Consider making this one thing a priority in 2017…

therapy-couch-at-potentia

“The opposite of belonging is to feel isolated and always (all ways) on the margin, an outsider. to belong is to know, even in the middle of the night, that I am among friends.”

Peter Block in Community – The Structure of Belonging. 

At Potentia, we understand the deep need for all of us to find a place to belong. We also know first hand hand how easy it is to let parts of your story hijack your present and your future.

Our culture’s mixed messages around what it means to be well can fuel fears of being misunderstood, keeping many scared while rumbling in secret with stories of struggle, afraid of losing what matters most – connection.

Addictions, betrayal, mental health struggles, grief, trauma, perfectionism and shame touch all of us directly and indirectly through those we love and lead. Attempting to try and think yourself out of your pain often exacerbates the pain fueled by the barriers of stigma + access to resources – keeping way too many people in isolation.

Though struggle can trigger feelings of:

  • fatigue from stagnated attempts to heal
  • overwhelm
  • frustration
  • being trapped by the belief that change is not possible

it is easy to forget that struggle is not failure but a place of growth, wisdom. And every rumble to heal has a timeline of its own – so caution against comparing your struggle to the journey of others.

I know we are biased on this matter but we believe one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones is to make healing emotionally something to respect and value.

Our hope is that you will make your mental health a priority now and in the new year. Leaving mental health issues unaddressed will make it harder to achieve your goals, desires, dreams, and to find that sense of deep belonging within and with those in your life. 

Yes… the time, resources and energy that is needed to heal is nothing but tidy and streamlined – any quick fix plan offered to heal deep soul pain will fall short of you showing up day in and day out to do the messy work to heal.

Slower is often faster when it comes to mental health healing. Making mental health a priority in your life will help you show up in your life with more clarity, connection and confidence.

All of us at Potentia continue to invest our own time and resources studying, training, consulting and collaborating – along with supporting our own mental health –  so we can offer our clients and their families the best support. We also believe you play a crucial role in the process of changing the stigma around mental health issues. By doing your own deep soul work, you are leading by example. Your courage in this process will be contagious and inspire others to take the brave leap to ask for help.

We would be honored to help you and those you care for find relief and more meaning in life. If you are looking for resources outside of the San Diego area, check out the following sites to find support near you:

Psychology Today

edreferral.com

EMDRIA.org

Center for Self Leadership

The Daring Way™

Cheers to (re) Defining Health in 2017! Keep us posted on how we can be a resource for you.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

 

PS – We would love for you to come to our I Choose Respect Open House + Fundraiser on January 14th, 2017 from 4-7PM. Local artists and makers will be featured along with great food + community plus our I Choose respect photo booth as we prepare for our 4th annual I Choose Respect effort. Click on the image below to register!

 

icr-2017-open-house

7 Must-Read Quotes from Potentia’s Featured Book of the Month: Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann, PhD

Eatinglabbest

 

Hello!

Congratulations on completing week one of the 52 weeks of 2016!

If you are like most people in our country, some of your goals/resolutions/intentions for the new year are around your health: how you feed, move and rest your body.

It is absolutely important to make health a priority (though not an obsession) in your life.

Yet, breaking through the noise about what it really means to be healthy is quite the challenge these days.

There are so many differing views on how to eat, how to move your body, what food is “good” and “bad” for you.

As a result, the meaning of health has become so skewed and good marketing that speaks well to your struggles and desired goals can also add to the confusion of what it means to be well.

Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet by Traci Mann, PhD is a gem of a book that reads with ease while digging into some involved research around the science behind a lot of the narratives around health, obesity, food choices and more.

I really appreciate how she guides the reader:

  • through the history and evolution of dieting
  • how to better discern the quality of the research so many health “facts” are based on
  • figure out what the key factors are which impact and define health

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book along with my additional thoughts and reflections. It was really hard to decide which nuggets to quote from this book as Dr. Mann has packed in so much wisdom. It is a worthy investment, for sure!

1. The use of the BMI is controversial because the formula for calculating it is not based on any understanding of how height and weight relate to each other, and because people who have high muscle mass tend to get categorized as overweight, despite having very little fat. (p.4)

  • At Potentia, we have educated our clients and community for years on the flaws of the BMI as a measure of health. It is more of a marketing tool and not an evidenced based measure of true health. Be wary of how you use this information to define your definition of health. It also can be very shaming and trigger behaviors that are unsafe.

