Q&A Series: Paleo Unpacked

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla:  So, what are the drawbacks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla:  And what about limiting grains?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You are not alone.

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To those who:

are fighting the paralyzing pain of depression;
have survived those whose lives were taken by the devastation of mental illness;
think life is too unbearable to keep going and hurt deeply beyond words;
tirelessly walk with your loved one struggling with mental illness;
feel like no one understands the darkness of deep emotional pain;
struggle to counter the lies of Darkness.

You are not alone.

You.

Are.

Not.

Alone.

We surround you holding our collective hands and pour out prayers from our hearts of encouragement, compassion, empathy and love.

We give witness to your pain, your loss, your struggle, your fight.

We grieve with you even if the words are not available to express our thoughts and feelings.

We hurt with you and wish we could take the pain away.

But at times like these, we look above and run into His arms:

For comfort, peace and the courage to go on;
To find some strand of meaning in the chaos of pain;
To shield us from the cruelty of misunderstandings, judgement and reactionary words of a hurting world.

You are not alone.

Rebecca

PS  – If you are contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.  If you are the survivor of suicide, here are some incredible resources. And here is a some general information and facts about mental illness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Twist on Dealing with Negative Body Image

Negative Body Image.

In my tribe of Eating Disorder Treatment Specialists, we often say negative body image is the first to come and the last to leave in the treatment of food and body issues.

And that is a pretty constant truth from the many recovery journeys I have witnessed over the years.

My clients have taught me some more nuanced facts about body image, regardless of whether they have had a full blown eating disorder or not.

Everyone has (at least) a bad body image day.

Depending on where you fall, if at all, on the disordered eating spectrum, dealing with dark, obsessive, and/or negative thoughts and compulsions regarding your body is a part of the gig when dealing with disordered eating.

You may recognize all too well some of these reccurring negative thoughts used to bully and shame yourself – just fill in the blanks with your own words to customize these statements to your experience:

My ____ is so ____.
I feel so ______.
I am so ______.
My _____ looks so ____.
I just need to___.
When I _____ I will be _____.
I hate my_____.
My _____ will always/never be_____.

Ugh.

So many try to manage these thoughts and feelings by stuffing them and putting on their “I love my body” and “It’s all good” masks of virtue, hiding the truth that they are living at war with their body. Others externalize these thoughts and add to the cacophony of negative body talk and diet talk.

And this is where things often spiral.

Many try to manage the pain of being in their skin and their body shame by:

  • over exercising
  • restrictive eating
  • dieting
  • mindless, emotional eating
  • comparing
  • competing
  • shaming
  • all of the above

And this can lead to a dark journey into the world of eating disorders and disordered eating.  Yet, many hover in this place of emotional ickiness where they cannot shake the uneasiness of living in their skin and make genuine, though harmful, attempts to get relief.

For many of you, this battle really is not about your body.

If my client is stable emotionally and physically, and her needs are met nutritionally, then I often look at negative body image as a sign of something bigger.

Like when you get that scratchy throat feeling.  It is a sign you are on the verge of getting really sick; it is not just about the sore throat.  You know you need to rest, to take some extra Vitamin C, drink some tea, ask for help with projects, cut back on your social calendar.

When the yuck of a bad body image moment comes up, it is often a sign of something else going on in your life.  I move my clients away from the laser focus obsessions on what needs to change with their body and pull back the blinders to look at what else is going on in their life.

If you are feeling this way, it is important to asses:

  • if you are you getting enough rest,
  • how you are adjusting to weight restoration or weight loss (yes, weight loss can be very triggering)
  • stressors
  • social support — safe, sustainable, available social support
  • if you daily activities are life giving or draining
  • dieting behaviors
  • traumatic or distressing life events that have gone untreated
  • if your temperament is perfectionistic, obsessive-compulsive, cares big, and feels emotions intensely
  • labs taken within the last month and making sure all physical systems are operating well and your body’s needs are being met

I have learned that setting the expectation to always be comfortable in your skin is a set up for continual frustration and feelings of hopelessness.  (Not helpful…)

The key is not to focus on the goal of eradicating negative body image days (though the parallel process is to decrease the frequency and intensity of those days, for sure)  but instead to respond on those days, weeks, months when you are feeling crappy in your skin DIFFERENTLY.

