A Different Perspective on Scarcity Mindset and Responding to a Culture of Never Enough

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Note: This adapted post was first posted on the Darling Magazine blog summer of 2016. 

WHAT IS SCARCITY MINDSET?

Down to our DNA, we crave connection, adventure and a life of meaning and purpose. If you are living from a narrative fueled by scarcity mindset, the world can quickly become small, lonely and scary, shrouded in judgement and entrenched in the never-ending hustle for safety.

When we don’t believe we are enough – that we are doing enough, or that there is enough opportunity in the world for us – then a scarcity mindset is in the driver’s seat where you belong. Scarcity mindset is a cocktail of shame; it’s obsessive comparison and competition, and a disengagement from taking risks which may result in failure, being misunderstood or being seen as flawed. Living from a scarcity mindset leads to emotional exhaustion and constant distrust.

The following are warning signs that scarcity mindset is impacting your confidence. You…

Are in a constant state of comparison.
Find yourself wishing others do not succeed and are consumed by competition.
Find your worth and identity are externally motivated.
Feel worse about yourself after an interaction with someone in person or on social media.
Are constantly anxious but do not know why.
Are clinging to perfection as the ideal way of being/doing.

Becoming a wise consumer of information is crucial in our culture of ‘never enough.’ Relentless messages about whether you are enough, there is enough or your are doing enough takes a toll on the brain and the body. Scarcity mindset can hijack your confidence, your trust and confuse what you value by using the fear of disconnection and rejection as your guide on how to think and act. Marketers, advertisers and others desiring to get you to buy, vote, share, or believe are attuned to the psychology of human behavior, and are aware that a scarcity mindset is a powerful force of influence that allows fear and shame to be the leading emotions driving your decision making process.

Scarcity mindset can hijack your confidence, your trust and confuse what you value by using the fear of disconnection and rejection as your guide.

At the root of scarcity mindset is fear. Fear is an important and protective emotion, but too much fear can leave the nervous system in a constant state of hyper-vigilance, seeking immediate relief and comfort. This intense, emotional state chips away at the resilience needed to tolerate sitting in the space of suffering and struggle, and finding ways to grow from it.

Choosing to invest in relationships and dreams leaves all of us vulnerable to a scarcity mindset. Left unchecked, it infects our ability to trust and stay grounded in knowing that things will be okay, even when the outcome is uncertain. When self-worth becomes intertwined with what you do, look like or have, confidence disappears and the chase for the approval of others becomes the norm. Claiming the power and agency given to all of us is a crucial practice and a powerful resource in response to the messages of scarcity.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON SCARCITY MINDSET

Here is the curve ball on scarcity mindset: It has a noble cause. It’s trying to protect you from failure, rejection, being separated from needed connection. Scarcity mindset is actually a protective part of your inner world and is not to be loathed, fixed, or banished. It is one of the brain’s many ways of trying to keep you safe.

Most of the threats we experience these days are to our sense of self — keeping our nervous system on high alert. This is exhausting and can have a detrimental impact on your physical and emotional well-being. Scarcity mindset gets you to turn on yourself in an attempt to get safe.

When you develop confidence in the face of uncertainty, fear has a way of cleansing and clarifying – you become powerful instead of paralyzed. 

One question will help you get clarity and to the heart of how scarcity mindset is impacting your life today: What are you afraid of?

This self-awareness is crucial. When you take the time to be honest about your fears, you are then able begin the work to re-wire your brain’s responses to these threats. When you develop confidence in the face of uncertainty, fear has a way of cleansing and clarifying – you become powerful instead of paralyzed.

Scarcity mindset gets you to turn on yourself in an attempt to get safe. In her book, Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy, Ph.D. writes about the importance of claiming our personal power to stay grounded in our self-confidence:

“Personal Power is characterized by freedom from dominance of others. It is infinite, as opposed to zero-sum – it’s about access to and control of limitless inner resources, such as our skills and abilities, our deeply held values, our true personalities, our boldest selves…Personal power makes us more open, optimistic, and risk tolerant and therefore more likely to notice and take advantage of opportunities.”

