Q&A Series: Cleanses

Q&A Series: Cleanses

Kayla Waler, MFT Intern at Potentia: So, we’ve recently tackled pertinent topics such as Paleo and gluten-free diets. My friends have expressed interest in a Q&A about juice fasts and cleanses. I know juice fasts and cleanses are popular, especially around certain times of the year…what can you tell me about this practice?

Megan Holt, RD, MPH, Ph(c) and Coordnator of Nutrition and Wellness at Potentia: In my experience, people tend to be interested in cleansing for one of four reasons: 1) weight loss, 2) detoxification, or 3) as a means of hitting a ‘reset’ button when they’re feeling particularly bad about their current diet or 4) for an energy boost. Cleanses usually involve one or more of these components: 1) a fast 2) some sort of product or regimen purported to remove toxins from the body, or 3) a colon cleanse.

Kayla: Let’s start by talking about fasting…

Megan: I tend to discourage fasting because it can reactivate disordered eating behaviors–whether that’s restriction or feeling out of control with food or feeling disconnected from hunger and fullness cues when one does start to eat again. I generally recommend against it for anyone who has suffered from disordered eating in the past. But for someone without a history of disordered eating, there’s really no harm in doing a juice fast or any fast for one or two days, as long as the person is hydrating appropriately. Beyond a few days, there’s no way one can really meet his/her micro and macronutrient needs for vitamins, minerals, fat, fiber, and protein through a fast (including a juice fast). So, if the fast is prolonged, say for two weeks, he/she will start to break down muscle tissue, resulting in a weight loss (muscle tissue is heavy and dense, about 1.7 or 2 times the weight of fat mass). This can’t be sustained without becoming malnourished, nor is it ideal to waste muscle tissue and lose strength. In such a state a person can expect to be in ketosis, a state characterized by elevated levels of ketones in one’s urine or a fruity or acetone-like smell in one’s breath. Ketosis is one of the hallmarks of starvation/malnutrition.

Kayla: I know detoxification is a trendy concept. What are the toxins people are trying to rid from their bodies?

Megan: Usually the claims about detoxification on these products are overstated and generalized/non-specific. Most refer to PCBs, lead, heavy metals, or environmental toxins like food additives, food coloring, pesticide residue, etc.

Kayla: And would a cleanse rid the body of these toxins?

Megan: Actually, there’s no evidence that a cleanse or fast would (although, as long as one is fasting, one is likely taking in less of these compounds, though they’re reintroduced once the fast ends). There seems to be nothing about a cleanse that is as beneficial as adopting a good quality of diet consisting primarily of plants and whole foods. But there isn’t much research out there; there haven’t been many high quality studies on cleanses because higher preliminary studies show no benefit. Cleanses are typically promoted by testimonials given by celebrities or people who have no training/educational background (major red flag).

One problem with cleanses/detox diets is that if someone had a poor diet before doing on a cleanse, they usually revert back to that diet afterward, as they often don’t build skills to enable sustainable changes. So, unless he/she makes a concerted effort to change diet and lifestyle, he/she will return to feeling just as poorly as prior to the cleanse.

Kayla: …because he/she is just reintroducing all the old stuff…?

Megan: Right. The benefits are not sustained and not sustainable. So if you wish to feel better, or are seeking the reported benefits of something like a cleanse or detox diet, the best bet is really working on changing quality of diet and increasing activity, both of which sustainably promote feelings of well being (without undesirable side effects).

And it’s most important to note that not everyone reports feeling better during or after a cleanse. Most people report feeling disorientated or lethargic, dizzy, weak, a little confused or groggy because they’re malnourished and not getting enough glucose to the brain to fuel proper cognitive processes and physical functioning. Some people often report feeling lighter, and I can see that because one may lose weight in the form of fluid and stool bulk primarily (and perhaps a smaller proportion of fat mass and muscle mass depending on how the cleanse or fast lasts). But most often, participants complain of weakness, confusion, or just feeling “out of it.”

Kayla: Then why do people believe a cleanse is beneficial?

