It’s that time of year again. The media pressure to work out and have the ‘ideal’ body has waned a bit since the New Year’s Resolutions campaign, but now it’s coming back in force as the weather warms up and we are all eager to get outside and enjoy the sunshine: “get your best bikini body yet!”, “are you ready to hit the beach?”, “three tips to lose weight FAST to fit into that tiny bikini!”. Then there’s the comparisons to celebrities who have the “perfect bikini body” and whose pictures are spread throughout the internet and in magazines as the “ideal role models” for how your body ‘should’ look this summer. Whoa. I’m exhausted even thinking about it. I can feel my chest start to tighten as I almost fall into that trap: “how will I EVER get my body to look like THAT??”.
Who said that anyone had to have a certain body appearance or type in order to wear a bikini? Where is the logic in that? It doesn’t make sense to me and it feels very shaming, judgmental, and narrow-minded. For those of us who embrace and love our bodies no matter what they look like (or are desiring to do so!), these messages can be very harming. Bikinis come in all shapes and sizes, just like our bodies do. And we all have a right to enjoy our bodies, whether in a bathing suit, a dress, a towel, a jumpsuit, a clown’s suit, or whatever we may choose! I’m of the belief that if we are able to physically put on a bathing suit, we are ‘bikini-ready’.
I found this great article on the Huffington Post that inspired this blog post which asked readers to submit photos of their own fabulous, REAL, bikini bodies! What I loved about it was the energy radiating from these women (no men included in this exercise, though I think that would be a GREAT idea, as men are subjected to media and social pressures as well).
These beautiful bikini babes were jumping around, swimming with fish, enjoying the sun, and even in one case, running through snow, all embracing their REAL, healthy bodies. I could just feel how happy they were, and even if some of them have had body image issues come up (which can happen no matter WHAT your body looks like), they were not allowing those to bulldoze their fun in the sun and water (or snow).
An important point: your body might naturally look a certain way — thin, heavier, whatever. It’s not what your body looks like that matters as much as how you feel in your body and the amount of joy, acceptance and satisfaction you are able to experience in your body. Exercising and eating foods that feel great to your body are certainly healthy practices, but we must remain present and balanced in these pursuits so as to not damage our self esteem and body image.
I wanted to offer some food for thought on this topic as we head into summer and are bombarded with messages that (mostly) tell us that our bodies are not good enough and that we need to change.
- Instead of giving energy to “what’s not right” or “what I need to change”, try to reframe and notice what you already, splendidly love about your body. We can lose awareness of our body and become disconnected, this giving way to letting the negative messages sway us. What does your body do every day that you admire? Which body part can you try to focus on and send love to for an entire day?
- Take a step back and notice the underlying forces in media messages. Most advertising has some subliminal message or force working for it — that may not have anything to do with what it’s showing you. The diet industry (as well as the junk food industry) makes BILLIONS OF DOLLARS off of telling us that we need to be perfect and offering us “solutions” that may damage us more than help us. Try to notice these marketing measures with a critical eye before you deem them true. Do they really have your best interest at heart? What will you sacrifice by doing what they tell you to do to “get that bikini body”?
- Team up! Chances are, you are not alone in feeling these pressures. Reach out to a friend who also might have some body image struggles and commit to embracing your bodies together. Harming social messages can influence us sneakily, silently, and powerfully – so our response must be proactive, loud, and communal! If you show others that you can enjoy and empower your real, beautiful bikini body, you will also empower them to do the same.
If you are looking for support in embracing your beautiful, awesome, real bikini body or in accepting yourself in any other way, please feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-340-1443.
Forward on to enjoying the sun, the beach, food, friends, and OURSELVES!
Today is a snowy day in Denver! As the wind blows and the temperature plummets, I am reminded of the gift of slowing down. When something comes up that takes us out of our regular routine (whether it’s weather, illness, unforeseen obligations, etc), we might have no choice but to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. I greet this ‘slowdown’ with anticipation and also a bit of anxiety. What to do on a snow day? Play out in the snow? (did that, nose froze!). Read a book (yes, please)? Peruse the internet ? Have you ever felt this way?
As I noticed all of the feelings I was experiencing and the thoughts I was having, I brought myself back to the present moment and asked:
“What choices do I have with this experience?”
I realized that I have the power to choose acceptance of this moment, EVEN THOUGH I still might feel some anxiety (or whatever else). I became aware that this concept is something I have been working on with clients recently: finding a way to be with slightly uncomfortable feelings while making a choice that helps me to make steps towards being the person I want to be. And today I really want to be peaceful and embrace the cold and snow because I know that tomorrow the sun will come out again, the flowers will be nourished, and the birds will awaken. It will be spring once more.
