You are invited! Potentia Celebration + Open House

I know there is never a lack of events, meetings, parties and kid activities to add to your calender but I am hoping those of you in the San Diego area can squeeze in some time to drop by our Celebration and Open House next Friday, October 24th between 4-8PM.

It will be a great time to not only see the new workshop/play therapy space and meet the new Potentia therapists but also to connect with other friends and colleagues from the community.

Great food – including a pumpkin “everything” spread – and  a chance to win some fun raffle prizes are added bonuses for stopping by our gathering.

Please register if you can attend so we can plan accordingly.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

OpenHouseFlier-graphic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Surprising Ways to Love Your Partner

Note from Rebecca: I am thrilled to introduce you to Brian Reiswig, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. I first met Brian when he was a graduate student of mine last spring. His big heart, sharp mind, wisdom and calming presence inspired me to invite him to join the Potentia clinical team and I am so grateful he agreed to join us! He is digging deep in his training and supervision as he develops his clinical expertise to support couples, men with compulsive behaviors, trauma/EMDR and those struggling with food and body issues. I am excited so many will have a chance to learn from him via this blog in addition to his clinical work at Potentia. Welcome, Brian!
——
I recently attended a training event for couples therapists from one of the true masters in the field, John Gottman. Known for his straight-forward and practical insight about why marriages suffer and tools for making your marriage great, he’s been a pioneer in the field for more than 40 years. I showed up expecting to learn some new and powerful ways of helping couples get past pain and disconnection and nurture a loving bond. What I didn’t expect was how much his 40 years of research has revealed some insights that are counter-intuitive to what I intuitively thought what made a good marriage. Here are 5 insights from the training that will probably surprise you and will definitely help you foster a deeper, happier connection with your spouse.
 
1. The heart wants connection but the brain gets in the way.

One thing that Gottman did in his research, that most researchers don’t, is he studied what was going on inside the body during conflict not just what was going on between the couple. What he discovered was that the physiology of the brain changes drastically during high stress conflict. When we get into a fight with our loved one, our heart rate speeds up. When it crosses the 100 beats per minute line, we go into a “diffuse physiological state” and our whole body changes gears. To make things worse, our bodies start secreting adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) which send the message to our brains that we are in imminent danger. So, when a conversation about dirty dishes with our partner starts to get tense, the fight or flight response is triggered. The part of our brain where we listen and problem solve shuts down – right when we need it most.

Helpful tip: When you notice yourself getting upset, don’t wait to take a time out. Tell your partner you need some time to calm down, you love him/her, you really want to hear their point of view and be able to take responsibility for yours. Then set a time limit on this break – less than 24 hours. This break isn’t a strategy for abandonment, but one for closeness. Then go practice a calming skill and take a break from thinking about the problem. If you keep thinking about the problem you actually keep your brain in an escalated state.

2. Solving all your problems won’t solve all your problems.

Another counter-intuitive discovery that Gottman made in his research is that conflicts are not resolved by solving problems. Gottman observed that over time, the majority of conflicts in a marriage (about 69%) are never “solved.” Ever. So, for example, the conversation you avoid every year about whose family to visit for Christmas probably isn’t going away. Most couples never finds a solution that puts their big issues to rest permanently. There can be ominous sense of impending doom that comes with unsolved problems between you and your beloved. The difference between the happy marriages and the unhappy ones is that the happier couples make peace with having some issues unresolved and continuing to work through them.

Helpful Tip: Remember that all marriages struggle with unresolved conflict. When you and your partner can’t find a comfortable middle ground to a longstanding conflict, the struggle can grow and grow until if feels like the relationship hangs in the balance. Unsolved problems have a way of feeling like a bad omen, foretelling the demise of your union… unless you remember that all couples have unanswered problems. Just knowing that this kind of struggle is normal takes the emotional charge out of the problem and allows couples to approach their problems from a not-so-catastrophic point of view.

3. Conflict isn
’t the problem.
The day after I proposed to my wife, Sarah, we took a 7 hour road trip to visit family and celebrate the engagement. On that road trip I had a very specific itinerary that we would take advantage of the face time and discuss our vision for our married life together. One of the goals that I had for our marriage, which I had gleamed from endless hours reading self-help books and listening to inspiring speakers, was to never fight. And yes, I was serious. I’ll never forget her face when I explained my expectations, like she was looking at a little boy who wanted to be superman when he grew up. She smiled and gently said, “That’s sweet, but I think we’re probably going to fight sometimes.”  If you just read my reflections on my engagement story and thought my marriage vision was a bit ridiculous – congratulations! You’re way ahead of where I was back then. But it illustrates a myth that I think many buy into and that the idea of conflict is inherently bad.