Megan: In part due to the power of testimonials—some people do report feeling better. Certainly people can report feeling better after adhering to a really nutrient-dense juice cleanse for several days in a row. But when someone is coming from a place where their diet is poor, of course they are going to feel better when diet improves. The problem is that it’s short term. We know that fad diets don’t work in terms of sustaining weight loss, and cleanses/detox diets are not exceptions.

Some people notice that a one or two-day cleanse or fast helps them to break habits of mindless eating and get back to a cleaner quality of diet. For example, someone who takes a one or two-day fast or cleanse after the holidays. Having said that, if you’re someone who is willing to stick to a juice fast or cleanse for just a few days as a means of hitting a ‘reset’ button, then you’re probably also apt to resume your pre-holiday eating style without doing the cleanse/fast.

Kayla: I know fasting can be dangerous because of the risk of malnourishment. Are there other risks? Can a cleanse regimen be dangerous?

Megan: Cleansing and fasting can be especially difficult and contraindicated for people with altered nutrient needs due to illness (diabetes, kidney disease, etc.). So, prior to participating in a cleanse or fast, I’d suggest consulting first with your physician.

Kayla: Earlier, you mentioned colon cleansing. Will you explain what a colon cleanse is? Why do people do it, and what are the pros and cons?

Megan: A colon cleanse is usually performed with an enema, commonly salt water or purified water injected into the colon. The idea is to remove any metabolic waste that the colon hasn’t removed on its own. Conventional physicians usually don’t support colon cleanses because there isn’t evidence to support the reported benefits. The colon is self-cleaning… it does a really good job of getting rid of metabolic waste on its own. So, we don’t need a procedure to cleanse the colon. In fact, introducing a foreign object into the colon can actually be pretty risky. Perforation of the bowel is another big risk with colon cleansing, as are infections and electrolyte disturbances.

Proponents of the colon cleanse will say they are introducing higher levels of good bacteria and getting rid of “bad” bacteria in the intestines, but there is really no evidence of that being the case, and the introduction of good bacteria is something you can get from eating probiotic-containing foods and a primarily whole-food plant based diet.

Also, we have a liver and other important organs that perform that function for us without prompting. Environmental toxins can not be metabolized or cleared by a cleanse or fast, unfortunately. If you are looking to make a change to feel better, my advice is to follow something that is sustainable for you, preferably a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet—though not necessarily vegetarian—with a high intake of whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and plant based fats.

What are your experiences with cleanses and fasts?  Have they been helpful or triggering of disordered eating thoughts and behaviors?

And thanks so much for your interest in this Q&A series.  Please keep us posted on future topics you would like us to cover in future Q&A posts.  Thanks for reading!

In good health – Megan and Kayla

Q&A Series: Gluten-Free Diet Unpacked

Unpacking Gluten-Free Diet
Unpacking Gluten-Free Diet

After getting the scoop on the Paleo Diet, I sat down with Megan Holt, DrPh(c), MPH and Registered Dietitian, to get more information about another popular diet craze–the gluten-free diet.  –Kayla

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Kayla: So, what exactly is gluten, and what is the gluten-free diet?

Megan: Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains, but it has been incorporated into a lot of different food products.  Rye, barley, bulgur, triticale, some oats (due to cross contamination), and wheat products, of course, contain gluten, as do many sauces and meat tenderizers or seasonings.  Gluten tends to slip its way into many products because of its elastic structure and ability to act as a thickener. A gluten-free diet is simply an exclusion of gluten, which means the diet rules out all of the pastas, breads, pastries, and cookies that are gluten-containing, but also many other sauces and seasonings.

Kayla: I know that I’ve heard a lot about gluten-free products and the gluten-free diet within the last year or two, but how long has this diet been around?

Megan: The idea of a gluten-free diet gained popularity about 5 years ago, but it really exploded about two years ago in conjunction with the Paleo diet.  A number of studies have supported benefits of a gluten-free diet for certain subsets of the population, and largely as a result of the popularity, we have an increased awareness (and an increase in the number of people being tested).  We are now more aware of the symptoms of gluten sensitivity, and, given the availability of gluten-free products on menus in stores, sticking to a gluten-free diet is far less stigmatizing and isolating than it was in the past.  These are real benefits for people who are genuinely gluten-sensitive.

Kayla: What are the benefits of gluten?

