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Fat- Word or Weapon?

Becca Clegg

I was talking with someone I care about recently, and the conversation took an interesting turn.

"I’m so fat” he said.

Immediately my heart sank; my body did a reflexive shudder.

“No, you’re not.  Don’t say that”, was my immediate response. It was automatic, as though I was jumping in front of a verbal bullet for them.

“Ummm…yes…yes I am”, was his response to me. “I’ve gained weight…I have a fat belly. I’m fat. What’s the big deal?”

I just sat there without a response. My body was literally having a visceral response. I was so uncomfortable.

 Ironically, he wasn’t! He didn’t seem phased at all.

I couldn’t stand someone I care about referring to himself as fat, and yet, in that moment it dawned on me, that he was just describing what he saw as an objective truth. I wanted to save him from something, but as I let it sink in, I saw that he didn’t need saving.

 I did.

What struck me in that moment me was how much power the word FAT has in our culture. FAT isn’t a description of a stored energy reserve that sits underneath the skin. FAT is a way in which we communicate to one another disgust, disapproval, and pain.

I remember the first time I was told I was FAT. It was in grade school, too young to understand social rules or norms. I don’t think I was aware of my body; I was just alive in it, unencumbered by self-awareness in a way that only a child can be. What struck me, and I can still remember to this day, is that when I was called FAT, it wasn’t just a comment on the shape and composition of my body, as “you have blond hair” or “you are right handed” would have been. It was a clear message that my body was not acceptable, and it implied that as a result, either was I. Being told I was FAT clearly signaled rejection.

I wasn’t’ old enough to even know what rejection was, but I knew exactly how it felt. How many of you have felt rejected because in some way you have learned that your body is not “good enough”? This is likely more the norm than the exception in our society.

In our image and material obsessed world, our bodies have become weapons. They can be used as weapons against us – “I want to hurt you so I will shame your body so that you feel broken, wrong, or rejected”. And in turn, we can use them as weapons of defense – “I will make my body look so perfect that no one will reject me”. The flesh suit that serves as the home for your spirit has gone from being a vehicle in which you experience this life, to being the human’s calling card of social worthiness.

This is why it is so critical that you be aware of how you talk to yourself and the language you use. If you are using language that is negatively connotated such as the word FAT, you are in a constant state of confirming your unworthiness. I have a guess that my friend and his total lack of emotion associated with the word FAT is definitely in the minority, but it highlights that language that hurts us is different for all of us. FAT might trigger you, or it might not, but each of us has language that cuts deep and sends that message of rejection like an arrow to the heart.

Ask yourself; how many times a day might you tell yourself you are in some way not good enough? How many times a day do you use language that harms to describe certain body parts as you pass a mirror? What are you really saying to yourself – doing to yourself – every time you utter this language?

You know that old saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me?’. Well, it’s bullshit. Words matter – and so do you.

You aren’t a sensitive Sally.

You aren’t a snowflake.

You don’t need to just suck it up and try harder.

Your language and the words you (and others) say to yourself influence your behavior and motivation on a deep level. When we feel unworthy, and “less than”, we lack the ego strength to develop sustainable, self-care habits necessary to take care of our bodies. If we feel that we are worthless, often times, we act that way. We engage in risky or self-harming behavior, we tolerate way more than our share in life, and we are so busy trying to prove our worth to everyone else that fail to create lives that serve us.

Our worth is not predicated on our body size, and until that becomes our reality, chances are our behavior towards our body will result in pain and frustration. As long as we are caught up in trying to alter our bodies to prove ourselves to a society that hasn’t even bothered to get to know who we really are, we will be caught in the trap of people pleasing and contingency based acceptance (i.e. I believe people will only like me if I look or act a certain way).

Today see if you can commit to kindness over criticism. See if you can avoid cruel and hurtful internal dialogue. Perhaps you can choose to stand in front of a mirror and say something kind, or find a quality you like and note it mindfully. Language matters and you do have a choice over the language you use, both in your mind, and spoken.

The choice is yours. Will your language be a weapon, or will it be an invitation back to who you were before someone erroneously told you that you weren’t enough?

Part 2: Tending to Your Inner Child

Becca Clegg

When I talk to my clients about their “inner child,” I often get strange looks and furrowed brows. They may be aware of the idea through the media or pop culture, but not when it comes to working with their OWN inner child. This woo-woo therapy concept then goes from being innocuous or funny – to downright confusing.

How do you identify an ego state? 

What the hell is that anyway?

How do you care for a part of yourself that doesn’t exist in the flesh – a part that vanished years ago?

This blog post is my attempt to answer those questions.

You see, our inner child is something that I believe every single one of us is walking around with. We are all carrying multiple parts of ourselves that we picked up on our developmental journey. Therapists call these parts “ego states." An ego state is a concept of segmentation of someone’s personality. In other words, we all have different “parts” of our personalities that serve different functions (kind of like an inner committee or house of representatives). They all serve different purposes, develop from different stages of our lives, and frustratingly, don’t always get along or have the same needs.

More on ego states in a later post, but for the purposes of understanding the inner child, you just need to know that it’s the part of you that developed when you were a small child (probably before the age of 10). Everyone’s inner child is different, however, it’s usually the part of you that feels the most dependent and anxious. It also likely holds the wounds of a time in your life when you weren’t able to comprehend the world yet. Kids are egocentric, which is appropriate developmentally, but unfortunately, it can cause deep wounding. Many times, children assume that problems in their family system or their world are their fault, when they are truly only bystanders.

How do you know when your inner child is acting up? How do you know when the inner child is asking for your help?

·       Ask yourself if your feelings are making logical sense. Often when we're experiencing “kid feelings,” our rational mind doesn’t line up with what we are feeling inside. This makes sense if you think about the fact that our prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain where rational thought develops – isn’t fully formed until way beyond childhood. If your feelings are beyond explanation, and you feel them overwhelmingly nonetheless, it’s likely these are “kid feelings.”

These feelings may even be connected to experiences you had when you were pre-verbal, thus giving them an “I don’t have words for this” quality. These feelings are like memories. They don’t belong to the reality of the present moment, but they feel every bit as real as the first time we felt them. It’s our job (by our, I’m referring to the conscious adult ego state we create as we develop our coping skills. I refer to this as your “authentic self”) to create an inner dialogue that will soothe the child within us. Remind yourself that you are safe and ground yourself in the present moment. Bring your prefrontal cortex online so that you can soothe the little one inside who is remembering something that feels overwhelming. 

·       Pay attention to your language and tone. Listen to the voice in your head. Is it whiny? Does it sound impatient or small? Is it terrified? Or does it fear being alone? By doing this, you can look closer to see if this voice mimics the qualities we usually find in children. We’ve all been there (you know you have). You’ve heard yourself whine about the store not having your favorite drink, or felt the urge to pout when something disappointing happens. This is your inner child.

We can get to know our ego states extremely well by paying attention to their unique language and tone. Each state will have nuances and subtle differences that will help you to identify which ego state is currently talking. You can then take into account that particular ego state’s role and why they might be active. For instance, if the inner child is active, you might hear a soft tone that uses fear-based or dependent language (I can’t, I won't, I don’t want to, etc..)

Once you get to know your inner child, you will begin to realize what her needs are. They often are needs that weren’t met during your childhood. You can then begin to meet those needs by recreating your childhood experiences in your adult life.

Did she never get to play? (Yes, I’m going to be captain obvious with this one) Then you need to get your butt out there and have some fun! Was she hurt or frightened a lot? This is critical for all of us, but especially for those who experienced trauma. You must commit to impeccably compassionate inner dialogue. I know that’s not easy, which is why having a therapist to help you is often necessary. Did your inner child feel like something was wrong with her? Then it’s up to you to make sure you treat yourself with respect and avoid people who might send the same message that she received in childhood. None of this is rocket science, it’s actually quite simple. But simple doesn’t mean easy. 

Be gentle with yourself as you learn more about your inner child. And remember, this part of you needs nurturing and reassurance. All kids do. Little people are brought into this life with no guidance, and they rely on those bigger and wiser than them. They look to adults to provide a safe space that reassures them of their worth so they can feel confident to go learn and explore. You might not have received this safe space as a child. Many of us don’t and no one had a perfect childhood. That’s why it’s so critical that we take the responsibility of getting to know and caring for our inner child. 

She’s every bit as real today as she was when you were young. That little one with the big eyes and pigtails may be grown now, but her essence is active deep within you. The more you see her, and treat her (you) with the love you would give any child – the closer you get to home. 

“We are all just walking each other home.” - Rumi

Part 1: How to Honor Your Inner Child

Becca Clegg

Honoring Your Inner Child by Rebecca Clegg, LPC Authentic Living

Have you ever noticed how babies are not yet self-conscious?

They aren’t! In fact, they are present, in the moment, and honest with their emotions (as if they have a choice!) They are just themselves, and they are real. They aren’t aware of other people (this is called object permanence – you can Google it), so they simply do things as they see them – from their own vantage point.

There was a time in all of our lives where the thought that we might not be good enough had never crossed our minds. I like to think of this time as “pre-conditioning”.  It’s interesting to think that you came into this world not so much believing you were perfect, but just never for one second, thinking you might not be.

But, it seems that somewhere along the journey, we all lose our way.

As we learn language and download knowledge from the people around us, we become conditioned. We are taught false beliefs that we buy as truth because we don’t know better (yet!). We buy into the pain, judgment and criticism that we hear, see and absorb from the world around us. And the next thing you know, we have replaced the truth about who we are with the belief that we aren’t good enough. 

Remember, children believe everything is about them – even when it isn’t. Egocentric thinking is a part of that developmental stage. For example, young children often grab anything (and everything) within a five-foot radius and state, “mine”. (My nephew loved to do this with my phone, which, as you can imagine, was interesting). This is just what kids do – they perceive everything as their own.

But now, imagine for a moment that phone was instead my anger, perhaps caused by someone cutting me off in traffic. It would make sense that a child could interpret that anger as “mine” as well. Egocentricity in our early developmental years causes us to be sponges – soaking up everything we witness and perceive around us. We personalize everything, including the erroneous idea that we are responsible for other people’s feelings and limitations.

If you witness pain, disappointment, anger or any type of negative response or emotion as a child, it’s likely you will discern that you are the cause. You put yourself in the center of the equation and personalize the reactions you see around you. Life’s pain, in your mind, becomes your fault.

See how things can get pretty convoluted?

You can’t fix something that isn’t yours to fix. But remember, a child with his or her egocentric thinking can’t conceive of this. In that life stage, we believe that we must be the cause, so we think it’s up to us to fix the problem. This is where many self-sabotaging behaviors are born.

We trade our love for ourselves for the need to conform to what we think others want and need from us. We start caretaking, people-pleasing, assuming responsibility for the feelings of others – and a myriad of other soul-destroying practices – in an effort to fix perceived problems that were never ours to begin with.  Talk about a wild goose chase!

