As runners, we need to make sure that we’re protecting our body image and promoting body positivity. Acknowledge that all of our bodies are different, setting aside judgments, opinions, and expectations of what our body should look like as runners. Know that all of our bodies are incredible and capable of so much. They can go ultra distances, but on a cellular functional level they are more impressive. Appreciate, love, and respect that.
Self-care is obviously very important. Appropriate recovery and nutrition, among all of the other ways that we support our bodies.
We have to check our negative and distorted thoughts about our bodies. What kind of thoughts are you having about your body? What are you doing with those thoughts? Are you taking care of yourself? Positive affirmations, caring thoughts, embracing ourselves how we are in the moment, and focusing on the resiliency of our bodies are a few ways to go about promoting healthier and more realistic thoughts. Remember, thoughts are just thoughts, what you choose to do with them is what matters! We all experience negative thoughts.
It’s okay to want to improve our bodies and become sharper athletes. Make sure you’re going about it in the right way and not causing harm or injury.
Be present and content with how you are because our bodies do so much for us, they change day-to-day, anyway. Give thanks to your body, even the challenging parts. Forgive yourself for things that you have said or done to your body that you shouldn’t have. A good way to do this is to look at yourself in the mirror and repeat these things, allowing them to settle into your heart. Let yourself heal.
When hurtful words and actions come from other people, we don’t have control over that. We choose to control how we react. Have some sort of comeback or body positive affirmation in your back pocket for when this occurs. Protect yourself, stand up for yourself. A ton of people out there will have something negative to say about your body. It sucks, it shouldn’t happen, but try to not allow it to take a hold of you. You’re better than that and you’re worth it. Plain ignoring the person is fine, but it feels better saying something positive about your body. Better yet, if you say something amazing about the part of your body that they are judging or criticizing. Use your strength and take a stand.
You know what’s best for your body, but if you’re honestly struggling with body image and eating, reach out for support. Strengthen yourself through people who are there to help you. It’s alright to need any level of help with something. You could contact a professional mental health counselor, someone who specializes in body image and eating. Dietitians and nutritionists. A running coach, maybe even one who is certified in nutrition. For a good shot at getting the best support for you, make sure that they are a good fit to work with.
As a running community, let’s continue the conversation, sticking together on issues like this, and lifting each other up. Thank you for reading.
Short talk about self-care, something that seems easy, but it’s actually kind of difficult to do. I feel this topic is covered so much, but yet, we all still struggle with it. I can’t think of a single person, myself included, who could be practicing self-care more frequently or in a way that’s more beneficial.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. What are you doing this month (and everyday because we have mental health everyday) to make sure that we are growing our knowledge and awareness of mental health? How are you supporting yourself? How are you supporting others? Please, share with me down in the comments what you’re doing for mental wellness. [I could use some fresh ideas.]
Mental health professionals cannot end the stigma alone and get everyone the help that they need, we need you to be a part of this mission.
Do you prioritize your mental health? If your mental health isn’t one of the areas that comes to mind, consider moving it to one of your top priorities, elevate it. Here’s the short answer of why it’s important. When we work on our mental health, we improve all of the other areas of our lives. When we emotionally and mentally operate effectively and efficiently, other well-being pieces fall into place. Some pieces that are positively impacted are, sleep, problem solving capability, relationships, and productivity increases. All a ripple-effect benefit of elevating mental wellness. The benefits are truly endless.
Here are a few ideas of how you can focus on your mental health
What to intentionally focus on
Spend a few minutes a day addressing your mind. What areas need the most attention? Is it sleep? Anxiety? When was the last time that you did self-care? Focus on the area that needs it the most, not to feel overwhelmed, because there could be several areas that you feel could use love. Once there’s a rythm or a habit created for that particular area, move onto another area. Be gracious to yourself through the process of addressing the area, it might take some time and it’s hard work.
