Space, Agency and Calendars in 2016

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Hello and Happy New Year!

If your email inbox and Facebook feed are anything like mine, it is full of opportunities to buy books, programs, courses and services so you can heal/fix/change what is causing you pain.

It can bit tricky discerning who or what to bring into your circle of support. Breaking through the noise of good marketing can be an exercise in mental gymnastics and restraint – especially when you desire relief asap.

Now, I am a big believer in investing in the right support to achieve my goals both personally and professionally.

Shoot, I have a stack of non-fiction books – fueled by Amazon Prime – about the brain, faith, the soul and human behavior by my bed that are at various places of being read or re-read. I am currently in the middle of consultation to become an AAMFT Approved Supervisor and also an EMDRIA Approved Consultant which has me working with some sharp and big-hearted mentors. And Potentia is inspired by the desire to be a place of refuge that offers specialized and collaborative support in a beautiful space as people rumble with their struggles and goals for a better quality of life.

Yes, desired change is most likely to happen not in a vacuum but when you have the right support surrounding you.

The New Year offers a natural time to reflect, reboot, start, stop – you get the idea.

Sometimes a new beginning can happen mid-year, too.

I had a second quarter course correction last March when I got really sick. So sick I had to cancel work and family trips and almost ended up in the hospital kind of sick.

This wake up call taught me I need to improve how I manage my allergies and recent diagnosis of asthma…. and get more rest. It was a big ah-ha moment reminding me of something I talk a lot about with my clients.

I was so used to the way my lungs were functioning that it was my normal. Like many of my clients, I have a high tolerance for pain as the normal and I was not taking time to notice, reflect and get curious about my discomfort because it was my homeostasis.

When my doctor looked at me and told me about the results of various tests and how surprised she was at all I had been doing with my current lung function, I laughed out loud. She was less amused… and the irony of it all was not apparent to her.

Yes, we all have our blind spots – even when it comes to our personal and professional loves, whatever they may be for you.

But as someone who has “shiny sparkly syndrome”, it is easy for me to get distracted by fun ideas, passions, interests and exciting opportunities.

So, I decided to a hard look at my calendar and made some big changes.

I love calendars. I have a few hard copy versions and I also have everything on my i-calendar. (This one, this one and this one are my favorites of late.)

Because my eyes have always been bigger than my calendar, I had to become better at editing, focusing and being realistic about my time because my old default was if I saw blank space on my schedule, I would fill it. Recalibrating back to my core values and some long conversations with my husband were essential during this second quarter course correction.

I shook my fists as I realized, again, how competition and scarcity sneaked their way back into my life and into my calendar. Oh, how relentless and slippery they are!

Competition and comparison are in our bones – whether you know it or not. It is a dark part of our humanity and you are fooling yourself if you think you can just “stop” competing or comparing without the investment of some serious time in practices to help redirect your default go-to mindsets. In fact, I think it is naive to think they can be eradicated from our lives entirely.

Our brains fire at such a speed that insight takes a bit to catch up before we realize the emotional tailspin we are in. It is more realistic to develop a practice to identify these beasts so you can call them out when they are trying to run your life.

Never forget: Your time and resources are precious commodities. There are billions of dollars invested to have access to your time and resources.

Which makes you pretty darn powerful, whether you believe it or not.

It may not feel like you have agency over your time and resources – especially when they are scarce due to health and life circumstances or just feeling like life is running you.

And the connection between how you manage the stressors in your life and your health, wellness and shame is crucial – or your time and resources slip away in a way that zaps you of living a life that is fulfilling and connected.

As you look at your 2016 with whatever calendar you use – make a commitment to re-evaluate how you want to use your time and resources.

If you are desiring more from your relationships, career, faith, physical health and are not sure where to start – scheduling time to invest in your desired area of growth is not a waste. And focus on one area at a time. In truth, all of the areas you desire change and growth are connected, so start one place and be steadfast.

Scheduling space to honor your priorities to: pray, write, reflect, create, play, dream, heal, grow is crucial.

That time does not need to be burdened with bullet points or to-do lists fueled by reactive “shoulds” outside of your core values. Nor does it have to be explained away or justified. You have been given agency and stewardship over your calendar.

Adjusting your expectations of all you need to do and when you need to do it by may help decrease the stronghold of perfection and scarcity mentality.

