health

Navigating Your Relationship With Food

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There are so many components that help us to regulate our minds, bodies, and emotions. Attachment theory says that from cradle to grave the primary need of every human being is human connection. Beginning in early childhood, our attachment styles begin to develop based oftentimes off of our family’s attachment style.In the clinical world, counselors refer to there being four primary styles of attachment, which are anxious or ambivalent, avoidant, disorganized, and secure. When our need for human connection is not met in a way to provide a safe haven to come to when we feel emotionally vulnerable or a safe base to venture out into the world, we grasp for substitutes that will fill the void of that painful feeling of disconnection and fear.

Food can become this safe haven for many people since it is comforting, predictable, and oftentimes it will always there when you need it. These are the same qualities that we long for with the closest people in our lives. After time, however, it becomes evident to most people that food is not meeting their need for connection. This is one of the central themes that will be uncovered in the group that I will be running called Navigating Your Relationship with Food.

This October, I will be running a group for women from the ages of 20 to 40 years old who desire to find more freedom in their relationship with their food. There are many components that influence one’s relationship and patterns of eating such as self-esteem, body image, relationships, family history, and life circumstances. My hope is that this group provides a safe place for women to come and sort through what factors are complicating their relationship with food, themselves, and their relationships with others.

If you have had a diagnosable eating disorder in the past you are welcome; if you have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder you are welcome. The focus of this group is not how to heal from a diagnosable eating disorder, per se. It is rather to help you untangle the web of emotions and cognitions behind food and addressing those aspects rather than the eating itself. My hope is that women are able to find sustainable methods of connecting with themselves, with others, and with food and break out of the maladaptive patterns that have been formed. The tone of this group is welcoming, understanding, compassionate, and empathetic because has unhealthy habits and beliefs that they develop  to help them cope and survive. By the end of this group, I hope that you are no longer surviving in your relationship with food, but rather thriving!

About the Author:

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Amy McCann, RP, Apprentice, is earning her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. She is open to seeing many types of clients of all age ranges. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and desires to help couples strengthen their relationship. Amy earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Vermont, and desires to help her clients in a holistic way. She is passionate about people finding true freedom and healing in every area of life. Amy also has rich cultural experiences with living overseas and enjoys cross-cultural work with clients. Amy is originally from Boston, but loves living in Colorado with her husband. They enjoy hiking, fly fishing, playing games with friends, and eating ice cream. 

When Body Positivity Doesn’t Feel So Positive

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When it comes to the topic of body image and eating disorder recovery, much conversation occurs around the concept of body positivity. In recent years, a movement has erupted from beneath the rigid body image expectations perpetuated by our culture to declare that “health” should no longer be automatically synonymized with “thin,” and we have begun to see a greater celebration of the various ways that bodies take size and shape. Instead of enslaving our bodies to harsh diets and punishing workout routines, an alternative approach has been offered to tell us that we can indeed celebrate the feats our bodies are capable of and honor them with nourishing foods and movement that we enjoy.

Many of the leaders in this movement are women who have been brave enough to push back against the unreasonable body image standards to which they have long been held hostage, and often in my work in the field of eating disorder treatment, I have suggested that the rest of us must join the work our sisters have started and begin to cultivate body positivity movements for men, racial minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community, as well.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge, however, that for those of us who have spent significant amounts of time at war with our bodies, the idea of such personal body positivity can seem nearly impossible. The notion may be good in theory, but after years of wrestling with body disgust and hatred, the concept of celebrating and loving our physical selves can feel like nothing more than a pipe dream. To you, my friend, I simply say: I get it. Body positivity does not always feel good and positive, and I know well that the way we feel about our physical selves does not always consist of celebration, warmth, or acceptance. If anything, the expectation that body positivity must be defined by these experiences can lead us into deeper guilt and shame about the actual, darker emotions we sometimes feel when we look in the mirror. The truth is, for some of us, practicing body positivity will at times be the most difficult, and least positive-feeling, thing we ever do.

I recently went through a difficult season in my life, and honestly, I did not feel very positive about my body during any of it. It was a season of hardship, filled with struggle, scarcity, hurt, and grief, and in an attempt to alleviate some of the pain, I turned back to a few of my most reliable and damaging numbing techniques. My body, in turn, adjusted with them.

I am well-practiced at criticizing my body for not being good enough and for changing in ways that I deem to be undesirable and unacceptable, and during this season, it took a lot of my energy to refrain from berating my body and myself for being human and imperfect every time I got dressed in the morning. It took additional energy to then refrain from engaging in even more damaging practices to compensate for its changes. The only body positivity I could muster during that time was an acknowledgement of the ways my body had agreed to hold my pain when the rest of me could not and choose not to actively criticize it or punish it for the way it had done so.      