How to make it happen
Here are two ways to help you with planning that focus time
The first, is scheduling half an hour to an hour per day. The second, is sprinkling in the work throughout the day. The option of scheduling it in works well for people who like having structure or who are likely to procrastinate. Write it in your planner, including the time you will work on it and set an intention of what you’re going to specifically work on. – An attainable short-term goal. When the time comes, aim to do it for half an hour to an hour. Afterwards, notice or be mindful of the benefits of your achievement. Do what is helpful to you. If you’re having trouble thinking of something, reflect back to your past to see if maybe you did something helpful then, that you can apply to now.
What it could look like
This could look like journaling about your day or a problem that you have. Taking a long bath, free of distractions, and reflecting on the highlights of your day. When you wake up in the morning, thinking about something that you’re looking forward to in the near future. Participating in relaxing yoga before bed. Having a mindful meal.
The second way, sprinkling it in throughout the day, looks a little different and is go-with-the-flow. This strategy might work for someone who has a busy schedule or would like to see it organically integrated throughout their day.
What it could look like
This could look like doing a three minute breathing or mindfulness exercise while doing a simple tasks, such as household cleaning. Working on a gratitude list, jotting down what you’re grateful for as they come to you throughout the day. Stretch and do mindful movement when you’ve been sitting for too long. – When at a desk-job, get up from your chair once every 45-90 minutes for 5-10 minutes.
Doing mental wellness activities will be wonderful. Try both planning strategies, or other ways that you can think of, to see what fits best.
Elevate your mental health to reap all the great benefits. Start by identifying what needs the most attention and then figure out how to make it happen. Is it better for you if you schedule it or if you sprinkle it in throughout the day? Once you have a basic plan, just do it. There are multiple strategies and ways to improve your mental wellness. Do the ones that work for you consistently. Lastly, fully enjoy the benefits and continue the good work.
Think of something that you’ve always dreamed of doing. Travel? Opening a business? Contacting someone you haven’t talked to in a long time or ever? Dumping an unhealthy habit that you have been clinging to? It can be anything. It is probably overwhelming to think about and you might be afraid of the process. I’m talking about really stepping outside of your comfort zone and tearing down the protective barriers. Think about how freeing accomplishing that dream could feel… YOU DID IT! Think about all of the possible benefits of that accomplishment, like further opportunities, boost in self-esteem, feelings of gratitude and happiness, and reconnection.
Fear and Anxiety Holds Us Back
Being honest with yourself, what has kept you from doing that? If it is anxiety, you’re not alone. The feelings of fear and anxiety are there to protect us on a primitive level. These emotions help us to survive and make better choices. If we didn’t have these feelings, what would be stopping us from doing something dangerous? These are normal, healthy emotions and we can’t make them go away. We don’t want them to go away.
Our thoughts that hold us back can seem to come out of nowhere at times. Thoughts are naturally occurring and will come and go. Know that thoughts are thoughts and not reality. Just because we think something, doesn’t make it true. Identify the thoughts that hold you back, reframe them to better use, and learn how to better manage your anxiety. Even though we can manage anxiety, we can’t get rid of it, but we can keep it at bay.
What was that dream accomplishment that you thought of earlier? How can you make it work? What small steps can you take to get the ball rolling?
My Real-Life Example
Here is a simple example of a long-term goal of mine and thoughts that I struggle with. This is in regards to participating in the BADWATER 135 ultramarathon (I am a seasoned ultrarunner). This is a goal that has been several years in the making and there are a few more years to come in this journey before I stand at the start line. Many doubts have popped up in my mind over the years. Doubts that I’m not good enough, and doubts that details would never come together to make this dream a reality. Anxiety comes and goes. I experience anxiety over what people might say or think if I ever bring up wanting to run The World’s Toughest Footrace, so I rarely talk about it. Anxiety over becoming injured and never being able to run ever again. These thoughts have been bothersome, coming and going, since I got started. I want this goal bad enough, and I’m going to give my best effort, so the thoughts aren’t going to keep me from doing what I am passionate about.
