The Spacious Place

 

This is the inaugural post launching our “Friends of Potentia: Words of Wisdom” guest post series.  We are thrilled to have Leeana Tankersley of www.gypsyink.com share her heart and wise words in this tender post.  Thank you, Leeana, for your vulnerability and for modeling true beauty.

***

Over the last three years—since becoming a mother—I have looked in the mirror, and more times than not, resembled Charlize Theron from “Monster” in most every way.

Dark roots. Bad skin. Scowling.  Just generally the most unattractive version of yourself you could imagine.

This has been a grief for me, as I would like things to feel much more like the Anthropologie catalogue then they have ever turned out to feel.

Three babies in three years has put me face-to-face with myself in such an intense way, that I have had to do some reckoning.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled to feel a sense of spaciousness within myself.  Instead, I have spent time feeling ill-at-ease in my own skin, squeezed from self-contempt.

Motherhood intensified all of this immeasurably, and I was confronted with the following question: was I going to be a constant critic of myself or was I going to learn to be a companion to myself?

I saw these little creatures at my feet. Gorgeous, wide-eyed tinies.  And I knew I needed to find a new way of thinking, of being.

After all, how could I really be there for them if I had no idea how to be there for myself?

Practically speaking, one of the things that has most helped is better understanding the concepts and practices behind 12-step recovery.

I had this swirling mess of voices and anxiety in my head, and so I looked into how a person might break down such a big problem, how a person might begin to think (and then act) differently, how a person might stop certain habits and begin new ones.

That’s what 12-step offers us. In my opinion, the single greatest truth from 12-step is the idea that we must approach each day anew.

We don’t graduate from our struggles.

We don’t arrive.

Things aren’t ever solved, once and for all. We wake up each day and we begin again. We put into practice those truths that have become part of our health.

And then we do it again tomorrow.

I’ve become really attached to a Scripture passage from Psalm 18:

“But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out 
of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
 the void in which I was drowning. 
They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me.
 He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved! (Psalm 18:16-19, The Message)”

Instead of “wide-open field,” other translations use the phrase “spacious place” or “broad expanse.”

YES.

That’s the kind of living I want to do. How about you? Don’t you long to live from the spacious place instead of the squeeze? Don’t you long to offer yourself breathing room instead of badgering?

I really believe that we can live our lives drowning in the void, or we can live our lives in the spacious place. I have floundered in the void, as some of you have or maybe still are.

There is so much more life in the spacious place.

There is so very little in life that we can actually control.  Almost nothing.  Three little babies will teach you that quickly.

But one thing we CAN control is this: How we treat ourselves.

The truth is, I still look like Charlize Theron from “Monster” most every day. And, the truth is, that’s still hard for me.

BUT . . . somehow I can forgive myself now, I can care for myself, I can see that things will go so much better if I will simply stop believing that I am the sum total of my perceived inadequacies.

God has offered us a very broad grace. Can we offer that same grace to ourselves and, what’s more, wake up tomorrow morning and choose it all over again?

Believing in you,

Leeana

***
Leeana Tankersley is the author of Found Art: Discovering Beauty in Foreign Places (Zondervan 2009), a memoir inspired by her time in the Middle East. She currently lives in Bahrain with her husband, Steve, and their three kids: Luke (3), Lane (3), and Elle (8 months). Leeana blogs at www.GypsyInk.com.

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Faith Fast or Crash Diet?

Source: google.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

 

I was recently asked to put together a handout for an organization getting ready to start a community-wide faith-based fast and I want to share this important information with you, too.

Spiritual fasts are a powerful and important discipline which can bring about some truly meaningful experiences and growth.

But in today’s culture riddled with the extremely high incidence of eating disorders and disordered eating, I encourage individuals and leaders to please consider the following when engaging in 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 Christian” or “not a good enough Christian” 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 on this hot topic?

I would love to hear about your experiences with spiritual fasting in the comments below.

Rebecca

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Five Reasons to Ditch Dieting

Source: google.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

 

By Megan Handley, MPH, RD and Nutrition+Wellness Coordinator at Potentia

  • For the last time, diets don’t work! A group of researchers out of UCLA analyzed studies that followed dieters for 2-5 years, and found that the vast majority of participants gained back the weight, and then some, by the end of the follow up period.

  • Diets rely on external cues to guide our eating, rather than teaching us to listen to our body’s hunger and fullness cues.  Food is fuel for our bodies and should be enjoyed, savored and appreciated!

  • Diets are often based on testimonials, rather than on sound scientific studies.  The suggested eating plan is often rigid, and does not translate to real-world living.