2. If their (the weight loss industry) products were effective in leading to long-term weight loss, they would soon put themselves out of business. These businesses count on repeat customers. Richard Samber, the longtime financial chairman of Weight Watchers, likened dieting to playing the lottery. “If you don’t win, you play it again. Maybe you’ll win the second time. When asked how the business could be successful when only 16 percent of customers maintained their weight loss, he said “It’s successful because the other 84 percent have to come back and do it again. That’s where your business comes from. (p.9)

  • Caution against investing in businesses which profit from your failure. This is particularly concerning as weight-cycling (repeated gaining and losing weight) is shown to be more dangerous than carrying extra weight. This fact is cited extensively in this book, too!

3. Researchers have known for a long time that diets don’t work. Now you know it, too. (p. 15)

  • In this chapter, Dr. Mann shares how she and her students dug into all the studies often used to validate why a particular weight loss programs/diet will work. She found three major flaws in various health and weight related studies on weight. It is also noted why it is important for you to understand the gold standard of research and how to be a better consumer and questioner of the data being quoted. “The research says…” need not shut down the conversation but instead be a conversation starter.

4. Think of willpower as brute strength. The amount of you need is larger than the amount of it you have, and the amount you have is nearly depleted by nearly everything you do. (p. 48)

  • Unpacking the science behind willpower, Dr. Mann points out that willpower – when used as a tool to maintain health –  is not the best approach to lifestyle changes. She eloquently helps you understand the science of willpower so you can make better choices and decrease the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles around food + your health.

5. Shame is more painful than guilt, and to add injury to insult, shame has been shown to lead to a release of the stress hormone cortisol, and another kind of cell in the immune system (called a proinflammatory cytokine), which, among other things can promote the growth of disease. (p.62)

  • When shame is running your life around how you care for your body, diets – or some kind of restrictive or rigid rules around feeding and moving your body – are often a go-to response. Diet related behavior is one of shame’s bff’s.

6. But variables such as exercise, weight cycling, socieoeconomic status, fat distribution, and discrimination all factor into a person’s overall health…I hope you’re not still under the impression that you have to diet or obesity will kill you. If you exercise, eat nutritiously, avoid weight cycling, and get good quality medical care, you do not need to worry about obesity shortening your life. Especially if you shield yourself from weight stigma and the stress it causes… (p. 82+84-85)

  • Chapter 5 is powerful and provocative. It digs deep into the topic of obesity and myth-busting many narratives around carrying extra weight. The above words outline the complex factors which are a part of an accurate definition of health.

7. The benefits of exercise simply cannot be denied. Regular exercise can increase your life span, prevent disease, improve your mood, aid creativity, help you sleep better, and allow you to age more gracefully. These benefits are more easily attained than dramatic weight loss, and can be yours even if you do not lose a pound. (p.185)

  • Activity is a powerful indicator of your health. Finding an activity you will be motivated to do regularly is key. Now over-exercise, over-use injuries and complications related to hydrating and nutrition are flags that your activity has crossed over from being a positive positive part of your health into a negative one. At Potentia, we help our clients (re) define activity when this happens so moving their body can return to being a part of wellness and not the sole manager emotional pain.

There is so much good information packed into this book. I hope you check it out.

If you read the book, I would love to know what impacted you the most on how you view health.

All the best as you continue to challenge yourself to (re) define health in your life.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT, Founder + Director of Potentia Family Therapy, Inc.

 

 

I Choose Respect Over Body and Story Shame 2015

NEDAW15-banner-BW

Today we kick off Potentia’s second annual “I Choose Respect” month.

#ichooserespect is an effort to connect with those who may not identify with clinical eating disorders but can relate with struggling in their relationship with food, their body and their story.

I believe we all can relate as I am yet to find someone who does not struggle with a bad body image day, week, month, year…

Where negative body image lurks there may be deeper struggles with:

  • feeding yourself
  • moving your bidy
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • low-self worth
  • identity
  • perfectionism and rigidity
  • disconnection from community
  • feelings of being out-of-control+impulsive thoughts/behaviors
  • trauma

Eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental health illnesses.

Early intervention and prevention is crucial to decreasing the statistics around those struggling – and dying – from eating disorders and related issues.

Addressing the above list of struggles as soon as possible is an important investment in your mental health and in the prevention of more serious clinical issues.

Story Shame

This year I added “story shame” to our awareness campaign as my clients have taught me story shame fuels negative coping tools to deal with the pain and the fear of being judged, misunderstood, rejected- all of which can fuel disordered eating and eating disorders.

Shame about your story leads to putting on masks and moving away from owning and telling your story.

The lies of shame say if people really knew about your struggles, your experiences, your thoughts, your fears – you would be rejected and not worthy of love.

The common protective response is to armor up and numb out – often in ways that hurt your body, your relationships, your soul.

Disowning parts or all of your story keeps you stuck in fear.

Beginning to move to loving your story – and your body – can start with respect.

I often hear or read people reflect to those struggling with their relationship to their body and their story tell their friends, colleagues and their loved ones:

  • Just love your body.
  • Embrace your story.
  • You are so beautiful – just as God made you.
  • You are so strong – you can handle anything.

