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

A Not So Celebration of the History of Popular Diets

I Choose Respect Over Body Shame
I Choose Respect Over Body Shame

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein

In honor of Respect Your Body Month, Potentia’s Coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness – Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD – compiled a timeline and unpacked the history of  fad diets and their many claims. Somewhat humorous and ridiculous at times, this list is not an endorsement of any of these trends but is intended to reflect the the constant ebb and flow of claims on what is true health. We support a non-diet, intuitive eating approach to feeding – when appropriate – and are passionate about educating the community on the dangers of fad diets and the diet mentality. – Rebecca

1863 Banting’s Diet: One of the first documented low carbohydrate diets. William Banting was a carpenter and undertaker. “Bad” foods included sugar/starch, butter, milk and beer.

1830 Graham’s Diet: A Presbyterian Minister, Sylvester Graham, touted a ‘bland’, vegetarian diet free of milk, meat, alcohol, white bread and ‘excitatory’ spices (which, upon intake, cause a person to become ‘lustful’).

1920 Inuit Diet: Vilhjalmur Stefannson, an Arctic explorer, noted improved health and quality of life among persons living in Arctic regions by eating a diet consisting predominantly of whale blubber, raw fish and caribou, with minimal fruit and vegetables.  Thus, the Inuit Diet was born.

1930 Dr. Stoll’s Diet Aid: One of the first liquid supplement diets, shakes were given out as meal substitutes in local beauty parlors in efforts to popularize this diet.

1930 Hay’s Diet: Dr.Hay warned of ‘digestive explosion’ from consumption of fruit, meat and dairy at the same meal. He urged separation of foods into alkaline, acidic and neutral meal/snack categories.

1950 Grapefruit Diet: Consists of having ½ grapefruit daily, and minimal caffeine. Fatty meats, particularly bacon, may be consumed liberally, as the combination of grapefruit and saturated fat is “claimed” to accelerate the burning of body fat.

1980 Cabbage Soup Diet: This plan advises the consumer to consume cabbage soup at meal times for seven consecutive days, with the stepwise addition of beef, fruit, vegetables, brown rice and skim milk.

1980: Fat free/very low fat: Emphasized elimination of fat in the diet, given its caloric density and link to development of cardiovascular disease. Manufacturers quickly adapted by producing fat reduced versions of our favorite foods, using sugar to enhance palatability.

1990 Atkins Diet: Popularized by Dr.Robert Atkins, initial phases demand a carbohydrate intake not greater than 20g/day, and exclusion of fruit, starches/grains, added sugar, starchy vegetables and beans/legumes. Caffeine and alcohol are forbidden, but meat, eggs and oils may be consumed liberally.

2000 South Beach Diet: Essentially a tamer version of Atkin’s, partakers are allowed to include a greater percentage of calories from carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in later stages, and are discouraged from over consumption of fatty meats/foods rich in saturated fats.

2000 Master Cleanse: Users are ‘detoxified’ by adhering to a strict regimen that includes a mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and salt. The diet was originally publicized in the 1940’s by an alternative healer by the name of Stanley Burroughs.

Present day fad: The Paleo Diet, also referred to by some as the ‘Caveman’ diet, advocates a diet mimicking that of our Paleolithic ancestors. The Paleo diet features exclusion of processed grains/oils, legumes and dairy.  This sort of an eating style is not new, as it was initially popularized in the 1970’s, though it’s made a comeback in recent years.

Despite their obvious differences, many of these diets all share a few common features (aside from the lack of credentials or expertise of behalf their wealthy creators): They erroneously suggest that we can manage health/weight through black and white thinking, they don’t ‘work’, they aren’t sustainable and they lack supporting evidence.

What do you think about this list? Would you add to it?

How do you respect your body through how you feed yourself?

Please join the conversation over on Potentia’s Facebook page on Choosing Respect Over Body shame.

In good health –

Megan

I choose respect over body shame – will you join me?

I choose respect (over body shame)

 

February is often a month dedicated to bringing awareness to food and body issues, with the last week of the month specifically focused on Eating Disorder Awareness.

I have been a big supporter of this time of year for the last decade. There is such a need for more understanding, awareness and education on eating disorders and related issues. They are deadly, misunderstood and too often unintentionally perpetuated by many who mean to help those struggling with these issues.

Whether you have a history of struggling with disordered eating, negative body image or are really passionate about wellness, sometimes you may have a bad body image day, week, month or more.

In a culture where a good portion of the few thousand messages coming at us a day are focused on our body, health, and image, it is hard to not internalize some of the scarcity, comparison and shame hurled at us.

So, even if you are at a place where you can generally say, “I am ok as I am — mind, body and soul” it seems completely understandable to me that there are seasons, bumps in the road per se, where your relationship with your body is not always full of love.

Many in recovery are ashamed and fearful of having a season where their old ways of thinking and being make a comeback. So the masks of “everything is perfect” go up and the fear of showing vulnerability spikes.

