Consider making this one thing a priority in 2017…

therapy-couch-at-potentia

“The opposite of belonging is to feel isolated and always (all ways) on the margin, an outsider. to belong is to know, even in the middle of the night, that I am among friends.”

Peter Block in Community – The Structure of Belonging. 

At Potentia, we understand the deep need for all of us to find a place to belong. We also know first hand hand how easy it is to let parts of your story hijack your present and your future.

Our culture’s mixed messages around what it means to be well can fuel fears of being misunderstood, keeping many scared while rumbling in secret with stories of struggle, afraid of losing what matters most – connection.

Addictions, betrayal, mental health struggles, grief, trauma, perfectionism and shame touch all of us directly and indirectly through those we love and lead. Attempting to try and think yourself out of your pain often exacerbates the pain fueled by the barriers of stigma + access to resources – keeping way too many people in isolation.

Though struggle can trigger feelings of:

  • fatigue from stagnated attempts to heal
  • overwhelm
  • frustration
  • being trapped by the belief that change is not possible

it is easy to forget that struggle is not failure but a place of growth, wisdom. And every rumble to heal has a timeline of its own – so caution against comparing your struggle to the journey of others.

I know we are biased on this matter but we believe one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones is to make healing emotionally something to respect and value.

Our hope is that you will make your mental health a priority now and in the new year. Leaving mental health issues unaddressed will make it harder to achieve your goals, desires, dreams, and to find that sense of deep belonging within and with those in your life. 

Yes… the time, resources and energy that is needed to heal is nothing but tidy and streamlined – any quick fix plan offered to heal deep soul pain will fall short of you showing up day in and day out to do the messy work to heal.

Slower is often faster when it comes to mental health healing. Making mental health a priority in your life will help you show up in your life with more clarity, connection and confidence.

All of us at Potentia continue to invest our own time and resources studying, training, consulting and collaborating – along with supporting our own mental health –  so we can offer our clients and their families the best support. We also believe you play a crucial role in the process of changing the stigma around mental health issues. By doing your own deep soul work, you are leading by example. Your courage in this process will be contagious and inspire others to take the brave leap to ask for help.

We would be honored to help you and those you care for find relief and more meaning in life. If you are looking for resources outside of the San Diego area, check out the following sites to find support near you:

Psychology Today

edreferral.com

EMDRIA.org

Center for Self Leadership

The Daring Way™

Cheers to (re) Defining Health in 2017! Keep us posted on how we can be a resource for you.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

 

PS – We would love for you to come to our I Choose Respect Open House + Fundraiser on January 14th, 2017 from 4-7PM. Local artists and makers will be featured along with great food + community plus our I Choose respect photo booth as we prepare for our 4th annual I Choose Respect effort. Click on the image below to register!

 

icr-2017-open-house

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Do you suffer from Infobesity?

Infobesity

When you are struggling – finding a friend, family member, mentor, colleague or just googling your question will help you find advice on how to:

  • stop
  • stop eating
  • stop hurting yourself
  • lose weight
  • gain weight
  • love the body you are in;
  • eat
  • eat more
  • eat less;
  • drink more
  • drink less
  • start
  • move
  • finish
  • slow down
  • go faster
  • fix it
  • love
  • create
  • get over it
  • improve your boundaries
  • dress differently
  • have faith
  • trust
  • pray
  • feel
  • read more
  • learn more
  • listen
  • be vulnerable
  • relax
  • guard your heart
  • respect the process
  • go for it
  • walk away
  • let it go
  • take things less seriously
  • heal
  • feel
  • cry
  • get angry
  • try
  • take a risk
  • plan for the future
  • enjoy being single
  • date
  • get married
  • have kids
  • wait to have kids
  • save
  • tithe
  • make more money
  • spend more time with your family
  • be
  • be cautious
  • be in the moment
  • be safe
  • be yourself
  • change

There is not a lack of advice and opinion in our world.  And there is definitely not a lack of advice givers. A good number of those dispensing advice share nuggets of wisdom that are solid, appropriate and spot on for what is needed at the moment.

Caution against filling up on the voices which fuel hate, fear, judgement and collude with the parts of our inner world which desire certainty and rigidity. As you seek answers, make sure you are not suffering from infobesity.

Infobesity keeps you from trusting yourself, your faith and the inner circle of people who have earned the right to speak into your life. Overloading on information from other sources is rarely satisfying and increases the cravings to keep going back in search for empty calorie answers – with the hope of calming your brain and soul- only to leave you stuck and spinning in the same place.

