialectical behavioral therapy?!" or "Not another self help gimmick."

There are definitely all sorts of mental health and self help resources floating around these days, and "mindfulness" has solidly established itself in pop culture.  These are all good things, but what do you do when all of those things either stop working, or never worked for you to begin with?  Do you struggle to manage stress, anxiety, depression, impulsive behaviors like self injury or other unhealthy coping skills? Allow me to introduce you to: dialectical behavioral therapy skills training or "DBT" for short.

DBT was developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan for the treatment of borderline personality disorder.  Since that time, it's use has been expanded to treat a variety of mental health concerns: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, stress, and other mood disorders. PsychCentral has a great article that explains the history and basics of DBT.  

DBT has five modules or core subjects: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Walking the Middle Path, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness.  


Mindfulness is the foundation of DBT, and is much more than sitting in the floor on a pillow saying "om... om..." Mindfulness is about becoming more in tune with your experiences and environment and how you respond to each.  It is about simplifying, less multitasking, and more effective single tasking. Mindfulness can be practiced by tapping into your spirituality, or it can be practiced by using apps like Calm or Headspace. DBT allows creativity and freedom to practice each skill in a way that works for you!

Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance is the "next level" of skills in DBT.  This focuses on use of some of the good old fashioned "coping skills" everyone talks about in therapy, but also introduces some new skills and more effective ways to implement those tried and true "coping skills."  Everyone experiences distress, but for someone with a personality disorder or other mental health concern, day to day stress can escalate quickly.  Distress tolerance teaches recognition and action for things you can change, and tolerance or "coping" with those you cannot.

Walking the Middle Path

Oh boy, this skills is one that EVERYONE could use a little help with (in my humble, licensed professional counselor opinion). Ever met anyone with that "my way or the highway" attitude, or someone who is just NOT capable of "agreeing to disagree."  This might be the skill for them.  This is the skill that really dives into the "dialectical" concept.  The focus is on developing understanding and acceptance that there is more than one way to see a situation, more than one way to solve a problem, understand that change is the only constant, and honoring the truth on all sides of a conflict without giving up your values or selling out.

Emotion Regulation

For those with mental illness, identifying and understanding emotions can be very challenging.  Emotion regulation provides skills to help you identify, understand, accept, and regulate those emotions.  Things such as sadness, anger, anxiety, and shame can be horribly debilitating, but they do not have to be! Emotion regulation can help decrease unhealthy coping such as cutting, binge eating, or other impulsive behaviors.  It can also be useful to help prevent unhealthy responses to feelings of mania and elation.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Last, and certainly NOT least, is interpersonal effectiveness. These skills are designed to help those with mental health challenges approach relationships with friends and family in more healthy ways.  These skills can help you keep and maintain healthy relationships, help you ask for something you want or need, learn how to effectively say no, learn how to solve a problem or resolve a conflict, and learn how to maintain your self respect while doing all these things. 

Is DBT right for me?

Well, could you benefit from any of the above skills or techniques? If the answer is yes, then DBT might be right for you.  This summer at Personal Relationships, Inc, I will be facilitating TWO different Dialectical Behavioral Skills Training groups, an adolescent "camp" and a longer skills training group/support group for adults.

The adolescent group will run June 6-29, and will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30-12:30. This is for ages 14-18 (upcoming freshman through upcoming seniors.) Participants will create a coping skills box, as well as put together a binder with skills handouts for use with their outpatient therapists.

The adult group will begin May 15, and will be ongoing on Mondays from 5:30-7:00 pm. Participants will have the option to either complete the skills training (20 sessions total) and "graduate," or continue to attend the group for support. Clients will use the Linehan workbook, and have the option to either use a DBT Skills Journal or an app to record skills used.

If you are interested in either of these groups, please call 205-979-6822 or 205-565-1229.