  • Diets often require that we severely restricts calories or entire food groups, putting us at risk for nutrient deficiencies, and robbing our bodies of the energy that we need to be active.

  • Intense feelings of deprivation and hunger set the dieter up for binge eating patterns, which are then followed by feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction.

The following links are wonderful resources for you as you seek to (re) define health in your life:

Academy of Eating Disorders
American Dietetic Association
Finding Balance
Health at Every Size  
Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon
Intuitive Eating
The Center for Mindful Eating
The National Eating Disorders Association 

Diets can be a polarizing topic of discussion these days as many seek relief from real physical and emotional pain.  What do you think about diets? Have you had positive or negative experience with a diet?  Do you agree that diets do not work?

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Is Authentic Going the Way of Awesome?

 

By Molly La Croix, LMFT Trauma Expert at Potentia Family Therapy

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“Keeping it Real at Facebook” 2/12/12) the author lamented the use of such phrases as authentic self.

She states, “Unless you start out fake you don’t need to learn to be genuine, right?”

While she was talking about overinflated egos and verbiage resulting from stratospheric levels of success, I found myself worrying that soon the word authentic might go the way of the word awesome.

We all know awesome has become one of the most overused adjectives, losing meaning and weight in the process.  It used to be used to convey a sense of wonder and majesty, and now it just conjures up the image of a preteen boy on a skateboard with his hat on sideways.

Why do I care that authentic might go the way of awesome?

Because our fundamental challenge as human beings is to figure out who we truly are and then live out that unique self in relationships where we do not have to pose or hide or morph into someone else.

Being an authentic self is not something to be mocked, or trivialized, or derided as a fad.  It is a worthy ambition.  It is a destination on a journey that is fraught with obstacles and challenges, requiring courage and perseverance.  It is a goal demanding stamina and a supportive community.

If being authentic means being real, genuine, and true – among other things – what makes it so difficult?  As the author said, “Unless you start out fake you don’t need to learn to be genuine, right?”

The difficulty lies in universal experience of shame when we venture forth as our true self and we perceive rejection of that self.  That can start as early as infancy when the baby cries and does not receive comfort.  Perhaps the self really was rejected by a harsh parent who called us stupid. Or, perhaps the child just interpreted a benign remark as a criticism of that self.

The issue is not whether the person meant to shame us.

The issue is that we all internalize a degree of shame about our core, authentic self.  That shame prompts all of us to be fake sometimes.

For some, the degree of shame is so great they live each day flooded by it.  For others, the negative beliefs associated with the feeling of shame, such as, “I’m not good enough, not loveable, not worthy…” pop up occasionally.

I don’t believe any of us entirely escape the influence of unhealthy shame, the kind that causes us to want to hide our authentic selves.

Just think about the last time you took a risk to take a stance with someone who is important to you – spouse, parent, partner, child, co-worker. Any anxiety crop up?  Any fear of rejection?

Depending on the weight of the issue, and the degree to which you internalized negative beliefs, that anxiety might have been great enough to silence your voice.

And that brings us back to the importance of being an authentic self.  It is not trite, it is essential.

Shame will silence us.  Those brave enough to be intentional about authenticity deserve praise and celebration.

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Everybody Knows Somebody

2012 Theme: Everybody Knows Somebody

In a few days, National Eating Disorder Awareness Week will kick off.  I am always blown away by the power, the emotion, the dedication of so many who participate in this week through speaking, writing, creative events through multimedia and more.  So many have been touched by eating disorders and the disordered eating spectrum.  And that includes you.

Eating Disorders and the Disordered Eating Spectrum continue to be misunderstood, glamorized and minimized.  The truth of the matter is, you know someone struggling with their relationship with food and/or their body.

Everybody knows somebody.

You know somebody.

Food and body issues are tricky. They are sneaky and sly and operate under the guise of health and productivity or laziness and undiscipline.  Be very clear: eating disorders are killing and disabling at rates that are scary.  Eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental illnesses. Do not let someone you know be another statistic.

You know someone on the diet roller coaster or obsessed about eating healthy to such an extreme their lives have become a prison to irrational fear, rigidity and control.

You know somebody who repeatedly talks negatively about their body and believes their worth and value are directly correlated to the number on the scale.

You know somebody who is depressed, anxious, suicidal because they feel so out of control with their behaviors and thoughts about food and their body.

You know somebody who is slowly dying inside physically, emotionally and spiritually.

You know somebody who wants to be loved and seen beyond their looks, their grades, their performance, their weight, what they eat.  You know someone who wants to be seen.  Period.

