Authored Work

Dr. Dena Cabrera is a nationally known speaker, published author and eating disorder education expert. Her most recent work, Mom in the Mirror is an inspiring read intended for women who want to restore a positive body image and to overcome the insecurities that arises when pregnancy is over and child-rearing begins.

Endorsements

Authored by Dr. Dena Cabrera, Mom in the Mirror is an inspiring read intended for women everywhere who want to restore a positive body image and to overcome the insecurities that arise when pregnancy is over and child-rearing begins Publisher’s Weekly: In this self-help book for Christian woman who struggle with body image, authors Cabrera, PsyD, and Wierenga (Chasing Silhouettes, etc.) [back cover] offer the unique team of a licensed clinician and an author who has personally battled anorexia, respectively. Though each chapter ends with a list of thoughts for reflection and tools for change, [149, e.g.] the preceding chapter has typically consisted of less specific healing terminology, positive quotations, and personal stories. Women who agree with the authors’ spiritual assessments may benefit from this book’s been-there, encouraging tone. (May)

Booklist Review:  The coauthors—a former anorexic who is a mother of four and a clinical psychologist who specializes in eating disorders—tackle body image, especially during and after pregnancy. They aggregate some sensible existing pregnancy information, such as the Mayo Clinic’s advice to trade white bread and pasta for whole grains and to eat sliced fruit instead of a cookie. But they refer most frequently to God, which may turn off less-religious readers. Cabrera and Wierenga write that they want to help women “improve their relationships with their bodies, their families and their Creator.” Religion plays a big role in the stories of first-name-only real people, such as Jillian, a mother of seven whose husband was addicted to Internet porn. She believes she suffered from eating disorders as a result of his fixation on airbrushed perfection. Then she found God and a new perspective on her body. “To all husbands, I think, the most beautiful wife is a naked wife,” she says. “Not a thin wife. Not a chiseled wife. Not an airbrush. But one who lets him love her . . . sag, stretch marks, and all.”

From the foreword: I know you’ve been waiting for a book like this to help alleviate your pain, explain the insanity you’ve been living, and to be your friend, your confidant, and support. Welcome to the answers you’ve been looking for, some good hard facts to lead you to your personal worth, and the power to change.
Emme, plus-size supermodel, founder of EmmeNation and author of Life’s Little Emergencies

Mom in the Mirror is for the woman who sits in secrecy struggling with her self- worth, fearful of her body image, and in desperate need of support, guidance, and a way out of that judging, lonely, scared place. It is a good thing when brave women write the truth and share it with all. The words of Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga free us from our cages of fear, self-doubt, and body loathing. Please let the wise words of this book become a place of refuge for you and your loved ones.

— Leanne Spencer, M.A., Med, licensed professional counselor/supervisor, Living Free Counseling

Take the years of professional experience by Dena Cabrera combined with the personal journey of Emily Wierenga, add the hearts of two women who passionately want to help others with eating disorders and finally top it off with the heartbeat of a mother and you end up with Mom in the Mirror—a practical, passionate and professional book that will help mothers everywhere.

— W. Travis Stewart, licensed professional counsellor at McCallum Place, founder of Hungry for Hope, Christian Conference for Eating and Body Image Issues

If you are a woman who’s ever struggled to be comfortable in your own skin (who hasn’t?), pregnancy can create a whole host of issues. Take heart! Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga lead us through turbulent places of our soul with a beautifully written book that is both warm and wise. Mom in the Mirror is written with enough honesty to be relatable and enough hope to be inspiring. If you are a mom or mom-to-be who’s looking for help in making peace with your body and your soul, Mom in the Mirror is for you.

— Nicole Unice, Christian counselor, speaker and author of She’s Got Issues

If you look at your body and shake your head, or deliver unkind words to your reflection when you glimpse it in a department store window, or if you know exactly how much weight you’ve gained or lost since yesterday – and you know that number every day, or if you categorize food as only “good” or “bad,” or if you look at other people and judge them based on their body type, or if you run for miles because you refuse to buy a bigger dress size, or if you never sit cross-legged or lean forward in a swimsuit, this book was written for you. Written with sensitivity, and from personal experience, Mom in the Mirror has untangled all those silly knots in my head that used to make me think my body wasn’t good enough.