Mindfulness can be effective in just a few minutes. What is mindfulness and how is it effective?
- Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience.
- Mindful eating invites us to slow down the process of eating, to notice all it has to offer us — the smell of the food, the texture of it, the taste, the sensation of chewing and swallowing and noticing the change in our hunger as we eat.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn offers:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
in the present moment, and
A great book for introducing yourself to this concept is: Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
Today, offer yourself the gift of slowing down, breathing deeply, checking in with your body awareness, noticing your thoughts but trying to not attach to them. This video is a great tool for experiencing the benefits of mindfulness — whether you have a snow day or a busy day — truly allowing us to feel our bodies and to follow their lead into our experience. I invite you to try it yourself — whether you have an hour to give or even just five minutes.
PERSONAL BILL OF RIGHTS
- I have a right to ask for what I want.
- I have a right to say no to requests or demands that I cannot meet.
- I have a right to express all of my feelings – positive and negative.
- I have a right to change my mind.
- I have a right to make mistakes and do not have to be perfect.
- I have a right to follow my own values and beliefs.
- I have the right to say no to anything if I feel that I am not ready, if it is unsafe, or if it conflicts with my values.
- I have the right to determine my own priorities.
- I have the right not to be responsible for the actions, feelings, or behavior of others.
- I have the right to expect honesty from others.
- I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
- I have the right to be myself. To be unique.
- I have the right to express fear.
- I have the right to say, “I don’t know”.
- I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.
- I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
- I have the right to my own personal space and time.
- I have the right to be playful.
- I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
- I have the right to feel safe, and be in a non-abusive environment.
- I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
- I have the right to change and grow.
- I have the right to have my wants and needs respected by others.
- I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- I have the right to be happy.
Remind yourself of these rights daily! It might be helpful to print a copy and post it where you can see it every day.
Have you ever had something on your “to-do” list for days….weeks…(in my case, months!)? And you keep saying, “I’ll do that later”, or “I’d rather do anything — even my taxes! — than do that”? I knew that I was certainly avoiding parts of my “to-do” list because I found myself cleaning everything in my house, office, car, instead of facing the looming elephant in the room.
That elephant, for me, was my professional video. I have made videos in the past, when I started my practice, but took them down because I didn’t feel like they represented “authentic Kate”. I tried again last year to film a video, with a new edge and twist to it, trying to be myself but instead getting emotionally overwhelmed. What was the deal?
So, this March I decided to truly look at what was keeping me stuck and to confront those factors. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an amazing type of behavioral therapy I was recently trained in, one of the guiding principles is to define what is meaningful to you and to pursue it, even if that means experiencing some uncomfortable emotions or feelings along the way.
I spent an afternoon writing about why I wanted to film a professional video. What did it mean to me? Here’s what I came up with:
- It gives a glimpse for potential new clients to “meet” me and see what it might be like to work with me in counseling
- It shows that I’m a real person
- It gives a bit of info about my theoretical orientation, training, and story
- It gives some tips for getting started on the therapy journey
- It makes therapy “accessible” and maybe less “scary”
I still was missing something. Those don’t seem too intense….why couldn’t I just map out what I want to say, and say it? With my meaningful goal in hand, I engaged in some “exposure therapy” (also an element of ACT), and tried to film some initial versions of my video. I was feeling quite uncomfortable. I reflected on a quote I recently heard: “I know that when I’m feeling uncomfortable, I’m about to grow”. Hmm.
After about an hour of filming, viewing, grunting because there was something “wrong” with it, I took a walk and laid down on a patch of green, bright, vibrant grass and took a deep breath. I breathed into my body and tried to focus on what was my barrier to creating a video that was “showable”.
I realized my Perfectionist was rearing her hair-sprayed, curly, gum-smacking head and was telling me “IT’S NOT PERFECT ENOUGH!!! YOU CAN’T BE FINISHED UNTIL IT’S PERFECT!”.
Oh, man! How did I not see this before? I know my Perfectionist quite well…we have coffee sometimes and chat…and I thought I’d be aware enough of her nosiness that I would realize she was interfering. I guess she tricked me. I took another breath and told her: “You are not going to control my video. But, you did show me something very important.”
So, I went back to my office and filmed my video in no time. It is entitled “Perfectly Imperfect”. Sure, it gives me the shivers to ‘put myself out there’ like this, but why not be myself? Being authentic, human, and showing that I am not perfect is one of the most healing aspects I can offer my clients as they find recovery from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or body image and self esteem issues.