Over time, I believe all of us detach and forget our inherent worth to some degree. Those who experience trauma or neglect when they are young detach more acutely than those who don't. Regardless of the extent to which you lose your connection to your worth, it's a process no one seems to escape.

The question is, how can you find your way back to the truth you once knew: the truth that you matter and that you are enough?

We can start by identifying instances in which we may have personalized situations that we weren’t responsible for. I encourage you to simply give yourself the space to think about moments when you may have become erroneously attached to false ideas and beliefs in your early childhood – and how that might have affected you. Becoming mindful of the origin of harmful beliefs is the beginning of change.

In our next blog post, we will focus on what to do with these false thoughts and beliefs once we identify them. And then how to heal and change your thinking to honor your inner child, creating a new relationship with yourself based on the unconditional self-acceptance you once had. It was yours once, you deserve to reclaim it. Start with honoring that, and stay tuned for part II.

Talking To Your Body

Becca Clegg

 

Sometimes I talk to my body.

And by sometimes, I mean, quite a lot. And yes, I mean actual conversations, as in, “hey body, it’s Becca here, I have some things I need to tell you”.

I just had a very long conversation with her (since I am female, I always reference my body as her – go figure). It is what prompted me to come home and write this blog article in fact.

I am lucky enough to be on vacation right now. When on vacation, I try to relax as much as possible, because I’m a practice what you preach kind of gal and I know the importance of self-care and downtime.  And, I try to make sure my body gets to relax too.

What does that mean? Do I lie around all day and stay as still as possible?

Well – for an hour here or there maybe, but that’s not my style. What I do is make sure I give my body lots and lots of love, from the inside out.

Ok – let me explain.

The relationship that I had with my body for many, many years was not what one would describe as compassionate or loving. I was very hard on my body, both physically and verbally, and I detached from her for most of my early childhood and adolescence. I was nowhere to be found, hiding in shame and fear and completely unable to recognize her for her magnificence and beauty.

Fast forward a few decades. Add years of personal work, growth, and discovery.  Sprinkle in a decade of working as a body image and eating disorder therapist (which is a career that keeps me in the flow of my self-care and needs), and what you have is a woman who talks to her body every single day.

I just had a super long love fest while I was getting a massage (one of my favorite times to send love to my body, as I always offer massage to my body as a thank you gift).  As I lied on the table, I took about 10 minutes and practiced Ho’Opono Ono, which is a Hawaiian meditation that simply has you repeat these four things:

I’m sorry
Forgive me
Thank you
I love you

You can use this meditation for anything under the sun, but where my body is concerned this is one of my favorites because I have a lot to be sorry for due to my past transgressions against my body.  I have even more to be grateful about due to my body's perseverance and strength.

Another one of my favorite places to talk to my body is when I am working out.  For so many years, working out was a way to punish myself for eating, for being what I deemed was some form of “too much or not enough.”  

One of the ways I reclaimed exercise for myself and continue to do so is by thanking my body for its strength while working out. I have no studies on this, but it's my experience that repeating affirmations of gratitude and awe while I am lifting a heavy weight or moving my body with relative exertion is exponentially powerful.

Practicing internal affirmations while moving the body is releasing and connecting at the same time, as you use your brain (cognition) and your body (experience) together in tandem to create a new, healing experience. Try it and tell me what you feel, I bet you’ll agree.

What does this look like? Try saying "I am strong in body and mind" as you lift weights.  Try saying "My legs are amazing and I am lucky to have them" as you walk. Connect your thoughts to gratitude and encouragement and be your own cheerleader as you move your body.

By now, most of us have been exposed to the idea that our thoughts create our reality. We have seen the evidence-based results of therapies that work to change our thinking and focus our minds in ways that make us feel better. What we fail to realize sometimes is that this is not a short-term fix when it comes to body love.

It’s a relationship. It’s about you creating a healthy and loving way of relating to your body, and you can start by creating a conversation (the same way you would if you were starting a romantic relationship – you start by talking to each other).  The goal should be to have loving and affirming conversations with yourself.

Yes, I talk to my body. I create a relationship with it, the way I would with anything in my life. If I don't do this, there are plenty of negative forces in the world that are more than happy to let me know what's wrong with my body, so I will feel bad and buy their products or shy away from speaking my truth and claiming my space.

It begins with you. It begins with your self-talk. You get to decide what messages your body will hear about its worth and value.

Beyond the Brain: What My Body Wants Me to Know

Becca Clegg

If summarized, it is fair to say that in some way, I’ve spent my career helping people heal wounds.  I have tried, if possible, to help them create an understanding of themselves that revolves around empathy, compassion and inclusivity of every aspect of who they are.

Typically, the wounds I see have occurred as a result of a myriad of things.  When boiled down to the common denominator, however, you often find that the source of this type of wounding leads back to an experience of being marginalized, trivialized, bullied, abused, assaulted, ignored, neglected, or made to feel inferior for being none other than who you are.  In addition, this wounding is often dealt by the hands of those in positions of authority, often by those who could be described as bullies – people who often demonstrate traits of narcissism, or appear to be lacking in compassion and empathy (anti-social).

So for those reasons, it will not come as any shock to you that I personally, and professionally, have been appalled by the emergence of Donald Trump as a political figure and leader.  I am opposed to, and frightened by, all that he symbolizes.

Another blogger and psychotherapist, Annie Wright, said it far better than I could when she said, “President-elect Trump and his track record of actions so far embodies everything that I work so hard to help people heal and overcome from: The painful collateral damage of narcissism, grandiosity, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, divisiveness, bullying, body-shaming, oppression, lies, and on and on the list goes.” (Check out her blog, she’s an amazing writer https://anniewrightpsychotherapy.com/blog/)

Everyone had personal differences and different reasons for making the choices they did on voting day. This article is not about being right or being wrong in our voting choices.  The focus of this article is on my own personal connection to the wisdom of my body in what I find to be a disturbing and yet critically pivotal time.

Like many of you, as I watched the election results coming in, I felt a sense of shock.  I watched in disbelief and my mind searched for understanding. 

My body, however, had an entirely separate experience, one that I am still trying to understand as I write this today.  My chest became tight, and my breathing shallow.  My heart rhythm shifted in an uncomfortable way.  A deep sadness and disappointment revealed itself as my eyes cried tears.

My body literally mourned. 

Throughout the entire experience, my brain continued to do its best to console me. It did its best to give me logic and reason, telling me,

“It’s going to be fine.  This isn’t the end.  It’s just four years, this is the political back and forth that fills the history books.  Two steps forward, one step back, your life isn’t going to change.  You will rise tomorrow and everything will be relatively the same.”

My brain scanned for facts; it searched for meaning.

But my body wasn’t on board.  My body has been sending me a very different message, one that I have come to see as full of wisdom that my brain cannot, and will not, ever be able to “know.” 

Luckily, I have been clued into the fact that our bodies have incredible messages to send us if only we stop and listen.  So – here is what I heard, and the lessons that I have surmised in these past two weeks.

Be Present – You Need to Be Awake

As I felt my chest tightening, I had no choice but to slow down and take really deep breaths.  It was as if my body was forcing me to focus, whispering,  

“Breathe deeper…you must breathe deep right now.”

It has remained this way ever since, a constant reminder of the power of my breath itself.  It is as though through necessity, my breath is forcing me to ground and center myself through deep sighs and intentional breath work.

The tightness in my chest is saying,

“You must focus on your breath, and you must do this intentionally.”

This, without my brain getting in the way, has caused me to be very present in a time when it would be really easy to just numb out and stick my face down in my comfy bubble until it felt safe to come up.  But instead, I am forced back into the moment, into being present.

As my mind takes in this message, it occurs to me that this is beyond wise.  The wisdom I hear is,

“Don’t check out now, Becca.  Be present – remain awake.  The time for sleep and distraction is over.”

Conscious breathing keeps us present, and our presence is needed.

             "When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” – Chinese Proverb

Connect To Your Heart – The Power Lies In Your Love

I felt my heart rhythm change, to a varied sped-up then sped down rhythm that held its uncomfortable dance inside of my chest until about 3 a.m. that morning.  My heart, the center of my emotional body, the symbol of the love inside of me, didn’t know how to relax.  It was frenetic and confused, grief-stricken and afraid.  

The changing of my heart rhythm that night created an intense focus on the organ itself.  The heart, the universal symbol of love, was literally knocking loudly on the walls of my chest as if to say,

“This is where it hurts, this is where the problem is.  Notice me.  Pay attention to me, I need your attention.”

I believe that collectively, the choice that was made, the campaign that was run, and the blinding frenzy of “us versus them” that the powers that be droned up and used to their advantage screamed from the top of the highest mountain, “We (collectively) are not okay... We are wounded, and hurting, and have so much healing to do.”

The question then remains, what heals?

The answer was so clear - Love.

It isn’t the anger, outrage, or ego based judgment and bitterness that wants to take over in times like this.  Those emotions play a role.  They signify injustice and violation.  They mobilize people and can be a catalyst for action.  But they do not heal.  In fact, often, left unchecked, they only continue to deepen wounds.

What ultimately heals every human being is the experience of being seen and witnessed for who they are, and loved through that process, not in spite of it.  How we do this in light of the great divide we see before us?  I will admit, I don’t exactly know.  But that’s okay.

All I know is that right now, my body is refusing to let me ignore this message.  It feels urgent, as if to give me that push, to get me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to remember to align with love. It’s saying to me,

 “Choose a side.  You can no longer be neutral.  Choose me.”

We don’t always get a roadmap, but we do get an internal compass if we are listening.  My heart, combined with my deeply held belief that love is the essence of who we are, has spoken loudly these past few weeks and sent a message so clear it doesn’t matter to me that I don’t have the linear “plan” mapped out.  Learning to trust my body’s wisdom and move in faith is part of the process. I have yet to be let down.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  - Elie Wiesel

Embrace Feminine Energy

Around 1 a.m., when I was assured that what I was seeing on the TV screen was real, my eyes released the tears, the healing and beloved salty water of tears.  These tears held a sorrow so deep, so primal, that I believe, it wasn’t just my pain.  It was collective.

Tears are an interesting topic.  As I write this, I realize, this is an article unto itself.  But for the sake of brevity, I will just say, that every baby is born with the amazing ability to release emotions held in the body through the release of salt water through tear ducts in the eyes. When you look at it like that, it’s pretty cool, right?  I mean, what a design this human body has; it has thought of everything!

And yet, somewhere along the way, this amazing and necessary act of emotional release has been negatively connoted in our culture.  Approximately 300 years (and change) ago, a great shift in the human paradigm occurred.  This is the time in history when we saw the formation of the patriarchal paradigm.  The masculine energy rose disproportionately, and while doing so, the feminine became vilified, and the cultural expectation became the denouncing of the feminine, and everything it represented.