I started seeing some masks pop up in my clients and friends hiding the fear of being seen struggling; not having it all together; not being seen as holy enough…

We can’t force a love relationship with our body. Building or rebuilding trust with your body takes time. Eating disorders, chronic illness, abuse, depression, anxiety, and shame induced by cultural ideals of beauty all can rob you of your ability to trust your body.

So many people have a hard time loving their body, let alone liking it. Sometimes you have to start from a place of respect before you move to love.  

I hear many share their frustration with how body-focused they are and offer a lot of self-judgement because their brain is stuck obsessing about what the scale says, what the mirror reflects, and what is eaten.

Food and body issues are real. Call it what you want — I think it is time to redirect the judgements that pop up about these struggles and try to really understand what is at the root of the pain.

From my perspective, when someone’s sense of comfort, peace and wellness is attacked, it impacts all other areas of their life. These are not trivial, self-indulgent, self-absorbed issues.

In an effort to debunk the stigma around body image struggles and normalize these common struggles, I gathered colleagues, teachers, parents, pastors, students, and business owners for an “I choose respect” photo shoot at Potentia.

We are posting an “I choose respect” feature photo every day this month on the Facebook page and the response has been so encouraging.

And here is a special gift for you inspired by I choose respect over body shame month: our Respect Your Body Creed.

(click to download)
(click to download)

What is your respect your body creed or mantra?

Share in the comments below and, if you feel bold, post a picture here or on our Facebook page letting me how you choose respect over body shame.

Cheering you on —

Rebecca

 

2013 in Review: Top 10 Potentia Blog Posts

top 10 blue

2013 has been quite a year! We celebrated Potentia’s 5th birthday, launched our signature workshop, (re) Define Courage: Dare to Show up+Be Seen, and added three therapists to our team to meet the clinical demand. I’m grateful to have had you along for the journey – I value your support and encouragement. In today’s year in review, I put together a list of the most-read blog posts of 2013.

This year we started a Q&A Series with Potenita’s  Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD and Kayla Walker, MFT Intern that proved to be most popular – you can look forward to seeing more of these posts in 2014! Here are some of the favorites:

Q&A Series: Paleo Unpacked 

“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.”

Read the full blog post https://potentiatherapy.com/health-in-the-media/qa-series-paleo-unpacked/

Q&A Series: Cleanses

“Actually, there’s no evidence that a cleanse or fast would [cleanse the body of toxins]… 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).”

Read the full blog post: https://potentiatherapy.com/health-in-the-media/qa-series-cleanses/

Q&A Series: Gluten-Free Diet Unpacked

“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.”

Read the full blog post: https://potentiatherapy.com/health-in-the-media/qa-series-gluten-free-diet-unpacked/

Another popular series in 2013 was our Fat Talk Free Week series:

Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Natalie Lynn Borton

“For me, fashion has provided so much freedom for me in terms of embracing and loving the body that I have. Style has become my personal creative expression, and a way for me to be more authentically myself, rather than try to fit a mold. It’s counterintuitive, I suppose, but that’s just how it’s played out in my life. I don’t worship high end brands and expensive products, but rather let style be something that is playful, fun, authentic and enjoyable.”

Read the full blog post: https://potentiatherapy.com/health-in-the-media/fat-talk-free-week-interview-with-natalie-lynn-borton/

Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

 “’Fitspiration’ is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and triggers fat talk big time. It can be like cocaine to the brain and can deplete your self-worth when you come down from the high. These images are most often photoshopped and they only fuel comparing, dissatisfaction, and feeling not enough. Yuck.”

Read the full blog post: https://potentiatherapy.com/health-in-the-media/fat-talk-free-week-2013-interview-with-rebecca-bass-ching-lmft/

No surprise, posts on the body – how we move it, talk to it and care for it, rounded out the most popular posts of the year:

Getting More Comfortable in Your Skin: Action Steps to Take Now

 “Respect your body, even if you do not like it. You have people in your life that you don’t like but you still treat with respect. Give your body the same respect even if you are not a fan of it at the moment. Everyone has a bad body image day (week, month…); it is normal.  Your body can serve you better when you treat it with respect instead of constantly trash talking it.”

Read full blog post: https://potentiatherapy.com/redefining-health/actions-steps-to-getting-more-comfortable-in-your-skin/

Do You Need a Prescription for Play?

 “Play has not always come easy for me. For so long, play felt to me like a luxury or a sign of slacking. Play often seemed uncool and not put together. Perfectionism beat the heck out of my desire for spontaneous or planned play. Making space to play is often still vulnerable because I have to walk away from my to-do lists and internal shoulds that can get loud when I am working too much.”

