Three Things I Never Thought I’d Be Grateful For in 2016

Three Things I Never Thought I’d Be Grateful For in 2016 + Happy Holidays!

By Kate Daigle, MA, LPC

Happy holidays from Kate Daigle Counseling!!

2016 has been a remarkable year all around, marking my 6th anniversary serving clients in private practice and in the community, and it has been a year that has brought personal and professional growth to me in a way I had never experienced before.

I celebrated the birth of my first child in March and becoming a mother has deepened my human  capacity to feel for love, fear, hope, grief, and sadness among other emotions immensely.  I am so very grateful to the community of family, friends, doulas, fellow sleepless mothers, my husband, and yes, my clients for allowing me to grow and explore this additional role in my life in such a meaningful way.

What has surprised me are several things that I’ve found I am truly grateful for this year that I might not have expected to be.  I wanted to share this list with you as perhaps it could help you reframe or discover healing and growth in your own lives in unique ways.

Three Things I NEVER Thought I’d be Grateful For in 2016

1.) Sleepless Nights.  Whhhhaaat?

Okay, not really.  I love love love my sleep and it is a huge part of my mental and physical health.  Having a new baby certainly throws you for a loop in this department and shows you in not-so-subtle ways that you actually are NOT in control!
When my daughter would wake up, especially in those early weeks, and wants to eat and cuddle, my heart swelled 5 sizes. You know how the Grinch’s heart swelled 10 times bigger than it ever was? Well, my heart wasn’t quite as small as his was initially 🙂  but this time offered me pause and an opportunity for reflection.  Those quiet moments actually were times where I was able to most clearly reflect on what is important to me in my personal life as well as in my professional life and truly grounded me.
This mindful nightly pause has contributed to more presence in sessions, being more connected to who I am, and deepened my capacity to empathize with clients whom I serve.  And the good news is that I am sleeping much better now 🙂

2.) Rebuilding my practice from (what felt like) scratch:
I took three months off to be with my daughter, and at the end of those three months I thought that I would return to my practice and it would fill up quickly to be where it was before I left.
This was not actually the case.  Many clients were on other journeys and doing really well, or seeing other therapists where they were thriving.  It was wonderful to see them using their wings and flying 🙂
This also meant I needed to rebuild, renew, and redefine who I was and how I wanted my practice to look.  Who am I? Am I different in some way now? Who do I serve?
It’s still a work in progress, but I am happy to say that my practice is thriving again and I believe this is due to two things 1) Really honing in on who I AM, who I serve most effectively, and knowing who I CANNOT help and referring them out to qualified colleagues and 2) Setting very clear boundaries, with my time, my structure of my practice, and my own self care.

Whoa, this is hard sometimes but it is essential to being able to be present both in my career and at home.

3.) Losses that I have experienced.

Whether it is the loss of a relationship, a hope, a pregnancy, a fantasy, the promise of the first female President, or anything else, loss is something that guts us all the way down to the depths of our soul and challenges us to ask: can we survive?

The answer, I’ve found, is YES.

Many many people survive loss and have to truly look at their capacity to be resilient because of this.  While 2016 has brought birth and blessings in SO many ways, there have also been several significant and painful losses.  Our capacity to survive loss also deepens our capacity to experience love and to connect with and heal with others.  I sit with clients every day who have survived immense loss and I hope that they can feel safe to know that I am in it with them.

Here is something I am not surprised at all to be grateful for: my community and my clients.  THANK YOU for your support and for inviting me to be a part of your life.  I am so very grateful to be able to do the work I do and it fills me to the brim with hope for our planet to heal and connect in peace and not in conflict.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very safe, joyous, and FUN holiday season!

Photo credit: frankieleon via / CC BY
Photo credit: Claricethebakergardener via / CC BY-ND

Post-Election Repair: Three Steps to Not Losing your Sh*t when Election Results Don’t Go your Way

Your phone rings. You look at your screen and notice it is your relative calling you, your family member who voted for the candidate who won the presidency, the candidate whom you did not vote for.

Suddenly all of the sadness, fear, grief, anger, and worry flood over you again. You have been feeling waves of these emotions for the last two days.

Sometimes they are so intense that you burst into tears.

Sometimes they hurt so much that you want to curl up in a ball and hide. It’s a situation that you don’t know how to handle, an unprecedented time of uncertainty and feeling out of control.


Coping With Feelings of Grief and Sadness

These experiences are being felt all over our country right now. No matter who you voted for, you are aware of an energy of divisiveness, fear and judgment that has percolated into our souls like a poisonous drip over the past year and a half.

Stress of this kind shows up in our bodies in somewhat unusual and perhaps unrecognizable ways – physical exhaustion, irritability, difficulty focusing, using destructive behaviors to self-soothe (or to attempt to), digestive problems, sleeping problems, volatility in your closest relationship because you don’t know how else to cope, avoidance, among many others.

The future is uncertain. What will happen next is unknown in many ways, and this can feed our fear even stronger. So what do we do? How do we discuss this with our children when we can’t wrap our heads around it ourselves?

Fear has run rampant in our country ever since the beginning of this election season and it came to a head Tuesday night when the country became more divided than ever before. Fear breeds hate.  We must not feed the hate.