Perfectionism and scarcity may call this time indulgent and spike feelings of anxiety when your schedule is not completely booked. But if you schedule this space – just 3-5 hours a week – into your calendar to focus on what matters most to you this year, you may surprise yourself.

I ever-so-gently dare you to try this new approach to your time.

Of course, I have a bias on the importance and impact of mental health on our lives. Making time to rumble with emotional aches, loneliness, loss requires marking time off on your schedule to create space to heal instead of numbing out with the busyness of life.

Literally blocking out time on your calendar for what honors the desires of your soul is an investment. It also exponentially increases the chances you will make the time to do what you scheduled.

If you have been running at full speed for years, it will spike some anxiety in your brain as it takes time for your brain to develop a new homeostasis.

A good place to start using your calendared time of reflection is to do an inventory of where you spend your resources, your thought life and your time – it gives a good picture on what matters to you and who+what is getting the best of you.

And I often find that this data is not always in sync with core values and priorities – which is good data for further reflection.

This space is about looking at the hard things straight on and getting curious about how they are impacting your life.

As a result, new boundaries, improving tolerance of the discomfort of letting people down and (re) defining relationships may be necessary. All of these will require some space and even some support.

Consider engaging in this process with others in some capacity. It gets you out of your head and dares you to trust those who have earned the right to hear your story.

Remember – you are very powerful. Billions are invested into getting access to your time and your resources  – whether they are life giving or not.

Even if your power has been taken away from you, you can rise.

Instead of resolutions, diet programs or succumbing to the allure of quick fix programs, consider just making this space in your life – and on your calendar – to ask these questions:

  • Where do you desire change in your life?
  • Who+What is asking for your time and resources?
  • Who is even getting the opportunity to have an audience with you?
  • What is driving how you spend your time and resources?
  • What do you want shift in these areas in 2016?

Let me know what additional questions you are adding to your reflection time.

And go get 2016. The world needs you to show up in your circle of influence and make your art. Make the space – your life matters.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

 

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How is Your Sleep Hygiene?

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Note from Rebecca: Just days before Day Light Savings ends, we thought it would be good to address one of the most important tenants of health: our sleep hygiene. We are a tired nation with a high threshold for pushing through our exhaustion. But not meeting our sleep needs while trying to maintain a high level of function in all areas of our life is unsustainable over the long term. Making a commitment to change or start a new sleep hygiene habit can shift your trajectory of health and wellness for the better. Thank you, Megan, for sharing your wisdom!

———–

Humans sleep approximately 1/3 of their lives away, which equates to 27 years of life for an 82 year old.

Proper sleep has been proven to enhance mood and immune function, IQ, concentration and memory.

It also reduces risk of a long list of ailments and accidents: Heart disease, depression, obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, suicide and car accidents.

But 80% of people will have some sleep disorder during their lifetime, and persons with lower socioeconomic status are particularly disadvantaged. This makes sense as nutrition, exercise and stress all effect quality of sleep (all of which are compromised in individuals of lower SES).

So how much sleep do we need?

Everyone differs in terms of their ideal range, but 7-8 hours is a good general range. Individuals sleeping less than 5 hours/night carry a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and all-cause mortality (death).

Among the 5 stages of sleep, adequate time in REM (dream) stage is most crucial for mental tasks and memory function.

What can you do to protect your sleep?

Actions that are helpful include:

  • Having exposure to daylight/sunlight during waking hours
  • Regular exercise (promotes REM sleep)
  • Keeping room temperature cooler
  • Using the bed only for sleep and sex
  • Having a ‘wind down’ routine that may include caffeine free teas, a warm bath or a TV show

On the other hand, the following tend to interrupt sleep:

  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Sharing the bed with partners that toss, turn or snore
  • Stimulating the brain prior to bed (with reading material, work, intense/mysterious or thought provoking TV shows)
  • Alcohol (even one drink before bed for some individuals will do it, and this is especially true for females, who lose more sleep from drinking alcohol than men)
  • Perspiring/overheating
  • Having large meals within 2-3 hours of bed time (a small snack is fine)
  • Excess weight can also be associated with sleep deprivation. Not only are cortisol levels typically higher in obese persons, but the extra weight can result in snoring and sleep apnea.

For those of you more concerned about the cosmetic consequences of sleep deprivation, here are a few additional reasons to prioritize your beauty rest and improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Puffiness under the eyes, due to fluid and sodium retention
  • Skin wrinkling, as the balance between cortisol (promotes wrinkles/aging of skin) and growth hormone (protective/regenerative) is disrupted
  • Acne, also due to the increase in cortisol production
  • Reddening of eyes and dark under eye circles due to dilation of the blood vessels

How is your sleep hygiene practice?