We as people lost our inner balance when this occurred.  There is so much history behind that last statement; I can’t even begin to do it justice in this paragraph, so to stay on point, let’s look at the act of crying.  Crying became associated with the feminine, deemed weak and ineffective and, as a result, our culture to this day sends messages both overt and covert that crying is something to be ashamed of.

We are seeing this in action today as many people are referring to others who are experiencing emotions around the election as “cry babies,” as if to cry were something to be embarrassed about instead of a very healthy and necessary bodily release.  This is an effort to shame people for having feelings.  It is a perfect example of how we have learned to degrade the feminine experience.

It is my belief that the reason we find ourselves in this predicament in the first place is largely due to that very imbalance that occurred some 300 years ago.  Our world has been suffering in so many ways as a result of that shift, and this is just a continuation of the pain any organism experiences when it doesn’t have balance or homeostasis.

Masculine and feminine energy is something we all possess.  This is not about gender as we define it culturally.  This is about internal human traits and experiences that we are all born with the capacity and need to experience.  Our society, however, with its need for dichotomy and its biased belief that the masculine traits are dominant and therefore preferred over the feminine, create an impossible scenario for men and women alike.  We all suffer under this paradigm.

The feminine is represented by the qualities of compassion, emotion, creativity, collaboration, intuition, empathy, spirituality, and right brain thinking.  The feminine listens, it receives, it contemplates and it informs.  The masculine is represented by analytic and rational thinking; encompasses competition, determination, and linear, left-brain processing.  The masculine takes action, it possesses, it (when in balance) makes manifest the informed decisions of the feminine contemplation.

The problem is that the masculine and feminine energies are meant to work in union.  The feminine informs; the masculine takes action.  Due to the schism within our hierarchical culture, culturally, we are all action without contemplative information.  We are like planes flying without a compass.  We are deeply disconnected and out of balance, and our culture is reflecting that in more ways than I can count.

So, let me get back to my tears.  That night, my body needed to release.  It didn’t ask. It never does.  It just did its thing, revealing to me the depth of my concern, fear and connectivity to the events occurring around me.  Rather than fight them, I leaned in. I felt my feelings.  I just let it be.

And what was the message my tears sent me?

“Be with your feelings, don’t run, and don’t fix them.  Embrace the feminine, for the world needs this balance now more than ever.”

Now, I have held this belief for years; this has been my truth for a very long time now, but my body wasn’t going to take any chances in making sure I didn’t forget.  My tears have continued to flow, when appropriate, although not always when convenient.  It’s my choice not to judge them, but to see their strength, and their reminder that I am indeed present, aware, awake, and finally – embodied.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” -Albert Einstein

As you make your way through the rest of 2016, I encourage you, wherever you find yourself, to be aware of your body’s wisdom.  There is a wisdom so deep, so ancient inside of you that can never be found “out there.”  With all the noise, and heightened emotion floating around, I invite you to take time to come home.  Come back to your body, your source.  There is much to be learned if you are awake, and if you are listening.

Peace and love to you all.

 

How to Use Mindful Eating to Gain More Balance In your Everyday Life

Becca Clegg

I was having lunch with a girlfriend the other day and in the middle of my sentence I couldn’t remember what I was saying.  I completely blanked, and then I started laughing because I had to fess up to her that I had a complete and total brain fart.

It led to a good laugh, and an even better conversation about what our brains do when we are on overload (we are both therapists, so you can imagine that conversation was juicy).

The truth is, I have a tendency to take on too much.  I always have, and I probably always will. I write about this often, because I know my energy patterns, and I teach knowing your energy patterns as a way of being mindful of your relationship with food.

I strive for balance, but as is the case with most humans, I don’t always hit the mark. This was one of those times.

If I’m not being mindful of balance, my messy tendency is to binge and purge on things.  With good-natured enthusiasm, I take on way more than I am capable and then inevitably get overwhelmed and want to shut down.  I have seen this pattern play out with everything from food, work, finances, favors, commitments, and passions.  Yes, even the good, fun stuff in life will show up in these energy patterns because how you do anything tends to be how you do everything.

When I work with women helping them find their own balance with food (and life), this issue of taking on too much, and having too much on our plate, often comes up.  It is the issue of taking on more than we are capable of managing.  We say yes when we want to say no.  We take on the persona of super woman, and inside we feel like we are just barely managing to get by.

It is in these times when our plate is way too full, that often times our literal plate becomes too full.  We can use food as a way to reward ourselves for putting up with so much, or we might use it as a way to numb the feelings that we experience as a result of our choice to push ourselves beyond our limits.

Food never fills the empty tank, however, because it isn’t what we are really hungry for.  What we really want is a break, or some respite.  We really want some downtime, or some relaxation.  Or maybe what we need is something as simple as some sleep. 

We are the only people who can acknowledge these needs and give these things to ourselves. 

We are hungry for our own acknowledgement that the tank is empty and we need to refuel.  We need the nourishment of our own empathy and support.  We need time to reconnect to ourselves, and find that inner balance that exists only inside of us.

So, how do you begin to reconnect with yourself? 

You can start by simply paying attention to yourself, the way you would pay attention to a new friend, someone who you genuinely like and are interested in.

Pay attention to your internal reactions. 

What draws your attention?

What makes you smile in this moment?

What makes your body respond when you see it or experience it? 

What do you want more of?  Less of? 

Another great way to reconnect to ourselves is through mindful eating.

As with most things, our relationship with food will often parallel our other relationships (with ourselves and others).  If you are out of balance and disconnected in life, chances are you are also disconnected with food.

Just ask yourself - what would taste good?

What would feel good in your body?

What would fuel you?

What would give you good energy?

What is it you want?

You will probably get a variety of responses that run the gamut from brownies to broccoli, and that’s ok. 

You are deep.  You have many layers.  The responses will be as complicated and as beautifully dichotomous as you are.  You are both brownies and broccoli. (And that’s what makes you so interesting!!) 

Don’t be afraid of what you find.  Answer with gentleness and mindfully feed yourself.  Take it one step at a time. You will be okay.

This practice of mindful eating can lead the way back to yourself and help open the doorway to getting to know other “likes” and “dislikes.”  It places the attention back on you, which over time, allows you to be aware of your own stress levels and your body’s own signals that things are out of balance.  It gives you the opportunity to simply check in with yourself and ask the question, “How are YOU doing?”

As you connect with the feelings of hunger and fullness, it will also teach you about what it means to be “hungry” or “too full” in life in general.  There are times when we need to take on more in life, and there are times we need to do less.  This is the challenge of knowing your inner feelings of hunger and fullness (and I mean that with regards to so much more than physical hunger/fullness).

The more you refer back to yourself and seek the answer within, the more connection with self is built.  My experience is that balance is not a stagnant point, and you can no more get there and stay there than you can do the laundry once and be done with it.  It is just a practice of awareness of how you are managing your time and your energy.

Mindful eating is a way to reconnect with you.  It isn’t about being perfect, and neither is trying to balance your life.  It’s simply a commitment to yourself that you will pay attention to your needs and do your best to honor them.  I think that’s a commitment worth making.  You are worth it. 

Deliberate Self-Care - Finding Your Go-To Cures

Becca Clegg

Something I have noticed in coaching and counseling people over the past decade is that everyone has something that “cures what ails them.”  The thing is, what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for the next guy.  Finding our own personal “cure,” and by cure I simply mean a way to release and realign with our center, is part of the journey of loving yourself.

What do I mean? 

Well, what do you do when you know you need to release stress?  How do you relax?  What are the things you can rely on to help you find your center and put you back in alignment with your higher self?                                                       

I heard a quote once that resonated so deeply with me that I haven’t forgotten it since.

"The cure for everything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea" ~Isak Dinesen

While the quote might be over simplified, it really does speak to three of my favorite “go-to” ways of releasing emotion and stress.  In a nutshell, this quote states my top three “cures,” and I want to share them with you as a way to encourage you to identify your own.

1. Working Out

There is nothing like a good workout to really shift your mood.  I love working out and getting really sweaty.  (Nice visual, I know!)  It is an amazing release and a dependable mood improver.  It’s like the sweat (aka saltwater) is a release of negativity & toxicity that my body and soul just don’t need.

And for those of you who are furrowing your brow and thinking, “Really…you LOVE working out???” I have news for you. 

I didn’t always feel this way. 

Working out was once a way to eradicate calories and force my body into a shape I thought it needed to find.  When I approached working out that way, it was a chore.  I didn’t love it. I tolerated it. It was a “should,” and it felt like a “should” – full of resistance, difficulty, and full of inner-conflict.

Once I started to think about working out as a way to feel good, internally and externally, it started to shift.  I started to look at it as nature’s Prozac – a gift I give to my mind, my mood and my spirit.  I began to think about my muscles getting stronger and how my body will thank me as I age.  I shifted from thinking about weight, and more about strength, health, and wellness. 

That mindset shift made all the difference.

2. Letting it all go – Nothing Like A Good Cry.

While less easy to implement on the spot – a good cry when you feel the need to do so – the kind where you make noise and let yourself really let it all out – has been known to do wonders. It’s amazing how different you feel when you give yourself the gift of this emotional release.  It is like you have emptied the body of a literal weight, and the spirit feels the release.

This topic can be a loaded one for many.  Many people are socialized to feel like crying is a sign of weakness.  Crying has become something to be ashamed of, and hidden.  Many people have been so indoctrinated with this nonsense that they literally do not cry. 

The funny thing is, I have never known a baby who didn’t cry.  It seems to me that we were born with the ability we needed to release and express our feelings.  When a child is pre-verbal, crying is one of the only ways it knows to express how he or she feels.  It is part of the perfect design of the human.  

Now, I know that we develop higher order thinking, and that we adapt in such a way that we develop other ways to express ourselves, which is great.  Just dandy.  But why does that then mean that we must abandon crying?  When did we decide that it must be only for children, and that for an adult to cry it must be only as a result of a catastrophic loss, or else it is weak?

In her book (which I loved), Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert stated,

“Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.”

This human loves a good cry when I need to let something go.  I see it as a sign of strength and self-care.  It takes strength to be honest with your emotions in a culture that would have you otherwise wear a mask. 

3. The Sea

And then there is the Sea.  Oh, the sea. 

Recently, I went to the beach for a much needed vacation.  I was blessed enough to be staying right on the water so that each morning I woke up, got my coffee, and headed out to the sand right off my back deck. 

I have a hard time using words to describe how healing being in the presence of the ocean is for me.  I know this hardly makes me unique.  It seems that this is a very common experience for humans, and while I have no evidence or proof of this, it leads me to believe that the sea does indeed have healing properties.

Either way, I know how it makes me feel, and as such, it is imperative I get my butt there as often as possible. 

Now, I live in Atlanta, which is pretty land locked and about 5 hours to the closest salt-water beach.  So what is a girl to do?