Instead of defaulting to negative food and body obsessions and action, I work with my clients on how to acknowledge what they are really feeling and what they are really thinking in that moment. 

Then we focus on respecting those thoughts and feelings in the moment.  I also emphasize the truth in how my clients feel.  What they feel is always real but rarely is it ever fact.

Finally, we focus on how to respond differently when body hatred arises.  Instead of stuffing, minimizing or denying — which only fuel the negative thoughts and coping tools — I work with my clients on accessing new tools and strategies when the dreaded body yuck surfaces.

When there is too much focus on feeling better in your body and not looking at the correlation with bad body image to other factors — physical, emotional, social, and spiritual — then I think we are limiting the potential of experiencing true health and true healing.

And it is ok not to love your body all the time.

But I think it is imperative to focus on respecting your body and being grateful for your body — even when you do not like it.

You can actually dislike your body while also showing your body respect and gratitude.  Eventually, respect and gratitude will win if you hang in there.

For example, there are a good handful of people I know that I do not care for but I respect them, treat them with dignity and kindness, and find space for being genuinely grateful for the challenging relationship.

Consider this strategy in your relationship with your body.

With heavy doses of respect and gratitude in addition to responding differently to your bad body image days, the feeling of your body never being enough may dissipate, and an eventual truce with your body may be declared.

And if one of those days surfaces again, the hope is you do not shame yourself for backsliding in your recovery but see your body image woes as a clue, a hint to investigate what is out of sorts in your life.

All the while administering generous doses of respect and gratitude.

How do you deal with your bad body image days?
Do you agree that it is not realistic to achieve a space where you never have a bad body image day?

With respect and gratitude –

Rebecca

 

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Everybody Knows Somebody: NEDAW 2013

 

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2013 is wrapping up tomorrow.  This year’s theme is a repeat: “Everybody Knows Somebody.”

I have been thinking a lot lately about the people I have had the honor to meet and work with over the last (almost) 10 years. I wish I could share with you the intricate details of their stories of heartbreak, despair, pain, victory, and perseverance.  They have taught me so much about the disordered eating spectrum, grace, humility, and redemption.

What I can do is share with you how many of the people you interact with every single day are hurting inside and masking it so well that you have no idea what is really going on in their minds, hearts, and souls.

You are around people every day who are terrified of being found out, misunderstood, judged:

  • for eating a “bad” food;
  • for binging+purging;
  • for living on caffeine and crumbs;
  • for doing things with food and their body that would make your toes curl;
  • for being overweight and seen as lazy, stupid, a burden to society;
  • for not being able to manage life without their disordered eating thoughts and behaviors;
  • for their life being so chaotic, out of control, unsafe;
  • for hurting and hating their bodies, their lives, their existence.

You see their smile, their amazing work ethic, the kind disposition. You laugh at their jokes and praise them for their faithful service and always being available to help.

Or you may be distracted by their extra weight, their health struggles, their mood swings and think it is just about the food, just a phase, or simply manipulative attention-seeking.

Think again. It is probably so much more.

We live in a culture that is not showing any signs of letting up with the pressure to fit into a certain size, shape, look, way of being.  While there are more and more people desiring authenticity and courage — and stepping up and living it — there are still so many people you know who are terrified of being seen in their pain, their darkness, their cesspool of destructive choices.

I hear many cheer on stories and acts of vulnerability. I deeply admire those sharing their stories while living a life of courage. It is medicine for the collective soul.

But when I step out of the safe zone of my home, my inner circle of support and Potentia, I am up to my eyeballs in snark, criticism, bitterness, cruelty, bullying, and fear. Yes, there is hope and light amidst the toxic culture we live in, but wow. It is intense out there and many are breaking under the pressure.

You may not notice these individuals screaming loudly from inside their minds, but look again.

You may be too busy, overwhelmed, or caught up in your our pain to see that others are struggling, too, right in front of you. Understandable. It is hard to be human.

Or you may think really seeing, sitting with, and empathizing with someone’s pain is too hard, unbearable. Indeed. That kind of connection is a full body commitment and investment. Healthy boundaries (not walls) are needed so you can discern what your limits are on any given day.