Read the full blog post: https://potentiatherapy.com/redefining-health/play-is-not-a-luxury/

I Have a Confession to Make to You

“I now know I am enough even on days I do not feel enough.  I can hold that space while I feel yucky and not attack my core worth. Some days it is a bit of a knock down, drag out fight – but shame resilience has helped me run the marathon of living life reflective of my values and my true worth.”

Read the full blog post: https://potentiatherapy.com/redefining-health/i-have-a-confession-to-make-to-you/

Holding the Numbers Lightly

 “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.”

Read the full blog post: https://potentiatherapy.com/redefining-health/holding-the-numbers-lightly/

Potentia’s 5 Year Celebration Giveaway also drew a lot of attention – which was especially fun for me, since Potentia and I have the same birthday!  Stay tuned for more Potentia giveaways in 2014 that are both fun and meaningful – including another birthday celebration in July!

Five Year Celebration and a Giveaway

“Words cannot do justice to the courage, the sacrifice, the character, the growth, and the miracles we get to witness at Potentia. Thank you to my friends, family, colleagues, mentors, contractors, and all those who have helped shaped Potentia from dream to thriving practice. You all simply amaze me. (You rock!) I am also grateful for this calling God has put on my heart which daily strengthens my faith.”

Read full blog post: https://potentiatherapy.com/redefining-health/five-year-celebration-and-a-giveaway/

What were your favorite Potentia blog posts of 2013? What would you like to see more of in 2014? What kinds of questions should be address? Who would you like to hear from?

Stat tuned for my new Skype Interview series with writers, leaders, artists and others who are daring to show up + be seen in their work, family, art, faith and community.

Thanks for following with us on our journey.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

Year in Review: Favorite links of 2013

Year in Review: Favorite links of 2013

Sure, social media has its dark side, but I appreciate the speed with which we can share the positive, too. From videos to talks, blog posts to news articles, 2013 brought some incredible nuggets of wisdom, creativity and inspiration shared via social media.

I am so grateful to those who shared their story, their art and their heart with the world.

Here are some of my favorites of the links I shared in 2013 (in no particular order):

1. TEDx Kids @Ambleside‘s Confessions of a Depressed Comic by Kevin Breel

This clip moved me deeply. The courage, honesty and spot-on description of his depression no doubt comforted, validated and encouraged thousands.

2. Welcome to Dinovember: A month long imagination invasion by Refe Tuma

‘Why do we do this? Because in an age of iPads and Netflix, we do not want our kids to lose their sense of wonder and imagination. In a time when the answers to all the world’s questions are a web-search away, we want our kids to experience a little mystery. All it takes is some time and energy, creativity and a few plastic dinosaurs.”

The creativity and intentional effort by these parents to take their kids on a month long imagination adventure is genius – and also hilarious. Creativity is not in a box. And the connection that ensured as a result of this brilliant idea has inspired my husband and me to take our own kids on such an adventure sometime in the near future.

3.The Truth About Weight Stigma by Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS via National Eating Disorder Association.

Sadly, so many in the health, wellness, education and faith communities are unintentionally creating more food and body issues via shame, fear, blame, poor data and promotion of dieting  (which has been proven to not lead to sustained weight management or true health). It is time to be honest about our own personal weight biases and take a critical look at how we are treating those struggling with disordered eating, eating disorders and related food and body issues so we can be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Year in Review: Favorite links of 2013

 

4. Brave by Sara Bareilles

2013 saw the  launch of Potentia’s cornerstone workshop (re) Define Courage: Dare to Show up + Be Seen. I led six cohorts of brave souls in this work based on The Daring Way™ and the research of Brené Brown, PhD.  I adopted Brave as the theme song for the workshop as it encapsulates so much of this work in a few short minutes.

Note: A couple (re) Define Courage cohorts are launching next month and there still are a few spaces in each group – register here!

5. Comfort Food. No one brings you dinner when your daughter is an addict by Larry M. Lake.

This post shook me to my core. I think it raises such an important concern on how we deal with the messiness of mental illness. We need to show up, risk vulnerability and connect with the families who are in the marathon battle to fight mental illness. It can be such a lonely, disappointing and relentless journey that is anything but comfortable. We may not have the right words but we can hug, bake a lasagna, run and errand, write a note, share space in silence, say a prayer over the phone or fill up a tank of gas. Never underestimate the positive impact of our kindness, your empathy, and your faithfulness.

6. Pro Infirmis‘ “Because who is perfect?”

Having lived in Zürich , Switzerland for four years, I was especially proud of this video. The inspiration for this project and to display it on one of the wealthiest streets in the world is moving, bold and and totally courageous.

7. RSA Shorts – The Power of Empathy

I fell in love with this visual demonstration of empathy in action, narrated by Brené Brown. Put this video clip on repeat and really learn the importance nuances of empathy.

8.  An Open Letter to Anyone Who Eats by Winnie Abramson

“I think there are many people out there are just like me. They’ll do well to drop the diets, and all of the labeling of foods as “good” and “bad” and simply work on eating for nourishment (and joy!) instead.”

