Oak City Psychology

Serving the City of Raleigh and Surrounding Areas

Love Your Body

When I practiced in Atlanta a local charity group focused on raising eating disorder awareness sponsored Love Your Body Month every February.  I got used to thinking of February as a time to not just honor relationships that we value but to also work on valuing our relationship with our own bodies.  As a female in our society, and more often as a male as well, it can be hard to love the body you’ve been given.  We receive messages from the media about how our bodies are toned enough, aren’t wrinkle free enough, aren’t young enough, aren’t beautiful enough, aren’t sexy enough, and on, and on, and on.  As busy professional women, wives, mothers, daughters, and friends (and in some cases all of or a combination of those) our own self-care can get lost in the shuffle.  Time alone, time to exercise, time to prepare delicious food, and time to relax all take a back seat to work projects, house projects, kids projects, and friend projects.  All of those identities scramble for attention and we forget to take care of the vessel that carries us from place to place and interacts in a physical way with the world.

In Baroque art the female body was beautiful.  And the more curves you could see the more beautiful the body.  As women moved from being only a prop for art and into a more active role in society, the image of a beautiful woman’s body also began to change.  We have hit extremes in these areas – Twiggy in the 60s and Kate Moss in the 90s – but it seems that at least some areas of society are finally starting to recognize the damage we have done to women and girls by placing unrealistic expectations on their bodies.  We are starting to see that deadly eating disorders are wreaking havoc on the lives of girls as young as 8 and 9 years old.  We are starting to see that women’s hatred of their bodies leads them to over exercise, restrict their foods, and stop enjoying life.  We are starting to notice the woman who has been punishing herself on the elliptical for over an hour.  And it’s about time.  I work with so many women and girls who’s desire to be thin has outweighed their desire to be alive.  Women who see themselves only as a number on the scale or on the tag in the back of some clothes.  Women who measure their worth by the width of their waist.

It’s time we moved past those incomplete measurements.  It’s time we started measuring a woman by her intelligence, her kindness, and her wisdom, and not by her waistline, her weight, and her BMI.  My wish for every girl is that she is able to say with confidence that she loves her body.  My wish for every woman is that she is able to say with confidence that she is learning to love a body that has been abused by our society for too long.  It’s time we all loved our bodies, our round, curvy, thin, lean, overweight, pregnant, infertile, scarred, and unscarred bodies.  They are beautiful as they are.  They are perfectly imperfect, just as they are.  This February, I hope you focus on building a healthy relationship with your own body and learn to truly love the body you have.

Five for Friday – 5 Reasons for Oak City Psychology

I thought I’d do a less “waity” topic for this 5 for Friday (see what I did there?  If not then you need to read my last 5 for Friday)  Folks who are North Carolina natives probably understand the reference to Oak City in the name of my practice but I thought I’d give my reasons for choosing Oak City Psychology as the name of my new practice.