You know somebody in this kind of pain.

And there is hope and healing available for those who want to live their lives in peace and joy.  I get to work with the most amazing professionals at Potentia and at treatments centers around the country who are passionate about helping people heal from their eating disorder.

Eating disorders are complex and their causes reflect this complexity: genetics, family of origin issues, culture, temperament, physiological issues, traumatic events and more.  There is not a quick fix and no one to blame but the sooner someone starts the process to change, the better for their long term prognosis.

You know someone who needs to begin this journey.  Now.

Resources like edreferral and Gurze are wonderful sites to find practitioners at all levels of care who specialize in treating the whole spectrum of food and body issues.  Gurze is also a publishing company dedicated to provided resources on these issues. I would also check out The National Eating Disorder Association.  I love the commitment of the NEDA team and value their role in starting and promoting National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  Hang out at these websites. Learn something new.  And share it with someone you know.

Potentia joins the many individuals, families, treatment centers and providers in promoting eating disorder awareness.  At Potentia, we will be doing a week long event asking people to write on a piece of paper (we have cool artsy paper, pens and more for those who want to get creative) an apology to their body or a thank you to their body.  We will hang these note cards around the space and make a slide show of them at the end of the week.

If you want to contribute to this event, feel free to stop by and add your contribution to our display.  And if you live far away, feel free to send me an email and I will make sure your words are added.

Sororities and other local groups are already contributing.  I would love to add your voice to this display.  And all contributions can be anonymous.

Our hope is this display gets everyone thinking a little more about the seriousness of disordered eating and helps those struggling know they are not alone.

And yes, to be clear, you know somebody.  Now it is time to talk about it.

How are you going to use your voice during eating disorder awareness week?

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The ABC’s of Self-Love: B is for Beauty

                                                                       Source: everythingfab.com via Rebecca on Pinterest

 

I am excited to participate in my first ever Blog Crawl (find out more about The ABC’s of Self Love Blog Crawl + Treasure Hunt here), hosted by Molly Mahar of Stratejoy  celebrating the upcoming launch of her Fierce Love program.   I really appreciate Molly’s commitment to helping others discover the power of truly healing your relationship with your body and your story.  Molly would say how important it is to “adore yourself” in such an infectious and genuine way that you can’t help but take pause and believe she is on to something.   So when she tapped me to be the writer for the letter “B” with the topic of Beauty in her Fierce Love blog crawl, I was humbled and excited

Beauty. It is a tricky word and hard to define.  Defining beauty is very subjective, personal, intimate.

There is also a narrow standard of beauty, dispensed by the multi-billion dollar advertising industry, which has left those who believe this definition with intense body hatred, low sense of of worth, depression, depleted bank accounts, anxiety, fear of intimacy and dangerous food and body issues.

Some of the many lies perpetuated from this narrow definition of beauty state that you will be loveable, feel more confident, life will be more tolerable: if you weigh a certain amount, your body looks a certain way, you dress a certain way, you play by everyone’s rules and act a certain way, your (fill in the blank) is (fill in the blank).

It is time to stop the crazy-making, take back the power that has been externalized to the opinions of the “collective other” and (re)claim how you define beauty.

How do you define beauty?

I must confess, I spent years believing a flawed definition of beauty.  I was a slave to what other people thought of me.  I worked my body hard and rested little.  I hated what I saw in the mirror and was an approval junkie.  I was unsatisfied, frustrated, disconnected from God and my own values and dreams. I was lost.  And really tired.  All because I wanted to be beautiful in the eyes of others with the hopes I would then in fact be beautiful.

I thought the world’s definition of beauty = being enough.  I was just drinking the Kool-aid.

But thankfully, I healed some infected wounds, fought some battles, had a gun held to my head (twice – that is another story) and experienced some fierce love from myself, God and some incredible people.  I woke up to the lies I was telling myself about my worth and value and regularly fight back the desire to play the lose–lose game of comparing myself to others.

I now revel in the awe-inspiring beauty of courage, generosity, gentleness, kindness, sacrificial love, compassion, vulnerability, motherhood and respect.

I discovered confidence, the power and importance of surrounding myself with safe people. I say, “No thank you,” a lot and “yes” to my calling on this planet therefore putting the “shoulds” and “have-tos” in permanent time out.

I regularly push back on the lies shame tells me and now know that being perfectly imperfect is a whole lot more life-giving than striving for perfection. (This one can be tough on some days…)

I believe the state of my heart, character, integrity are more powerful indicators of beauty verses my outside image.