Sometimes these intended words of encouragement unintentionally diminish real struggle and trigger shame.

As a result, many increase their efforts to hide their struggles for fear they are seen as “drama” or “not good/Christian/strong enough” for struggling with their relationship with their body and their story.

Healing disconnection with body and story are not quick fixes. They are often rooted in deep attachment issues, traumatic experiences, individual temperament and genetics.

#ichooserespect is about respecting your body and your story when you do not like or even love them.

Respect Paves the Way

I believe respect creates a pathway to sustained loving and acceptance of your body and your whole story – when the time is right. It can not be forced.

Just like any relationship, when their are breeches of trust, it takes time to heal.

And there are too many people who do not trust their body and are in fact at war with their body.

It is time we give this kind of pain respect. Respecting your pain is a place to start a conversation, to ask for help, to offer connection when someone takes a risk to share their pain.

This year, we are featuring more like-minded leaders from all seasons of life in our #ichooserespect photo shoot. These photos will be featured daily for the entire month of February.

The conversations that started and continued from taking these pictures warmed my heart and inspired me.

My hope and prayer is that #ichooserespect inspires continued meaningful conversations and questions about how you talk about your body and your story with your friends, your family, your colleagues.

Most importantly, I hope #ichooserespect helps you (re) define your own internal conversations and decreases the noise between your ears.

Join the Conversation

Please join the conversation on Potentia’s Facebook Page, Potentia’s Instgram Feed or my Twitter feed. Help us spread the news about the I Choose Respect Awareness effort by using and tracking the hastags: #ichooserespect #respectyourbody #respectyourstory.

Print

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

The last week of February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week hosted by the National Eating Disorder Association.

All over the country, local communities are hosting walks to raise money and awareness for NEDA.

For the San Diego NEDAW walk, Potentia is hosting a team and will also have a booth at this wonderful event.

The Potentia team is hoping to raise $1000 from registrations for the walk. Invite your friends, colleagues, family, kids to register and join the Potentia team. Even pets can get in on the walk and fundraiser – scheduled for Saturday, February 28th.

Note: All money raised goes directly to NEDA, not Potentia

Event Details

Walk Venue:  NTC at Liberty Station
Walk Location: 2455 Cushing Road, San Diego, CA 92106
Walk Date: Saturday, February 28th, 2015
Check In Time:  9:00AM
Opening Ceremony: 10:00AM     Walk End Time: 11:30AM

How will you choose respect?

I am curious, how do you want to choose respect over body and story shame?

I look forward to connecting here on the blog and on the other social media outlets this month.

I am beyond grateful to all those who took time out of their schedule to participate, too. I can’t wait to share their pictures with you!

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

How is Your Sleep Hygiene?

photo

Note from Rebecca: Just days before Day Light Savings ends, we thought it would be good to address one of the most important tenants of health: our sleep hygiene. We are a tired nation with a high threshold for pushing through our exhaustion. But not meeting our sleep needs while trying to maintain a high level of function in all areas of our life is unsustainable over the long term. Making a commitment to change or start a new sleep hygiene habit can shift your trajectory of health and wellness for the better. Thank you, Megan, for sharing your wisdom!

———–

Humans sleep approximately 1/3 of their lives away, which equates to 27 years of life for an 82 year old.

Proper sleep has been proven to enhance mood and immune function, IQ, concentration and memory.

It also reduces risk of a long list of ailments and accidents: Heart disease, depression, obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, suicide and car accidents.

But 80% of people will have some sleep disorder during their lifetime, and persons with lower socioeconomic status are particularly disadvantaged. This makes sense as nutrition, exercise and stress all effect quality of sleep (all of which are compromised in individuals of lower SES).

So how much sleep do we need?

Everyone differs in terms of their ideal range, but 7-8 hours is a good general range. Individuals sleeping less than 5 hours/night carry a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and all-cause mortality (death).

Among the 5 stages of sleep, adequate time in REM (dream) stage is most crucial for mental tasks and memory function.

What can you do to protect your sleep?

Actions that are helpful include:

  • Having exposure to daylight/sunlight during waking hours
  • Regular exercise (promotes REM sleep)
  • Keeping room temperature cooler
  • Using the bed only for sleep and sex
  • Having a ‘wind down’ routine that may include caffeine free teas, a warm bath or a TV show

On the other hand, the following tend to interrupt sleep:

  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Sharing the bed with partners that toss, turn or snore
  • Stimulating the brain prior to bed (with reading material, work, intense/mysterious or thought provoking TV shows)
  • Alcohol (even one drink before bed for some individuals will do it, and this is especially true for females, who lose more sleep from drinking alcohol than men)
  • Perspiring/overheating
  • Having large meals within 2-3 hours of bed time (a small snack is fine)
  • Excess weight can also be associated with sleep deprivation. Not only are cortisol levels typically higher in obese persons, but the extra weight can result in snoring and sleep apnea.