Three Steps to Taking Care of Yourself and Finding Meaning in Despair

I certainly don’t have all of the answers on how to get through this difficult and trying time, but I have been leaning on many of my loved ones and listening to how they are coping. I’ve learned some quite amazing and …hopeful… things.  Here are a few ideas:

1.)  Let yourself feel. Many of us are in shock. Shock affects our nervous system in intense ways, slowing down our responsiveness and our abilities to integrate our minds with our bodies effectively. We are more susceptible to reacting with WHY and HOW COULD YOU, than responding with mindfulness. This will ease up.

 But for now, taking care of yourself and your loved ones in ANY way you need to is our           priority. Leave work early to go home and cry in your bed; call upon your neighbor to come sit with you and hold your hand; attend a gathering in your local community. Don’t try to change your emotions today. They are there for a reason and need to be given space to run their course. It won’t always feel this intense.

2.) Set boundaries. How might you mindfully address the family member in the beginning of this post? Give yourself permission to kindly and gently tell them that you are not able to talk with them right now and that you love them. That you will call them back later when you feel more able to come up with words to speak. This is on your own timeline, there is no deadline.

This is how boundaries are enforced: by identifying your need and your emotion, by recognizing who and want can either help with those needs or who might hurt those needs, and then communicating with them what needs to be in place so you can move forward.

Set boundaries with news sources and with social media. Social media can be a way of connecting with others who feel your pain, but it also can easily become an obsession and lead to more suffering. Choose your battles, and know when to turn it off.

3.) Lean in and come together. This is one of the most beautiful results of the recent election that I have witnessed so far. When we are united in pain, we can move forward to heal it. Connect with your neighbor and smile at them. Organize with your community to rally for local causes that matter to you. Volunteer. Attend a spiritual service. Recognize that we will get through this, stronger together than divided.


Nurture Your Spiritual Self

I’m noticing within myself a need to reconnect with my own spirituality as my soul has felt hurt and broken recently. I have wanted to avoid feeling things instead of trying to be with them and understand them.

I know that I tend to this part of myself when I am in nature. I am uncertain how else I can heal it, but I do know that spirituality connects us with a part of ourselves that is empowered to heal us. How can you connect with your spirituality?


Repairing with Love Instead of Dividing with Hate

In closing, I want to touch on how we might repair the love and connection that our society so desperately craves right now. We all make assumptions about people….this is a huge part of why there is so much fear, hate and judgment in our country right now.

We fear and we judge what we don’t know. Fear loses its power when we open up and allow.

The person who has different views than you do, whether they are a family member or friend or just someone you see walking down the street: try to offer them loving-kindness. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. Even if it feels like the most difficult thing to do in that moment.  You don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes, and if we can try to accept and allow instead of judge, then we’re one step closer to finding hope in our lives once again.


Steps to Self Compassion

Here is a mediation adapted from HeartMath that teaches us how to practice compassion for ourselves and for others:

  1. Recognize what you are feeling.
  2. Focus in your heart area and breathe in love for about a minute.
  3. Now breathe self-compassion through the heart area and throughout your entire body for a few minutes.
  4. Find a still, quiet place inside where you can feel this compassion. If negative thoughts or feelings about yourself arise in the mind, gently return your focus to the heart area.
  5. Radiate compassion out from your heart to any issues you are addressing – perceived failure, a feeling of inadequacy, insecurity or self-pity – with an honest understanding of what you are going through. Continue to do this for a few minutes, longer if needed, all the while creating within a heart-filled environment of compassion.


I’d love for you to leave a comment with any ideas you have for how to persevere despite adversity and how you have taken care of yourself in a time of turmoil and pain.  We are stronger together!

Mind Over Matter: When Grieving Your Postpartum Body Opens the Door to Acceptance

Today I am excited to continue my blog series about pregnancy and postpartum experiences with body image and recovery.  I am very fortunate to feature the voice of a local Denver therapist Brittni Fudge, who has a specialty in helping new parents navigate the trials and tribulations of parenthood, and she comes with a plethora of experience as a parent to three children herself. She writes today about accepting your body after pregnancy…from a unique perspective.


Mind Over Matter: When Grieving Your Postpartum Body Opens the Door to Acceptance

By Brittni Fudge, MA, NCC, LPCC

Pregnancy and the postpartum years bring so much change—it seems not an aspect of life is left unchanged. Aside from the obvious physical changes in my body as my baby grew from the size of a blueberry to a pumpkin, my body has never functioned like it did pre-pregnancy.

Even though my youngest is 3 years old, I am still trying to get my pre-pregnancy body back… not in terms of weight or size, but in terms of its function. For me, carrying and delivering three babies has impacted the way I walk, stand, my posture, and my hips.

I’ve seen seven different physical therapists and one surgeon who all say in a knowing voice, “well, pregnant-bellyyou’ve had three kids” as they assess my hip and pelvis function. I’ve had two hip labrum reconstruction surgeries and over a year after the last surgery, I am still seeing a physical therapist to try to sit, walk and stand without pain.

In the past eight years, roughly three of those years were spent in pregnancy, three in the postpartum period, and a year and a half (and counting) have been spent on recovering from hip surgery. That leaves about a year of fairly problem-free issues.

All of this has taken a toll not only on my body, but my mind. There are days when I have been so angry with my body and the fact that my functioning causes me pain that I can’t think of anything else. There are several days when I pass a runner on the street and will find myself fighting off tears knowing how far away I am from that goal.