HOW TO RESPOND TO SCARCITY MINDSET

It’s easy to over-identify with the pain and suffering we see around us. Approach the scarcity mindset part of you with curiosity and compassion. Confidence combined with the lens of common humanity — we are in this human journey together — reminds you to stay grounded in the truth that your imperfections, failures, mistakes and difficult life experiences are what unites us all. It is a part of being human.

Respond to self-critical thoughts with compassion and curiosity. Instead of viewing these thoughts at the enemy and something to be eliminated, recognize this part of your inner life is trying to protect you and serves a purpose.

On the hard days, give yourself permission to:

– Unfollow
– Unplug
– Reach out and connect with someone, in person
– Practice choosing respect, which may feel awkward and inauthentic at first
– Rest
– Move
– Get outside

Caution against seeing abundance as the opposite of scarcity – which is a common message in response to scarcity. As Brené Brown notes in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, “The counter approach to living in scarcity is not about abundance. In fact, I think abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin.” Chasing abundance only fuels scarcity mindset and the feelings of never enough.

Does a scarcity mindset sound familiar to you? What is is one way you can challenge yourself to live outside of fear?

Scarcity mindset is not going anywhere, especially in our information age where so much money is to be made by seeking quick fixes to the distress of not feeling enough. Fight to claim your power and confidence in this culture of never enough and know the space you create will be contagious. The world needs you to show up and be seen.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

 

Consider making this one thing a priority in 2017…

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“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!

 

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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

 

 

Respect over Accept: 2016 #ichooserespect starts on Monday!

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Hello and happy weekend!

The following is a video clip I filmed yesterday about Potentia’s #ichooserespect effort before I picked up my kids from school. I made the commitment to shoot this in one shot and go with it no matter what – so here you go!

Towards the end, I was a little confused by what you see verses what I see on my monitor when I had some written visuals to share – so enjoy the entertainment as I navigate sharing information with you.

In summary, the main points in the video are:

  • The history of #ichooserespect
  • Why I added #storyshame in year two
  • My thoughts on why addressing these issues are so important and not superficial “phases”
  • How you can participate in #ichooserespect no matter where you are in the world!

 

ICR vlog 2016 from Rebecca Bass-Ching on Vimeo.

I look forward to seeing many of you on Facebook or Instagram next month and learning how you choose respect over body + story shame. Thanks in advance for joining the conversation.

With gratitude  –

Rebecca

How a Kindergarten Teacher Builds Community

IMG_2025Every day before my daughter’s school starts, she has 15 minutes to run laps with all of her K-4 classmates.

The idea of moving to the track was very daunting for all of the kindergartners and their parents.

We started off at the Kindergarten-Only playground for the first couple months of school.

It was like a little bubble with our Kindergarten tribe of kids, parents and teachers.

It was contained and known.

And having a daughter on the Autism Spectrum in a general education classroom was daunting enough. The little playground area was an even playing field – no blind spots and lots of supervision.

Moving down to the track with the “older kids” has been a smooth transition – for the most part.

I discovered my daughter’s gift for running – when she is in the mood – and how running/walking before her day really calms down her nervous system.

I have also discovered the angels, the saints, the cheerleaders, the mean girls and the “jokesters”.

When I would see my daughter being treated poorly, I would use all of my tools plus the power of breath and prayer to connect with each child to understand his or her choice of behavior.

And when I shared these interactions with her teacher, I was told I needed to go find a teacher to address the issue instead of me “handling” it on my own.

I was told this would foster better community.

My rule-follower default was a bit fritzed by my momma-bear instincts. But I listened to Teacher and continued to breathe and pray.

In the weeks to follow, I saw how this new system was wise to follow.

When older kids showed signs of bullying and disrespect, she addressed them as people with dignity and with authority in conversation. I saw her build relationships, listen, set boundaries, cultivate courage and bravery.

No punitive principal meetings, threatening, shaming or making a joke and saying “kids will be kids”.

Recently, I observed two fourth graders joking about my daughter going back and fourth about which one was going to be her boyfriend.

“And so it begins” I said to my Mommy Friend and went to check in with my sweet girl as she trotted by on her morning laps.

She was laughing and seemed to be rolling with it. I also did not get my mamma radar triggered with these two spitfires, so I stepped off the track with a deep breathe and a prayer.

