I know we just wrapped up Valentine’s Day. But the holiday really does get me thinking about love. And this year I thought a lot about loving ourselves. I know that sound cheezy but please keep reading. I actually think learning excellent self-love takes a lot of work. And I also think it can be quite confusing because really loving ourselves sometimes means doing things that might not feel great in the moment. Sometimes, love just doesn’t feel like it!
I think children are the best example of what I hope to describe. Think about the kind of melting down and tantrum throwing that happens when they are over-tired. Clearly, what they need most in that moment is sleep. But when Mom or Dad initiate the bed time ritual, most kids don’t acquiesce by saying “you’re right, I’m throwing these crazy tantrums because I’m over tired, it’s probably for the best that I head to bed now.” No! They kick and scream in the hopes of staying up later.
As adults, we often revert back to our child-like selves. We say yes to things we really ought to be saying no to. And say no when what we truly mean is yes! Here are some examples that might sound familiar:
- I’m not hungry but I need a break from this project. Time for a cookie!
- I’m starving but according to my diet I don’t have any more points left so I guess I won’t eat.
- I’m exhausted and sleep-deprived but don’t have time for more sleep, I’ll just have an extra snack to boost my energy levels.
- My neighbor asked me for help on this fundraiser and I agreed even though I’m already feeling overwhelmed with my PTA commitment.
- I really love going out for a walk and getting some fresh air but find myself distracted on Facebook every evening instead.
But as adults, part of REALLY taking care of ourselves is refining our ability to find “true refuge.” I believe that requires learning to say yes or no when we need to most…and then sitting with the discomfort that might follow. If you’re not used to identifying and meeting your true needs this may feel tough and uncomfortable at first. But I promise that it starts to feel really empowering! Not only do you feel better because your actual needs are getting met but you also don’t have to deal with the residual feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment that comes up when you hide in your “false refuge.”
Have you had an experience about self-love you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it!
This past weekend, we had a major storm out here in New England. In fact, I’ve never seen so much snow at once! As I was watching Facebook, my inbox, and news reports I was intrigued with everyone’s efforts to prepare for the upcoming deluge. In fact, I found it incredibly interesting. Many people headed to the grocery store and stock piled their cupboards, fridges, and freezers (along with grabbing cash and filling up their gas tanks).
I think this behavior has such relevance to the world of nutrition. When we fear impending famine, we stock pile “just in case.” How many of you repeat this pattern with your diets? If you have ever participated in a “diet” than you have repeated it even if you don’t know it! Creating a famine by cutting out certain foods or food groups actually triggers a natural and healthy survival mechanism to feast. This survival mechanism causes us to think obsessively and crave those forbidden items. And as many of you know from experience, when we are both psychologically and physically restricted we don’t just crave moderate amounts of those items, we yearn for COPIOUS amounts of them. And before you know it, a terrible pattern has emerged… Famine (even with the best of intentions) has set you up for feasting.
I intentionally held off on writing a "New Year's Blog Post" this year. I think everyone gets inundated with them and I wasn't so sure that I had anything that I really wanted to contribute. But now that it's the end of the month I feel like it's an opportunity for a little quiet reflection.
I believe in living a life based on specific values that are important to me. In fact, there is a "newish" type of therapy called "ACT" which stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. "ACT aims to help the individual clarify their personal values and to take action on them, bringing more vitality and meaning to their life in the process, increasing their psychological flexibility."
This speaks to the work I try so hard to do with my clients. In fact ACT nicely parallels the messaging of intuitive eating. I believe that when we listen and make changes based on our own internal compass (which takes a lot of honest listening!) we are much happier and the changes we make are more sustainable. When our actions align with our belief system (rather than someone else's) this decreases stress and actually becomes empowering.
So I would like to challenge each of you to take this opportunity to learn something about yourself. It will only take a few minutes.
1. Take out a scratch sheet of paper.
2. Make a list of 10 things you value. If you need some inspiration, there is a list of over 400 values listed here.
3. If you made specific goals this year, compare those goals to your values. Do they align?
4. Compare your daily actions with your values. Do they align?
Sometimes we have to make dramatic changes in our lives when we become more clear about our values. But if I could give each of you a gift, it would be the gift of living in alignment with your core values. Just as the definition of ACT states, it brings more vitality and meaning to our lives. And when it comes to health, isn't that what we're all after?
