Q&A Series: Paleo Unpacked

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla:  So, what are the drawbacks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla:  And what about limiting grains?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Twist on Dealing with Negative Body Image

Negative Body Image.

In my tribe of Eating Disorder Treatment Specialists, we often say negative body image is the first to come and the last to leave in the treatment of food and body issues.

And that is a pretty constant truth from the many recovery journeys I have witnessed over the years.

My clients have taught me some more nuanced facts about body image, regardless of whether they have had a full blown eating disorder or not.

Everyone has (at least) a bad body image day.

Depending on where you fall, if at all, on the disordered eating spectrum, dealing with dark, obsessive, and/or negative thoughts and compulsions regarding your body is a part of the gig when dealing with disordered eating.

You may recognize all too well some of these reccurring negative thoughts used to bully and shame yourself – just fill in the blanks with your own words to customize these statements to your experience:

My ____ is so ____.
I feel so ______.
I am so ______.
My _____ looks so ____.
I just need to___.
When I _____ I will be _____.
I hate my_____.
My _____ will always/never be_____.

Ugh.

So many try to manage these thoughts and feelings by stuffing them and putting on their “I love my body” and “It’s all good” masks of virtue, hiding the truth that they are living at war with their body. Others externalize these thoughts and add to the cacophony of negative body talk and diet talk.

And this is where things often spiral.

Many try to manage the pain of being in their skin and their body shame by:

  • over exercising
  • restrictive eating
  • dieting
  • mindless, emotional eating
  • comparing
  • competing
  • shaming
  • all of the above

And this can lead to a dark journey into the world of eating disorders and disordered eating.  Yet, many hover in this place of emotional ickiness where they cannot shake the uneasiness of living in their skin and make genuine, though harmful, attempts to get relief.

For many of you, this battle really is not about your body.

If my client is stable emotionally and physically, and her needs are met nutritionally, then I often look at negative body image as a sign of something bigger.

Like when you get that scratchy throat feeling.  It is a sign you are on the verge of getting really sick; it is not just about the sore throat.  You know you need to rest, to take some extra Vitamin C, drink some tea, ask for help with projects, cut back on your social calendar.

When the yuck of a bad body image moment comes up, it is often a sign of something else going on in your life.  I move my clients away from the laser focus obsessions on what needs to change with their body and pull back the blinders to look at what else is going on in their life.

If you are feeling this way, it is important to asses:

  • if you are you getting enough rest,
  • how you are adjusting to weight restoration or weight loss (yes, weight loss can be very triggering)
  • stressors
  • social support — safe, sustainable, available social support
  • if you daily activities are life giving or draining
  • dieting behaviors
  • traumatic or distressing life events that have gone untreated
  • if your temperament is perfectionistic, obsessive-compulsive, cares big, and feels emotions intensely
  • labs taken within the last month and making sure all physical systems are operating well and your body’s needs are being met

I have learned that setting the expectation to always be comfortable in your skin is a set up for continual frustration and feelings of hopelessness.  (Not helpful…)

The key is not to focus on the goal of eradicating negative body image days (though the parallel process is to decrease the frequency and intensity of those days, for sure)  but instead to respond on those days, weeks, months when you are feeling crappy in your skin DIFFERENTLY.

Instead of defaulting to negative food and body obsessions and action, I work with my clients on how to acknowledge what they are really feeling and what they are really thinking in that moment. 

Then we focus on respecting those thoughts and feelings in the moment.  I also emphasize the truth in how my clients feel.  What they feel is always real but rarely is it ever fact.

Finally, we focus on how to respond differently when body hatred arises.  Instead of stuffing, minimizing or denying — which only fuel the negative thoughts and coping tools — I work with my clients on accessing new tools and strategies when the dreaded body yuck surfaces.

When there is too much focus on feeling better in your body and not looking at the correlation with bad body image to other factors — physical, emotional, social, and spiritual — then I think we are limiting the potential of experiencing true health and true healing.

And it is ok not to love your body all the time.

But I think it is imperative to focus on respecting your body and being grateful for your body — even when you do not like it.

You can actually dislike your body while also showing your body respect and gratitude.  Eventually, respect and gratitude will win if you hang in there.