Well, I do try to get to the ocean as often as I can.  I look at it the way someone tries to make a trip home once a year to visit family.  It is simply a priority. 

But when I find myself not able to literally be at the ocean, I bring the ocean to me in any way I can. 

Anyone who has been to my office might notice that the entire color scheme is meant to reflect the ocean and the beach.  I try to meditate and do self-hypnosis regularly, and when I do, I use the image of the ocean to center myself, and often incorporate the sound of ocean waves to enrich the visual. 

The point is, I do what I can to honor what I know centers me and brings me peace.  It’s really that simple.

So… for me, there is something about saltwater.  It is maybe an odd way of looking at it, but hey, if it works, it works.

What about you?

How do you heal?  What centers you and makes you feel inner peace? 

Sometimes when you ask these questions, it seems that you don’t know.  It might feel as though the answer is far away, and that to discover the truth would take a lot of work.  If this is you, I encourage you to breathe, and relax into this process.

This process is simply discovering the core of who you are.  What heals you – the cures in your life – are just a part of the amazing and multifaceted person that you are.  So don’t panic, don’t rush.  Just ask the questions and begin trying new things. 

The search for the things that bring you peace will bring you back to yourself. 

Enjoy the ride.

The Top Three Reason Why Learning to Love Yourself Needs to Be On Your To-Do List

Becca Clegg

Self-Love, Self-Esteem, Self-Respect, Self-Awareness.

These are buzzwords in my line of work.

They are used too much and with such casual reference that sometimes, even when I use them, I’m not sure I am really connected with the immensity of what it is I am talking about.

But I am connected to the power of choosing to love yourself right now.  Taking take the time to learn to love yourself (notice I said take the time to learn, instead of just doing it) is probably one of the most fundamental decisions you will ever make.

Here are the top 3 reasons why I have come to believe that self-love is fundamental. 

1.     Without Self-Love – Nothing Much Sticks:

It is much like the foundation that we pour before we build the house.  Without it, the house is shaky and subject to falling easily when the elements set in.  With a foundation, there is security from below (or within) that provides us with the strength to hold steady when the outside world gets rocky.

Think about it.  You can get the fancy degree, the great job, the perfect mate, or whatever your idea of “success” is, but unless you really love yourself and approve of who you are, you are never going to allow yourself to receive this and be okay.  So you can be working and working to create this life but unless you stop and get conscious and throw “learn to love and accept myself” on that to-do list of yours, a lot of that work will end up being in vain.

How many times have you met the person who appears to have “it all” on the outside, only to later realize that they are struggling like hell on the inside?  I know it’s often complicated as to why, but I guarantee you that within the equation that amounts to why the person is suffering, a lack of self-love exists. 

2.     Every Kid Needs Love:

Every child needs love.  It’s true.  Have you ever heard of failure to thrive syndrome?  Scientist have proven that a lack of love, or an adverse emotional or social environment, can cause growth failure even in a child who is eating enough.

If you are asking what this has to do with you, being that likely, you are chronologically an adult, then let me explain.

Ever single one of us carries within us the beliefs and feeling of our “inner child.” If the language is too touchy-feely for you, then just refer to this part of yourself as your “little dude,” or whatever floats your boat.  I don’t care what you call it – but I do care that you acknowledge it and begin to show it love.

We are grown up kids.  We still need the very same love that all children need when they come into this world.  We may be wearing a bigger flesh suit, but our soul – the part of us that yearns to connect and be seen by the people in our life – still exists just as it did when we were children.  And that inner child (or little dude) needs YOU to step up and begin letting him or her know you are there for them. 

Self-love allows us to thrive.  It is to our heart and soul as oxygen is to our lungs and water is to our cells.  We need to know the one person we will spend our entire journey on this planet with loves us.  Ourselves.

3.     The World Needs You To Step It Up and Love Yourself:

Self-Love is Selfless.  Deciding to love yourself is not only about giving yourself the love you deserve, but it is a decision that goes back out into the world exponentially. 

Consider this:

  • It eases the resistance and suffering that comes with disapproving of who we are.  When we are free of this conflict, we are free to be our best selves, and this world desperately needs this positive influence.
  • When you are a happier person, you spread that happiness out into the world.
  • When you are accepting of yourself, you unconsciously give others permission to be accepting of themselves.
  • When you refuse to give in to the critical and judgmental attitudes in our culture, you diffuse the power that they have.  When many of us do this, it changes the cultural norm…but it has to start with the individual.  You could be the one person who tips the scales. Someone has to be.
  • We pass our beliefs and our behaviors on to our children and those people in our lives that look up to us.  When we embrace self-love, we teach it to others.

The Two Pillars of Body Love - Build the Foundation of Who You Want to Be

Becca Clegg

It’s no secret that I am on a mission to help women learn to love their bodies, and in turn, learn to love themselves the way they deserve to be loved.  It is my passion, and I can’t express the value and importance of making the effort to return to self-love.  I can scream it from the mountaintops, but still, I know so many women feel resistance at the thought, racked with the questions of “How?” or “Why?” 

Women often struggle with the thought of body love.  It seems impossibly hard to conceive of loving something that they have been in conflict with for so many years.  The reasons are varied, from “I hate the way I look,” to “I can’t love my fat, my cellulite, my stretch marks, etc…”

Loving a body they have deemed as flawed seems foreign, and knowing where to start or how to go about changing from self-hate to self-love often leaves people feeling lost.

Because of this confusion, I wanted to create an entryway to the process, or a way to begin changing the way you think about “body love.” 

It is easy to get fixated on the physical nature of the body, and when thinking about loving the body, it can feel as though you have to focus on the way your body looks.  While it is true that learning to love the esthetic of our bodies is an important part of the process, it doesn’t have to be where we start. 

There are reasons to love your body that have little to do with how it looks.  These “Pillars” set the foundation.  They go beyond the physical and speak directly to your sense of “right” and “wrong.”  They resonate deep in your soul, and beg the question, “How do I want to live, and who do I want to be in this world?”

Pillar #1 – You Want to Stop the Abuse

Yes, you read that right.  If you do not love and respect your body it is likely you are being abusive. 

You know that person in the grocery store who is screaming terrible things at their children?  Or the story you heard about the father who would tell his daughter she was fat?  Somewhere out there, you have your own version of a person who is cruel and abusive, and I imagine the thought of being anything like that person makes you recoil. 

Well, take a deep breath, and think about your self-talk.  What do you think, believe, and in turn, tell yourself about your body? 

Every time you demean yourself, downplay a compliment, or tell yourself horrible things as you look in the mirror, you are being abusive. 

Every time you refuse yourself food, or miss out on a part of life you should be enjoying because you deem your body unworthy as it is, you are being abusive.

If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to think about speaking to a little girl of maybe 7 or 8.  Tell her what you tell yourself when you look in the mirror.  Tell her what is wrong with her body, and how imperfect it is.  Tell her she needs to lose weight or that she doesn’t deserve things because of the way her body looks.  Tell her she isn’t good enough. 

It’s hard to even think about doing, right?  That’s because it’s abusive.

When we are cruel and judgmental in our thoughts and actions, we are abusing ourselves.  Every time we externally or internally describe ourselves in a way that would be considered hurtful, we are being our own abuser. 

Most of you reading this would go to the moon and back to prevent hurting someone.  The thought of being described as mean or abusive no doubt goes against everything you believe in.   I know my clients, and they are the some of kindest and most considerate people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Except, however, when it comes to how they treat themselves.

So, today, I want to encourage you to think about the person you want to be.  Commit to stop the negative self-talk, if for no other reason than you refuse to be your own abuser.

Pillar #2 – The World Needs More Love

The world is hurting on a personal and collective level.  Every day you see evidence that speaks to this, and I believe it affects us all deeply. 

All of us want to be happier and more fulfilled and we stand a better chance of that if those around us are happy and fulfilled as well.  There is healing to be done in this world, and the world needs you to help it heal.

So what does loving and respecting our bodies have to do with world peace?

Everything. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Gandhi, when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” 

What I believe this means is that we must start with ourselves.

Every thought you think, every action you make, adds to the collective whole.  This big huge world is really just a collection of individuals, and if everyone began taking responsibility for their thoughts and their words, rapid change would follow.

Ask yourself…with regards to the thoughts and beliefs about your body, are you adding to the pain, or are you helping to heal?

The world needs examples and role models of people who choose love over hate and acceptance over judgment.  Our daughters need a world where women choose to see themselves as beautiful, powerful beings, instead of hating themselves into the shadows of despair.  

This world needs love, and nurturing, and it needs you.  When you love and value yourself, you are a powerful agent of change. 

So, if ending the self-hate and negative self-talk seems difficult, think outside the box.  This issue is about so much more than whether you feel better in a size 6 than you do in a size 10.  How you treat yourself regardless of condition is what body love is all about.  Whether or not you love and respect yourself is about aligning with your character and your soul. 

Love is love, whether it is given to the self or to others.  Bottom line, it is what we need more of in this world.

Decide who you want to be and what you want to put out into the world, and then start with yourself. 

Commit today to loving and respecting your body.  Stop the abuse, and share the love.

Relaxation: The Key To Getting Things Done?

Becca Clegg

Okay, it’s truth-telling time.

I often forget to relax. 

It’s true.  I am the first person to suggest relaxation and downtime to someone if I see them going too fast or feeling uptight, but I don’t always recognize the signals as easily in myself. 

I am a passionate and energized person, and as a result, I tend to go into life giving it 110 percent (sometimes at 90 miles an hour), and relaxation and downtime just seem to get edged out by the mile-long list of other juicy things I want to get my hands dirty doing.

Which is precisely why, when I’m paying attention, I am very deliberate about relaxation.  I schedule it. I put it on my “to-do” list…. otherwise it might not get done.

About eight years ago I earned my certification in clinical hypnotherapy.  It was during my training that I realized how running around and chasing life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  Here I was thinking that if I just did more, learned more, or pushed harder I would see better results, and my training revealed to me that I was only half right.

What I learned about relaxation and the mind during the process forever changed the way I look at “working” towards a goal. 

What I learned is that the brain processes the information you feed it (through work, learning, etc.) while you are relaxed.  In other words, without “downtime,” the brain cannot integrate change.  This is precisely why cutting edge companies such as Microsoft and Google have been rumored to allow their engineers plenty of on-the-clock time to play games and goof off.  They understand that creativity is born during relaxed activity, and not when the brain is “efforting.” (Okay, so I made that word up – but isn’t that what it feels like sometimes?)  We need to value the 50/50 split between working and relaxing in order to really, truly make permanent change within.

Once I realized this, in true “go-get-‘em” fashion, I began promptly downloading guided meditation and hypnosis tracks on my iPod.  I acquired a proactive habit of almost daily meditation and/or hypnosis, so as to make sure I was taking time to relax. 