Reframe Fearful and Anxious Thoughts
The unhelpful thoughts are identified, now let me show you how to reframe this fearful way of thinking. The doubt that “I’m not good enough” can be reframed to, “I am hardworking and have been thoughtfully and skillfully working towards this goal for years. I have grown so much, not just as an athlete, but as a person. I’ve come so far, I’m not going to give up now.” And “things won’t ever come together for me,” to “continue to be patient, every year you are steps closer to this goal, and you are diligent in catching all of the preparation details.” As for the anxiety, “I can’t ever tell anyone without being judged,” to “who cares what people have to say about it, this is something that I love.” For anxiety over injury, “I’m worried that I’m going to get injured in a freak accident on the trail while training,” to “I’m a careful and skilled runner. I rest my body and care for it enough, so that I can do what I do. My running coach is also mindful when it comes to injury prevention.” That is how to reframe, think realistically.
More Anxiety Management
There are multiple ways to manage anxiety. Self-care should be the top priority because it is the base from which we build upon. This includes proper diet, exercise, and sleep. Use the reframing skill from above. Learn Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy coping strategies. Talk with a licensed professional counselor to have support in sorting out the details and find what works for you. Practice yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Practice these things consistently overtime to create helpful habits. The process isn’t always easy, there are challenging times, stick with it, and give yourself grace. It is a true learning process. I have been using these strategies consistently for years and they work. As you do the strategies, you will find favorites and learn when to use which strategy, as one will be more helpful than another in any given scenario.
When Your Dream Becomes a Reality
When the time comes to tackle that dream, reflect on your journey. How does it feel to be where you are, today? What is the biggest thing that you learned in those smaller steps? How can you apply what you have learned in the future? Continue the helpful habits that you have established or are continuing to work on. Honestly, the work never ends, and having a healthy mind is a ton of work, but we absolutely need to nourish it.
When that dream becomes reality, be connected and in the moment with it. Take it in. What does it feel like physically, emotionally, and spiritually? What is the greatest part of the experience? How proud do you feel? What have you learned? When it’s all over, would you do it again? It is important that we acknowledge the benefits of the hard work and perseverance. There is a mountain of experience to take away from accomplishing a dream.
I hope that you found this article insightful and are perhaps examining anxious thoughts that are keeping you from achieving your dreams. Incorporate the strategies that I have discussed into your day-to-day life and notice the benefits. Keep striving towards accomplishing your dreams, soaking in that journey.
I met Roni Maislish through LinkedIn (he is in Israel), as we both work in mental health and specifically with eating and emotions. We both recognize the emotional aspects of obesity and that it can be an emotional-mental-issue. Roni says, “Most of the time, when people talk about eating disorders, they forget the field of overweight and the emotional side of this field.” Roni created this workshop for therapists, family physicians, dieticians, and related professionals, which I will talk about more below.
Find four downloadable worksheets on emotions, eating, and body image at the bottom this article. I have used these worksheets when working with people over the years. Shannon Mick, NCC, LPC, CCATP, CTMH
By Roni Maislish
Therapist workshop – The Emotional aspect of Obesity (Introspection through the relationship with food and eating as a gate to change, cure and healing)
Background – How many times you had been surprised by overweight patients that told you to “fix them quickly”, who for years after years trying to lose weight, sometime seceded and then back again, gain the weight back? How many time your faith in your patient dissipate and you felt anger and frustration that he or she is not committed enough to the process like you? And how many times you felt that you are not able to understand emphatically (near-experience) why those patients cant keep on fighting, controlling and avoiding in their food and eating’s issues? and how many time you realized and told yourself that something is missing?
For all of you therapist from a variety methods and approach who dealing with the emotional aspect of overeating, overweight, emotional eating, emotional non-eating, non-acute eating disorder, obesity and more – you all most welcome to workshop (short educating program) where you become familiar, study and also go in depth to a new dimension which will enable you to see, understand and experience the “food and eating’s issue” not as a “problem to solve” but as a unique way that a specific person use to “tell his story” while integrate and keeping safe his “self”. And From this kind of listening stance we will be able to make place to our patients, while helping them finding their subjective way toward healing and restoring their wounded, un-develop and neglected self.