For those of you more concerned about the cosmetic consequences of sleep deprivation, here are a few additional reasons to prioritize your beauty rest and improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Puffiness under the eyes, due to fluid and sodium retention
  • Skin wrinkling, as the balance between cortisol (promotes wrinkles/aging of skin) and growth hormone (protective/regenerative) is disrupted
  • Acne, also due to the increase in cortisol production
  • Reddening of eyes and dark under eye circles due to dilation of the blood vessels

How is your sleep hygiene practice?

What one change are you going to focus on to improve your sleep hygiene?

In good health –

Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD

You are invited! Potentia Celebration + Open House

I know there is never a lack of events, meetings, parties and kid activities to add to your calender but I am hoping those of you in the San Diego area can squeeze in some time to drop by our Celebration and Open House next Friday, October 24th between 4-8PM.

It will be a great time to not only see the new workshop/play therapy space and meet the new Potentia therapists but also to connect with other friends and colleagues from the community.

Great food – including a pumpkin “everything” spread – and  a chance to win some fun raffle prizes are added bonuses for stopping by our gathering.

Please register if you can attend so we can plan accordingly.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

OpenHouseFlier-graphic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potentia is 6!

Potentia is turning 6

Several years ago, I had this picture in my head of a beautiful space where people could receive collaborative and specialized care all under the same roof. Six years ago this month, Potentia’s incorporation papers were filed and the dream started to take fruition.

I can laugh now but looking back six years ago, things were a little nutty. My first born was just a little over 2 months and I was clumsily learning how to integrate all of my new loves and passions on very little sleep.

Today, I am a little more rested. And my family has grown along with Potentia.

I am in awe and filled with gratitude looking at how the seed of a vision planted in my heart + mind has turned into something so much more.

As we celebrate our six year milestone, we are in the process of expanding: more office space, new clinical team members – including two male therapists – and new service offerings such as individual and group consultations on EMDR and Eating Disorders (CEDS) along with Child Centered Play Therapy.

Even our website is in the process of getting freshened up.

Whew!

And I am pleased to introduce you to five therapists who are a part of this season of Potentia’s growth: Moe Perdomo, Hannah Branch, Brian Resiwg, Kayla Walker and Roxanne Strauss.

Look at them all spiffy here…

Interns formal 2014

And here they are showing their brave and getting a little silly. Silly is so good for the soul!

Interns silly 2014

These new interns are joining me and our veteran Potentia team members:

The Potentia team is equipped with an understanding of:

  • the brain
  • non-diet approaches to wellness
  • the power of your story (owning, respecting and telling it)
  • the influences of shame and vulnerability

so we can be the best support to people seeking meaning in their struggles and desiring sustained relief from their pain.

All of our psychotherapy clinicians are trained in EMDR, which is an approach that helps people who are stuck because of tough life events, anxiety, depression, compulsive behaviors, loss, blocking beliefs, perfectionism and more. We also have therapists who offer specialized support with:

  • Shame Resilience and The Daring Way TM method
  • Food and Body Issues
  • Couples Issues and Premarital Counseling
  • Teen and Family Issues
  • Transition
  • Pastors Kids and Missionary Kids

I am excited to see where this now collective dream takes all of us as we continue to trust, pray, learn, grow and serve.

And to those of you who have a dream on your heart, respect it. Sketch or write it out. Share it with someone who will not talk about all the barriers to your dream but instead be a support to it.

Be careful to not compare it, minimize it or let the desire for certainty squelch your hope. Your dream is precious and it is placed on your heart for a purpose. It may not be logical or make sense. It may be painful to be in the inbetween of it being unfulfilled.

I get it. I wrestled with all of this over the years. Still do. The waiting, the tests of faith, the investment of time and resources, the trust are the refining part of the dream. Pace yourself and stay the course.

Cheering you and your dream on –

Rebecca

PS – Please make sure you are on our email list so you can stay up to date on our offerings, events, blog posts and receive an invitation to our upcoming  fall open house.

 

 

 

America’s Love/Hate Relationship with Saturated Fats By Dr. Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD


Let’s start off with an overview of saturated fatty acids, and how they differ from poly or monounsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fatty acids (SFA’s) have the following characteristics distinguishing them from other fatty acids (trans, monounsaturated & polyunsaturated):

  • solid at room temperature
  • occur naturally in foods
  • referred to as ‘saturated’ due to their having no double bonds along the carbon chains that comprise these saturated fatty acids

Unsaturated oils, on the other hand, are liquid at room temperature, primarily found in higher concentrations in plant sources (with the exception of fatty fish) and have one (mono) or multiple (poly) double bonds along the carbon chain.

