fbpx
801.361.8589 [email protected]
Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

“Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.” -Evelyn Tribole, Intuitive Eating 

Accepting genetic blueprints? Having realistic and kind expectations? YES- these are possible and attainable mindset goals when we shift toward the idea of BODY RESPECT.  

I had an experience this morning with my middle school daughters. Imagine them, 13 and 15, half asleep while I do my best to instill some religion into them before sending them off to the junior high school trenches. We were reading the creation story from the book of Genesis in the Bible- “and God saw that it was good” is a phrase used over and over again as God looked over His creations. I pointed this out to my half asleep teenaged girls- and asked them, “So if God calls the things that He makes ‘good’, what does this suggest about the way we should view God’s creations? Including… ourselves?” I honestly wasn’t expecting much beyond the typical half asleep nods I usually get- but suddenly, my 13 year old perked up, having made a personal connection to what we had been reading. 

“MOM!” she began, “like all my friends need to hear this. THEY ALL talk about how they think their bodies are so gross and they compare bodies all the time. Like can’t we all just look around and say, ‘IT WAS GOOD’!”  

I was kind of surprised at her passion. This really struck a nerve with her- all creations, all bodies- are good. All are worthy of care, respect, and dignity.  

How comfortable are you with acknowledging body diversity-  and calling it good

I believe that all bodies are good bodies. None of our bodies look the same- just like the earth, there is beautiful diversity. I can admire a sweeping mountain vista and not shame it for not being a serene tropical beach. They are both “good”.  

How to practice body respect 

This may be a radical thought to some- but shaming your body isn’t getting you very far. It’s not making you fit differently into your clothes, be more productive, or feel any happier. In fact, body shaming is probably doing the exact opposite: making you feel exhaustingly sluggish and miserable as you go about your everyday tasks.    

In therapy, I like to illustrate this principle by having clients imagine a sweet little baby girl, just learning to walk. Now, as that tiny child embarks on learning this novel skill of walking, imagine standing beside her. What words naturally come to mind when you think of speaking to her?  

“You dumb baby, you still can’t walk? Gosh, all the other babies are figuring this out so much faster than you. Some are even RUNNING, and you can’t figure out a few steps? What is wrong with you? Oh, there you go again. Falling over on yourself. Tripping over your own feet. You are never going to get this right. There is something seriously wrong with you.”  

Did that just make you feel a little sick to your stomach to read? Could you ever picture yourself saying that to a sweet little baby?  

If you were to speak to a baby like that, how far do you imagine she gets in life, how many new things is she willing to try (and sometimes fail at!)? When you stand next to her, constantly critical and harsh, does it set her up for success or failure? This illustration works so well because most of us could never imagine being that awful to a small, innocent child- yet we have no problem being that awful to ourselves. Part of learning to respect your body is taking the time to relearn ways of approaching and speaking to yourself. This isn’t about “letting yourself off the hook”- it’s about learning a new way to interact with yourself, a respectful one. Just like that baby, you will be far more set up for success in life when you shed the constant critical voice inside of you pointing out and emphasizing every misstep.   

Love VS Respect 

You don’t have to LOVE your body. But can you imagine getting to a place where you aren’t beating yourself up constantly? When you put the goal at “LOVE your body!” you are setting yourself up for failure with an unrealistic expectation. Can you set the dial to a more realistic setting of ‘RESPECT your body’?  

Let’s think about that word- respect- and why it may be the right foundation for a healthy relationship with your body. Dictionary.com tells us the definition of respect is: 

“esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability”

A sense of worth, a sense of excellence, a quality or ability- when applied to your body, do you see how this translates to a heck of a lot more than size or appearance? It encompasses being able to comfort a friend with a hug, wrap your arms around your grandmother in greeting and shared affection, appreciating your body for getting you through another long shift at work, and acknowledging her ability to renew and heal after a sickness. There is so much more to the idea of respecting your body than just loving the size or appearance of it!  

As you continue on in the work of healing your relationship with your body, I want you to envision what a respectful relationship with her would look like. Examine your expectations of yourself with fresh eyes.  And more than anything, give yourself permission to start seeing yourself as “good”.  Because you are- you are SO good.

 

The Story of “Too Much”

The Story of “Too Much”

Sit back and relax, because for this week’s blog, I have a story for you to read. Stick with me until the end of the post for the moral of the story!

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had a marvelous talent for inventing machines. From the time she was old enough to pick up a hammer, she created contraptions that amazed everyone in her village. As the girl grew, her inventions became more and more magnificent. Her innovative mind was bursting with ideas for making her village a better place. At age 16, she created her finest invention yet: a complex pulley system that allowed the villagers to transport heavy loads of stone from the quarries, straight to their village building sites.

Word spread about the girl’s village, and the inventions that made it such an amazing place to live. More and more people began to move to the village. The villagers welcomed the newcomers, and the community grew. The girl felt proud of the prosperity brought about by her inventions. The pulleys she made ran day and night for months, bringing stone from the quarry to the village so the newcomers could build their homes.

One day, the girl hiked to the quarry to check on her pulley system. She saw that some of the ropes were fraying, and the pulleys were beginning to rust. She looked closer, and her stomach dropped as she saw just how thin the ropes were wearing from pulling so many loads of stone to the village.

The girl knew that if repairs weren’t made soon, the system would break down completely. She started to call to the quarry workers to stop the pulleys, but then stopped herself as she thought about the new arrivals to the village. The repairs could take days, or even weeks. How could she force the people to stop building when they had just arrived and were depending on the pulleys to supply them with stone for their homes?

She thought about asking the villagers for help, but realized that she was the only one who knew enough about the pulleys to fix them. She feared there wasn’t time to teach others how to make the repairs. Besides, what if a well-meaning villager were injured while trying to help, or accidentally made things worse? What if the villagers were upset with her for not making repairs sooner? With her stomach in knots, the girl collected her tools, and set to work on the pulleys.

Workers in the quarry waved cheerfully to the girl as she moved from pulley to pulley, hurriedly oiling and sanding the jagged rust that was wearing the ropes down. She flashed nervous smiles at the workers, not wanting them to worry about the state of her invention. 

All day, she rushed around, trying desperately to reinforce the frayed sections of rope with twine. Her fingers became raw from handling the rough ropes, and she was hungry and sunburned, but she couldn’t afford to stop. A worker noticed the girl’s frenzied work, and offered help, but the girl didn’t have a chance to answer before she heard a startled cry from across the quarry. A rope connected to a heavy cart had frayed under the strain of its load, and was now a few strands away from snapping completely.

*RECORD SCRATCH*

Are you still reading? I think you can probably tell this story is heading to a rough place. This is a tale of too much–too much strain, too much pressure, too much at stake.

Let’s do a quick check-in: how are you feeling toward the girl in the story? What do you wish for her? Do you relate to her? If we could rewrite this story and create a better situation, what might we change?

Many of the clients I work with are much like the girl–incredibly talented, capable, and driven to help those around them. Perfectionism and the fear of letting others down can create excruciating, constant pressure. Many of these clients struggle with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Like the girl in the story, many of them face barriers to asking for help and support from others, even when things begin to break down.

Here are a few thoughts that may have been useful to the girl in the story, and that may be useful to you when things feel like too much:

  1. If the load is wearing you down, that doesn’t mean you’re inherently defective. The pulleys in the story weren’t a bad invention, and the girl wasn’t to blame for their breakdown. They were just carrying too much. Saying “no” to things that will make your load too heavy lets you say “yes” to the important work you CAN do.
  2. Imperfect support is better than no support at all. Just like the villagers didn’t know the pulley system, maybe people in your life can’t fully understand your problems. Receiving help from others doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. Even if the support you’re getting doesn’t solve all your problems, letting others be there for you is an important part of managing overwhelming situations.
  3. Rest is essential, even when it’s inconvenient. The girl in the story felt like she couldn’t stop the pulleys to repair them because of how the delay would impact others. Then she felt like she couldn’t stop and take care of herself because she was trying so hard to help her village. Continuing to push herself and the system instead of allowing a pause had negative consequences. Stopping and taking time for rest and repair–whether that’s allowing your body to rest, or taking time away from responsibilities–can help you avoid breaking down.

What can you learn from our inventor girl’s experience? Consider one recommendation from the list that can be useful to you, whether you are repairing pulleys or taking on the challenges of eating recovery. 

Be Your Own Advocate

Be Your Own Advocate

The concept of self compassion has always felt a little foreign to me. The idea of it is lovely, but I have learned that practicing self-compassion is much easier said than done. Why do we naturally extend extra grace to others, but we struggle in applying the same love and attention to ourselves? (more…)

New Year, New Mindset

New Year, New Mindset

My whole life I felt the pressure of making goals when January would come around. But I don’t think I ever had awareness around what type of goal I should even set.

Because if you’re like me, you may have set extreme goals. I set goals that included waking up two hours earlier, the opposite of mindful eating, and balanced exercise. The problem is that I was trying to change something that wasn’t realistic and what society was telling me. 

Then February would come around, and I hadn’t come close to hitting those goals because they weren’t meant to be hit in the first place. Then the feelings of shame and let down would surface.

It wasn’t until my late 20’s that January would come around, and I started to realize that goals should benefit your life in a healthy balanced way. That I couldn’t become “more” worthy because I was already worthy as I am. Instead, I started to make goals that changed my mindset to increase my sense of self. I began to make simple daily goals that pushed me forward in the way I wanted to show up every day.

Here are a few examples of goals I have set:

  • Wake up 10 minutes earlier to take a few deep breaths, and decide how I want to feel that day.
  • Daily gratitude- made simple: writing down a quick thought or simply noting gratitude in my head.
  • Speaking kindly to myself, especially when my old stories come up.
  • Choosing to embrace new experiences and learning to let go of control.

Here are a few of my tips when making daily goals:

  • Make it simple, don’t overcomplicate it. 
  • Don’t be too rigid in your goals; life happens, and sometimes you have to let go of the plan you had that day. 
  • Don’t make goals thinking you will become worthy if you hit them. That’s a big plan for feeling let down 
  • Make goals that help you have a more profound sense of self.

The difference I have felt from going from the old unrealistic goals to the new simple daily goals – is learning to live more intentionally in the present moment. I challenge you to set a few minutes aside and think of daily goals to help you cultivate the way you want to feel and show up daily. 

Learn to Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Learn to Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

As we continue to break down and explore the principles of Intuitive Eating, we look next at principle seven: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness.  

Food comforts. There is likely some food that you feel a certain nostalgia for at different times of the year- during the holiday season, I love the peppermint and cinnamon and fudgy dishes that come with comforting memories of time spent with loved ones and experiencing the magic this season brings. Beyond nostalgia, food also brings comfort when you are in distress. Much like a cozy blanket and warm slippers, food can give you a sense of indulgence and self care that can be particularly meaningful when you are having a hard time. 

Emotional eating” has become a shame-filled catch phrase in the diet industry which would have you believe that eating should- I suppose- be an activity completely outside the realm of your emotions. That doesn’t seem very feasible, does it? When done mindfully, eating is integrated into your awareness- an awareness that includes your emotions!

Mindful eating is the exact opposite of what we might view as “mind-numb” eating- a space where you eat mindlessly, maybe while trying to avoid or numb out your emotions. This can be a powerful way to look at your eating- while not moralistically assigning values to food you may or may not eat during a state of high emotion, can you stay mindful in your experiences of eating? 

Have you had a hard day and oreos seem like an amazing source of self-care? I get it. Oreos are the best. Take a moment to check in with yourself- what is the emotion I am currently experiencing? (See emotion wheel below, it can help really cue into what it might be that you are feeling.) Ask yourself- is this an emotion that I would like to experience with oreos? Is the answer no? Keep investigating with curiosity what is called for in that moment. Is the answer yes? Then I want you to slow down, sit back, and savor those oreos, squeezing out every ounce of comfort to be had. Notice how they taste, smell, and feel to consume. Notice how attending to your own needs- physical and emotional- feels. This is not a wild, emotion numbing event- this is mindful and honoring of ourselves. Take a moment to thank yourself with loving kindness for always being there- through the good and the bad- working with your body to identify and provide for yourself the best experiences through life possible.  

This is coping with your emotions with kindness. It’s not saying eating while experiencing an emotion is BAD like so many diet platforms would tell you. (Does it even make sense to imagine a world where we only eat when we are UNemotional? A world where we really never experience ice cream when coping with a break up, or eat cake when our friends get married, or go out to a fancy dinner to celebrate a promotion? As a foodie who loves experiencing and gifting the experience of food to others, this diet culture imposed view of food as separate from emotional experiences is foreign and uncomfortable to me! 

Food is used to sustain life, yes- but also to comfort and celebrate and mourn. Food isn’t for fixing our emotions, but it can be part of an emotional experience!

It’s not about Trusting your Body

It’s not about Trusting your Body

It’s not about trusting your body. It’s about letting go.

Just this week I heard one of my clients reiterate her resistance to progress in recovery because she “just can’t trust [her] body.”

What she means is, she can’t trust that she won’t gain weight from nourishing her body. It means she can’t trust her recovered body to be a size she likes.

And this is where trust is misplaced. Because recovery isn’t about trusting your body to do what you want it to do and be the size you want it to be.

You may gain weight in recovery. Your recovered body, may not be a size that you want.

When I was a “budding” therapist, I used to try to motivate clients toward recovery by talking about how their bodies would be more stable when they are regularly nourished, than when they are deprived. When you move out of your body’s way, it will settle towards it’s set point and chill out. While this is true, it’s also not true.

Bodies are complicated. So much more so than we even know. And while set-point is a real thing, supported by research, I no longer want to align with the eating disorder mindset by asserting that bodies won’t change after they have been chronically nourished. I don’t want recovery to still be about weight.

Further, your body is not static but constantly fluctuating and changing.

As a mother to four children, my body has gone through a hell of a lot of change over the decade I spent birthing and nursing them. While pregnancy was an active choice I made, I witnessed how incredibly drastic my body could morph and shift in incredible ways.

Now, as I enter middle-age (turning 40 soon!) my body seems to be accelerating toward even more change. This time, it is not change I am choosing. I can honestly say I don’t love the combination of acne and wrinkles. And hormone shifts are no joke. My body is also shifting and morphing its shape. While it’s far more subtle than pregnancy and may be unnoticeable to others, it is indeed, changing.

So when I think about trusting my body, it’s not trusting her to always be what I want her to be or even show up for me in the ways I want her to. As I am aging, she’s getting less predictable and more demanding, and I’m assuming that only gets more challenging with time.

My relationship with my body is one of mutual respect and care. Respecting and caring for my body is a form of trust. But that trust is knowing she is doing the best she can to take care of me and has nothing to do with her size.

The bigger trust is not placed on my body, but rather in myself. Being in a place with body peace and food freedom, I trust that whatever my body does, I am ok. And I am ok, because I know my worth and contributions in this life are not related to the size of my body. My internal sense of self is stable, even as my earth-suit is always changing.

So I told my client who “just can’t trust [her] body” that, “It’s not about trust. It’s about letting go.” Recovery is relinquishing control in service of freedom. Recovery is understanding that your body has the right to change according to her needs and wellbeing. Recovery is understanding your body, by design, does, and should, continue to change across your years on this blue planet. Recovery is trusting that you are ok in the changes of your body, your life, and this world.

Five Reasons to Consider Journaling

Five Reasons to Consider Journaling

Let’s talk about how journaling can help you in eating recovery. I’m not necessarily referring to journaling as in, “Dear Diary, today I…” (although that type of journaling can be great!). Rather, I’m talking about the practice of processing thoughts and feelings through writing. I know, journaling does not come easily to some. We all process things differently, and journaling doesn’t appeal to everyone. That being said, I do give journal prompts out to many of my therapy clients as a supplement to the work we do in therapy. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Responding to a specific journal prompt can help you dig deeper into thoughts that you might not typically approach. Jotting down even a few lines in response to a writing prompt can take you down a path of exploration that you might not otherwise encounter.
  2. Journaling is an opportunity to spend some quality time with yourself. Self-reflection through writing can be a powerful tool for connecting with your internal world. Taking some time to write can help you acknowledge and understand your emotions and needs.
  3. Writing can help you unravel tangled thoughts and feelings. Turning experiences into concrete words can be tough, but engaging with your thoughts and feelings this way can help you make sense of what you’re going through. Some research suggests that putting your feelings into words can help your brain regulate emotional responses. (1)
  4. Journaling gives you something to look back on. There can be power in looking back at journal entries written months or years in the past, and seeing the evolution of your perspective, your successes, and your circumstances. Especially in eating recovery, it can sometimes feel difficult to see progress. Recording your thoughts throughout your recovery process can help you see that you really are growing and changing.
  5. A focused journal prompt can be like a bonus therapy session! (Sounds super fun, I know.) Therapy is great, and it’s only a 50-minute blip in your week. Adding a focused journaling activity between sessions can help you get more out of the work you started in a session and can set you up to make the next session more productive. Trust me, your therapist would love to hear about any journaling you do between sessions. Journaling is an opportunity to stay connected with your work between therapy sessions.

Below are some journal prompts you might find helpful in your eating recovery process. Pick whichever one speaks to you, write down today’s date, and see where your writing takes you.

– What made my most recent recovery “win” possible? Write about (1) a person or resource and (2) a choice you made that contributed to your success.

– Write about one step forward in your recovery that you know you need to take, but haven’t yet. What could change if you take that step?

– Asking for help is a vital recovery skill, and may require you to think outside the box. Write down one thing you can ask for from each of the following people to support your recovery: your therapist, your best friend, a family member.

