Seeking True Health in a Health Obsessed Culture

TrueHealth2013 jpeg
True Health

Is your definition of health keeping you unhealthy?

Maybe. Maybe not. But I recommend taking a critical look at how you define health in your life and to reflect on how your definition of health is impacting your overall wellness.

When you say something or someone is healthy, what drives your sentiment?

I usually hear the following impacting this statement the most:

  • Looks
  • Weight
  • Fashion
  • Food choices
  • Fitness routines

And by the frenzy of advertisements everywhere about all of the above, the definition of health in our culture has been skewed to meet the needs of for-profit industries while also fueling disconnection and shame about the food we eat, our bodies, and our stories.

It is time to start thinking critically about the messages we are integrating into our definition of health.

Any person, book, or program that touts drastic weight loss, cutting out major food groups, or specific results is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. None of these diets or “lifestyle choices” are sustaining after 1-2 years. The facts show weight cycling from dieting, disordered eating, and serious eating disorders are continuing to wreak havoc on our health.

I respect and totally get the desire to look good and feel good. Yet, there is a dark side to these pursuits when the meaning and motivations are based on fear, obsession, and untruths.

I am troubled by the loud chorus of people in the medical and wellness fields that are getting on the bandwagon of fear of fat and an over-focus on the number on the scale as a measure of true health.

And I am even hearing health preached from the pulpit. Yet when people in faith communities are equating virtue with the number on the scale or whether you eat certain foods, it only results in more anxiety, confusion, and discontent. Shaming people to lose weight or eat well in the name of God hits below the belt and increases psychological and spiritual wounds.

I am surprised how many people are still using the archaic BMI (Body Mass Index) as an indicator of health. It is simplistic, formulaic, and reductive. The BMI does not take into account your genetics, unique physical makeup, and lifestyle. Yet it is still used as the gold standard for whether someone needs to lose or gain weight.

And I am still skeptical of the FDA standards of the BMI knowing that many of the people on the board have or have had connections to the diet industry. If the BMI is a part of your definition of health, I encourage you to take a step back and reconsider its role.

We do have some serious issues to address regarding wellness in our country, but the myopic focus on weight + good food/bad food is missing so many other factors that contribute towards true health. And until we have a multidimensional view of health, we will keep spinning.

I talk a lot about what health is NOT.

I believe health is not:

  • determined only by the number on the scale;
  • achieving the “perfect” body or striving for unhealthy perfection;
  • eating food restrictively or based on a “good” food or “bad” food mentality;
  • unsafe relationships;
  • an obsession with eating healthy where there is no room for flexibility;
  • dieting and demonizing foods and food groups;
  • shaming, blaming, or judging self or others.

I also talk a lot about how I define health.

I believe true health is:

  • finding something you are passionate about and striving to spend most of your waking hours in this space. When people are bored or feel trapped in jobs or situations that drain them of their creativity, their motivation, and ability to sit in vulnerability, this has a negative impact on mental and spiritual health which in turn can develop into physical ailments.
  • having a relationship with money where you are living within in your means and have enough to give and save. Leaning too heavily on finances as a means of control or comfort gives money way too much power over your peace of mind. And using money as a means to medicate can create chaos and a cycle of stress that negatively impacts mental, physical, and spiritual health.
  • involvement in your local community. So many people are disconnected from the places they live, but emotional wellness comes when we feel safe, have purpose, and community.
  • having a faith + regular spiritual practice. Understanding we are loved beyond measure and there is a greater purpose for your life gives perspective and meaning in all circumstances.
  • having a deep soul connection with a special few individuals who you can be real with, share your fears, mistakes, dreams, and hopes. Feeling heard and understood creates connection. Connection breeds empathy and gratitude. Gratitude impacts how our brains fires and improves our well-being, body, and soul.
  • living in a body that has energy, its needs met, is rested, moves well, and is free from pain. And when many are living in chronic pain or have chronic illness, practicing the previous five points can actually help improve their physical health. The only numbers of real concern are on your labs checking your bloodwork and other internal functions.