For example, there are a good handful of people I know that I do not care for but I respect them, treat them with dignity and kindness, and find space for being genuinely grateful for the challenging relationship.

Consider this strategy in your relationship with your body.

With heavy doses of respect and gratitude in addition to responding differently to your bad body image days, the feeling of your body never being enough may dissipate, and an eventual truce with your body may be declared.

And if one of those days surfaces again, the hope is you do not shame yourself for backsliding in your recovery but see your body image woes as a clue, a hint to investigate what is out of sorts in your life.

All the while administering generous doses of respect and gratitude.

How do you deal with your bad body image days?
Do you agree that it is not realistic to achieve a space where you never have a bad body image day?

With respect and gratitude –

Rebecca

 

Doing the Work: We are in it Together

 

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

There is no “us and them” with shame.

Shame just levels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best laid plans…

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

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

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

Yeah, it was a scrappy prayer time.

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

At one point, I dropped into the shame zone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is hard and important work.

But never forget, we are all in it together.

Rebecca

Everybody Knows Somebody: NEDAW 2013

 

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2013 is wrapping up tomorrow.  This year’s theme is a repeat: “Everybody Knows Somebody.”

I have been thinking a lot lately about the people I have had the honor to meet and work with over the last (almost) 10 years. I wish I could share with you the intricate details of their stories of heartbreak, despair, pain, victory, and perseverance.  They have taught me so much about the disordered eating spectrum, grace, humility, and redemption.

What I can do is share with you how many of the people you interact with every single day are hurting inside and masking it so well that you have no idea what is really going on in their minds, hearts, and souls.

You are around people every day who are terrified of being found out, misunderstood, judged:

  • for eating a “bad” food;
  • for binging+purging;
  • for living on caffeine and crumbs;
  • for doing things with food and their body that would make your toes curl;
  • for being overweight and seen as lazy, stupid, a burden to society;
  • for not being able to manage life without their disordered eating thoughts and behaviors;
  • for their life being so chaotic, out of control, unsafe;
  • for hurting and hating their bodies, their lives, their existence.

You see their smile, their amazing work ethic, the kind disposition. You laugh at their jokes and praise them for their faithful service and always being available to help.

Or you may be distracted by their extra weight, their health struggles, their mood swings and think it is just about the food, just a phase, or simply manipulative attention-seeking.

Think again. It is probably so much more.

We live in a culture that is not showing any signs of letting up with the pressure to fit into a certain size, shape, look, way of being.  While there are more and more people desiring authenticity and courage — and stepping up and living it — there are still so many people you know who are terrified of being seen in their pain, their darkness, their cesspool of destructive choices.

I hear many cheer on stories and acts of vulnerability. I deeply admire those sharing their stories while living a life of courage. It is medicine for the collective soul.

But when I step out of the safe zone of my home, my inner circle of support and Potentia, I am up to my eyeballs in snark, criticism, bitterness, cruelty, bullying, and fear. Yes, there is hope and light amidst the toxic culture we live in, but wow. It is intense out there and many are breaking under the pressure.

You may not notice these individuals screaming loudly from inside their minds, but look again.

You may be too busy, overwhelmed, or caught up in your our pain to see that others are struggling, too, right in front of you. Understandable. It is hard to be human.

Or you may think really seeing, sitting with, and empathizing with someone’s pain is too hard, unbearable. Indeed. That kind of connection is a full body commitment and investment. Healthy boundaries (not walls) are needed so you can discern what your limits are on any given day.

But I think we can no longer tolerate looking away from the pain of those around us. This is volatile ground to tread. But when you hear someone speaking poorly about their body, dieting (the gateway drug for eating disorders), negligent with how they nourish and care for themselves, please do not tell them how to change or look away.

Please do slow down and listen. Build a relationship with the person you are concerned about. Ask questions. Seek to understand. Listen some more. That in itself is so life-giving to someone living in emotional isolation.

I hear many people say, “I do not get eating disorders. That is not my struggle.” You may not struggle with food and body issues, but I suspect you know full well what it is like to feel alone, rejected, ashamed, overwhelmed, afraid, and helpless. So yes, you can connect with someone struggling with an eating disorder regardless of whether that is a part of your story.

Eating Disorders, Disordered Eating and all the related issues — obsessions with counting calories + dieting + eating “healthy,” good food/bad food, excessive working out, anxiety, compulsions, depression, suicidal thoughts, self harm behaviors, body shame, unhealthy perfectionism — are attempts for people to chase the ache of the core negative belief, “I am not worthy of love.”

At the heart of a lot of the wellness issues in our country is deep emotional pain. Genetics, family of origin, trauma, temperament, and distressing life events all play intricate roles in this complex and damaging illness, and the reductive solutions offered by many are fueling the pain, not relief.

As this year’s NEDAW wraps up, remember:

  • Everybody knows somebody in the process of recovering from somewhere on the disordered eating spectrum;
  • Everybody knows somebody who is painfully concerned with how she is perceived by others;
  • Everybody knows somebody giving up a food group or going on a diet with the hopes it will cure their emotional pain or physical ailments, only to be left unsatisfied and under-nourished;
  • Everyone knows someone who would rather hurt herself than somebody else;
  • Everybody knows somebody that is deceptively in deep emotional pain screaming out for help behind her smile and put-together demeanor;
  • Everybody knows someone who defines herself solely by the darkness of her story;
  • Everybody knows somebody who repeatedly talks negatively about her body, oozing with self-hatred and disgust when she looks in the mirror;
  • Everybody knows somebody who fears being fat, thinks she is fat, feels fat regardless of the facts;
  • Everyone knows someone who exercised for hours on end to the point of injury;

Everybody Knows Somebody.

You Know Somebody.

If you want to learn more about the disordered eating spectrum, check out the National Eating Disorder Association website. It is an incredible resource for those who are struggling with and those who are learning about eating disorders.

How have you reached out to someone struggling? What was difficult? What went well? Please do share!

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

 

Show Up + Be Seen

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

 

Show Up + Be Seen

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

Show Up + Be Seen

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

Show Up + Be Seen

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

Show Up + Be Seen

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

Show up + Be Seen

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

Show up + Be Seen

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

Show up + Be Seen

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

Show up and Be Seen

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

Show Up + Be Seen

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

Show up + Be Seen

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

Show up + Be Seen

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

Show up + Be Seen

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

Show up + Be Seen

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

Show Up + Be Seen

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

———

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

Rebecca

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

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

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

(re) define Valentine’s Day

Be known by love

Another Valentine’s Day is here.  At my house, there is an explosion of hearts: garland, paper, stickers, lights, plates, cookie molds, place mats, table cloths and more.  It has been fun to celebrate love with the three people I adore the most on this planet and who are responsible for healing my heart+increasing its capacity to give and receive love.

But this day was not always a fun one for me.  When I was in elementary school, I would measure my loveableness by comparing the number of valentine’s I received in my uniquely decorated tissue box and then comparing that amount with the booty my other classmates received.

In high school, I did not have a boyfriend (though I always had a crush or two) but would be privy to the elaborate date night plans my friends and their sweet hearts would make for this oh, so coveted of nights.  It was fun to hear about all the fun ideas and caring gestures my friends would put together.  Yet, behind my smiles and words of support, was a heart wanting to be seen + loved.

It was not Valentine’s Day for me.  It was Vulnerability Day in neon lights.

Now, I am especially grateful for the people in my life day in and day out who show me continually what it means to be loved and feel loveable – even when I am far from that.  I am thankful for a God who loves me in the fiercest of ways though that fact is so hard for my mind to comprehend in the noisiness of this world.

Yet, I am still keenly aware of how hard this day is for many.

It is salt on the wounds of loneliness, desire and longing.

This day can poke at the cumulative distressing life events stored in your heart+mind depleting your motivation to do what you need to care well for yourself.  While I have seen EMDR help many experience healing from distressing events in their lives, I know safe and loving relationships are crucial for sustained healing.

So when I read Anne Lamott‘s Facebook post on Sunday, I was inspired. I also laughed out loud – because she has that way with her words – getting you to laugh about the most deeply painful experiences because she taps into what is shared by so many.