— Deidra Riggs, writer and founder of JumpingTandem, managing editor for TheHighCalling.org, contributing writer for (in) courage

As I read through Mom in the Mirror I felt like I was holding a priceless treasure in my hands. How I wished that I had come across it years ago as I was navigating my own journey through the challenging seasons of motherhood, marriage, and learning to love myself. I have personally learned so much through the wisdom and insight that is written upon each page of this magnificent book.
I am so delighted that it will serve as a resource to empower and equip others to understand the complexities of being a woman and the challenges we face as we deal with our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. Every chapter invites the reader to reflect on her own thoughts and perceptions and gives valuable tools to move forward with confident resolve.
What a fantastic tool for the masses. It is SO needed in our world today.

— Helen Burns, founder and executive director of Mercy Ministries Canada, author of The Miracle in a Mother’s Hug

Mom in the Mirror is a timely, inspirational and validating narrative of the stages of life, as well as of the often crazy making ups and downs of the courageous journey called motherhood! As a mother of twins and a singleton, and psychologist working with women and girls struggling with eating disorders, I find this a welcome and empowering resource for any mom looking for similar experiences, answers and guidance in the areas of eating struggles and weight concerns that may accompany the everyday challenges associated with mothering. Authors Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga combine their authentic experiences and struggles in raising children while providing enlightening leads with factual information, reflective questions that raise consciousness and provide comfort, along with tools for living to incorporate into a mother’s life.

— Deborah Russo, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist, Remuda’s Education Outreach Department

In a world where nothing seems real, Emily Wierenga and Dena Cabrera have finally—finally–given us an authentic and powerful look at the emotions and issues attached to childbirth. Written from personal experiences, this book isn’t your typical self-help book, but rather feels like a much-needed conversation with a very good friend. Whether we know it or not, Mom in the Mirror is the book we’ve all been waiting for, and moms of all ages will benefit from the important truths inside.

— Courtney Walsh, author of A Sweethaven Summer, Scrapbooking Your Faith

This book is so well written that I just didn’t want to put it down. Moms everywhere will relate to the body image issues addressed in this comprehensive book, from pre-pregnancy through the childrearing years. With honesty and transparency, the authors weave together personal stories, well researched information, and practical advice. You will be touched—heart, mind, and soul—by Dena Cabrera’s professional wisdom and Emily Wierenga’s graceful prose, as they help you make peace with your body. Mom in the Mirror is powerful and life changing.

— Ann Capper, RD, CDN, nutrition editor for FINDINGbalance, author; Big Thighs, Tight Jeans

If you’ve given birth, your body has, necessarily, changed. Some of those changes were temporary; others, to your dismay or delight, are permanent. If you’re like a lot of women, a naughty little voice in your head hisses that your body—before, during or after pregnancy—isn’t quite acceptable the way it is. Though the lie seems believable enough, what you most need is to hear the voice of truth. In Mom in the Mirror, Dr. Dena Cabrera and the wise Emily Wierenga share words of life. Make it your post-pregnancy body-image authority!

— Margot Starbuck, author of Unsqueezed: Springing Free From Skinny Jeans, Nose Jobs, Highlights & Stilettos

Mom in the Mirror offers an important contribution to the field of parenting and, in particular, to the mother’s role in preventing the development of an eating disorder in her children. Through healing her own eating and body image issues, the mother becomes the most influential role model for self-acceptance and the importance of removing self-judgment.

— Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD, nutrition therapist, private practice, co-author of Intuitive Eating

Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga offer a beautiful tribute to motherhood, and an explanation of the complicated body image and self-image issues that naturally come along with it. The guidance provided shows moms how they can truly learn to love and accept themselves, and then pass this legacy of self-love onto their daughters.

