Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Natalie Lynn Borton

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

How do you define “fat talk”?

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

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

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

How do you respond to fat talk?

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

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

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

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be a leader.

Change the conversation.

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

Are you in?

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

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

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

Weekend Wonderment: Inspiration from the Interweb 9/22/13

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Happy Weekend! Here is a dose of light, hope and courage to push back on darkness, cynicism and fear. And do not forget to laugh and breathe deeply.  Because it is good for your soul.

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Will.i.am + Sesame Street tell it like it is.

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Soap box issues alert! This article sums up the negative impact of weighing yourself frequently. If you are using your scale to make sure you are “ok”, you are probably giving the scale too much power over your mood and your wellness. What is keeping you from trusting your body? Reach out for specialized help if you find your worth and value are fused with the numbers on the scale

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I am sooo delighted with this new workbook by Mike Foster of People of the Second Chance.  I saw him speak earlier this year and his story, his passion for grace and for pushing back on unhealthy perfection filled my heart with joy. Stay tuned for some cool opportunities to through Freeway together as a Potentia community.  Yes. Please.

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Asking for help spikes our sense of vulnerability. We draw on courage to take that risk and open ourselves up to disappointment but also to love, blessings and grace. Some new research suggests we are not so good at assessing who will in fact respond positively to our request for help. Check it out and practice asking for help from the safe people in your life. Sometimes it is just about showing up and asking for help  – not whether people say, “Yes.” or “No.”

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Heart explosion. Love, patience, kindness and hockey.  Swoon.

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It’s ok to be different. It also takes courage to be different; to be you.

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Kid President giving a rallying cry for teachers and students. Yes indeed, go get your awesome on!

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In awe and wonder –

Rebecca

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

 

Weekend Wonderment – Better Late Than Never!

1. Your Health -

No surprise those with weight issues are more vulnerable to developing eating disorders. As long as we make weight a primary factor in determining health – and rewarding weight loss over overall wellness – we are contributing to the serious food and body issues in our culture.

Spread the word: You cannot be replaced!

A refreshingly honest, hilarious, and a little bit frenetic look inside the tension of being seen, authentic and vulnerable.

Love this blog on everything rustic and vintage on a budget. I just scored some of their amazing mini bread boards. I plan on getting more for gifts. You can even have each board engraved with up to 10 letters.  Sweet!

This is inspiring me to get my creative via my i-Phone photos. Who knew creativity and tech could be so fun and easy?

I am SO grateful for this website as I now have both kids in school and my oldest is needing lunches everyday.  The lists of recommended lunch gear saved me hours of research and the meal ideas and pics help with quick and easy planning.  Exhale.

This is an important post on bright girls, bright boys, and (re) defining perfectionism and being good enough.

Props to Matt Knisley for the heads up this new platform for books.  While I will always be a fan of old school books-in-hand, I am embracing technology and books. Netflix for books: count me in!

Donald Miller never disappoints with his powerful and convicting words. Read and be challenged to be brave and love without conditions.

In Awe and Wonder –

Rebecca

Weekend Wonderment: Inspiration from the Interweb

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Be the Gift.  Give yourself the gift of forgetting about yourself, the to-do lists, the plans, the appointments, the shoulds and have-tos. Thank you, Ann, for this heartfelt reminder. I needed it this weekend.

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Never, ever, ever forget: You are Loved. Thanks to Jeanne Oliver Designs for bringing this to my attention.  Blessed.

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Beautiful, grounding, convicting.  Read this and then take note where you feel your heart tugged to redirect how you spend your time today.

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Yes, let’s change the world for Greyson, my daughter, all kids.

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Darling is taking orders for their fall issue.  Order now and receive their latest print magazine full of beautiful photo shopped-free pictures, lovely words printed on gorgeous paper and receive the digital version as a free bonus.

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Here is more brilliance from Barn Owl Primitives (where I purchased the We Can Do Hard Things sign seen as you enter my therapy office). These are words that I want to flow out of my heart to my kids – especially during this season of preparation for and transition to school and the big, big world.  May we all live these words and not just say them. Actions indeed speak louder than words.

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No, juicing is not an eating disorder but for some it can be a disordered eating ritual masked in the spirit of healthful living. I appreciate this honest and humorous perspective of a world where the efforts to be healthy are sometimes a bridge to orthorexia (the obsession with eating healthy) and, well, deep hunger.  Now head over to Kayla’s Q&A with Megan on juice cleanses for some facts on this practice.

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A common area of struggle I see in my office is managing the in-betweens of life: relationships, jobs, school, physical health, and so on. Jeff Goins’ new book will encourage and challenge you to savor your in-betweens. The tension created in times of waiting can be the catalyst for our best art, so slow down and do not rush your in-betweens.

