The Effects of Restrictive Dieting

In a recent article entitled “How Restrictive Diets Mess with Our Brains and Lead to Bingeing” by Roni Davis and featured on tinybuddha, Davis writes about her experience with restrictive dieting and subsequent development of an eating disorder. What I especially resonated with in this article is what she says about the overall process of restricting and how it affects us psychologically:

“There are many reasons behind why we eat what we eat, when we eat, and even the quantities we choose to eat; it just doesn’t work to tell someone to stop everything they know and just eat this much of this at this time of day, because at some later date it’ll make them skinny and happy. Our brains don’t work that way. Our brains actually work exactly the opposite. As soon as we place restrictions on what we’re allowed or not allowed to eat, our brains start creating compulsions and obsessive thoughts that drive us to “cave.” Have you ever noticed that as soon as you “can’t” have something, you automatically want it even more? That’s a survival instinct that’s literally been hard-wired into our brains since the beginning of time……. From an evolutionary standpoint, we’re not designed to restrict food. Coded into our DNA is the overwhelming urge to survive, so when food (either over-all calories or food groups) is restricted, our brains begin to create urgency, compulsions, and strong desires that force us to fill its needs—and often, even more than its needs (binges).”

Instead, Davis, again from experience, proposes that we begin to form a connection with our bodies; that we learn to distinguish between being physically hungry and emotionally hungry. She notes that giving ourselves unconditional permission to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, based on our mind/body connection, allows us to become mindful of the choices we are making and the obsessions we have created with food will dissipate.

Davis goes into much greater detail in her article; it is a worthy read:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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The Importance of Shared Experiences

As my sister and I continue to prepare our parent’s home to be sold, we have been blessed by the kindness of their neighbours. Since our mother’s passing in November, the driveway was shoveled after every snowfall, mail taken in, and offers of coffee when we were there working. As we near the day that the house will be placed on the market, we continue to be grateful for a kind word or a hug from the people that they had formed connections with in the past 15 years.

This past weekend, we were invited to a traditional Ukranian meal by the neigbours that live across the street. My parents had always enjoyed the meal, typically served at Christmas, so it was without hesitation that we agreed to be spoiled with the promise of delicious food and good company.

The evening went beyond my expectation, as I was not prepared for how touched I would feel to hear the neighbour’s memories of who my parents were to them. To hear that my Dad would leave tomatoes on their doorstep, or how my Mom would come by with a warm apple pie, gave me some insight as to their relationships outside of family. I am grateful for the amount of time the neighbours put into preparing an unforgettable meal, and am thankful to have heard such kind words spoken about our parents.

Shared experiences become part of the richness of our memory bank, they help to reinforce the importance of connection; they feed our soul. When the opportunity comes your way to share an experience with someone, set aside your to-do list and say yes; it is time well spent. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

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The Destructive Forces of Resentment

I love this saying by Buddha and will often use it in session:

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are

the one who gets burned.” – Buddha

This type of anger is not what we would consider immediate anger – those rising up feelings that occur when someone says something to upset you for example. This type of anger is one that falls in the category of hostility or resentment. It is pent up anger, pushed down anger, anger that has been avoided, anger that we hold on to. Sometimes it is towards a person who has hurt us, other times it is anger that comes from a circumstance in our life that has not been resolved.

In any case, it is a destructive anger. And the only person it is really destroying is yourself. I also liken the hot coal to a stone in your heart; hostility and bitterness will create stones in your heart, and the person that carries that heavy load is you.

We are in a much better position to begin to explore our hurt, for that is really what resentment is about – we have skipped over the hurt to anger and it keeps us in a place where we avoid the pain, thereby avoiding forgiveness. I would say that perhaps it is time to let go of that hot coal and begin the tender care of our wounds. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Armando Ascorve Morales on Unsplash

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Interesting Facts About Walking

We all know that walking is good for us. In a recent article entitled “The benefits of walking and how to get the most out of it” by RJ Skinner and featured on CBC Life, Skinner includes some interesting facts about what is considered our most natural form of exercise:

  • “Regular walking has been shown to fight genetic weight gain, curb cravings, ease joint pain and strengthen your immunity.” I especially liked hearing that “walking can help tame your sweet tooth; even a 15 minute walk can help to alleviate sugar cravings.”
  • A 2015 study found that going from a sedentary lifestyle to taking 10,000 steps per day could lower your risk of mortality by 46 per cent.”
  • “Walking can be used as part of a greater regimen as it can work well with other forms of exercise such as strength training or flexibility type exercise programs.”

