Bringing a flourishing perspective to Japan and South Korea

L1010664.jpgI remember how much I coveted this bag. It was given out by Novo Nordisk at a diabetes conference. I don’t remember what conference, what year, whether I was presenting, but I remember how crestfallen I was after seeing so many people toting it over their shoulder and when I located the Novo Nordisk booth, after much sleuthing, being told they had run out.

I was told if I put my name on a list, they would be handing out more bags the next day. Guess what? They weren’t. But a tall, kind woman at their booth took my name and address down and said, “I have one left in my office (in Copenhagen, Denmark)! When I get back I’ll mail it to you.” Yea, right.

Well, I did hope, just a little…who wouldn’t? But then the first week passed and no bag. Then the second week passed and no bag, and I thought, yea, right you’ll mail it to me. But a week later, I walked back to my apartment and okay, you know what happens now. A giant FedEx box was in front of my door. Bless that woman, she was true to her word.  True to her word, not even knowing how much that bag had burrowed into my head.

It’s not really the burgundy color, a favorite, that said you belong in riva’s apartment. It’s not the bag itself which isn’t much different than any cloth shoulder briefcase-like bag. It’s not entirely that it has lots of zipper compartments. Nor the fact that it was free and a momento of the conference. No, it’s the tag text, “I am traveling to change diabetes.” It totally represented my identity. It said everything I was and was doing.

That story is a long way to say, here we go again. The husband and I leave Thursday for Japan where I’m presenting the Flourishing Approach to health professionals and medical students at a diabetes clinic in Sendai. A 13 hour flight to Tokyo, 4 hour layover and 90 minute flight to Sendai. All because we love sharing this learning.

We’ll be met at the airport by Dr. Kenichi Yamada, the force behind the Education Center of Kenichi Yamada Internal Medicine Clinic. His wife, Itsuko, who works at the center and heard me present the Flourishing Approach in 2015 at the IDF World Congress, has been diligently translating my presentation into Japanese and seeing to all our needs, including meals and bullet trains.

Afterward, we fly to Seoul, where I’ve never been, and am only slightly nervous having looked at the map and seeing how close it is to the border of North Korea. After all, I just heard Laura Ling share her 140 days in captivity in North Korea as keynote speaker at the Renfrew conference.

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Then we train to Busan for our sixth IDF World Congress (they happen every two years and we’ve attended them since 2009 in Montreal, Dubai, Melbourne, Vancouver and Abu Dhabi. It’s a very nice way to see the world and meet diabetes people from all corners).

I’ll be presenting the Flourishing Approach in a stream on improvements in diabetes education and care. Of course in addition to the learning, and entertaining, like watching someone make extraordinary sand paintings as we did in Dubai, the conferences are a wonderful few days to catch up with the diabetes friends I’ve made around the world, and truly, there’s nothing like that.

Then we fly back to Japan for a day in beautiful temple-laden and geisha-strewn Kyoto and train up to Tokyo to visit friends and fountain pen stores.  I lived in Tokyo for six years in the 1980’s (that’s where I met the husband) and japan is both in my heart and the Mecca of writing instruments.


Then we fly down to Sydney and stay with friends. I am expecting their house in the Blue Mountains will make the perfect writer’s retreat due to natural beauty and lack of distractions.

So is the traveling bag coming with me? Sadly not. With luggage limitations I’m going to do my darndest to only bring two roller boards and a backpack. I wish that I could bring it, but the sentiment has never left me since I first set eyes on the bag, and three weeks later removed it from its carefully packed Fedex box.

During our absence the husband’s sister and brother in law get to enjoy our tiny apt so we are all changing time zones.  I may not be posting much while traveling, but I will be posting photos on Facebook. In the meanwhile happy holidays to all and to all a good night.




Renfrew Center conference opens my eyes on eating disorders

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I attended The Renfrew Center’s 29th annual conference last weekend in Philadelphia that brings together expert speakers in the care and treatment of, and research regarding, people who have eating disorders.

I was not a speaker, just one of the few hundred participants who gathered to learn and expand my understanding and knowledge. I always think it’s good to expose yourself to things outside your own field, they generally lead to new insights in your own work.