The obsession with eating healthy is not healthy. When lifestyle changes become false idols, it is a warning sign something is out of sync in your life. all-consuming thoughts and rigid beliefs about food and wellness can lead to serious emotional and physical issues.

9. A Pep Talk from Kid President

Try not to smile after watching this. Seriously. Try.

10. The Innovation of Loneliness, based on Sherry Turkle’s TED talk, Connected, But Alone

When I first saw this video demonstration depicting the loneliness crisis many are experiencing in the age of über connection, it took my breath away. Powerful.

_________________________________

What did you think of my list? What are your favorite social shares of 2013? 

Happy New Year! I look forward to cheering you on in 2014.

Rebecca

Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

Photo on 10-25-13 at 9.35 AM

Note from Erin Curlett, Potentia’s Marketing Communications Manager: Our final interview this week is with Rebecca. I wanted get her thoughts on some of the questions we have been asking in honor of Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thanks for sharing some of your heart, Rebecca!

How do you define fat talk?

It often occurs when conversations foster bonding over critiquing their bodies or the bodies of others.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

Where do I NOT hear it? The gym, at the meal table, at church, at schools, at parent meetings, on TV… Holidays, weddings, reunions, parties in general, when the weather warms up and we approach bathing suit season (which is mostly year round here in San Diego).

How do you respond to fat talk?

Gosh, it depends on the day and the circumstances — sometimes I am full of grace and tact and other days I can trend on the blunt side. Most of my friends know exactly how I feel about fat talk so when they bring it up, they usually are trying to rile me up or tease me. But when it is with people I do not have a previous relationship with, I try my best to redirect the conversation or just not participate.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

Shame, culture, anxiety, peer-groups, family of origin, temperament, unhealthy perfectionism, traumas/distressing life events

Where have you been surprised to encounter fat talk?

I think I have been the most bummed to hear it in faith communities that I run in. It really hurts my heart to hear people fat talk and mask it in the name of faith, holiness, or humility.

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

Oh my goodness, yes! When I was in high school and through my twenties was when it was the worst. My unhealthy drive for perfection really jammed up my ability to see my true worth and value for a while. But I am grateful for the gift of growing, healing, and falling in love with my amazing husband and two children which gave me a powerful perspective on what being enough really means.

What self-talk helps ground you in your true worth and value today?

When I am feeling particularly uncomfortable in my skin, I pause, take a breath, and ask myself what is really going on around me that triggered these dark thoughts. I can usually credit them to one or more of the following:

1) not enough sleep;
2) feeling disconnected from my husband;
3) not moving my body regularly or feeding it well;
4) over booking my schedule;
5) not spending enough meaningful time with God.

Once I take an inventory of the above, I make sure I take time to meet my needs for mind, body, relations, and soul. And sometimes I just have to jolt my brain by talking out loud and telling the fat talk thoughts to go to permanent time out — which is a g-rated version. 🙂

How have you seen the connection between disordered eating and fat talk?

Fat talk fans the flame of dieting and disordered eating. Once we lose site of our true worth and value and start buying into the lies of shame, fear, and the fat-phobic culture, obsessions about our looks, how we feed and move our body can become all-consuming.

How has being a mother changed your view of fat talk, if at all?

I am 100% committed to trying my best to have my words and actions match up. (NOTE: TRY) I am very fierce about not allowing any negative or obsessive talk about food, our bodies, or the looks and bodies of others. We also steer clear of praise, especially about looks, and instead reflect back to our kids how proud they must feel, how capable they must feel, etc. I talk about beauty in terms of character in addition to what is pleasing to the eye. When my daughter shares with her brother or when when she extends grace, I note how her choices just made her heart even more beautiful.

We also avoid commercials (which is so tricky when my husband is watching a game) and most TV shows. They are going to be exposed to so much more in culture as they get older but I am committed to making our home a safe zone from the toxic aspects of culture.

What are your thoughts on the current trend of sharing “fitspiration” images? Do these encourage a healthy body image or foster more fat talk?

“Fitspiration” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and triggers fat talk big time. It can be like cocaine to the brain and can deplete your self-worth when you come down from the high. These images are most often photoshopped and they only fuel comparing, dissatisfaction, and feeling not enough. Yuck.

How do you help your clients combat fat talk?

I walk with them as they seek to heal their relationship with food, their body, and their story. I have found EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) to be so helpful when people are stuck with negative core beliefs, ie: I am broken, I am permanently damaged, I am not _______ enough, I am a failure and so on.

I work with Megan Holt, Potentia’s Coordinator of Wellness and Nutrition, to help support them in moving and feeding their bodies so their brain can get on their team and help push back on the lies and the noise of fat talk.

Lastly, we work a lot on what it is like to respect your body, even if you do not like it. This involves working on negative self-talk but also re-evaluating core relationships and boundaries.