In the days and weeks to come, I will dig even deeper into these components of true health.

I am curious: How do you define health in your life? What do you think of my definition of health?  I look forward to and value your thoughts and feedback on this important and controversial topic.

Rebecca

 

Five Reasons to Ditch Dieting

Source: google.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

 

By Megan Handley, MPH, RD and Nutrition+Wellness Coordinator at Potentia

  • For the last time, diets don’t work! A group of researchers out of UCLA analyzed studies that followed dieters for 2-5 years, and found that the vast majority of participants gained back the weight, and then some, by the end of the follow up period.

  • Diets rely on external cues to guide our eating, rather than teaching us to listen to our body’s hunger and fullness cues.  Food is fuel for our bodies and should be enjoyed, savored and appreciated!

  • Diets are often based on testimonials, rather than on sound scientific studies.  The suggested eating plan is often rigid, and does not translate to real-world living.

  • Diets often require that we severely restricts calories or entire food groups, putting us at risk for nutrient deficiencies, and robbing our bodies of the energy that we need to be active.

  • Intense feelings of deprivation and hunger set the dieter up for binge eating patterns, which are then followed by feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction.

The following links are wonderful resources for you as you seek to (re) define health in your life:

Academy of Eating Disorders
American Dietetic Association
Finding Balance
Health at Every Size  
Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon
Intuitive Eating
The Center for Mindful Eating
The National Eating Disorders Association 

Diets can be a polarizing topic of discussion these days as many seek relief from real physical and emotional pain.  What do you think about diets? Have you had positive or negative experience with a diet?  Do you agree that diets do not work?

Is Authentic Going the Way of Awesome?

 

By Molly La Croix, LMFT Trauma Expert at Potentia Family Therapy

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“Keeping it Real at Facebook” 2/12/12) the author lamented the use of such phrases as authentic self.

She states, “Unless you start out fake you don’t need to learn to be genuine, right?”

While she was talking about overinflated egos and verbiage resulting from stratospheric levels of success, I found myself worrying that soon the word authentic might go the way of the word awesome.

We all know awesome has become one of the most overused adjectives, losing meaning and weight in the process.  It used to be used to convey a sense of wonder and majesty, and now it just conjures up the image of a preteen boy on a skateboard with his hat on sideways.

Why do I care that authentic might go the way of awesome?

Because our fundamental challenge as human beings is to figure out who we truly are and then live out that unique self in relationships where we do not have to pose or hide or morph into someone else.

Being an authentic self is not something to be mocked, or trivialized, or derided as a fad.  It is a worthy ambition.  It is a destination on a journey that is fraught with obstacles and challenges, requiring courage and perseverance.  It is a goal demanding stamina and a supportive community.

If being authentic means being real, genuine, and true – among other things – what makes it so difficult?  As the author said, “Unless you start out fake you don’t need to learn to be genuine, right?”

The difficulty lies in universal experience of shame when we venture forth as our true self and we perceive rejection of that self.  That can start as early as infancy when the baby cries and does not receive comfort.  Perhaps the self really was rejected by a harsh parent who called us stupid. Or, perhaps the child just interpreted a benign remark as a criticism of that self.

The issue is not whether the person meant to shame us.

The issue is that we all internalize a degree of shame about our core, authentic self.  That shame prompts all of us to be fake sometimes.

For some, the degree of shame is so great they live each day flooded by it.  For others, the negative beliefs associated with the feeling of shame, such as, “I’m not good enough, not loveable, not worthy…” pop up occasionally.

I don’t believe any of us entirely escape the influence of unhealthy shame, the kind that causes us to want to hide our authentic selves.

Just think about the last time you took a risk to take a stance with someone who is important to you – spouse, parent, partner, child, co-worker. Any anxiety crop up?  Any fear of rejection?

Depending on the weight of the issue, and the degree to which you internalized negative beliefs, that anxiety might have been great enough to silence your voice.

And that brings us back to the importance of being an authentic self.  It is not trite, it is essential.

Shame will silence us.  Those brave enough to be intentional about authenticity deserve praise and celebration.