The workshop – In the beginning I will present my attitude in the last 15 years (which changing and modifying in time) for dealing with emotional eating’s issues. I will share with you my straggles, dilemmas and personal questions that occupied me since early childhood and connect it to my journey (both personal, academic and professional) and how I established and combined theories which gradually help me to meet myself and my patients from a “different” perspective (that sometime we can feel as if you speak an ancient languish).
Doing so, I will manly focus in two theoretical and clinical paradigms to help us to understand ideas I formulate these years– I call it: “the fat remember”/”the fat’s emotional role” (or, “if the fat will able to talk, what it will say?”):
The first paradigm based on Didier Anzieu’s work (manly his book :”I-Skin”, which written in French “Le Moi-Peau”) who dealt on the emotional-sensorial clothing (“I-Skin”) that a human beings wear from early childhood and making adaptation trough the years to avoid invasiveness and secure the self from hurts and fragmentation. In his work Anzieu present 8 function of this psyche soma’s envelop like holding, handling, protecting and more. In my work, regarding Anzieu’s ideas, I explore the fat, the overweight, mostly in the abdomen (but not always) and its role to establish and contributing the building of those 8 functions in case that the self no longer develop normally. For instance we will learn together about the connection of the stimulation-shield function in the “I-Skin” clothing to the gaining weight process to build “fat armor” against attacks on the self.
Later on, I will present the “self-Psychology” paradigm while understanding deeply that defense and resistance is not something that the therapist need to break, remove, overcome, or even to melt so we can see emotional aspects and reasons of gaining weight’s process as a reminder from a depress self which struggle to survive non-emphatic world. This self, as I see it, is still hoping that someone (maybe the therapist) will see beyond the “fat story” and help the patient to restart its “inner self program” and recover those years of deprivation.
Regarding the topic of this workshop and self-psychology, In his second book, “The restoration of the self” (1977, pp 80-81) Kohut refer to the triad: oral fixation, pathological overeating and obesity and present the understanding of the classical approach that deals with drive-awareness and the ability to control the drive (via its suppression, sublimation, inhibition of its aim, displacement, or neutralization). Instead, Kohut’s claim is that “the child asserts his need for a food-giving self-object” and “the child needs empathically modulated food-giving not food”. If this need remains unfulfilled, Kohut continue, then the child retreats to a fragment of the larger experiential unit, i.e., to pleasure-seeking oral stimulation (depressive eating). Kohut add that increasing awareness to those process renewed movement toward psychological health.
The combination between Anzieu’s theory and Kohut’s perspective, while adding the work of Eigen (Toxic Nourishment, Emotional Starvation), Ogden (The Autistic-contiguous position), McDougall (Theatres of the Body) – will all helps us to build new platforms and ideas which open new possibilities to understand the patient’s pain, to find beauty in the defensive-structure of the patient (his overeating patterns) and further on to develop the patient self-ability to heal and grow himself while seeing us ganging and flexible in our empathy enabling him to change too.
During our learning and in between the theoretical conceptualization that we will create, I will share with you some example from my clinical work. The main part in this section will be the “mindfulness meal” where we will be able , to search different possibilities for introspection of the connection between our relationship with food/eating and others relationship (family, marriage, career, friends, money, faith and more). In this mindfulness-experiential process, we will use motive like: choice, miss, lose, regret, planning, disintegration, aesthetics and more, to understand how a certain movement from our eating place’s seat to the buffet table represent original selfobject needs. That will help us to vary and enrich our empathic capability and responses to those patients that their selfobject need didn’t met yet and have a very complex relationship with food and eating. For example: One of the participants in the workshop can become aware that the way he choosethe food was similar to how others choosing and he can realized that he didn’t ask himself what are his special and authentic needs. Then he can share about that kind of pattern in other relationship (for example – he choose where to study upon his unique need or was it a “social decision”). That mindfulness experience of understanding will take us, as a group, to discuss how some of our patients will prefer the “socially eating” pattern which can give them a response for their twinship’s (alter ago) needs (they eat the same food like everyone so they feel part of the group, and the world). Those kinds of introspections around the table will encourage us to think about more emphatic response’s possibilities for more kind of needs (mirroring, idealizing).