In reality, body positivity doesn’t always, or sometimes ever, look like a celebration for all of the wonderful things our bodies allow us to do. Some days, body positivity instead looks like whispering to our physical selves through gritted teeth and tear-stained cheeks that despite the pain, the fear, or the disgust, we will choose not to do anything we know will cause them harm. Some days, it looks like nothing more than putting in the fight to ride out the wave of body distress without engaging in destructive, quick-fix ways out of the emotion, even if we know those ways will temporarily dull the pain. Some days, body positivity is desperately seeking out a glimmer of gratitude, no matter how small, that our bodies have endured our mistreatment, made space for our pain, and have kept us alive. And on those days, my friend, that is enough. 

Body positivity, in its truest form, is not always pretty, and it is certainly not always connected to any actual positive feeling. For some of us, loving our physical selves may feel futile or impossible, and yet, if there is even one small act of physical kindness that can get us through the difficult days, if there is even one time we can show our bodies appreciation instead of harm, the hope that inspires body positivity remains.

My dear friend, if you are afraid that celebrating your physical self is out of reach, I feel you. However, if you are also tired of waging a constant war against your body, I am with you. Let us begin the hard work of making peace with our flesh and bones together, and in doing so, discover that in the moments when we feel like celebrating our bodies least, even the smallest acts of physical kindness are cause for celebration, too.           

 

About the Author:

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Zach Verwey, MA, LPC, NCC holds a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from a CACREP accredited program and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Colorado. In his clinical practice, Zach has worked extensively with LGBTQ+ concerns, eating disorders, holistic sexual health, values and identity, and grief and loss, and he is Prepare/Enrich certified in working with couples. He is especially passionate about addressing the ways in which body image difficulties impact the LGBTQ+ community and regularly works with clients and provides education through writing and public speaking on this topic. Zach believes deeply in the power of interpersonal and intrapersonal relationship work in the therapeutic process, and offers a holistic and integrative approach that honors the mind, body, and spirit. In his spare time, Zach enjoys reading the memoirs of female comedians, experimenting with new bread recipes, and exploring Denver’s latest hot spots with a friend or two. 

 

Is “Fitspiration” Worthy of Aspiration?

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Are you constantly looking in the mirror to see if you have lost that five pounds yet? Or always thinking about your next meal and whether it will fit in your diet regimen? Do you feel anxious if you haven’t completed your exercise routine? You are certainly not alone. Many women everyday wrestle with body image and obsessive patterns concerning food and exercise. Disordered eating is a very common issue for women.

There is a new trend on social media called “Fitspiration.” Many women will tag themselves after their workout or eating a healthy meal and tag #fitspiration on sites like Instagram and Facebook. Studies have shown that there are over 5.2 million pictures on Instagram with this hashtag (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017). This hashtag highlights women with a certain body type, which is unattainable for lots of women. It also does not highlight the health benefits of diet and exercise, but rather obtaining a certain appearance. This can lead to discouragement for women who don’t feel like they match these women's images and it can send them spiraling into unhealthy eating behaviors.

One study compared a group of women who posted photos of fitspiration with a group of women who posted pictures of travel who were both tested for behaviors of disordered eating and compulsive exercise. Even though the women who posted fitness pictures appeared healthier, they scored higher for patterns of disordered eating (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017). The women posting fitspiration photos also scored higher for compulsive exercise, which is associated with more extreme levels of exercise that can lead to fatigue, injury proneness and social withdrawal (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017). It appears that the women posting about fitness are motivated more by perfectionism (Goodwin, Haycraft, Willis, & Meyer, 2011) and the drive to obtain the ‘socially acceptable’ body image  rather for the benefits of health (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017).

Images like these and many other factors in life can encourage unhealthy behaviors of eating and working out. Changing these behaviors is not as simple as finding the will power. There are multiple levels of thought, will, and heart all at play. It takes time to determine where the depths of insecurity have originated and how to work through it. Please check in again as we continue to unpack this complex topic of disordered eating and ways that lead towards true healing and freedom.

 

continuing the conversation

 

There is a much needed conversation around women and disordered eating, where the questions of “how do I know when I am falling into patterns of disordered eating?” or “what drives me to habits of disorder eating?

If you or someone you know would like more help to navigate through your relationship with food, I would encourage you to check out our group called “Navigating Your Relationship with Food: From Disordered Eating Towards Recovery.” There will also be a part two of this blog that will delve deeper into the underlying dynamics behind eating disorders.