Helpful Tip:
At it’s core, conflict is healthy. Conflict means you’ve discovered a part of your partner that you don’t yet understand. Conflict is an opportunity for new depths of intimacy. Conflict is an opportunity to know your partner better. But you can get derailed when you bump into those opportunities and mistake them for threats. According to Gottman, conflict is all about listening. Instead of listening to understand, many often speak to be understood or to prove a point. Some just speak to shut down their partner. It is an absolute game-changer if  – in the moment  you realize have entered into the misunderstanding zone – you can remind yourself that all you have to do in this moment is listen. The understanding that comes with listening will ease the tension, even if you do not find a solution to the “problem.” 

4. Friendship is more important than love
As it turns out, the Beatles were wrong. Love is not all you need. If fact, its not even the most important thing you need. Many ask me what could be more important than love for a happy marriage. The answer is friendship. If love is the strength of your commitment to your spouse, than friendship is the strength of your connection. There are a whole lot of people that I love, who I have no interest in spending time with, no sense of safety in sharing my heart with and no special inside culture that is just our own. There are people in my family who I love but I am not really friends with. On the other hand, within my sacred group of people I consider my dear friends, there is no one I do not love. Friendship is the substance of healthy intimacy.

Helpful Tip:
Gottman has discovered that the average U.S. couple with school-age children spends about 35 minutes a week in actual conversation. And most of that time is spent discussing who is going to do what, when, etc. With that sobering statistic in mind, it is no mystery many struggling couples report they love their spouse but when asked about the status of their friendship, they are not as positive. Perhaps a more useful benchmark to the health of our marriages is not “how are we keeping the romance alive?” but instead “how are we keeping the friendship alive?”

5. The landscape is always changing
Building on this idea of friendship as core to marital health, Gottman urges couples to think of their partner as an ever-changing landscape. Just because you got to know them in a deep and personal way while you were dating, or before you started that new job, does not mean you your sense of knowing them is the same today.

Helpful Tip:
Gottman proposes thinking about your knowledge of your spouse as a “love map” that you must constantly update. Building a love map is not a task that you complete. Instead, It is a task that is an ongoing practice. Building a love map is the process of rediscovering who your partner is, what are their values, their beliefs, their preferences, what makes them laugh and what keeps them up at night. Ask open-ended questions and listen to the answers.  Asking questions every week about life, goals, dreams, fears and disappointments gives you and your partner a chance to be known and you can show each other that your love is not based on the bond you shared years ago but the one you share today.
____
I would love to know which Gottman insight resonated with you the most? Which one surprised you?

Please share your thoughts, reflections and questions in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.
– Brian

Potentia is 6!

Potentia is turning 6

Several years ago, I had this picture in my head of a beautiful space where people could receive collaborative and specialized care all under the same roof. Six years ago this month, Potentia’s incorporation papers were filed and the dream started to take fruition.

I can laugh now but looking back six years ago, things were a little nutty. My first born was just a little over 2 months and I was clumsily learning how to integrate all of my new loves and passions on very little sleep.

Today, I am a little more rested. And my family has grown along with Potentia.

I am in awe and filled with gratitude looking at how the seed of a vision planted in my heart + mind has turned into something so much more.

As we celebrate our six year milestone, we are in the process of expanding: more office space, new clinical team members – including two male therapists – and new service offerings such as individual and group consultations on EMDR and Eating Disorders (CEDS) along with Child Centered Play Therapy.

Even our website is in the process of getting freshened up.

Whew!

And I am pleased to introduce you to five therapists who are a part of this season of Potentia’s growth: Moe Perdomo, Hannah Branch, Brian Resiwg, Kayla Walker and Roxanne Strauss.

Look at them all spiffy here…

Interns formal 2014

And here they are showing their brave and getting a little silly. Silly is so good for the soul!

Interns silly 2014

These new interns are joining me and our veteran Potentia team members:

The Potentia team is equipped with an understanding of:

  • the brain
  • non-diet approaches to wellness
  • the power of your story (owning, respecting and telling it)
  • the influences of shame and vulnerability

so we can be the best support to people seeking meaning in their struggles and desiring sustained relief from their pain.

All of our psychotherapy clinicians are trained in EMDR, which is an approach that helps people who are stuck because of tough life events, anxiety, depression, compulsive behaviors, loss, blocking beliefs, perfectionism and more. We also have therapists who offer specialized support with:

  • Shame Resilience and The Daring Way TM method
  • Food and Body Issues
  • Couples Issues and Premarital Counseling
  • Teen and Family Issues
  • Transition
  • Pastors Kids and Missionary Kids

I am excited to see where this now collective dream takes all of us as we continue to trust, pray, learn, grow and serve.

And to those of you who have a dream on your heart, respect it. Sketch or write it out. Share it with someone who will not talk about all the barriers to your dream but instead be a support to it.