What I appreciate most about this article is the focus on the simplicity of walking. We don’t need a lot of equipment, it is a four season activity, and it feels natural to our body. Walking in nature is also good for our peace of mind, reducing our overall stress levels and increasing our feeling of calm. “One step at a time,” literally 🙂

To read the full article:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

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Why Integration is Important for Growth

When we are watching the final scenes of a movie, or reading the final pages of a novel, we look to have things wrapped up. Although I suppose we are ultimately looking for that happy ending, we are also aware that sometimes that is not entirely possible; at the very least, we wish to be satisfied that “things worked out in the end.”

It is very similar in our own stories. People often come to therapy because of an event that has happened to them; perhaps they are wrestling with something either in their present circumstances or their past that is affecting their current state of mind. People come in wanting solutions, their goals often reflect “just wanting to be happy.” What they are really asking for is integration.

In order for integration to occur, we must first gain an understanding of what is going on for us; how it perhaps came to be, the patterns that it created, the current way that we are dealing with it. Only with an understanding, can we move towards acceptance and change. When we can unite the elements of our story in a way that makes cohesive sense to us, when we can blend both sadness and joy into our experiences, we begin to feel a greater sense of being complete. The process of integration allows us to have faith that it will all work out in the end.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Bethany Laird on Unsplash

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5 Things I Learned from Online Dating

Ah, the online dating world! I can tell you that I came into it rather reluctantly as I was pretty sure that I was going to meet someone the old fashioned way. Ha! Two blind dates and then a 6 month lull convinced me I needed to bridge the waters of cyber-space dating. Being fairly introverted by nature, I had to gear myself up; I read a book about what to expect and then headed to my best friend’s house where we set up my profile over a glass (or two) of wine. It was a fun way to ease my mind and I felt a bit more prepared 🙂

Here are the lessons I learned about online dating:

  1. Paid dating sites do some of the vetting for you. You are much less likely to get requests for threesomes and hookups on the paid dating sites. And hey, I figured if I was paying to be a part of a dating site, so were they 🙂
  2. Chat for no more than a week without suggesting to meet. I quickly figured out that you could chat with someone for 3 weeks only for them to cancel the date on the day of because they “weren’t ready.” There really is no point in communicating with someone who shows that level of non-commitment right from the start.
  3. Suggest coffee as a first date instead of dinner. First off, you are in a much better position if the date is not going well to wrap things up earlier than sitting through a lengthy dinner; if the date is going well, nothing stops you from chatting for a couple of hours. Secondly, there is always the issue of who pays for the first date; coffee just makes it easier all around.
  4. Use your instincts. Pay attention to the red flags; if their profile said non-smoker and you can smell smoke when you meet them, heed that warning. I quickly learned that I could often tell on a first date if the person seemed compatible and I didn’t feel obligated to a second date when they asked and I would politely decline.
  5. Don’t take things personally. This is a tough one as we are more vulnerable when dating. But the reality is that in your online dating life, you will get ghosted (all communication stops), people go back to someone else they were dating, people end up still having feelings for their exes, people are dating when they are not ready to. All of the above is not about you. The online dating world just makes it easier for people to walk away without considering good manners.

And guess what? Online dating is how I met my partner – a wonderful, compatible and stable man who happened to live 15 minutes away; I most likely may never have met him otherwise. Online dating can work; gear up your confidence so that you can navigate and process as you go along, take breaks when you need to and have an open mind that there are people “just like you” out there. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Wiktor Karkocha on Unsplash

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The Importance of Coming in Soft

I love this quote by Victoria Erickson:

“When you reach your edge, soften. Soften until you slip through the constraints and can create a new rhythm, a new route, a new release. Water is soft yet powerful. Reach your edge, and soften. – Victoria Erickson

Our rigidity and inflexibility have the ability to hold us back. We can experience this type of unyielding thinking at work, in our relationships, in our expectations of ourselves and others. I especially appreciate Erickson’s awareness of when it is important to soften – when we reach our edge. When we are feeling prickly about something, entitled, indignant; those are the times we need to remind ourselves to come in soft. I often say that something delivered calmly carries far more weight than something delivered in anger.