About The Author:

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Amy McCann, RP, Apprentice, is earning her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. She is open to seeing many types of clients of all age ranges. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and desires to help couples strengthen their relationship. Amy earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Vermont, and desires to help her clients in a holistic way. She is passionate about people finding true freedom and healing in every area of life. Amy also has rich cultural experiences with living overseas and enjoys cross-cultural work with clients. Amy is originally from Boston, but loves living in Colorado with her husband. They enjoy hiking, fly fishing, playing games with friends, and eating ice cream. 

 

The Benefits of Exercise

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As the new year approaches many are thinking about their health and fitness goals for 2018. Our guest blogger Deb Ruka who is a personal trainer in Lone Tree writes about the link between physical wellness and mental wellness. We hope this helps to kick off your new year in a holistically healthy way.  

Exercise...everyone knows they should be doing it, but most people don’t realize just how beneficial it is. Here are just a few of the advantages to regular exercise: weight control, improved body image, reduced stress, and decreased risk of disease.  These benefits are just tip of the iceberg. Hopefully this article will convince and motivate you to prioritize physical fitness.

Exercise is a great way to manage your weight. Think of calories as a savings account: you always want to have some in reserve. Calories in moderation are not a bad thing, just the opposite, calories are in essence heat energy, which means calories increase your energy levels.  And burning calories will boost your metabolism, increasing your body's overall efficiency.  Exercise and good nutrition are a great recipe for increased energy and weight control.  
   
While weight loss is usually the prime motivator to get people started on a workout regime, don't underestimate the added benefit of  improved body image that will result. This can be challenging and frustrating because it usually takes time to notice changes. You will probably notice physical changes, like your clothes fitting differently, before changes on the scale. Don’t be alarmed, this is a good thing because it means you are losing body fat and gaining muscle. Focus on exercising consistently and good nutrition, then the weight loss will come.  With the confidence you'll feel from from your improved self-image, you'll notice that feeling will trickle into other aspects of your everyday life improving your mood and your overall mental health!
     
If that doesn’t inspire you how about the effect exercise has on your stress levels?  Exercising prompts your body to excrete endorphins.  In layman's terms, these are feel good hormones, so exercise results in the reduction of stress and mood improvements. Exercise:  it's the most underutilized antidepressant! 
   
Still not convinced to exercise? Does a decreased risk of disease peak your interest?  Regular exercise can improve your cardiovascular health and lessen the possibility of type 2 Diabetes. It can also reduce your prospects of getting some cancers, strengthens your bones, and mitigates your chances of having osteoporosis. When you aren't worried about your physical health, you'll have more time to focus on your mental well-being.
     
Is it work?  Of course, that’s why it’s called working out, but anything worth having is worth working for. Your physical health is directly correlated to your mental health; so go out there and do something, anything, to stay active! There are so many options out there:  play a sport, hire a trainer, download workouts on line, go for a brisk walk, jog, bike, join a group fitness class, join a gym, buddy up with a friend, or rent free workout DVDs from a library. So who’s motivated?! 

To talk to the author Deb Ruka L.Ac.,Dipl.,MSTCM about your fitness goals for the new year please contact her at  her website  or by phone at 720-209-2984.

To talk to the author Deb Ruka L.Ac.,Dipl.,MSTCM about your fitness goals for the new year please contact her at her website or by phone at 720-209-2984.

Kindness and Potential Work Together

Kindness and Potential Work Together

There are daily opportunities to lean into kindness, or not. This could all sounds fine and dandy too, until it gets personal. This call toward a kind life, which means a full life in my mind, means this calling gets personal, and it did for me recently...[12 more minutes of audio]

Reciprocating Kindness Part 1: Why?

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Context first and then we will talk principle.

First, I intentionally chose one of the most guttural-and-difficult-to-pronounce-in-English words for the name of this organization for a reason. The word is that important. In fact, it was that important to the Ancient Hebrews where this word originated.

Khesed means loving kindness. To better capture the translation, it can mean reciprocating kindness. Khesed isn’t just a good feeling of loving kindness, it’s a lifestyle. Kindness is a generous quality, and when we get it, we want more. We also seem to want to produce more.

Growing up in Southern California I spent my childhood along shorelines. I love laying on my stomach just where the water last licks the sand and rushes back into the deep. If you lay still enough, long enough, with your belly on the sand and your chin laying on your hands, you start to see a whole world unfold. It’s amazing how that happens when we slow down.