Research which is fueled by curiosity and calm is different than infobesity. It is grounding and leads to clarity and confidence. Infobesity fuels stagnation, overwhelm and numbing out.

The irony is not lost here as I suggest a response to the quest for relief and answers. The team at Potentia is honored to walk with our clients as they seek to discover what it means to be well based on their unique story, body and interests.

To avoid infobesity – develop a practice of unplugging, pause before actions, stay curious and connected to your desire to heal and learn. Do the work to build up resilience in the space of vulnerability and shame triggers. Recognize feeling dark emotions is a part of being human. Ask for help from resources who have earned your trust when the quest for information+answers is overwhelming and numbing. Develop the confidence to lead and love when parts of your soul are afraid.

I am curious – how has infobesity impacted you?

How do you know the difference between grounded curiosity and a numbing out quest for information and answers?

How do you handle uncertainty in this information age? 

Now, time to unplug…

With gratitude –

Rebecca

 

 

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The Loneliness of Suffering in Silence

Helenkellerbest

suf·fer·ing noun the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.

Too many people are suffering in silence. Our neighbors, classmates, colleagues, members at our church and our social media friends may not look like they are struggling because most people do not wear their loneliness and shame on their sleeve.

We all have become pretty darn good at hiding our suffering.

In vulnerable and authentic conversations, I hear people say:

Well…everyone seems to have it all together.
Why am I still struggling? Others seems to get over challenges quicker than I do.
I am the exception to grace, forgiveness and peace.
I can’t talk about my loneliness. No one will understand because I have so many blessings in my life, I will just seem selfish. 
I am tired of trying again and again and nothing seems to work to help me feel better. 
It only makes me feel worse worrying the people around me – it is better to just keep my pain to myself. 
If I really told people about why I am hurting, I would lose my job, my family, my friends. No one at church would talk with me anymore. 
I do not have the resources to get help. I need to just figure this out on my own. 
I do not think people want to hear the pain. It seems everyone wants to fix me instead of understand me. 
Too many people think mental health struggles are my fault. If I could do something to stop feeling this way, I would! I have tried!

Story shame disconnects, blames and fuels fear beyond its protective origins.

Shame wins when you stay silent about your pain. And shame also wins when you shrink from the messiness of entering into another’s story of struggle because of judgement, blame and fear.

I made a vow to myself when I was in high school to do everything I could to make sure people did not suffer in silence like I did during my teen years and beyond.

The mentors, friends and professional in my life were anchors as I navigated figuring out how to adult in a way that made sense to me and was sustainable.

Eventually studying why people struggle helped me develop a deeper understanding of my own story, my brain and the spiritual aspect of suffering which eventually led me to my current professional passion as a therapist.

Mental illness is real and the statistics around those wrestling mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders are way too high.

But even greater is the epidemic of loneliness.  This is the kind of loneliness that is not based on whether you have people around you but more about whether you feel seen, heard and understood.

The kind of loneliness I am talking about is a deficit of social connection – which may seem ridiculous to those who say we are more connected then ever in this era of social media. But what is presented on social media is often not a holistic picture of people’s lives.

This video address the connection of loneliness and social media brilliantly:

Loneliness impacts our physical body and our souls. It is a biological warning sign there is a threat to our social connection. It activates the pain triggers in our brain to inform us we are in danger.

Loneliness is different than depression but is a bedfellow with it, for sure. And shame, oh the narrative of shame, gets fueled when we are in connection deficit.

Experiencing positive connection often does not eradicate the loneliness immediately. But if steadfast in the practice of reaching out and showing up with the right support, you can begin to get your mind, body and soul to recalibrate. Genetics, temperament, history and life experiences all play a role in the impact of loneliness and suffering along with how we heal from these difficult states.

It is also risky business to be steadfast with someone struggling. Rarely are there quick fixes and it can be intense navigating how to help, when to help and when to step back.

It is scary to reach out for help. It is also scary to help someone.

Committing to help someone struggling involves uncertainty, messiness and stress.

Committing to keep trying to heal involves energy, motivation and commitment.

When judgement spikes when confronted with stories of struggle, be clear it is armor to your vulnerabilities which have been triggered by giving witness and feeling painful emotions.

“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?” – Henri J.M. Nouwen The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

We desire so deeply to be seen and when we are  – it can also be one of the most terrifying experiences, too.

I think there is more we can do in our communities to decrease the numbers of those suffering in silence.

We are not the ‘other’. Either we are struggling or we have come out of our time of suffering so we can support those who are in the pit of pain.

We need to cultivate in our communities permission to share struggles, regularly communicate the message to never stop trying and that showing up for help is deeply important, if not necessary.