Contrary to popular belief, foods do not consist of one type of fatty acid. Rather, foods are composed of varying percentages of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids.

For example, SFA’s comprise roughly 13% of the fatty acids in olive oil, and 65% of the SFA’s in butter.

SFA’s are found in higher amounts in dairy products (ex: cream, butter, milk, cheese) as well as in meats (bacon, sausage, chicken fat, mutton), ghee, suet and lard.

Palm oil, palm kernal, coconut and cottonseed oils contain a larger percentage of SFA’s (relative to the other plant based fats), though they lack the cholesterol contained in animal sources.

Examples of SFA’s include:

  • lauric (palm kernal oil, coconut oil, vegetable shortening and is also used in )
  • palmitic (palm oil, tallow, processed foods to enhance texture)
  • myristic (palm kernal oil, coconut oil, butter)
  • stearic acids (cheese, sausage, bacon, ribs, beef/ground beef, candy, cocoa butter)

These fatty acids are also commonly used in conjunction with sodium hydroxide, creating a product commonly found in soaps, shampoos and cosmetics (ex: sodium laurate and sodium palmitate).

For several decades, foods high in SFA’s were demonized by public health and nutrition experts, citing numerous studies suggesting that SFA’s were disease promoting.

Saturated fats were linked to increased LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), a primary risk factor for heart disease.

Current American Heart Association guidelines suggest limiting calories from saturated fat to less than 7% per day (or roughly 16g or 140 calories).

SFA’s were somewhat vindicated when evidence emerged several years ago suggesting that trans fatty acids (partially hydrogenated oil) were more offensive, as they not only raise LDL, but decrease HDL (or ‘good’ cholesterol).

Recently, however, results of a meta-analysis of 72 studies (including both observational studies and randomized controlled trials) on saturated fat intake and heart disease published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found no association with SFA intake and risk of heart disease – basically stating saturated fats were found to have no influence, positively or negatively, on heart disease.

The results were highly publicized, and largely misconstrued by media.

Results of the published study actually read as follows:

“Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”

Critics of the study, including nutrition experts from the Harvard School of Public Health (one of whom actually authored the study) are calling for a retraction or revision of the paper.

Critics have pointed to the limitations of meta-analyses as one potential problem, as numerous studies are combined and summarized, despite vast differences in methodologies (particularly across nutrition literature).

They also cite conflicting findings from numerous large scale population studies that link plant based/vegetarian diets (and lower intake of animal products) with health and longevity (Framingham, Adventist Health Study, China Study).

Another author (there were fourteen) has stood by the study’s findings, but insists that the conclusion of the meta analysis only suggested that we need further research to better understand the relationship between SFA’s and heart disease.

She has also supported continued adherence to American Heart Association’s parameters for SFA intake, stating that relaxing the guidelines would be premature at this point.

There are a number of studies in progress looking at the influence of particular saturated fatty acids on health outcomes, inspired by recent findings that suggest that all fatty acids are created equally.

The results of Annals of Internal Medicine study are intriguing indeed, and warrant further attention.

But until we have more evidence, the large majority of experts recommend continuing to keep SFA intake to a minimum and acquiring dietary fat from plant based sources (examples include olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds). We must also consider the steep environmental cost of meat consumption (10-15 pounds of grain is required to produce 1 pound of meat).

Bottom line: It’s a bit too soon to begin piling meat and cheese on your plate, but the results do suggest that more work needs to be done before we fully understand the relationship between SFA’s and heart disease.

And please be cautious when relying on media to interpret results of complex studies.

What can we conclude from the referenced study and other similar studies on SFA’s and health?

  • It seems that not all SFA’s are ‘equal’, and the way that they influence disease risk is not well understood and deserves further attention, so avoid dogmatic teachings around good food/bad food.
  • While we seek to better understand the SFA/health relationship and await further study results, please still proceed with caution when adding SFA’s to your intake.
  • Foods that are high in SFA’s (meats, dairy) are also often high in preservatives (and other artificial fillers) and sodium. Quality of meat/dairy DOES have a meaningful effect on the nutrient density, so going organic/grass fed IS worthwhile if you’re able.
  • Good nutrition is a complex picture with many shifting parts, and research is moving away from studying the influence of single nutrients on health outcomes, so be wary of these kinds of studies.
  • Lean on a plant based diet for necessary fats and proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains (budget friendly AND protective), and supplementing with high quality (organic/grass fed) meat and dairy products when you do want to include animal fats.

Questions, thoughts and reflections? Please post them below. I look forward to continuing this important discussion with you.