  1.  Raleigh is the City of Oaks.  That’s right, Raleigh is known as the City of Oaks because of the number of oak trees both in the city and surrounding areas.  On New Year’s Eve, they drop an acorn.  In November, they host the City of Oaks Marathon.  Students from college campuses talk about getting hit with acorns thrown by unruly squirrels on campus.  Oak trees are to Raleigh as peach trees are to Atlanta.
  2. Trees make for awesome metaphors.  The image of a tree growing is, to me, one of the most powerful images to use in therapy.  I constantly talk to clients about growing strong roots, finding time to shed their old lives (or leaves) to make way for new growth, the struggle to grow strong regardless of their environment, and being part of a community (or forest).  Trees have symbolic meanings related to strength and protection, as well as support, loyalty, and wisdom.  What better image for a therapy practice than a tree?
  3. Oak trees symbolize endurance, strength, stability, and success.  Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Celts all recognized the oak tree as a symbol of strength, even wearing oak leaves to signify powerful people in their society.  Druids considered the oak tree to be the bearer of good luck, fertility, potency, healing, and good health.  Oak trees have been and continue to be awe inspiring natural wonders.  As cheesy as it sounds, I often think the same thing of my clients.  I am constantly amazed by the trials they can withstand and the strength they show.
  4. All the other names sounded wrong.  I literally came up with about 200 other names for this practice.  I looked at every NC state symbol, geographic feature of my area, meanings for different colors, gemstones, and flowers, imagery that I liked, words that described my philosophy of therapy, words that represented my name, and on, and on, and on.  This went on for weeks.  My friends and family became annoyed with me.  But I just kept coming back to Oak City.  Which leads me to the fifth reason . . .
  5. Sometimes the right name just comes to you.  I’d love to say that I consciously sat down and pored over books on symbolism, studied the history of Raleigh, and then chose the perfect name.  But honestly, sometimes a name just comes to you.  Being a native North Carolinian, I knew that Raleigh was the City of Oaks.  And, I do love to use trees as metaphors.  But that’s not what was top of mind when I thought of this name.  As soon as I knew we were moving back to NC, I knew Oak City Psychology was going to be my practice someday.  Sometimes you just know.  Hopefully, that’s a sign that Oak City Psychology is meant to be here, that it will provide support for clients who need to find their strength, and that it will be a place for growth and healing for years to come.  For now, the seed has been planted.

Welcome to Oak City!

As many of you know, I recently moved with my family back to our home state of North Carolina.  I will admit, this has not been the easiest transition for me personally or professionally.  Change is hard.  Waiting for things to happen is hard.  Trusting that you are making the right decisions is hard!  Luckily, I can say that the change and the wait and the trust has paid off, and Oak City Psychology officially opened today!  While it is still a work in progress, this new office has wonderful energy.  It has truly been a labor of love as my family and I painted, shopped for furniture, assembled furniture, designed rooms, redesigned rooms, shopped for more furniture, and were finally satisfied (for now) with the finished project.  Oak City is not the large building that my last practice was.  It is not full of other therapists and support people (yet).  Right now, as I type this, it is just me.  I’m back at the beginning.  Dreaming about the wonderful things I hope to accomplish in this new place.  So it’s time to step into the new, embrace the change, and trust the process.  Welcome to Oak City!


Five for Friday: 5 Things To Do While You Wait

So Tuesday’s blog was about how difficult waiting can be.  It’s so hard to mark time while we wait for something exciting or something we’re afraid of or something we’re worrying about.  So in this inaugural Five for Friday, I’m going to share some tips for waiting.  These things are not going to make waiting breeze by.  There are still going to be times when you feel uncomfortable or frustrated with the waiting, but hopefully it will make waiting a little easier.

  1. Focus on the present.  This is a good time to learn some mindfulness skills and use them!  Do things to bring you back to the present rather than living solely in the possibilities of the future.  If you do yoga, this is a good time to brush off those skills.  Try to focus on the good things happening in your life today.  Use your journal to document things you are grateful for each day.  I know, I just went all therapist on you, but research shows people who keep gratitude journals report more satisfaction with their life and higher levels of happiness.
  2. Research the future.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT do this if you are waiting on medical test results.  All you will do is increase your anxiety and make yourself miserable in the process.  Google does not have a medical degree and really can’t provide you with the personalized information you will need.  However, if you’re opening a new business, wanting to create a healthier lifestyle, getting ready for a move, or a multitude of other things we wait on, the waiting time is a great time to research the things you’ll need for your new endeavor.  Whether it’s researching the schools in the area you’re moving to, finding a new social group, learning the business laws or licensing laws for a new business, or finding the best deals for a big purchase, you’ll be ready with the best information when the time comes.
  3. Learn from your last book.  Use this time to look back on what is ending to make way for the new in your life.  This is not a time to assign blame or beat yourself up for perceived mistakes.  BUT, it can be a time to think about how you would do things differently now that you have the additional experience created by time.  I have yet to meet someone who made what turned out to be the wrong decision on purpose.  In general, we make the best decisions we can with the best information we have at the time.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes the world around us changes.  Now that you’re waiting for something new, it’s a good time to think about what you may want to do differently this time around and what worked really well that you’d like to replicate.
  4. Get Organized.  Often when we’re waiting there’s a lot of down time.  This is the time to get yourself ready for the upcoming changes.  Are you accepting a new position that will limit your time?  Maybe you want to focus on putting meals in the freezer, simplifying your cleaning routine, or hiring a cleaning service.  Are you waiting on health news that might mean a lot of doctor’s appointments?  Maybe you want to use this time to planning who will pick up your children or take them to events, setting up a room that will be comfortable for you if your mobility is going to be limited, or getting other appointments or big projects done.  Regardless of the change that is coming, there are things you can do now to make the transition easier on yourself and on your family and friends.
  5. Have some fun.  There’s only so much planning, learning, and organizing you can do.  You will eventually run out of things related to whatever you’re waiting on.  Rather than continuing to obsess about the waiting, go have some fun.  Spend a little extra time with friends, work on a hobby you enjoy, or even learn something new.  The only requirement is that it’s fun and it helps you take your mind off waiting.  And that’s it’s not unhealthy or damaging to you of course.