Have you seen changes in your clients as they work to resist such negative self talk?

Yes! As they heal and draw on their amazing courage, it is truly incredible to witness their spark, hope, and healing as they push back on how culture defines health and redefine that definition to a creed that serves their true health in a sustaining and life-giving way.

How does your faith play a role in combating fat talk?

It has taken me years to finally really believe the truth about what God says about me. The kind of love, grace, forgiveness, and guidance He offers me blows my mind. I think finally trusting His words, His Truth has been medicine for my soul. Spending the last few years building my shame resilience skills and training to help others do that work has had a profound effect on shifting my core beliefs about myself on an even deeper level. I now know feeling bad, gross, like a failure, not enough is what I feel though not the truth. Now I can push back on those feelings and lean on God’s Truth, regardless of my emotional state. Some days are easier than others but whew, the freedom I feel from building my shame resilience super powers has been life-changing in my relationship with God.

What role do you see the church playing in combating fat talk?

I think the church could really play a significant role in combating fat talk. If the pulpit stopped being a place for fat talk, body shame, or buying into trendy diets in the name of holiness, that would be a good start. My dream is for pastors and their leadership teams to stop church-wide dieting and talking about numbers; to get educated on the disordered eating spectrum; to learn how to lead their congregation in a fast with sensitivity and awareness and be a safe place for those struggling with food and body issues. I have found some incredible leaders in the faith community leading courageously and boldly in these areas, but we still have a long way to go. One step at a time. One heart at a time.

Thanks so much for following along here on the blog and on Potentia’s Facebook page as we supported Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thoughts? Any new insights or convictions? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. Stay connected and join our email list for blog updates and thoughts on how you can (re) define your definition of health.

Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Constance Rhodes

Constance Rhodes Cropped

Note from Rebecca: In honor of Fat Talk Free Week, I invited my friend Constance Rhodes to share some of her thoughts on fat talk. Constance is a powerhouse of faith, faithfulness and determination. She is the Founder and CEO of FINDINGbalance, the leading Christian resource for daily help with body image and eating issues, advocate, mentor, wife, mom and friend to many. Thank you, Constance! I appreciate you and your courageous heart.

How do you define fat talk?

Anytime we are making negative comments about the size of other people’s bodies or our own, with an emphasis on the larger size of a person being undesirable.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

When I tell people what I do (i.e. help people with eating and body image issues) they often make derogatory remarks about their own weight, which is sometimes awkward and generally unnecessary. I also hear this talk frequently whenever women are gathered together and food is involved.

How do you respond to fat talk?

I either simply don’t engage with it or I engage with a twist, such as asking the person, “Do you have issues with weight that you’d like to talk about?” This can go one of two ways – either they clam up and move on or they start talking with me about their fears and anxieties in this area. Either result is generally more productive than letting the conversation continue as it was.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

I think it’s been going on for so many generations that it is hard to even find the roots. But most assuredly a key root is the belief that one’s weight says something about a person, and if it is a larger weight, it is generally assumed to say negative things. Pointing toward someone else’s weight can be a way to deflect concerns about our own, or to try to control the problem of overeating/overweight, such as when children are instructed not to eat too much or “you’ll get fat like so-and-so.”

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life? 

I went through a few years of struggling with binge eating, during which I gained a lot more weight than was normal or healthy for me. I felt fat and ugly and could think of nothing else. Once I lost the weight those negative voices continued screaming at me, warning me not to lose control or I would be fat again. So it’s a topic I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, in more ways than one.

What self-talk helps ground you in your true worth and value today?

Sometimes it’s just very practical. When I start feeling “fat” because I’m on my period or I’ve had a few too many rich meals lately, I have to be practical and tell myself that I have a ways to go before that would ever be the case. Beyond that, however, I have to ask myself what I really believe is attractive. Do I really want to be known for being a certain weight, or do I want to be known for the quality of my character? I think about other women who I admire and respect and I realize that my appreciation for them has nothing to do with their body size. Most importantly, I’ve got to continually be reminded through scripture, prayer, and spiritual conversations that the God of the universe created me and is far more interested in who I am than what I look like.

How do you see FINDINGbalance as an antidote to the “Fat Talk Culture”?

For the last eleven years we have been building a culture at FINDINGbalance that promotes the wellness of the person over whatever size they happen to be wearing. We know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that what is “fat” to one is “thin” to another. Most importantly, as the leading Christian resource for daily help with these issues, we are trying to send out Christ-centered messages on a daily basis to combat the self-centered, negative ones so many of us are bombarded with.

How have you seen the connection between disordered eating and fat talk?

Often, many eating disorders are fueled in some way by a desire to change your body. Fat talk reinforces weight stigma and also creates problems that may not even be present. The more we say a negative thing about ourselves, the more we believe it. Since our nature is to work on the things we think need to be better, if we are constantly telling ourselves we are fat, then we are constantly going to be pushing ourselves to lose weight. Wherever you are on the weight continuum, whether overweight, underweight, or somewhere in-between, if negative self-talk is the loudest voice in your head it will be impossible to have a normal relationship with food and your body.