Be careful to not compare it, minimize it or let the desire for certainty squelch your hope. Your dream is precious and it is placed on your heart for a purpose. It may not be logical or make sense. It may be painful to be in the inbetween of it being unfulfilled.

I get it. I wrestled with all of this over the years. Still do. The waiting, the tests of faith, the investment of time and resources, the trust are the refining part of the dream. Pace yourself and stay the course.

Cheering you and your dream on –

Rebecca

PS – Please make sure you are on our email list so you can stay up to date on our offerings, events, blog posts and receive an invitation to our upcoming  fall open house.

 

 

 

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.

I choose respect over body shame – will you join me?

I choose respect (over body shame)

 

February is often a month dedicated to bringing awareness to food and body issues, with the last week of the month specifically focused on Eating Disorder Awareness.

I have been a big supporter of this time of year for the last decade. There is such a need for more understanding, awareness and education on eating disorders and related issues. They are deadly, misunderstood and too often unintentionally perpetuated by many who mean to help those struggling with these issues.

Whether you have a history of struggling with disordered eating, negative body image or are really passionate about wellness, sometimes you may have a bad body image day, week, month or more.

In a culture where a good portion of the few thousand messages coming at us a day are focused on our body, health, and image, it is hard to not internalize some of the scarcity, comparison and shame hurled at us.

So, even if you are at a place where you can generally say, “I am ok as I am — mind, body and soul” it seems completely understandable to me that there are seasons, bumps in the road per se, where your relationship with your body is not always full of love.

Many in recovery are ashamed and fearful of having a season where their old ways of thinking and being make a comeback. So the masks of “everything is perfect” go up and the fear of showing vulnerability spikes.

I started seeing some masks pop up in my clients and friends hiding the fear of being seen struggling; not having it all together; not being seen as holy enough…

We can’t force a love relationship with our body. Building or rebuilding trust with your body takes time. Eating disorders, chronic illness, abuse, depression, anxiety, and shame induced by cultural ideals of beauty all can rob you of your ability to trust your body.

So many people have a hard time loving their body, let alone liking it. Sometimes you have to start from a place of respect before you move to love.  

I hear many share their frustration with how body-focused they are and offer a lot of self-judgement because their brain is stuck obsessing about what the scale says, what the mirror reflects, and what is eaten.

Food and body issues are real. Call it what you want — I think it is time to redirect the judgements that pop up about these struggles and try to really understand what is at the root of the pain.

From my perspective, when someone’s sense of comfort, peace and wellness is attacked, it impacts all other areas of their life. These are not trivial, self-indulgent, self-absorbed issues.

In an effort to debunk the stigma around body image struggles and normalize these common struggles, I gathered colleagues, teachers, parents, pastors, students, and business owners for an “I choose respect” photo shoot at Potentia.

We are posting an “I choose respect” feature photo every day this month on the Facebook page and the response has been so encouraging.

And here is a special gift for you inspired by I choose respect over body shame month: our Respect Your Body Creed.

(click to download)
(click to download)

What is your respect your body creed or mantra?

Share in the comments below and, if you feel bold, post a picture here or on our Facebook page letting me how you choose respect over body shame.

Cheering you on —

Rebecca

 

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

Photo on 10-25-13 at 9.35 AM

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

How do you define fat talk?

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

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

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

How do you respond to fat talk?

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

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

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

Where have you been surprised to encounter fat talk?

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

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you help your clients combat fat talk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Constance Rhodes

Constance Rhodes Cropped

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

How do you define fat talk?

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

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

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

How do you respond to fat talk?

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

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

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

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Natalie Lynn Borton

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Note from Rebecca: In honor of Fat Talk Free week, I chatted with my friend, Natalie Lynn Borton. Writer, editor, and creative consultant, Natalie is also an advocate of redefining culture’s definition of beauty and worthiness. Her blog, Thoughts by Natalie, is a community for women dedicated to honest talk about beauty, style, wellness and life. I met Natalie several years ago and have since grown to greatly respect and value her voice, heart and mind. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer questions for this post. I appreciate you!

How do you define “fat talk”?

I define “fat talk” as any kind of negative talk—to others, about others, or in our own heads—about body size or shape. I think talk that creates shame about eating habits could fall into the “fat talk” definition as well.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

I hear it everywhere, in almost any conversation between women. It’s become part of normal conversation and is accepted as normal, which is so sad. Also, I admittedly hear it in my own head, which I hate. Thankfully, I’ve found a lot of positive ways to counteract it, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t there.

How do you respond to fat talk?