– Write a letter from your future self, 10 years from now. How do you imagine your future self will feel towards your current self and what you’re going through right now?

– What do I hope will happen if I accept my body as it is? What do I fear will happen if I accept my body as it is?

– What was the take-home message from my last therapy session? What are my intentions for applying that message this week?

Source:

  1.   Torre, J. B., & Lieberman, M. D. (2018). Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling as Implicit Emotion Regulation. Emotion Review, 10(2), 116–124. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917742706

Self-Acceptance is an Inside Job

Self-Acceptance is an Inside Job

Eating disorders are inauthentic. To have an eating disorder requires showing up in the world inauthentically.

Eating disorders operate on a false formula for safety, belonging and love. Eating disorders take messages from the world about conformity and belonging and say, “I’ll raise you one more” and do it even “better.”

To quote the authority on the topic of authenticity and belonging, Dr. Brené Brown says, “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” (Braving the wilderness p.31-32).

This quote is loaded so let’s explore it part by part and how it relates to eating disorders.

“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval…”

We can have compassion for ourselves and how we each learned to believe that acceptance and belonging are synonyms with approval. Often this comes from experiences with rejection. I know the pain my clients unravel under is the belief that their history of rejection equates to truth about themselves. They believe something is wrong with them. They believe their authentic selves are unacceptable to humanity and must therefore be controlled and shrunken and shaped into acceptable and small versions. An eating disorder is both a chronic attempt to move toward love and belonging and also hide away from the vulnerability that is required for that very love and belonging.

This leads to the next point, “which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it.”

So first, eating disorders are ubiquitously characterized by striving– to varying degrees of success– to fit into the “ideal” of beauty. In our society, that “ideal” is unrealistic and unhealthy. However, even if you achieve that bodily ideal, your sense of belonging is based on something external, which isn’t authentic. You are literally only granting others access to a controlled version of you that is “skin deep.”

This outward conformity bleeds into an attempt for internal conformity as well. The body is merely a symptom of a whole systemic process. You are not only trying to be outwardly acceptable in your body, but also acceptable in every other way. This is why “people pleasing” is such a chronic curse that accompanies eating disorders. When you are so focused on what you think others want you to be, you cannot get in touch with who you really are.  You see parts of yourself as threatening and scary if they fall outside perceived accepted norms.

Further, eating disorders hijack brains and personalities. Eating disorders consume valuable mental energy and reduce the richness that is you into obsessive thoughts about food and body size. All the other parts of you that are worthy of belonging either don’t show up at all, or show up in shadows and whispers.

So, you cannot find belonging when you are chronically faking it. Which is exactly what eating disorders require.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world…”

Perfectionism is another “associated feature” of eating disorders. Perfectionism is characterized by reducing vulnerability through chronic attempts to “be perfect” or “do perfectly.” Again, it is the misplaced striving for love and acceptance through presenting a perfected version of ourselves to the world.

I love how Brené Brown pairs authentic and imperfect together. This resonates deeply as truth to me. I’m not going to advocate that this is simple to do in practice, but knowing its truth and value motivates me toward my own willingness to be messy and human.

Because I am messy. I don’t have it all figured out. I know the discomfort of fear and vulnerability. I know the pain of rejection. I am familiar with the darkness in mental illness. I too have parts of my personality that I don’t like and wish were different. I know I am quirky, and for some people, an “acquired taste.”

And there came a point in my life that the cost and energy required in conformity was too heavy and too much. I got tired of inauthentic living. Living inauthentically is painful and lonely.

So I decided to show up in more messy and honest ways. I am not going to pretend I do this well all the time. It’s a work in progress. But in that progress, I have felt more seen and it is here that I have found “my people.”

“…our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Please read that again. And again. And again.

We will never find true belonging in approval from others. In our hearts, we all know this. But the invitation to step into our deepest selves is the epitome of vulnerability. To step into witnessing, honoring, and accepting who we are, with compassion and love. Wow, that would be powerful. That would be brave.

And then to let ourselves expand into our full version of who we are and show up in the world that way. Wow. Now that is honest, courageous, and brave living.

To quote Brené Brown again, “Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe thoroughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours.”

I wish I could hold a mirror for my clients when they show up in their authentic, vulnerable, imperfect selves. The love I feel for them is immediate and deep. I wish they could know how inherently loveable and likeable they are as themselves.

But self-acceptance is an inside job.

I hope for a world where we can all loudly and ceremoniously reject the false formulas for acceptance and belonging, and step into our power: authenticity, imperfection, and self-acceptance.

This is my hope for all of us.