When those are undernourished and in the throes of an eating disorder, it is hard to shake the loud critical voice. How do you encourage those in this space of shame and self-loathing?

The key is to not be the only voice in your head. Which means you’ve got to come out of isolation into community where the lies of the critical voice can be fought out in the open. This might mean seeking out a counselor, plugging into a small group (we have tools for this at our site), sharing your struggle with a trusted friend, parent or advisor, entering a treatment program, or some combination of these things. Ideally, this would include at least a key person or two who can share God’s truth with you. For those who have faith, reading scriptures and praying on your own is a good discipline, but without healthy community the truths won’t sink into your soul in a practical and long-lasting way.

You are married and have three adorable children. How do you encourage your kids when they are struggling with their worth and value and fall into negative talk about themselves?

My kids are 12, 9, and 6, and as a former disordered eater and now wellness activist, you can imagine I’ve been pretty proactive on this front. First, we do not allow any fat talk in our home. The kids know they are not even allowed to say that word. We also don’t consume media that objectifies women’s bodies. This includes things as seemingly benign as shows on the Disney Channel, as well as commercials, movies, magazines or other materials that present women in sexual or objectified ways. And I never make negative comments about my body in front of them, so as far as they know, the body is not something to be worried about. I have yet to hear one of them say something negative about their bodies. I do, however, see them trying to hitch their value to their accomplishments from time to time. We talk about this openly, and I am constantly watching and guiding as it occurs. When they get older, you can check back with me to see how it’s gone…

Do you think fat talk is worth trying to combat? Many say it is pointless…

I think it’s worth it, but I also think if the only step someone takes in this direction is simply stopping engaging in it themselves, that’s a huge start. It can seem overwhelming to fight such a huge cultural problem, but taking one “next right step” at a time still adds up and can lead to greater changes in the long run.

Constance Rhodes is the founder and CEO of FINDINGbalance, the leading Christian resource for DAILY help with eating and body image issues. Sign up for her free Daily Vitamin eDevo at findingbalance.com/dv.

Centered 3 x 2 inches 300 dpi copy

Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Natalie Lynn Borton

bw-ponytail

Note from Rebecca: In honor of Fat Talk Free week, I chatted with my friend, Natalie Lynn Borton. Writer, editor, and creative consultant, Natalie is also an advocate of redefining culture’s definition of beauty and worthiness. Her blog, Thoughts by Natalie, is a community for women dedicated to honest talk about beauty, style, wellness and life. I met Natalie several years ago and have since grown to greatly respect and value her voice, heart and mind. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer questions for this post. I appreciate you!

How do you define “fat talk”?

I define “fat talk” as any kind of negative talk—to others, about others, or in our own heads—about body size or shape. I think talk that creates shame about eating habits could fall into the “fat talk” definition as well.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

I hear it everywhere, in almost any conversation between women. It’s become part of normal conversation and is accepted as normal, which is so sad. Also, I admittedly hear it in my own head, which I hate. Thankfully, I’ve found a lot of positive ways to counteract it, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t there.

How do you respond to fat talk?

When I am in a conversation that turns to fat talk, I try to negate it immediately, reminding the person who is being down on herself that she is beautiful as she is, and that looking different has no impact on her worth. I also proactively strive to prevent fat talk by not engaging in it myself publicly.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

Insecurity and fear of inadequacy. There is nothing about our appearance that makes us more or less valuable or attractive as human beings—but our culture suggests otherwise. We are conditioned from a very young age to believe that we are most worthy of love and adoration from others when we look a certain way—and when we feel that we don’t fit that mold, we seem feel the need to make sure others know that we know we’re not ideal.

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

Overhearing others engaging in fat talk was definitely one contributor to the eating disorder I developed while I was in college—though my disorder was related to feeling out of control, the object of my control became my body, I think because of all of the lies I’d heard over the years about how not to look, and how looking a certain way makes us unacceptable.

Additionally, I’ve struggled with creating fat talk in my own mind, and to this day find that when times are difficult—whether it’s a tough day, a fight with my husband or a death of a loved one—I tend to engage in fat talk in my mind as some kind of strange coping mechanism, perhaps as a way to refocus my frustrations toward something I feel like I could actually change.

What self-talk helps ground you in your true worth and value today?

I choose to focus on my character as much as possible. When I’m feeling down about my appearance, I remind myself that 1) I’m likely seeing something distorted in the mirror, and 2) that my beauty comes from the way I interact with others, not from how I look in my jeans.

You are passionate and fascinated with the topic of beauty. How do you define beauty?

