Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Slender Trap - A Must Read!

I’m excited to share something special with you: a book. More specifically: a workbook. Even more specifically: a food and body workbook. I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing The Slender Trap by Lauren Lazar Stern, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, but the really exciting part is now – when I get to share it with you.

There are so many ways to review a book, and since The Slender Trap is by far the most creative workbook for eating disorders I’ve seen, I’m going to take a more creative approach to reviewing it. Not needing a food and body workbook for my own purposes, I read through The Slender Trap with the intent to share it with you. I took some time and marked my favorite parts and pieces of the workbook… and when I finished there were more than two dozen Post-Its sticking out from the pages. That’s how I know Lauren Lazar Stern has some great stuff to share.

Sharing so many delicious bits and pieces with you would prove lengthy, so I managed to narrow my favorite passages further and hope to mold the review by sharing them.

The first word that pops into my mind when flipping through The Slender Trap is CREATIVE. It’s just so different from other workbooks out there. There is a focus on workbook activities (or exercises)  in a way that doesn’t seem too childish and there is a focus on art that is not intimidating for folks who consider themselves less than artistic. There is A LOT for readers to do in The Slender Trap – so much, in fact, that they really cease to be readers and become participants. And yet – I don’t think it would be daunting to those in recovery, even for those just starting out.

The workbook is comprised of 12 chapters, which are in turns insightful, introspective, practical, and – dare I say it? – fun. I can envision teenagers working through the book, but I can also envision adult women discovering a lot about themselves while “participating.” The beauty of The Slender Trap is that it can be tailored to YOU. The workbook is the fabric, the material. YOU are the tailor.

Furthermore, it’s a book for a wide variety of people – those with anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS, binge eating disorder… as well as those with poor body image and low self-esteem who may have never been officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. It’s a tool to learn about yourself, to work through issues, and to set you on a path to peace with food and body, whatever your specific problems or diagnoses might be.

The chapters are diverse and useful. If one chapter doesn’t speak to your body image or eating disordered issues, other chapters will. By “useful,” I mean to say that the activities are applicable to real life, not just the stuff floating around in your head.

At the end of Chapter Four, entitled “Body Image and Societal Pressure,” the author challenges the reader:

“Dress for yourself, not for your date. Choose an outfit that you like and wear it on your night out. Draw a picture of yourself in that outfit. Write about how it felt to have made your own choice.”
I imagine that some parts of the workbook might seem difficult initially, but sense that the final product the reader churns out with each new exercise might be quite surprising in a positive way. In short, The Slender Trap will really make you think.

In Chapter Five, entitled “Food Traps & Plans,” there is an exercise called The Food Plate. 

It involves both drawing and writing and I personally think it is so…SMART. This exercise in particular made me wish this book had existed back when I was struggling with anorexia. For many, listing food and the contents of meals during recovery can be triggering, unhelpful, anxiety-producing, or all of the above. By drawing each meal on the pages (and plates, cups, etc.) provided, it’s all THERE, but the focus is not on the rigid structure many with eating disorders (especially those with anorexia) are seeking to leave behind. I used to suggest to members of the eating disorder recovery group I lead and to various blog readers and video viewers that taking a photo of their plate before they ate each meal could serve as just as decent a “food log” as keeping a food journal or tracking their intake for family members/treatment teams/nutritionists/etc. This exercise in the workbook is very similar to that concept, which really speaks to me.

An exercise in the same chapter asks the reader to “Draw Your Traps” and there is a convenient picture page to help the process flow. The author instructs,

“In as many traps as you need below, draw what gets in your way of healthy eating. It may be that you feel trapped by your thoughts, fears, or something else. Let your drawing be your guide.”

Farther into the same chapter is a new exercise called Getting Out of My Trap, for which the author instructs, “Now that you’ve drawn and described your traps, it’s time to plan a way to get out.” There are deep boxes on the page in which to draw your strategies. It’s cool.

Another cool page can be found in Chapter Six, entitled “Full of Feelings.” There is an exercise about destroying your scale – but in art form right on the page. I think it’s extremely smart to start out like that; destroying a scale is such a big and scary step for a lot of people. It takes a long time to feel “ready” for that and preparing by destroying it in the workbook is just plain awesome. The exercise is meant to help the reader work through feelings associated with having destroyed the scale.

Finally, in Chapter Nine, entitled “The New Me,” there is an exercise called A Party to Celebrate the New Me and the author writes:

“On the party planner on the next page, organize a party celebrating your hard work. Invite as many guests as you would like. Eat the kind of food that you want. Create the invitation of your dreams. Use your imagination. Remember this celebration is for you.”

How great is that?! 

And these are just a handful of the exercises and challenges The Slender Trap presents. 
I want to tell you so much more about The Slender Trap, but I really want you to get the book – so I’ll leave you here, with your appetite wet, curious about the other 240 pages of fantastic-ness. :)

I want to thank Lauren Lazar Stern for sending me her book and allowing me to share my specific thoughts. For more on Lauren Lazar Stern, visit her website here:  You can also find details there about how to purchase the book.

You can also follow her on Twitter: @laurenlazarster

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