In good health –

Megan


Study Reference:
Rajiv Chowdhury, Samantha Warnakula, Setor Kunutsor, Francesca Crowe, Heather A. Ward, Laura Johnson, Oscar H. Franco, Adam S. Butterworth, Nita G. Forouhi, Simon G. Thompson, Kay-Tee Khaw, Dariush Mozaffarian, John Danesh, Emanuele Di Angelantonio; Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014 Mar; 160(6):398-406.

Faith Fasting and Disordered Eating

photo
Post interview smiles with Amy Cyr

Last week I had the pleasure of doing an on-camera interview for undergraduate PLNU communications student, Amy Cyr.

Inspired after reading this article, Amy focused her story on faith fasting and explored how fasting in your faith community may be a trigger to develop disordered eating patterns or engage deeper in an already existing eating disorder.

After interviewing leaders from various faiths who practice fasting as a spiritual discipline, Amy shared concern about the lack of awareness around eating disorders and how community or individual faith fasting may be an unintentional trigger to engage in unhealthy/unsafe practices around food and body issues.

I was touched by Amy’s savvy insights and desire to discuss an issue that is complex and important. Since eating disorders are so misunderstood and also the most deadly of all mental illnesses, it has become a passion to educate leaders of faith communities about eating disorders and how faith fasting may become an unintentional pitfall for the communities they are serving, leading and supporting.

In honor of this season of Lent and fasting for other faith communities, I have posted the information from Potentia’s Fasting and Eating Disorder flier below.

Spiritual fasting is an important discipline that can have many benefits. Please keep the following in mind when considering a spiritual fast:
• When fasting from food, daily hydration is essential for sustaining LIFE.
• Fasting can trigger eating disorder symptoms in persons, especially those who have recovered or are in recovery for these issues.
• If at any time the goal of a fast shifts to primarily losing weight, it is no longer a fast but a crash diet. Fasting should not be used as a tool to promote weight loss. It’s ineffective, and it also lowers metabolism.
• Many who struggle with food and body issues will engage in a fast as a mask for their disordered eating. Given the prevalence of eating disorders, disordered eating, dieting, and body shame in our culture, regularly focusing your community on the priorities of the fast is crucial.
• Food restriction tends to intensify food related obsessions and talk, and this can persist for some time even after the fast.  This kind of talk can also be very triggering for someone struggling with food and body issues.  Encouraging a “no negative food or body talk “ pledge during a fast is wonderful to include at the start of a fast.
• Validating and encouraging other non-food options for fasting can help people struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating have the freedom to participate in a fast with their community.
• Many report feeling like a bad or not good enough person of faith if they choose to not participate in a fast “perfectly” ie: fasting from food. Helping individuals in your community to make the best decision for their mind, body, and soul is respectful and empowering.
• Fasting is not recommended for active persons that wish to continue with exercise during the fast.  Our bodies need the fuel (and electrolytes) before and after exercise, and throughout the day!
• Certain groups should never participate in fasting, and these include: children, elderly, pregnant women, persons with a history of disordered eating (or currently struggling) or are undernourished, persons who have problems with blood pressure (or are on medication for blood pressure), kidney disease, diabetes or are prone to hypoglycemia, persons with unique nutritional needs or nutrient deficiencies (just to name a few).
 

What are your thoughts about the intersection of fasting with food and disordered eating?

What do you think about faith communities encouraging fasts from non-food items so everyone can participate in a community fast, regardless of their health?

Have you ever seen someone take a fast too far and turn it into a weight loss strategy?

I look forward to hearing from you on this complex and important topic.

Cheering you on  –

Rebecca

Unpacking 5 Common Questions on Exercise and Wellness with Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD

NoteRespect is looking at soreness

Note from Rebecca: The word “exercise” is often used in conjunction with the word “diet”. Exercise is indeed an important and necessary part of anyone’s wellness lifestyle. Yet the word itself is often misunderstood and loaded with expectations, shame and fear. Megan Hold, DrPH, MPH, RD unpacks some common questions and misunderstandings around exercise and how to care for our body when we are moving it and the importance of developing an intuitive relationship with exercise.

Q: Exercise is always a good thing, right?  I often read and hear that exercise makes our immune systems stronger.

A: Exercise is one of many stressors the body receives, and like other stressors, produces ill effects when introduced at a time when the body is overloaded.

Intermittent (spontaneous) very high intensity exercise and continuous over training (even if done at lower intensity) can compromise immune function.

For example, 90+ minutes of high intensity exercise may result in days of dampened immune function.  (“Intensity” can also look different from one person to the next, as we must consider baseline fitness levels).

During exercise, we experience an increase in cortisol ‘stress hormone’, which in turn increases blood pressure and cholesterol.  These effects are transient when exercise is balanced and appropriate, but over training can result in chronically high levels of cortisol, decreasing our immune function.