Beauty is defined by who we are, not what we look like. Our appearance plays a small role, I suppose, but it’s our character that makes us beautiful people, attractive people and loveable people. Specifically, some of those traits are joy, kindness, generosity, confidence, compassion and love.

How do you think fat talk harms our perception of beauty?

Fat talk reinforces the lie that beauty is determined by a certain type of external appearance.

You are also passionate about fashion. Fashion and fat talk often go hand-in-hand, as clothes can be such a trigger for those who struggle feeling comfortable in their skin. How do you avoid the dark side of fashion but still enjoy its beauty?

For me, fashion has provided so much freedom for me in terms of embracing and loving the body that I have. Style has become my personal creative expression, and a way for me to be more authentically myself, rather than try to fit a mold. It’s counterintuitive, I suppose, but that’s just how it’s played out in my life. I don’t worship high end brands and expensive products, but rather let style be something that is playful, fun, authentic and enjoyable.

What advice would you give to women who have a love/hate relationship with fashion mags?

Don’t look at anything that makes you feel bad about yourself. There are plenty of fashion magazines and blogs out there that celebrate real beauty through the images they share and the language they use surrounding fashion. Personally, some of my recent favorites are:

What words of encouragement do you want to share with those struggling with fat talk?

Choose to redefine beauty in your life. Invite your friends and loved ones to encourage you about more than just your appearance, opting instead for complimenting you on who you are and how that is beautiful. Also, when you feel the fat talk coming out or creeping into your thought life, choose to squash it down as a lie, replacing it with a truth about something that is good and truly beautiful.

Natalie is a writer, blogger and creative consultant who lives in north county San Diego with her hilarious and charming husband Brian and their very scruffy adopted pup, Maggie. A lover of the written word, avocados, beach picnics and champagne, she believes that beauty comes from who we are—not what we look like—and lives life accordingly. She shares her thoughts on beauty, style, wellness and life at thoughtsbynatalie.com.

tbn-logo-simple

Taking a break from the “F” bomb talk – Are you in?

Starting tomorrow – October 21-25, 2013 – the Tri-Delta Sorority is hosting their annual “Fat Talk Free Week”.

Fat talk is when you make negative comments about your body or the body of someone else and is way too common in our culture. In fact, a 2011 study noted 93% women engage in fat talk.

Wow.

You have heard it and your probably have engaged in your own version of fat talk:

“Friend 1: My thighs are so big.
Friend 2: Oh my gosh. If your thighs are big, then mine are GINORMOUS.”

…and so it goes… the bonding over body bashing.

Fat Talk Free Week week may seem trivial, idealistic, even Pollyanna to some.

I have had many discussions with people on whether this type of awareness really makes a difference. I often hear something like the following:

“Rebecca, you need to lighten up. It is normal for people to talk negative about their bodies. And even if people take a break from talking badly about their body, they still with have their negative thoughts and feelings.”

True. But I believe a break from the collective voice of toxic self-loathing and vitriol attacks on the looks of self and others could do all of us some good.

Is stopping fat talk a cure to negative body image and subsequent disordered eating?

Nope.

But it is a movement I will gladly get behind because our words matter.

Never forget – people are listening to you what you have to say. You have power and impact on your surroundings with the words you choose to use when talking about yourself and others.

Do not underestimate the impact the off-hand comments you make about:

  • the latest crashing+burning celebrity
  • body changes in your friend
  • displeasure with how you feel about your own body

Fat talk fuels disordered eating, eating disorders, orthorexia, bad body image, depression and anxiety by fueling distrust, disengagement and fear.

Measuring your personal health solely on the image in the mirror, the opinions of others, the number on the scale or the size of your pants is a slippery slope to a dark place.

Buying into the shame narrative perpetuated about the unrealistic ideal of beauty and health does not protect – it only binds you more to the belief you are not enough.

True health looks different for everyone. Draw on your courage and push back on the norm of comparing, competing and attacking with abandon.

Nothing good comes of fat talk. Its attempt to create ease and to seek validation infects everyone within hearing distance.

This week, set yourself apart from the crowds, the 93%, and take a break from the fat talk.  Be an outlier.

Be a leader.

Change the conversation.

And join the movement to use your most powerful tool – your voice – and spend the next 5 days being mindful of how you talk about yourself and others.

Are you in?

This week we will feature some inspiring quotes on Potentia’s Facebook page. In addition, we will post some inspirational interviews here on the Potentia blog with friends of Potentia who are using the power of their voice to advocate for true health, true beauty and true worth.

Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts about fat talk and how it has impacted your life in the comments section below.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

Q&A Series: Should We Care About BMI?

worthnotanumber

In our Q&A series we’ve unpacked the paleo diet, the gluten-free dietcleanses, and yoga therapy. This week, Kayla Walker, MFT Intern, spoke with Megan Holt, MPH, RD, Potentia’s Coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness to learn about using BMI as an indicator of health.

