A Manifesto on Struggle and Respect + One Week Until Our Open House

 

At Potentia, we are dedicated to decreasing the stigma around mental health issues and those who ask for help when struggles arise. There are many mixed messages about daring to ask for help, especially from a therapist. We get it. Therapy has its own baggage as our field is often not portrayed in the best light in pop culture.

The therapists I work with – along with colleagues I know around the city and the globe – are doing their best to change the reputation of our field. By holding high professional standards and always learning, refining our professional skills and practicing personally what we encourage our clients – we strive to offer those we serve with the best clinical care.

There are so many ways to heal. EMDR Therapy, Internal Family Systems, Shame Resilience Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Bowen and Structural Systems Therapy are many of the approaches we view how people change and heal.

Those seeking relief from trauma, loss, life transitions, eating disorders, addictions+compulsions, relationship tensions, depression, anxiety and more are some of the bravest people we know. The courage it takes to ask for help and commit to healing, improving, and growing never ceases to be inspiring and humbling to witness.

As we prepare for our 4th annual I Choose Respect effort to be showcased on our Facebook and Instagram feeds during the month of February, here are some thoughts on how we view struggle in the first I Choose Respect Manifesto.

icr-manifesto-colors-graphic<\a>

 

 

What are your NSV’s? (And a special invitation + year-in-review download)

mwwnbdban-script-png-version

This is the time for resolutions, intentions, goals, and dreams. Research is clear that you have a higher chance of keeping your resolutions if you write them down and they are as detailed as possible.

The Potentia team is a fan of the Passion Planner and we have been busy personalizing our planners with our hopes and plans for 2017.

passionplanners

When it comes to resolutions, one of the most common goals for the new year is around weight loss. Carrying extra weight sure has been demonized to the point of many developing an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy (orthorexia). Because it is an easy measure, checking the number on the scale is common practice with the goal, though often misleading, for improving health.

As a result, our culture is very focused the scale. Because the brain gives a dopamine reward every time we check that number, we often feel compelled to check this number frequently. The scale is tricky as it is a common measure of health – yet not the most important one. Things like activity levels, how your labs are looking, and the quality of your relationships + connections are much better life-span indicators.

Whatever the number being chased, the results of the scale usually leave you feeling wanting: for more weight loss, fear of gaining weight or maybe thinking you can lose just a little more weight – even after you hit your “goal” weight. Often with the scale, it is never enough – scarcity mindset in all its glory.

And when scarcity mindset is running the show, your worth quickly gets tied into the number on the scale. Then you are living from the protective parts of you which are shame-based instead of leading from a place of calm, clarity, confidence and courage.

Goals which focus on true health contribute to a longer life-span and offer a more enjoyable life with increased sense of meaning and improved relationships. These are a few of the areas we encourage our clients to focus on as they detox from a diet-mentality and move to a (re) define health mentality.

Some more of our favorite “non scale victories” are around improving:

  • Mood
  • Energy levels
  • Mental clarity
  • Libido
  • Confidence
  • Lab results
  • Connectedness with self and others
  • Strength
  • Emotional Resilience

Which non scale victories would you add to the above list? And as you wrap up the year, we created this download to help you with some of you goals for the new year. We can’t wait to hear about some of your looking forward-looking back reflections.

Special Note to our San Diego/Southern California based friendsPlease join at us our upcoming I Choose Respect Open House + Fundraiser. We will have great food + community in addition to featuring local artists and makers + our I Choose Respect Photo Booth while raising funds for Project Heal Southern California and Feeding San Diego.

icr-2017-open-house

Happy New Year + cheers to good health, deeper connections and more courage in 2017 –

Rebecca

 

2016-year-review

 2016-year-review2
Please follow and like us:

Consider making this one thing a priority in 2017…

therapy-couch-at-potentia

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

Peter Block in Community – The Structure of Belonging. 

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

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

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

Though struggle can trigger feelings of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychology Today

edreferral.com

EMDRIA.org

Center for Self Leadership

The Daring Way™

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

With gratitude –

Rebecca

 

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

 

icr-2017-open-house

Please follow and like us:

How are you going to take action?