Once I heard one of my favorite running songs come on the radio and started crying on the spot. This is all fairly abnormal for me, but it speaks to the degree to which I’ve been ignoring my feelings about all of this. Even as a therapist who knows the value of acknowledging and processing feelings, it has been easier to shove them down and focus on something else (which let’s face it, with three kids, I’m constantly focused on their needs instead of my own).

Lately though, I’ve started to grieve the functioning I’ve lost and am looking forward to continued healing. I’ve learned that my body is more resilient than I give it credit for. I am realizing that on the days when I can’t ignore the pain for more than a few minutes, I have to remember how resilient my body has been. What I’ve noticed is that when my mind can be as resilient as my body has been, my pain decreases. My frustration with my body can quiet a bit and I can truly see how far I’ve come. This lesson has been my saving grace.

Whether pregnancy and the postpartum journey have left you frustrated with how you feel in your body or how you look in the mirror or, let’s face it, the fact that you no longer can sit through an hour long meeting without having to pee, there are some things we can do to view our bodies from a place of peace and acceptance rather than contempt and frustration.

Here are a few practices I do to help:

  1. I keep a gratitude journal – Gratitude has been proven in tons of studies to be one of the largest predictor of increased wellbeing. Taking a few moments to write down what I’m grateful for keeps me focused on the positive while giving me an opportunity to look back at how far I’ve come. (For example, in April 2015 I wrote “I’m thankful my surgeon says the surgery went well” while in May 2015 I wrote “I’m thankful for my ice machine that helps with the pain” and in May 2016 I wrote “I’m thankful I could do two Walk+Talk sessions (link to with minimal pain).
  2. I repeat positive mantras to myself. These include:
  • I can do this.
  • My body is getting stronger and more flexible every day.
  • You got this.
  • Chin up.
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  1. I adjust my expectations and try new things. For a long time I was in an exercise rut out of necessity, as my injuries didn’t allow me to do much. But then for a long time I was in an exercise rut out of habit and fear.

walking-photoAfter 6 months (yes, half a year!) of debating whether I should try my neighborhood Bar Method Studio, I finally made myself try it. And although it was so hard in the beginning, I found out there were so many things my body could do that I didn’t realize was possible.

I became stronger, more flexible, and my pain started to decrease a bit! Next on my list is to try cycling and yoga. It might take me 6 more months before I actually try it, but I’m adjusting my expectations and realizing there’s a lot more out there than running. It turns out that an endorphin boost from Bar Method or walking is just as good as the endorphin boosts I miss from running.

What this all comes down to is what I was taught as a young competitive swimmer: mind over matter. While I had been focusing so much on how weak my body had become, I was given the opportunity to strengthen my mind to overcome these weaknesses. It’s still a difficult battle that I fight every day, but with mind over matter, my good days are starting to outnumber my bad days. And I am forever grateful for the lesson.




brittni_1_49Brittni Fudge owns Kindred Counseling, PLLC, where she provides counseling for moms in all stages of motherhood. Brittni’s first role is a mother of three children under age seven, and is also a mental health therapist, Love & Logic facilitator, parent coach, and former school counselor. Brittni is on a mission to support mothers in their mental health so they can be fully present with their littles.


Back to School, Back to Relapse? How to Start Fresh this Fall Without Losing Your Recovery

people-woman-coffee-meeting-largeThe crispness in the air. The energy of excitement and anticipation that reverberates among your peers, your teachers, yourself. Maybe you’re moving into the dorms for the first time…or your first apartment away from home.  You’re attending the homecoming football game and dreaming of what the year will bring.

We all know what it’s like to start another school year.  Sometimes you’re going back to the same school, one grade older.  Sometimes you’re starting a new middle or high school, or even going away to college.  There’s the unpredictable — who you will meet, what you will learn, how you will change.  There’s also the underlying anxiety and nervousness of “will people like me?”, and “will I be accepted?”

As a popular blog post of mine noted, Back to School Stress can show up in many forms, and sometimes the overwhelming feeling of expectations and rules leads to the development of disordered eating or unhealthy body image as a method of ‘coping’.

How do you deal with it all without losing your self?  

Here’s what I learned (the hard way) and what I help my clients learn (in a healthier way): manage your expectations, discover what really matters to you (and what doesn’t), and find productive ways of dealing with stress.  This could be:

  • Set up a schedule for yourself of when you will study/have free time/sleep/eat, etc so that you can plan for everything you need to get done in a day.
  • DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF to others…I know, this can be difficult to do.  However, you are on your own path, at school for your own personal reasons, and have your own unique talents that will guide you.  Try to focus on that instead of getting caught up in the comparison game.
  • Plan for downtime!  What do you like to do for fun? Play soccer? Go hiking? Write poetry? Make sure to create space for all of this…it is essential to your success.
  • Know who you can talk to if you need help.  Is there a parent, teacher, counselor that you can turn to if you feel stuck, lonely or depressed?
  • Recognize the triggers and warning signs:  How do you know you’re on a destructive path?

Disordered eating (they don’t have to be full-blown eating disorders to be dangerous!) can show up in the form of restricting amount and type of food; it can trigger a feeling that you can never exercise enough and that “goal” weight just keeps getting smaller; in other instances, disordered behavior can involve bingeing on food until you cannot feel anymore, and then purging or using laxatives.

