}

Body Shaming Q & A with Cori Rosenthal

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1) In one of your meditations in the Body Shaming series you talk about “feeling fat” as a catch all for all kinds of uncomfortable feelings.  Can you say more about this? How do we parse out and attend to the complex feelings that get bundled up in to “feeling fat”?

Feeling fat is shorthand we often use for uncomfortable emotions and body sensations.  It makes sense when we talk about feeling bloated after a big meal, but when we use this shorthand for describing emotions we are not addressing our actual  emotions. It’s important to slow down, turn within and ask what else you are feeling in those moments. Initially it may be difficult to know, but in time and with practice you can better ascertain how you are feeling and what you need to appropriately soothe yourself in that moment.

2) Can you tell us what the difference is between intuitive eating and mindful eating? It seems like there is some overlap.

Mindful eating is paying attention and engaging the senses in the process of eating.  Mindful eaters listen to hunger and satiety cues to know when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat.  Mindful eating does not place judgement on what you eat. You can mindfully eat a piece of cake as easily as a bowl of fruit.

Intuitive eating incorporates mindful eating within its principles but actually goes much farther.  The goal of intuitive eating is to help people stop dieting and make peace with food and their bodies. This goal is achieved through 10 principles:

  • rejecting the diet culture

  • honoring your hunger

  • making peace with food by giving yourself unconditional permission to eat to overcome the deprivation cycle

  • challenge the food police declaring foods are good and bad and you are good or bad when you eat them

  • respecting your body signals that you are no longer hungry

  • eat what you really want in an inviting environment

  • honor your feelings without using food

  • respect your body and accept that everyone is not built to be a particular body size anymore than we are all intended to wear the same shoe size

  • exercise because of how it feels to move your body and not because you will burn calories; honor your health and taste buds

3) One of the tenets of intuitive eating is to reject the diet mentality altogether.  How can you do that when you’ve spent most of your adolescence and adult life “watching your weight?”

First you have to want to reject the diet mentality.  Despite the fact that 95% of people who go on diets regain their weight and at least ½ gain additional weight, the diet industry is a multi-billion dollar business in the US.  Rejecting diet culture also includes rejecting the temptation to have conversations with friends about the latest weight loss solution. It also includes letting go of all the hopes and dreams you pinned to your weight loss goals.  

Letting go requires mindfulness, patience and compassion for yourself and others.  Mindfulness will allow you to notice diet language such as labeling food as good or bad or fantasizing about the perfect relationship or job will appear if only you are thinner.  Patience because you are attempting to change your relationship with food and your body and that takes time. You will have many pitfalls on that journey. Self-compassion because you are letting go of something familiar and even comfortable. Compassion for others because we are all negatively impacted by the diet culture.

4) Let’s say you have to watch your weight and your diet because you have a health condition--perhaps you’re diabetic or have high cholesterol.  How can you modify the intuitive eating approach to address that kind of situation?

The great news is that you do not have to modify the intuitive eating approach to honor your health requirements.  Intuitive eating asks that you reject dieting for the purpose of weight loss because focusing on that goal is ineffective 95% of the time.  This is not the same as monitoring glucose levels. I do not eat dairy because it upsets my stomach and eating it does not honor my body. It does not feel like deprivation, it feels like you are nurturing yourself and honoring your body. Not eating ice cream because it is fattening is deprivation.  If someone wants to incorporate the principles of intuitive eating while tending to their specific health needs, a dietitian trained in intuitive eating can be very helpful.

5)  If you’re in a larger size body and want to date, do you have any tips for dealing with insecurity around body size?  

Our culture is not very forgiving of people in larger bodies and the dating world is no different. There is definitely a stigma around weight and I don’t want to minimize the experience of dating in this kind of climate.  And yet there are millions of people with “larger bodies” who find people who love them for who they are.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in dating is beginning with accepting ourselves as we are--and trusting that there is so much more to who we are than our body  size. And that is true no matter what clothing size you wear.

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Q & A: How Redefining Failure Creates the Foundation for Resilience

with Shira Myrow, LMFT

“We’re all going to fail at something in life. It’s a given. So we have to figure out not how to avoid them entirely, but how to relate to them when they happen.”

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Failure feels like such a loaded word.  It still carries a social stigma to it. How can we reframe it in a way that is less off-putting?

I agree. On the surface, failure sounds like a final judgment, an endpoint in which there is no recovering from. And there are definitely cases where people can do serious harm or have severe lapses in moral judgement. But failures are also subjective. There’s a spectrum.  We’re all going to fail at something in life. It’s a given. So we have to figure out not how to avoid them entirely, but how to relate to them when they happen.

Often times the judgment we have about our actions are overly harsh and critical. I think failures can be an invitation into a different kind conversation with yourself if you can get passed the shame and tendency to shut down.  I think of it as an invitation to develop resilience by embracing the resistance and the uncomfortable feelings to get to the deeper meaning or lesson behind it.

How do meditation and mindfulness help us with failure experiences?