Megan: There are decades of research that supports the use of whole grains in our diet.  High intake of whole grains are protective in terms of lowering risk of major causes of death in the United States:  cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome (in part due to the fact that low intake of whole grains is associated with higher abdominal fat and obesity).  Breads, grains, and pastas make up the bulk of the western diet (for better or worse), so one benefit of gluten intake in the US is that many of our grain products (which are gluten containing) are vitamin-fortified.  So, we tend to get a lot of vitamins and minerals, like folate, fiber, iron, and zinc, from gluten-containing products.  Of course, there are other, sometimes better sources for these vitamins, but gluten-containing products are a really common accessible source in the US.  Finally, whole grains themselves are very satiating, and they contribute to sustaining normal levels of blood sugar, even more so than a lot of the gluten-free counterparts.  One example would be whole wheat pasta versus (gluten-free) brown rice pasta.  Whole wheat pasta is a little more stabilizing and has more fiber and protein than brown rice pasta.  That’s just one example of a not-necessarily-healthier gluten alternative.

Kayla: Can you explain gluten sensitivity? What is the difference between that and celiac disease?

Megan: So, with the explosion of the gluten-free fad, we’ve become better at recognizing the symptoms of gluten sensitivity, which is milder than celiac disease and usually characterized by physical symptoms, with no damage to the small intestine.  Symptoms can include: diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, rashes, joint pain, and other inflammatory symptoms.  Celiac disease is characterized by an immune response to gluten, which can lead to the destruction of the villi in the small intestine, which can be severe and debilitating.  Many of these folks suffer from serious nutrient deficiencies just because they can’t absorb what they’re eating, so the removal of gluten from their diets is imperative.  But true celiac disease affects less than 1% of the population.

Kayla: How does one confirm gluten sensitivity or celiac disease?

Megan: Well, the gold standard to check for celiac disease is a biopsy of the small intestine to look for flattening of the villi.  Some doctors will perform an endoscopy to actually look for damage to the small intestine, but some look to blood tests that reveal the level of antibodies that have developed.  If these antibodies are outside a normal range (high), it may indicate a gluten intolerance or celiac disease.  But usually people will just try an elimination diet–eliminating gluten and then reintroducing it and looking for symptoms.

Kayla: But that only works if you’re only eliminating gluten, not adding in other things, or completely changing your diet…

Megan: Exactly.  Most of the people I see are just starting to pay attention to quality of diet or trying to improve their quality of diet and may feel like one the markers of improving their diet would be excluding gluten.  When I see people who want to follow a gluten-free diet, what I typically ask them to do is see their physician to check if they can get a test to confirm non-celiac gluten sensitivity or celiac disease if that’s what they suspect.  If there’s no confirmation, we work for a few weeks to clean up the overall quality of diet and I ask them to pay attention to the appreciable benefits they experience from simply improving the quality of diet.  Then, we can exclude the gluten-containing foods, substituting them for something comparable for a month or so before reintroducing gluten and noting any symptoms.  Changing the overall diet while excluding gluten is not ideal.

Kayla: Are there any benefits of a gluten-free diet for people without gluten sensitivity?

Megan: None that are evidence-based.  If we’re just excluding gluten or substituting whole grains for gluten-free grains, then no, there’s no benefit.  Moving away from genetically-modified foods and toward organic foods is beneficial, and this is a shift that is often made at the same time as one decides to go gluten-free.  But generally, gluten-free products tend to be more highly processed and are not fortified, compared to many gluten-containing grains, so you actually get less fiber and have a higher intake of processed foods when you’re just swapping out whole grains for gluten-free grains–unless you have legitimate gluten sensitivity.  That’s always the exception to the rule.  For most of the clients I see, those who don’t have gluten sensitivity, reintroducing gluten after elimination brings on no symptoms, other than perhaps a bit of an adjustment to a higher intake of fiber.

Kayla: So how can someone going gluten-free for a legitimate reason do so in a healthy way?

Megan: There are ways to be gluten-free more healthfully, that are more than just swapping out the gluten-containing grains for gluten-free ones.  For example, someone can get a lot of nutrients from beans, lentils, and other whole grains that are gluten-free like brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, and gluten free oats, or from fruits and vegetables.  Using these foods as staples is very healthy.  I’m a firm believer that you can have a balanced diet that excludes things you don’t want to eat or things that don’t make you feel well, but you have to be intentional about adding other food sources to make up for what you’re losing.  You have to take a balanced approach.