No Body Story Shame

Hello and happy first Friday in June!

The Potentia team has transitioned into our summer schedule which is full of vacations, sun, and fun while continuing to serve our community by treating the whole person and the whole spectrum of mental health and wellness issues.

As many of our long-time friends know, one of the areas we offer specialized support is in the treatment of the eating disorder spectrum.

Today I am adding to the voices talking about World Eating Disorder Action Day – which was yesterday but better late than never!

I know when I write or talk about eating disorders, many say this issue is not important to them because it does not impact their life.

I ever so gently want nudge that sentiment to say that this issue – the most deadly of all mental health struggles – is an issue for us all.

In fact, this is a leadership issue and your voice and action is needed.

It is time to take action and create space to have a different conversation about food, health, bodies, worthiness, strength and success.

Many are secretly struggling with self-loathing, anxiety, fear and shame around how you feed, move, dress, rest and talk to your body. This may not present as a clinical eating disorder though the distress is still significant.

We live in a culture where it is acceptable – and often encouraged – to critique how people look, eat, dress, and live. Our bodies, which are both personal and private, are often not respected in search of  control, status, belonging and relief.

Shaming self and others destroys souls and never leads to sustained change or healing.

And this is where you come in on this call to action.

Even if eating disorders do seem like they not impact you, taking some subtle yet powerful actions to help create more safe spaces to talk about what it means to be well, what it is like to struggle with depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, recovering from trauma, neglect, loneliness and hopelessness can make a profound difference.

Genetics, family of origin and difficult like experiences play a role in how we all navigate what it means to be well. The media we consume, our social, professional and faith communities all have a powerful influence on our lives, too.

Would you consider taking action on any of the following areas? These may seem like small gestures or actions. Do not underestimate the power of making a small change.

  • Discourage negative body talk or shaming at your home, school, place of worship and.or work.
  • Affirm people based on their character not their looks or physical accomplishments.
  • Edit your consumption of media (tv, social media, magazines, etc) or even consider taking a media fast for a week.
  • Learn about orthorexia and how the obsession to eat healthy is really masking serious disordered eating, anxiety and other serious struggles.
  • Read this series I wrote for Darling Magazine on the myths and meanings of eating disorders.
  • Make a commitment to learn more about what it means to feed well, move well, rest well and talk with your body well. Dr. Megan Holt is an excellence resource for in-person or online health + wellness consultations.
  • Stop dieting and extreme ways of feeding and pursue a practice of intuitive and mindful eating.
  • If there is someone in your circle of influence you think may be struggling on the disordered eating spectrum, dare to have a courageous conversation with him/her – stating your love, your concern and your suggested resources. 
  • Commit to making the dinner table and home a place where food is discussed neutrally and is a means for fuel and medicine and enjoyment – not to be a source of obsession or fear.

 

What would you add to this list? 

How do you plan to take action in your circle of influence? 

 

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching

PS – Make sure to check out our Summer Mental Health Camp offerings throughout the summer!

FB-SummerCamps2016

 

Please follow and like us:

Respect over Accept: 2016 #ichooserespect starts on Monday!

FB-NEDAW16-banner

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

Please follow and like us:

7 Must-Read Quotes from Potentia’s Featured Book of the Month: Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann, PhD

Eatinglabbest

 

Hello!

Congratulations on completing week one of the 52 weeks of 2016!

If you are like most people in our country, some of your goals/resolutions/intentions for the new year are around your health: how you feed, move and rest your body.

It is absolutely important to make health a priority (though not an obsession) in your life.

Yet, breaking through the noise about what it really means to be healthy is quite the challenge these days.

There are so many differing views on how to eat, how to move your body, what food is “good” and “bad” for you.

As a result, the meaning of health has become so skewed and good marketing that speaks well to your struggles and desired goals can also add to the confusion of what it means to be well.

Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet by Traci Mann, PhD is a gem of a book that reads with ease while digging into some involved research around the science behind a lot of the narratives around health, obesity, food choices and more.

I really appreciate how she guides the reader:

  • through the history and evolution of dieting
  • how to better discern the quality of the research so many health “facts” are based on
  • figure out what the key factors are which impact and define health

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book along with my additional thoughts and reflections. It was really hard to decide which nuggets to quote from this book as Dr. Mann has packed in so much wisdom. It is a worthy investment, for sure!

1. The use of the BMI is controversial because the formula for calculating it is not based on any understanding of how height and weight relate to each other, and because people who have high muscle mass tend to get categorized as overweight, despite having very little fat. (p.4)

  • At Potentia, we have educated our clients and community for years on the flaws of the BMI as a measure of health. It is more of a marketing tool and not an evidenced based measure of true health. Be wary of how you use this information to define your definition of health. It also can be very shaming and trigger behaviors that are unsafe.

2. If their (the weight loss industry) products were effective in leading to long-term weight loss, they would soon put themselves out of business. These businesses count on repeat customers. Richard Samber, the longtime financial chairman of Weight Watchers, likened dieting to playing the lottery. “If you don’t win, you play it again. Maybe you’ll win the second time. When asked how the business could be successful when only 16 percent of customers maintained their weight loss, he said “It’s successful because the other 84 percent have to come back and do it again. That’s where your business comes from. (p.9)

  • Caution against investing in businesses which profit from your failure. This is particularly concerning as weight-cycling (repeated gaining and losing weight) is shown to be more dangerous than carrying extra weight. This fact is cited extensively in this book, too!

3. Researchers have known for a long time that diets don’t work. Now you know it, too. (p. 15)

  • In this chapter, Dr. Mann shares how she and her students dug into all the studies often used to validate why a particular weight loss programs/diet will work. She found three major flaws in various health and weight related studies on weight. It is also noted why it is important for you to understand the gold standard of research and how to be a better consumer and questioner of the data being quoted. “The research says…” need not shut down the conversation but instead be a conversation starter.

4. Think of willpower as brute strength. The amount of you need is larger than the amount of it you have, and the amount you have is nearly depleted by nearly everything you do. (p. 48)

  • Unpacking the science behind willpower, Dr. Mann points out that willpower – when used as a tool to maintain health –  is not the best approach to lifestyle changes. She eloquently helps you understand the science of willpower so you can make better choices and decrease the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles around food + your health.

5. Shame is more painful than guilt, and to add injury to insult, shame has been shown to lead to a release of the stress hormone cortisol, and another kind of cell in the immune system (called a proinflammatory cytokine), which, among other things can promote the growth of disease. (p.62)

  • When shame is running your life around how you care for your body, diets – or some kind of restrictive or rigid rules around feeding and moving your body – are often a go-to response. Diet related behavior is one of shame’s bff’s.

6. But variables such as exercise, weight cycling, socieoeconomic status, fat distribution, and discrimination all factor into a person’s overall health…I hope you’re not still under the impression that you have to diet or obesity will kill you. If you exercise, eat nutritiously, avoid weight cycling, and get good quality medical care, you do not need to worry about obesity shortening your life. Especially if you shield yourself from weight stigma and the stress it causes… (p. 82+84-85)

  • Chapter 5 is powerful and provocative. It digs deep into the topic of obesity and myth-busting many narratives around carrying extra weight. The above words outline the complex factors which are a part of an accurate definition of health.

7. The benefits of exercise simply cannot be denied. Regular exercise can increase your life span, prevent disease, improve your mood, aid creativity, help you sleep better, and allow you to age more gracefully. These benefits are more easily attained than dramatic weight loss, and can be yours even if you do not lose a pound. (p.185)

  • Activity is a powerful indicator of your health. Finding an activity you will be motivated to do regularly is key. Now over-exercise, over-use injuries and complications related to hydrating and nutrition are flags that your activity has crossed over from being a positive positive part of your health into a negative one. At Potentia, we help our clients (re) define activity when this happens so moving their body can return to being a part of wellness and not the sole manager emotional pain.