Other risk factors for infection include:

  • inadequate sleep,
  • weight loss,
  • poor quality of diet,
  • under nutrition/low calorie intake,
  • stress.

All of these things, including exercise, challenge homeostasis and therefore, can contribute to increasing susceptibility to illness.

On the flip side, exercise also attenuates stress, which bolsters our immune systems, though this occurs after the exercise but and in the scheme of a balanced training regimen.

Those who engage in moderate intensity exercise 4 days per week are nearly half as likely to use sick time relative to their sedentary and their ‘over trained’ counterparts.

Exercise stimulates phagocytosis, which can essentially be described as the gobbling up of illness producing bacteria by macrophages (the ‘big eaters’ of the immune system).

Immune parameters are enhanced for hours after exercise (and even longer if program is balanced and ongoing/continuous) but the benefits are compromised when one pushes too hard and denies themselves the rest that they need.

Q. What does research tell us about exercising when feeling under the weather?

A. Generally, if symptoms are ‘above the neck’ (i.e. the common cold) low intensity exercise is OK, such as walking or gentle yoga, though listen to your body and rest when symptoms are at their worst.

Wait at least 5-7 days before reintroducing moderate to high intensity exercise.  Cold weather does not increase risk of catching a cold…it simply results in close contact to a greater number of people, which increases transmission of bugs.

When symptoms are ‘below the neck’ or more involved, wait 1 ½ to 2 weeks before reengaging in workouts of moderate or high intensity.

Q. What are overuse injuries, and what are the primary risk factors for overuse injuries?

A. Overuse, in short, result from a culmination of ‘too much too fast’, repetitive movements, improper training techniques, inadequate rest and musculoskeletal system overload.

Half of kids 6-18 engaging in athletics will incur an overuse injury, with highest risk going to runners. Other major risk factors include lack of a period (being on birth control doesn’t ‘count’ if the period is absent without birth control), prior injury and inadequate calorie intake, which stimulates muscle catabolism and hinders muscle recovery.

Q. I am feeling pressured (from self and/or others) to overdo my exercise? What can I do?

A. Give yourself permission to decrease intensity when you need to, and kindly thank yourself for showing up!

Increase the intensity again when you feel like you have the energy to challenge yourself. Resist adding intensity/weight/incline speed because someone else is doing so, or the instructor of your fitness class insists upon it if you know that it’s too much for you.

You’re there for you, not for them, and it’s OK to modify.  Remember, they won’t be around to nurse your injury, so it’s up to you to know your limits.

Believe it or not, cardio is not the only component of fitness. Equally important are flexibility and muscular strength building exercise, particularly for the sake of preventing overuse injuries and building/maintaining bone mass.

A ‘balanced’ regimen may include:

  • yoga,
  • strength training (‘sculpt’ classes)
  • swimming or running/hiking
  • bike riding (moderate to high intensity)

Try to engage other people in your workout regimen, even if this ‘compromises’ intensity just a little bit. Friends who move for fun and wellness can help to keep you from engaging in the craziness of calorie counting or compensatory exercise. Healthy relationships and interactions are also great for your health. =)

If you find that you’re worrying throughout the day about how you’ll fit in your workout, take a breather until you have time to make it a priority without adding to your already overfilled plate.

This is especially true if you’re active a few days/week, but feel inclined to stick to a rigid 5,6,7 days at any cost. If you’re exercising for health benefits, but obsessing daily about how to make it happen ‘perfectly’, the impact of the stress defeats the purpose.

Q. I missed my class and now I’ve blown it. I missed yesterday’s as well, and now I am in a real bind because I am going out to dinner, and I don’t feel like I have ‘earned’ the calories.

A. This is the picture of a not-so-healthy relationship with food and exercise.  Take a walk instead, even if it’s not what you had in mind, and thank yourself for being flexible.

Carbohydrate and protein are a MUST after exercise, as they serve to decrease muscle and joint tissue damage (and no, a low carb protein shake does not suffice, even if it has, like, fifty grams of protein).

This includes an adequate intake of grains. And grains are not the devil. We have decades of research supporting the health benefits of whole grains in the diet, including, but not limited to, their being a great source of antioxidants, fiber, and essential anti-inflammatory fats.

Finally, don’t neglect dietary fat. The anti-inflammatory benefits are tremendous (which means inflammation is buffered by protective qualities of fats, primarily the plant-based fats, which means lower risk of injury).

Don’t wait until you have an overuse injury and are stuck with a bandaid approach to ‘fixing’ it and explore the benefits of a few choice lifestyle modifications, which can prevent, delay onset or aid in healing. Aim for your intake to be at least 30% of calories consumed from fat sources.