Kayla: How can I tell if someone going gluten-free is really struggling with disordered eating?

Megan: Unfortunately, I often see people using the gluten-free diet in the service of disordered eating, that is, as a reason for restricting their eating.  Then, if weight loss happens, it’s because of the restriction, not because their diet is gluten-free.  If you’re concerned about someone going gluten-free, you can always suggest that they see their physician for confirmatory testing.  Other red flags:  Is he/she restricting food /calories outside of those that are gluten containing? Has there been an undue or unnecessary weight loss? Is he/she unable to enjoy food or participate in activities involving food?

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We would love your thoughts on our conversation about the gluten-free diet. Post your thoughts and any additional questions for us in the comments section below. Also, let us know if there are any other diet or wellness trends you would like unpacked in future Q&A blog posts.

In good health –Megan and Kayla

Q&A Series: Paleo Unpacked

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Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of chatter amongst my friends about the Paleo diet. Naturally, I’ve been a little curious about it, so I thought I’d talk with my fabulous colleague, Megan Holt, Ph(c), MPH and Registered Dietician, to get the scoop on the science behind the Paleo diet and her thoughts on how to eat right and stay safe in our diet-obsessed culture. – Kayla

Kayla: Thanks for taking time to talk with me today, Megan! I have some questions about the Paleo diet.  It seems like half the people I know are on it. Can you talk a little about what the Paleo diet is?

Megan:  So there have been versions of the Paleo diet around for 30-40 years–the idea of eating like our ancestors first surfaced in the 1970’s. Today’s Paleo Diet was coined and popularized by a professor, Dr. Loren Cordain. The idea behind it is that our bodies can’t process some of the foods–grains, for example–that have become staples in our diets since the industrial revolution. So, we are better off eating like our ancestors, the cavemen, with a diet that consists primarily of meat & vegetables with no dairy, grains, or processed foods.

Kayla: Well, that sounds pretty good, in theory.

Megan:  With this diet, as with any of the other fad-type diets, like Zone or South Beach or Atkins, there are always a few really positive and helpful features. A favorable aspect of the Paleo diet, for example, is the suggestion that you take an 85/15 approach to food…that is, you should follow Paleo principles 85% of time and the other 15% of the time non-Paleo foods are allowed. I like the idea of that sort of flexibility, rather than having certain foods be “off limits.”

Kayla:  So, what are the drawbacks?

Megan:  Many of the Paleo principles are far from evidence-based. The cavemen, for example, didn’t suffer from the diseases that we suffer from in the western society like stroke, heart disease, or cancers, but their lifespans were very short. They didn’t tend to live long enough to experience these chronic diseases…so we’re unable to draw strong conclusions or make a fair comparison. Also, the emphasis on animal products like meat, beef, is problematic.

There is the idea that saturated fats aren’t inflammatory or linked with preventable diseases as we once thought they were. The large majority of research suggests otherwise–that saturated fat still is a risk factor for several chronic diseases. There have been some studies that suggest a more mild relationship, but we still have lots of research to support keeping saturated fat to a minimum in our diet. Additionally, quality of animal products and production methods are drastically different in today’s society, and can’t be fairly compared with meat that was consumed by our ancestors.

And the problem with eliminating grains is just that it’s not evidence-based.  There are loads of high quality studies that suggest that whole grains play a supportive role in our health. Paleo diet proponents have been able to cash in on other popular diet trends in our society, such low-carbohydrate diets, gluten-free diets and emphasis on foods with low glycemic index.

Kayla:  So, what’s the rationale for limiting carbohydrates and high-glycemic foods?

Megan:  Blood sugar control. The idea is that if we ingest foods on the lower end of the glycemic index, it helps us maintain energy levels and stabilize blood sugar. Some of that is evidence based–there’s some good in that. Limiting processed foods, added sugars, and high-fat dairy and encouraging vegetable intake is also helpful.