All of these behaviors, in some combination or another, really underline the emotional pain that is underneath.  It is a pain that pangs as you wonder if being yourself, as you truly are, is “good enough”.  It is a vicious cycle of being ashamed or embarrassed by these behaviors that you do not understand, and in turn hiding or lying about these behaviors because they have, at some point, “helped” to cope with overwhelming feelings.  These behaviors in fact make the pain worse, and feelings of isolation and despair continue to intensify.

What can you do? Whether you are a parent, friend, or person affected by an eating disorder or body image struggle, first know that you are NOT ALONE.  With over 10 million women and 1 million men (reported by the National Eating Disorders Association) showing symptoms of an eating disorder, the epidemic is growing and impacting us all.

Responding to Emails with Spit-Up in Your Hair: How to Get it all Done as a New Mom without Losing Your Cool

**okay, sometimes you lose your cool. And that’s okay.

By Kate Daigle, MA, LPC

I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I am burping my daughter while I am responding to work emails. And sometimes I get spit up in my hair.

I try to make sure I have a clean shirt on when I arrive at my office (and have a few on hand in case I forget), but hey, I’m a working mom and no one is perfect. My goal at the end of the day is to make sure everyone is taken care of (including myself!) and still be somewhat alert. Some days are better than others.

My daughter is just over five months old and I have Never. Been. This. Exhausted. Like the kind of tired where you are thinking about something and then the next moment it is completely lost and you have NO idea where that train of thought went. Yes, I have written on my hand (no joke): “remember to wash your hair”.   ….What was I saying? Oh, right. How tired I am.


I am also the most happy I have ever been. After two devastating losses in 2014, we finally welcomed our Rainbow Baby in March and kissing her sweet face makes my heart swell with love and joy. I routinely remind myself of my gratitude for her, even on the hard days (especially then).

But here’s the reality – how does a working (in the home and outside the home) woman get it all done? I have an amazing husband, family, and support system (including my Wheaten terrier, Marley), and yet it feels like the jobs never end.

Feeding the baby, cleaning up after the baby, trying to take care of myself and my relationships, nurturing my garden, cleaning the house, and something that is very important to me: taking care of my counseling practice and my clients. My private practice is a child of mine, one I have tended to, grown with, sweated for, and fallen in love with over the past six years.


Getting It All Done

With all of these people, animals, and entities depending on me, how do I get it all done?

I try to be selfish.

What? How could I be selfish as a new mom?

Well here’s what we all know but never say: ALL new moms need to be selfish.

The word “selfish” gets a bad rap, in my opinion.  When I say “new moms need to be selfish”, I use the word to mean “to take care of oneself”.  And you do that NOT by neglecting others, but SO THAT you can take care of others.

In my world, the way that’s working for me right now, “selfish” boils down to:


  • NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF (*unless I really want to)
  • And most importantly: HAVING STRONG BOUNDARIES

*(want to know HOW I do these things? Send me an email or leave a comment below!)


Working Out the Balancing Act

I have found that it’s healthy for me to be at work and to nurture my professional self as I have done for the past 9 years. However, there is a little one who depends on me and the guilt I feel being away from her is REAL.

Mommy guilt is a true experience and one that can grow and infest itself in your life …if you allow it.

This is one of the essential places to create boundaries. Being a mother is an incredibly tough job. We feel guilt because we are invested: in our child’s happiness, health, success. In our relationships: our marriage, our family relationships, our friendships. I have struggled with feeling guilt for saying no and also for asking for help. I also realize this is a sure road to self-sabotage and can just lead to more suffering.


Creating a Space for Safety and Love

If I look at the world through my daughter’s eyes, I see a place where everything is continually new and exciting…and at times scary. I want her to feel safe. Realistically, I know there will be times where she won’t feel safe.

I don’t know it all, and I don’t think I ever will, but what I do know is this: my daughter learns about love and safety from me and from others who are close to her.

I want her to love HERSELF. And that starts with me. So, I profess to be selfish (within reason ;)) and to teach her how to be as well.



Want to learn more about how I get it all done? Come to my talk Finding the Time: How to Balance Motivation and Perfectionism While Still Getting the Important Stuff Done which I will be presenting at the Building Brilliance While Remaining Whole Conference on September 19.  Learn more and Sign Up HERE!

Photo credit: torbakhopper via / CC BY-ND

Three Reasons You Should Never Have to “Learn to Love Your Body”

Three Reasons You Should Never Have to “Learn to Love Your Body”


My body will never be the same.hands-918774_640 copy

Three months ago I welcomed my sweet daughter, Natalie Grace, into this world and this week I am excited to return to my practice and accept new clients as well as reconnect with my current clients and colleagues.

In my recovery from my eating disorder, I have learned –sometimes painstakingly—to nourish, protect, and nurture my own body and my self. I now have a little one to take care of, and she is teaching me the deep joy and responsibility of being a parent in ways I could never have imagined.


In the past year, my body has undergone a significant transition. Becoming pregnant and growing a child within me was never something I imagined I could do when I was struggling with my eating disorder. I discovered that my body is truly amazing in the way it was able to create this little being  and give birth to a healthy bouncy little girl. The journey continues as my body feeds her and heals from all of the changes it has undergone. This renews my hope for my clients who yearn to heal their bodies and perhaps have a family someday as well.