What one change are you going to focus on to improve your sleep hygiene?

In good health –

Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD

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Are you in? Fat Talk Free Week 2014

Your voice is powerful.
I really appreciate the leadership of Delta Delta Delta and their vision for Fat Talk Free Week.

This year’s Fat Talk Free Week kicks off tomorrow and runs through Friday, October 20th.

I value taking a week – with the hope it will extend longer – to intentionally redirect fat talk in our heads, with our friends or about others to more honest, life-giving, respectful dialogue.

We all need a break from the “I am so___”, “If only I were___”, “I hate my _____”, “I am not ______ enough” conversation.

Scarcity culture is exhausting. (Click to Tweet)

Bullying others or ourselves with fat talk only fuels deeper pain and fat talk represents attempts to manage the parts of our story triggered by pain, fear, loneliness, anxiety and more.

Which is why taking a break from the fat talk is important. Even more important is to get to the heart of the meaning of our fat talk by talking about our hurts in a constructive manner – with the right person at the right time.

Taking a break from fat talk does not mean stuffing your pain.

Early in my training in the treatment of eating disorders and trauma, I was told “fat” is not a feeling. Over a decade of treating men and women taught me differently – that it is often a fight to have a positive relationship with their body and their reflection in the mirror. They also taught me how the quick fix pressure to “just love their body” often backfired because they felt so ashamed for not loving, let alone liking, the body they have been given.

So, yes, stopping the fat talk is needed. Desperately. But we cannot stop there.

We still need to talk about how we are feeling and develop a better way to tolerate struggle and negative emotion. Distressing life events, brain chemistry imbalances, family of origin, temperament all can alter our trust in ourselves, our bodies and others.

When we are feeling out of control – focusing on our bodies or comparing ourselves to others is a common default. Turning on ourselves or others with biting, judgy, harsh words only fuels more biting, judgey, harsh words.

At the heart of fat talk is a lot of hurt and insecurity which needs to be voiced and given some air time. Our struggle feeling comfortable in our skin along with our desire to feel connected is real. Fat talk is an attempt way to hot wire connection or appease our inner critic.

What we really are searching for is to know if we are ok, we are loved, we belong. When there is doubt about our worthiness, we often look to others to approve or disapprove of our worth. We all struggle with this dance. Belonging and connection are innate desires.

And for those with faith, I see this matter of worthiness dig even deeper as they feel like they are the exceptions to God’s wild and radical love and grace.

It is a constant recalibration to stop externalizing our worth to others and redirect our worth to the One and those who truly matter.

Fat Talk Free Week is not just about semantics or becoming the word police. It is a chance to listen to your heart and see where you are feeling convicted for operating outside of your authenticity.

When fat talk surfaces, it is an opportunity – and a risk – to change the conversation.

Words are powerful. Your voice matters. Choose wisely.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

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America’s Love/Hate Relationship with Saturated Fats By Dr. Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD


Let’s start off with an overview of saturated fatty acids, and how they differ from poly or monounsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fatty acids (SFA’s) have the following characteristics distinguishing them from other fatty acids (trans, monounsaturated & polyunsaturated):

  • solid at room temperature
  • occur naturally in foods
  • referred to as ‘saturated’ due to their having no double bonds along the carbon chains that comprise these saturated fatty acids

Unsaturated oils, on the other hand, are liquid at room temperature, primarily found in higher concentrations in plant sources (with the exception of fatty fish) and have one (mono) or multiple (poly) double bonds along the carbon chain.

Contrary to popular belief, foods do not consist of one type of fatty acid. Rather, foods are composed of varying percentages of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids.

For example, SFA’s comprise roughly 13% of the fatty acids in olive oil, and 65% of the SFA’s in butter.

SFA’s are found in higher amounts in dairy products (ex: cream, butter, milk, cheese) as well as in meats (bacon, sausage, chicken fat, mutton), ghee, suet and lard.

Palm oil, palm kernal, coconut and cottonseed oils contain a larger percentage of SFA’s (relative to the other plant based fats), though they lack the cholesterol contained in animal sources.