The irony isn’t lost on me when it comes to the idea of scheduled relaxation.  I know that kind of seems to be an oxymoron.  But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I am by history a “Type A, make it happen" kind of gal, and while I work daily to be mindful of keeping a balance with that – I find it’s easier to start where you are. 

So on that note, I ask you to ask yourself, how do you relax?

How do you allow your mind to just wander off and let go?

If your answer is “sleep,” then I am going to suggest to you that maybe you too could use some deliberate relaxation.  Many, many people living life in today’s age will find themselves in this category. 

Meditation, guided imagery and hypnosis are all great ways to begin this process, and you can easily access vast amounts of resources and information simply by jumping on Google and typing in the terms. 

Meditation, hypnosis, and guided imagery have been shown to:

  • Promote relaxation
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce problems related to stress
  • Help to reach goals and promote healing
  • Assist in preparing for an athletic event or for public speaking
  • Aid learning, creativity and performance

I encourage all of my clients to engage in some form of deliberate relaxation while we are working together.  Changing old patterns of behavior requires a lot of work, but equal to that, it requires time for the new beliefs and habits to be integrated.  

Square Pegs and Round Holes - How Fitting In to Anything Is An Act Of Self-Harm

Becca Clegg

This past weekend I went to my twentieth high school reunion.  It was both as amusing as it was reflective for me.  It was fabulous to catch up with all of my old friends and see how great everyone is doing.  I loved seeing everyone, and seeing how 20 years of maturity brings down the walls that are built up in high school, and allows everyone to just connect as people.  It really made me think about (and be incredibly grateful for) where I am now as compared to where I was 20 years ago.

One of the many gifts that getting older has brought with it is that my “give a crap meter’ is breaking.  It’s not quite broken, but it is getting there – and I’m very excited about this.  Don’t get me wrong, I still care fiercely about things I now value to be important, but those priorities have shifted a lot in 20 years, and for that I am grateful.

My musings from this weekend have me thinking about how much time and effort I have placed in my past life trying to “fit in.”  Being accepted, being acknowledged, and knowing we belong are things that I believe that everyone in human skin needs on a deeper level, but the extent to which we conform to external standards in order to get these needs met is where I think we can go awry.

I began playing around with the language of “fitting in” (because I am slightly obsessed with language and how it is symbolic and powerful – but that’s another blog article entirely) and started to see how insidious “fitting in” can be in our lives if we don’t catch it early on.

We want to Fit In with social groups (remember cliques in high school?)

We want to Fit In with social norms.

We want to Fit Into a certain clothing size.

We want to Fit In with other people’s idea of what “acceptable” is.

We try to Fit In more than we can in our daily schedule.

It goes on and on, but what I am taking away from this is how trying toFit Stuff In,” whether it is our self-image, what others think of us, our body shape and size, or our schedule, isn’t a healthy or compassionate thing.  The imagery around the words reminds me of “stuffing” – and stuffing, whether it’s stuffing our emotions or stuffing ourselves full of food, is self-harming and stunts your ability to connect with yourself on an emotional level.

As I think about the idea of “fitting in,” the image that comes to mind is a square peg and a round hole, and someone shoving and pushing trying to make the peg fit into the hole.  That poor, helpless square peg - what did he do to deserve that kind of treatment?  The process is harmful, painful, laborious, and honestly, futile.  No fun, and really, no point.  

Brene’ Brown, a shame researcher and author writes,

Fitting In Is Not Belonging.  There are so many terms we use every day whose meanings are gauzy, if not downright imprecise -- which makes it hard to get your head around what's really going on in your life.  For example, contrary to what most of us think: Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I've discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them.  Belonging is something else entirely -- it's showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are -- love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all.

Many us suffer from this split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted, (Take it from me: I'm an expert fitter-inner!) but we're not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul sucking.“

So what is the compassionate and self-affirming thing to do in the face of all of this?

Begin working on fitting in with yourself.

I know, it can sound trite, but its actually really complicated, can be difficult (understatement award of the year for this girl!) and something that requires deliberate and intentional awareness and commitment on a daily basis.  All of that said, it is totally possible, so unbelievably worth the effort, and will change the way you look at life (for the better) the moment you make the choice to commit to it.

It starts with asking what I call “internally focused questions.”

Basically, throughout the day, make a point to ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • What do I need?
  • What do I think about this?
  • What do I think about them?
  • What are my opinions?

Many of us, if we are honest, have spent a lot of time asking the “externally focused” versions of those questions.

  • What do they want from me?
  • What do they need me to do?
  • What do they think about what’s going on?
  • What do they think about me?
  • What do they think about this, and how can I affirm that?

People pleasing, conflict avoidance, peace-making and caretaking behaviors are all built on the external questions above.  For many of us, “fitting in” has been an old defense mechanism or survival technique.  But it’s time to let that go.  What once protects you in life, as you grow, often becomes the very thing that begins to choke the life force out of you (imagine trying to “fit in” to the same clothing you wore when you were 9 – not a very comfortable existence).

Make yourself the go-to person, the expert whose acceptance you seek.  Make yourself be the benchmark, the gold standard, and then be curious as to who and what in the world around you is similar to you (or not) and see how that feels.  Seek to align with yourself.  And commit to remembering to do this daily. It’s a journey, not just a goal to meet. 

Striving for Failure - How To De-Shame and Reclaim What It Means To Fail

Becca Clegg

I’ve been failing a lot lately. 

There have been multiple typos in things I have posted on social media.  I made an ass out of myself while talking with a colleague whose name I forgot.  Oh, and the writer’s block has been off the charts! (Just sitting here trying to write this blasted article has been an all morning ordeal.)

Here’s the thing… this is just evidence that things are working in my life.  I’m 100% serious when I tell you this.  Although I no longer ruminate over my failings, just now, when I sat and searched for evidence of failure, I felt good about it.

The fact that I am failing is evidence to me that I am out there living my life on purpose.  Trust me, this was not always the case.

For much of my life, I waited only until I knew things were perfect, or that I would present as perfect, before I would go for it, or let the world see who I was.  Needless to say, in order to do this, I missed a lot of opportunities; played small when I knew deep down I was far more capable; and silenced my voice when I always knew I had something to say.

I can still remember my “A-ha” moment, when this started to shift for me, a moment I won’t easily forget.

I went to a conference a while back and Sara Blakely, the CEO and founder of Spanx, was in the audience.  She was pulled up on stage and asked to talk for a minute, and the story she told has stuck with me ever since.

She told the audience that when growing up, her parents had a ritual at dinnertime where she and her brother would report their day’s events.  Part of this was sharing all the things they had done in which they had failed. 

The interesting thing was, talking about their failure was something they were excited to do. They saw it as a game, and they would even try to “one up” each other to see who done better at failure that day.

She and her brother would take pride in sharing their failures in gym class, with their schoolwork, and with friends.  With joy, they would report their failure, and in turn would receive beaming smiles of pride from their parents, who would validate them and cheer them on, encouraging them to continue on and fail some more.

Failure was exciting.  It was fun. Her parents had managed to make failure something that felt like success.

Her parents had taught them at an early age that failing was something that was, in a word, awesome.  It meant that they were trying, because the only way you can fail at something is to first try something new.  They were encouraged to always, no matter what, try things.  Failure was just accepted as a natural part of this process as an indicator that they were out there trying new things.  No guilt, no shame, no personalization.  Failure was an indicator of success; merely a sign of their amazing attempts at living on purpose.

I remember sitting in the audience being blown away by this story.  It was one of those lump-in-throat-water-in-eyes moments.  It was so simple, yet so unbelievably brilliant.  Her parents had managed to teach them their own meaning of failure, and stripped it of all the shame and blame that so many of us learned to associate with the word.

I could see the image of two little kids beaming with pride while talking about failure and it gave me goose bumps.  I remember thinking, “Oh my god, it is really that simple.  It is possible to reclaim the way we look at things.”

Sarah went on to explain that when she became inspired to empty her bank account and support her dream of making pantyhose with the feet cut out of them a real business venture (which she shared even she thought might be a little crazy), she never worried about failing.  Had she feared failure, she never would have followed a dream that so many people told her was insane.

We all know the ending of this story.  And if you don’t I can sum it up in one sentence.  Sarah has taken Spanx from a one-product wonder sold out of her Atlanta apartment, to a billion-dollar powerhouse with just under $250 million in annual revenue and net profit margins estimated at 20%.

I think about this story a lot.  Every time I fear failure (and yes, that is still quite often - like most of us, I too was indoctrinated to fear failure), I think about those little kids sitting around the kitchen table laughing and feeling excited to report their failings. 

I have consciously and deliberately decided to reclaim my own meaning of the word failure, and lay this out before me every time I tip-toe out of my comfort zone.

Common things I say to myself as reminders are:

“If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying.”

“A day without failure is a day of hiding out.”

And my favorite - the simple, yet, joyfully stated…

“I’m a total failure.” (Insert big smiles, high fives and “woot-woot” noises.)

I am thankful beyond measure for being in the right place at the right time to hear that story that day.  It shifted something inside of me that has allowed me to come so far beyond where I was on the day of that conference. 

I’ve always heard that at the end of life, people don’t regret the things they have done, but rather, the things they never dared to do.  I don’t want to be one of those people.

This year I am going to fail more than I have in a long time.  Of course, it’s scary, but it is also invigorating.  There is a saying that reads, “Don’t die with your music still inside of you.”  By reframing the meaning of the word “failure,” I know one thing for certain: that my music is playing.  If failure is part of this process, then yes, I’ll gladly take some more.

Gratitude vs. The Gremlin

Becca Clegg

Gratitude.

If social media and my subjective observations are correct, it’s trending right now.

Kind of like CrossFit, the paleo diet, pumpkin spice, and the mustache.  Maybe it’s because of people like Oprah, Brene Brown, and those amazing and inspiring Ted Talkers.  I don’t know.  I just know that gratitude seems to be everywhere (which is totally cool – and I hope it sticks around).

But not everyone likes gratitude.  Gratitude is actually the kryptonite of a very specific individual, one that you might know very well.  It’s the gremlin that lives in your head.

The gremlin, you say?  Say what??  You mean the little cute fuzzy Gizmo guy from the classic 80’s movie? 

No.  But if you are a child of the 80’s, like I am, then you can use the image of the other gremlin, the one I believe they called Spike (the bad one, the mischievous and nefarious one who torments poor Gizmo and his human throughout the film) to visualize the Gremlin I’m talking about.  He’s kind of a perfect metaphor for this other gremlin, who for the sake of this article, is the voice of fear that lives in your head. 

This looks pretty close to what I think the voice of fear would look like – no? (Photo credited to Gremlins, 1984.)