A few minutes later, Teacher came up to me and with one of the boys I had just witnessed interacting with my daughter.

A beautiful exchange ensued where this busted teaser saw my daughter not as an object but as someone with a mom, who was celebrating her birthday that day with friends and interests.

As Teacher sent the youngster back to finish his time on the track, she looked back at me and said, “And this is how we will create community. Where everyone understands we are all people with feelings, struggle, interests and a life. Thank you.”

It goes both ways, too. The young man is not an object of my rage, my pain, my fear, my hurt. Because I connected with him, I know he is like all of us stumbling, testing, scared, curious, desiring to belong and to be seen.

He is human.

Does it excuse bad choices? No.

But that is not the point.

When we step into the space of vulnerability, there are so many ways to respond.

The shift in perspective  – seeing how we are all in it together – helps us create community instead of an “us vs. them” culture.

It is a challenge to push back on fear, blame and shame.

And I do not know about you, but some days I am swimming in the deep end of disconnection and everyone is an “other”.

In that space blame, shame and fear have a party in my head making fertile ground for some not so pretty responses.

I do know my shame resilience practice has drastically reduced my reactivity when my tender spots are triggered.

Indeed, it is hard to be human. Desiring to be loved and understood can result in some serious hurt.

Yet, I still truly believe it is worth it to feel the tough stuff so I can feel also feel love, joy, peace – even if I am in a season when the good emotions are fleeting.

A few days later, I was back at my post on the sidelines of the track.

As he ran by, I waved at the young man who I had a chance to get to know the other day. In response, I received a half-cocked smile with a side glance and a casual wave back.

I called him by name and said good morning.

And the community building continues…

Cheering you on from the track field   –

Rebecca

PS – If you are ready to start your own life-long shame resilience practice, please join us at one of our upcoming (re) define Courage workshops.

 

 

 

Do you know your value?

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For those of you in San Diego, we would love for you to join us for a time of reflection, connection and a break from the to-do lists, deadlines and have-to’s at PLNU’s Wonderfully Made Know Your Value Conference.

Sometimes you need to push back on noise between your ears and show up, connect, reflect, and lean in so you can be reminded you have something important to offer this planet.

Especially you. One-of-a-kind you.

And if you wrestle with the fear of being be seen in your not-enoughness, you are so not alone.

Yes, it is hard to be human. Our hard-wired desire for connection makes us vulnerable to heartbreak, disappointment, rejection, judgement, loneliness and more.

And often these distressing experiences can alter how you see yourself and those around you.

Core negative beliefs about yourself attack your perspective, purpose, worth and the meaning of your story.

Chronic struggles with feeling safe, overly responsible, and ashamed can lead to losing site of the agency you have and usher in a deep sense of self-loathing, hopelessness and confusion.

Energy is then spent on maintaining an image – masks – that are supposed to serve as a shield from the critics and feelings of vulnerability – but in fact keep you in bondage to fear and shame.

But I know you desire more. The light in your heart is a beacon of hope that you are defined by more than the number on the scale, the opinions of the collective other, the grades on your report card, the salary on your paycheck, the title on your business card.

Come join us on October 19th. Let your soul be refreshed. Register for free here.

And be reminded you are a person of value and we are all in this life together, trying/struggling/fighting/longing to figure out who the heck we are what we are supposed to do with our lives.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

PS – If you want to dig deeper and experience sustaining change, please consider attending a (re) define courage workshop which is based upon the research of Brené Brown or set up an appointment to meet with one of Potentia’s psychotherapists and receive specialized support for your individual needs and goals.

Discover the Power of Your Wanted and Unwanted Identities

1. I decided

I am ____________ (fill in the blank).

Many of you can finish the sentence above with a variety of descriptors and attributes. The core beliefs about your identity directly impact how you make decisions in your relationships, at school, work, and in life.

Culture, your family of origin, your faith community, schools, and places of work are constantly communicating messages about your worth and value.

Some of these messages are negative and challenge your ability to see your true worth and value.

And at some point, you start believing some of the negative messages shifting your lens on yourself and the world.

You are not alone. We all wrestle with negative core beliefs about our identity. Sometimes these negative beliefs are screaming at top volume between your ears while other negative beliefs are a quiet whisper that nag at you daily.