Everybody Knows Somebody

2012 Theme: Everybody Knows Somebody

In a few days, National Eating Disorder Awareness Week will kick off.  I am always blown away by the power, the emotion, the dedication of so many who participate in this week through speaking, writing, creative events through multimedia and more.  So many have been touched by eating disorders and the disordered eating spectrum.  And that includes you.

Eating Disorders and the Disordered Eating Spectrum continue to be misunderstood, glamorized and minimized.  The truth of the matter is, you know someone struggling with their relationship with food and/or their body.

Everybody knows somebody.

You know somebody.

Food and body issues are tricky. They are sneaky and sly and operate under the guise of health and productivity or laziness and undiscipline.  Be very clear: eating disorders are killing and disabling at rates that are scary.  Eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental illnesses. Do not let someone you know be another statistic.

You know someone on the diet roller coaster or obsessed about eating healthy to such an extreme their lives have become a prison to irrational fear, rigidity and control.

You know somebody who repeatedly talks negatively about their body and believes their worth and value are directly correlated to the number on the scale.

You know somebody who is depressed, anxious, suicidal because they feel so out of control with their behaviors and thoughts about food and their body.

You know somebody who is slowly dying inside physically, emotionally and spiritually.

You know somebody who wants to be loved and seen beyond their looks, their grades, their performance, their weight, what they eat.  You know someone who wants to be seen.  Period.

You know somebody in this kind of pain.

And there is hope and healing available for those who want to live their lives in peace and joy.  I get to work with the most amazing professionals at Potentia and at treatments centers around the country who are passionate about helping people heal from their eating disorder.

Eating disorders are complex and their causes reflect this complexity: genetics, family of origin issues, culture, temperament, physiological issues, traumatic events and more.  There is not a quick fix and no one to blame but the sooner someone starts the process to change, the better for their long term prognosis.

You know someone who needs to begin this journey.  Now.

Resources like edreferral and Gurze are wonderful sites to find practitioners at all levels of care who specialize in treating the whole spectrum of food and body issues.  Gurze is also a publishing company dedicated to provided resources on these issues. I would also check out The National Eating Disorder Association.  I love the commitment of the NEDA team and value their role in starting and promoting National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  Hang out at these websites. Learn something new.  And share it with someone you know.

Potentia joins the many individuals, families, treatment centers and providers in promoting eating disorder awareness.  At Potentia, we will be doing a week long event asking people to write on a piece of paper (we have cool artsy paper, pens and more for those who want to get creative) an apology to their body or a thank you to their body.  We will hang these note cards around the space and make a slide show of them at the end of the week.

If you want to contribute to this event, feel free to stop by and add your contribution to our display.  And if you live far away, feel free to send me an email and I will make sure your words are added.

Sororities and other local groups are already contributing.  I would love to add your voice to this display.  And all contributions can be anonymous.

Our hope is this display gets everyone thinking a little more about the seriousness of disordered eating and helps those struggling know they are not alone.

And yes, to be clear, you know somebody.  Now it is time to talk about it.

How are you going to use your voice during eating disorder awareness week?

The ABC’s of Self-Love: B is for Beauty

                                                                       Source: everythingfab.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

 

I am excited to participate in my first ever Blog Crawl (find out more about The ABC’s of Self Love Blog Crawl + Treasure Hunt here), hosted by Molly Mahar of Stratejoy  celebrating the upcoming launch of her Fierce Love program.   I really appreciate Molly’s commitment to helping others discover the power of truly healing your relationship with your body and your story.  Molly would say how important it is to “adore yourself” in such an infectious and genuine way that you can’t help but take pause and believe she is on to something.   So when she tapped me to be the writer for the letter “B” with the topic of Beauty in her Fierce Love blog crawl, I was humbled and excited

Beauty. It is a tricky word and hard to define.  Defining beauty is very subjective, personal, intimate.

There is also a narrow standard of beauty, dispensed by the multi-billion dollar advertising industry, which has left those who believe this definition with intense body hatred, low sense of of worth, depression, depleted bank accounts, anxiety, fear of intimacy and dangerous food and body issues.