How do you define beauty? Is your definition is keeping you stuck, in pain and shame or is it is life-giving and freeing?

What changes are you going to make in how you talk about beauty so you do not inadvertently collude with the world’s definition of beauty?

With fierce love –

Rebecca

 

 

Find out more about  Molly’s “The ABC’s of Self Love Blog Crawl + Treasure Hunt” here.

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It’s My Body by Jenni Schaefer

 

Jenni Schaefer

I saw this poem by Jenni Schaefer last year in one of her newsletters.   I love it and she graciously gave me permission to post it.  Soak up this powerful push-back to the lies that can clutter our minds and our culture.

 

It’s My Body by Jenni Schaefer

It’s my body. If I am overweight by societal standards or some height/weight chart, my body does not need to be starved in order to fit in. My body will be the size it is supposed to be if I am taking care of myself. I will not fight it.

It’s my body. If I go out on a date and a guy buys me dinner, I do not owe him a kiss or anything else. A simple, “thank you,” does the job just fine. Despite what society might say, my body is not my currency.

It’s my body. If I overeat at a party today, because the food is just so good, I do not need to restrict or over-exercise tomorrow. My body needs to be nourished, everyday, and never deserves to be punished.

It’s my body. If I have been abused, my body does not deserve to be hated. My body is not disgusting because of what someone else did to me. My body is not something to feel ashamed of or to hide. I cherish my body.

It’s my body. If I am sick, I need to give my body rest and do whatever it takes to get well. My body is not invincible. It is fragile. I must not abuse it with food, alcohol, drugs, or anything else. I must take care of it.

It’s my body. Today my organs are nourished and can function properly. I get enough sleep. I am strong. I do things that feel enjoyable like hiking, swimming, getting a massage, yoga, or even kissing my date — when I choose to do so.

It’s my body. I do not look like you or anyone else. You might be taller or thinner than me. By societal standards, you might be prettier than me. But you are not me. And I am not you.

It’s your body. Respect it. Nourish it. Love it.

If you have not already checked out Jenni’s books, “Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too” and “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life.” I encourage you to add them to your library.  These books are incredible resources for those in struggling with an eating disorder and those who have a loved one with an eating disorder.

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Is your definition of health keeping you unhealthy?

I had the chance last weekend to meet Jess Weiner, a self-esteem and body-acceptance expert.  It was a real treat to meet her as I have been aware of her advocacy work for some time and I have come to really respect her voice on issues dear to my heart.   She authored an article published in Glamour that hit the stands on Monday in the states that is bold, courageous and honest.  I encourage you to check it out.

Jess expressed some trepidation with being so transparent about her shift in ideology that involved a newly focused attention to her weight and her labs.   I could see she was bracing for criticism and comments of betrayal by many as she boldly stated her previous definition of health was keeping her very unhealthy.  Personally,  I think Jess’s story brings up some important issues around health and numbers.

As an eating disorder treatment expert, I have worked for years helping men and women detox from the diet mentality and the shaming effect of our “thin” obsessed culture.  Part of their recovery journey is the process of letting go of the stronghold of numbers (on the scale, sizes on their clothes, calorie counting) which have become entrenched in their identity.  For many, the Healthy at any Size movement created a space to seek true health while not focusing exclusively on scales and charts, such as the antiquated BMI.

I speak and advocate to my clients and large groups on theses principles of the HAES model:

1. Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes.
2. Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include
physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects.
3. Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes.
4. Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger,
satiety, appetite, and pleasure.
5. Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather
than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss.

Yet, discussing numbers is a touchy zone for those of us treating those struggling food and body issues.  On one hand, there is an importance to letting go of the numbers that can plague us and rob us of our peace and true worth.  But for many, if and when the individual is ready to manage this information appropriately, gaining awareness of how one’s body is functioning and performing ( ie: knowing labs and weight) can often be an important part of recovery in healing one’s relationship with food and their body. Truly empowered body acceptance involves making sure your body is operating at it’s best.

This can be a scary place for many who spent years obsessing about the number of calories they ate or burned at the gym. Many people, like Jess, who are in recovery from an eating disorder, understandably swing to the other direction and want to avoid numbers and doctors as they were a significant trigger and source of shame. It comes as a welcome break to not think about the numbers and many end up avoiding good health care for fear their brain will grab onto the numbers like the jaws of life if they go there.

Yet, denial is not a part of true health.

Neglecting your health is not true health. It may take a while, but finding the right doctor, as Jess did, who is knowledgeable and not shame based about such matters may be an effort but is necessary.