When we can combine contemplative practices like meditation and mindfulness with a compassionate, courageous form of inquiry---we can become more skillful at working with our ourselves. And when we can soften our self-judgment, we can figure out what next steps to take. Do we accept that something isn’t going to happen?  Or do we try again?

Meditation and mindfulness are amazing tools for self-regulation...and for calming down the anxious mind.  You can’t metabolize the lessons of failure when you’re in an emotionally reactive state. You can’t get the value or the meaning out of the experience until you can distance yourself from the web of negative thoughts and emotions that can obscure the clarity and wisdom that might just be lurking beneath them.  

How do you “redefine” failure?

Perhaps a more approachable way of defining failure is a feeling of deep disappointment and loss frequently coupled with shame or frustration.  And when you define it that way--so many experiences in life can fit that description: losing a job, making a bad financial decision, going through a divorce.  Maybe we’re failing at love or failing at parenting. It’s rather specific to the individual. One person’s success could be another person’s failure. Often times, we don’t realize that our feelings of failure have a lot to do with comparing ourselves to others, and that can influence our perception of how well or not well we’re doing. That’s something to be mindful of, so we don’t lose our connection with our internal compass.

Why are we so afraid of failure?

Failure triggers a stress response in our brains and our brains perceive the thought of failure as a threat. It’s not making distinctions though --whether the failure is an actual threat to our survival or, let’s say a perceived threat. It’s responding the same way. Social humiliation activates the same system of fight or flight in the emotional center of our brain.  None of us want to suffer from the painful emotions or hypercritical thoughts that we associate with failing. Of course, we want to avoid it or even deny it. But when we don’t do the inner work, we set ourselves up to repeat the same patterning that led us to this point in the first place.

From your perspective, why is failure so critical in terms of our psychological development? And how does it foster resilience?

Failures drive our psychological growth. That’s why they’re such rich experiences to mine.  But we get so caught up in the embarrassment or humiliation, that we miss how failures serve our development. Myself included.  A little self-disclosure here. Resilience is born precisely out of adversity, out of challenge. We’re not born resilient. We don’t magically become resilient reading self-help books or watching TED talks. You become resilient by integrating those difficult experiences and consciously adapting.

You only start to trust that you can resource yourself as you go through difficulty and crisis. And as parents, there is finally a recognition in the culture that we’re not helping our kids anymore by taking away every disappointment from them. In fact, we’re doing them a great disservice if we never allow them to fail.

How does changing the story or narrative around failure help us become more resilient?

Language is so powerful because it shapes our experience.  If we get stuck in a shame story, we can’t move into a more generative conversation --what did we learn? What would we do differently next time?  What meaning can we get from this? In order to build resilience, we need a thoughtful process, an opportunity to mindfully assess and reflect so we can integrate the experience.

One way to ease the vice grip of over-identification with failure is giving yourself permission to learn and make mistakes or allowing yourself to be a beginner and have a beginner’s mindset when you try new things. Those are both compassionate reframes. When we change how we language our story, we can start to shift how we perceive it. I use it with the couples I work with who come in and feel like they’re failing at marriage because they’re fighting all the time. I show them that their reactive bids for connection or problem solving are what’s failing. Instead, curiosity, compassion, persistence, and self-awareness, can create a a new set of patterns, to become skillful in a relationship.

How does meditation help us with our resistance to working with failures?

Over time, a meditation practice not only teaches us how to sit with those difficult emotions, it starts to soften our resistance.  What do I mean by resistance? It’s our discomfort confronting and unpacking our feelings around failure. I like to think of the resistance as a monolithic wall that makes it seem impossible to walk through.  But the more we sit, the more the energy changes...and the wall turns into a fog that we can walk through and get curious and compassionate about. We still need courage --as we can’t always know what’s on the other side, but the resistance becomes permeable.  And it’s this experience that allows us to feel a renewed sense of possibility. That change is possible. Failure isn’t so much a barrier or inconvenience, or obstruction in our lives as much as it is a doorway into self-reflection and profound self-growth.

My series on Redefining Failure on the Evenflow App is a deeper dive into that exploration of compassionate inquiry.  Making mistakes and confronting emotional challenges are extraordinary doorways to uncovering the essential questions in failure experiences but also discovering ourselves in the process.

 

 

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New Baby Q & A with Jennifer Waldburger

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1) Nothing will affect a couple as profoundly as having a newborn. It’s a time of tremendous excitement and joyfulness, but it can also be a very destabilizing time, especially if a couple doesn’t have much external support.  What can parents do if they don’t have family or friends ready to help out?

“That’s a great question. Lots of couples unfortunately don’t live near family, and it can feel overwhelming as a new parent once the relatives who visit to lend an extra hand go back home again. That old adage that it takes a village to raise a child really is true, so it’s important for new parents to seek other supports close to home - new-parent support and education groups, classes for your baby where you can meet other parents, asking that mom at the park to meet up for coffee or a play date.”

2) Having a new baby can really challenge the couple relationship, too.