But a high intake of animal fats from meats, beef, sausage, bacon is absolutely not protective, nor is it environmentally responsible. Roughly 10-15 calories of grain is required to produce 1 calorie of meat, and ten times the amount of fossil fuel/energy is required to produce 1 calorie of meat versus 1 calorie of grains.

Kayla:  And what about limiting grains?

Megan:  We have decades of evidence in support of whole grains, unless someone has a legitimate gluten allergy or intolerance. Some really good things have come out from exploring the relationship between gluten intake and inflammation, but it is way overrepresented in our population. When we cut out a lot of processed foods and dairy and peanuts (not allowed on the Paleo diet), we have to remember that these are the most likely culprits of food allergies/intolerances.

So, it makes sense that when someone with an undiagnosed intolerance or allergy removes these foods from the diet, they will tend to feel remarkably better. And when someone without allergies cuts down intake of processed foods and added sugars, and increases intake of fruits and vegetables, they will naturally feel better.

This is nothing new, and it is not unique to the Palo diet. Anytime we improve quality of diet and move away from foods with poor nutrient density, particularly those which are easy to passively over-consume (think milkshakes, frappuccinos, pastries), we will experience improvements in terms of health.

But with nutrition research, it’s hard to tease out which aspects of a diet are resulting in the change…Are we benefiting from the foods we’ve removed or from the foods we’ve reintroduced in place of them? For example, when we cut out gluten, we cut out all the processed grains and many grain-based desserts/pastries.

When we cut out these foods, we’re going to notice some sort of benefit or resulting weight loss. We may substitute our Cocoa Puffs for something much more protective and energizing, such as a greens smoothie.  Of course we’d feel better, but this doesn’t warrant demonizing grains.

There are many factors to consider. If we feel better after cutting out a food, what are we replacing the food with? What other lifestyle factors have changed? Has there been a shift in our activity level? Are we sure we can attribute feeling better to the elimination of a food, like gluten? More often than not, it’s unclear. Roughly 20-30% of people who identify themselves as sensitive to gluten actually are.

Kayla:  Those are good points. So, what is your advice for someone who wants to be healthy, to eat cleanly, and/or to lose weight in a healthy way? How would you advise her to go about making food choices?

Megan:  I support eating styles that are evidence-based and sustainable in terms of how well they support health and lower risk of preventable diseases. What that tends to look like is roughly half, if not 60%, of food intake coming from carbohydrates, mainly whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables. About 15% should derive from lean protein and fatty fish.

We get a lot more protein from plant-based sources than we think (whole, minimally processed grains, legumes, nuts, seeds), so we don’t need to rely on meat. The rest–roughly 30-35% of our calories should come from plant-based fats like olive oil, canola oil, avocado, or grapeseed oil, versus saturated or trans fats like butter/dairy fat or lard. A small amount of saturated/trans fats are OK, but they shouldn’t represent the bulk of our intake.

Many of my clients have a long history of dieting and weight cycling, and benefit from a more flexible approach to eating and meal planning. In such cases, we try to identify foods that they enjoy and are drawn to that will also be energizing and health-promoting.

If your morning ritual includes coffee and a donut, then we talk about breakfast staples that appeal that offer more in terms of nutrient density. Surely we can find something that is more energizing, such as oatmeal with almonds and fresh berries. We’re not demonizing donuts here, but we have to acknowledge them as the less supportive choice.  Enjoy them as treats, but perhaps not as a breakfast staple.

Kayla: When I am with my friends who are talking about their Paleo diet, or going gluten-free, how can I tell if what they’re talking about is just normative, fad diet stuff, or if it has crossed the line toward disordered eating?

Megan:  I tend to look for improvements in quality of life when one is following a particular diet.  If they’re feeling better, maintaining weight that is right for their body and showing signs of improved energy levels, then great.  However, if they have to take unreasonable measures to comply with the diet, such as isolating themselves from social engagements that involve food, that might raise a bit of concern. Excess weight loss, even if the person does not appear “underweight” by current standards, is also a red flag.

Kayla:  And for someone in recovery from disordered eating, how can she keep herself safe in the midst of this cultural obsession with dieting?

