I have a confession to make to you…

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2013 has been full of some serious body image blues.

You know how it goes:

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

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

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

All good stuff.

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

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

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

Ouch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I now know I am enough even on days I do not feel enough.  I can hold that space while I feel yucky and not attack my core worth. Some days it is a bit of a knock down, drag out fight – but shame resilience has helped me run the marathon of living life reflective of my values and my true worth.

Wow.

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

And I am no exception.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca

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Q&A Series: Paleo Unpacked

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla:  So, what are the drawbacks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla:  And what about limiting grains?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yoga Buzz Words Part 1: Grounding

kelly_web1Recently, our team was talking about the lingo of all of our various professions and how distancing it can be to those who are not in the loop of our profession’s vocabulary.  For me, this is especially true for the world of Yoga.  Potentia’s Yoga Coordinator, Kelly Schauermann, has taken on the challenge of breaking down the vocabulary of the yoga world in this first part of her series, “Yoga Buzz Words”.  And to experience Kelly’s grounding gifts as a teacher, register here for Kelly’s upcoming yoga workshop on May 18th, 2013.  

“And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”        -J.K. Rowling

Wanderlust, angst, confusion.

Ever felt those emotions? I have. And when I do, there’s a sense of just wanting to be still, to have everything stop, and feel balanced again.

The one word that quickly sums up all those things I wanted in my moment of peril is GROUNDED.

Of all the yoga words that fly about incense laden studios, grounded is the first that comes to mind, and appropriately so, as it is the beginning, the postures we commonly practice early in our classes.

How many times have you heard an instructor, or anyone for that matter, say to ground yourself? Have your ever just thought, ‘What the heck does that mean?’ Well, I have. I mean, it’s obvious that it has something to do with the big mass of dirt underneath our feet, but is there something more? I can easily get on the floor and lay down, and take a nap. Is that what it means?

The answer is, yes…and no.

Yoga lingo is confusing to many because it has this enigmatic quality, like we all walk onto the mat thinking we’re supposed to have some transcendent experience because we put our hands at our hearts and say,”Namaste” (I’ll address “namaste” in a separate post). And it’s somewhat true that there’s deeper meaning beyond just the physical postures, but how often do you get that explanation in a 60 minute Flow class? Pretty much, never. So, I’m here to demystify.

When I researched the dictionary definition of grounded, they all referenced something having to do with boats, shores and beaches. Essentially, the dictionary defines grounded as being stuck somewhere, mainly that of being stuck to a solid mass of land, far away from technology and people. It sounds kinda lonely, if you ask me.

I thought about this…and thought. And it hit me, that’s kind of what being grounded is: being anchored to something solid, that solid thing being who you are at your core, no matter how pretty, or ugly that core is. It doesn’t involve anyone else but you.

In that way, it’s kind of like being at rock bottom.

Typically, rock bottom is associated with being in a place where we’ve been stripped of all our distractions and fillers, left with nothing but the truth of who we are. It’s sobering and very real. It’s solid, like the earth. It’s not a place of feeling free and flowing and all hippie like.

It’s just who we are. No one else.

In my own experience, and in the countless sessions, classes and conversations I’ve had with those around me, I’ve found that people start feeling the most grounded and connected with themselves when they are at rock bottom.

Even the term “rock bottom” conjures up an image of being literally on the ground.

Rock bottom also tends to have a negative connotation in our society.  But what if we shifted our thinking and recognized it as a place to start over, a new foundation from which to anchor ourselves and start sailing again?

So, are you ready to experience this IN your body?

Try this GROUNDING EXERCISE:

  • Find a quiet place with a solid surface to rest on. Yoga mat optional.
  • From seated on your knees, bring your forehead to the ground, and rest your arms along side your legs. This is embryo pose (a beginning place). 

Embryo Pose

  • Observe you breath. Can you breathe easily? Is it hard to breathe?
  • Observe your mind. Are your thoughts racing? Do you feel self conscious? Do you feel emotional? What emotions?
  • If you’re being really honest with yourself, right now, what is happening? What are you feeling?
  • Take as much time here as you need, then slowly rise to a seat, take a deep breath, and open your eyes. Journaling optional.