The sobering truth is that my body will never be the same as it was prior to pregnancy. And I am 1000% okay with that. Honestly. What irks me is when I read blog posts online about “learning to love your postpartum body”, which are synonymous with those other posts you’ve seen about “learning to love your body at any size”, or “learning to embrace your imperfect thighs”.


I think that these posts have good intentions, but what I took from the underlying meaning of them is that they are implying there’s something inherently wrong with your {insert adjective such as ‘postpartum’} body that you need to learn to cope with. And this feels shaming to me.


Why must we be told there is something wrong with our bodies in the first place? Because we don’t all look the same? How boring would that be if we did!?

Stop Learning to Love Your Body

heart-700141_640 copySo here’s my somewhat “controversial” idea: why don’t we stop “learning” to love our bodies in whatever form they are in and instead celebrate them for the unique, magical specimens they are this very moment? No learning needed.


I can’t imagine telling my daughter there is something wrong with her tiny little powerful body. I LOVE all of the fat rolls that cover her legs, her arms, her chin. Adorable! Unfortunately, she will get told that there is something wrong with her, and she probably will think that herself someday, too.

What can we do? We keep fighting. For acceptance and love. Now moreso than ever!

Here are my Three Reasons You Should Never Have to ‘Learn to Love Your Body’:


  • Learning to love your body implies that you are imperfect (which you are, we all are, and that’s perfectly okay!) and that there is inherently something wrong with it that takes time and skills to accept. It’s a sneaky way to add to the shaming that surrounds us. How about instead: find three things every day that you are grateful your body does for you.
  • “Learning to love your body” also implies that there is a better body type than others. Typically the thin body type is most celebrated. Some people are naturally thin, some are naturally heavier than others. When we try to manipulate our bodies in unhealthy ways to be something they are not inherently meant to be, we can get into a danger zone of developing an eating disorder or deeper body image struggles.
  • It perpetuates our society’s twisted relationship with food and bodies. The diet industry feeds and thrives on our dissatisfaction with our bodies, to the tune of profiting more than $50 billion a year from it. By implying that we need to “learn to love our bodies”, we contribute to the diet industry’s message that we must change ourselves before we can love ourselves.


I want my daughter to grow up accepting herself inside and out and will do everything I can to support this in her. Of course I will mess up…I’m human.


We all deserve to live a life knowing there is nothing inherently wrong with us. Unfortunately we are constantly bombarded with advertising that tells us the opposite. Whether we are three months old or sixty three years old, we all have an opportunity every day to heal our relationships with food, our bodies and ourselves.


I am so excited to continue to do the work I love doing, with the added ferocity of a new mother! If you or anyone you know is looking for support in healing disordered eating or body image please contact me.

The One Body Image Struggle I Never Expected to Have During Pregnancy – and How I’ve Coped With It

The One Body Image Struggle I Never Expected to Have During Pregnancy – and How I’ve Coped With It

Body Image and Pregnancy, Part 2


“Oh my gosh, you’re due in March?! But you’re so TINY!”

“You haven’t put on any weight since your last appointment; I really would like you to put on a few more pounds” (~doctor)

“Your breasts are so large!”

“You’ve hidden your pregnancy so well—You can barely tell!” (PS: I’m not ‘trying’ to hide anything)


These are all comments I have heard in the past few weeks. How is one supposed to respond? Ummm…thanks? Are any of these familiar to you? Or perhaps the analysis of your belly sounded a bit different than what I am experiencing.

No matter who you are, when you’re pregnant people can’t help but make comments of some form about your body, shape and size and overall how you look. These comments, while well-intentioned, most likely will have an evaluative or comparative piece to them—large, small, healthy, unhealthy, looking great, looking fat. They can leave an impact.

In my previous post about body image and pregnancy, I discussed the various ways our bodies grow and change during this special time in life, much out of our own control, and with the potential to cause discomfort and body image struggles.

Today I want to shine a light on the impact of external sources on how we feel about our bodies


during pregnancy, whether those are comments by others, things you read, the shape of another pregnant woman’s body, or expectations placed upon you.

While I felt I was well-prepared to face my own potential body image struggle during my pregnancy, the one I am actually experiencing is much different than I would have imagined.

When my doctor advised me to put on weight, I had a mixture of reactions. One was shock: “Wow, I’ve never been told that before. I am more accustomed to hearing from the voice in my head that I need to lose weight, not gain it.” A second was “But how can I eat more? I am trying my best to get a good, healthy assortment of foods.”

Yet another was a deep sense of failure. Was I failing my baby by not being able to gain weight like I ‘should’ in pregnancy? Was she healthy and happy in there? There were no indicators that she wasn’t, but I still worried.

This one comment from my doctor sent me on a rollercoaster of anxiety, fear, worry, and ultimately acceptance.

The voice that I ultimately chose to listen to: I’m doing the best I can. Which is amazing.

Then, a few days ago someone told me how shocked they were to learn I was only a little over a month away from my due date. I was just that tiny. I’m not that tiny. I’m an 8.5 month pregnant lady. But again, that comment triggered a deeper fear that there’s something wrong with me. There is something deficient about my body…it is failing somehow.

Body Image During Pregnancy

I work with my clients every day to address these types of fears, helping them to recognize that they are not based in truth, but at the time they can seem incredibly real.

