RelateKC Blog

personal development, workout, weight loss, weight management, diet

  • HAPPINESS is a TRAP!

    The liklihood of gaining back at least half of the weight lost during a "boot camp" or intense physical fitness/diet program is 90%!  This is because real life doesn't operate within the confines of a bubble. There is no coach whispering in our ears as we return to life post-bootcamp.  THIS is the time to really take a look at the 80/20 lifestyle as you make the transition back to your reality.  It is very very easy to set unrealistic expectations on ourselves.  It is very very easy to convince ourselves that forces outside of ourselves are IN control.

    Good questions to be asking yourself include: how am I going to set myself up for a self-care lifestyle?  Who will need to be involved?  What obstacles are expected?  What are my triggers?  How will I intercept negative thinking and negative feeling before it becomes negative behavior?  What are my resources?  

    I think self-compassion means realistic expectations and an acceptance of imperfection.  We do this very silly thing here in America, where we convince ourselves and one another that perfection is attainable and not only is it expected but it's the ONLY way to "happiness".  Whoa!  No wonder we spend so much time and money and energy trying to "improve" ourselves and so little time trying to accept and care for and live in the present with ourselves and our families!  I'm going to say something totally revolutionary now:  HAPPINESS IS A TRAP!  

    "Happy" is one of the maaaaany emotions we have as human beings.  It is a fleeting emotion just like all the rest and yet we treat it as though it is the ONLY emotion that matters, that we should be feeling.  And then we set about on this journey to secure "happiness" and we look at ourselves and others as less than, missing something, void, if we are anything less than "happy".  Guess what?  Life, and all of the other extraordinary parts of you which include disgust, anger, hurt, bittersweetness, peaceful, humbled, alarmed, frustrated, confused are happening and existing while you pursue your "happiness".  Chances are if you are dismissing these parts of yourself, you are dismissing them in others around you, including your spouse and children.  Pretty soon we feel beaten down, like failures, because we spent so much of our lives trying to attain something that was never attainable to begin with!  We feel resentful, hopeless and regretful and often don't understand why or where those feelings come from.  

    START NOW.  Look at all of you.  Allow acceptance in, little by little, day by day.  When we stop pushing away as much, we find ourselves feeling "fuller" and more whole and there is less need for anything outside of ourselves, be it food, alcohol, clothes, money to do the filling for us.  We begin to make choices about what we do, how we do it and with whom from a place of rationality, from a place of self-love and self-compassion and suddenly, for the first time, we find ourselves in a place where our relationship with exercise, diet is less about "fixing" what is wrong with us and more about giving to ourselves because we care about our own well being, about our relationship with ourselves, about our inner dialogue and how that transcends into how we see other people, how we treat them and whether or not we make short sighted, impulsive judgments.  

    Thoughts and emotions and relationships matter.  How you see yourself matters.  These are not separate from how you feel and look physically.  Mind and body are one.  It's time we treat them as such. 

    Be curious.  Be brave.  Be you.

    ~ Julia
  • Do NO THING

    As I was eating my dinner this evening and catching up on some news from the week I came across an interview with Victoria Azarenka in the Wall Street Journal.  For those of you unfamiliar with Azarenka - she's a fierce tennis pro and is famous for her loud shrieks (not unlike Serena Williams).  I'm a tennis fan.  Former player.  But the point of the article and my point herein sending this email to all of you can be summarized by the title of the article itself: Victoria Azarenka Learns to Chill Out.

    Azarenka struggled with some major injuries last season which prevented her from winning grand slams she was expected to secure.  Instead 2015 was a year of disappointment to say the least.  The tennis star was seriously depressed.   

    "Before  Azarenka began to train for this year's Australian Open, she engaged in a few months of re-programming.  She adjusted the way she pushed off on her left foot, which had long caused her pain.  With the help of a specialist she changed the way she moved her jaw with lots of practice in front of a mirror to give it more range of motion and to help align her spine.  She conquered her fear of needles so she could try acupuncture.  And then there was the most important challenge of all, something the hyperactive Azarenka had always been too afraid even to attempt: she learned how to sit around by herself and do nothing."

    One of the theories of change I submit to in my own practice, and in my work with clients, is mindfulness, and following something known in Buddhist psychology as "the middle way".  This, Buddhists believe, is the cure for all of life's ailments.  To hold nothing too close or tightly and to push nothing too far away too quickly.  No grasping, no forcing, no fighting.  We are just     "to be". 

    How many of you have filled your schedules to the point of exhaustion?  How many of you are truly ever able to "rest"?  Is resting scary?  Does it feel "wrong"?  Do you experience guilt when you say "no" to someone, or something?  Do you fear that if you give yourself time and space you will "go backwards"?  Do you fill the silence with food?  With alcohol?  With mindless television?  With shopping?  With smoking? 

    I had a client a few weeks ago come into my office and tell me that she just can't take it anymore - she can't take having free time because it reminds her of how alone she is - so she fills it - she has been filling it for so long that her adrenals have about run dry and she is physically weak and limited in her ability to experience pleasure or glee or delight unless she is with another person, doing something, pushing herself towards accomplishing something. 