This UCLA Loneliness Inventory is a useful tool in assessing you loneliness scale and the need for additional support. 

For those feeling suicidal or who know some struggling with suicide and need support, connect with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. To text for help, contact Lifeline Crisis Chat or Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., click here international support. Grief and loss resources are available here. (link http://www.griefshare.org/.)

My challenge to you is to dare to reach out this week to one person – whether to share you care about someone or to reach out for your own help.

Never underestimate a courageous act.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

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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

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Obsessing about eating healthy is not healthy.

1. Beware of using...

This morning my beloved cousin and life-long friend, Lissa Rankin, sent me an email noting a post she wrote for Mind Body Green, titled 10 Signs a Juicing Habit is Hiding an Eating Disorder.  In it, she addressed an issue near and dear to all of us who work at Potentia: when eating healthy can mask the serious emotional and physical issues of an eating disorder.

I am so grateful for her post as it is important to continue the discussion around this often lightning-rod issue. A continued conversation helps push back on a common narrative in our culture that if you do not meet the criteria for an eating disorder and you are eating whole, fresh, organic food, you don’t have a problem. But when lifestyle change leads to obsession, it is this narrative that can keep people stuck in an emotionally paralyzing state.

Obsessions are connected to a multitude of factors: low sense of worth, traumas/distressing life events, family of origin, temperament, and even under-nourishment. And many people are genetically loaded to be more vulnerable to obsessive-compulsive traits, which are found on the anxiety spectrum.

The obsession with eating healthy is called orthorexia.  Orthorexia is a sub-clinical term coined by Steven Bratmen, MD who is also the author of Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa – Overcoming the Obsession with Healthy Eating. I will explore orthorexia more deeply in an upcoming post, but for now,  it’s enough to know that the problem is not simply about the food (I say “simply,” since we need to eat to live), but mostly about the obsessions and related impact on your life based on how you respond to your food obsessions.

Any obsession, whether it be with food or otherwise, can be mentally and emotionally crippling. When the desire to make lifestyle changes and improve how you feed yourself is taken to an extreme, it can lead to orthorexia and eventually develop into more debilitating disordered eating and eating disorders.

In her post, Lissa noted key signs you may be using juicing as a mask to your disordered eating.  Below, I add some additional thoughts to unpack the important message of Lissa’s post. And thank you again, Lissa, for keeping this discussion going. It is a hot topic for sure, but I am so grateful for the conversation!

Here are Lissa’s 10 signs that you (or someone you love) is masking an eating disorder with juicing or cleansing:

1. Your BMI, or body mass index, reveals that you are underweight or normal weight, yet you replace meals with juice regularly.

Additional Thoughts: Yes, many people who are experiencing discomfort from negative body image want to lose weight or change their body. Restricting helps decrease the anxiety of this distress by the endorphins that are produced when their body is not getting enough nourishment. At Potentia, we use the BMI lightly. For most people, it is not an accurate indicator of ideal weight range. Plus, your worth is more than a number. Connect with Megan Holt for a consult to learn more about determining your ideal weight range.

2. You’re terrified of gaining weight, even if your BMI is normal or underweight.

Additional Thoughts: Regardless of your BMI, the fear of gaining weight needs to be addressed. Even if losing weight would be helpful to your overall wellness, a number of markers will be taken into account – not just your BMI. Your labs, your activity, physical pain, how you feed yourself, illnesses, medications, stress, social and emotional support and current life situation are all taken into account.

3. Other people think you’re skinny, but what you see in the mirror is a big fat slob.

Additional thoughts: Regardless of what other people think, if the image in the mirror triggers obsessive thoughts and behaviors, it is time to get help. And to those who are friends with someone struggling, be careful about compliments and encouragements around looks. If your loved one is in deep with this struggle, she will have a hard time trusting your words.  Validating her struggle and encouraging her to get help is a very loving support without feeding the obsessions.

4. For women, skipping periods or not menstruating at all can be a sign that you’re not getting enough calories. The body is genius. If it thinks you’re not at a healthy enough weight to have a healthy pregnancy, your periods will disappear.

Additional Thoughts: Yes – your body is genius! Osteopenia can lead to re-occurring injuries and is a sign your body is struggling. Getting your period back does not mean the recovery work is done. Until you do the deep soul work to manage your anxiety, this cycle of obsessions is likely to continue.

5. You binge on unhealthy foods and then either induce vomiting, exercise excessively, misuse laxatives, or use juicing as a sort of penance to undo the damage.

