Friday, September 28, 2012
Not Being Perfect is Perfectly OKAY!
I have recently been thinking about how important it is to not only acknowledge and appreciate our strengths, but also acknowledge our weaknesses. By doing this, we give ourselves options. Instead of being critical of ourselves for having weakness, we can make changes or just “own” it. This concept can be extraordinarily frightening, but we just cannot be perfect. We are human. We make mistakes. We have weaknesses. AND IT IS OKAY! That, to me, is a HUGE relief!
For example, I am not good at sports. I am very uncoordinated, and if a ball is flying at my face, I will run the other way. I love being active, but I have found other ways such as dance, running, and yoga to move my body. This is a weakness I “own.” At this point in my life, it is not a priority for me to be good at sports. Maybe in another time, this will be something I will work on. This is where it is very important to know my strengths. I can appreciate that there are other things I do well.
The other option is to work on a weakness. For example, I tend to run late or arrive somewhere with no time to spare. This is a weakness I am aware of, and I think it is important to work on it. I have been making improvements in this area. For me, this was something that was impacting my life and needed to be addressed.
Having these options can be freeing. These examples may seem arbitrary, but I believe this can be applied to many areas. I think the root of this is feeling so grounded in one’s strengths that other things are not as important. It also incorporates the idea of being compassionate toward ourselves instead of critical.
You can give so much to the world through your strengths. Let them shine, and don’t worry about perfection.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
How Many Calories Do I Need?
Most clients will at one point ask me this question. In fact, most people - whether I am at the grocery store or the coffee shop - ask me that question as soon as they find out I am a registered dietitian. If only that question were as simple to answer as it is to ask.
What makes the answer so complicated? The truth is that there is no one number that I can guarantee your body will need every single day. The reason is that there are many things that affect how much energy you need to take in over a 24hr period. Here is a short list:
- Number of hours of sleep
- Presence or absence of illness, such as a fever
- Presence or absence of menstrual cycle
- How much time spent outside in what type of environment
- Physical activity: time, intensity, type and wearing what type of clothing in what type of environment
- Level of stress and how well you deal with it
Each of these variables affect what your body needs on a given day not just to survive, but to help you do what you want to do, such as work, exercise, or spend quality time with friends and family. Remember that food is fuel and - just like a car - without fuel your body can't go where it needs.
So perhaps the question shouldn't be "how many calories do I need", but "how can I fuel my body to do what I want to do"? The answer to that question is mindful eating. Your body does a very good job of telling you exactly when it needs more energy and in what portion...but you have to listen and respond. When you eat intuitively (eat when you are hungry; stop when you are full), you are honoring and respecting your body. In addition, mindful eating is significantly less stressful than trying to worry about counting every bite that goes into your mouth because - as I keep saying - you don't know how much you should eat anyhow! Only your body determines that - not your mind! So the next time you are tempted to start counting calories, I challenge you to stop and instead ask, "how hungry am I?" Then let your body tell you how much is enough.
Katie Davis, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN offers both individual and group nutrition counseling at The Awakening Center. For more info call 773-929-6262.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
I have recently become increasingly aware of the pressure many of us put on ourselves to constantly be “doing”. We base a large portion of our self-worth on our achievements and activities rather than who we are intrinsically. This external focus is largely created and reinforced by society at large. We are taught from a young age the importance of attaining high grades in the classroom and winning trophies in little league, dance recitals, or art shows.
Our culture continues to push competition through achievement, placing a strong emphasis on constant striving to “do” more. We often internalize such messages, thus telling ourselves that we must live up to this incessant force taking the place of our true selves. There is no doubt that we are a fast-paced society, but where does this leave room for us to just simply “be”? How and when can we learn who we are at the core, when we are not striving to achieve what we are told we are supposed to?
The formation and maintenance of our true identities seem important in providing a core basis for giving us a strong sense of self. This core self is important to have throughout the highs and lows we all experience in life, something which will carry us through when times are tough and we feel lost.