    This, I told her, was the glorification of "busy" and a means of coping with difficult feelings about her identity, her self-worth, her life choices.  She didn't want to have peace and quiet because she didn't want to have to sit with herself.  Silence can be scary.

    Azarenka is an example of someone who literally ran themselves dry.  Injury forced her to sit with herself and she's lucky it didn't cost her entire career.  She is back in full force this season - slated to win several grand slams - and she credits her work around doing "nothing". 

    Biologically we are still the animals we once were back in the days of cavemen and cavewomen.  This means that during times of heightened attention, hyperaroused states, our bodies act to conserve and preserve.  The ring many women ( and men!) have around their midline is more likely the end result of STRESS.  It's fat stored away for survival. 

    Along with your attention to diet and exercise during these 8 weeks, perhaps you also might take a look at how you cope with silence?  How often do you sit with yourself?  How do you avoid it?  What's holding you back from self-acceptance, self-care, your relationship within yourself?  What wisdom are you missing out on because of your fear of less activity, less fuss, less "busy"? 

    From Tibetan literature:

    "Remember your radiant true nature, the essence of mind.  Trust it.  Return to it.  It is home."
    ~ Namaste
  • 3 Principles for Making Weight Loss Last

    I recently asked a group of women to complete an online, anonymous survey, about weight management and body image. In total, 69 women responded with nearly 50% between 25-34 years old. The results indicated that nearly half of women were unsure of whether or not they had the power to change the shape of their own bodies. Interestingly enough, 80% of the women surveyed also considered their weight loss journey a “success” based on the amount of validation they received from other people. There’s a theme here. Other people matter. We don’t want them to sometimes. Often we wish we could escape their criticism, our dependence on them, and the marketing campaigns so successful at selling us on a particular size and shape. If we could just achieve (fill in the number) life would be better, fuller and happier.

    Many of the women I’ve counseled on body image and weight management express exhaustion and exasperation over the perpetual fluctuation; the loss and gain of weight over a lifetime. It is constantly something we use to shame ourselves; to “hate ourselves thin” according to authors Lillis, Dahl and Weineland of The Diet Trap. If we had only done better, tried harder, were somehow different then we wouldn’t be a size (fill in the blank) today. For some reason we are always looking for proof of our inadequacy. And therefore, we can’t and we don’t ever relax. 50% of the women surveyed multitask during at least one meal a day. 30% multitask at every single meal. As Tara Brach, a respected psychologist and teacher of mindfulness states in her book Radical Acceptance: “[w]e each develop a particular blend of strategies to hide our flaws and compensate for what we believe is wrong with us”. In this case, we diet, we exercise, we shop, we wear make-up, we work a lot, we become supermoms, we consume alcohol and we avoid the gym and the sweaty mess that will remind us of how far we still have to go to be acceptable, worthy, beautiful and “right”.

    97% of the women who took my survey have tried changing their diet to change the shape of their bodies. 91% have tried exercise; over and over again. So why isn’t it working? Or, rather, why isn’t it lasting? Why do we lose weight during boot camp and then gain it back immediately? Why won’t the effects last? In my experience and from the experiences of my clients, I believe it’s because we ignore, repeatedly and unintentionally, three basic principles to lasting body change based on mindset.

    1) Mindset Matters

    We can’t expect our bodies to change, and stay that way, without changing our minds. How we talk to ourselves. How we talk to others. Self-hate or hating ourselves into thinness only breeds insecurity, shame and guilt. It might help in the short term to get us out of bed and to the gym in the morning but shaming ourselves into exercise and a healthy diet only motivates us until the next brownie sundae.

    2) Imperfection is Normal

    Imperfection isn’t our personal problem. It is a natural part of our existence and we share it with every single human being. When we hate on ourselves we also isolate ourselves. We make ourselves the enemy and also those people who appear to be “in shape” or the size we expect ourselves to be.

    3) External Motivations Set Us Up for Failure

    We use external motivations to turn us into the person (size/weight/shape) we expect ourselves to be. “If I lose weight I will finally get the (fill in the blank) I have always wanted!” What happens if we don’t lose all of that weight right away? Are the rest of our dreams on hold until we look a certain way? Are we unlovable and unworthy until we reach that certain size? We are missing out on so much by putting it all on hold for that perfect body.

    So what am I suggesting?

    1) Think Broadly

    Rather than looking at weight loss or a particular size as a narrow goal, consider it more broadly. How does it fit in to the larger picture of the life you want to be living?

    2) Replace Self-Hate with Self-Compassion.

    It seems counterintuitive but until we can accept ourselves, empathize with the thoughts and feelings that are a natural part of our make-up as human beings, we will not be able to accept our size even when we reach what we think is that “magic” number. Offer yourself the same level of compassion and understanding that you would offer your child, your friend or your spouse. The longest relationship you will have in your life is with yourself. How are you in relationship with yourself?