Regardless of the volume, inaccurate core identity beliefs can lead to unsafe and broken relationships, isolation, eating issues, addictions, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.

Usually our negative beliefs come from experiences in our story and have taken root in our brains in an effort to keep us safe but end up working against us.  Most of these negative beliefs fall into one of the following categories:

  • I am not enough/I am not _____ enough
  • I am not not safe
  • I am not capable/in control

Our upcoming (re) define Identity workshop will help you:

  1. identify your ideal and unwanted identities
  2. build awareness on how you respond when you are seen in ways you desire and fear
  3. narrow down the core negative beliefs that are keeping you stuck in your relationship with yourself, God, and others, launching you into the process of reclaiming your true identity, worth, and value.

For those seeking to dig deeper and and get unstuck with struggles around your core identity, I recommend finding a practitioner certified (or in process of certification) in EMDR.  This is a powerful psyhchotherapeutic approach that has changed the way I conceptualize cases, approach trauma and all distressing life events.  You can find a local practitioner in your area here.

Space is limited at our upcoming (re) define Identity workshop on September, so register soon if you are interested.

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We cover this material more extensively in our cornerstone Workshop: (re) define Courage: Dare to Show up+Be Seen (formerly Cultivating Courage).

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Our September Weekend Intensive has sold out but there are still spots available in the Nov 1-3 weekend intensive.  January dates for weekend intensives and weekly workshops will be going live soon.  Sign up here to be the first to know about these dates.

 

Enjoy the last days of summer and all the best to those transitioning back to school!

Rebecca

 

The Dark Side to Celebrating Eating Contests

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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

Q&A Series: Cleanses

Q&A Series: Cleanses

Kayla Waler, MFT Intern at Potentia: So, we’ve recently tackled pertinent topics such as Paleo and gluten-free diets. My friends have expressed interest in a Q&A about juice fasts and cleanses. I know juice fasts and cleanses are popular, especially around certain times of the year…what can you tell me about this practice?

Megan Holt, RD, MPH, Ph(c) and Coordnator of Nutrition and Wellness at Potentia: In my experience, people tend to be interested in cleansing for one of four reasons: 1) weight loss, 2) detoxification, or 3) as a means of hitting a ‘reset’ button when they’re feeling particularly bad about their current diet or 4) for an energy boost. Cleanses usually involve one or more of these components: 1) a fast 2) some sort of product or regimen purported to remove toxins from the body, or 3) a colon cleanse.

Kayla: Let’s start by talking about fasting…

Megan: I tend to discourage fasting because it can reactivate disordered eating behaviors–whether that’s restriction or feeling out of control with food or feeling disconnected from hunger and fullness cues when one does start to eat again. I generally recommend against it for anyone who has suffered from disordered eating in the past. But for someone without a history of disordered eating, there’s really no harm in doing a juice fast or any fast for one or two days, as long as the person is hydrating appropriately. Beyond a few days, there’s no way one can really meet his/her micro and macronutrient needs for vitamins, minerals, fat, fiber, and protein through a fast (including a juice fast). So, if the fast is prolonged, say for two weeks, he/she will start to break down muscle tissue, resulting in a weight loss (muscle tissue is heavy and dense, about 1.7 or 2 times the weight of fat mass). This can’t be sustained without becoming malnourished, nor is it ideal to waste muscle tissue and lose strength. In such a state a person can expect to be in ketosis, a state characterized by elevated levels of ketones in one’s urine or a fruity or acetone-like smell in one’s breath. Ketosis is one of the hallmarks of starvation/malnutrition.

Kayla: I know detoxification is a trendy concept. What are the toxins people are trying to rid from their bodies?

Megan: Usually the claims about detoxification on these products are overstated and generalized/non-specific. Most refer to PCBs, lead, heavy metals, or environmental toxins like food additives, food coloring, pesticide residue, etc.

Kayla: And would a cleanse rid the body of these toxins?