If you’ve ever been in a yoga class and heard this described as a “grounding posture”, here is why: it literally brings you to the ground, in towards yourself, away from distractions. It anchors you to the space that’s right beneath you on your mat.

Being connected physically to the earth mirrors the connection to the core of who you are.

To be grounded does not necessarily mean you’re going to have it all figured out. It doesn’t mean your going to turn into Kathryn Budig and start doing some crazy inversion, naked, with nothing but Toe Sox on (no offense to Kathryn, as she is amazing and I follow her, but that’s her practice…not mine). It doesn’t mean you’ll walk out of the room enlightened, happy or sad.

What it does mean is that you’re consciously choosing to hit the restart button. It’s about having a strong sense of who you are, regardless of who you are.

It can be unnerving sometimes, being left with just you, but it is You.

So, hang out for a bit and see what lives in the space you are.

– Kelly Schauermann

Kelly is the founder of beulahwellness.com, CPRYT, Yoga Coordinator at Potentia Family Therapy, Inc and Yoga Teacher at Core Power
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Seeking True Health in a Health Obsessed Culture

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True Health

Is your definition of health keeping you unhealthy?

Maybe. Maybe not. But I recommend taking a critical look at how you define health in your life and to reflect on how your definition of health is impacting your overall wellness.

When you say something or someone is healthy, what drives your sentiment?

I usually hear the following impacting this statement the most:

  • Looks
  • Weight
  • Fashion
  • Food choices
  • Fitness routines

And by the frenzy of advertisements everywhere about all of the above, the definition of health in our culture has been skewed to meet the needs of for-profit industries while also fueling disconnection and shame about the food we eat, our bodies, and our stories.

It is time to start thinking critically about the messages we are integrating into our definition of health.

Any person, book, or program that touts drastic weight loss, cutting out major food groups, or specific results is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. None of these diets or “lifestyle choices” are sustaining after 1-2 years. The facts show weight cycling from dieting, disordered eating, and serious eating disorders are continuing to wreak havoc on our health.

I respect and totally get the desire to look good and feel good. Yet, there is a dark side to these pursuits when the meaning and motivations are based on fear, obsession, and untruths.

I am troubled by the loud chorus of people in the medical and wellness fields that are getting on the bandwagon of fear of fat and an over-focus on the number on the scale as a measure of true health.

And I am even hearing health preached from the pulpit. Yet when people in faith communities are equating virtue with the number on the scale or whether you eat certain foods, it only results in more anxiety, confusion, and discontent. Shaming people to lose weight or eat well in the name of God hits below the belt and increases psychological and spiritual wounds.

I am surprised how many people are still using the archaic BMI (Body Mass Index) as an indicator of health. It is simplistic, formulaic, and reductive. The BMI does not take into account your genetics, unique physical makeup, and lifestyle. Yet it is still used as the gold standard for whether someone needs to lose or gain weight.

And I am still skeptical of the FDA standards of the BMI knowing that many of the people on the board have or have had connections to the diet industry. If the BMI is a part of your definition of health, I encourage you to take a step back and reconsider its role.

We do have some serious issues to address regarding wellness in our country, but the myopic focus on weight + good food/bad food is missing so many other factors that contribute towards true health. And until we have a multidimensional view of health, we will keep spinning.

I talk a lot about what health is NOT.

I believe health is not:

  • determined only by the number on the scale;
  • achieving the “perfect” body or striving for unhealthy perfection;
  • eating food restrictively or based on a “good” food or “bad” food mentality;
  • unsafe relationships;
  • an obsession with eating healthy where there is no room for flexibility;
  • dieting and demonizing foods and food groups;
  • shaming, blaming, or judging self or others.

I also talk a lot about how I define health.