Examples of SFA’s include:

  • lauric (palm kernal oil, coconut oil, vegetable shortening and is also used in )
  • palmitic (palm oil, tallow, processed foods to enhance texture)
  • myristic (palm kernal oil, coconut oil, butter)
  • stearic acids (cheese, sausage, bacon, ribs, beef/ground beef, candy, cocoa butter)

These fatty acids are also commonly used in conjunction with sodium hydroxide, creating a product commonly found in soaps, shampoos and cosmetics (ex: sodium laurate and sodium palmitate).

For several decades, foods high in SFA’s were demonized by public health and nutrition experts, citing numerous studies suggesting that SFA’s were disease promoting.

Saturated fats were linked to increased LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), a primary risk factor for heart disease.

Current American Heart Association guidelines suggest limiting calories from saturated fat to less than 7% per day (or roughly 16g or 140 calories).

SFA’s were somewhat vindicated when evidence emerged several years ago suggesting that trans fatty acids (partially hydrogenated oil) were more offensive, as they not only raise LDL, but decrease HDL (or ‘good’ cholesterol).

Recently, however, results of a meta-analysis of 72 studies (including both observational studies and randomized controlled trials) on saturated fat intake and heart disease published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found no association with SFA intake and risk of heart disease – basically stating saturated fats were found to have no influence, positively or negatively, on heart disease.

The results were highly publicized, and largely misconstrued by media.

Results of the published study actually read as follows:

“Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”

Critics of the study, including nutrition experts from the Harvard School of Public Health (one of whom actually authored the study) are calling for a retraction or revision of the paper.

Critics have pointed to the limitations of meta-analyses as one potential problem, as numerous studies are combined and summarized, despite vast differences in methodologies (particularly across nutrition literature).

They also cite conflicting findings from numerous large scale population studies that link plant based/vegetarian diets (and lower intake of animal products) with health and longevity (Framingham, Adventist Health Study, China Study).

Another author (there were fourteen) has stood by the study’s findings, but insists that the conclusion of the meta analysis only suggested that we need further research to better understand the relationship between SFA’s and heart disease.

She has also supported continued adherence to American Heart Association’s parameters for SFA intake, stating that relaxing the guidelines would be premature at this point.

There are a number of studies in progress looking at the influence of particular saturated fatty acids on health outcomes, inspired by recent findings that suggest that all fatty acids are created equally.

The results of Annals of Internal Medicine study are intriguing indeed, and warrant further attention.

But until we have more evidence, the large majority of experts recommend continuing to keep SFA intake to a minimum and acquiring dietary fat from plant based sources (examples include olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds). We must also consider the steep environmental cost of meat consumption (10-15 pounds of grain is required to produce 1 pound of meat).

Bottom line: It’s a bit too soon to begin piling meat and cheese on your plate, but the results do suggest that more work needs to be done before we fully understand the relationship between SFA’s and heart disease.

And please be cautious when relying on media to interpret results of complex studies.

What can we conclude from the referenced study and other similar studies on SFA’s and health?

  • It seems that not all SFA’s are ‘equal’, and the way that they influence disease risk is not well understood and deserves further attention, so avoid dogmatic teachings around good food/bad food.
  • While we seek to better understand the SFA/health relationship and await further study results, please still proceed with caution when adding SFA’s to your intake.
  • Foods that are high in SFA’s (meats, dairy) are also often high in preservatives (and other artificial fillers) and sodium. Quality of meat/dairy DOES have a meaningful effect on the nutrient density, so going organic/grass fed IS worthwhile if you’re able.
  • Good nutrition is a complex picture with many shifting parts, and research is moving away from studying the influence of single nutrients on health outcomes, so be wary of these kinds of studies.
  • Lean on a plant based diet for necessary fats and proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains (budget friendly AND protective), and supplementing with high quality (organic/grass fed) meat and dairy products when you do want to include animal fats.

Questions, thoughts and reflections? Please post them below. I look forward to continuing this important discussion with you.

In good health –

Megan


Study Reference:
Rajiv Chowdhury, Samantha Warnakula, Setor Kunutsor, Francesca Crowe, Heather A. Ward, Laura Johnson, Oscar H. Franco, Adam S. Butterworth, Nita G. Forouhi, Simon G. Thompson, Kay-Tee Khaw, Dariush Mozaffarian, John Danesh, Emanuele Di Angelantonio; Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014 Mar; 160(6):398-406.

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Scarcity and the Cracks in the Road

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On our walk to my daughter’s school this morning, we ran into a couple of power-walkers from the neighborhood.