So there you have it.  Five things you can do to make the waiting a little easier.  Again, there will still be times that you feel uncomfortable, antsy, worried, afraid, and a multitude of other feelings.  This is normal and expected.  Sometimes we just have to feel uncomfortable.  That’s life.

The Difficulties of Waiting

I’ve been doing a lot of waiting lately.  Waiting for interviews, waiting to hear about jobs, waiting on people to send me paperwork so I could wait on other people to approve the paperwork, waiting for the right office to appear, waiting, waiting, waiting.  Let me tell you, I am not a good waiter.  Waiting makes me antsy.  Waiting makes me feel like I don’t know what to do next.  Waiting makes me feel like I want to skip over several weeks until “the good stuff” starts happening.  It makes me feel . . . stuck.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this feeling.  I talk to people all the time who are waiting for things they can’t control.  Waiting on the call from a doctor with their test results, waiting on their partner to change, waiting on their kids to work through their stuff or get to the next developmental shift, waiting on themselves to work through their own stuff.

Waiting is hard.  It is not for the faint hearted.  It makes us question whether we’ve made the right decisions.  It makes us anxious with the possibilities of what is to come.  But it is also hopeful.  It lets us dream.  It lets us create fantasies of what could be.  It also allows us to find closure.  Often the reason we are waiting in life is because something has just ended.  We’ve just finished the last book in the series, and we can’t wait for the next one to be released.

Writing that next book is hard though.  It takes preparation and reflection.  If we jump straight into the next without finishing the last we don’t allow ourselves to learn, to grow.  So yes I’ve been waiting, as I’m sure many of you have been.  As a therapist, I often find sitting with the waiting to be one of the most difficult aspects of a session.  I often find myself wanting to help my clients find a solution.  I have a feeling this may be related to my own discomfort with waiting.  So, in this period of waiting, I challenge you, and myself, to sink into the waiting.  Let’s allow ourselves to truly learn from our last book, to let it’s teachings seep into us.  That waiting is hard and uncomfortable.  But that’s life.  Sometimes the good things are worth waiting for.

“Politics” are Personal

Today was a day of landmark decisions by the Supreme Court related to marriage equality.  Many people will focus on what this means for civil rights, legal arguments in states that do not yet allow same sex marriage, and the change of definition for “traditional marriage.”  All of these aspects are great for debate and intellectual discourse, but they don’t tell us much about the impact on actual humans.  As I have said in previous posts, many of my clients are GLBTQ.  In sessions, we often talk about the impact of laws that do not allow them to marry the people they love.  They rejoice in the triumphs and sorrow in the losses.  It is a real life lesson on how our legal system impacts real people with real lives and real families.