I believe true health is:

  • finding something you are passionate about and striving to spend most of your waking hours in this space. When people are bored or feel trapped in jobs or situations that drain them of their creativity, their motivation, and ability to sit in vulnerability, this has a negative impact on mental and spiritual health which in turn can develop into physical ailments.
  • having a relationship with money where you are living within in your means and have enough to give and save. Leaning too heavily on finances as a means of control or comfort gives money way too much power over your peace of mind. And using money as a means to medicate can create chaos and a cycle of stress that negatively impacts mental, physical, and spiritual health.
  • involvement in your local community. So many people are disconnected from the places they live, but emotional wellness comes when we feel safe, have purpose, and community.
  • having a faith + regular spiritual practice. Understanding we are loved beyond measure and there is a greater purpose for your life gives perspective and meaning in all circumstances.
  • having a deep soul connection with a special few individuals who you can be real with, share your fears, mistakes, dreams, and hopes. Feeling heard and understood creates connection. Connection breeds empathy and gratitude. Gratitude impacts how our brains fires and improves our well-being, body, and soul.
  • living in a body that has energy, its needs met, is rested, moves well, and is free from pain. And when many are living in chronic pain or have chronic illness, practicing the previous five points can actually help improve their physical health. The only numbers of real concern are on your labs checking your bloodwork and other internal functions.

In the days and weeks to come, I will dig even deeper into these components of true health.

I am curious: How do you define health in your life? What do you think of my definition of health?  I look forward to and value your thoughts and feedback on this important and controversial topic.

Rebecca

 

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Doing the Work: We are in it Together

 

When it comes to shame, we are all in it together — it levels the playing field.

There is no “us and them” with shame.

Shame just levels.

Like thousands upon thousands, I deeply resonate with Brené Brown’s research, books and Ted Talks.  I have been integrating her definitions and theoretical orientation into my work with clients, in my own life and faith walk over the last few years.

And I longed to do this work on a deeper level.

So when the opportunity to train with Brené and her team came up – I was in.

And I found out how much I was in last weekend during the second of two weekend trainings.

As Brené writes in her psychoeducational Shame Resilience Curriculum, Connections:

There is no getting around it: You must do your own shame work in order to facilitate this material Wholeheartedly.  In my research I have found shame to be a difficult and painful topic for both laypeople and mental health professionals.  Unlike many of the other topics that professionals study, when it comes to shame, there is no “us and them”.  As professionals, we don’t have the luxury of thinking, “Let me learn about this topic that affects my clients so I can help them.”  Shame is universal – no one is exempt.  If we can’t talk about shame and examine the impact it has on our own lives, we certainly can’t be helpful to others.

Driven by my own professional standards and ethics, my heart sang as I read further:

Our most basic ethic as mental health professionals is “to do no harm”. I believe we risk violating that ethic when we examine issues with clients we have not examined in our own lives.

Here’s the bottom line: You should not do this work with others until you have done this work yourself.”

Game on.

Since I started this training last July, I realized it is one thing to read the books, listen to the Ted talks and seminars, and recite the definitions in talks and in my sessions with clients.

And it is a whole other thing to live. this. work.

I had originally planned to have my husband come with me on this weekend away.  I knew this work was going to be hard.  Getting personal with a bunch of professional people I did not know sounded like a mild form of torture. But my husband had to cancel at the last minute.

So I went into this experience way more vulnerable then I intended.

I realized quickly true vulnerability makes my skin crawl.  Sure, I share deeply and authentically with MY people.  But with strangers, mental health people at that, heck no!  Everything inside my head said, “Zip it.  Walk Away.  Do not let these parts of you be seen. Stop now!”

I was still under the impression I could avoid vulnerability while still meeting my desire for connection.

And I began to build up my armor. I made commitments to myself to only share “this” much.  I was going to just have a toe-in-the-water experience, check the box and then get on a plane to go home. Stat!

Best laid plans…

After I arrived at the training site, I had some precious quiet time.

I felt this quiet nudge that said, “Go deep.  I am here with you.  Allow yourself to really be seen.”  I pushed back.

“Are you (bleeping) kidding me?  These are a bunch of strangers.  Therapist strangers.  It will not be professional to do the Oprah-ugly-cry in front of them let alone have certain parts of my story seen. And (bleep), I do not want to talk about THAT stuff. This dark stuff in MINE.  I think about it, pray about it. But you have to be a really special person to me if I am going to talk about THAT stuff with you.”

Yeah, it was a scrappy prayer time.

But I trusted where I was being led and the leadership team. I pushed through the resistance and leaned into the experience.  I shared.  And was seen. I cried at times — in public. I did not share the deep soul dark stuff in full detail but I pushed myself to touch on it.  I was vulnerable in all its glory.