    3) Relationships Matter

    How we see ourselves is deeply influenced by our relationships. The people around you matter. How are they influencing you? How are you influencing them? Are you choosing to bring people into your life that will bring you closer to the life you want to live? Perhaps it’s time to include your family in your weight loss journey. We tend to mirror what our partner does. If our partner doesn’t prioritize active living or is perpetually stressed, it makes perfect sense for this to be our experience too. Many times counseling is necessary for sustainable change. Restructuring the boundaries of your relationships, the roles and rules you live by and the foundation of your marriage or partnership is imperative to long term body change.      

     

    Recommended Books:

    The Diet Trap by Jason Lillis, Joanne Dahl and Sandra Weineland

    Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

     

    Julia Harkleroad, MS, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in Prairie Village, KS. Julia serves children and families and runs groups on weight loss and body image in conjunction with a personal or group training regime. She can be contacted at julia@relatekc.com or 913.638.4791

  • 5 Principles for Launching Your Child

    Do this now. Thank yourself later.

    The transition we all made from adolescence to young adulthood was probably one of the most challenging. Half in and half out of childhood. It can be the gateway to long-term success as an adult or the kickstart of pathology, where our lack of coping skills finally catches up with us as we are thrown into the rush of life as a small fish in a very big sea. Fears of incompetence, unworthiness and reluctance creep in and we flip through our memory bank for exceptions to our fears, times when we exemplified resilience and overcame great challenge.

    My work with parents of both small children and “adultescents” (a.k.a. adult children) leads me to believe that preparation for a successful launch at 18 years begins at birth. Increasing your child’s tolerance, slowly, over time, for ambiguity, transitions, and yes, even for failure, means they will be more capable at 18 years to withstand adversity. And let’s face it, there’s plenty of adversity for young adults these days. The 2010 Census offered some sobering statistics on the difficulty of launching in the 21st century. Only 50% of Americans in their mid-20’s consider themselves financially independent and earn enough to support themselves and a family. Yikes. Not to mention, 63% of men and 52% of women between 18-24 years live at home with their parents.  

    Herein, the true value of chickenpox. And you thought it was just a viral infection! Chickenpox (a.k.a. adversity) builds immunity. Used as a metaphor for life, it is important and valuable for your children to “catch” failure, difficulty and adversity early in life so that they are better prepared to handle it, be “immune”, as young adults. Adversity increases coping capacity, encourages the practice of asking for help, develops a sense of mastery over challenge, shapes confidence and creates stories of perseverance to fall back on in future difficult times.

    With just five basic principles you can better position your children (and yourself) for a successful and sustainable launch at 18 years. Exposing your children to infection early can be beneficial in more ways than one!

     

    1) Allow your child’s success to be real and uninfluenced (at least to some degree) by you. What I mean is, allow your children to really “feel” their strengths and therefore ownership over their successes. When we praise our children for every single thing they do, they don’t learn resilience. When we step in to prevent danger and difficulty at every encounter, we block real self-discovery. Both resiliency and self-discovery are paramount to successful launching.

     

    2) Place value on internal performance vs. external performance. Unless success is experienced to a large degree, internally, then your child will always be looking for gratification and satisfaction outside of him/herself. Later in life this can look like sore losing, an inability to self-soothe, blaming, obsession with perfection and at its worst, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and addiction (drugs, gambling, eating, shopping).

     

    3) Tolerate their independence. Children are born not knowing the distinction between “me” and their attachment figures, particularly “mom”. They are essentially one in the same. But, over time, it is a natural human progression to begin to separate and increasing identify oneself as unique and distinct from another. Allowing this process to begin earlier will help it to be more tolerable later when your child leaves you for life on his/her own.

     

    4) Keep your own identity. Remember who you were before you had children and who you are now. Your own journey as a human being doesn’t end because you become a parent. Continue learning new things about yourself. Change. Evolve. So that your child can too.

     

    5) Disperse your time and resources. All humans, including you, the parent, are deserving of independence, self-interest and indulgence to some degree. The sun may rise and shine on your child in your home but it won’t when he/she steps outside into the world at large. Help your child to be ready. Entitlement grows in the dark corners of parental sacrifice. Have you abandoned yourself or your marriage for your child? Ask yourself when the last time was that you and your partner went out without the kid/s? When was the last time you allowed your child to be responsible for his/her own behavior, even if it meant allowing for failure?

     

    Letting go is hard but at its core, parenthood is about loss. We raise children to lose them to their own journey. I am reminded of a poem by Kahil Gibran called On Children. In it he states,

    [Your children are not your children…And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your life but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.]

    Sometimes the only way around is through. What are you teaching your children about tolerating discomfort? How are you raising them to be successful without you? A successful, fruitful existence long after you are gone, is, after all, the greatest gift you can give them.

     

     

    Julia Harkleroad, MS, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in Prairie Village, KS. She can be contacted at julia@relatekc.com or 913.638.4791