Our thoughts can run rampant if we don’t become mindful of them and the effect they can have on our deeper selves. When you are in a vulnerable time of your life, whether it is during pregnancy, during early stages of a relationship, or after a big move to a new city, words are powerful.   They can have the fortitude to change your whole day. Which words do you want to internalize and truly listen to?

As a pregnancy develops and women’s bodies grow in such amazing and unprecedented ways, the comparison monster can easily rear its ugly head. Pictures posted on social media, seeing a woman walking down the street; we can’t help but compare our bodies to others’ — how ‘should’ we be looking, feeling, changing? Take a moment and think back to the last time you compared yourself in some way to another person. How did it feel?

Whether it’s thinking that your belly is ‘too large’ or ‘too small’, or tasting any other flavor of the not-good-enough-potion, most pregnant women have gone through some version of their own journey with accepting their changing bodies. How we look can seem to be first and foremost in other people’s minds, sometimes even before how you are feeling or how healthy your pregnancy is. It’s tough to not let that seep in.  How do we cope?

Remember, every woman’s body is different. We are built differently, and we will experience changes to our bodies differently. There is no “right way” or “wrong way”. There’s just YOUR way. And you’re doing great.



Here are three methods that I have chosen to help me cope. I hope they can also help you or someone you know:

  1. Remember that size does not equal health – of you, or of your baby.
  2. Set strong boundaries with external influences – put down the pregnancy books, sign off social media, and reconnect with yourself in a way that feels refreshing and genuine.
  3. Keep the end goal in sight – your baby. Pregnancy is a unique and magical time of a woman’s life and while it is uncomfortable in many ways, it is all for a very good reason. Try to picture gazing at your little one and in that moment nothing else will matter.

Share your tips! Have you been pregnant or are you pregnant and can relate to this? Share in the comments below ways that helped you cope.  Connecting together and supporting one another can make a huge difference in mental and physical health!

The Sweet Potato Battle: The Vulnerability of Pregnancy, Taking Up Space, and Being a ‘Good Enough’ Parent

Today I am so honored to share with you a guest post by my friend and colleague Ann Stoneson of Labyrinth Healing.  Ann is a therapist in Austin, Texas who helps people pleasers find their voice and empower themselves.  Ann, who is a brilliant writer and also a new mother, graciously offered to write a post for my blog this month exploring her experience with pregnancy, overcoming people-pleasing and showing up for herself.  The experience of pregnancy forces you to take up more space, which for many of us can bring up uncomfortable and conflictual emotions and feelings.  I am personally grateful to Ann for this post as I navigate my own pregnancy and impending motherhood, my own body image and my role as a therapist.

Please enjoy!  And if you find this compelling please leave a comment and share with your peers.

P.S.: Check back in January for my own guest post for Ann’s blog about the challenges and joys of navigating body image during pregnancy.


The Sweet Potato Battle: The Vulnerability of Pregnancy, Taking Up Space, and Feeding Your True Hunger

By Ann Stoneson, MS, LPC-S


I’m rather embarrassed.

I sit down to write this post for Kate, knowing her practice centers around helping people building healthy relationships with food, and I draw a blank. Have I done this before?

After taking a quick, sheepish inventory of my blog, the verdict comes in.

I am a therapist and I have blogged weekly for three years trying to help women and people-pleasers yet I have written precisely one post about struggles with food.

One. Just one. (And you can read it here, if you like.)

Wow. Really? That’s one heck of a blind spot.

And, in the few posts I’ve written that mention eating at all, like finding Buddha at the breakfast table and the hour long lunch break, don’t get into the often complicated relationship we have with food.

So this is new territory for me.

I’ll do what I usually do with that stuff, which is to pull a handful experiences forward from my life and talk about them. Here we go.

My confession

Yes. I admit it.

I’m a very good chameleon.

I can blend in pleasingly with almost any crowd or situation. But I’m most at home making myself useful to others—listening, helping out, tidying up.

I’m the person at the party who circulates through the house, gathering up empty cups and bottle caps, presiding over the snack table like I was sworn into office for the job.

Of course, some of that has to do with being an introvert and finding refuge in solitary tasks when I’m in a sea of people at a party. But a lot of it also has to do with wanting, no, needing to be helpful to others.

It has to do with being a people pleaser. A chameleon. You obligingly change your shade, your shape, to suit the wishes and needs of those around you.

Being a people-pleaser

I carried on for years doing this. Dissolving myself into situations like tea into water.

You couldn’t even see me. I hid behind the role of helper. I went straight from college to graduate school to become a helper. And then I became a therapist, which is about as professional a helper as you can get.

Now, I preside over counseling sessions rather than snack tables, but the gig is similar.

What can I get you?

How can I help?

Do you need some more water?

Except I got pregnant.

And suddenly, I was the one who needed water, a pee break every hour, and there were even those last minute cancellations when the morning sickness just wouldn’t go away.

Suddenly, I had needs I couldn’t ignore, and I had to practice what I preach, balancing my needs and the needs of my clients during the tender, swollen, confusing months of pregnancy.

Pregnancy introduced a whole new way of chameleoning—perhaps the first true and honest way of changing my shape to suit someone else. And as with any transformation, it had its beautiful and its awkward moments.

The vulnerability of pregnancy

Being pregnant was one of the biggest practices in authenticity and vulnerability I’ve ever


experienced. Because I couldn’t hide it.

Because I couldn’t suck in my stomach or hold my breath through it.

I had to take up more space—in every sense of the word—and I was doing my best to be at peace with this.

Being a walking billboard for impending motherhood had its challenges. I got a lot of comments and well-wishes and advice from people I didn’t know. I got asked about my weight gain.

Two weeks shy of my due date, while sitting alone and eating a barbeque sandwich on my lunch break, an elderly woman sidled by my table and asked, “Are you sure you’re going to have time to finish that?”

I remember looking blankly at her, not understanding what the hell she was saying and thinking to myself, “I have another hour before my next appointment, what is she talking about?”

Then she gestured to my stomach and asked, “You look like you’re about to pop. When are you due?”

If this had been the first stranger’s inquiry about my belly’s impending deadline, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me. But I was getting inquiries every day, every time I left the house, in my final months of pregnancy. And a part of me was getting tired of all that visibility, particularly as I was feeling anxious about the birthing process and mostly just wanted to be left alone to my thoughts.

My husband joked that I should have thrown my sandwich into the ceiling fan in a panic, dropped to all fours, and then begin moaning as though I was in active labor.

I sort of wish I had, but I wanted to finish the sandwich.

Living life a second time

As a therapist, I’ve talked before with clients who had intrusive parents. Parents who wanted to live vicariously through their kids. Parents who couldn’t step back and give their children some room to breathe, to fumble about, to make mistakes.

This living through your kids phenomenon was often talked about with a tone of condemnation among therapists.

When I consider the notion now, the first thing I think of is how much more compassion and understanding I have for all parents—my own and everyone else’s. Being a parent calls down all sorts of humility on you.

The second thing I think is that raising a child is a chance to live life twice—but hopefully more as an observer and maybe sometimes a co-pilot, nothing more.

The sweet potato battle

A month ago, I sat down with my son to try and feed him his first solid foods. Initially, he didn’t seem too keen on anything I offered.

I remember looking anxiously at the packaging, which told me to use within 24 hours of opening and then discard.

I remember trying to steer sloppy spoonfuls of pureed sweet potato into his mouth when he wasn’t keen on eating.

Fortunately, I caught myself doing this early.

And each time I sit down with him, I try to be mindful and patient when feeding him. I try not to get locked in sweet potato battles. I try to hold things lightly.

As a first-time, sleep-deprived parent, I manage to do this maybe half of the time.

Healing our relationship with food

American culture has a pretty confused, complicated relationship with food, eating, and dieting.

So, with that force as a backdrop, I want to help my son cultivate a thoughtful, loving relationship with food.

I don’t want him to feel like he has to be a member of the “clean plate club” because I’m anxious about wasted food. I want him to learn to listen to his body and its cues.

Sure, there will be times when he doesn’t want what’s on offer, and he eats it anyway, or makes himself a snack when he’s old enough to do so, or maybe goes hungry for a while.

But this will be his choice.

Even now, a baby without words to speak, he has a will and he has preferences. And food is one of his earliest ways to express these.

Our relationship with food is lifelong. Whatever lessons we may have absorbed before this point, there is always opportunity to learn, to grow, to try something new.

Final thoughts

As I work to teach my son to have a healthy, loving relationship with food, I see opportunities to heal my own relationship with it, too.

It’s hit or miss some days, sure.

I’m sure we’ll get into power struggles at times, my own anxieties rising like a tide as I try to get him to do it my way.

I try to cast forgiveness and patience forward to where my future self is waiting, mired in frustration and tears.

As I’ve said before to my clients who struggle in their relationship with food, it is the one “substance” you can’t cut out of your life and live.

A recovering alcoholic can quit the bar scene, hard though it may be. But a person struggling to make peace with her food has to grapple with that relationship every day.

I hope a peaceful relationship with food is a gift I can offer my son.

As a therapist, I’m keenly aware of the cost of parental failings.

I try not to let this awareness fuel my anxiety.

I try to embrace the concept of the good enough mother that Winnicott, a famous analyst, often spoke of.

So, whether you’re a parent or not,

whether you have a peaceful or precarious relationship with food,

whatever the shape of your sweet potato battles,

know that you’re not alone with it.


Stonebraker headshotAbout the Author: Ann Stoneson is a counselor in Austin, Texas who helps folks quit people-pleasing.  She writes weekly for her own practice blog at Labyrinth Healing, as well as at her latest project,, a resource site for counseling students and interns.

How to Not Go Crazy When Your Co-Workers Bring in Holiday Treats AGAIN!

Welcome to the third and final installment of my recent blog series, Busting Holiday Stress For Busy People.  Last week we talked about a radical idea — not finishing your to-do list before Thanksgiving…how could that help with managing holiday overwhelm? Read more to find out! The first post in the series offered ideas for getting out of that rut you’re in and re-vitalizing your career in 2016 — something we could all benefit from!

Today I touch on a topic that my clients commonly discuss as one of the biggest anxiety producers during the holiday season — when co-workers bring in baked goods and treats to the office on a regular basis.  Are you wondering how to have a healthy balance with this without being triggered into “rules” and “all/nothing thinking”?  Read on to find out more…(and share if it’s helpful!)

How to Not Go Crazy When Your Co-Workers Bring in Holiday Treats AGAIN!

5 Ways to Navigate Eating During the Holidays Without Feeling Out of Control


  1. Forget your New Year’s resolution. The #1 New Year’s
    resolution is to lose weight. This triggers big helpings of self-sabotage with food from Halloween to New Year’s Day. Going into the holidays with a plan to lose weight in the New Year raises the risk of “the last supper” mentality around eating until then. All or nothing thinking might cause you to binge eat on coffee cake that your co-worker made at home instead of have just a bit because you “won’t be able to have it after January 1”. Try to come up with New Year’s resolutions that are not about weight but are about health of your mind as well as of your body.
  2. Take a bite of that decadent chocolate cake in the break room. Ask yourself: do you like it? How does your body respond to it? When we allow ourselves some of everything that we enjoy, then we don’t feel deprived. Allowing yourself to try whatever you want to will prevent getting stuck in the all/nothing cycle (that diets feed off of) and increase your chances of truly enjoying what you’re eating, listening to your body and finding more balance.
  3. Make sure you eat breakfast. Coming to work hungry sets you up to eat mindlessly and more than your body really needs. When you have a fulfilling breakfast, your brain gets enough healthy fats to focus on what it needs to, allowing you to try what you want in the break room without feeling desperate for nourishment and perhaps overeating on empty calories. This is also true for the end-of-the year potluck. Don’t go in starving and have a game plan.
  4. Bake your own treat to bring into the office. Create something at home that you would like to share with your co-workers that is delicious and satisfying. When you are a part of the process of creating and serving food, you can establish a new relationship with it – based on love, not fear.
  5. Set boundaries. If you truly desire to stay out of the break-room because you worry about overeating on food you don’t actually want to eat, then be clear about your intentions with your co-workers (and yourself). You don’t have to explain why or go into elaborate detail. Bring your own lunch and stay clear of temptations. If others have a problem with it, stand firm with your boundaries. It’s more likely their problem than yours at that point.

Bonus Tip!

6.  Monitor Your Burn-Out.  Do you typically get burned out and exhausted by the end of the week (or end of the month, or right before a holiday)?  Is this a pattern?  Define what triggers your feelings of burn out and when they most commonly occur.  Those are the periods where you are more susceptible to mindless activities — such as eating all of the brownies on a Friday when you’re not even hungry.  Try to plan in advance how you will manage burn-out effectively so that you don’t find yourself in a weekly mindless eating routine that can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness.  This might mean going for a walk on Fridays during lunchtime or having a check-in buddy that you spend time with each Thursday afternoon.


Want to download your own free copy of this list to share around? Find it here under Free TipSheets!

What would you add? How do YOU find balance around food during the holiday season?

Don’t Finish Your To-Do List Before You Leave for Thanksgiving

Don’t Finish Your To-Do List Before You Leave for Thanksgiving

6 Tips to Take Care of Yourself to Prevent Undue Stress Over the Holidays

You have arrived at part 2 to my three part blog series: Busting Holiday Stress for Busy People.  Last week we talked about how to revitalize your career mojo for 2016 (and how to take precious gems from 2015 with you!).

Today we begin talking about stress around work and Thanksgiving, (something we can all relate to) and how to manage IT so it doesn’t steamroll YOU.  Stay tuned next Tuesday for the final installment which will hone in on coping with stress around all of the food at work, at home, at parties — and how to not self-sabotage so you can enjoy every bite!


Thanksgiving is right around the corner — a holiday that can often trigger feelings of overwhelm and anxiety about food, family and body image.  Instead of stressing out about everything you need to do before making your famous cranberry sauce, how about reconsidering your expectations instead?  The effect it can have on your overall health can be astounding. Try this:

1.) Tell that Critic in your head to take a hike. Most of us put undue pressure on ourselves to be excellent at everything. All this does is add stress and increase the expectations from ourselves and others. Try to find one area at work and one area at home where you can declare that “you don’t need to be perfect and ‘good enough’ really is good enough”.

2.) Disable your phone. Or at least your work email. Make a pact to turn it off on Wednesday and not check it again until Sunday night or Monday morning.

3.) Review your to-do list – do you really need to do all of that? Chances are, most people are out of the office this week anyway. Prioritize, and find three things you can leave until after the break.

4.) Don’t skip meals. Feel compelled to go on a diet to ‘prepare’ for the big day of eating? Starving yourself days or hours before will only put you at more risk for overeating and feeling guilty later. (Not to mention the toll that will take on your body and your mind).   If you notice you feel out of control with food restriction or overeating, consult a qualified professional counselor. There are resources and techniques that can help you feel much happier and at ease with food and body image.

5.) Invest in fancy bubble bath salts or grab your best friend for a coffee date (no work chatter allowed!) How you spend your time and money reflects in what you value and sends a message to others. How are you going to be able to deal with your mother if you haven’t taken care of your own needs first?

6.) Reflect on last year. Was all of the stress of “trying to get it all done” the week before Thanksgiving really worth it? How can you help yourself out this year: What can you say ‘no’? Where can you say “I need help”?

Want to download your own free copy of this list to share around? Find it here under free downloads.

What else would you share with others about how to bust stress before Thanksgiving so that you can have the best possible chance of enjoying the holiday in your own way?  Share below!