— Maria Rago, Ph.D., author of Shut up, Skinny Bitches: The Common Sense Guide to Following Your Hunger and Your Heart

Mom in the Mirror is an exquisite account of motherhood that includes not only the experience of two women who overcame their own battles with food but also easy-to-follow clinical wisdom. I’m not a mom, but I sure feel better prepared to be one someday!

— Jenni Schaefer, author of Goodbye Ed, Hello Me and Life without Ed

A candid discussion of women’s poor body image and encouragement to celebrate all that these miraculous bodies do for us!

— Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC, president at Eating Disorder Hope

Mom in the Mirror has been a long time coming. Like a literary mentor, this book is chock-full of useful information, tips, ideas and inspiration that can benefit ANY woman and any mother, whether she is in recovery from an eating disorder or just wants to feel better about her body, herself and her life.

— Shannon Cutts, author of “Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder and Take Your Life Back” and founder of MentorCONNECT

A must read for any expectant parent! And for those new moms who have had eating disorders, this will be a well-worn daily companion. The tools and reflections shared will aid in creating realistic expectations for new moms. I’m impressed with the vast wisdom in this book and believe it will give much peace to anxious moms everywhere.

— Becky Henry, Hope Network, LLC

Excellent! Timely! As the little girls of the 70s, 80s and 90s enter into motherhood far too many find themselves paralyzed by fears of raising their children with the same body image insecurities and food issues they have experienced. Mom in the Mirror offers rich insight and highly practical application for mothers desiring to raise this next generation to love their body. In a culture steeped in disordered eating and body image, this resource is invaluable.

— Megan Osborne, Ph.D, Licensed Clinical Christian Counselor, author; Shaped With Love and Tummy Talk

Dena Cabrera and Emily T. Wierenga present all of the challenges and blessings of motherhood in an honest and hopeful way. Both their stories and their expertise lend them the ability to make the women who read their words laugh out loud and sigh in recognition of common struggles. This is a book by women, for women, and maybe even men, who want a glimpse of understanding of how to transform body issues during motherhood into blessings.

— Kirsten Haglund, Miss America 2008, community relations specialist for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Book Excerpt

We need to believe in ourselves. To believe we’re not “just” the role we fill, but that we matter, simply because we are. We need to hold onto the identity we had before we became this semblance of a person who barely has time to brush her teeth or run a comb through her hair.

And then, we need to carve out space and time for ourselves. To honor the soul that lies, fatigued and lonely, beneath our over-stretched, over-used skin.

Because we’re more than our skin, and everyone needs nurturing. And this is no less true when we become mothers.

In fact, we often need pampering more when we spend all day giving to others.

But children, as adoring and loving as they are, are not able to pamper us. Not in the tender way we need. They give, as they can, through kisses and hugs and head-pats and smiles, but they take, more. And this is the way it’s meant to be. We’re not meant to lean on our children.

Men give in a different way, in a “let me fix you” kind of way that rushes over the details and Band-Aids the bruise.

Yet it’s the details which mend us, as women. The massages, the soaks in a bath, the reading with no distractions. The quiet in which to pray, to reflect, to journal or to meditate.

Rather than someone trying to fix our problems, we need permission just to be.

The thing is, it’s often we who need to give ourselves permission.

 

  1. a) Born to Break

Even as men fix, women break: their backs and hearts, in order that the world might be born. But breaking implies we are, too, at some point, whole.

So it’s a constant reverting back to wholeness, letting God mend the fractured places so we can break all over again.

Labor is, in fact, an every-day breaking for our family. Just as we need to rest between contractions, we also need to rest during the week. To ask our husbands to bathe the kids while we put up our feet; to set aside an hour of personal time each evening, after the kids go to bed.

As women, we need to be kind to ourselves, for we tend to abuse ourselves when life gets too hard.

So take the time to have a bath; to eat nutritiously. When you’re grocery shopping, stock up on healthy snacks: granola bars, nuts, fruit and yogurt for when you can’t sit down and eat a full meal.

Breathe deeply, and laugh at yourself. Laugh at the kids. Laugh with your husband, at the kids. If you feel like you’re going to snap, step outside for a minute and stare up at the sky.