My Perfectionist showed me that, while I’m not going to banish her, she is not always helpful. She can get in the way of me being myself, which then can build up anxiety and stress…to levels that I don’t always want to stay at. Getting to understand the times when she is and isn’t helpful has been important for me, and you can also find a way to gently (or not so gently) ask your Critic or Perfectionist or Judge or whomever you have to take a hike for now.
If you are so kind, please view my video and leave a comment with your impressions. My hope is to model that we are all perfectly imperfect and that, in itself, is freeing. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and view this!
If you are looking to improve self-esteem or overcome destructive eating behaviors, I offer a FREE consultation so please give me a call at 720-340-1443!
Sending You a Love Letter From Kate Daigle Counseling!
Happy Valentine’s Day! St. Valentine reminds us that life should be filled with love – for our friends, for our partner, for our family, for our community, and, extra importantly, for ourselves! Have you shown yourself love lately? Sometimes I think the greatest gift we can offer each other and ourselves is to slow down, notice, and be grateful for the world around us. Here are a few great tips for focusing on this reconnection and being present with yourself amidst a busy, chaotic world:
- Before you get out of bed in the morning, look out your window. Take three to seven full breaths. Inhale the colors, shapes and textures around you. Don’t think about it — just breathe it all in, even if it’s just a patch of sky. Notice how you feel.
- As you walk to and from your car (or from building to building), feel your feet on the ground. Imagine that your mind is in your feet — feel them there completely. Notice your weight as it shifts from heel to ball, foot to foot. Any time you notice yourself thinking, just note to yourself “thinking” and return to feeling your feet on the ground.
- Give yourself permission to mimic the weather with your mood. If it’s raining or snowing outside, let yourself be lazy on the couch or a little bit contemplative and melancholy, if that’s how you’re feeling.
- Bring nature indoors. Open the window. Buy some houseplants. Don’t be afraid to talk to them (or to listen to what they have to say to you). Keep a vase of flowers on your kitchen table. Start an indoor herb garden. Put a crystal on your desk or a small fountain in the corner of your living room. Find ways to bring the colors and vibrancy of the natural world into your home. (Adapted from The Way of the Happy Woman by Sara Avant Stover).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to change something. When I was a teenager, the focal point of the thing I wanted to change was myself. This dissatisfaction with myself, or parts of myself, spiraled into an exhaustive effort and cycle of “if only I looked like…if only I could do…THEN, I’d be happy”. Let me tell you how that ended up: in an eating disorder. Only when I was able to accept myself, ALL of myself, and the range of emotions I experienced on a daily basis, was I able to stop destructive behaviors and lead a value-driven life. I know that I am not unique in the way I was thinking; I believed that my emotions were the problem and that my thoughts were “bad” and that I needed to change all of it. When I stopped struggling with all of those beliefs, I was free. That didn’t mean accepting the negative beliefs and talk I was saying to myself, but stopping the struggle with my emotions, as I learned that it is not the emotions themselves that create dis-stress or dis-orders, it is the struggle, or attempted control, over the emotions that is the problem.
Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, compulsive over-exercising and other types of disordered eating behaviors as well as body image struggles can be borne out of a desire to find happiness and peace — but somewhere that mission gets diverted into destructive behaviors that lead to suffering. It seems that there is a call to find a way to “be with” our emotions in non-destructive ways.
I am currently getting trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, an empirically-based therapy that “makes no attempt to reduce symptoms, but gets symptom reduction as a by-product”, writes one of its founders, Russell Harris. This approach is rooted in values, forgiveness, mindfulness, acceptance, compassion, living in the present moment, and accessing a transcendent sense of self, a therapy that encourages us to accept what is without judgment, and to be find some peace in our struggle (while acknowledging that some type of suffering is part of the human experience). ACT has been clinically proven to effectively treat eating disorders and other types of conditions such as OCD, anxiety, chronic pain, and stress, amongst many others.
ACT uses six core principles to help people develop more psychological flexibility and to get out of some of the rigid patterns that keep us stuck in self-destructive pattens:
- Cognitive defusion: when we are able to ‘step back’ and observe language without being caught up in it. We can notice our thoughts at a distance, release some ownership of them, and tell our minds “thanks, mind, for that thought” instead of automatically believing it to be true or a real part of ourselves. As we defuse our thoughts, they have much less influence. This can be very effective with negative self-talk or eating disordered thoughts that could lead to destructive behaviors.