For many of you, this will need no explanation.  Immediately you will know exactly who I am talking about.  You know his/her snarky voice, critical tone and fear based prompting.  You know the mean and scary things the gremlin says to you, how he/she knows your deepest fears and plays on them.  Maybe you know the gremlin by another name – the “Inner Critic,” “the Ego,” “The Critical Parent,” or just plain old FEAR.  But one way or another, most of us know the little voice that calls to us telling us we aren’t enough, to watch for problems, and that we better get scared and worried or something bad will happen when we aren’t looking.

I have known my gremlin for my entire life, as most of us prone to analytical thinking have.  I had, by all accounts, an idyllic childhood, but I can’t remember a time when that the little voice of fear wasn’t there, as I believe it is for many of us.  (I remember being deeply worried about the feelings of my stuffed animals when I was little; very concerned that one of them might feel rejected if I showed preferential treatment to one over the other. My training began way before graduate school.)

Throughout my life, my gremlin has taunted me with pretty much every fear and worry you can think of.  Fear of death, fear of separation, fear of rejection.  Fear of not being good enough, fear of being too much, fear of failure, fear of making a mistake…throw creepy clowns and heights in the mix for good measure, times infinity and beyond, and you are beginning to have an idea of the depths of the nastiness in the gremlin’s book of tricks.  The dude can pretty much take anything and make it suck.

Except gratitude.  Gratitude is the gremlin’s kryptonite.  It destroys his power the minute he is presented with it.  It is like turning on a light when you enter a dark room – the minute you flip the switch, there is no more darkness.  Gratitude destroys the gremlin.

When I discovered this, it was like someone had given me a magical suit of armor, or special and impenetrable shield, like the one’s given to the knight chosen to slay the dragon.  I felt safe, I felt powerful and I felt loved. Knowing that I had the ability to choose my thoughts, and in that moment I could quiet my mind and shift out of fear and into peace, was priceless.  

When I think about gratitude, I think about all the blessings in my life – and I can’t even begin to tell you how many I have.  I am a tiny tea cup and my blessings are like the ocean.  It’s seriously mind-blowing when I stop and think about it.

But I do have to stop and think about it.  More often than I wish.  More often than I want to admit.  That damn gremlin hasn’t gone away just because I choose gratitude.  I still fall prey to his tricks.  I still have moments when I’m so caught up worrying about what might happen and what I haven’t done that I forget to be grateful.  Welcome to being human, right?

Just this morning, I caught myself in the trap.  I was driving into work, and my every thought was fixated on problems that don’t yet exist.  I was fretting and feeling like crap because of fear that was only in my head and not actually in the present moment.  The little gremlin might as well have been sitting on my shoulder whispering into my ear during my entire drive to work.  And then – I remembered gratitude. 

I made a choice to think of gratitude.  It’s a choice, not some inspired moment when the heavens part – just a simple choice about where I choose to put my attention.

In an instant, I started to notice the leaves falling off the trees.  I started to take in the beautiful, rich colors of fall.  The bright crisp blue sky and the twinkling sunlight.  The bustling city around me and the warmth of my car in contrast to the cold morning outside.

I realized I was safe, and all was well.  I realized I have everything I need in this moment, and that in actuality, there is no threat.  The truth of this moment was that I was driving to a job, which happens to be located on a beautiful college campus, which in the fall, on the East Coast is as picturesque as pictures come.  I am healthy. I am alive.  I am blessed. 

Gratitude 1 - Gremlin 0.

Marianne Williamson is quoted as saying,

“Love is what we are born with.  Fear is what we learn.  The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts.  Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth.  To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things.  Meaning lies in us.”

There is always something to worry about.  The gremlin will see to it that you do.  And don’t go calling me Pollyanna – I know that there are real problems in all of our lives.  When the problems are there – then I suggest we deal with them.  In that moment. When they are actually there. 

But I for one am tired of missing the beautiful fall mornings.  I spent far too many years in the company of my gremlin believing the fear he whispered in my ear was real.  I missed far too many opportunities to just be happy – and choosing to be grateful and present in the moment has been a way back to myself.  To my birthright – which is love. 

Every day, remember that choosing to be grateful isn’t just something we can do on Thanksgiving, or as part of a Facebook status challenge (all good things, by the way).  It’s a lifeline back to your authentic self.  It’s the road back to peace amidst the storm.  It’s immensely powerful.  And it’s yours any time you decide to choose to use it. 

Finding Your Inner Strength (aka: Cultivating Your Inner Good Witch)

Becca Clegg

My clients come to work with me for a variety of reasons.  Some clients come to deal with anxiety, insecurity, or unhealthy relationships with food.  The ‘presenting problem is often different, but the common motivator is usually the same – there is a part of their life that isn’t working and feels confusing.  They feel lost.  They want something different but don’t feel they know how to get there.  Everyone comes seeking more clarity and better solutions for moving forward.

Have you ever felt this way about life?

Have you ever felt dissatisfied or unhappy and didn’t know quite what to do or how to change your situation?

Have you ever felt as though you couldn’t make a decision, or that there were a million different people living inside your head, and all of them want something different?

I may as well be asking you – “By any chance, are you a human being?” because this happens to every single one of us.

One of my favorite topics to present on is the use of metaphor in therapy and healing work.  I absolutely love it (and anyone who has worked with me will tell you I use it all the time).  One of my favorite metaphors for developing our inner strength when life gets confusing is the Wizard of Oz (yes, you heard me right).

There are many reasons that the Wizard of Oz is one of the most famous movies of all time.  It’s a great movie, but in my opinion, it is also one of the greatest metaphors in our common cultural sphere – and I want to break it down, as I see it, to help you look at your situation a little clearer.

In the movie, Dorothy finds herself in a confusing and unknown world.  She just wants to go home.

She is told that she has to find this great, all knowing, Wizard to find answers, so she sets out to find him, believing that he has the answers.  

On her way, she meets the Lion without courage, the Tin Man without a heart and The Scarecrow without a brain.  She also meets a wicked witch, and a good witch. And then there’s Toto.

So, here we go – metaphor time.

In your life, you are Dorothy.  Along your path, you get lost from time to time in situations that feel scary and unfamiliar.  You just want to go “home” – and in real life – “home” is the reconnection with ourselves.  It is back to living our authentic life.

As we go down the yellow brick road (which is life), we face some scary stuff. (Flying monkeys anyone??) 

We also aren’t alone.  We travel with a cast of characters, much like Dorothy, only – they are in our mind.  We all have our own version of the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man.  We have our inner good witch and bad witch as well.  In therapy, we get all fancy and call these inner parts “ego states.”  The theory is, that we have parts of our identity that exist, that play different roles and have different functions. 

We all have that part of ourselves that can be really frightened, and we all have the part that can really be courageous (both parts of the Lion).  We all have the intellectual part and the capacity to not “know” something and be confused (The Scarecrow).  We all have the connection to heart, and have part of ourselves that is able to disconnect from that (usually out of defense) and be without our heart (both parts of the Tin Man).  We also have the wicked witch ego state, which is commonly referred to as the “inner critic,” who is the voice in our head that torments and criticizes us. 

Lastly, we also all have our good witch.  This is the ego state that I believe is connected to the divine and is there to support our highest good.  This is where I want to focus.

As adults we have the capacity to choose which “part” we want to feed.  We can actively and consciously choose which ego state gets to run the show.  We can choose which voice we listen to and which voice we actively reinforce.  We can choose to listen to the good witch, and let her advice and direction guide our journey.

Okay – so now for the Wizard.  Oh, how I love this part of the metaphor.  So, Dorothy is going down the yellow brick road of life thinking that there is this amazing wizard who has all the answers and if only she could find him he will fix everything and show her the way home. 

Only, as we all know, when she finally finds this amazing wizard, it turns out that he’s really just some short little guy with no power and just a lot of smoke and mirrors. He has no power at all!

This of course is the metaphor for our thinking that the answer or the truth lies outside of ourselves.  The Wizard of Oz could be a myriad of things, but to name a few it could be seeking approval from others, fitting in to societal norms, or thinking that anyone else is going to “save us.” 

Dorothy comes to realize, thanks to the wise words of her “good witch” (higher self/higher power), that she is the one who has the answers. 

This, of course is when she realized that all she had to do was tap her slippers and get really clear on her intention and she could make it happen for herself.  She had what she was seeking all along. 

So, what do we do with all of this?  Well, I want to use this to encourage you to remember a few things as you journey down your own yellow brick road.

  1. You have the power you are looking for.  You always have your ruby-red slippers. They are inside of you.
  2. Beware of false idols.  The “wizards” in life are all just little humans, just like you who don’t have your answers.  You are the wizard you are seeking.
  3. Your traveling companions, or your ego states (i.e. the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin man) have good and bad traits.  It is okay, and it is part of the journey.  We all have fear and courage, intellect and confusion, heart and defensiveness.  We are all parts of what it means to be human.  It is more fun on this journey if you make friends with all of your companions.
  4. Don’t listen to your Wicked Witch.  If it is cruel, nasty, mean or discouraging, then it’s Wicked Witchery.  Don’t give her attention.  Need I say more?
  5. Cultivate your Good Witch.  Your thoughts that are kind, supportive, encouraging and that speak to your own power are “good witch” thoughts.  Feed her, follow her advice, and heed her wisdom.
  6. Every life has its flying monkeys.  If you can remember that you’re the source of your power and that you are always wearing your proverbial ruby slippers, you will remember your way out.  You are the source of your power. (Can I say that one more time?)
  7. Lastly, there is Toto.  I am going to just make this really simple and state that life is more enjoyable with a dog by your side.  That’s probably not the metaphor that was intended on this one – but this is my article, so that’s my take away.

Remember, as Glenda said to Dorothy:

"You've always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Embrace Your Inner Superhero

Becca Clegg

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately. 

Watching the people who helped during the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I was blown away by the courage it must have taken to run towards an explosion.

On Facebook, I have recently been made aware of a family whose son was injured in a freak weather related accident.  The little boy is alive, but has severe injuries, and the family has created this online network of support.  They post updates about his path of recovery, and it amazes me how strong and united they are in the face of such a devastating tragedy.

Listening to the radio this morning, my local morning show was reporting on a young girl who lost multiple limbs after contracting a virus.  They were commenting on her upbeat and positive attitude, and I was blown away, left wondering, “Could I be so optimistic under the same circumstances?”

It seems that life’s tragedies often provide me with examples of great courage, unbelievable strength and people who have battled great feats only to demonstrate their amazing ability to overcome.  These examples are hard to miss, but what about the every day examples of courage that aren’t as obvious?

How does courage demonstrate itself on a smaller scale? 

What does it mean to be courageous, and how many of us are aware of our own courage and acts of bravery? 

I am often amazed by my clients’ stories.  I have the honor and privilege of being entrusted with their truth.  They share with me the stories of their struggles and their efforts to overcome obstacles in their lives.  The stories I have heard are nothing short of amazing.