Here is an excerpt of her post:

I would estimate that approximately 17% of people enjoy Valentine’s day. Mostly, women will be given boxes of chocolates that they don’t want and can’t resist, and will be really mad at themselves for inhaling. Many people will be filled with resentment, anxiety, and guilt at having forgotten, or having shown up late, or having accidentally been having affairs with other people. Many people will feel a sheet-metal sense of loneliness and rejection. They will be comparing their insides with other people’s outsides, especially those happy valentines actors in advertisements and commercials.

Most of the day, except for the lucky few, will be a nightmare.

So let’s start an Occupy Valentine’s Day movement.

Let’s begin with the premise that another word for Valentine’s Day is Thursday. And on Thursday, as an act of radical self-care, we will celebrate the miracle that a few people love us SO much, that we can go on, and bear up, no matter what; that even though they know the darkest, most human and intimate and disgusting stuff about us, they still love us. In fact, they love us more and more through the years. This is so wild, and is really my only hope. It is what salvation looks like. A handful of friends is the reason my faith in God is so deep. Because they ARE love; they (along with the dogs) are my most obvious connection to divine love in this joint, the looks of love on their faces.

I think Anne is definitely on to something.

So let’s follow Anne’s lead and get all subversive on the current rituals and commercial imagery of Valentine’s Day.  It is in need of a make over and I think we are up for the challenge.

If you are wrestling with feeling loved and finding meaning, please know you are not alone.  Listen for the collective shout out’s rallying from those who are wrestling with their own heartache+despair.  Look behind the masks of “I am fine.”, “It is no big deal.” and “Don’t worry about me.”

Hug. Write a note. Make that phone call. Send a text.  Reach out.  Listen.

Take the bubble bath.  Wrap up in your cozy blanket. Listen to the music that evokes the emotions you are trying to numb out.  Get outside and breathe in some fresh air.  Let some sunshine radiate in on the darkness you are fighting.

I do not need a day to celebrate those in my life who love me regardless.  But I agree with Anne Lamott: it is indeed a miracle to have their love. And that is what I am going to celebrate with extra care and intention tomorrow.

Who is the person you want to celebrate in honor of the love they have given you?

How are you going to show love and respect for yourself+others outside of the traditional hype tomorrow?

Do share!  I want to celebrate with you.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

Getting Comfortable in Your Skin: Action Steps to Take Now

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you add to this list?

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

Holding the Numbers Lightly

lifetooshort

 

Numbers.

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

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

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

I am referring to the number:

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

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

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

I ask them to get rid of their scale.

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

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

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

I always respect this resistance. I get it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…at the right time in your healing journey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But please hold the numbers lightly.

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

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

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

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

Cheering you on —

Rebecca

Because I Can.

 

I will

  • crawl into my daughter’s bed in the middle of the night and not worry about waking her up from her slumber;
  • tuck and re-tuck the covers over my son’s sleeping body while watching his chest rise + fall;
  • never cease to be grateful for my amazing teacher+lifeguard husband who rescued my heart the day we met;
  • not push aside the quiet nudges to reach out to someone when I am thinking about him/her;
  • allow myself to sink into the pain of grief+loss+horror of those I do not know but with whom I still feel connected;
  • cling to the promises of my faith to guide my way during the unfathomable;
  • stop taking so much for granted only to be woken up by senseless tragedy;
  • fight to keep blame+bitterness+fear from consuming my thought life by limiting my intake of news and social media;
  • live a life that would honor the innocent souls whose lives ended way to early;
  • live a life of courage reflected by those who put others’ lives before their own in the face of danger;
  • continue to advocate for + treat those who seek healing from traumatic/distressing life events;
  • respect the different ways people grieve and hold that space with tenderness;
  • remind myself the only person I can change is myself knowing changes I make start the domino effect of change on a grander scale;
  • pray without ceasing for the Sandy Hook Elementary Community;

because I can. 

Rebecca

PS: Here are some excellent resources for talking with the young people in your life about tragedies put together by high school teacher, Larry Ferlazzo (hat tip Joanna Poppnick), and Brene Brown.  I also love this post on what to say and what NOT to say to someone who is grieving.  Brilliant!