Then, if you let your eyes dance a bit in-and-out of focus, like we do in those rare moments of rest, you start to see glimmers. The sand suddenly has layers of color and texture. Then, you see the gold flecks dancing among the rest of the bland-colored bits of sand.

Reciprocating kindness is like the specks of gold in the sand of our lives.

My love for watching the ocean quickly grew toward my love for watching people, and soon, talking with people as they wade through their depths. The therapy room felt as sacred as the layers of sand beneath my bare feet, watching the water dancing back-and-forth with the deep blue.

Kindness is what allows the gold of therapy to shine. The kindness of safe space to process. Space where the only motivation for the therapist is the client’s well-being. Space to be fully human.

At it’s best, the therapy room is one of the kindest places on Earth. I don’t mean kindness that always feels good. I mean kindness that calls forth the client’s well-being; holding space for the twists and turns of the process.

Which is why it felt like such a whiplash every time I stepped out of the therapy room, and entered the chaotic nature of the mental health industry. It took about a week after grad school, immersing myself in this profession, to realize:

Most people can’t afford counseling.

Most people don’t get help for weeks because clinicians are overloaded and underpaid.

Most people don’t have sufficient insurance coverage for treatment.

Most people don’t know where to access help.

Most people can’t find a counselor that stays in the industry for long.

Most people aren’t able to find much help at all.

That feels drab doesn’t it? It frustrating, ridiculous, even unkind.

Kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate,” according to Google. The mental health industry doesn’t feel very friendly, generous, or considerate. Which makes me sad, because I think this industry is filled with generous therapists ready to help.

So I began asking myself, “How does kindness start?”

It starts with believing in generosity. There is an abundance of kindness waiting to pour from us and sprout across our world. Abundance is an oasis that feels like a mirage to most people.

Imagine that time you needed help and someone said call this person they can help. And then you called that person and they said, “I can see you tomorrow.” And you found a way to make it work with your schedule, maybe reached between your seats to find cash for payment, if it was involved, because you were that thirsty for help.

Then you met that person and there was something about their presence that drew you in. Help didn’t turn out to be what you thought, you didn’t feel fixed, but you felt drawn in. They were present with you, believed in you beyond your performance, they saw you. They drew you in and they made you want to spread what you got in that space. You felt as if you found treasure.

The ocean, the therapy room, this kind of story and many more like it, led me to dream:

What if everyone has an abundance of kindness waiting to be tapped, wanting to help those who feel tapped out?

What if a mental health and wellness center’s mission was to provide affordable and accessible care, because the lack of affordable and accessible care feels most unkind when in the depths of life?

What if mental health and wellness practitioners were given a place to thrive in an environment that felt kind in-and-out of the therapy room?

What if businesses, temples, churches, and organizations (who have plenty of unused space) had a way to use space as a mental health and wellness center, making a tangible social impact in their community?

Basically, I kept layering kindness until it was a sustainable business model.

As I considered the different parts of a business model—how to keep the lights on, how to create a healthy work culture, how to engage our clientele, how to be a life-giving addition to a burnout industry—all of it, I knew it needed to be kind from beginning to end.

It’s amazing how an abstract word from an ancient tribe can transcend into a Colorado nonprofit believing that reciprocating kindness can transform mental health and wellness in our nation. And I believe we will.

A couple of weeks ago our team took a one day retreat. I talked with our counselors about creating an ethos of kindness in our organization. I think most assume their workplace will be kind but few experience it. Choosing a business model of kindness is actually terrifying and the hardest kind of work. Why?

It requires our whole selves to show up and believe in kindness, everyday.

In a world that leans on frameworks, forecasts, and fears, we choose kindness. In the unknown, we choose kindness. In the hurt, we choose to respond in a way that creates more authentic kindness.

In an industry that doesn’t feel kind, we believe kindness will change its’ trajectory. Above all, kindness is what brings us together when we feel divided in our relationships, in our world, and even within ourselves.

Everything Khesed does has the goal of manifesting more kindness in our world. It gives light to fractures. Or as my dear friend Kristin, who also happens to be on our board, quoted to me this week from the great Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Kindness reminds us of light in our darkness.

Khesed Wellness exists because we believe in a lifestyle of spreading kindness. It’s the only way I know how to see light in such a dark world. I believe people are always drawn to light, even when they’re running from it.

Khesed exists because we believe that experiencing kindness can transform how we see the world, and even ourselves, especially as we ebb-and-flow with life.

That’s why.

 

 

 

Heather Nelson, MA, LPC, NCC 

Premenstrual Suffering