Additional Thoughts: Binging does not just have to involve food deemed unhealthy. It can be any kind of food, even healthy food. Many people attempt to mask their shame of binging by eating food that is not shamed by our culture and “junk food”.  And on that note, there is room for all food, even something that is not organic, processed or corn-fed – if the majority of your body’s needs are met with whole, fresh and organic when available and affordable.

6. You embark upon juice fasts that last more than a week. For example, a month of nothing but juice just isn’t healthy.

Additional Thoughts:  Lissa referenced our popular Q&A post on juice fasts.  This is an important resource as you think about the meaning and the motivation of your cleanse or fast. Even if you do not have a clinical eating disorder but are struggling with body image issues or eating issues, we caution against trying a fast to help manage your emotional distress. This choice could send you to a dark place that could take years of recovery.

7. You find yourself avoiding meals out with friends and family “because I’m cleansing.”

Additional Thoughts: This is such  a common struggle for those with orthorexia.  When eating fuels isolation, this is a red-flag.

8. Other people worry about how often you skip meals or cleanse.

Additional Thoughts: When those who care about you are concerned, it is not because they are working against your goals for health and wellness. Your disordered eating thoughts want to isolate you and be your only friend. In truth, eating disorders are toxic BFF’s.

9. Being away from your juicer or a juice bar triggers anxiety or even panic.

Additional Thoughts: If you lose flexibility in your lifestyle, it is a warning you are becoming a slave to your eating patterns. This is not how we are called to live.

10. You obsessively weigh yourself, and change your cleansing behavior as a way to diet yourself back to your target weight.

Additional Thoughts: Your worth is more than a number and dieting does not work. No matter what you call it, trying to lose weight by restrictive eating will only set you up to regaining the weight, even more than you lost, sending you on the dangerous weight-cycling path of disordered eating.

What do you think about the obsession of eating healthy? Is it an important response to weight issues in our country? Have you or someone you cared about ever struggled with orthorexia?

Cheering you on as you (re) define your definition of health –

Rebecca

 

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Weekend Wonderment 8.24.13

This was a week where the topic of loneliness went viral. Check out this incredible 3-D perspective on loneliness in our very “connected” world.

And here is a spot on article noting how loneliness is a bigger threat to our health than weight issues.  Truth.

———

Raw, real and gloriously authentic, Dr. Brené Brown talks church.

———

Interesting, informative insights on anxiety, eating disorders and schizophrenia.  Increased understanding about the spectrum of mental illness will ensure more people get the help they need.

——–

Swoon over this mash up of “Brave” by Sara Bareilles (a personal favorite) and Katy Perry’s new song, “Roar”.  Watch, be awed and left with a big smile on your face.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-wa1_y6uZQ

——–

An apology letter from a former weight loss consultant stirred up a lot of chatter on the interweb. Provocative, sincere, honest, this letter offers a unique perspective from the heart of the diet industry.

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Back to school must haves: These adorable “gentle reminders” pencils would be a wonderful gift to a student you know heading back to school or for anyone needing some fun encouragement.  And I am loving this sweater that screams fall in my favorite color.  How cool that you can have it custom made to fit you.  I am in line to order mine this week.

——–

Busy is the new “fine” but we are living at a pace that is unsustainable.  It is time to (re) define success and make wellness a priority as we follow our dreams and passions.

——–

My husband and I have been having so. much. fun with this cookbook.  I love Deb Perelmen’s blog, too.  Her latest post is full of peaches, glorious peaches which is appropriate for National Peace Month. She always uses real food that never sacrifices flavor with simple techniques = pure palette joy.

——–

Just because.  🙂

——–

In awe and wonder –

Rebecca

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The Dark Side to Celebrating Eating Contests

http://lazygastronome.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/adam-richman-diet.jpg
 
For the last several years, I have started writing posts about the mixed messages of celebrating eating contests and the dangerous impact reverberated by these mixed messages – but I have never finished them.  This year, I am pushing back on my unhealthy perfectionism and finishing a post I started earlier this month.  I hear the PR voice in my head saying it is too late and the peak for sharing this has passed. 
Well, so be it.

The fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I am a fireworks fanatic and this year we brought both of our kids to watch the glorious display of firework fun in the sky. This holiday is a lovely time to rest,  play, and celebrate.