Some of the many lies perpetuated from this narrow definition of beauty state that you will be loveable, feel more confident, life will be more tolerable: if you weigh a certain amount, your body looks a certain way, you dress a certain way, you play by everyone’s rules and act a certain way, your (fill in the blank) is (fill in the blank).

It is time to stop the crazy-making, take back the power that has been externalized to the opinions of the “collective other” and (re)claim how you define beauty.

How do you define beauty?

I must confess, I spent years believing a flawed definition of beauty.  I was a slave to what other people thought of me.  I worked my body hard and rested little.  I hated what I saw in the mirror and was an approval junkie.  I was unsatisfied, frustrated, disconnected from God and my own values and dreams. I was lost.  And really tired.  All because I wanted to be beautiful in the eyes of others with the hopes I would then in fact be beautiful.

I thought the world’s definition of beauty = being enough.  I was just drinking the Kool-aid.

But thankfully, I healed some infected wounds, fought some battles, had a gun held to my head (twice – that is another story) and experienced some fierce love from myself, God and some incredible people.  I woke up to the lies I was telling myself about my worth and value and regularly fight back the desire to play the lose–lose game of comparing myself to others.

I now revel in the awe-inspiring beauty of courage, generosity, gentleness, kindness, sacrificial love, compassion, vulnerability, motherhood and respect.

I discovered confidence, the power and importance of surrounding myself with safe people. I say, “No thank you,” a lot and “yes” to my calling on this planet therefore putting the “shoulds” and “have-tos” in permanent time out.

I regularly push back on the lies shame tells me and now know that being perfectly imperfect is a whole lot more life-giving than striving for perfection. (This one can be tough on some days…)

I believe the state of my heart, character, integrity are more powerful indicators of beauty verses my outside image.

How do you define beauty? Is your definition is keeping you stuck, in pain and shame or is it is life-giving and freeing?

What changes are you going to make in how you talk about beauty so you do not inadvertently collude with the world’s definition of beauty?

With fierce love –

Rebecca

 

 

Find out more about  Molly’s “The ABC’s of Self Love Blog Crawl + Treasure Hunt” here.

It’s My Body by Jenni Schaefer

 

Jenni Schaefer

I saw this poem by Jenni Schaefer last year in one of her newsletters.   I love it and she graciously gave me permission to post it.  Soak up this powerful push-back to the lies that can clutter our minds and our culture.

 

It’s My Body by Jenni Schaefer

It’s my body. If I am overweight by societal standards or some height/weight chart, my body does not need to be starved in order to fit in. My body will be the size it is supposed to be if I am taking care of myself. I will not fight it.

It’s my body. If I go out on a date and a guy buys me dinner, I do not owe him a kiss or anything else. A simple, “thank you,” does the job just fine. Despite what society might say, my body is not my currency.

It’s my body. If I overeat at a party today, because the food is just so good, I do not need to restrict or over-exercise tomorrow. My body needs to be nourished, everyday, and never deserves to be punished.

It’s my body. If I have been abused, my body does not deserve to be hated. My body is not disgusting because of what someone else did to me. My body is not something to feel ashamed of or to hide. I cherish my body.

It’s my body. If I am sick, I need to give my body rest and do whatever it takes to get well. My body is not invincible. It is fragile. I must not abuse it with food, alcohol, drugs, or anything else. I must take care of it.

It’s my body. Today my organs are nourished and can function properly. I get enough sleep. I am strong. I do things that feel enjoyable like hiking, swimming, getting a massage, yoga, or even kissing my date — when I choose to do so.

It’s my body. I do not look like you or anyone else. You might be taller or thinner than me. By societal standards, you might be prettier than me. But you are not me. And I am not you.

It’s your body. Respect it. Nourish it. Love it.

If you have not already checked out Jenni’s books, “Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too” and “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life.” I encourage you to add them to your library.  These books are incredible resources for those in struggling with an eating disorder and those who have a loved one with an eating disorder.