But I think we can no longer tolerate looking away from the pain of those around us. This is volatile ground to tread. But when you hear someone speaking poorly about their body, dieting (the gateway drug for eating disorders), negligent with how they nourish and care for themselves, please do not tell them how to change or look away.

Please do slow down and listen. Build a relationship with the person you are concerned about. Ask questions. Seek to understand. Listen some more. That in itself is so life-giving to someone living in emotional isolation.

I hear many people say, “I do not get eating disorders. That is not my struggle.” You may not struggle with food and body issues, but I suspect you know full well what it is like to feel alone, rejected, ashamed, overwhelmed, afraid, and helpless. So yes, you can connect with someone struggling with an eating disorder regardless of whether that is a part of your story.

Eating Disorders, Disordered Eating and all the related issues — obsessions with counting calories + dieting + eating “healthy,” good food/bad food, excessive working out, anxiety, compulsions, depression, suicidal thoughts, self harm behaviors, body shame, unhealthy perfectionism — are attempts for people to chase the ache of the core negative belief, “I am not worthy of love.”

At the heart of a lot of the wellness issues in our country is deep emotional pain. Genetics, family of origin, trauma, temperament, and distressing life events all play intricate roles in this complex and damaging illness, and the reductive solutions offered by many are fueling the pain, not relief.

As this year’s NEDAW wraps up, remember:

  • Everybody knows somebody in the process of recovering from somewhere on the disordered eating spectrum;
  • Everybody knows somebody who is painfully concerned with how she is perceived by others;
  • Everybody knows somebody giving up a food group or going on a diet with the hopes it will cure their emotional pain or physical ailments, only to be left unsatisfied and under-nourished;
  • Everyone knows someone who would rather hurt herself than somebody else;
  • Everybody knows somebody that is deceptively in deep emotional pain screaming out for help behind her smile and put-together demeanor;
  • Everybody knows someone who defines herself solely by the darkness of her story;
  • Everybody knows somebody who repeatedly talks negatively about her body, oozing with self-hatred and disgust when she looks in the mirror;
  • Everybody knows somebody who fears being fat, thinks she is fat, feels fat regardless of the facts;
  • Everyone knows someone who exercised for hours on end to the point of injury;

Everybody Knows Somebody.

You Know Somebody.

If you want to learn more about the disordered eating spectrum, check out the National Eating Disorder Association website. It is an incredible resource for those who are struggling with and those who are learning about eating disorders.

How have you reached out to someone struggling? What was difficult? What went well? Please do share!

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

 

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Weekend Wonderment

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Happy Weekend!

I am kicking off a new series to share some of what inspired+grabbed my heart this week.

White tulips:  I love this time of year because it is bulb season.  And my very favorite, white tulips, opened up in my window sill this week bringing a smile to my face every time I looked at them.  Yay – Spring is near!

TWLOHA: Heavy and Light Tour: On Tuesday, I was invited by TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms) to attend a special concert intending to do more than just promote awareness about mental illness, suicide prevention and self-harm behaviors.  They wanted to move me.  And they did, indeed.  Megan and I were watching the crowd as much as we enjoyed the talent from the stage.  It was a crowd of people who clearly felt understood, valued, respected, less alone in this space.  In a world of masks and “Everything is fine” this was a room full of people wearing their hard knocks visibly on their faces, their bodies.  It was an honor to have Potentia included on a list of local resources, along with other amazing colleagues of mine, TWLOHA provided to everyone in attendance.  The core messages of the night: Reach out, get help, speak your pain, break the silence and share your story.  You are not alone.  Amen.

Abby Kerr and her Voice Bureau: I am fairly new to Abby’s world but I love her work and really appreciate her voice.  I am also a word nerd.  And I tend to be a little protective of words that are meaningful to me while regularly cringing at some verbiage regularly used in written and spoken form.  Her recent post on buzz words that need to retire had me nodding in agreement.  And the discussion that ensued in the comments section was insightful and also hilarious.  As a therapist, I work with people in finding their own unique, powerful voice.  Though Abby is speaking to business owners and entrepreneurs, I love her Voice Values (scroll down on her Pinterest page to check the breakdown of her VV’s) and think it is a helpful tool for anyone seeking to get clear on their voice – written and spoken.