At one point, I dropped into the shame zone.

I began to hand over my worth to others.  I worried what the other participants and leaders thought. Surely, I was going to be the first person they denied certification.  I was too much. A burden. Not fit to be a clinician. I blamed, judged, and thought things that were pretty ridiculous in hind site but at the time seemed completely reasonable. I had tunnel vision.

And then I remembered to pull my worth off the table and not leave it open for discussion or debate.

I practiced the skills of shame resilience. I drew from courage and spoke with a new friend.  I named my shame.  I connected.

And I felt clear again.  Still raw, but grounded in Truth because I reclaimed my worth and value from the collective other. I felt empowered because I was able to reboot and get grounded so quickly.

Yes, I still struggle with the discomfort of vulnerability, but I have a new-found respect for it after this experience.  I am exhaling into the growth, catharsis, and healing that comes on this  side of experiencing vulnerability along with a deeper sense of connection and intimacy with those in my life.

And I know this process will continue for the rest of my life.  But I now am better equipped when I see shame a-comin’.

Empathy, Authenticity, Vulnerability, Courage, Shame — they are no longer trendy jargon to me.  They have three dimensional meaning and depth that has come from doing this work. Living this work.

And my commitment to scaling this work is more impassioned then ever.

This week, we are wrapping up two cohorts of our Cultivating Courage Workshop at Potentia.  I am still in awe of what I witnessed from the 20 people who went through this experience.

We will be launching mini workshops on topics that support this work in addition to weekend Cultivating Courage Intensives and more weekly workshops.

Even if you do not live in San Diego, there is an opportunity for you to dig deep and start the journey towards building shame resilience. I would love to walk with you on this journey.

It is hard and important work.

But never forget, we are all in it together.

Rebecca

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Show Up + Be Seen

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I love this cute bag came that came with my Daring Greatly t-shirts.

 

Show Up + Be Seen

in your pain, your brokenness, as you nurse your scars. You are not alone.  We need to hear your story and give witness to your healing journey. Because then we do not feel as alone in our own pain and brokenness, garnering inspiration to start/continue our own healing journey.

Show Up + Be Seen

as you celebrate your victories, true love, accolades and promotions.  Stand firm, do not shrink and do not shout. Just. stand. firm. as you share all the good things happening in your life with your circle of support who will gladly do a happy dance with you.

Show Up + Be Seen

look fear in the eye and speak your truth.  We need to see you live a life of courage. It is contagious and our world needs to catch more courage.

Show Up + Be Seen

as you forgive, are forgiven, and begin the marathon healing process involved with forgiveness.  Whether you have been betrayed, been the betrayer or both — the complex path of forgiveness is a winding but so important path to stay on for as long as you are alive.

Show up + Be Seen

as you find your voice, push back the lies and lean in to your dreams.  Edit the naysayers out of your life and mute the drill sergeant between your ears.  Our dreams are inspired by the One who has a plan for you and me beyond our comprehension. Go big. Go small.  Just keep going for the dreams oozing out of your heart to help make this planet a better place.

Show up + Be Seen

when you mess up, make up, feel emotions in all their glory.  We need more people who shed the mask of “I have it all together” to reveal their humanity.  Wholehearted living is scary but it is truly living.

Show up + Be Seen

on your best side, your worst side — without the screens.  Vulnerability and authenticity are gorgeous; though they may not feel safe, they sure provide the best light to showcase your precious story.

Show up and Be Seen

as you let go of cool, sophisticated, and polished so your inner goof ball can get some air time.  Laughter, lightheartedness, and silliness are good for your soul.

Show Up + Be Seen

when others are scoffing, judging, disconnecting.  Hold your head high, give grace, receive grace, and rally around your safe people as you regroup from the mean, unjust aspects of the world we live in.

Show up + Be Seen

because your life matters. Your voice matters. And the world needs you to live the life you are called to live.

Show up + Be Seen

reaching out, asking for help, digging deep. Stay steadfast. Do not give up but make sure you come up for air from time to time as this healing+growing process can be all consuming.