- Acceptance: making space for unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings, emotions, sensations, urges, and allowing them to come and go without struggling with them, running from them, or letting them “drive the bus” (a metaphor in ACT where emotions may feel overwhelming but you can still take charge of driving the bus of your life). I find this to be quite powerful in eating disorder recovery because it allows us to be with our emotions and to find a way of accepting them (even if we don’t necessarily like them) so that they don’t feel like big scary monsters that we need to flee from.
- Contact with the present moment: the practice of bringing full awareness to your here-and-now experiences with openness, interest and receptiveness. This is akin to mindfulness, where we are able to engage fully in our present moment and be open to all that it has to offer without trying to change any of it or judge it. The key here is: not trying to change anything. Yes, we have painful experiences that we would perhaps like to change or erase. The goal of mindfulness, which in this way is helpful to recovery, is to be in the present with openness so that we can feel our emotions and hear our thoughts but have some space from them so that we can make a choice about what type of behavior is associated with this experience. This can lead to choosing less-destructive behaviors as a way of relating to the emotional experience we have.
- The Observing Self: a way of experiencing directly that you are not your thoughts, feelings, memories, roles, sensations, etc. In eating disorder recovery, this means disconnecting from the eating disorder and seeing who you are separate from the ED and empowering that self to heal, soothe, and find balance in accepting ways.
- Values: clarifying what is most important to you, deep in your heart what gives you energy, joy, purpose. What sort of person you want to be, what is meaningful and significant to you, and what you stand for. Finding and focusing on your personal values can facilitate the process of accepting your emotions and can be a motivation for sitting with uncomfortable feelings in pursuit of a value-driven life. Values are what come after an eating disorder; our values are the parts of us that were suffocated by the ED and are powerful and eager to be free.
- Committed Action: This is the “action” piece; setting goals, guided by your values and taking effective action to achieve them. This makes it all worth it! This is the behavioral part of recovery where destructive behaviors become extinct and value-driven choices and actions replace them.
I’m eager to utilize this approach with clients and am excited about the way that it encourages us to be ourselves, knowing that we are okay just as we are. To me, this is a big sigh of relief!
Are you interested in applying some of these principles in a hands-on experiential way? Are you ready to cultivate a more peaceful, accepting relationship with food and yourself? Join me and colleague (and ACT expert) Christine Allison, MA, LPC on March 2nd, 2013 for a workshop where we will practice all of this!
Early bird special ends on 2/15 so ACT now!!!
Held at my office, 709 Clarkson St, Denver, on 2/3 from 10am-2:30pm, the early bird rate is $65, and after 2/15 it will go up to $85.
Contact me to sign up TODAY — seats are filling up!
See the flyer here:
Read more about ACT: Embrace Your Demons by Russ Harris
Happy New Year!
- feeling healthier
- being accepted by others
- fitting in
- having something to be proud of
…and others. Does weight loss bring these things to you? I want to invite a radical idea: what if you accepted yourself just as you are today? What if you didn’t need to change/add/subtract/stop anything about yourself to be happy and accepted? Close your eyes for one minute and try to imagine what that might be like. You. Are. Beautiful. Just. As. You. Are. ! These are intentions that foster recovery from eating disorders, addictions, low self-esteem, and other issues.
Special New Year’s bonus: Download my “NewYearsIntentions” handout that encourages reflection of the past year and includes a guided meditation to embrace intentions for 2013. I hope that this year is a happy, balanced, nourishing year for you all!
Looking for a guide on your journey of self-discovery? Send me an email and let’s chat! I offer a complimentary consultation to explore what this exciting chapter of your life might look like!
A few months into my third year of private practice, I am reflective and grateful for the gifts I have been given since I opened my doors in August 2010. The courage, resiliency, and hope that is experienced and shared by my clients strikes me each and every day as I walk with them on their journeys. The professional colleagues and mentors that support me, offer me consultation and their expertise, and encourage me with a new perspective when I might feel stuck — I am so grateful for you! Kate Daigle Counseling is thriving and and growing and I could not do this alone! I’m eager and excited for what 2013 brings and am looking forward to offering support, hope, and empathy to those who are taking steps to make their lives as happy and healthy as they can be. I am offering a special discount for new clients in January and am pleased to offer two new workshops in the beginning of 2013. More details? Contact Kate!
Our nation has experienced a challenging year and as 2012 draws to an end, I hold in my heart those who are in pain, who have lost a loved one this year, who are in recovery from a mental health concern, or who are coping with difficult events. I stand encouraged that in the wake of tragedy, we come together with love and hold each other up. We are our each other’s greatest healers.