Most attendees were therapists and dietitians, many of whom specialize in working with people who have an eating disorder. From observation the group was 98.5 percent female. At one point I thought, so this is what the world would look and feel like if only women existed. It wasn’t bad 😉

I attended two lectures on relational therapy, a personal interest as the Flourishing Approach I share with health professionals is grounded in relationship centered care. The sessions confirmed my views: that a major source of suffering is isolation, a major source of well being is connection, that in healthcare we apply vague principles based on averages gathered in highly structured trials to complex individuals living in the real world.

The speakers were top notch. The relational sessions I attended were led by Amy Banks, MD and psychologists Judith Brisman and Judith Ruskay Rabinor.

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Also fascinating was learning more about the bias of scientific research, what gets published and what doesn’t. PhD Laura Hill mesmerized us regards how brain chemistry and neuronal wiring is a key component influencing our eating behaviors. It is not just emotional.  Further, for someone with a disordered brain, thoughts and feelings around changing how they eat is uncomfortable, frustrating, frightening and herculean beyond our imagination. Truly, we can’t imagine.

Journalist Laura Ling was the first day’s keynote speaker. Compassionate and passionate,  she shared her harrowing 140 days of being held hostage as a prisoner in North Korea. And since the conference theme was “Discerning Truth,” the next day’s keynote was delivered by William Doherty, Professor and therapist, who kept us laughing through his dissection of our divisive political environment.

Of course food and diabetes go hand in hand, so I was also interested why it’s so hard for people with diabetes, largely type 2, to change their eating habits when their health depends on it, and curious if diabulemia is seen as any different than other eating disorders. To be honest, there wasn’t much to be had regards diabetes, but I have gotten completely sucked down the “rabbit hole” on disordered eating. I am eager to understand  for those who live with anorexia, bulimia and/or binge eating, what psychological and biological issues are prompting the starving, purging and stuffing?

Next year’s conference will be in November in Philadelphia. In addition to out patient services around the country, Renfrew may be the only eating disorder center that has a residential facility in Philadelphia for those who need a more comprehensive, structured and intensive level of care. The Renfrew Center has been on the leading edge of this work since its establishment in 1985. I was happy to widen my lens.

Speaking at the International Diabetes Federation World Congress in Busan

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It’s an honor, it’s a privilege, it’s a pleasure. Thursday, December 5th, 10:15 AM I’ll be speaking as part of a panel at the scientific IDF World Congress. As part of the “Education and integrated care” stream, I’ll present to health professionals and researchers the Flourishing Approach – how health professionals can work with people who have diabetes from a biological approach, not our current machine approach. So, if you happen to be in Busan, South Korea….please do drop in.

Also, hanging in the poster exhibit room will be two posters I’m co-author of and very proud of. One, with Trent Brookshier, a newly minted lovely doctor. It’s our joint concept that renaming Pre-diabetes Stage 1 of Type 2 diabetes that both people with diabetes and their doctor would take quicker action. He ran a study that showed just this. The other poster captures (as seen below) the remarkable diabetes camp psychologist Daniela Rojas ran in Costa Rica this year with my book, The ABCs of Loving Yourself With Diabetes as a tool for shared reading and sharing of feelings after each camp activity. 67 kids got to talk about things they never had before from bullying to shame to grief for their parents.

Click here to see Stage 1 Poster renaming Pre-Diabetes

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On the way, the husband and I will be first going to Sendai, Japan, where we’ll be presenting the Flourishing Approach to clinicians at the Sendai Diabetes Clinic and Education Center. I don’t know, does the world get smaller as I get older? Both the husband and I lived in Japan, separately (actually that’s where we met) so this is rather amazing; the first time anyone in Japan will here about the Flourishing Approach.

After the IDF conference, we’ll return to visit friends in Tokyo and then head south to Sydney where we will be staying with friends. That’s the vacation part, or rather the writing a book about the Flourishing Approach writing retreat. Our friends have houses in both Sydney and the Blue Mountains, it will be summer in winter and there will be no distractions other than blueberry picking. Now that’s a perfect formula for writing a book.

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Yes, that’s a photo from the last trip to Oz. Yes, there will be photos on Facebook. Hope to see you there.