Read your Bible, or devotional, or some other form of inspiration either early in the morning, on the toilet, or right before bed.

And don’t let motherhood or marriage dictate your life.

Pop in an educational movie for the children; send your husband out with his buddies, and do something for yourself: paint, or write, or sew.

Check your email. Play your guitar. And don’t feel guilty (so long as you do everything in moderation) because the happier you are, the happier your family will be, also.

This time to yourself will give you the strength to serve: your husband, your children, and your God.

 

  1. b) Loving our Reflections

Anne Lamott calls her thighs her aunties. Perhaps we should find names—kind names—for our ski-slope nose, our pear-hips and wide feet.

With one hand we paint, we write, we strum guitar; with the other, we change diapers, spoon cereal, soothe foreheads and sweep up broken goldfish.

And sometimes, while our families sleep, we slip to the mirror and pull back our hair and study the face where crow’s feet crawl. We cut our nails and it feels like heaven. We shave our legs and pluck our eyebrows and sing to ourselves as we dare to moisturize.

And for a moment, we remember that we are more than mothers. More than wives. We are women. These simple actions remind us of the person who lies beneath piles of laundry and to-do lists and dirty dishes. The woman who dreams. The woman who laughs too loud and cries too quick and feels too fierce. The woman who believes in goodness and trusts too many. The woman who makes her man blush.

Time tick-tocks to the rhythm of a child’s heartbeat, and when we emerge from the bathroom, we are groomed, pressed and primed for another day of unravelling, wrinkling and pulling.

And we breathe in the prayer that is our life and remember the face of the woman in the mirror.

Because if we forget her, we lose ourselves.

(excerpt from Chapter 6: The Sleepless Wife–How to Balance Marriage and Motherhood)

Professional Publications

  • Cabrera, D. & Wierenga, E. (Released, May 2013): Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life after Pregnancy is for every woman who has ever doubted herself or her self-worth after the birth of a child. Because most women spend much of their lives attempting to change their bodies, it’s not surprising that the weight gain that comes along with pregnancy (and post-pregnancy), coupled with the challenges of parenting, only exacerbates issues with weight, body image, disordered eating, and self-esteem.  With chapters that deal with bruises from the past, misconceptions about pregnancy, life before and after children, marriage and motherhood, spiritual and physical nourishment, relationships with friends and family and the changing role of a mother as her children age, it is a holistic approach to the age-old questions: Who am I, and why am I here?  Comprised of personal stories, expert advice, reflection questions and helpful tools, this book is an inspiring read intended for women everywhere who want to restore a positive body image, and to overcome the insecurities that arise when pregnancy is over and childrearing begins and winds through the years.
  • Eberly, M.C., Wall, A.& D., Cabrera, D (2008). “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy with Eating Disorders: Applications and Skills.”  In E. Cumella, M. Eberly, & A. Wall (Eds.).  Eating Disorders:  A handbook of Christian Treatment.  (pp. 121-130).  Nashville, TN:  Remuda Ranch.
  • Eberly, M.C., Wall, A.& D., Cabrera, D (2008). “Resistance, Motivation, and Change in Eating Disorders” In E. Cumella, M. Eberly, & A. Wall (Eds.).  Eating Disorders:  A handbook of Christian Treatment.  (pp. 131-143).  Nashville, TN:  Remuda Ranch.
  • Cabrera, D. (2005). “A child-like mind:  Borderline personality disorder.”  Christian Counseling Today.  2005 Vol. 13 No. 2.
  • Eberly, M., Cabrera, D., Wall, A.D., & Wolfe, K. (2004). “Resistance, Motivation, and Change in Eating Disorders.” The Remuda Review, The Christian Journal of Eating Disorders.   Winter, Vol 3, Issue 1.
  • Eberly, M., Wall, A.D., & Cabrera, D., (2003). “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:  Applications and Skills.”
  • The Remuda Review, The Christian Journal of Eating Disorders. Fall, Vol 2, Issue 4.