Laws are not just about acts that our society finds unacceptable.  They often imply or flat out state that the person doing the action is also bad or unacceptable in some way.  Can you imagine going through life believing that loving someone is bad?  Now, most of my clients know logically that this is not true.  They recognize that society’s laws simply have not caught up with our recognition of changing morals and science.  But what they feel and believe is a different matter.  My gay clients come in feeling broken and beaten down by a world that finds them strange at best and abhorrent at worst.  They hear pundits and “scientists” comparing their committed relationships to pedophilia and bestiality.  They are told by lawmakers that their relationships are such a danger to society that they have to be outlawed by constitutional amendments and marriage bans.  I can see the weight of these things on my clients, even when their rational lives show no signs of damage.

And what about the children who are raised in these loving and supportive relationships?  They have been told that their parents are not valuable enough for society to recognize their relationship.  And if their parents aren’t valuable, then the children must be the same.  When we devalue our children’s parents we devalue our children!

I rejoice today.  Not because a huge legal shift has occurred in our country.  No, I rejoice because for my clients, who I have come to know, respect, and love as the amazing humans they are, our world is one small step closer to seeing their value.  Our world is one step closer to recognizing their relationships as a valid way to love, one step closer to recognizing their children as offspring from a valid relationship.  For me, “politics” are personal.  Laws are personal.  We are talking about the lives of real people changing, hopefully for the better and hopefully at a faster pace.  I rejoice with my clients and for my clients.  Because they have value and worth.  Because they love.

I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing

Because of my specialty in eating disorders, I often get comments from family and friends about their eating habits. Anything goes, from “Well maybe you can help me stop eating then.” to “What is an eating disorder anyway?” There is a lot of confusion out there about what is healthy eating vs. disordered eating vs. an eating disorder. And no wonder! With all the fad diets, liquid diets, starve yourself and then binge diets, and simple misrepresentation of the facts who wouldn’t be confused. Combine the shame that can go along with some of the symptoms of an eating disorder and people simply don’t want to talk about their problems.

Michael Polan, author of Omnivore’s Dilema and In Defense of Food, may have the best description of a healthy diet. His mantra: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Sounds simple enough but there are a lot of assumptions in those few small sentences. First his statements assume that we know what constitutes food, and if you’ve read his books it’s pretty clear that a lot of folks are confused about real food. General trends have shown that the more we “understand” about nutrition the less healthy the American population has become. Why is this? It would seem that having more knowledge would increase our abilities to eat well.  What has really happened though is that we have learned to create “food like substances” with all the nutrients of food made completely of chemicals.  We have forgotten what a tomato looks like, much less tastes like.  Our lives have become so busy  that it is easier to grab a meal replacement bar or shake than to make a sandwich or, heaven forbid, an actual meal.  When Polan says food, he means actual food that our grandmothers would recognize, not yogurt in a tube or protein in a candy bar.  Secondly, his statment assumes that we know what “not too much” means.  Part of the reason we are seeing such an epidemic of obesity and eating disorders in America is because we have lost track of what a portion really is.  Most dieticians recommend 3-4 ounces of protein 2-3 times a day.  Three to four ounces of protein is about the size of a deck of cards.  When was the last time you ate a piece of meat that small?  On the other hand, a portion of veggies or fruit is about half a cup, or the size of a tennis ball.  Recommendations state 4-5 portions of fruit and 4-5 portions of veggies a day.  If we ate this way, we would completely refocus our plate on fruits and vegetables rather than a giant slab of meat (which meets Polan’s third statement).  A serving of pasta is a cup, which would barely cover a small salad plate, much less the dinner plates most of us eat from.  Considering, most of us probably eat a few pieces of bread with that pasta we are more than meeting the requirement for grains we need in a day. 