Megan:  I’d suggest she just voice her concerns as they apply to her and her friends openly & non-judgmentally. If she’s meeting friends for some purpose that doesn’t relate to dieting or exercise, consider setting a limit around food- and weight-related talk (so ask friends to refrain from revolving conversation around dieting/weight loss). Supportive friends will understand and will be able to respect this.

Living in Southern California makes it nearly impossible to avoid diet talk altogether, as at least 2/3 of peer groups, especially female, are going to be dieting or interested in dieting or preoccupied with thoughts of wanting to lose weight. Surrounding oneself with a safe and supportive group of peers is crucial. There are women out there who have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. 🙂

Avoid giving into the pressure of having to identify yourself by the dietary trend you follow (i.e. “vegan, paleo, etc”) as this often results in our feeling badly about our choices when we stray from the diet”s tenants.  Take a more flexible (and sustainable) approach and choose foods that you truly enjoy and make you feel well.

Given the buzz around Paleo, my clients in recovery are naturally curious about the diet:

  • What is with the Paleo diet?
  • Is it safe?
  • Why are so many people talking about it?
  • Would this be good for me?

I tell them, especially those who have been through proper treatment, that they know what foods are going to make them feel well and what their body needs in order to perform well in terms of sleep, hydration, nutrition–and they have to trust that.  I ask them to try to refrain from taking nutrient/diet advice from their peers, most of whom acquire knowledge from media sources without scientific merit.

I remind them, “Refer back to your own experience. You’ve been through numerous diets; you know where that’s taken you. Trust that you know how to meet your body’s needs.”

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We would love your thoughts on our conversation about the Paleo diet.  Post your thoughts and any additional questions for us in the comments section below. Also, let us know if there are any other diet or wellness trends you would like unpacked in future Q&A blog posts.
In good health – Megan and Kayla

Holding the Numbers Lightly

lifetooshort

 

Numbers.

I have a lot of conversations about numbers in my line of work. And not the numbers that my accountant or financial planner talk with me about (ugh) but the numbers that are used to help us measure our physical health.

My clients over the last decade have taught me that these numbers can be destructive, shaming, and spike their inner drill sergeant to start screaming awful things about their worth + value.

Working with those who struggle with eating disorders, negative body image, and disordered eating has taught me a lot about some numbers and how they can be draining and all-consuming.

I am referring to the number:

on your scale
of the size of your pants
of calories or points of a food item
on your labs (I like these numbers but they can often be used incorrectly)
of calories burned

While I believe our emotional, relational, and spiritual health are deeply enmeshed with our physical health, I want to address these numbers — particularly the number on your scale — and how you use them as you seek to make changes in your physical well-being.

When it becomes clear to me that these numbers are toxic to my clients and are preventing any real change from happening, I often ask them to take a big risk and leap of faith.

I ask them to get rid of their scale.

Sometimes they are not ready to get rid of it, so I hold it at my office (you should see the space under my couch) or they put it in the trunk of their car or have a trusted friend hold it or hide it.

Afraid of losing control without their scale, my clients ask:

What if I gain a ton of weight?
How will I know if I am making progress?
What will motivate me for change without the scale?

I always respect this resistance. I get it.

It’s a frightening idea to let go of this measure that helps them manage their anxiety + fear and has been serving as an emotional container for some time. But if they are in my office, I suspect this means of containing has reached capacity.

The scale simply does not serve as an effective means of control and in fact spikes obsessive thoughts about weight, food, numbers, and what other people think.

Stepping on the scale fuels the “never enough” crazy-making because:

  • If it is higher than you would like, you feel anxious, depressed, ashamed.
  • If it is right where you want it to be, you are excited but also paralyzed by fear of doing anything that will change that number in the wrong direction.
  • Even If you have achieved a weight in the range that is best for your body, sometimes the desire to go even lower gives a rush that is hard to resist.

Contrary to the many messages we are inundated with in our culture, weight is not a direct correlation to our health.  Last week, the results of a meta-analysis study of weight and mortality revealed those deemed overweight were associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality.

This study is more indication of the need to rethink how we define overweight and obese. I want to be clear, the results of this study are not a pass for those who need to make changes in how they care for their body. But shaming people to make changes to better their well-being is not effective and is destructive.