Megan: Actually, there’s no evidence that a cleanse or fast would (although, as long as one is fasting, one is likely taking in less of these compounds, though they’re reintroduced once the fast ends). There seems to be nothing about a cleanse that is as beneficial as adopting a good quality of diet consisting primarily of plants and whole foods. But there isn’t much research out there; there haven’t been many high quality studies on cleanses because higher preliminary studies show no benefit. Cleanses are typically promoted by testimonials given by celebrities or people who have no training/educational background (major red flag).

One problem with cleanses/detox diets is that if someone had a poor diet before doing on a cleanse, they usually revert back to that diet afterward, as they often don’t build skills to enable sustainable changes. So, unless he/she makes a concerted effort to change diet and lifestyle, he/she will return to feeling just as poorly as prior to the cleanse.

Kayla: …because he/she is just reintroducing all the old stuff…?

Megan: Right. The benefits are not sustained and not sustainable. So if you wish to feel better, or are seeking the reported benefits of something like a cleanse or detox diet, the best bet is really working on changing quality of diet and increasing activity, both of which sustainably promote feelings of well being (without undesirable side effects).

And it’s most important to note that not everyone reports feeling better during or after a cleanse. Most people report feeling disorientated or lethargic, dizzy, weak, a little confused or groggy because they’re malnourished and not getting enough glucose to the brain to fuel proper cognitive processes and physical functioning. Some people often report feeling lighter, and I can see that because one may lose weight in the form of fluid and stool bulk primarily (and perhaps a smaller proportion of fat mass and muscle mass depending on how the cleanse or fast lasts). But most often, participants complain of weakness, confusion, or just feeling “out of it.”

Kayla: Then why do people believe a cleanse is beneficial?

Megan: In part due to the power of testimonials—some people do report feeling better. Certainly people can report feeling better after adhering to a really nutrient-dense juice cleanse for several days in a row. But when someone is coming from a place where their diet is poor, of course they are going to feel better when diet improves. The problem is that it’s short term. We know that fad diets don’t work in terms of sustaining weight loss, and cleanses/detox diets are not exceptions.

Some people notice that a one or two-day cleanse or fast helps them to break habits of mindless eating and get back to a cleaner quality of diet. For example, someone who takes a one or two-day fast or cleanse after the holidays. Having said that, if you’re someone who is willing to stick to a juice fast or cleanse for just a few days as a means of hitting a ‘reset’ button, then you’re probably also apt to resume your pre-holiday eating style without doing the cleanse/fast.

Kayla: I know fasting can be dangerous because of the risk of malnourishment. Are there other risks? Can a cleanse regimen be dangerous?

Megan: Cleansing and fasting can be especially difficult and contraindicated for people with altered nutrient needs due to illness (diabetes, kidney disease, etc.). So, prior to participating in a cleanse or fast, I’d suggest consulting first with your physician.

Kayla: Earlier, you mentioned colon cleansing. Will you explain what a colon cleanse is? Why do people do it, and what are the pros and cons?

Megan: A colon cleanse is usually performed with an enema, commonly salt water or purified water injected into the colon. The idea is to remove any metabolic waste that the colon hasn’t removed on its own. Conventional physicians usually don’t support colon cleanses because there isn’t evidence to support the reported benefits. The colon is self-cleaning… it does a really good job of getting rid of metabolic waste on its own. So, we don’t need a procedure to cleanse the colon. In fact, introducing a foreign object into the colon can actually be pretty risky. Perforation of the bowel is another big risk with colon cleansing, as are infections and electrolyte disturbances.

Proponents of the colon cleanse will say they are introducing higher levels of good bacteria and getting rid of “bad” bacteria in the intestines, but there is really no evidence of that being the case, and the introduction of good bacteria is something you can get from eating probiotic-containing foods and a primarily whole-food plant based diet.

Also, we have a liver and other important organs that perform that function for us without prompting. Environmental toxins can not be metabolized or cleared by a cleanse or fast, unfortunately. If you are looking to make a change to feel better, my advice is to follow something that is sustainable for you, preferably a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet—though not necessarily vegetarian—with a high intake of whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and plant based fats.

What are your experiences with cleanses and fasts?  Have they been helpful or triggering of disordered eating thoughts and behaviors?

And thanks so much for your interest in this Q&A series.  Please keep us posted on future topics you would like us to cover in future Q&A posts.  Thanks for reading!

In good health – Megan and Kayla

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