Show up + Be Seen

as you set boundaries, not walls. Say yes and no with purpose, clarity, and intention instead of people pleasing, conflict avoiding, and reactionary fear.

Show up + Be Seen

as you fight the slippery slope of “group think” and “going along to get along.”  The spotlight can be intense as you step away from living life based on what others think you “should” do, say, think.  You are up for the challenge.

Show Up + Be Seen

as imperfect, true, glorious you. There is no one else on the planet just like you. Amazing.  Simply Amazing.

———

How are you wanting to show up + be seen today as you seek to live the life you are called to live?  What scares you the most about being seen?

Rebecca

PS – This post deserves inspiration thank you’s to:

  • the many men and women who have entrusted me with their hearts over the years who continually come to my office to show up and be seen no matter the challenges they were facing.

  • Brené Brown and Connections Partner Robert Hilliker. Thank you for being the Spark and the Torch Bearer, respectively, of this amazing work.

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Getting Comfortable in Your Skin: Action Steps to Take Now

 

1. Respect your body, even if you do not like it.  You have people in your life that you don’t like but you still treat with respect.  Give your body the same respect even if you are not a fan of it at the moment.  Everyone has a bad body image day (week, month…); it is normal.  Your body can serve you better when you treat it with respect instead of constantly trash talking it.

2. Shift to saying “I feel…” vs “I am…”  The difference between saying “I am…”  vs “I feel…” has a ginormous impact on how our brain fires.  Saying “I feel” is respectful honesty so you can assess how to care for yourself.  Saying “I am…” is a judgement, shaming and disrespectful.

3. Stop the compare game.  Nobody wins.  This is tricky as our brains like to assess threats, and these days the threat is not just looking for life + death dangers but also assessing who is prettier, stronger, thinner, smarter, funnier, etc. Doing your work to bench negative emotion helps you manage vulnerability and keep the compare game from wreaking havoc on your self-worth while staying connected.

4. Take a break from the scale.  If your mood + self worth are negatively impacted after you weigh yourself, take a break from the scale.  I dare you.

5. Stop the negative body talk.  Similar to #1 but a slightly different take.. Talking negatively about your own body and the bodies of others can add to the toxic noise in between your ears and in your community.  Negative body talk increases anxiety, depression, and disconnection.  Let words that are life-giving and that build up be a priority in your discourse.  This is a quick way to turn down the volume on your inner drill sergeant.  You have a powerful voice, whether you believe it or not, so use it with caution+respect.

6. (re) define how you give compliments.  Instead of telling someone she looks amazing after she lost weight or how good she looks in her jeans, talk about her smile, the color of her shirt, her generous spirit, her faithfulness.  Do not underestimate the negative effect a well-intentioned compliment about looks, food, etc. can have on those around you.  You just do not know how it will be taken, so why risk hurting someone?  Start a compliment revolution and notice the awesome ripple effect.

7.  Wear clothes that fit YOUR body and that you love wearing.  Feeling comfortable in your skin requires wearing clothes that fit you well and you enjoy wearing. Note: You have just been encouraged to shop.  Go! (But stay within your budget+do not let this be an excuse to spend money you do not have in your account.)

8.  Move.  Mild to moderate activity five days a week can have a marked impact on your mood, wellness, and sense of worth.  Be safe.  Check with your MD before starting anything new.  Stretch. Walk. Skip. Sweat.  Just move.

9.  Re-evaluate your social support.  Spend your time with safe people who build you up, support you, and bring out the best in you.  Connection with safe people is medicine for the soul.  The act of being seen and understood is a love bomb that quickly shifts your focus from your perceived body flaws to positive engagement.

10. Take a media fast.  See #3. Try it for a week.  I double dare you.

11.  Start a gratitude practice.  I have to confess, I was very cynical about this whole  gratitude practice thing and thought it was trendy, surface, and not effective.  Then I read the research, felt the call on my heart, and started my own gratitude practice. I was completely convicted + convinced.  My faith + my mentors challenged me in my practice and now I am challenging you.  When you are intentional about what you are grateful for, your brain fires differently, your mood lifts, your priorities + purpose stay clear, and you are able to bench joy without waiting for the other shoe to drop. A gratitude practice is a flu shot for shame storms.