Coming in soft allows the other person to be heard, provides more flexibility to our thinking and matures us to an understanding that the world is far more grey than black and white. Water is soft yet powerful; what a lovely image we can use when we need to remind ourselves to come in soft.

Photo credit: Me!

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The Secure Comfort of Cycles

I often talk about our comfort system. That is the feeling we have when we are at rest and can feel the calm. There are times when we have to be active in nourishing our comfort system with consciously choosing our self-care activities, but there are times when things already built into the world around us bring us security and consistency.

One such place is nature and the inherent cycle that it is propelled to deliver. I like to walk in the forest on a regular basis and it is during a changing of the seasons that I have come to appreciate the stability and consistency of nature’s cycle. First, I will see the ferns, popping themselves out of the earth, their little fiddle heads all curled up. Next,  come the Trillium with their delicate, three-pointed bud and soon I can be assured that the fragrant Lily of the Valley will follow.

While there is always room for spontaneity, our comfort system likes routine and the roundness of things. We like our feet planted on the ground; being outside in nature allows us to inherently appreciate the secure comfort of cycles. 🙂

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Tara Westover Podcast

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about the book “educated” by Tara Westover. I recently listened to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast in which Tara was being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey.

Two things that Tara spoke about I found to be quite introspective:

  • “Thinking about the world from another person’s point of view is incredibly difficult and I think it is what an education is really. And the thing we don’t know is, or we don’t acknowledge, is that respecting other people is actually kind of the first step to respecting yourself. If you can’t have empathy for a life that is different than yours, you’re not going to be able to look at your own life from different points of view in order to make any change.”
  • “There is this intractable, untouchable thing that is you and the trick maybe is to keep the rest of your life still enough so that you listen to it and be aware of it.”

In order to be able to self-reflect, we must also be able to empathize with other people; to appreciate the diversity of the human race. When we are one with ourselves, we feel grounded and secure; leaving ourselves vulnerable to appreciate another person’s story.

If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it.

To listen to the podcast:

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Important Facts About the Teenage Brain

I recently read a meme that made me laugh: The book we really needed was “What to Expect 17 Years After Expecting.”

The teenage years can be some of our most challenging as parents, but also some of our most rewarding. In a recent article entitled “The teenage brain: Seven things parents should know about adolescent behaviour” featured on Women’s Hour, BBC Radio, we can read about some of the characteristics that affect our teenagers. A few that I appreciated:

  • “The teenage brain undergoes a huge transition. Contrary to what was believed for many, many decades, the teenage brain in fact undergoes really substantial amounts of development, both in terms of its structure and its function throughout childhood, throughout adolescence and it only stabilizes around the mid-20s.” This can certainly explain how I saw much maturity from my oldest daughter by the age of 21.
  • “There is a biological reason why teenagers find it hard to get up. Essentially, their circadian rhythm is changing. We know that melatonin, which in humans is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy at night, is produced in the brain about two hours later during the teenage years, than during childhood or adulthood.” Gee, so I guess they aren’t just lazy 😉
  • “Long term health risks don’t scare teenagers. When we are worrying about the kinds of risks that adolescents take, research shows that focusing on the long-term health risks, or the long-term legal risks of decisions, does not work as well as focusing on the social consequences of those risky decisions. This is because the social world is really paramount to teenagers. They care very much what their friends think.” 

Knowing some of these facts can help to temper the frustration we sometimes feel when our teenagers are making impulsive choices or pushing back as a way to gather their independence. We are much better served to be flexible in our attitude towards what is proving to be a very important time in our children’s lives –  I still would have appreciated that book though 🙂

To read the full article:

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