“That’s for sure! If you’re feeling like it’s hard to reconnect as a couple after having a baby, you are definitely in good company. As overjoyed as you might be as new parents, having a child also exposes every crack and flaw in your couple relationship. That can feel terrifying to face, especially at a time when you are so exhausted and overwhelmed by all of the caretaking. Also, moms’ bodies can take months to adjust after having a baby, making intimacy much less appealing. If you can be patient during this adjustment as you slowly find your way toward connecting as not only a couple but as co-parents - and keep a sense of humor along the way - you’ll likely find that your bond becomes even deeper as you see your love for each other reflected in this little person you welcomed into the world together. A meditation practice can be very supportive to new parents in that it gives them the opportunity to metabolize lots of what’s coming up both as a new parent and a new co-parent - and can make it less likely that your own emotional triggers will create tension and conflict in the couple relationship.”

3) Do you think the influence of social media, such as Instagram and Facebook have changed our expectations around pregnancy and birth?

“Yes, both for better and for worse. On the one hand, it’s great that parents can find so much information online and connect virtually with other parents. On the other hand, sometimes there is such a thing as too much information - conflicting opinions and guidance can make your head spin - and some using social media present images that depict their family life as nothing but joy and happiness and cute “mishaps” with kids. That tends to breed an environment of comparison, and can cause you to feel bad about your own, much messier family life. But it’s important to remember what you’re comparing yourself to isn’t even real! Parents owe it to each other not to gloss over the gritty side of daily life with kids, while of course celebrating all that’s great about it too.

4) If you’re struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, what kinds of connection or support can help normalize and address these symptoms?

“It’s important to distinguish between the experience of sadness, anxiety, and irritability that can be present for any new parent who’s exhausted and overwhelmed, and what is truly postpartum depression. If symptoms are affecting your day-to-day functioning and / or your ability to care for your baby - and have been present for more than two weeks - it’s time to seek help. (Talk to your OB-GYN or your baby’s pediatrician, who can give you a referral.) But even if you don’t have diagnosable postpartum depression, the intensity of emotion, sometimes exacerbated by hormonal shifts, can be very challenging for a new parent - especially when you have to be “on”  and available for your baby pretty much around the clock. This is where a practice of mindfulness and meditation can really help. Learning how to make room for the sensations that accompany these emotions, slowly and gradually, can go a long way toward helping you feel your best as a mom or dad - and helping you be the best parent you can be. New parents don’t have lots of time to meditate, so we created several meditations in this series that can be done with your baby.”

5) We don’t hear much about dads’ postpartum experience. What’s it like for them? Do they experience anxiety and sadness too?

“Some absolutely do. Research indicates that about 10 percent of men experience symptoms of depression after the birth of a child, which is almost twice the rate of depression in males that is usually reported. There’s some evidence to suggest that fluctuations in testosterone play a role in a man’s experience of postpartum depression. And just like with women, the way postpartum depression manifests for men is unique to the individual - some get bluesy, but others may be irritable, anxious, or foggy. Men aren’t socialized the way women are to pay attention to their emotions, so it can feel quite shocking to a man to discover so much activity in his emotional landscape. Many men who meditate describe feeling better able to handle emotional ups and downs.”

6) You have a beautiful new baby series on the Evenflow app, which focuses on cultivating attunement and attachment. What is attunement and why do we hear so much about the importance of healthy attachment with babies?

“Attunement is the ability to sense into your baby’s experience and respond to her needs. Healthy attachment refers to a balanced, loving relationship where there is room for both closeness and separation; it’s an essential cornerstone for a child’s healthy development. But there is a common misconception among moms that being a good mother means attending to all of your child’s needs perfectly all of the time. Not only is that completely impossible, but it wouldn’t be good for your child even if you could achieve it -  what a shock she would receive once she went off to school and realized that isn’t how the world works! Thanks to D. W. Winnicott, a pediatrician and researcher, we know that being a “good enough” mother - one who responds accurately to her child’s needs enough but not all of the time - is actually healthiest of all.”

7) For parents with toddlers and a new baby or another one on the way, how do you bond with your newborn when you’re also chasing after your first child or managing their jealousy?

“Before you welcome your second child, you always wonder how you will love another child just as much. And then when that new baby arrives, your heart expands and somehow there is enough love for everyone. But your older child will have an adjustment period as she  gets used to having to share you and be patient. As a parent of more than one, there will inevitably be times when both kids need you and one has to wait. For your older child especially, if you can recognize this as an opportunity to develop some core self-regulation skills - handling disappointment, tolerating frustration, slowing down impulsivity - you’ll have an easier time allowing your own emotions about not being able to be all things to all people. Kids learn a ton of valuable experience in the sibling relationship that will serve them well out in the world. See if you can find small windows of alone time to bond with your baby (while your older child is at school, napping or with the other parent or a caregiver), and small windows of alone time to reinforce the bond you already have with your older child, too (while the baby is napping or with the other parent or a caregiver).”

 

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