When I am in a conversation that turns to fat talk, I try to negate it immediately, reminding the person who is being down on herself that she is beautiful as she is, and that looking different has no impact on her worth. I also proactively strive to prevent fat talk by not engaging in it myself publicly.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

Insecurity and fear of inadequacy. There is nothing about our appearance that makes us more or less valuable or attractive as human beings—but our culture suggests otherwise. We are conditioned from a very young age to believe that we are most worthy of love and adoration from others when we look a certain way—and when we feel that we don’t fit that mold, we seem feel the need to make sure others know that we know we’re not ideal.

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

Overhearing others engaging in fat talk was definitely one contributor to the eating disorder I developed while I was in college—though my disorder was related to feeling out of control, the object of my control became my body, I think because of all of the lies I’d heard over the years about how not to look, and how looking a certain way makes us unacceptable.

Additionally, I’ve struggled with creating fat talk in my own mind, and to this day find that when times are difficult—whether it’s a tough day, a fight with my husband or a death of a loved one—I tend to engage in fat talk in my mind as some kind of strange coping mechanism, perhaps as a way to refocus my frustrations toward something I feel like I could actually change.

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

I choose to focus on my character as much as possible. When I’m feeling down about my appearance, I remind myself that 1) I’m likely seeing something distorted in the mirror, and 2) that my beauty comes from the way I interact with others, not from how I look in my jeans.

You are passionate and fascinated with the topic of beauty. How do you define beauty?

Beauty is defined by who we are, not what we look like. Our appearance plays a small role, I suppose, but it’s our character that makes us beautiful people, attractive people and loveable people. Specifically, some of those traits are joy, kindness, generosity, confidence, compassion and love.

How do you think fat talk harms our perception of beauty?

Fat talk reinforces the lie that beauty is determined by a certain type of external appearance.

You are also passionate about fashion. Fashion and fat talk often go hand-in-hand, as clothes can be such a trigger for those who struggle feeling comfortable in their skin. How do you avoid the dark side of fashion but still enjoy its beauty?

For me, fashion has provided so much freedom for me in terms of embracing and loving the body that I have. Style has become my personal creative expression, and a way for me to be more authentically myself, rather than try to fit a mold. It’s counterintuitive, I suppose, but that’s just how it’s played out in my life. I don’t worship high end brands and expensive products, but rather let style be something that is playful, fun, authentic and enjoyable.

What advice would you give to women who have a love/hate relationship with fashion mags?

Don’t look at anything that makes you feel bad about yourself. There are plenty of fashion magazines and blogs out there that celebrate real beauty through the images they share and the language they use surrounding fashion. Personally, some of my recent favorites are:

What words of encouragement do you want to share with those struggling with fat talk?

Choose to redefine beauty in your life. Invite your friends and loved ones to encourage you about more than just your appearance, opting instead for complimenting you on who you are and how that is beautiful. Also, when you feel the fat talk coming out or creeping into your thought life, choose to squash it down as a lie, replacing it with a truth about something that is good and truly beautiful.

Natalie is a writer, blogger and creative consultant who lives in north county San Diego with her hilarious and charming husband Brian and their very scruffy adopted pup, Maggie. A lover of the written word, avocados, beach picnics and champagne, she believes that beauty comes from who we are—not what we look like—and lives life accordingly. She shares her thoughts on beauty, style, wellness and life at thoughtsbynatalie.com.

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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

Weekend Wonderment 8.24.13

This was a week where the topic of loneliness went viral. Check out this incredible 3-D perspective on loneliness in our very “connected” world.

And here is a spot on article noting how loneliness is a bigger threat to our health than weight issues.  Truth.

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Raw, real and gloriously authentic, Dr. Brené Brown talks church.

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Interesting, informative insights on anxiety, eating disorders and schizophrenia.  Increased understanding about the spectrum of mental illness will ensure more people get the help they need.

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Swoon over this mash up of “Brave” by Sara Bareilles (a personal favorite) and Katy Perry’s new song, “Roar”.  Watch, be awed and left with a big smile on your face.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-wa1_y6uZQ

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An apology letter from a former weight loss consultant stirred up a lot of chatter on the interweb. Provocative, sincere, honest, this letter offers a unique perspective from the heart of the diet industry.

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Back to school must haves: These adorable “gentle reminders” pencils would be a wonderful gift to a student you know heading back to school or for anyone needing some fun encouragement.  And I am loving this sweater that screams fall in my favorite color.  How cool that you can have it custom made to fit you.  I am in line to order mine this week.

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Busy is the new “fine” but we are living at a pace that is unsustainable.  It is time to (re) define success and make wellness a priority as we follow our dreams and passions.

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My husband and I have been having so. much. fun with this cookbook.  I love Deb Perelmen’s blog, too.  Her latest post is full of peaches, glorious peaches which is appropriate for National Peace Month. She always uses real food that never sacrifices flavor with simple techniques = pure palette joy.

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Just because.  🙂

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In awe and wonder –

Rebecca