Often, when someone makes the choice to work with me, they do so because they are feeling overwhelmed and a bit beat up by life.  Committing to the process of change is really making the choice to show up and save their own life, in the hopes of a better and more authentic existence.  And this choice, folks, is nothing short of heroic.

Everyone I work with is the hero and she-ro in their own story.  They might not realize it, but in the retelling of their story, they should be wearing a cape and body suit (or whatever comic book stereotypical outfit they prefer) fitting of only the most daring and beloved superhero.

We can become so bogged down in our daily life that we may fail to see our own courage. 

Every time you choose to be authentic instead of trying to impress others, you are traveling faster than a speeding bullet.

Every time you pick yourself up after falling down and choose to try again, you are demonstrating strength more powerful than a locomotive.

Every time you ignore the voice of the inner critic, and instead choose to be kind and demonstrate compassion towards yourself, you are proverbially leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

Anyone who is striving to live a more authentic life is his or her own personal superhero.  I love the image of all of us out there, rocking our capes and superhero outfits.  It makes me immediately aware of my own courage and strength, something we all need to be reminded of.  I’ve yet to see a superhero movie that didn’t include this scene – the one where someone has to give the superhero in question a pep talk to remind them of their power. 

Today I want to remind you that you are a hero.  A SUPERHERO!  You have courage and strength, and a wealth of power you haven’t even begun to recognize yet. 

In an excerpt from Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she writes:

"The root of the word courage is cou – The Latin word for heart.  In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today.  Courage originally meant, “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”

I encourage you to embrace your courage – your heart.  Your everyday acts of kindness and authenticity are your strength.  Be open to receiving the truth about your own courage, and let the superhero in you take flight.

A Dog's Life of Bliss: Lessons Learned from My Four-Legged Friends

Becca Clegg

My dog Tucker loves to play catch with a tennis ball.  Love is an understatement.  He lives and breathes for it. 

When we are outside, I can throw the ball for hours and he never gets tired, but I do! Sometimes, I have to take a break, and when I do, Tucker will just sit there and stare at the ball. He doesn’t whine, or move, he just sits there and looks at the ball until I throw it again.    

I was watching him do this the other day and it hit me that he has no concept of right or wrong, or good or bad, to deal with.  He just focuses on the thing he loves, and regardless of what’s happening, he just stays focused on what’s going on in the moment (aka, the ball). 

I envy my dogs’ ability to be one with the moment.  Their nature (and lack of ego) allows them to stay connected to the present.  They are authentic one-hundred percent of the time.

If Tucker had an inner dialogue, I imagine it would be something like this…

“Ball….Run….Catch….FUN!!...Ball…Run...Catch…FUN!!...Ball...Run…Catch…FUN!” (Over and over again, times infinity.)

Now, if Tucker were human, had an ego, and judged himself, I imagine it might be a little more like this:

“Ball... Run…Catch…oh, missed it, shoot.  That wasn’t a very good catch.  I didn’t do it right.  Oh, maybe I’m not cut out for this.  Ball…Is this the same ball as every other dog is catching…is this a good ball?  Run…. Catch…. okay, I caught it.  Does this mean I’m getting better?  Am I as good as the other dogs?  Do they think I’m good at this?  Maybe I should practice more…. Ball…. Run…. Oh, I’m not running fast enough…. Catch…. Oh, that was a sloppy catch…did anyone see that...I better not do that again…”

Like animals, little children have not yet developed their ego.  They are able to be one in the moment and have the ability to demonstrate pure, unadulterated joy in doing something as simple as running around in a circle or playing peek-a-boo.

When adults watch children or animals do their thing, they often light up with happiness themselves.  I know I do. 

It’s as though I am vicariously watching a miracle that I lost somewhere along the way.  As though a part of me is connecting to something that was once mine.

Our ego is the inner critic that judges everything we do against some standard outside of ourselves.  The constant chatter that wants to place some value on our actions, thoughts and beliefs.  It is also the part of us that robs us of our ability to be in the moment and act purely from a place of bliss, freedom and FUN! 

This ability to act for the sake of acting, with no judgment or commentary on the act itself is something I believe many of us are missing.  Do you remember what it feels like to dance just because it feels good; to run just to feel the wind on your skin; to play, to laugh, to sing, to feel? Do you remember what it felt like to just be in the moment without wondering how long it would be before you would be done so you could cross that certain activity off your “to-do” list and move on to the next task? 

Fun for the sake of fun, and feeling for the sake of feeling, is a fundamental need for all humans.  When we lose this, we try to compensate for it and the sadness we feel in the face of our loss.  For many of us, we compensate by eating.  We try and soothe our yearning with sweet food, instead of allowing ourselves the sweet freedom of “just being.” 

Try remembering what you loved doing as a child.  How you spent your time, what made you happy and what you did when you allowed the creativity of your amazing imagination to run wild.  Spend some time trying out new things, with no goal, or benchmark for success, but rather just to see how you feel.

When I lose myself in this linear, goal oriented, ego-based world we live in and find myself stressed and overwhelmed, sometimes all I have to do is to remember to have a little fun.  It’s so obvious when I watch my dogs play, that it is just in their nature to live in the moment.  I have to remind myself that it’s in my nature too. 

I sing out loud when I’m alone.  I’ve also been known to break out into dance if I need a shift in my mood.  (Okay, so I’m not known for it…actually, I’ve never admitted that out loud – but the cat’s out of the bag now!)  Let me tell you, it works every time!  Try it and tell me you aren’t laughing, even if you are just laughing at yourself and your wicked dance moves!  Either way, you’re laughing.

I also spend time lounging with and laughing at my dogs.  I lose myself watching them be goofballs and love playing with them just to see them wag their tails in the way that makes them shake from head to toe.

It’s not on my agenda.  No one is going to pay me, or award me for it.  But it gives me peace.  It makes me laugh.  And it teaches me daily that, in my life, there are things that are more important than check marks and checklists. 

Four Tips to Help Your Kids Create a Healthy Body Image and Relationship With Food

Becca Clegg

Recently, I have had quite a few people inquire about how to talk to their children about weight loss or food without passing on negative body image messages.  People seem to be aware of the fact that this subject is a sensitive one (thank goodness) and are wanting sane and balanced ways to help their kids be healthy without losing themselves to the dieting trap in the process.

I really appreciate the fact that the question is even getting asked.  Studies are indicating more than ever that eating disorders and unhealthy dieting are on the rise.  Girls as young as seven are dieting. There are so many unhealthy standards and behaviors going on out there, someone has to begin to offer a new way of approaching this subject.

So I wanted to share these 4 question-and-answer segments with you.  The truth is, this advice is every bit as relevant to adults as it is to kids or teens.  The truth is the truth, regardless of your age. 

I hope it is helpful to you or someone in your life that is seeking balance and a healthy relationship with food.

1.  What advice do you have for children and teens to help them find a healthy weight?

Your body is designed to maintain it's perfect weight.  Dieting actually causes that function to malfunction.  

Pay attention to your body.  Learn when you are hungry and when you are full. These are simple, but often forgotten signals the body sends that tells us how IT wants to eat.  

Eat a balance of foods, including your favorite "treats" in moderation.  Any diet that excludes the food you love won't last; your mind will begin to sense deprivation, and sensing that as a threat, it will fight against you.  This is what causes yo-yo dieting and binge eating.  

Focus on moderate portions (eat until you are full and stop); be active (as it’s great for your health and also helps you maintain your weight) and lastly, but most importantly, understand that the societal image of "thin" isn't what 99% of people's bodies are designed to look like.  

Obviously, you may want to use different language to explain this to kids, but the core premise is the same.  When we eat foods that feed our body, our body sends up signals that tell us what we need and want.  This is not something I was ever taught…I doubt many of us were.  I think that teaching kids about nutrition in an objective and fun way early on can change the way we look at food.  It was meant to be enjoyed…it’s part of our biological makeup.

Eating to be "skinny" will lead to dieting and unhealthy self-esteem.  Eat to be strong, healthy and fit, and you will get a different result.

2.  When should a child or teen consider a weight loss program/diet?  When should they not diet?

Anyone can consider changing the way they eat if it is done in such a way that is about improving themselves, not punishing him or herself for not being "good enough" or "thin enough."  

If you are unhappy with your body size, talk to someone you love and trust about ways to begin to change your behavior to work towards your healthy weight (see #1). 

The cautionary piece here is that many children are dieting before they even reach their teenage years.  Studies show girls begin dieting as early as age seven.

Dieting has become an epidemic in our nation, where women and men feel terrified of being overweight; for fear that they won't fit in, or be "good enough."  Our societal ideal for the ideal body is unrealistic and oftentimes, underweight.

Our kids are being led to believe that they must diet and be "skinny" in order to be accepted, and as a result, weight loss is no longer about being healthy and taking care of yourself, but instead transforms into a way to punish yourself or an act of desperation that is linked to self-worth.  

Children and teens need to be supported by a family member, friend, counselor or dietitian who can help them learn to take care of themselves in a way that is self-loving and supportive.  

3.  What should children or teens know about nutrition?

As much as they can learn, and then keep learning more!

Knowing about nutrition helps us make healthy choices, and gives us the confidence to be the "expert" on our own bodies, as opposed to trusting all these "diet gurus" out there trying to sell us their packaged ideas.  

Our kids are in such a transitional place in their psychological development, in that they are just learning to trust themselves and be their own judge of what is right or wrong. Childhood is spent looking to others to tell them what to do, think and believe.

As children grow into themselves, and learn who they are and what THEY believe, being educated, in this case on nutrition, will help them to learn to trust their own knowledge and this can only lend itself to a lifetime of health, as opposed to getting caught up in unhealthy eating or fad diets. 

Food can be fun (and not something to be feared, as so many adults believe).  Involve your kids in mealtime preparation and allow them to be active in creating their own meals while under your supervision.  And for those of you who are thinking they will therefore eat chicken nuggets or macaroni seven days a week, this is obviously not what I have in mind!  But there is a happy medium in there somewhere, and that is worth trying to find if it helps your children feel empowered around food.

4.  How does the media affect today's children and teens' body image?  What advice to you have to help them accept their body/have a healthy body image?

The media affects teen's body image immensely.  It is one of the biggest problems we see today, and leads to unhealthy dieting, eating disorders and low self-esteem.  The media is a machine that is designed to sell products that promise to make people feel good about themselves.  

The ideal weight that is being promoted is unrealistic and unhealthy in many cases. The more people feel that they don't meet the standard of being good/thin/pretty enough, the more products get sold.  

Kids and teens need to learn to feel good about themselves because of WHO they are, not what they look like.  Realizing that there is more to a person than their weight or looks is the first step in recognizing a person's self worth.

Finding support, through friends and family, and positive role models who focus on things other than weight and beauty is important.  Limiting the exposure to negative and critical media is important too.  Many magazines, TV shows, and other media outlets feed the message that our self-worth is about how we look.

