Faith Fasting and Disordered Eating

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Post interview smiles with Amy Cyr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheering you on  –

Rebecca

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

NoteRespect is looking at soreness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other risk factors for infection include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A ‘balanced’ regimen may include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you define your relationship with exercise?

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

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

In good health –

Megan

Practical Tips on How to Support a Positive Relationship with Food

How you feed, move and rest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s a parent to do?!

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

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

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

————–

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

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

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

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

Call to action:

Journal/write about the following:

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

What would it look like?

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

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

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

In good health,

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

NEDA Walk San Diego 2014: Save a Life

NEDAWalk
NEDA Walk San Diego 2014

Potentia is thrilled to be a sponsor for this year’s National Eating Disorder Association Awareness Week Walk in San Diego.

Date: Saturday, February 22, 2014
Cost: Free (donations appreciated to go to NEDA)
Loc: De Anza Cove, Mission Bay
Time: 9:30AM-1PM
nedawalks.org/sandiego2014

This year’s theme is: Save a Life.

Information; awareness; early intervention; advocacy; research; health insurance parity; access to care; specialized treatment; community and support all have a role in decreasing the mortality rate and suffering caused by eating disorders.

Join us for a one-mile walk, educational speakers, music and inspiration all around. Family, friends, colleagues and even your pets are welcome. And if you are not in San Diego, check out NEDA for a walk in your city.

Please make sure to stop by the Potentia booth and say hello to our team. We will be wearing our new “My worth will not be dictated by a number” t-shirts, which will be available for pre-order, too!

tshirt-noborder

I am continually in awe of the men and women who day in and day out fight for their lives; their peace; their freedom from the tyranny of this deadly illness. Many have lost their battle yet many have discovered what it is like to heal and truly live life to the fullest.

What are you going to do to honor National Eating Disorder Awareness Week February 22-March 1, 2014? 

What has inspired you in your recovery or watching someone fight for their health and wellness?

Thanks for taking the time to learn something new about eating disorders.

And if you have a recovery story – tell it to someone who has earned the right.  It needs to be told.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

 

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

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.

 

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.

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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.

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