Note from Rebecca: The following post may be triggering for some who are early in their recovery or struggling with their recovery, so please pause here if this information will not be helpful for you right now. There is some frank talk about numbers in this post because we want to offer some accurate information about the BMI, what it is, why it is not an accurate or helpful indicator of health and how its use is fueling the disordered eating spectrum.

——–

Kayla: What is BMI?

Megan: BMI stands for body mass index. It’s an equation commonly used in healthcare venues to estimate risk of developing chronic diseases that often accompany increases in body fat, such as diabetes, heart disease, and many forms of cancer.

Kayla: How do you calculate BMI? How do you know whether your BMI is in a healthy range?

Megan: The formula for BMI is:

BMI = weight in pounds/(height in inches x height in inches) x 703
or
BMI = weight in kilograms/height in meters squared

CDC recommendations categorize BMI in ranges of underweight, ideal weight, overweight, and obese, as follows:

Below 18.5 = Underweight
18.5 to 24.9 = Ideal
25.0 to 29.9 = Overweight
30.0 and above = Obese

Note from Rebecca: In 1998, the FDA changed the ranges for the BMI and overnight millions of people became “overweight” and “obese.” In his movie America the Beautiful, Darryl Roberts noted this changed was approved by a board that was directly connected to the dieting industry. Given the annual 50+ billion dollars which are spent on diets and diet related products, the BMI is regularly used as a marketing tool to support the use of various products in this industry. And since diets do not work – and in fact set you up to regain the weight and often more within 1-2 years – it seems the BMI is more of a marketing tool than a predictor of true health.

Kayla: Where did the idea of using BMI as a marker of health originate?

Megan: A mathematician (not a clinician) from Belgium by the name of Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet came up with the BMI in the early 1800’s. His aim was to come up with an inexpensive proxy for measuring degree of obesity. Named the Quetelet index (and later BMI), it was used as a means of assessing “appropriateness” of weight for height.

Kayla: Why is BMI used?

Megan: After WWII it was noted that obese and overweight life insurance policy holders were at higher risk for morbidity and mortality were getting increasingly fatter.

It’s easy to understand and compute, it’s inexpensive, and gives us some helpful feedback in terms of anthropometric assessment, though this holds true mainly in the extremes (very underweight and very overweight/obese).

Note from Rebecca: Recent studies are showing a lower death risk for those who are considered “overweight” according to the BMI  furthering doubt the BMI ranges are not helpful in indicating true health.

Kayla: What are the limitations of using BMI as a marker of health?

Megan: BMI does not account for differences in bone mass/structure, fat mass and lean body (muscle) mass, nor where fat is stored (visceral vs. subcutaneous).

Visceral fat (fat around the abdomen/vital organs) is much more inflammatory and problematic in terms of health risks than subcutaneous fat (under the skin).

It implies that thin or normal weight individuals are healthy and have lower risk of developing preventable disease relative to their overweight (according to BMI) counterparts, and this just isn’t the case.

Athletes are an excellent example of persons who tend to have higher BMI’s but carry lower disease risk. Similarly, body fat is underestimated in the elderly, as they typically carry very little lean body (muscle) mass. Remember, one can be thin and simultaneously unfit and/or unhealthy.

Kayla: What should we be using instead, or at least in conjunction with BMI, to predict health risks? What are other markers of health?

Megan: Waist to hip ratio, for one, needs only a measuring tape, and has more predictive power than BMI. Women should have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8 or less, and men 0.95 or less. Women are advantageously pear shaped, and thus carry lower risk for preventable diseases. Think of this next time you’re cursing your curves, and please STOP hating on your body!

Other methods exist that are quite costly and/or intrusive, but may be more accurate, such as requesting a lipid panel (which requires blood work) from your physician, or assessing body fat through use of skin fold calipers, underwater weighing, or bioelectrical impedance. However, assessment of percent body fat alone still does not account for ‘location’ of fat-visceral versus subcutaneous.

Kayla: How do you assess your clients? Do you use BMI as a health indicator?

Megan: I rarely, if ever, calculate BMI when working with clients, whether they are athletes or people struggling with disordered eating.

Rather, I use an assessment of their current diet and lifestyle behaviors and blood work results from their physician to measure risk.

When working with individuals who do fall in the extremely obese category, I find that they are well aware of where they fall in terms of BMI categories, and that calling attention to this is not helpful.In fact, it often deters these individuals from wanting to make changes to lifestyle, as they likely will remain in the ‘obese’ category even with a fairly significant weight loss.

We know that even mild weight loss, 5-10%, for example, is enough to significantly decrease risk of “Western” diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and numerous cancers.

——–

Thanks for reading our Q&A on BMI!

What are your thoughts about using BMI as an indicator of health? Has it been helpful or harmful in your journey to health? What additional questions do you have about health, weight, or body image?

We would love to hear from you and address your questions on health and wellness in a future Q&A blog post.

In good health –

Kayla & Megan