Determining our well-being is way more complex than a number on a scale or an antiquated formula or chart. These faulty formulas are pervasive in our culture and prey on those who are feeling pretty crappy about themselves, who are desperate for change and relief.

When the number on the scale is the primary measure of your success in achieving your goals, you are vulnerable to a shame spiral.

When this number has power over your worth and value, it is time to get off the scale until you can recalibrate that way of thinking and learn how to bench negative emotion so you respond to your pain in ways that are not harmful to yourself and others.

Many clients report a positive emotional benefit after taking a break from the scale. They report less anxiety and that their inner drill sergeant has dialed back the volume.

Let me be clear: I think it is important to own all of these numbers…

…at the right time in your healing journey.

At the wrong time, shame, perfectionism, impatience, and fear can take these numbers and wreak havoc on your sense of worth, your mood, your focus.

Megan Holt, Potentia’s Coordinator of Nutrition + Wellness, often monitors the numbers on the scale for our clients while working with them on strategies towards true health that are customized for each individual. (Note: We all need a Megan in this culture!)

When our worth gets tied up in numbers, we make changes — often needed changes — for reasons that do not support sustaining change.

Our goal is to help people really discover where their bodies have the most energy and function the best. We support people discovering their food preferences and moving away from calling food good or bad. It is so amazing to see people find a way to enjoy food while still nourishing well.

When we use eating, restricting, or eliminating food in unsafe ways to take away the pain or to numb, dull, and repel, we do not allow ourselves to develop the emotional muscle to bench the hard stuff in life.

Food — eating it or restricting it — is powerful. It can be fun + enjoyable, too.

But for many, tolerating joy is very triggering and even less tolerable than shame and fear. Going back to the dark space, albeit uncomfortable, is known. And our brains like known.

So, if you are starting off this new year and food + body issues are one of your primary goals to tackle this year, awesome.

But please hold the numbers lightly.

And if you notice the numbers on your scale or on food items you are eating or the size of clothes giving fuel to your inner drill sergeant, then take a pause.

Ask your dietician, your nurse, or doctor to do blind weigh-ins for a while and not to talk about numbers for a bit as you seek to recalibrate your thinking.

These numbers are one of many factors that measure your progress on the journey towards true health, but they are not the sole indicator of progress as they may fluctuate for a variety of reasons.

Hold the numbers lightly as you seek true health in your life, and fiercely guard your heart from believing your worth is tied into a number.

Cheering you on —

Rebecca

Slowing Down + Feeding Ourselves Well.

Source: potentiatherapy.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

Today is National Food Day.

The effort behind this movement is a “nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.”

We believe there is room for all foods in how we feed ourselves.  We also believe food is medicine.  When we nourish well, we feel well.

So many we work with have:

  • an obsessive;
  • a fearful;
  • a love/hate;
  • a distant
  • a frustrating

relationship with food.  Food does not have to take away your power.  Instead, it can empower you to live, be, and serve well.

When our clients begin to heal their relationship with food, they discover their food preferences, the joy of caring for their bodies and, yes, the joy of eating.

Eating well = fun + freeing.

Eating well = freedom from the loud voices in your head that shame you for eating a food deemed “bad”.

Eating well = energy, clarity, slowing down, enjoyment, community, connection.

The grassroots effort of the Slow Food Movement to maintain the diversity + quality in our food supply while supporting farmers through purchasing locally grown whole foods is exciting because it brings home the fact that how you feed yourself not only impacts you but those in your community.

Slowing down and feeding ourselves well: It’s good for our bodies, our community and our planet.  AND it’s totally affordable. (Seriously!)

Wow! A big part of healing your relationship with food, your body and your story involves being a part of something bigger in your life.  One simple way you can jump start that process is by checking out your local farmer’s market and connecting with those who grow/raise your food.

Several venues here in San Diego County will be hosting events in honor of National Food Day. Visit www.foodday.org to find an event near you.

Also, check out the San Diego Farm Bureau’s website to find your local farmer’s market. (or the FB in your local area.)

Go get some farm fresh tomatoes for your tomato sauce.  Or grab some fresh apples and free-range eggs for your apple spice cake.  Pick up some freshly harvested greens for your dinner salad tonight.

And if you see us at the market, please say hello!  We are honored to be a part of your community.