I'd love to hear about your core values and what you are doing to better align your life with those values. Anyone brave enough to share? It is anonymous! :)
This past weekend I was giving a workshop on Intuitive Eating/Intuitive Living with my colleague and friend Amber Barke. During the workshop we were discussing the very challenging topic of self-acceptance and I shared this blog post, which I wrote just over a year ago. I thought I'd re-post it, as the message seems relevant, particularly around this time of year. Enjoy.
My client, whom we'll call Sally, was telling me how she's been reading up on all sorts of positive body image blogs. You know, blogs that encourage you to love yourself and accept yourself as you are right now. And that was just all too far from reality for her to be able to swallow. She told me "I can't love my body. I can't stand living in it. I don't feel good physically in my body. Why would I accept something that makes me so miserable?"
And I understood what Sally was saying. Often, people confuse self-acceptance with stagnation. Staying miserable, learning to put up with something you hate. Many people wrongly assume that they'll never change if they accept themselves (not to mention love themselves!) as they are right now. But it turns out that isn't true.
ACCEPTING SOMETHING DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO LIKE IT. The reality is that self-acceptance FACILITATES CHANGE. Acceptance can be defined as "the act of assenting or believing." Once we come to truly accept where we are at in life, what works for us, and what doesn't, we are then able to make decisions based on that reality. Here are a couple of diagrams to show what I mean.
Cycle of Non-Acceptance
Cycle of Acceptance
I share this message with you as a new year is about to begin because it's a time that you might be thinking about setting goals and contemplating how you'd like to improve upon this past year. So you just might want to consider adding self-love and self-acceptance to the top of your list. Ironically, it just might help you accomplish everything else you had in mind.
I'm going to leave you with a quote from a fabulous book that I stumbled upon while researching this blog post. The quote relates to accepting your body as it is right now.
How can you begin to learn the lesson of acceptance? By recognizing that what is, just is, and that the key to unlocking the prison of self-judgment lies in your own mind. You can either continue to fight against your body's reality by complaining bitterly and immersing yourself in self-deprecation, or you can make the very subtle but powerful mental shift into acceptance. Either way, the reality remains the same. Acceptance or rejection of your body only carries weight in your mind; your perception has no bearing on how your body actually looks, so why not choose the ease of acceptance rather than the pain of rejection? The choice is yours. "
Found in "If Life is a Game, These are the Rules" by Cherie Carter-Scott PhD
Have you had an experience with self-acceptance? Please share it!
Recovery cannot simply be described as the reverse of these thoughts and subsequent behaviors, nor is it simply subjective. To sidestep semantic debates, the ever-peppy positive psychologists have coined the term “subjective well-being” or SWB (1). It is typically thought of as analogous to happiness but easily applied to the recovery process. One of the most important components of high SWB is having a sense of purpose (2). Thus, in recovery, our bodies become something more! They become purposeful.
Our bodies allow us to see sunsets, hug children, listen to music, go to school, pursue dreams, help others, and any number of amazing things (3). With purpose, we step outside of ourselves and become a part of something bigger. It's down right spiritual if you think about it! With purpose, recovery takes on a whole new light. It becomes easier to follow a meal plan and change behaviors. As the old saying goes, it is easy to endure the how, when you know the why.
Purpose is unique to the individual and may take time to discover or create. However, we all have “signature strengths” which can be used “in the service of something larger than yourself” (4). In many ways, recovery gives a person an opportunity to explore the endless possibilities presented by those two very vague descriptors of purpose. Isn’t it exciting? Maybe a little stressful, but very, very exciting. As an eating disorder therapist, I get the biggest thrill out of seeing people find out that they are so much more than their eating disorder. If you are struggling, please believe that there something else out there, and luckily, there are dozens of professionals in the area waiting to help you discover the rest of your life!
2.Seligman, M. (2002). Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press.
3. Frankl, V.E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning. New York City: Simon and Schuster, Inc.
4. Matousek, M. (March, 2004). Choose happiness. O: The Oprah Magazine, 5(3), 190-197
I don’t often use a lot of self-disclosure on my blog. In fact, the last time I shared something personal was July 2011 when I talked about my body image. But after finishing my dinner tonight I had a little conversation with myself that I wanted to share.
I love chocolate…like, a lot. I especially love German chocolate. Ok, to be more specific I LOVE Milka Schoko and Keks and I love the Butter Biscuit by Rittersport. As luck would have it, Trader Joe’s sells those Rittersport bars at a very reasonable price. I typically have at least one back up bar in my treat bowl at home. (Yes, another reveal, I have a treat bowl at home.)
So I came home tonight after a very full day at work. In fact, it was an unusually full day. I sat down to a meal that was just what I needed on a cold, rainy evening. I was tired and hungry and couldn’t wait to eat. After I finished my meal I started to think about my Butter Biscuit waiting for me in the treat bowl. I got all excited knowing that it was just what I wanted to finish my meal. I broke off a line of chocolate and noticed that I was eating it with tremendous delight. The chocolate was making me quite happy, quite warm and fuzzy, and I noticed the stress of my day begin to dissipate.
And that’s when I started to think about the difference between eating WITH emotion and emotional eating. I talk about emotional eating most days with my clients and I can assure you that there is a difference! Emotional eating has a few particular qualities:
- It is used to cover up, diminish, numb or avoid challenging emotions.
- It happens with great speed and little pleasure. It goes in the mouth and down the hatch before you can savor a single bite.
- It leaves you feeling physically unwell after you have eaten.
- It creates disconnection with yourself.
- It is often followed by guilt, remorse, and shame.
Now what I described above is light years away from eating WITH emotion! Eating WITH emotion includes getting super excited to eat a meal you love or try a new restaurant you’ve heard friends raving about. Eating WITH emotion is eating things that are super yummy and satisfying. Eating WITH emotion leaves you feeling physically satisfied and content and emotionally balanced or even happy!
Not every snack is going to be the zen experience I described earlier. Not every meal will send you to Cloud 9. BUT, I truly believe that experiences of eating WITH emotion are vital to our health and well-being.
So when was the last time you ate WITH emotion? What did you eat? And if you haven’t lately, what’s stopping you? Hop to it, your body will thank you. J
I am thrilled to announce the first Intuitive Eating, Intuitive Living Workshop that I will be facilitating with Amber Barke LICSW, RYT. On a day to day basis I am reminded of the number of people struggling with food, exercise, and their bodies. Amber and I have developed a workshop to address these very challenges.
Registration and workshop details can be found on the Event Brite page. If you have any additional questions don't hesitate to send us an email or give us a call! Registration is limited to 12 and the early bird rate of $250 is only available until September 21st. After September 21st the rate will increase to $300.
I am really looking forward to joining with Amber to work with you on finding peace in the process of better self-care.
Marci marci at marcird dot com
Amber bodyandself at gmail dot com
If you're new to Twitter, here's a primer on how to participate. It's simple, go to www.tweetchat.com and enter the keyword "#endED" and it will appear as if you're in a chat room. Watch the tweets stream live and join in on the conversation. Be sure to follow @MarciRD and @MIssDEIntl2012
Satisfaction: Fulfillment of one's wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this.Synonyms: gratification - contentment - content – pleasure
Eating food that is truly satisfying is one of the MOST important aspects of feeding yourself. Now those words may be considered heresy in a day and age that promotes rigid, controlled eating. In fact, I just read a greeting card the other day that said something to the effect that getting healthy is the equivalent of eating food you don’t like. This card made me both angry and sad. Just think of the French! Now these are people who know how to eat with satisfaction.
When you are fully tuned in to the experience of eating in a way that brings genuine satisfaction it feels both nourishing and energizing. And don't forget that it's one of the pillars of Intuitive Eating. And as I explain to my clients when you eat a meal that is sufficiently filling and satisfying, some amazing things happen:
• Obsessive food thoughts decrease
• Urges to over or compulsively eat lessen
• Self-esteem improves as you gain confidence in feeding yourself
• Physical health improves
• Energy increases
Often, people confuse eating with satisfaction and eating with abandon! Take a look at those synonyms again: gratification, contentment, pleasure. Now imagine the following scenarios.
Scenario 1: It’s lunch time and you are craving a cheeseburger. You immediately tell yourself that it’s fattening and bad and ignore the craving and order a chicken salad (dressing on the side) instead. In the moment you feel virtuous…but then an hour or so later you feel hungry and you’re still thinking about that burger. You're bothered by hunger and food thoughts the rest of the afternoon, thanks to your unsatisfying meal.
Scenario 2: It’s lunch time and you are craving a cheeseburger. You tell yourself that it’s fattening and bad but somehow find yourself in the drive through ordering a supersize meal of a cheeseburger, fries, and soda. Before you know it, you eat it up quickly telling yourself you’ll be better tomorrow. You’re left feeling guilty, overfull, and uncomfortable.
Scenario 3: It’s lunch time and you are craving a cheeseburger. You tell yourself that it’s fattening and bad but then you suddenly remember that all foods are legal! You can eat whatever you want when you feel hungry. So you check in with your hunger levels and assess that the cheeseburger down the street is exactly what you’re craving and matches your hunger level just right. You eat it with full permission, without the shame and guilt and return to work feeling great both physically and emotionally.
I often share the following scales with my clients:
And for those of you doubters out there, scenario 3 is not impossible. The wonderful thing about TRULY listening to your hunger and cravings, is that you’ll learn to feed your body just what it needs when it needs it. You’ll come to realize that your body doesn’t want M&Ms 24/7. Don’t trust me? Give it a try and let me know your results.
What are your thoughts about eating with true satisfaction? Impossible? Frightening? Exciting? Share!
Thank you to all that joined us last night for the #ENDED twitter chat with Eating Disorder Network of Maryland. For those of you that missed it here's a quick recap
Q1. Eating disorders are incredibly complex- can we start by listing as many risk factors for developing an ED that we can think of?
PrjectED A1. Eating Disordered family members, #endED
liberonetwork A1 Comorbid psychiatric conditions such as anxiety + depression; painful life events. "Biology loads gun, environment pulls trigger"
liberonetwork @EDNMaryland Genetic contributors that are passed on and also modeling patterns of food learned from parents perhaps
EDNMaryland A1. Dieting can trigger someone into developing an e/d but we know it is not dieting alone that causes ed's.
Q2. Sharon, you often talk about a person's ED "traits." What is that compromised of? #endED
EDNMaryland We've learned is that many with ed/s have very strong traits. Esp perfectionism. Society pushes for thinness so eds can develop.
EDNMaryland Personality traits: blk-white thinking, strong-willed, rigidity, impulsive, slow to change, perfectionism. #endED
@EDNMaryland: A2. We also know that most people with eds have at least one of the following: anxiety, depression, or OCD #endED -
PrjectED As clients we noticed that really common trait is either being really impulsive or the exact opposite...depending on the disorder #endED
EDNMaryland A2. Food is an easy thing to use and manipulate. You can't get a DUI, it isn't illegal, it comes in all types of flavors...
liberonetwork A2 Shame, people-pleasing, weak sense of self
EDNMaryland A2. Another big one is perfectionism. You have to learn and accept that not everything is going to be perfect nor should it be
MarciRD A2 As a #dietitian, I find food is the perfect play dough for practicing flexibility.#endED As people practice flexibility with food choices- what, what, where, how, why they eat, it dominoes into other areas of their life
Q3. Carolyn Costin says- we can take our traits to the light or dark. How can people with EDs use those traits for recovery?
EDNMaryland One of the common sayings for those with eds is that "they can't see the forest for the trees." Do you know why?
PrjectED A3. With rigidity, it can help when trying to stand your ground against those who can possibly hurt your recovery
liberonetwork: A3 Jenni Schaefer says turn perfectionism into excellency- and use healthy, balanced determination to beat ED!
EDNMaryland When you're anxious it is hard to be emotionally flexible. It is important to really push yourself to see the bigger picture.
MarciRD A3 My clients have amazing drive and commitment that can really support their recovery when channeled!
liberonetwork: A3 A lot of people with EDs are very empathetic towards others. Learn to turn that empathy inward to themselves
EDNMaryland Another grt tool is to make yourself order something diff when you go to a restaurant and not the usual "safe" food
MarciRD: A3 I really see stubbornness transformed into commitment. And perfectionism, when softened can lead to positive action.
Q4 What are tips to dealing with these risk factors of family history including mental illness and substance abuse?#endED
EDNMaryland A4 One important thing to do is to acknowledge that your family has a hx of addiction. Don't be in denial of it.
PrjectED A4. I think it is important to recognize what risk factors your family has. If you fail to see them then you can't deal with them #endED
EDNMaryland A4 Many with family hx of addiction need to focus on doing things in moderation. Not overdoing (food, $, exercise...)
MarciRD A4 Looking for areas of extreme behavior, including drugs, alcohol, emotions, money, exercise, shopping, gambling, etc. #endED -
EDNMaryland A4 Talk openly with family and your tx about the hx of addiction in the family.#endED
ElizabethEats @MarciRD @EDNMaryland I find pt w/ fam hx of addiction like to view food as all or nothing. on or off. No carbs or all carbs. agree? #ended
EDNMaryland @ElizabethEats Also important to find another color besides blk or white. Even if it's only 1 shade over it's a start!
MarciRD A4 With my clients we are often developing new "traditions" or "guidelines" to live by- establishing new patterns that break from old #endED
Thank you to Sharon of EDN Maryland for sharing her wisdom and to all that joined!Be sure to join us on August 22nd at 8:30 pm EST for a twitter chat on Beauty Pageants and body image with Nicole Ortiz @MissDEIntl2012