12. Fill your awake time with play + creativity.  Your soul is dulled by monotony, fear, shoulds, and have tos. Push back at unhealthy perfectionism which is a buzz-kill on your desire to play and create.  Start without worrying about finishing or how you look. Get silly.  Paint. Draw. Craft. Write. Play catch. Swing. Your soul craves it and your well-being needs it.

13. Rest.  We are one tired nation with pretty crappy sleep hygiene.  When your brain is robbed of rest, you compromise all aspects of your well-being.  Set a regular bed time + wind down ritual and stop drinking caffeine after noon.  Activity, nourishment, and social support all play a role in your quality of sleep, so take an inventory of these areas if you are struggling with getting the quality sleep you need.  If you have sleep issues, get a physical and assess how your body is functioning.  Yoga, massage, acupuncture, and prayer are important calming skills to help your nervous system recalibrate.

What action step are you going to take to help you feel more comfortable in your skin?

What would you add to this list?

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

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Holding the Numbers Lightly

lifetooshort

 

Numbers.

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

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

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

I am referring to the number:

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

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

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

I ask them to get rid of their scale.

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

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

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

I always respect this resistance. I get it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…at the right time in your healing journey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But please hold the numbers lightly.

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

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

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

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

Cheering you on —

Rebecca

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New Year’s Eve Soap Box (and good tidings, too)

 

I am a big fan of this time of year.  There is something about the beginning of a new year that brings with it rejuvenated hope, a fresh start, space to dream.

This time of year is also when everything media is saturated with promises to help you with your resolutions about exercise, weight loss, nutrition + wellness, relationships and more.

In particular, the diet industry along with fitness, health and personal improvement gurus are promoting the heck out of their various programs to help you make 2013 your best. year. ever.

So much of this hype genuinely speaks to many of you who are uncomfortable in your skin.  Food, family, fat, and other f-bombs get thrown around out of frustration a lot at this time of year.

And for those of you who have be on the diet, weight cycling, body hatred, I am not enough, scale-obsessed train for some time now, promises of quick relief to real pain are seductive and haunting.

Clicking “buy now” brings promise of solutions to real concerns and serious pain points in your life.

But this incessant talk about weight, body and food is like adding fuel to a dangerous fire burning in the hearts and minds of many who are crushing against the emotional pain of serious food+body issues, anxiety, depression, unhealthy perfectionism, loneliness+disconnection.

To be honest, there are some quality people and quality programs out there that can help you on your way to true health. And then here are some that frustrate the heck out of me as they exploit, are unsafe and make promises that are not based on sound research or true health.

While I believe there is room for a variety of definitions of health, I am fed up with definitions of health being reduced to the number on the scale and the fear of everything fat. Good intentions to help improve wellness are creating more anxiety+depression around food+body issues.  This deeply concerns me.

Restricting, denying, punishing, shaming are not sustaining change agents.

There is a whole host of struggles we have to tackle as we seek to improve the quality of life for all. We do need to move more and strive to make whole, fresh, organic food affordable + accessible to all.  We need to play more, laugh more, rest more. And improving our support of those with mental illness is a non-negotiable.

Seeking change is important.  It is a natural part of growth.  But when desired change is motivated by a numbers on scales, fear, people pleasing or performance – it will wreak havoc on your mind and soul.

Change is hard, change is messy; change is an ebb and flow.
Change is often needed, demanded.
Change is uncomfortable; change is frustrating; change is important.
Change is about showing up, fighting through fear and shame.
Change involves trusting like you have never trusted before.  Once step at a time.

Never forgot, homeostasis will fight to the death to maintain status quo.  That is why change is so difficult.  Especially when we avoid doing our own deep soul work.

I love Donald Miller’s recent post on resolutions.  He states they do not work when:

  • Our resolutions are not meaningful
  • We failed to make a plan
  • We forget our resolutions.
  • They just were not for us.

Donald Miller went on to say when resolutions do end up working is when we:

  • Choose a meaningful ambition
  • Create a plan for our meaningful ambition
  • Engage in conflict
  • Share our story with the world

If we are seeking changes that fuel deep soul meaning in our lives; if we have the emotional muscle to handle conflict internally and externally and own our story instead of shrink from it, well, look out 2013.