There is so much good information packed into this book. I hope you check it out.

If you read the book, I would love to know what impacted you the most on how you view health.

All the best as you continue to challenge yourself to (re) define health in your life.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT, Founder + Director of Potentia Family Therapy, Inc.

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Faith Fasting and Disordered Eating

photo
Post interview smiles with Amy Cyr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheering you on  –

Rebecca

Please follow and like us:

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

NoteRespect is looking at soreness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other risk factors for infection include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A ‘balanced’ regimen may include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you define your relationship with exercise?

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

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

In good health –

Megan

Please follow and like us:

Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

Photo on 10-25-13 at 9.35 AM

Note from Erin Curlett, Potentia’s Marketing Communications Manager: Our final interview this week is with Rebecca. I wanted get her thoughts on some of the questions we have been asking in honor of Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thanks for sharing some of your heart, Rebecca!

How do you define fat talk?

It often occurs when conversations foster bonding over critiquing their bodies or the bodies of others.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

Where do I NOT hear it? The gym, at the meal table, at church, at schools, at parent meetings, on TV… Holidays, weddings, reunions, parties in general, when the weather warms up and we approach bathing suit season (which is mostly year round here in San Diego).

How do you respond to fat talk?

Gosh, it depends on the day and the circumstances — sometimes I am full of grace and tact and other days I can trend on the blunt side. Most of my friends know exactly how I feel about fat talk so when they bring it up, they usually are trying to rile me up or tease me. But when it is with people I do not have a previous relationship with, I try my best to redirect the conversation or just not participate.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

Shame, culture, anxiety, peer-groups, family of origin, temperament, unhealthy perfectionism, traumas/distressing life events

Where have you been surprised to encounter fat talk?

I think I have been the most bummed to hear it in faith communities that I run in. It really hurts my heart to hear people fat talk and mask it in the name of faith, holiness, or humility.

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

Oh my goodness, yes! When I was in high school and through my twenties was when it was the worst. My unhealthy drive for perfection really jammed up my ability to see my true worth and value for a while. But I am grateful for the gift of growing, healing, and falling in love with my amazing husband and two children which gave me a powerful perspective on what being enough really means.

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

When I am feeling particularly uncomfortable in my skin, I pause, take a breath, and ask myself what is really going on around me that triggered these dark thoughts. I can usually credit them to one or more of the following:

1) not enough sleep;
2) feeling disconnected from my husband;
3) not moving my body regularly or feeding it well;
4) over booking my schedule;
5) not spending enough meaningful time with God.

Once I take an inventory of the above, I make sure I take time to meet my needs for mind, body, relations, and soul. And sometimes I just have to jolt my brain by talking out loud and telling the fat talk thoughts to go to permanent time out — which is a g-rated version. 🙂

How have you seen the connection between disordered eating and fat talk?

Fat talk fans the flame of dieting and disordered eating. Once we lose site of our true worth and value and start buying into the lies of shame, fear, and the fat-phobic culture, obsessions about our looks, how we feed and move our body can become all-consuming.

How has being a mother changed your view of fat talk, if at all?

I am 100% committed to trying my best to have my words and actions match up. (NOTE: TRY) I am very fierce about not allowing any negative or obsessive talk about food, our bodies, or the looks and bodies of others. We also steer clear of praise, especially about looks, and instead reflect back to our kids how proud they must feel, how capable they must feel, etc. I talk about beauty in terms of character in addition to what is pleasing to the eye. When my daughter shares with her brother or when when she extends grace, I note how her choices just made her heart even more beautiful.

We also avoid commercials (which is so tricky when my husband is watching a game) and most TV shows. They are going to be exposed to so much more in culture as they get older but I am committed to making our home a safe zone from the toxic aspects of culture.

What are your thoughts on the current trend of sharing “fitspiration” images? Do these encourage a healthy body image or foster more fat talk?

