Be the Gift. Give yourself the gift of forgetting about yourself, the to-do lists, the plans, the appointments, the shoulds and have-tos. Thank you, Ann, for this heartfelt reminder. I needed it this weekend.
Never, ever, ever forget: You are Loved. Thanks to Jeanne Oliver Designs for bringing this to my attention. Blessed.
Beautiful, grounding, convicting. Read this and then take note where you feel your heart tugged to redirect how you spend your time today.
Darling is taking orders for their fall issue. Order now and receive their latest print magazine full of beautiful photo shopped-free pictures, lovely words printed on gorgeous paper and receive the digital version as a free bonus.
Here is more brilliance from Barn Owl Primitives (where I purchased the We Can Do Hard Things sign seen as you enter my therapy office). These are words that I want to flow out of my heart to my kids – especially during this season of preparation for and transition to school and the big, big world. May we all live these words and not just say them. Actions indeed speak louder than words.
No, juicing is not an eating disorder but for some it can be a disordered eating ritual masked in the spirit of healthful living. I appreciate this honest and humorous perspective of a world where the efforts to be healthy are sometimes a bridge to orthorexia (the obsession with eating healthy) and, well, deep hunger. Now head over to Kayla’s Q&A with Megan on juice cleanses for some facts on this practice.
A common area of struggle I see in my office is managing the in-betweens of life: relationships, jobs, school, physical health, and so on. Jeff Goins’ new book will encourage and challenge you to savor your in-betweens. The tension created in times of waiting can be the catalyst for our best art, so slow down and do not rush your in-betweens.
In three weeks, will host the third installment of our Seasons of Life Workshop series. I often joke and say once the month of September has finished the year is done! Time seems to go into warp speed with holidays, school activities, work, and celebrations. This lovely workshop led by our Yoga Coordinator, Kelly Schauermann, will help ground you as you kick off your fall season.
Who should register?
This workshop is for anyone who desires a couple of hours of peace, reflection, connection, and rest.
Why should you attend?
It is valuable to look back and reflect on what you have learned so far this year. This workshop will help you focus on how you can harvest and implement this new knowledge as you turn the corner into a fast-paced fall season.
What makes this workshop unique?
The tools used in the Seasons of Life yoga workshop are gentle stretches and beginner yoga poses, small group and personally focused reflections, mindful breathing, and journal writing. Participants can enjoy a warm cup of tea or a refreshing glass of water and snacks after the workshop. Those who attend will also receive personal support from Kelly, who is an incredibly experienced and skilled instructor passionate about ensuring every participant feels safe and comfortable. She often adds special touches to each of her workshops, customized to those participating.
What should you bring?
Please bring your own mat, blankets and any supportive props you may use if you have a yoga or stretching practice. And if you do not have a mat or props, no problem! Just let Kelly know as she has a few extras for you to use.
If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.
Brené Brown – Hustle for Worthiness
You are living your life on the sidelines when you:
are trying to make sure everyone approves of you. “Everyone” has differing views, opinions, and needs, so it is exhausting to try and keep “everyone” happy. And since it is impossible to please “everyone”, the hustle is perpetuated.
are hiding parts of your story for fear of rejection and judgement. Your story is YOUR beautiful mess and glory-of-a-story. When you deny speaking and living your story and delegate your worth to “everyone” else, you end up missing out on true connection, healing, and joy.
are avoiding dealing with deep soul pain (or even surface wounds) for fear it will leave you alone or cause you more pain. Hustling for worthiness is an excellent numbing agent to fear, shame, pain, and keeps you from reaching out and asking for help. But this hustle is not sustainable and can become a gateway to some serious issues emotionally, physically, relationally, and in your faith journey.
believing the lies that you are not worthy of love and belonging. This is the ultimate lie of shame. And when this belief is driving the motivation behind your thoughts and actions, then you are living life on the sidelines but deeply longing for a sense of worth and belonging – for which you are hardwired.
At this workshop, we gather together to view an exclusive video of Brené Brown sharing her powerful research on perfectionism, shame, and vulnerability. Participants enjoy a lovely spread of food, a stocked art bar for creative inspiration, and a journal to use to take notes and document reflections.
What makes this workshop unique?
Hustle for Worthiness is different from our other workshops in that it intentionally does not have a lot of structure. This is our introductory workshop offered in a safe and casual community. The video we show is not available for purchase, so this is one of the few venues in which you can view it.
Who should register?
A lot of people attend this workshop because of their connection to me, one of the members of the Potentia team and/or their connection with Brené’s powerful message.
Friends, family, significant others are welcome. You do not have to be a client of Potentia to attend. Part of the power of this work is that it brings us together. Connection and community help you put into practice your shame resilience skills.
If you have mustered up the courage to come alone, please say hello. I think you’re freakin’ amazing! Just the act of showing up to a group where you will be seen is vulnerable and brave and proves you are tired of living your life on the sidelines.
Is this workshop only offered in San Diego?
For those of you in SoCal, I would love to see you at our next Hustle for Worthiness Workshop. It usually sells out, so make sure to register soon if you would like to join us.
If you do not live in the area, I am happy to connect you to someone in The Daring Way community who could facilitate a workshop for your community. Just send me an email at email@example.com.
Every time our Potentia team hosts this workshop, I find it truly magical to see people take in Brene’s words and feverishly write down the powerful nuggets that spoke to them. Expect to exhale deeply, laugh out loud, and elbow your friend knowingly. It happens every time!
Note: HFW alumni who want to bring a friend, your registration fee is on me. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as I only have a limited number of slots available for alumni.
PS – And do not forget to register soon if you want to attend. This workshop is expected to sell out. And for every workshop you register for in the month of August, you receive an entry to win a $100 Anthropologie gift card.
For the last several years, I have started writing posts about the mixed messages of celebrating eating contests and the dangerous impact reverberated by these mixed messages – but I have never finished them. This year, I am pushing back on my unhealthy perfectionism and finishing a post I started earlier this month. I hear the PR voice in my head saying it is too late and the peak for sharing this has passed.
Well, so be it.
The fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I am a fireworks fanatic and this year we brought both of our kids to watch the glorious display of firework fun in the sky. This holiday is a lovely time to rest, play, and celebrate.
But one tradition around this holiday frustrates and concerns me: Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest and the many iterations that have followed its popularity. Some of my friends and family think I am a bit of a buzzkill for not being a fan of this kind of eating. Such is my life as an eating disorder specialist – I cannot unlearn what I know about the physical and emotional dangers of binge eating and Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
You may have no obvious physical signs or symptoms when you have binge-eating disorder. You may be overweight or obese, or you may be at a normal weight. However, you likely have numerous behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms, such as:
Eating unusually large amounts of food
Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
Eating rapidly during binge episodes
Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
Frequently eating alone
Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
Experiencing depression and anxiety
Feeling isolated and having difficulty talking about your feelings
Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
Losing and gaining weight repeatedly, also called yo-yo dieting
After a binge, you may try to diet or eat normal meals. But restricting your eating may simply lead to more binge eating, creating a vicious cycle.
(Notation from Rebecca: Many fall somewhere along the spectrum of BED. You do not need to have all of these symptoms to struggle with the issue. Denial, minimizing, and rationalizing often keep people from getting the help they need because they do not feel like it is that serious.)
5 reasons eating contests hurt our collective psyche around food
1. Eating contests give the impression that binge eating is always a choice. As of May, Binge Eating Disorder is now a clinical diagnosis in the new DSM-V. This is a huge victory for those who struggle with these issues along with those who are passionate about treatment and advocacy. Prior to BED officially being placed in the DSM -V, there was a lot of controversy around whether this diagnosis should be included; many thought this diagnosis was making excuses for those making bad choices. If this struggle was simply fixed by a choice, there would not be millions of people struggling with this serious issue. Addressing core issues such as attachment wounds, anxiety, depression, distressing life events and traumas, perfectionism, shame, and identity issues are at the heart of this struggle, not a simple choice. The choice available to those with BED is reaching out and asking for helping instead of staying stuck in the cycle of shame, pain, isolation, and physical distress.
2. Eating contests make BED and related behaviors a joke and sport to many. We laugh. We cringe. We build up the hype. It is a business and we are buying into it. This recent Forbes post on whether eating contests should be considered a sport noted:
“While spectators question the validity of such a label, its organizers say there is no confusion – competitive eating is a serious business in the world of sport.”
Man Vs. Food with Adam Richman (I confess, I adore Adam — he is so endearing!) is a perfect example of eating as sport. Adam travels to a new town each episode to discover a city’s best sandwich or meal and then engages in a restaurant’s food challenge by eating an insane amount of food in a designated time period. People are around him cheering him on as he takes his body on a dangerous episode of binge eating — for all the world to watch.
But my work with people on the disordered eating spectrum has taught me food competitions do great harm to our collective understanding of eating disorders and related health issues. This double standard keeps people struggling with BED spectrum in silence, fear of reaching out for help and making binge eating behaviors a joke. A sport.
Binge Eating Disorder is not a sport. Though many who participate in these eating contests may not fit the clinical diagnosis of BED, many of the behaviors mirror this serious illness. When we make binge eating cool to watch, we decrease the seriousness of this issue. It is time to stop the jokes and change the dialogue around this issue.
As long as we are watching, cheering on, and participating, eating contests will be good for business. And bad for health – mind, body, and soul.
3. Binge eating is very hard on your body. If you have ever seen the line-up at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, you can see a representation of different ages, genders, and sizes of those who down dozens of hot dogs in a matter of minutes. Physically, binge eaters are at risk for developing: type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, joint and muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, sleep apnea, and other related health concerns. Professional binge eaters have the same health risks as those who are clinically struggling with BED. This is not something to be celebrated or perpetuated.
4. We have become obsessed with talking about food and eating contests just add to this unhealthy obsession. Food is personal and how we choose to feed ourselves is a very vulnerable topic. How we eat, what we eat, when we eat, and where we eat are all hot topics that can breed food shame and discord instead the joy of breaking bread with family and friends. Eating contests (and most reality shows for that matter) encourage us to become professional judgers and blamers. We talk about “good food vs. bad food” as if we are talking about sinning or staying pure; we Instagram our meals with a sense of awe and worship; the latest trends in eating, dieting, health dominate the majority of our conversations. We are obsessed with food. This obsession masks core issues of identity, worth, shame while fueling anxiety and depression. And the resistance to looking deeper is intense – understandably as it is much easier to talk about food than the messy, vulnerable, deep soul stuff.
5. Eating contests are a waste of food when so many are food insecure in our country and our world. In our country alone, food insecurity impacts about 15% of households. I often wonder about the positive impact companies and businesses that promote eating contents could make if they took their resources of time and money and fought hunger instead. We can change this demand by choosing not to watch and not to participate – which will shift how companies spend their advertising dollars.
Post your feedback below and let me know what you think about eating contests? Do you think binge eating is just a choice? I look forward to your thoughts on this controversial subject.
Happy belated 4th of July (take that perfectionism!) –
On my way to Potentia earlier this week, I listened to an interview on NPR with Dr. T Berry Brazelton. He is known as the “baby whisperer” and has been a go-to resource for parents for six decades. You can catch the whole interview here.
Towards the end of the interview, Dr. Brazelton shared about an encounter with a women in a grocery store.
It took my breathe away.
Dr. Brazelton saw a women struggling with her 2 year old while grocery shopping. The mother then began hitting her screaming child. In seeing this, Dr. Brazelton walked up to the mother and said, “It is so hard… to take a two year old to the grocery store.”
After those words, the mother immediately started to cry. She held her toddler and they began to reconnect and repair. The child even started to wipe the tears off of his mother’s face.
“It is so hard…”
This story gripped me in so many ways.
Spoken words in time of vulnerability, fatigue and overwhelm were medicine for this mom.
Instead of judgement, she received compassion.Instead of chastising, she received kindness.
And healing began immediately between mother and child.
I was so touched and convicted listening to the recollection of this story – as I have been judged and can also be the judger.
I have felt the judgements, seen the eye rolls and heard the whispers of critique about me or my children.
I have also stepped on my high-horse of “I am right. You are wrong.” when all someone needed was a hug and to be heard.
At Potentia, I regularly hear about experiences of condemnation, self-loathing, rejection, isolation, abandonment and the aftershocks these experiences have left on their hearts – rocking their souls.
It takes immense courage to speak of such pain. It is so hard…
being a parent
recovering from food and body issues
sitting in the aftermath of a failed marriage or relationship
feeling lonely and disconnected
trying to heal from depression, anxiety
being the person you are called to be
taking a stand
feeling like no one understands
asking for help
giving the undeserved gift of grace
receiving the undeserved gift of grace
believing you not an exception to God’s grace, love and sacrifice
not letting shame corrode your sense of worth and purpose
healing from sexual, emotional, physical abuse
forgiving yourself for being relentless in beating yourself up.
It is so hard to be human.
When times are tough, self care is down and the worst parts of ourselves come to the surface – we can feel unlovable, make bad choices, do harm to self or others.
And in those moments, we can choose to add to someone’s pain or help relieve it.
When we find ourselves in the dark zone of the messiness of life and are offered the hand of grace through kind words or gestures, we can choose to receive it instead of shutting down.
I think what made Dr. Brazelton’s words so powerful and able to penetrate this woman’s heart was his sincerity and the tone of his voice. He was disarming and genuine. Not condescending or patronizing.
But by the grace of God can I strive to live a life that facilitates healing and forgive myself promptly when my quick tongue rises up to judge someone or myself.
These words: grace, compassion, kindness – are words we are all drawn too. But to really live these words and put them into action takes guts. And tenacity. And the willingness to mess up and not be perfect.
I see this courage and determination in my office everyday. I see it in my kids and in my husband.
Just imagine someone approaching you with respect and kindness during a time of exposed “raw and real”.
And what if we stopped the eye-rolling, the judgemental thoughts, the whispers under our breathe but still loud enough to be heard?
And think of what our little worlds of influence would be like if we REALLY lived grace instead of judging and the distancing “tsk tsks”.
We judge in the areas we are most vulnerable. Fear drives these kinds of judgements. Getting clear on your vulnerabilities can help you be a vessel for healing in your own life and in the lives of those around you.
Giving compassion to self and others+receiving the undeserved gift of grace is like a cool glass of water on a hot day.
We are all in the desert doing the best we can.
It is so hard. Trust me. I know.
I may not know your specific experience but I know what it is like to be out there, exposed, afraid and broken.
And I am where I am at today because I have received from others, myself and God the permission to be a hot mess and find redemption in my mistakes.
Self-loathing is culture’s homeostasis and it is simply not sustaining.
It takes living from a place of love, confidence, selflessness and respect to be the person to give compassion as Dr. Brazelton did.
And love bombs like the one Dr. Brazelton dropped on the mother in the grocery story can create sustaining change in our world.
I have received love bombs this week from my friend Madison who came to help out my family while my husband was on a work trip. And words of affirmation came my wayvia emails from Nancy and Lauren and a voice mail message from Marc – all of which brought tears to my eyes.
I was struck at how their kind word and gestures were difficult to receive. But I sat with their love bombs – and they quenched my thirst to be seen and understood.
So my challenge to you this week is this: drop some love bombs in your world of influence. At least three.
Your love bomb may be an email to someone, a phone call, a text. You may go old school and write a letter. Whatever you do, keep these words in mind: It is so hard… And remember – Less is more. Tone is key. Let empathy – not distancing sympathy – guide you. And let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
I would also love to know about any love bombs that have been dropped on you lately. Were they hard to receive? How did you receive them?
Cheering you on –
PS. Potentia’s cornerstone workshop – Cultivating Courage – is an incredible place to get clear on your vulnerabilities, work on rewiring judgements and building resilience to shame. We believe this work is a game-changer in how we do all aspects of life. I would love to see you at one of our future workshops. Please email me at email@example.com with any questions or post them below.
Last week, two women I think the world of personally and professionally, Tara Gentile and Brigitte Lyons, wrote to their list of business owners and thought leaders about how fear, anxiety, and the “not enough” storyline can hold us back from living out our purpose; our calling. I am grateful for their words on a topic so dear to my heart.
Brigitte took my breathe away when she asked this powerful question in her last email,
“Are you letting fear keeping you from being found?”
And Tara had me saying, “Amen” out loud after I read these words:
“The stories we tell are the stories of the people we serve. But all too often we pay more attention to parroted beliefs and limiting thoughts than the actual, expansive stories that are playing out in front of us, with us.”
I have learned first hand your personal belief about yourself can nourish or kill creativity and the clarity on your calling.
So I am writing this post to all of you who are not writing, creating, launching, leading, speaking, not showing up because fear, anxiety and negative core beliefs are keeping you from living your purpose. I am writing to all of you who are afraid of being found.
Sometimes it is hard to discern between rationale fear and irrational fear.
Rational fear keeps us safe from death or harm.
Irrational fear tells us we will die or be greatly harmed but it is not based in fact – even though every brain cell firing tells us to stop, freeze, numb out and hide.
Sure, you can push back on irrational fear and its first cousins: anxiety, worry, stress which feed the “not enough” thoughts.
But changing the narrative of “not enough” is not always a simple switch to flip. And leaning on sheer willpower is not a sustaining source of change. When the willpower fuel tank runs out, shame and fear are the fumes that run our lives if we are not careful.
Trust me. I have lived seasons of my life on sheer willpower and these toxic fumes only to get burned out and crash hard.
Three years ago, I began to make plans to move Potentia from just a website to having a collaborative practice of specialized, highly trained professionals all under one roof in a space that felt safe, homey and inspired healing and creativity.
I had also recently given birth to our second child and had a lot of big dreams burdening my heart but struggled with finding the space and the systems to execute them.
I was full of joy but at the same time I also hit a wall with my own expectations of myself. Then the green monsters of jealousy, envy and perfectionism took hold and it got pretty ugly in my brain and soul. Given my season of life, I was tired and did not have the usual freedom to connect with my support system.
Where there is isolation, shame and doubt have a party.
I was my own worst enemy as God continued to prod at my my heart for me to trust Him and His leading of me and this dream He had given me.
God trusted me with this dream. I just did not trust myself.
I have found that the “never enough” belief is able to be diminished but if you are driven, desire excellence and have big dreams, then it never really goes away. This is a vulnerable and tenuous space to hold in your heart and mind.
I saw this tension in my previous careers in politics, advertising, international youth work and see this tension now in my work with my clients – many of which are filled with an entrepreneurial spirit as business owners, corporate executives, ministry leaders, creatives, educators, therapists.
Developing a practice of community, connection and self-care is a non-negotiable for any creative, dreamer, leader, parent, business owner ie: human.
And this is a life long practice.
This practice is one of shame resilience. A practice cultivating courage so we can all dare to show up, speak truth, ask for help, take a break, write the check, say yes, say no, press publish, send the email.
Managing fear and doubt is still not easy but these emotions sure as heck do not blind-side me like they used to. Studying disordered eating, trauma/distressing life events and shame resilience have had a profound impact on my own life.
As Brené Brown regularly says, “You study what you need to know.”
And I love supporting my clients and those in the Potentia community in their goals to (re) define health in their own life personally and professionally. Healing distressing life events, food and body issues, traumas and family of origin wounds are not indulgent but often necessary in order to have courage to bench leading, loving, dreaming, launching.
Your fears, worries and negative beliefs are not the enemy. How you respond to them is what jams you up.
Learning how to bench negative and intense emotions is key so these emotions can help inform you instead of paralyze you.
Potentia is offering three options to attend a Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives this year so you can improve your ability to manage negative and intense emotions, identify and re-author the narratives of negative core negative beliefs and begin a practice of shame resilience. We would be honored to help you get unstuck so you can live your life to the fullest.
The world needs you to follow your calling, show up, lead, create and be seen.
What specific fear or belief is holding you back and keeping you stuck?
2013 has been full of some serious body image blues.
You know how it goes:
not feeling comfortable your skin
feeling like none of your clothes fit well
not wanting to see your image in a mirror or a picture
struggling not to be tempted by the false promises and quick fixes of the diet and so-called “wellness” industry
feeling less then, ummm, hubba hubba with your spouse
not wanting to be very social
playing the compare game
A couple things crept in that started to take away from my New Year’s calm and clarity (my word for 2013): lack of sleep because of all things toddler (winter colds, potty training..) and my newly diagnosed asthma. I was missing my time with my boot camp buddies – my one-two punch for social and active time.
I hit a wall. Right about the time I was doubling the staff at Potentia. We just completed two successful cohorts of our 8 week Cultivating Courage workshop and put dates on the calendar for three Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives.
All good stuff.
I was super pumped about all these happenings but was getting really depleted and disconnected from my social support. My health was starting to suffer, too.
And in walked my body image blues right through the front door.
Shame said, “You hypocrite. You are leading these men and women to heal their relationship with their bodies and you do not even feel good about your own. You are a fraud.”
But here is where things took a different turn. My discomfort in my skin did not necessarily dissipate but how I responded to these thoughts and feelings took a rather radical detour.
I practiced, practiced and continue to practice my shame resilience skills. I dug in and wrote my daily gratitudes and read my daily devotions.
I got really clear on my needs and spoke them to my friends and family, not as demands but as requests.
I made my self-care – mind, body and soul – a priority and made sure my schedule reflected these values.
I practiced empathy with myself and others when judgements and crankiness reared their ugly heads.
I re-evaluated my boundaries and made sure I was not setting up walls which protect but also isolate.
I spoke my truth to my really, really safe people.
I now know I am enough even on days I do not feel enough. I can hold that space while I feel yucky and not attack my core worth. Some days it is a bit of a knock down, drag out fight – but shame resilience has helped me run the marathon of living life reflective of my values and my true worth.
Those who work in the eating disorder field are not immune to struggling with their own food and body issues.
And I am no exception.
It was pretty incredible to see how the ongoing practice of shame resilience kept me from dancing in the pit of self-loathing for very long. It has helped me practice respecting my body even when I do not like it much.
Yeah, I am not immune to these thoughts or feelings. But how I respond when they hit has truly been, well, awesome.
And as I say every day in my office, “Rarely are bad body image days about food, weight or the aesthetics of a certain body part.”
Negative body image is often the equivalent of that scratchy throat you get when feel you are starting to get sick. If you ignore the symptoms and do not take extra care to build up your immune system, you will get leveled and feel even worse, taking longer to recover.
And instead of going old-school and obsessing over weight, looks and what others think, my shame resilience skills are (almost) my default now and the obsessive tendencies to measure my worth by the number on the scale (if I had one) or how much I have worked out were not nearly as loud as they used to be.
This new response to shame has been so, so, so freeing and healing. Instead of fearing vulnerability, I have grown to understand and respect its place in my life – though I do not like the feeling of it most of the time.
Reading Brené Brown’s books over the last few years have been so helpful in building my awareness about shame and normalizing the universal experience of shame. I developed a whole new vocabulary.
But these last 9 months training with Brené, Robert Hilliker and the rest of the Connections team to complete my Certified Connections Facilitator Certification moved me from an intellectual insight of this work to a daily (well, mostly daily) practice.
I have seen the fruits of this practice in my marriage, my work as therapist and in my relationships with God, myself and others.
We have three Cultivating Courage Weekend Intensives scheduled for the remainder of this year: June 14-16, Aug 23-25 and Nov 1-3. And my colleague, Molly LaCroix, and I will be launching our 8 week Weekly Cultivating Courage Workshop Series in January 2014.
For those who are local, we have some digging deeper workshops which will be launching this summer to give people a chance to freshen their Shame Resilience skills or have a toe-in-the water experience with this powerful work.
And plans are in the works to take this work online so our Potentia friends outside San Diego can have access to this material, too. Make sure you are signed up to receive email updates so you can get the latest details on all of these happenings.
I would love to know what your questions are about shame and Brené Brown’s shame resilience theory. Please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your questions below. If I feature your question in a future blog post, you will receive a copy of Brené’s most recent book, Daring Greatly. So don’t hold back, I really want to hear from you.
Working on being my own cheerleader while cheering you on, too!
are fighting the paralyzing pain of depression;
have survived those whose lives were taken by the devastation of mental illness;
think life is too unbearable to keep going and hurt deeply beyond words;
tirelessly walk with your loved one struggling with mental illness;
feel like no one understands the darkness of deep emotional pain;
struggle to counter the lies of Darkness.
You are not alone.
We surround you holding our collective hands and pour out prayers from our hearts of encouragement, compassion, empathy and love.
We give witness to your pain, your loss, your struggle, your fight.
We grieve with you even if the words are not available to express our thoughts and feelings.
We hurt with you and wish we could take the pain away.
But at times like these, we look above and run into His arms:
For comfort, peace and the courage to go on;
To find some strand of meaning in the chaos of pain;
To shield us from the cruelty of misunderstandings, judgement and reactionary words of a hurting world.
You are not alone.
PS – If you are contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. If you are the survivor of suicide, here are some incredible resources. And here is a some general information and facts about mental illness.
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_____.
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:
mindless, emotional eating
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)
social support — safe, sustainable, available social support
if you daily activities are life giving or draining
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 respectingthose 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?
Is your definition of health keeping you unhealthy?
Maybe. Maybe not. But I recommend taking a critical look at how you define health in your life and to reflect on how your definition of health is impacting your overall wellness.
When you say something or someone is healthy, what drives your sentiment?
I usually hear the following impacting this statement the most:
And by the frenzy of advertisements everywhere about all of the above, the definition of health in our culture has been skewed to meet the needs of for-profit industries while also fueling disconnection and shame about the food we eat, our bodies, and our stories.
It is time to start thinking critically about the messages we are integrating into our definition of health.
Any person, book, or program that touts drastic weight loss, cutting out major food groups, or specific results is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. None of these diets or “lifestyle choices” are sustaining after 1-2 years. The facts show weight cycling from dieting, disordered eating, and serious eating disorders are continuing to wreak havoc on our health.
I respect and totally get the desire to look good and feel good. Yet, there is a dark side to these pursuits when the meaning and motivations are based on fear, obsession, and untruths.
I am troubled by the loud chorus of people in the medical and wellness fields that are getting on the bandwagon of fear of fat and an over-focus on the number on the scale as a measure of true health.
And I am even hearing health preached from the pulpit. Yet when people in faith communities are equating virtue with the number on the scale or whether you eat certain foods, it only results in more anxiety, confusion, and discontent. Shaming people to lose weight or eat well in the name of God hits below the belt and increases psychological and spiritual wounds.
I am surprised how many people are still using the archaic BMI (Body Mass Index) as an indicator of health. It is simplistic, formulaic, and reductive. The BMI does not take into account your genetics, unique physical makeup, and lifestyle. Yet it is still used as the gold standard for whether someone needs to lose or gain weight.
And I am still skeptical of the FDA standards of the BMI knowing that many of the people on the board have or have had connections to the diet industry. If the BMI is a part of your definition of health, I encourage you to take a step back and reconsider its role.
We do have some serious issues to address regarding wellness in our country, but the myopic focus on weight + good food/bad food is missing so many other factors that contribute towards true health. And until we have a multidimensional view of health, we will keep spinning.
I talk a lot about what health is NOT.
I believe health is not:
determined only by the number on the scale;
achieving the “perfect” body or striving for unhealthy perfection;
eating food restrictively or based on a “good” food or “bad” food mentality;
an obsession with eating healthy where there is no room for flexibility;
dieting and demonizing foods and food groups;
shaming, blaming, or judging self or others.
I also talk a lot about how I define health.
I believe true health is:
finding something you are passionate about and striving to spend most of your waking hours in this space. When people are bored or feel trapped in jobs or situations that drain them of their creativity, their motivation, and ability to sit in vulnerability, this has a negative impact on mental and spiritual health which in turn can develop into physical ailments.
having a relationship with money where you are living within in your means and have enough to give and save. Leaning too heavily on finances as a means of control or comfort gives money way too much power over your peace of mind. And using money as a means to medicate can create chaos and a cycle of stress that negatively impacts mental, physical, and spiritual health.
involvement in your local community. So many people are disconnected from the places they live, but emotional wellness comes when we feel safe, have purpose, and community.
having a faith + regular spiritual practice. Understanding we are loved beyond measure and there is a greater purpose for your life gives perspective and meaning in all circumstances.
having a deep soul connection with a special few individuals who you can be real with, share your fears, mistakes, dreams, and hopes. Feeling heard and understood creates connection. Connection breeds empathy and gratitude. Gratitude impacts how our brains fires and improves our well-being, body, and soul.
living in a body that has energy, its needs met, is rested, moves well, and is free from pain. And when many are living in chronic pain or have chronic illness, practicing the previous five points can actually help improve their physical health. The only numbers of real concern are on your labs checking your bloodwork and other internal functions.
In the days and weeks to come, I will dig even deeper into these components of true health.
I am curious: How do you define health in your life? What do you think of my definition of health? I look forward to and value your thoughts and feedback on this important and controversial topic.