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In awe and wonder –

Rebecca

Q&A Series: Gluten-Free Diet Unpacked

Unpacking Gluten-Free Diet
Unpacking Gluten-Free Diet

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla: What are the benefits of gluten?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In good health –Megan and Kayla

I have a confession to make to you…

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2013 has been full of some serious body image blues.

You know how it goes:

  • not feeling comfortable your skin
  • feeling like none of your clothes fit well
  • not wanting to see your image in a mirror or a picture
  • struggling not to be tempted by the false promises and quick fixes of the diet and so-called “wellness” industry
  • feeling less then, ummm, hubba hubba with your spouse
  • not wanting to be very social
  • playing the compare game

A couple things crept in that started to take away from my New Year’s calm and clarity (my word for 2013): lack of sleep because of all things toddler (winter colds, potty training..) and my newly diagnosed asthma.  I was missing my time with my boot camp buddies – my one-two punch for social and active time.

I hit a wall. Right about the time I was doubling the staff at Potentia.  We just completed two successful cohorts of our 8 week Cultivating Courage workshop and put dates on the calendar for three Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives.

All good stuff.

I was super pumped about all these happenings but was getting really depleted and disconnected from my social support.  My health was starting to suffer, too.

And in walked my body image blues right through the front door.

Shame said, “You hypocrite.  You are leading these men and women to heal their relationship with their bodies and you do not even feel good about your own.  You are a fraud.”

Ouch.

But here is where things took a different turn.  My discomfort in my skin did not necessarily dissipate but how I responded to these thoughts and feelings took a rather radical detour.

I practiced, practiced and continue to practice my shame resilience skills.  I dug in and wrote my daily gratitudes and read my daily devotions.

I got really clear on my needs and spoke them to my friends and family, not as demands but as requests.

I made my self-care – mind, body and soul – a priority and made sure my schedule reflected these values.

I practiced empathy with myself and others when judgements and crankiness reared their ugly heads.

I re-evaluated my boundaries and made sure I was not setting up walls which protect but also isolate.

I spoke my truth to my really, really safe people.

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.

Wow.

Those who work in the eating disorder field are not immune to struggling with their own food and body issues.

And I am no exception.

It was pretty incredible to see how the ongoing practice of shame resilience kept me from dancing in the pit of self-loathing for very long.  It has helped me practice respecting my body even when I do not like it much.

Yeah, I am not immune to these thoughts or feelings.  But how I respond when they hit has truly been, well, awesome.

And as I say every day in my office, “Rarely are bad body image days about food, weight or the aesthetics of a certain body part.”

Negative body image is often the equivalent of that scratchy throat you get when feel you are starting to get sick. If you ignore the symptoms and do not take extra care to build up your immune system, you will get leveled and feel even worse, taking longer to recover.

And instead of going old-school and obsessing over weight, looks and what others think, my shame resilience skills are (almost) my default now and the obsessive tendencies to measure my worth by the number on the scale (if I had one) or how much I have worked out were not nearly as loud as they used to be.

This new response to shame has been so, so, so freeing and healing.  Instead of fearing vulnerability, I have grown to understand and respect its place in my life – though I do not like the feeling of it most of the time.

Reading Brené Brown’s books over the last few years have been so helpful in building my awareness about shame and normalizing the universal experience of shame.  I developed a whole new vocabulary.

But these last 9 months training with Brené, Robert Hilliker and the rest of the Connections team to complete my Certified Connections Facilitator Certification moved me from an intellectual insight of this work to a daily (well, mostly daily) practice.

I have seen the fruits of this practice in my marriage, my work as therapist and in my relationships with God, myself and others.

And this is why I can barely contain how excited I am to offer this work – Potentiafied for you in our Cultivating Courage Workshops and Weekend Intensives.

We have three Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives scheduled for the remainder of this year: June 14-16, Aug 23-25 and Nov 1-3.  And my colleague, Molly LaCroix, and I will be launching our 8 week Weekly Cultivating Courage Workshop Series in January 2014.

For those who are local, we have some digging deeper workshops which will be launching this summer to give people a chance to freshen their Shame Resilience skills or have a toe-in-the water experience with this powerful work.

And plans are in the works to take this work online so our Potentia friends outside San Diego can have access to this material, too.  Make sure you are signed up to receive email updates so you can get the latest details on all of these happenings.

I would love to know what your questions are about shame and Brené Brown’s shame resilience theory.  Please email me directly at rbass@potentiatherapy.com or post your questions below.  If I feature your question in a future blog post, you will receive a copy of Brené’s most recent book, Daring Greatly.  So don’t hold back, I really want to hear from you.

Working on being my own cheerleader while cheering you on, too!

Rebecca

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

 

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