“Fitspiration” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and triggers fat talk big time. It can be like cocaine to the brain and can deplete your self-worth when you come down from the high. These images are most often photoshopped and they only fuel comparing, dissatisfaction, and feeling not enough. Yuck.

How do you help your clients combat fat talk?

I walk with them as they seek to heal their relationship with food, their body, and their story. I have found EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) to be so helpful when people are stuck with negative core beliefs, ie: I am broken, I am permanently damaged, I am not _______ enough, I am a failure and so on.

I work with Megan Holt, Potentia’s Coordinator of Wellness and Nutrition, to help support them in moving and feeding their bodies so their brain can get on their team and help push back on the lies and the noise of fat talk.

Lastly, we work a lot on what it is like to respect your body, even if you do not like it. This involves working on negative self-talk but also re-evaluating core relationships and boundaries.

Have you seen changes in your clients as they work to resist such negative self talk?

Yes! As they heal and draw on their amazing courage, it is truly incredible to witness their spark, hope, and healing as they push back on how culture defines health and redefine that definition to a creed that serves their true health in a sustaining and life-giving way.

How does your faith play a role in combating fat talk?

It has taken me years to finally really believe the truth about what God says about me. The kind of love, grace, forgiveness, and guidance He offers me blows my mind. I think finally trusting His words, His Truth has been medicine for my soul. Spending the last few years building my shame resilience skills and training to help others do that work has had a profound effect on shifting my core beliefs about myself on an even deeper level. I now know feeling bad, gross, like a failure, not enough is what I feel though not the truth. Now I can push back on those feelings and lean on God’s Truth, regardless of my emotional state. Some days are easier than others but whew, the freedom I feel from building my shame resilience super powers has been life-changing in my relationship with God.

What role do you see the church playing in combating fat talk?

I think the church could really play a significant role in combating fat talk. If the pulpit stopped being a place for fat talk, body shame, or buying into trendy diets in the name of holiness, that would be a good start. My dream is for pastors and their leadership teams to stop church-wide dieting and talking about numbers; to get educated on the disordered eating spectrum; to learn how to lead their congregation in a fast with sensitivity and awareness and be a safe place for those struggling with food and body issues. I have found some incredible leaders in the faith community leading courageously and boldly in these areas, but we still have a long way to go. One step at a time. One heart at a time.

Thanks so much for following along here on the blog and on Potentia’s Facebook page as we supported Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thoughts? Any new insights or convictions? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. Stay connected and join our email list for blog updates and thoughts on how you can (re) define your definition of health.

Please follow and like us:

Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Constance Rhodes

Constance Rhodes Cropped

Note from Rebecca: In honor of Fat Talk Free Week, I invited my friend Constance Rhodes to share some of her thoughts on fat talk. Constance is a powerhouse of faith, faithfulness and determination. She is the Founder and CEO of FINDINGbalance, the leading Christian resource for daily help with body image and eating issues, advocate, mentor, wife, mom and friend to many. Thank you, Constance! I appreciate you and your courageous heart.

How do you define fat talk?

Anytime we are making negative comments about the size of other people’s bodies or our own, with an emphasis on the larger size of a person being undesirable.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

When I tell people what I do (i.e. help people with eating and body image issues) they often make derogatory remarks about their own weight, which is sometimes awkward and generally unnecessary. I also hear this talk frequently whenever women are gathered together and food is involved.

How do you respond to fat talk?

I either simply don’t engage with it or I engage with a twist, such as asking the person, “Do you have issues with weight that you’d like to talk about?” This can go one of two ways – either they clam up and move on or they start talking with me about their fears and anxieties in this area. Either result is generally more productive than letting the conversation continue as it was.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

I think it’s been going on for so many generations that it is hard to even find the roots. But most assuredly a key root is the belief that one’s weight says something about a person, and if it is a larger weight, it is generally assumed to say negative things. Pointing toward someone else’s weight can be a way to deflect concerns about our own, or to try to control the problem of overeating/overweight, such as when children are instructed not to eat too much or “you’ll get fat like so-and-so.”