One of the power-walkers stopped and asked us to weigh in on a bet between the of them.

“These newly paved roads – how long do you think it will take until they start showing cracks? One month or two months?”

The roads still had a pretty strong smell of tar emanating from them and they also seemed a bit delicate as the tar was still soft and settling. I shrugged, “I do not know… maybe even sooner?”

The woman did not like my reply and huffed off. The suggestion the perfectly paved roads were not going to last was simply. not. ok.

I hollered after my power-walking neighbor in all of my nerdy therapist glory:

“Hey! There is nothing wrong with a few cracks in the road.”

The woman stopped, turned around and took off her rather large sun hat, setting her stern eyes on me while placing her hands on her hips as she said,

“I once had a contractor tell me if you have a crack and you can fit a dime in it, you are in some deep trouble.”

Turning on her heels, off she went to finish her morning power walk.

Ugh.

I started getting all defensive for the poor cracks in the road. And the pressure the newly paved road had on it to stay…perfect.

And so began a conversation in my head with the power-walking neighbor telling her the cracks are just a reflection of:

  • how hard the road works
  • how much pressure the road tolerates day in and day out
  • how the road has been neglected and not cared for well. The road is just doing what it is made to do and cracks are inevitable.

Conversations in my head and feeling defensive for an inanimate object were good clues a nerve had been touched.

I took a deep breathe and checked the source of my vulnerability.

Walking home, I found myself looking at the cracks in the road that had not been repaved yet. Some were small and others could hold a roll of dimes.

And I could not shake the heaviness I was feeling about the neighborhood walking buddies already betting on when the newly paved road was going to “fail” to be “perfect”.

Wow.

The pressure to be perfect and meet all of the various standards of those who see us when we show up in life is truly intense at times.

We devote a lot of time, effort and resources to covering up or trying to get rid of our own imperfections.

Scarcity fuels critics like my two power walking neighbors.

Scarcity shows up ever where.

Bathing suit season, finals, tax time, finding a job or changing careers, relationships, parenting, creativity – you name it – there are a whole host of triggers these days that make chasing the perfection carrot a daily grind.

Seeing the messy, the cracked as beautiful is hard when your lens on life is in defend/perfect mode.

Cover Up. Protect. Do Not Be Seen. 

The critics are here to stay. As long as there are products to be sold and love to be desired, the critics will be present.

I do my best to push back on the power and influence of critics in the world and in my head.

But one of the most effective, sustaining and rewarding resources to managing the relentless critics has been developing my own life-long shame resilience practice.

Doing this work involved me getting clear on:

  • my personal shame triggers. Shame work is trauma work and trauma work is shame work.
  • how I respond when my shame is triggered.
  • what vulnerability is,  is not and how vulnerability is the pathway to living the life I am called to live.
  • who my go-to support team is in my life. And how sometimes my support team shifts depending on the season and the issue.
  • who I thought I was striving to be and who God is calling me to be
  • how best to care for, rest and feed my body and my soul
  • what values guide my decisions personally and professionally
  • the importance of maintaining good boundaries so I do not overextend, live in regret or resentment
  • how to move away from unhealthy perfection and towards healthy striving.

My shame resilience practice has helped me understand – in action, not just intellectually – the concept of wholehearted living:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left is undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” – The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown Ph.D. LMSW

Cracks and all, we need to dare to show up and be seen.

If you are ready to develop your own shame resilience practice, please join us at one of our upcoming (re) Define Courage workshops. This work is life-giving soul work that helps you take insight to sustained change so you can (re) define the cracks in your life.

How do you feel about the cracks in your story? Do they allow shame to drive your choices or do they inspire you?

Cheering you on and respecting the cracks in the road –

Rebecca

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Faith Fasting and Disordered Eating

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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

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

NoteRespect is looking at soreness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other risk factors for infection include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A ‘balanced’ regimen may include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you define your relationship with exercise?

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

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

In good health –

Megan

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A Not So Celebration of the History of Popular Diets

I Choose Respect Over Body Shame
I Choose Respect Over Body Shame

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein

In honor of Respect Your Body Month, Potentia’s Coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness – Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD – compiled a timeline and unpacked the history of  fad diets and their many claims. Somewhat humorous and ridiculous at times, this list is not an endorsement of any of these trends but is intended to reflect the the constant ebb and flow of claims on what is true health. We support a non-diet, intuitive eating approach to feeding – when appropriate – and are passionate about educating the community on the dangers of fad diets and the diet mentality. – Rebecca

1863 Banting’s Diet: One of the first documented low carbohydrate diets. William Banting was a carpenter and undertaker. “Bad” foods included sugar/starch, butter, milk and beer.