Can't Find the Time? Then Make It!

Becca Clegg

I hear people saying, “I can’t find the time” a lot these days. 

Ok, I’ll be honest here.  I say it too.  I try to catch it, but it slips out more than I would like.  If I can catch it, I always try to check in and see how I feel when I’m saying this.  Almost always, I feel overwhelmed or exhausted. 

It’s become a cultural norm to be busy.  Seriously.  What’s up with that?

The question is, what are we busy doing?

I think the answer to that is pivotal in the creation of our happiness and the quality of our life.  Are you busy creating a life you love, or are you running around chasing life, reacting, and putting out fires?

Do you use your time to take care of yourself? 

Do you use your time to prioritize your emotional and spiritual well-being?

Do you use your time to enrich your life?

I had a client recently who was ending his work with me.  He had made amazing, profound changes in his life, and it was time to take what he had learned and go do his thing. 

As we were closing our last session together, he said to me, “I can’t thank you enough – you have given me my life back.” 

I instantly felt like I was going to choke on my emotions.  Tears welled up in my eyes and I smiled at him because I knew the truth was, while I had helped facilitate the process, it was he who had chosen to take his life back. 

This client drove over 3 hours each way to see me.  He chose to do this because it was a priority to him, and he made it happen.  He was no different from me or you.  He had a full-time job, responsibilities, and a life.  He just made sure his happiness was as important and as critical as everything else in his life. 

He didn’t wait to find the time, he made the time.  I am sure it was inconvenient – but he made it work.  He made the time.

This is why I do what I do. 

It is because I know that when people start making the time to take their lives and their happiness as seriously as they take their jobs and day-to-day responsibilities, miraculous things happen.  They become empowered.  They realize they are creating their lives and they start creating from a conscious place.

Far too often, people wait until disaster strikes or things fall apart to address their own happiness.  And when push comes to shove – when things do fall apart – people always find the time, because they have no choice at that point.  This is why I know that we can find the time if we want to. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to choose to make the time because we want to, and not wait for things to get to the point where we no longer have choice and it is a “matter of necessity"?  The truth is, it should be a matter of necessity every day of your life to make the time to take care of yourself. 

“Finding” is an external search.  It is a word you would use if you were looking for something outside of yourself – something in your surroundings. 

“Making” is an internal process.  It is a word that you would use to describe anything you create, with you as the source of power.

It might be a matter of semantics, but I think it’s a pretty powerful one.

Are you going to be left powerless, trying to “find” the time to create a life you love, or are you going to choose to make time, and own what is at your fingertips – your right to choose how your time is spent.     

Five Ways to Reclaim Your Body Image

Becca Clegg

As I was at the checkout line at the supermarket yesterday, I found myself looking at the magazine rack that is placed, innocently, no doubt, right there amidst the candy and other temptations you don’t really need but find yourself considering every time you go to pay. 

One magazine’s entire cover was devoted to headless shots of “celebrity” bodies, dividing the best from the worst, with fluorescent circles and arrows pointing out cellulite, flab, and less than firm areas of flesh. 

Another one featured Kim Kardashian, with the headline, “Stop Calling Me Fat” (consider, at the time, she is pregnant).  

Yet another cover offered up Gwyneth Paltrow’s skinny diet secrets alongside an article that promised to give you 15 tips for firming and toning.

I could go on and on, but I’ll cut to the chase.  Every single magazine with the exception of Time Magazine made mention of weight loss, fat, dieting, or body image. And as it so happens, Time Magazine’s focus was on how to eat in today’s world (organic vs. processed food, etc…).

And you wonder why we are obsessed with our weight, food, and how our bodies look?

My mood shifted as I read the headlines on each of the magazines.  I felt anger, disgust, resignation and sympathy all at once.

The fact that we are a culture obsessed with weight and body image did not come as a surprise to me.  This unfortunate truth is something I have been aware of for a long time.  We are a nation that is brainwashed.  Socially conditioned to believe that our weight and the shape of our body is a critical component of our worth. 

What I found myself connecting to was how vital it is that we be proactive in our efforts to detach ourselves from this unhealthy obsession.  I often tell clients as we are working together, that the moment they leave my office, they will be inundated with hundreds of messages, overt and covert, which will directly contradict everything we have talked about during the session. 

One hour a week of focusing on loving your body and feeling good about yourself as opposed to a constant barrage of messages telling you that being thin is a necessary component to being worthwhile, and that you are not good enough as you are, is hardly a fair ratio.  

I don’t point this out to be pessimistic, or to rain on their parade as the saying goes. 

I do this to create a seat for empathy, so as to help them understand that this obsession with body image and dieting is something they have been taught, and to highlight that this indoctrination of thought continues on a daily basis. 

Understanding this helps clients to understand that in order to change their body image and general focus, consistent and repetitive proactive measures must be taken. 

Look at this as though there are two bank accounts.  The Negative Body Image Account, and the Positive Body Image Account.  Each day through media and other interaction with people, we (knowingly, and unknowingly) make deposits into the negative body image account.  You must take it upon yourself to start depositing into the positive body image account, as you are likely to “draw” from the account with the most “money” in it.

What can you do to offset the constant stream of body obsession and negativity?

Here are a few ways to begin to change your focus and rebuild your self-worth and body image:

Go On A Media Detox:  Commit to putting aside any and all magazines, blogs, television shows, or various forms of media that emphasize body size, dieting, weight obsession or generally make you feel like you need to work harder in order to be worthy.  If this feels impossible or overwhelming, start small.  Choose just one, or perhaps just do this for a week. 

Indulge in Positive Messages:  If exposure to body shaming media hurts your self-esteem, then deductive reasoning would have it that body positive media could help build your self esteem.  There are a number or books, blogs, movies, and documentaries that serve to build and empower the body image and self-worth of women in our culture.  Be proactive, and seek them out.  It is that which we place our attention on that becomes our focus. You choose.

Affirm the Positive:  Find five things about you or your body that you are grateful for and repeat your gratitude for these things daily.  I don’t get hung up around specifics (i.e. 10x’s a day vs. 50x’s a day).  The only thing I know is that learning is centered on repetition, and the more you repeat something, the more it becomes accepted.  Some people choose to do this in the form of a gratitude journal, and others prefer to make these affirmations their daily mantras, incorporating them into meditation or quiet time. 

Practice ACT:  ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  ACT basically espouses the following:  We are culturally indoctrinated with certain thoughts.  To try and change those thoughts is nearly impossible.  It is much kinder, loving, and quite frankly, easier, to accept those thoughts as what they are - old cultural ideas that have just gotten in your head.  Then you move on to commitment to change.  Commitment to living from a kinder, gentler thought that is more aligned with what you want to believe.

Practice Non-Judgment:  When you are out in the world, or watching television, practice seeing beauty in all women, of all shapes and sizes.  If you notice a judgment arise regarding size, or shape, recognize this as cultural brainwashing, and choose to see the beauty that is there.  This practice is especially good when learning how to reclaim our subjective beliefs around beauty and shed our social conditioning. 

Be Grateful for Gratitude

Becca Clegg

Fall is approaching, which means that the holidays are approaching, and I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude as Thanksgiving gets closer.

What am I grateful for? 

The question brings to mind a million different things all at once.

Family…friends…love…my dogs…my work…my freedom…my home…creativity…music…a good book…chips and queso dip (I can always find gratitude for queso!), and so much more.

The list kept going and as I sat there really thinking about all I have to be grateful for, I found myself overwhelmingly grateful for gratitude itself.

Now, let me explain.  It seems obvious, but there is more here than meets the eye. 

Gratitude, in my life, has become one of my go-to ways of shifting my mindset when I find myself feeling out of alignment.  In times of darkness or confusion, I have come to learn that I can consciously and deliberately focus on all the things I am grateful for, and something deep inside of me shifts.  I can actually FEEL the change.  It is powerful stuff people!

I have my go-to list of things I am grateful for that always brings me back from the edge, drowns out the drama in my mind and helps me drop my anchor and breathe. 

I have also found it eye-opening to challenge myself to go beyond the list of obvious choices and dig a little deeper for reasons to be grateful.  I try to challenge myself to come up with new things every day to be grateful for.  It’s pretty humbling when you realize how genuinely grateful you are are so many things.  Big things, little things, things we otherwise take for granted. 

Running water; the convenience of the grocery store; familiar smells that make you remember good times; soft sheets; the fact that high-waist acid washed jeans are no longer considered fashionable.  I could go on and on, but I believe you see where I am going with this.

So, in the spirit of the day to “give thanks,” I want to do a brief breakdown of what gratitude is and what it is not, and why I highly encourage you to implement this powerful tool into your life. 

GRATITUDE IS. . .

1. AN ABUNDANCE MINDSET:  Focusing on what you are grateful for forces you to open up to everything you have in your life. 

Do an inventory of all of the STUFF you have.  I don’t care who you are, if you have access to a computer and are able to read this, chances are you have “stuff” surrounding you.  See it, and take it in.  Things to be grateful for surround you.  You are surrounded by abundance.

2. A GROUNDING TOOL:  A way to return to center and ground yourself.  In order to practice gratitude, you HAVE to shift your focus from reacting to what is going on around you to being internally centered and focused.  The nature of the act itself brings you back to yourself. 

3. A MINDSET SHIFT:  As far as I can see, if you want to find something negative or crappy to focus on, there is plenty of it around.  Go looking for it, and you will find it. 

Some of you may even find yourself focusing on that stuff, as if you are stuck in it and can’t see your way out.  Choosing to focus on what you are grateful for, if even for ONE minute, breaks the chain of negative thinking.  It interrupts the obsessive thinking and worrying and begins to shift your focus. 

4. A CHOICE:  A gratitude mindset is NOT about being Pollyanna with your head stuck in the clouds somewhere.  It isn’t about denial either.  Bad stuff happens and it happens to all of us.  But even amidst the hardships that come our way, we have the ability to choose what we give our attention.  When you realize you can CHOOSE gratitude despite the storms we face, that is when we begin to realize where our power lies.

5. SIMPLE: Gratitude is a fast and effective way to FEEL GOOD. 

I dare you to think about the most wonderful thing in your life, the thing you are most grateful for and NOT feel good.  You won’t, because you can’t.  It doesn’t work that way. 

I’m not saying you will walk around in some eternal bliss after one minute of gratitude.  Instead, I think of it like planting seeds.  The more seeds of gratitude you plant, the more good feelings will grow.  It works the same way for focusing on all the ways in which “my life sucks” (those seeds grow pretty nasty plants in case your wondering).  You’re growing your feelings with the seeds of your thoughts.  What type of crop do you want to harvest?

So as you enter the holiday season, I encourage you to consider choosing gratitude as a gift you give yourself.  Let every day be Thanksgiving, and I can promise you that you will have a lot more to be excited about than some turkey and stuffing.