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life? 

I went through a few years of struggling with binge eating, during which I gained a lot more weight than was normal or healthy for me. I felt fat and ugly and could think of nothing else. Once I lost the weight those negative voices continued screaming at me, warning me not to lose control or I would be fat again. So it’s a topic I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, in more ways than one.

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

Sometimes it’s just very practical. When I start feeling “fat” because I’m on my period or I’ve had a few too many rich meals lately, I have to be practical and tell myself that I have a ways to go before that would ever be the case. Beyond that, however, I have to ask myself what I really believe is attractive. Do I really want to be known for being a certain weight, or do I want to be known for the quality of my character? I think about other women who I admire and respect and I realize that my appreciation for them has nothing to do with their body size. Most importantly, I’ve got to continually be reminded through scripture, prayer, and spiritual conversations that the God of the universe created me and is far more interested in who I am than what I look like.

How do you see FINDINGbalance as an antidote to the “Fat Talk Culture”?

For the last eleven years we have been building a culture at FINDINGbalance that promotes the wellness of the person over whatever size they happen to be wearing. We know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that what is “fat” to one is “thin” to another. Most importantly, as the leading Christian resource for daily help with these issues, we are trying to send out Christ-centered messages on a daily basis to combat the self-centered, negative ones so many of us are bombarded with.

How have you seen the connection between disordered eating and fat talk?

Often, many eating disorders are fueled in some way by a desire to change your body. Fat talk reinforces weight stigma and also creates problems that may not even be present. The more we say a negative thing about ourselves, the more we believe it. Since our nature is to work on the things we think need to be better, if we are constantly telling ourselves we are fat, then we are constantly going to be pushing ourselves to lose weight. Wherever you are on the weight continuum, whether overweight, underweight, or somewhere in-between, if negative self-talk is the loudest voice in your head it will be impossible to have a normal relationship with food and your body.

When those are undernourished and in the throes of an eating disorder, it is hard to shake the loud critical voice. How do you encourage those in this space of shame and self-loathing?

The key is to not be the only voice in your head. Which means you’ve got to come out of isolation into community where the lies of the critical voice can be fought out in the open. This might mean seeking out a counselor, plugging into a small group (we have tools for this at our site), sharing your struggle with a trusted friend, parent or advisor, entering a treatment program, or some combination of these things. Ideally, this would include at least a key person or two who can share God’s truth with you. For those who have faith, reading scriptures and praying on your own is a good discipline, but without healthy community the truths won’t sink into your soul in a practical and long-lasting way.

You are married and have three adorable children. How do you encourage your kids when they are struggling with their worth and value and fall into negative talk about themselves?

My kids are 12, 9, and 6, and as a former disordered eater and now wellness activist, you can imagine I’ve been pretty proactive on this front. First, we do not allow any fat talk in our home. The kids know they are not even allowed to say that word. We also don’t consume media that objectifies women’s bodies. This includes things as seemingly benign as shows on the Disney Channel, as well as commercials, movies, magazines or other materials that present women in sexual or objectified ways. And I never make negative comments about my body in front of them, so as far as they know, the body is not something to be worried about. I have yet to hear one of them say something negative about their bodies. I do, however, see them trying to hitch their value to their accomplishments from time to time. We talk about this openly, and I am constantly watching and guiding as it occurs. When they get older, you can check back with me to see how it’s gone…

Do you think fat talk is worth trying to combat? Many say it is pointless…

I think it’s worth it, but I also think if the only step someone takes in this direction is simply stopping engaging in it themselves, that’s a huge start. It can seem overwhelming to fight such a huge cultural problem, but taking one “next right step” at a time still adds up and can lead to greater changes in the long run.

Constance Rhodes is the founder and CEO of FINDINGbalance, the leading Christian resource for DAILY help with eating and body image issues. Sign up for her free Daily Vitamin eDevo at findingbalance.com/dv.

Centered 3 x 2 inches 300 dpi copy

Please follow and like us: