By Elizabeth Jarrard- Registered Dietitian at Marci RD Nutriton
Do you surround yourself with inspiration? Are reminders of your goals staring you in the face when you wake up, when you head out the door? What would happen if they were that close? What would happen if you were constantly reminded of where you want to go in this life, and how you're going to get there? I wouldn't think of traveling to somewhere unknown without a map (or my gps) in tow. So what if we map out what our dreams look like so that we end up at our destination-not lost forever.
Vision boards can be a great tool for getting back in touch with what our goals are and where we are headed. The act of creating them should be meditative, soothing and almost therapeautic, as you find images and words that resonate you with. Then when you have finalized it (for the time being), you can hang it as a constant reminder of where you are and where you would like to go. And of course because we are fluid, and our goals and dreams are ever changing it's important to create new vision boards to serve those changed desires.
Making a vision board is easy.
1. Gather a large piece of construction or any other "heavy" paper
2. Find a bunch of magazines (from a variety of genres. Beauty, travel, food, you name it!
3. In a peaceful place scour the magazines for words and images that resonate with you and cut them out
4. Arrange the images and phrases on the paper and use good ol' glue or modpodge to adhere them
5. Hang in a prominent place to be forever reminded of where you are heading
I surround my desk with vision boards of past and present
Have you ever made a vision board? How has it helped you? Care to share?
It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I do not support or agree with the show “The Biggest Loser” (TBL). I recently shard this article on my personal Facebook wall and it generated a discussion about the show. I decided to write a more thoughtful response here on my blog as to why I find the show so problematic.1. Our culture is one of extremes and I can think of no other TV show that reflects such extremism better than TBL. Four years ago I attended a talk given by Cheryl Forber who was actually the dietitian behind TBL. The diets designed for the contestants to follow meet the criteria for an eating disorder. My colleague has a very close friend who was a contestant on TBL and reported to her that she spent 3 days prior to the weigh in starving herself, exercising to exhaustion, and sitting in the sauna for a couple of hours to lose as much weight as possible. What is it about our culture that finds this entertaining rather than concerning?
Lesley Kinzel, author of “Two Whole Cakes” says it beautifully: “The reality is that fat people are often supported in hating their bodies, in starving themselves, in engaging in unsafe exercise, and in seeking out weight loss by any means necessary. A thin person who does this is considered mentally ill. A fat person who does these things is redeemed by them…A culture that supports weight loss by any means necessary is a culture that supports eating disorders. It is a culture that supports the sickening and weakening of us all…”
2. TBL’s focus on weight-loss at all costs actually supports a culture of weight bias and discrimination. Please consider reading the compelling research that is being conducted at The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Research clearly shows that weight bias is rampant in ALL medical settings and actually INCREASES THE LIKELIHOOD OF CHILDREN AND ADULTS WITH OBESITY to engage in:
- Unhealthy weight control behaviors
- Binge-eating episodes
- Avoidance of physical activities (where stigma often occurs)
3. TBL promotes a pattern of exercise and eating that is both eating disordered AND unsustainable. In fact, dieting (significantly reducing calories while following a plan someone else gives you) is actually the #1 predictor of future weight gain
(scroll down to "studies related to intuitive eating"). The #1 predictor of future weight gain! Why are we doing this to ourselves?
(I cannot specifically comment on the long-term outcomes of contestants participating in TBL because to my knowledge, reliable data does not actually exist.)4. We live in a weight OBSESSED world, which is supported by our medical system and our capitalistic economy. If you are interested in a different perspective, I highly recommend that you check out a few articles:
Association of All-Cause Mortality With Overweight and Obesity Using Standard Body Mass Index Categories: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Men and Women with Intuitive Eating Scales had lower BMIs
Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift
Often, people say that they find the show inspirational. This makes me question- what in particular do you find inspirational? I have built a career that is the anti-thesis of TBL and have counseled dozens of women who are trying to heal from the trauma of overly restrictive eating and excessive exercise. Don’t confuse what I am saying- I am all for supporting behavior change for health. I just don’t think that yelling, screaming, excessive exercise, starvation diets, or humiliation create permanent lifestyle change...no matter how entertaining you might find it to be.
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!
Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was talking with a family member about her experience working in PR and Marketing in Los Angeles. I immediately asked her to share her experiences with all of you. She has generously agreed to talk about what she learned and how it influenced her feelings about her weight, body image, and sense of self in this two-part series. I hope you enjoy it.
In the summer of 2005, I worked at NBC Universal and Full Picture PR Firm as an intern. I was so excited to be entering into a world of magic and perfection, where the streets were paved with Chanel and celebrities were wandering about on every corner...or so I thought. In reality, my Hollywood experience was drastically different from what the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan depicted.
At first I was star-struck by working near Rodeo Drive and the NBC Universal lot and what I quickly realized was that nothing in Hollywood is as it seems. Now, I had amazing experiences with both internships and was so happy to see normal, decent , hard-working people making a living doing what they love. But what took me by surprise was how hard these people worked to keep Hollywood’s façade alive and well. You see, it takes a whole village to keep up that Hollywood veneer.
I would be at photo shoots prepping for the talent that hadn’t arrived yet and when they would walk onto the set, I couldn’t recognize them from the magazines I would read. The stars would be in hair and makeup for hours and hours before they were camera ready and camera ready meant they had a whole bottle of hairspray keeping their hair in place, layers and layers of makeup, girdles to suck in the belly pooch and other tricks of the trade like bean bags in their bras to make their boobs look plumper, and enough light on them to cook a chicken, which helps them look fresh and natural.
When the talent would get in front of the camera, the photographer would start by reassuring that everything and anything can be Photoshopped, so let’s have some fun. And the shoots always were fun, but the real work started after the shoot was over. Graphic designers would get the images and start working their magic by blowing up each image on their huge screen and editing the tiniest details. They would edit out the bags under the actor’s eyes, the blemishes and zits, underarm flab, belly pooches, thigh flat, and anything else you can think of that society deems unacceptable. These actors would look like normal individuals that wouldn’t necessarily catch your eye at first, and some celebrities would come to work looking slightly homeless, knowing that hair and makeup would fix them up for the day and make them look picture perfect. Celebrities that were advocates in the media for healthy nutrition and exercise to lose weight and keep the perfect figure would only eat a piece of celery and a slice of cheese with a side of packs of cigarettes and vats of coffee to keep their figures slim. Some even getting tummy tucks and liposuction in secret while telling the media they did vigorous yoga routines and ate only salmon and steamed veggies. I could see why normal girls were getting so frustrated with their bodies because they weren’t losing their extra weight as quickly as these celebrities were, but without their own personal chefs and those Hollywood tricks, no human being can achieve perfection.
That Hollywood sparkle was starting to fade when I started to all the unhappy celebrities. Maybe it was because they were starving themselves or that they live in a very fake world that seemed normal to them, but I realized I would rather be happy with my size and flaws than harming my body to live up to an impossible standard. So, before you start obsessing about being the same size as your favorite celebrity or starving yourself to reach their standard of perfection, please remember that THEY can’t even live up to their own standard of perfection because it is all fantasy and Photoshop.
The virtual world of tweeting and blogging was all a flutter when a man called news anchor Jennifer Livinston fat. Many of us applauded Jennifer's direct and powerful response. I appreciated the fact that this issue (which is pervasive in our culture) got some air time! So I posted it on my facebook page to spread the word that weight bias and bullying are NOT ok. But my dear friend and phenomenally talented writer shared her own response to this news clip that I wanted to share with my readers. Thank you Deja Earley, for sharing your thoughts.
Perhaps you’ve seen the recent video on Facebook and elsewhere, which features Jennifer Livingston—a Wisconsin news anchor—responding to an email from a viewer which criticized her appearance, specifically her weight. It’s worth watching for yourself, but, to summarize, the email calls on Livingston’s “community responsibility” as a public personality to “present and promote a healthy lifestyle” and admonishes that “obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain.” In response, Jennifer Livingston called the e-mailer a “bully” and, quite rightly, said that “attacks like this are not okay.”
At first I was pleased and impressed by her response. I’m glad she didn’t “laugh off” the email, as she said she was tempted to do at first, chalking it up to a job in the public eye. But I confess I grew confused by the switch to talk of bullying. In a way, I understand it: cyber-bullying is an important contemporary issue, and one she was perhaps wise to piggyback on.
But is this bullying? It seems to me it’s worse than bullying. To call this man a bully simplifies the grave ignorance of his email, and, at least to me, doesn’t exactly match his tone. The email doesn’t ever outright call her fat, doesn’t actually mock her looks. It would be easier to dismiss if it had. Instead, it strikes me as a carefully crafted expression of concern by someone who considered themselves a responsible citizen. Was it mean-spirited? Perhaps, though it doesn’t strike me as self-aware enough to think so. In light of his clear misconceptions about the real issues of weight and obesity, this email is much more dangerous than what we’re used to thinking of as bullying, and Livingston’s response is far from adequate.
Livingston begins her response by admitting the e-mailer is “right,” that she is “overweight.” “You could call me fat,” she says. Setting aside the fact that Livingston doesn’t actually appear particularly overweight, that she’s lovely and polished and full of poise, and owning up to his label is absurd, it seems to me the next question to answer is whether or not he’s right about his main claim: that she has a “community responsibility” to “present and promote a healthy lifestyle” and the implication that her weight barred her from doing so. Livingston, surprisingly, doesn’t address this, but the answer is a resounding no. She doesn’t have a community responsibility that she’s neglecting simply by the nature of her appearance.
The fact that this man thinks her credibility rests so heavily on her size is a problem, and perhaps not a surprising one in light of his other misconceptions: he calls obesity “one of the worst choices a person can make” and then, confusingly, “one of the most dangerous habits to maintain.” In one sentence, he manages to imply it is a both a single overarching choice, and a habit. Which is it, Sir? For anyone who struggles with weight, it’s clear that neither is accurate. Instead, one’s weight is a product of literally thousands of choices, many of them weighed down by social pressure, shame, nutritional confusion, fear, and the parade of misleading and contradictory messages about dieting that as a culture we schizophrenically embrace. Add to that mix health issues, genetics, and body chemistry, and you have a recipe for something exponentially more complicated than a single choice, or even a habit. The research is out there now that diets don’t work, that they do more damage than good, that calories-in-calories-out is a cozy but inaccurate myth, that our bodies and our minds are much more complicatedly involved in the process of weight gain and loss than we ever thought previously. (Which is why people like Marci Anderson—trained to navigate this minefield—are so important.
This man strikes me as someone who simply hasn’t heard the real news about weight, and maybe wouldn’t understand it if he had heard it. More disturbingly, I’m confident he’s speaking for a large sector of society, a group that could have used a more meaningful message than what I think Jennifer Livingston’s response boiled down to: she seemed to say, ultimately, “You’re right, but it isn’t nice to say so.” And while it’s true that it isn’t nice to call someone fat, it’s more than not nice. A statement like this man’s is wrong because it’s ignorant, because it’s pervasively and damningly ignorant, and the message against it needs to be significantly louder and much clearer. What Jennifer Livingston has done by speaking up is a start, but she didn’t go nearly far enough.
So I'm eager to hear your thoughts! What did Jennifer do well? Where did she miss the boat in her critique? How can we change the current shift of thinking that obesity is a choice? Is it possible to spread the message that you can be both fat and fit?
**For research that supports all of the claims listed above by both myself and Deja, please see the Health at Every Size website. We're not just making this stuff up!
…but I never push. (As it turns out, attempting to push, force, control, insist, or fix people just doesn’t work – and it wastes a lot of energy).
However, I have noticed that almost all of my clients that have sustained any semblance of longer-term recovery, balanced living and wellness have one thing in common: a mindfulness practice. They do something, consistently, that involves A) being in their bodies and B) being in the present moment. Yoga just happens to be one of the easiest and most accessible ways to accomplish this, but is – by no means –the only option.
So why does it work?
Okay, first we have to go back. Way back. As lovely as it is to run around in our designer heels and fancy cars, we have to remember that our ancestors were cave people. We developed, biologically, from these very primitive and less sophisticated ancestors. Parts of our brain are primitive, and as sophisticated as our thinking can be, we still have our limbic system, firing away, in a similar fashion to our ancient relatives.
Imagine that you are a cave person and your survival depends on your ability to A) eat and B) not get eaten by a saber-tooth tiger. Imagine that you are out in the sunshine on a beautiful day, with the sun shining on your face, and feeling the soft breeze blowing in your cave person hair – and then BAM!!!!!!!! You hear a rustling in the bush. Immediately, you are prepared for danger because that sound may be a predator. You’re ready to run, or to fight – sending your parasympthatic nervous system into fight or flight response. Adrenaline pumps, and stress hormones are shot into your bloodstream so that you can survive.
Okay, so what?? We’re not cave people any more, so how does this apply to me and my life today?
Science has shown that our brains continue to demonstrate this negativity bias. In a split second, even when there is an infinite amount of positive stimuli to attend to, our brains with naturally, automatically, and because of evolution, zero in on the perceived threat, the “negative” experience, the rustling in the bushes.
And at one time, this saved our lives.
As the psychologist, Donald Hebb, put it: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Our thoughts, feelings, memories and behaviors leave behind lasting impressions on the brain – a lot like the grooves created by a stream flowing down a hill. These grooves are pathways, of sorts, that create the lens in which we perceive reality – both ourselves and the world. So very simply, our brain grooves set us up with a lens to perceive our reality in one of two ways: views that make us suffer, or views that lead us to happiness. Your experience matters.
As the intersection of science and Eastern philosophies continues to develop, the exciting news is this: there is a scientifically supported rationale for being nice to yourself. If your experience matters, this creates a substantiated argument that creating and experiencing more wholesome, calm, joyful, pleasant, and satisfying experiences will change your brain.
This is where yoga comes in. While there are many ways to access the elusive and healing “present moment”, we typically don’t learn them. We are top-heavy learners, relying on our rational minds, our intellect, and our reasoning to develop. We sit in desks and eat at scheduled times instead of moving our bodies and learning to trust our hunger cues. We learn to trust “what we are told” instead of our own intuitive sensations, essentially leaving the present moment behind over and over again to examine the past or to predict the future.
As Tara Brach points out, “the only place that is ever REALLY safe is this present moment.” And as for as our neurobiology is concerned, that is true. Whatever type of yoga class you sign up for, there is one unifying characteristic – breath. All yoga is (or at least should be) an exercise in finding the breath, yoking the breath to movement, and –alas- using the breath as a vehicle to come back to the present moment. That’s why yoga works. Eventually, the brain starts to change, and the cumulative effect of our nervous system registering the safety of this moment right now takes effect. I could sing praise for all the physical benefits of a regular yoga practice: joint health, muscle recovery, flexibility, and appetite regulation – but for me, the mental and emotional benefits have been profound.
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
I did a google image search for Shape magazine. And the words above grace the cover. Read through the list. Think of those words being directed at you and your body. Think of those words being directed at your friend and her body. How do you feel?
In my opinion, media is our culture's most powerful medium for shaping womens' views and expectations of themselves. Media is the measuring stick that facilitates self-criticism and hurtful comparisons with one another. We are reduced to a litany of BARBARIC terms (excuse me- burn, blast, and banish?!) and hate ourselves for never getting it right. We begin to see ourselves as a body, something for looking at. And as a result our minds become limited, our creativity stunted, and capacities under-utilized because we are so busy counting calories and hating ourselves. Ladies, THIS. IS. CRAZY.
This post was inspired by a client who said to me yesterday "I'm no longer trying to be air brushed in real life." How's that for a declaration?
I want to hear yours! It could sound like....
- I'm human, I'm meant to get hungry.
- I'm not flawed if a 1200 calorie diet plan leaves me hungry and unsatisfied.
- My energy is precious and cannot be depleted by self-hate.
- I can't be happy if I'm pursuing something I am not.
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
As an eating disorder therapist, I am very interested in working with how people who have developed fears and anxieties around food and body image. For many with eating disorders, the same type of 'fight or flight' reactions that occur when seeing bugs develop around eating a meal, clothes shopping, and many more everyday occurrences. When you have an ED, a meal or going clothes shopping can be as scary and overwhelming as picking up a snake. Obviously, extreme fear reactions to something you need to stay alive or something that you need to leave house can make for a very difficult situation, indeed.
Luckily, there is a therapy available that is specifically designed to address this issue and one that I have found very helpful in dealing with the fears that occur in eating disorders. Exposure therapy is a behavioral technique intended to bring a person into a feared situation in such a way that it is no longer anxiety provoking. It is the considered a necessary part of treating anxiety, and as anxiety is a core feature of eating disorders; exposure is easily incorporated into standard treatment.1,2
For example, a person who is recovering from an eating disorder may need to buy new clothes, but finds shopping extremely difficult. The change in the size of clothes, while an indication that she is getting healthier, may trigger eating disorder thoughts or a panic attack. A person may even reengage in eating disorder behaviors to avoid the change in body size and shape. During the course of exposure therapy, she would be taught the skills to manage the acute symptoms of anxiety and act of shopping would be broken down into small steps. Together with the therapist, at the site where she would like to buy clothes, the person would complete each step. Every time she experienced anxiety, she would stop at that step and utilize her skills to reduce the distress. When the anxiety was sufficiently managed, the person and therapist would go on to the next step. Eventually, she is able to buy and wear the new clothes, making the weight gain easier and more likely.
By breaking the experience down into manageable steps and addressing the anxiety in increments, the situation becomes safe. The exposure may need to be repeated or used for other feared situations, depending on the person. However, in completing an exposure, she has reduced the risk of relapse and can continue making progress in her recovery.
In working with people with eating disorders, I see clients struggle with very real fears around food and body image. However, there is hope and there is relief. Exposure therapy, in conjunction with standard treatment, can help address the specific fears and anxieties that occur in eating disorders.
2 Pollice C, Kaye WH, Greeno CG, Weltzin TE. Relationship of depression, anxiety, and obsessionality to state of illness in anorexia nervosa. Int J Eat Disord. 1997; 21:367.
Do you have any body-image or food related fears? Are there situations you avoid because of these fears? What are your thoughts?
Casey W. Becker, LMHC, of Mended Wing Counseling, is now offering exposure therapy as an adjunct to standard outpatient treatment. To find out more, please call at (617)797-7949, send an email to email@example.com or visit the website at www.mendedwingcounseling.com.