So as you can tell, most Americans suffer from disordered eating.  That simply means that we don’t eat in a way that creates a healthy relationship with food or with our bodies.  Most of us live in a state of unhappiness about the way we look and what we’re eating.  Most of us don’t feel like we have to time or the energy to do anything about it.  This is a far cry from someone who has an eating disorder.  People with eating disorders are completely and totally consumed by thoughts of food and concerns about the way their bodies look.  They believe that they way they look determines their value as a human being, that the food they eat tells others about the kind of person they are.  They often participate in incredibly unhealthy and dangerous behaviors such as starving themselves or forcing themselves to vomit.  Others eat such massive amounts of food that they become physically ill afterwards.  For the most part, eating disorders are not about food or even weight.  They are about asserting control over something in a world that feels uncontrollable, feeling worthless, and a variety of other emotional concerns that feel too difficult to deal with.  People turn to food as a way to take control because it is something tangible, it’s something “real” that they can manipulate.  Emotions are hard to deal with and often times very scary.  It’s much easier to decide dairy products are the bad guys than to try to understand why you feel sad all the time.

I have a theory about why we have seen such an increase in eating disorders and unhealthy eating over the past couple of decades.  I believe that we have completely lost touch with the process of eating.  A salad is no longer a multi layered dish of ingredients that were carefully chosen from a grocery store or farmer’s market.  It comes in a plastic box at Wendy’s with ingredients chosen based on cost effectiveness not nutritional value.  Spaghetti sauce comes out of a jar and gets heated in five minutes.  It is not a dish prepared from tomatoes, herbs, and spices that simmers all day while filling the house with amazing smells.  Dinner time is most often had in the car on the way to an activity.  It is an inconvenience that happens as we go to something more important.  It is rarely an occasion in and of itself that involves family and friends connecting over food that they either grew or cooked themselves.  One thing I encourage my clients with eating disorders to do is to visit the farmer’s market and talk with the farmers about how the food was grown and the work it took to create their produce.  This often gives someone new respect for food and it becomes less of an inconvenience and more of something to be appreciated and savored.  Some even take it a step further and begin their own garden.  How amazing would it be if we all gained a new respect for food?  If we began seeing it as something that takes effort and has more importance in our lives than we currently admit?  I think our concerns about health would change, and I know we would have a better relationship with food as a whole.

Feeling Privileged and Why That’s Not a Good Thing

When I was in college at UNC, I read an article that had a profound effect on the way I view my life.  Peggy McIntosh wrote about White Privilege.  This is the idea that some of us have “an invisible package of unearned assets that [we] can count on cashing in each day.” (p. 30*)  McIntosh found that she had difficulty explaining this concept, even to people who were open to discussing issues of diversity.  So she made a list of these privileges.  I wanted to share a few of them to give you the idea and then share my own list that I have made recently.

1.  I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2.  I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
3.  I can go into a bookshop and count of finding the writing of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can deal with my hair.
4.  I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color. 
5.  I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
6.  I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
7.  I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
8.  I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
9.  I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

These are just a sample of the 46 privileges that McIntosh came up with for herself.  Most of these privileges are good things and should be extended to everyone.  Having privilege is like playing baseball and automatically getting to start on second base.  Or playing basketball and always getting to inbound the ball at half court.  It’s not that those things are bad, it’s that they are not extended to everyone who is playing the game.

This article was brought to mind for me this morning because of a very big issue that has arisen in many states and finally became personal to me because it happened in my home state.  Yesterday, North Carolina added their first amendment to their state constitution.  But rather than protecting the rights of their citizens, this amendment took rights away.  I have always avoided discussing political issues on my professional websites, blogs, and Facebook pages because of a fear of alienating potential and current clients.  However, this has become more than a political issue for me. 

Let me begin by saying that I am an ally for the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community.  I work with members of this community in my practice on a daily basis and so many of them come to see me because of the overt and covert discrimination that they face on a daily basis.  They come to see me because I am one of the few professionals who will advertise that I am an ally.  They come to see me because it is one of the few safe places they have in their lives.  So for me this has become a mental health issue that is impacting my clients, my colleagues, and my friends. 