If we will have enough time we will practice in pair the question: “for what I am really hungry for? (The dialogue between emotional hunger and physical hanger) and mediate on the “role of the fat” and more. We will complete our journey with sharing our experience and understanding, we will ask ourselves what surprise us today and we will have some time for questions and answers.
About the instructor –Roni Maislish M.A (psychotherapist and clinical social worker).
From 2005 I am working with overweight’s patients dealing with emotional eating that come from emotional long-term neglected. I the last 2 year I am working in Tel Hashomer (Sheba) hospital in an overweight treatment center (part of the endocrine institute) while between 2006-2011 I saw eating disorder’s patients (and their parents) in Soroka Hospital. From 2007 working as emotional eating’s therapist. Leading groups both for therapist and non-therapist, short workshop and year-long dynamic-study groups. Beside working with patients, I involve deeply in education-prevention roles schools, pre-school, eating disorder’s clinics, accompanying nutritionist, mantel health department, and much more .in 2008 I participated in a 5 days retreat in California leaded by Geneen Roth (the author of the bestseller “When food is Love”).
Use this distress scale to help you stay more aware of how you are doing. The scale is 0 to 10, where 0 is that you feel at peace and are completely calm, and 10 is distress that is so unbearable that you cannot function. Refer to the scale, as-needed. If you find yourself rated at 4, where negative thoughts begin to impact you, consider talking to a mental health professional because it is better to get help sooner than later. Don’t allow yourself to be in a distressful state for too long. When you feel change is needed, take action and contact someone.
Seek help from a mental health professional at any time, you do not need to be in distress to get help. A professional counselor can provide services for things such as managing stress and anxiety, examining thoughts and behaviors, support you in life transitions, and teach you how to strengthen your mind.
0: Peace and complete calm
1: No real distress, but a slight feeling of unpleasantness
2: A little bit sad or “off”
3: Worried or upset
4: Upset to the point that negative thoughts begin to impact you
5: Upset and uncomfortable
6: Discomfort to the point that you feel a change is needed
7: Discomfort dominates your thoughts and you struggle not to show it
8: Panic takes hold
9: Feeling desperate, helpless, and unable to handle it
10: Unbearably upset to the point that you cannot function and may be on the verge of a breakdown
The hunger scale chart is one way to become more in-tune with your gut feelings and also, to have a better idea on whether or not you’re hungry and how much food to eat. Taking notes of how you feel will eventually lead to increasing your awareness and improving intuitive eating habits. The scale is 1-10. One, being that you’re feeling starving, weak, or dizzy and ten, is that you feel sick because you are so full.
When to Use
While deciding whether you should eat or not. Are you reaching for food because you’re hungry or because you’re feeling a particular emotion?
After eating a snack or a meal. Check-in with yourself to see where you are. Did you eat enough or did you eat too much?
Use this tool about twice per week, on a consistent basis, for about three to five months. This amount of time presents the opportunity to increase awareness and to settle into healthier habits.
How to Use
Pair this scale with practicing eating mindfully or intuitively.
Be non-judgmental of what number you are on the scale.
Feeling five or six after eating is appropriate. Seven is alright, every now and then, like during a holiday meal. The top goal is to feel comfortable.
Jot down in a journal or notebook your hunger scale number and a few other details, like what you ate, thoughts, and feelings.
Practice consistently, becoming more in-tune can take time. Practice being non-judgmental and patient with how long it might take you. It might take multiple changes and attempts, that’s alright.
Put the scale where you will see it and remember to use it. In a journal where you track habits, on the fridge, or on the dining room table. If you want to leave it on the dining room table, some people place it in a folder or a clear page sleeve.
Share what you’re working on with your dietician or mental health counselor.
Questions to Consider
An important point to mention is to notice thoughts and feelings while eating. A lot of times, we eat and are distracted by our phones, the television, or a conversation. Is this you? Are you feeling depressed or anxious while eating? Are you being judgmental or the food or yourself while you eat?
Another thing to notice is whether you are disassociated or non-present. Are you enjoying the food? Why or why not? Are you being mindful of the meal? Did you fly through the meal, eating fast? Did you eat at an abnormally slow pace? How big were your bites?