How do you define your relationship with exercise?

Do your trust your body to tell you when you need to rest?

Thanks for reading and please post your questions below in the comments section regarding all things exercise and wellness.

In good health –

Megan

Practical Tips on How to Support a Positive Relationship with Food

How you feed, move and rest

Note from Rebecca: Parents and caregivers have so much pressure these days. Trying to make ends meet, juggling busy schedules while giving the best care to their kids is simply A. LOT. Read the following post by Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD and listen to what nuggets tug on your heart with grace and compassion. Caution against reading this and letting the “I am a good/bad parent” critic run rampant and instead think about what is working and what areas re: this subject may be good to focus on making a change. One at a time. And commit to not doing any of this perfect but messing it up a lot as you seek to care for you and your family well – one bite, one step, one thought, one prayer at a time.  

How do family and friends influence your relationship with food, exercise and body image?

Perhaps surprisingly, peer influence on eating behaviors is much less pronounced than that of parents.

Kids raised in an obesogenic home environment (easy and regular access to foods consistent with a poor quality of diet, sedentary living quarters and/or limited access to safe outdoor play areas) are more likely to adopt these poor eating habits, but modeling intake of so-called ‘healthy’ foods does not necessarily model a healthy relationship with food.

A few examples of eating behaviors and other measures that are heavily influenced by habits of parents:

  • Fruit and veggie consumption of kids increase proportionately with parent’s intake
  • Tendency to lean on fast food/drive thru’s versus cooking at home increases in later adolescent years (and beyond) if parents model this behavior

On the flip side….Parents and caregivers who diet chronically or focus on weight or shape or fatness (even if only theirs) are more likely to experience the following with their children:

  • poor self-esteem
  • disordered eating patterns
  • body image issues and body dysmorphia
  • weight cycling (versus achieving and maintaining a stable weight)
  • orthorexia, or obsession with healthy/perfect/clean eating

What’s a parent to do?!

Given that obesity prevention is indeed a primary target of public health interventions, how is it possible that such an environment overly focused on weight and size may be less than helpful at times?

Authors Brooke Kantor and Hannah Borowsky hit the nail on the head in this excerpt from “The Obesity-Eating Disorder Paradox” from Harvard Political Review:

“Failing to deal with the reality of America’s obesity problem for fear of perpetuating an unhealthy obsession with body image would be a disservice to the public and perilous for the health of the nation.
 However, it is equally detrimental to attempt to tackle obesity by promoting restrictive diets and extreme exercise regiments.
 Adopting approaches that focus on positive attitude and lifestyle changes not only protects against eating disorders and issues of body image, but also is actually more successful in preventing obesity.
Therefore, America need not choose one fight over the other. The solutions to both issues are actually one in the same.”

————–

Within the disordered eating treatment bubble, we often hear parents eating patterns described as follows by the person struggling (particularly early on in treatment):

  • “My parents are health nuts. I NEVER see them eat dessert.”
  • “We never had ‘bad’ food in the house growing up”
  • “Mon/Dad never missed a day of exercise”
  • “Mom/Dad was always on a different diet, and Dad/Mom would eat just about anything.”
  • “Mom/Dad never sat down for a meal…s/he would skip breakfast and just pick at food, but s/he did drink a lot of coffee.”

A few words of wisdom when it comes to promoting a healthy relationship with food with any of the young people you care for:

  • Avoid characterizing food in moral or black/white terms (‘good’/’bad’)
  • Sit down whenever possible to meals, and enjoy meals with minimal distractions (emails, TV, etc.)
  • Model breakfast eating and honor hunger and fullness (versus leaning on caffeine to ‘pull through’ and dull the appetite….kids pick up on this.)
  • Avoid introducing movies such as “Supersize Me” or “Food Inc.” (even with the best of intentions) too early on, as teenagers are too young to manage these concepts without thinking in extremes
  • Promoting exercise for the sake of weight loss/burning calories, especially for kids or parents with orthorexic tendencies can be detrimental
  • Do not use food as reward or punishment. Ex: Kid gets in trouble at school and parents withhold dessert that night as part of disciplinary effort.

Call to action:

Journal/write about the following:

Design an eating style for yourself with the assumption that weight will not be influenced in either direction. 

What would it look like?

Consider the following: quality of life, energizing nature of foods chosen, food availability, flexibility and enjoyment/palatability of food. 

How would you go about meeting your body’s needs? How might this be different if you were also considering potential weight shifts?

Need help or are stuck with these calls to action? Please let me know how I can be a resource to you and your family. It gives me great joy to help people make sustaining lifestyle changes while pushing back on the toxic culture around food, exercise and body image.

In good health,

Megan, DrPH, MPH, RD + Potentia’s Coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness megan@potentiatherapy.com