NEDA: February Kicks off National Eating Disorder Awareness Month. The last week of February, the National Eating Disorder Association hosts a week of coordinated awareness events about Eating Disorders, Disordered Eating and Negative Body Image.  Check out what is going on in your local area and take some time to peruse the site and learn more about eating disorders, disordered eating and related issues.  Eating disorders are so complex, so misunderstood, so devastating.  Everybody Knows Somebody.  But not everyone knows what to do when they know someone really struggling with food and body issues.  NEDA is one of my favorite resources for education and advocacy.  There is no reason to not be aware.  Take the time to learn more about the most deadly of all mental illnesses and do not look the other way.  Lives are at stake.

Ann Voskamp’s 25 Point Manifesto for Sanity in 2013: For the soul. I am usually skeptical of reading the various manifestos I see out and about on the Internet.  Yet, I was so curious to read Ann’s words, as they are like a cool glass of water on a hot day every time my eyes read her blog.  4, 7, 8 were spot on for me…  and wow, loved the quote from number 12 “Constant connectivity affects productivity like a marijuana high.”  Unplugging is so important to my mental health but one I find so tricky to do at this season of life where I have limited windows of time to work+create.  But after a week of burning the candle at both ends, my mind, body and soul need to unplug, reconnect and restore. Oh and, number 23. Breathe. Deep, intentional breathing is non-negotiable to staying present and clear.

Megan Aumann: A little over a year and a half ago, I met Megan.  I immediately knew if I was her neighbor, we would become fast friends.  And that I would spend a lot of time playing in her studio. Megan is a kind+spunky+oh so very smart woman who is working her talents as a business woman, an artist and a thought leader.  I really like her jewelry and was blown away by how light the pieces are when worn.   I am currently drooling over this necklace.  I would love to have her do a trunk show at Potentia sometime… I think it would be so fun yet so dangerous to my pocketbook.  Check out her blog and see her amazing booth she had at a show in NYC this week.  Creative+Classy.

Shoot Christians Say. Hilarious+Spot on.  I know many people who resonate with the point of this video and have been sharing it with clients and friends all week.  Props to Nikki Rollo from Reasons for making me aware of this funny+cringe-worthy parody.

What inspired you this week? Do share.  I really want to know.

Have a wonderful weekend and take care of your amazing heart.

Rebecca

 

 

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Holding the Numbers Lightly

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Numbers.

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

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

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

I am referring to the number:

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

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

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

I ask them to get rid of their scale.

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

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

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

I always respect this resistance. I get it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…at the right time in your healing journey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But please hold the numbers lightly.

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

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

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

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

Cheering you on —

Rebecca

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Slowing Down + Feeding Ourselves Well.

Source: potentiatherapy.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

Today is National Food Day.

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

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

So many we work with have:

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

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

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

Eating well = fun + freeing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slowing down and eating well –

Rebecca + Megan

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Dividing the Pain

Source: bdbhbe.blogspot.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

I received an email last week from a dear high school friend detailing the failing health of her mother.  I immediately picked up the phone and called her.  My plan was to let her know she is in my thoughts and prayers + how much I love her and her family.

But as soon as I started to speak, my words turned into a hot mess of jumbled words and tears.  I choked up as I realized the depth of my love for my friend, her family and the role they all played during such an important season of my life.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in myself for my ramble as I had wanted to be “strong” and a rock for her during this tough time. I felt a bit like my message was a burden and that did not sit well with me.  A few days later, I wrote my friend and apologized for my hot mess of a voice mail message and more coherently articulated my sentiments.

Minutes after I fired off my apologetic email, I received a voice mail message from my friend.  She was so gracious and noted how touched she was by my expression of emotion in addition to being encouraged knowing how her mom had impacted me.

(Note to self: authentic and sincerely expressed sentiments are ok.  Lighten up on yourself for not being “perfect”.  Yes, I am a recovering perfectionist.)

And then my friend said something so beautiful and brilliant.

“When you have things like this happen, you just want to divide the pain.  When I sent the email message to those I love sharing the bad news, there is some comfort I received in dividing that pain and having others hold it with me.  So, thank you.”