However, it is easy to get wrapped up in the achievement-focused whirlwind of society. How then do we separate the “doing” versus “being” components of our identities? This can be difficult, especially for those of us who are used to judging ourselves based on our accomplishments. Here are a few suggestions: try out new things you have never done before, not to challenge yourself but rather to learn more about your own preferences; make a list of as many descriptive words about yourself as you can (unrelated to activities you participate in); ask your close friends and family members to describe you in detail; keep a journal about your feelings, thoughts, and ideas. These are just a few ways to become more aware of your self. Remember, this may be a slow process!
Monday, September 17, 2012
Focus on Today
In an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle and accomplish a personal goal of mine, I have decided to start training for my first 5k. Working out and going for walks or jogs has always been a great way for me to cope with stress while having a moment to myself. I have always wanted to take jogging to the next level and run a 5k but have never had the courage to register. The fear of coming in last was always something that deterred me from pursuing this dream of mine. However, several weeks ago, I had a realization that encouraged me to register. Something inside me believed that I was capable of running a 5k. It took me a very long time to relinquish my anxiety and my “what if” thinking, but now; I am focusing on the present, and understand that worrying about something in the future will not help me in the present. I then began browsing the internet and came across a quote that I found most fitting to my situation. “Worrying does not empty tomorrow if its troubles, it empties today of its strengths,” Corrie Ten Boom. I have always been the type of person who worries about things in the distance instead of focusing on the here and now. As difficult as it was to change this type of thinking, I feel a lot more confident in my abilities when I maintain focused on the present. What I can do is try to focus on the present and try to not worry about things that are out of my control. In order for me to be successful at my first 5k, I can practice, eat right, and sleep well. This way of thinking can be taken into many different contexts. People tend to worry about many aspects of their daily lives such as school, work, family, etc. From my recent experience, my advice would be to focus more on whatever your current situation is and less on worrying about things off into the distance. I know this may be easier said than done but I am trying to use this approach as much as I can. I am beginning with something simple like running my first 5k and hopefully will use this to become more present the different aspects of my life.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
How to Eat an Elephant
My client comes into my office, sits down and promptly bursts into tears, “I can’t do it! It’s too hard! I don’t even know where to begin!”
I am sure you have felt the same way – maybe even said these very words. Recovery from an eating-disorder can feel overwhelming! Your recovery may at times feel so insurmountable that you feel defeated and completely unable to make any progress at all. It may feel so big it would be like trying to swallow a whole elephant.
So how do you recover? How do you swallow an elephant? One bite at a time!
What is the first ‘bite’? Where do you start swallowing the elephant? It doesn’t matter, start anywhere!
When we get overwhelmed and discouraged we get paralyzed. Nothing feels like it would be good enough. Since we don’t know what would be the perfect place to start, we don’t start at all. This causes us to feel more overwhelmed, discouraged and anxious – and we turn back to our symptoms and behaviors to make those feelings go away.
Instead we need to break the problem down into small ‘bites’ – and it really doesn’t matter what we pick to do first – we need to just pick something that is achievable. What small ‘bite’ feels like you would be able to do it? Our inner critic may say, “Just stop! Just eat normally.” If we are bingeing several times a day that would not be do-able. If we say, “I am going to eat, and keep, breakfast before I see my therapist” – that may be do-able.
Once we do that, we have made progress. A tiny bit of progress leads to another ‘bite’ and then another. Pretty soon the ‘bites’ join together and we can see pockets of progress. We may notice after a while that eating and keeping breakfast is just a part of our routine!
Also we do not have to do this alone! Reaching out for support - whether in a support group, a therapy group, a positive relative or friend, or your therapist – is a big ‘bite’ of progress.
What one small ‘bite’ feels do-able to you at this point in your recovery? Once you decide what that one ‘bite’ is tell someone safe – because making a commitment often helps us be honest with ourselves, and keeps us accountable. And if we are struggling, we know that we can reach out to that person to help us.
Hang in there – you can do this, one ‘bite’ at a time!
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC is the Director and Founder of The Awakening Center. She is in the final editing phase of her upcoming book about recovery from eating-disorders. You can reach her at (773) 929-6262 x11.
ps - Amy has great respect for elephants as does not advocate eating one! ;o)