Slowing down and eating well –

Rebecca + Megan

Faith Fast or Crash Diet?

Source: google.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

 

I was recently asked to put together a handout for an organization getting ready to start a community-wide faith-based fast and I want to share this important information with you, too.

Spiritual fasts are a powerful and important discipline which can bring about some truly meaningful experiences and growth.

But in today’s culture riddled with the extremely high incidence of eating disorders and disordered eating, I encourage individuals and leaders to please consider the following when engaging in 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 Christian” or “not a good enough Christian” 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 on this hot topic?

I would love to hear about your experiences with spiritual fasting in the comments below.

Rebecca

Call to Action

 

Wow!  Potentia has had its own brick and mortar space for a little over 9 months now.

And it has been so crazy-busy-fun-amazing-blessed wrapped in some stress, grace, clarity and relief.

This new space has been a dream call to action on my heart for several years.

After waiting, and waiting and waiting for the right time, it just flowed when I signed the lease for the new space last June.

Once the lease was signed, I was compelled and consumed by a vision to create a unique space where healing could happen supported by a specialized and collaborative team of professionals.

When I first got the picture for Potentia’s expansion, I wanted to act immediately, jump ship, make it happen.

It felt intolerable at times to just sit with this call and not. do. a thing. other than pray+clarify + prepare.

The posture of waiting is not the stance I have assumed for most of life.  My husband teases me often how I love to jump first and then think.  But sometimes I was jumping not just for the adventure but because it did not feel good to wait.

Patience has not been a strong virtue of mine.

Nonetheless, I have been building up emotional muscle to bench the gift of patience and it has taught, and continues to teach, me a a lot.

My change in professions, marriage and parenthood started to

  • shift the value I saw in the virtue of patience,
  • (re) define my definition of productivity,
  • and challenge what I valued as worthy and enough.

Prior to signing the lease, I spent a lot of time over-riding the call on my heart with fear, doubt, logic, over-thinking, over-processing and more.

I had found many reasons to not honor this simple, pure and clear call to action vision for Potentia’s next phase of growth.

Until I could not tolerate it any more.

To be authentic, vulnerable, to trust the gentle but firm nudge from God, I had to believe. I had to surrender staying on the side lines and playing it safe.

After much prayer and a significant beat down on my own fears and doubts, I felt I had permission to move forward. To grow.  To draw attention.  To make some noise about how our definitions of health and worth are keeping us sick; how we are keeping ourselves imprisoned by narratives that lie and cheat us from true health, freedom and peace.

At Potentia, We Can Do Hard Things.

And Potentia’s expansion infused a new jolt of faith, inspiration and passion to walk with, equip and respect those who are fighting their own personal battle mind, body + soul.

I love how the team at Potentia joins with our clients to give witness to their courage, pain, battle wounds, inspiration, frustration, fatigue, fear and more.

When they do not have hope, we wave the hope flag.

When they achieve a victory, we cheer (sometimes really loud. seriously.).

When they want to give up, we nudge, respect and reflect.

Yes, those who enter the doors of Potentia can do hard things.

And those who are not sure about starting that work I believe you can, when you are ready, live the life you are called to live.

I encourage you to not devalue or minimize your struggles and not let shame keep you in isolation.  You have our respect and we have not even met you yet.  🙂

Below is a slide show from some of the events and meetings we had at Potentia to celebrate the expansion. It warms my heart and fires me up.  I now truly love and embrace the call to action that has been placed on my heart.

What is the call to action on your heart today?  How are you responding to that call?  Have you shared it with anyone in your inner circle yet? 

If not, I encourage you to give voice to it TODAY, no matter how crazy, random, unrealistic you may think it is.  The call to action on your heart needs you to give it voice.  No matter how much it scares you.  Write it down.  Shout it out loud. Whisper it to a dear friend.

Your soul is calling you to stretch+grow+heal.

Being stagnant is not safe.  It is stifling.  The unknown is scary but staying stuck can be scarier.

Honoring the call,

Rebecca

ps:  If you want to stay connected and up to date on the latest happenings at Potentia, please sign up for our newsletter at www.potentiatherapy.com “like” us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter (#rbassching)

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?

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.