My friend shared more about the path that was ahead of her and her family as they seek to make her mom comfortable while her body slowly shuts down.  This led my mind to race with memories of how our lives and families intersected over the years:

  • time at her childhood house;
  • getting ready for homecoming;
  • sleep overs;
  • sneaking out and skipping school during state tournament season;
  • late-night swims;
  • eating at their kitchen counter;
  • getting in trouble at their kitchen counter;
  • practicing our cheer routines;
  • going to her cabin;
  • flying to California for my sweet sixteen/golden birthday birthday;
  • double dates;
  • mean girl drama;
  • jerky boy drama;
  • family weddings;
  • and few other memories that are best to remain private. 🙂

I love my friend’s statement about dividing our pain and am very aware of how so many people I know personally and professionally keep their pain silent within themselves, often for fear of being rejected or a ridiculed.  And some do not feel like they can manage the vulnerability of being seen in their pain.  Then there are those who do not have safe community they can reach out to and trust when they are struggling.

I really believe lasting healing happens when we divide the pain by giving witness to our hurts and invite others into our experience to share our load, our burden.

And for many of those I work with at Potentia, I have had the honor of giving witness to their pain, struggles, shame and fears.

The power of sharing your story, receiving support + respect instead of shame + judgements is medicine for your soul.

Let’s be honest, it is risky to be open about your heart struggles. To allow yourself to be seen – with safe and boundried people –  as not strong enough, tough enough, perfect enough allows the lies of these negative beliefs to dissipate.

I really think we miss out on incredible healing opportunities when we do not divide the pain and instead put on masks telling people, “It’s all good.”  or  “It is meant to be.” or  “It could be worse.”  My friend could have minimized things but instead she leaned into her safe and loving support system.

I wonder, what are the negative beliefs that are keeping you from reaching out?

What one risk can you take today to reach out and divide the pain?

Never forget: Real+Safe relationships heal.

Having a safe and sincere relationship with God, yourself  and others is crucial to managing the curve balls of life + experiencing the blessings in life to the fullest.  Shame says, “stay hidden”.  Truth says, “You are worthy to be seen”.

Dividing+Conquering  –

Rebecca

PS – Thank you Mrs. A for raising an amazing daughter who blessed my life richly and for loving me – along with the rest of the young women in your world of influence  –  as one of your own.

 

 

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Faith Fast or Crash Diet?

Source: google.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

 

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

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

But in today’s culture riddled with the extremely high incidence of eating disorders and disordered eating, I encourage individuals and leaders to please consider the following when engaging in a spiritual fast:

• When fasting from food, daily hydration is essential for sustaining LIFE.
• Fasting can trigger eating disorder symptoms in persons, especially those who have recovered or are in recovery for these issues.

• If at any time the goal of a fast shifts to primarily losing weight, it is no longer a fast but a crash diet. Fasting should not be used as a tool to promote weight loss. It’s ineffective, and it also lowers metabolism.

• Many who struggle with food and body issues will engage in a fast as a mask for their disordered eating. Given the prevalence of eating disorders, disordered eating, dieting, and body shame in our culture, regularly focusing your community on the priorities of the fast is crucial.

• Food restriction tends to intensify food related obsessions and talk, and this can persist for some time even after the fast. This kind of talk can also be very triggering for someone struggling with food and body issues. Encouraging a “no negative food or body talk “ pledge during a fast is wonderful to include at the start of a fast.

Validating and encouraging other non-food options for fasting can help people struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating have the freedom to participate in a fast with their community.
• Many report feeling like a “bad Christian” or “not a good enough Christian” if they choose to not participate in a fast “perfectly” ie: fasting from food. Helping individuals in your community to make the best decision for their mind, body, and soul is respectful and empowering.

• Fasting is not recommended for active persons that wish to continue with exercise during the fast. Our bodies need the fuel (and electrolytes) before and after exercise, and throughout the day!

• Certain groups should never participate in fasting, and these include: children, elderly, pregnant women, persons with a history of disordered eating (or currently struggling) or are undernourished, persons who have problems with blood pressure (or are on medication for blood pressure), kidney disease, diabetes or are prone to hypoglycemia, persons with unique nutritional needs or nutrient deficiencies (just to name a few).

What are your thoughts on this hot topic?

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

Rebecca

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Call to Action

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience has not been a strong virtue of mine.

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

My change in professions, marriage and parenthood started to

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

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

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

Until I could not tolerate it any more.

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

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

At Potentia, We Can Do Hard Things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honoring the call,

Rebecca

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

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