To help resolve any unfinished business that you have with another person, write a letter. This may be written to a person who has hurt or wronged you, and who is no longer a part of your life. DO NOT ACTUALLY SEND THEM (or anyone) THIS LETTER, this letter is for YOU. Keep it confidential.
I STRONGLY suggest doing this activity with a professional counselor and talking through the situation with them. They can support you.
Writing this letter will help you to:
Reflect and process
Think more slowly
Maybe to forgive the wrong-doer
Forgive yourself, if you need to
Put your thoughts and emotions to paper
Release pent up thoughts and strong emotions, like pain, sadness, and anger
Find some peace, healing and resolution
Empowerment and improve self-esteem
Increase self-care and self-love
There are no set rules for writing this letter. You may find it difficult to start this process, just dive right in. The letter can be edited and re-organized to how you would like. Start with the wrong-doer’s name, like you are writing a letter. If you’re unsure of how long your letter should be, try aiming to write one to three pages just to get an idea. Once you have that, you will better know if the letter should be any longer. The letter is to benefit you and to help resolve any unfinished business, the length of the letter doesn’t matter quite as much. End the letter with your name.
Important things to think about including:
Things that you want the wrong-doer to know.
Anything that you want to say to them.
Talk about what they did to you.
Talk about how you feel.
Talk about your reaction to what they did.
Talk about the impact that it has had on yourself. What areas of your life have been impacted? How has it been changed?
Write about what you wish went differently.
Write about how you wish things ended with that person.
Is there anything that you could have done differently?
Allow yourself to be open to writing anything that comes up.
This is a challenging exercise, so take a break if you need to, re-visit it. *Self-care is very important through this process.* Work on acknowledging your thoughts and emotions, know that they are natural and occur for a reason, but let them roll away (not sticking in your mind) as you write. Utilize coping strategies to reduce intense stress, anxiety, emotions, etc. Try to make sure that you’re in a good “mental space,” not overly anxious or panic when you write this. It is helpful to be able to think clearly and be focused. After you finish writing this letter, read it out loud to yourself. Reading it to yourself might be emotional because your brain will be processing the information slightly differently, hearing your own voice read what you wrote is powerful. Read it to a counselor, they will listen and be able to guide you. If you think that it would be beneficial reading it a second or third time, then do so. Notice if your thoughts and emotions changed the next time through. Lastly, when you are ready, you completed the letter and read it out loud, destroy the letter for resolution (and confidentiality). There is symbolism in destroying the letter. It isn’t returning. Allow yourself to be healed and empowered. Love yourself. Notice how you feel while destroying the letter and afterwards. Do you feel physically lighter, like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders? Do you feel empowered? Did you sigh in relief or smile?
Once again, please talk with someone if you need to, don’t hesitate to reach out. It is rewarding to speak with someone, brain imaging research shows that talk therapy (psychotherapy) can be impactful right away.
When you feel stressed or anxious, have you been mindful of your breathing? Notice if you’re holding your breath, taking shallow breaths, or breathing too quickly.
Take control of your breathing by trying a short breathing exercise:
Lay, sit, or stand comfortably, with good posture to allow yourself to breathe easily.
If you’re laying or sitting, maybe you want to close your eyes to increase focus.
You may place your hands gently on your stomach to physically feel it move in and out as you breathe.
Take note of physical sensations and then focus on your breathe.
If you find yourself becoming distracted by anything, acknowledge the distraction (distractions occur naturally and are reminders to return to what we were working on), allow it to roll through your awareness, and then simply return your attention to your breathing.
Breathe in for 3 seconds: 1-2-3
Breathe out for 3 seconds: 1-2-3
Repeat 3 times
Notice any differences in how you physically or mentally feel.
Calmly return your focus to the environment around you.
You may want to play around with the time spent in the exercise, do what works for you.
*Tip for severe anxiety and panic: if you find yourself holding your breath for longer than the brief pause during this exercise, skip the pause all together and just focus on steady in-and-out breathes.*