Suddenly obsessing about numbers+other people’s opinions do not have as much power with this new lens.

What do you desire to change this year?  How are you going to go about making these changes?

Are you trying to do it all at once or can you tolerate a step, a shift in direction, a phone call or email to start the process?

Are in this alone?  You may feel that way but my faith informs me differently.

Get clear on the changes you are seeking. Be specific.

  • Check your motivations for change. Are your desired changes life-giving or fear-based?
  • Check your expectations and desired results. Are they realistic for you, your body, your current life situation?
  • Check your beliefs about change. Do you have hope you can change?
  • Check the source of doubt, fear and shame against your faith.

And then turn towards lasting change and away from diets + shame-based expectations.

Happy 2013!

Rebecca

PS – And for those of you in the San Diego area who want to work on creating sustaining change in your life, check out our Cultivating Courage Workshop series launching in a few weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

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Choices

 

Make healthier choices.

Make safer choices.

Make wiser choices.

Make the right choice.

Make. a. choice.

Everyone has an opinion on how you should best live your life, what is healthy, what is holy, what is true.

Yet, if you delegate your life-compass to the opinions of the collective other, you will flounder.  This delegating of our power of choice takes many forms:

If you use a diet as the foundation of your choices, you will be on a path to crazy-making.
If you let shame inform your choices, you will live a life of disconnection.
If you are a slave to chronic people-pleasing, you will be in constant despair.
If you are surrounded by unsafe people, you will be robbed of your dignity + your voice.
If you struggle with perfection, indecisiveness will emotionally paralyze you.

What is the basis by which you make your choices?

If your foundation for making choices is not clear and life-giving, then life may end up being quite difficult.

Do you make choices to get the approval of others?  To get relief from pain? To get the best results? To simply just move on?

Choices bring up the fear of making the “wrong” decision.  Sometimes the best choice is so, so clear.  And often, choices can feel murky and overwhelming.

You can choose to do more of the same or something different.  More of the same is often easier – for a while.

No matter what your circumstances, you always have a choice (though the choices before you may all be less-than desirable.)

Can you choose to tolerate disappointing others, the pressure of expectations, the fear of failure?

I do not know about you, but disappointing others, failing, unmet expectations have crushed me + leveled my sense of worth + left me doubting my ability to make the “right” choice.

My lack of trust in God and my inability to bench negative emotion left me wrestling for years with all the choices in front of me subsequently draining my peace + sense of purpose.

And then something changed.  I did my own deep soul work.  Deep. Soul. Work.

Because of this work, I am able to bench the fear of the unknown.  This new super power strength led to my ability to manage a career change in my 30’s. It also helped me choose to be vulnerable and to fall in love + become a mom (which brought in a whole new slew of choices to stretch my new super powers.)

I started listening instead of reacting.  Resting instead of fighting.  Praying instead of always asking others for advice.  I started to trust God and myself like never before.

It has been liberating finding my voice and choosing not to put my worth on the table for debate. It has been healing not to feel consumed by fear of losing control but instead grounded by the compass of Truth+Peace.

But it still gets gnarly at times.  Heck, this whole growing and healing thing is a process that never ends – which is extremely annoying at times.

But the men and women I work with on a daily basis inspire me to press on and do the work I am challenging them to do.  Not a day goes by without witnessing a client wrestling with the choice to turn away from harmful thoughts, actions, relationships.

Now:

I choose to try instead of striving for perfection.
I choose to risk failure instead of never taking a risk.
I choose to slow down and be proactive instead of reactive.
I choose to not hate myself and instead strive for self-grace.

I see my choices differently now.

Choices are Power.  Clarity.  Opportunity.  Experience.

Can you choose to trust the small, healthy voice in you that encourages you to take a leap of faith; to take action; to choose to do something different?

Go… Stop… Say No… Say Yes…

Start… Finish… Create…

Rest… Nourish… Leave… Love.

What choices are you struggling with today?  What one simple action can you take to today to tackle your challenging choices and turn the struggle into your super powers of clarity and power?

Choosing to live in faith instead of fear –

Rebecca

 

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