1830 Graham’s Diet: A Presbyterian Minister, Sylvester Graham, touted a ‘bland’, vegetarian diet free of milk, meat, alcohol, white bread and ‘excitatory’ spices (which, upon intake, cause a person to become ‘lustful’).

1920 Inuit Diet: Vilhjalmur Stefannson, an Arctic explorer, noted improved health and quality of life among persons living in Arctic regions by eating a diet consisting predominantly of whale blubber, raw fish and caribou, with minimal fruit and vegetables.  Thus, the Inuit Diet was born.

1930 Dr. Stoll’s Diet Aid: One of the first liquid supplement diets, shakes were given out as meal substitutes in local beauty parlors in efforts to popularize this diet.

1930 Hay’s Diet: Dr.Hay warned of ‘digestive explosion’ from consumption of fruit, meat and dairy at the same meal. He urged separation of foods into alkaline, acidic and neutral meal/snack categories.

1950 Grapefruit Diet: Consists of having ½ grapefruit daily, and minimal caffeine. Fatty meats, particularly bacon, may be consumed liberally, as the combination of grapefruit and saturated fat is “claimed” to accelerate the burning of body fat.

1980 Cabbage Soup Diet: This plan advises the consumer to consume cabbage soup at meal times for seven consecutive days, with the stepwise addition of beef, fruit, vegetables, brown rice and skim milk.

1980: Fat free/very low fat: Emphasized elimination of fat in the diet, given its caloric density and link to development of cardiovascular disease. Manufacturers quickly adapted by producing fat reduced versions of our favorite foods, using sugar to enhance palatability.

1990 Atkins Diet: Popularized by Dr.Robert Atkins, initial phases demand a carbohydrate intake not greater than 20g/day, and exclusion of fruit, starches/grains, added sugar, starchy vegetables and beans/legumes. Caffeine and alcohol are forbidden, but meat, eggs and oils may be consumed liberally.

2000 South Beach Diet: Essentially a tamer version of Atkin’s, partakers are allowed to include a greater percentage of calories from carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in later stages, and are discouraged from over consumption of fatty meats/foods rich in saturated fats.

2000 Master Cleanse: Users are ‘detoxified’ by adhering to a strict regimen that includes a mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and salt. The diet was originally publicized in the 1940’s by an alternative healer by the name of Stanley Burroughs.

Present day fad: The Paleo Diet, also referred to by some as the ‘Caveman’ diet, advocates a diet mimicking that of our Paleolithic ancestors. The Paleo diet features exclusion of processed grains/oils, legumes and dairy.  This sort of an eating style is not new, as it was initially popularized in the 1970’s, though it’s made a comeback in recent years.

Despite their obvious differences, many of these diets all share a few common features (aside from the lack of credentials or expertise of behalf their wealthy creators): They erroneously suggest that we can manage health/weight through black and white thinking, they don’t ‘work’, they aren’t sustainable and they lack supporting evidence.

What do you think about this list? Would you add to it?

How do you respect your body through how you feed yourself?

Please join the conversation over on Potentia’s Facebook page on Choosing Respect Over Body shame.

In good health –

Megan

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

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

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

Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be a leader.

Change the conversation.

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

Are you in?

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

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

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

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Q&A Series: Should We Care About BMI?

worthnotanumber

In our Q&A series we’ve unpacked the paleo diet, the gluten-free dietcleanses, and yoga therapy. This week, Kayla Walker, MFT Intern, spoke with Megan Holt, MPH, RD, Potentia’s Coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness to learn about using BMI as an indicator of health.

Note from Rebecca: The following post may be triggering for some who are early in their recovery or struggling with their recovery, so please pause here if this information will not be helpful for you right now. There is some frank talk about numbers in this post because we want to offer some accurate information about the BMI, what it is, why it is not an accurate or helpful indicator of health and how its use is fueling the disordered eating spectrum.

——–

Kayla: What is BMI?

Megan: BMI stands for body mass index. It’s an equation commonly used in healthcare venues to estimate risk of developing chronic diseases that often accompany increases in body fat, such as diabetes, heart disease, and many forms of cancer.

Kayla: How do you calculate BMI? How do you know whether your BMI is in a healthy range?

Megan: The formula for BMI is:

BMI = weight in pounds/(height in inches x height in inches) x 703
or
BMI = weight in kilograms/height in meters squared

CDC recommendations categorize BMI in ranges of underweight, ideal weight, overweight, and obese, as follows:

Below 18.5 = Underweight
18.5 to 24.9 = Ideal
25.0 to 29.9 = Overweight
30.0 and above = Obese

Note from Rebecca: In 1998, the FDA changed the ranges for the BMI and overnight millions of people became “overweight” and “obese.” In his movie America the Beautiful, Darryl Roberts noted this changed was approved by a board that was directly connected to the dieting industry. Given the annual 50+ billion dollars which are spent on diets and diet related products, the BMI is regularly used as a marketing tool to support the use of various products in this industry. And since diets do not work – and in fact set you up to regain the weight and often more within 1-2 years – it seems the BMI is more of a marketing tool than a predictor of true health.

Kayla: Where did the idea of using BMI as a marker of health originate?

Megan: A mathematician (not a clinician) from Belgium by the name of Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet came up with the BMI in the early 1800’s. His aim was to come up with an inexpensive proxy for measuring degree of obesity. Named the Quetelet index (and later BMI), it was used as a means of assessing “appropriateness” of weight for height.

Kayla: Why is BMI used?

Megan: After WWII it was noted that obese and overweight life insurance policy holders were at higher risk for morbidity and mortality were getting increasingly fatter.

It’s easy to understand and compute, it’s inexpensive, and gives us some helpful feedback in terms of anthropometric assessment, though this holds true mainly in the extremes (very underweight and very overweight/obese).

Note from Rebecca: Recent studies are showing a lower death risk for those who are considered “overweight” according to the BMI  furthering doubt the BMI ranges are not helpful in indicating true health.

Kayla: What are the limitations of using BMI as a marker of health?

Megan: BMI does not account for differences in bone mass/structure, fat mass and lean body (muscle) mass, nor where fat is stored (visceral vs. subcutaneous).

Visceral fat (fat around the abdomen/vital organs) is much more inflammatory and problematic in terms of health risks than subcutaneous fat (under the skin).

It implies that thin or normal weight individuals are healthy and have lower risk of developing preventable disease relative to their overweight (according to BMI) counterparts, and this just isn’t the case.

Athletes are an excellent example of persons who tend to have higher BMI’s but carry lower disease risk. Similarly, body fat is underestimated in the elderly, as they typically carry very little lean body (muscle) mass. Remember, one can be thin and simultaneously unfit and/or unhealthy.

Kayla: What should we be using instead, or at least in conjunction with BMI, to predict health risks? What are other markers of health?

Megan: Waist to hip ratio, for one, needs only a measuring tape, and has more predictive power than BMI. Women should have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8 or less, and men 0.95 or less. Women are advantageously pear shaped, and thus carry lower risk for preventable diseases. Think of this next time you’re cursing your curves, and please STOP hating on your body!

Other methods exist that are quite costly and/or intrusive, but may be more accurate, such as requesting a lipid panel (which requires blood work) from your physician, or assessing body fat through use of skin fold calipers, underwater weighing, or bioelectrical impedance. However, assessment of percent body fat alone still does not account for ‘location’ of fat-visceral versus subcutaneous.

Kayla: How do you assess your clients? Do you use BMI as a health indicator?

Megan: I rarely, if ever, calculate BMI when working with clients, whether they are athletes or people struggling with disordered eating.

Rather, I use an assessment of their current diet and lifestyle behaviors and blood work results from their physician to measure risk.

When working with individuals who do fall in the extremely obese category, I find that they are well aware of where they fall in terms of BMI categories, and that calling attention to this is not helpful.In fact, it often deters these individuals from wanting to make changes to lifestyle, as they likely will remain in the ‘obese’ category even with a fairly significant weight loss.

We know that even mild weight loss, 5-10%, for example, is enough to significantly decrease risk of “Western” diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and numerous cancers.

——–

Thanks for reading our Q&A on BMI!

What are your thoughts about using BMI as an indicator of health? Has it been helpful or harmful in your journey to health? What additional questions do you have about health, weight, or body image?

We would love to hear from you and address your questions on health and wellness in a future Q&A blog post.

In good health –

Kayla & Megan

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