I remember when I was first asked by a client, “Is it ok for me to want to lose weight?”. I have since heard this question frequently in my office from women and men of all shapes and sizes. I respond by asking “What are your motivations and what is the meaning for you if you lost some weight?” Flushing through the answers to these questions is important to assess as you seek to make sure your definition of health is not going to keep you stuck or do your body harm.

The sole focus on weight in regards to health has and continues to be harmful. Shaming someone for being overweight does not motivate someone to make true change and reduces the chance of someone hearing important information about their body.

I still despise the scale. It really is a trap. Yet, totally neglecting our physical health in the name of health is not wise or recommended. For many, if their labs are ok, it gives them a reason to still engage in their eating disorder behavior. I see this a lot. If an individual is using numbers as a reason to avoid doing important deep soul work, than it is time to re-think this approach to living life because it will eventually spiral to a dark place.

I believe Jess is adding an important and much needed dynamic to the size-acceptance discussion. She is taking ownership of her choices and putting herself out there sharing what she has learned. I also believe she is doing this responsibly by giving out information with full disclosure and context. I am excited for a provocative discussion to follow up as a result of her leadership.

This is a nuanced and highly personal topic for many.  I am always inspired when I meet someone who walks their talk.  I especially admire those who have put themselves out there and adjust previous held beliefs while holding their head high and standing strong.  The journey towards true health in the public eye is a gutsy one and I thank you, Jess, for being you.

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In the name of Health

In The Name of Health

In the last several weeks, I received news about amazing women I know fighting for health in their lives.  One family member is fighting for her baby’s health as he struggles to eat and maintain his weight, another friend is planning for a radical surgery as a preventative measure against cancer.  A newer friend of mine recently discovered a mass in her lungs and has begun chemo therapy to tackle the cancer in her body.  All three of these women greatly inspire me with their courage, passion and strength.  In their quest for health, they face challenges, uncertainty and a roller coaster of emotion.  Their stories have unwritten chapters ahead of them as they seek to do what is best for their health.  Yet, my work has taught me that our quest for health can look completely different from person to person.

Health (re)defined

Health.  We hear this word a lot: In the news; in commercials for products and diets; in research findings; in schools; on magazine covers with claims of the best in the name of what is healthy. When looking further into the meaning of what all of these voices are calling healthy, I find such a wide-range of definitions.  Marriam-Webster online defines health as the following:

1 a : the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially : freedom from physical disease or pain b : the general condition of the body <in poor health> <enjoys good health>

2 a : flourishing condition : well-being b : general condition or state <poor economic health>

If I use this definition as a platform for discussing health, then that leaves many I know operating from a warped and inaccurate view of what is truly healthy.  Many of the men and women I work with are striving for health, but in a way that actually depletes their health body, mind and spirit.  50+ billion dollars annually are spent every year in our country on diet and “health” related products.  Many of these products make a lot of promises but rarely deliver.  Others leave people in bondage so that they are fearful of living life without sticking to a specific plan.

This is a big theme as I seek to propose ways we can (re) define health as we know it.   We crave, hunger, desire for so much more.  Diets, health food, fear of fat, control, deprivation, denying who we are called to be for fear of rejection, alienation are some of the many ways in which we try to manage our pain and our fear.  Yes, we have choices on how we feed, move and care for our bodies and souls.  No, there is not a quick fix to being able to sit with the tension of it all.  But if we are operating from our passions, are in touch with our true identity – not one sold to us – then maybe, just maybe, the diet industry may go out of business (OK, a girl can only hope…) and health, quality health, can be achieved.

(re)Defining Health with Respect

The news is not lacking with stories about the “obesity epidemic” and television shows focusing on radical weight loss in the name of health are very popular. I will add my voice to the discussion on:

  • the disordered eating spectrum,
  • Orthorexia and how the quest for health can turn into a debilitating and often deadly obsession,
  • EDNOS (Eating Disorder not otherwise specified)
  • the HAES (Healthy At Any Size) movement
  • Intuitive Eating and a non-diet philosophy

Challenging various definitions of what is “healthy” can be volatile and feel very personal.  My hope is to respectfully challenge some of the beliefs, philosophies and motivations behind the many definitions of health out there with the goal of moving the discussion away from fear, prejudice and misinformation towards true freedom and health with passion, love and respect. There will be other contributors to add additional perspective to the effort to (re) define health.  Stay tuned.  Some good stuff is coming! I also hope you will join in this important discussion.  Your voice matters.

  • How do you define health?
  • What do think about the struggles of obesity in our culture?
  • Do you think an over emphasis on weight will prevent obesity or create more food and body issues?
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