But one tradition around this holiday frustrates and concerns me: Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest and the many iterations that have followed its popularity. Some of my friends and family think I am a bit of a buzzkill for not being a fan of this kind of eating. Such is my life as an eating disorder specialist – I cannot unlearn what I know about the physical and emotional dangers of binge eating and Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

I like this write up by the Mayo Clinic staff on BED:

You may have no obvious physical signs or symptoms when you have binge-eating disorder. You may be overweight or obese, or you may be at a normal weight. However, you likely have numerous behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food
  • Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Experiencing depression and anxiety
  • Feeling isolated and having difficulty talking about your feelings
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
  • Losing and gaining weight repeatedly, also called yo-yo dieting

After a binge, you may try to diet or eat normal meals. But restricting your eating may simply lead to more binge eating, creating a vicious cycle.

(Notation from Rebecca: Many fall somewhere along the spectrum of BED. You do not need to have all of these symptoms to struggle with the issue. Denial, minimizing, and rationalizing often keep people from getting the help they need because they do not feel like it is that serious.)

5 reasons eating contests hurt our collective psyche around food

1. Eating contests give the impression that binge eating is always a choice. As of May, Binge Eating Disorder is now a clinical diagnosis in the new DSM-V. This is a huge victory for those who struggle with these issues along with those who are passionate about treatment and advocacy. Prior to BED officially being placed in the DSM -V, there was a lot of controversy around whether this diagnosis should be included; many thought this diagnosis was making excuses for those making bad choices. If this struggle was simply fixed by a choice, there would not be millions of people struggling with this serious issue. Addressing core issues such as attachment wounds, anxiety, depression, distressing life events and traumas, perfectionism, shame, and identity issues are at the heart of this struggle, not a simple choice. The choice available to those with BED is reaching out and asking for helping instead of staying stuck in the cycle of shame, pain, isolation, and physical distress.

2. Eating contests make BED and related behaviors a joke and sport to many. We laugh. We cringe. We build up the hype. It is a business and we are buying into it. This recent Forbes post on whether eating contests should be considered a sport noted:

“While spectators question the validity of such a label, its organizers say there is no confusion – competitive eating is a serious business in the world of sport.”

Man Vs. Food with Adam Richman (I confess, I adore Adam — he is so endearing!) is a perfect example of eating as sport. Adam travels to a new town each episode to discover a city’s best sandwich or meal and then engages in a restaurant’s food challenge by eating an insane amount of food in a designated time period. People are around him cheering him on as he takes his body on a dangerous episode of binge eating — for all the world to watch.

But my work with people on the disordered eating spectrum has taught me food competitions do great harm to our collective understanding of eating disorders and related health issues. This double standard keeps people struggling with BED spectrum in silence, fear of reaching out for help and making binge eating behaviors a joke. A sport.
Binge Eating Disorder is not a sport. Though many who participate in these eating contests may not fit the clinical diagnosis of BED, many of the behaviors mirror this serious illness. When we make binge eating cool to watch, we decrease the seriousness of this issue. It is time to stop the jokes and change the dialogue around this issue.

As long as we are watching, cheering on, and participating, eating contests will be good for business. And bad for health – mind, body, and soul.

3. Binge eating is very hard on your body. If you have ever seen the line-up at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, you can see a representation of different ages, genders, and sizes of those who down dozens of hot dogs in a matter of minutes. Physically, binge eaters are at risk for developing: type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, joint and muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, sleep apnea, and other related health concerns. Professional binge eaters have the same health risks as those who are clinically struggling with BED. This is not something to be celebrated or perpetuated.

4. We have become obsessed with talking about food and eating contests just add to this unhealthy obsession. Food is personal and how we choose to feed ourselves is a very vulnerable topic. How we eat, what we eat, when we eat, and where we eat are all hot topics that can breed food shame and discord instead the joy of breaking bread with family and friends. Eating contests (and most reality shows for that matter) encourage us to become professional judgers and blamers. We talk about “good food vs. bad food” as if we are talking about sinning or staying pure; we Instagram our meals with a sense of awe and worship; the latest trends in eating, dieting, health dominate the majority of our conversations. We are obsessed with food. This obsession masks core issues of identity, worth, shame while fueling anxiety and depression. And the resistance to looking deeper is intense – understandably as it is much easier to talk about food than the messy, vulnerable, deep soul stuff.

5. Eating contests are a waste of food when so many are food insecure in our country and our world. In our country alone, food insecurity impacts about 15% of households. I often wonder about the positive impact companies and businesses that promote eating contents could make if they took their resources of time and money and fought hunger instead. We can change this demand by choosing not to watch and not to participate – which will shift how companies spend their advertising dollars.
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Post your feedback below and let me know what you think about eating contests? Do you think binge eating is just a choice?  I look forward to your thoughts on this controversial subject.

Happy belated 4th of July (take that perfectionism!)  –

Rebecca

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