So, yesterday when my home state passed an amendment to their state constitution banning same sex marriage and declaring that the only union that would be legally recognized would be a marriage between one man and one woman, I became angry, sad, ashamed, and determined.  I also have to recognize some level of feeling privileged and not in a good way.  I recognize the impact votes like these in states so far from where I practice have on my GLBT clients.  They are constantly aware of the atmosphere in this country and it creates a sense of fear and mistrust in their lives.  So I decided to make my own list of privileges.  Some of these are based on posts I saw from my friends on Facebook yesterday and today, some are based on things clients have said to me through the years, and some are based on just my own thoughts.  I hope they give some people pause and cause them to think about how their beliefs impact others.  But mostly, I hope it shows people who identify as GLBT that they do have allies and that we are aware of the lack of justice that is in our country right now.

Heterosexual Privileges:
1.  I can decide to marry the person that I love and be confident that my current state and any other state in which I choose to live will recognize my marriage as a legal union.
2.  I can hold hands with, kiss, and hug my partner in public without worrying about my safety or the safety of my partner.
3.  When I am out with my partner, other people do not stare at us trying to figure out if we are in a relationship.
4.  I can attend any church or religiously affiliated organization and not worry that they may not accept my life partner.
5.  No one questions whether my “lifestyle” is a choice.  It is assumed that I was born straight.
6.  I never have to “come out” to anyone.
7.  I never have to fear that by coming out I might jeopardize my career, my family, or my safety.
8.  I never have to worry that my children will be rejected because of the sex of my partner.
9.  If I am ever hospitalized, I do not have to worry about whether my partner will be able to visit me, make medical decisions, or have medical information about me withheld.  The same is true if my partner is hospitalized.
10.  In the event of my death, I have no fear that our children may not be raised by my partner.  My partner does not have to fear this either.
11.  When I started dating my partner, I had no concern that my family and friends would disapprove of him simply because of his sex.
12.  Either me or my partner will always be able to sign permission slips for our children, make medical decisions about our children, and pick up our children from school and daycare.  With no questions asked.
13.  I do not have to worry about being evicted from my home in the event that my partner dies, regardless of whose name is on the deed.
14.  I never have to worry about people trying to “save” me because of the sex of my partner.
15.  I do not have to worry about whether my family doctor, my OB/GYN, my therapist, my psychiatrist, or my pharmacist will disapprove of my “lifestyle” or if they might even deny me treatment.
16.  No one thinks about my sex life when they are introduced to my partner.
17.  No one has ever reacted to me with fear or disgust because of the person that I love.
18.  I can receive tax advantages for being married.
19.  I do not have to worry about having health insurance because my partner’s insurance will automatically cover my health care and the health care of our children.
20..  I have never been told that I am a sinner or that I will go to hell because of the person I love.
21.  No state has ever made a law or changed their constitution in an effort to deny my rights to marry.
22.  If I chose to do so, I could ignore all of these privileges and live my life in total denial that they even exist.

These are just a few quick things that I came up with in the 15 minutes that it took me to type the list.  I’m sure there are more.  I am also equally as sure that my GLBT clients are aware of these things everyday.  Can you imagine living your life without these rights?

*”White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” by Peggy McIntosh.  Published in:  Feminist Frontiers:  5th Edition edited by Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, and Nancy Whittier.

Being a Witness – What Our Soldiers Have Taught Me

Over the past 6 months I’ve been doing assessments with veterans who are suffering from various psychological concerns. The most common by far is PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). This disorder occurs when someone experiences something so traumatic (war, rape, attempted murders, 9/11) that their brain just doesn’t know how to cope with it. Symptoms include vivid nightmares, constant thoughts of the event/s, feeling as if the event were occurring in present time, attempts to avoid reminders of the event, use of drugs and alcohol to avoid thinking about the event, feeling as if you have no future, feeling detached from people and life in general, forgetting significant pieces of the event, and extreme anxiety when exposed to things that remind you of the event. People with PTSD often feel constantly on guard and edgy. They are often irritable and depressed, not to mention sleep deprived. Many of the veterans that I’ve been working with have been dealing with these symptoms for decades and feel like their lives have been destroyed. And who wouldn’t?

Can you imagine for even a moment witnessing people die horrific deaths and fearing that you could be next? On top of that experience, your brain then forces you to relive it in some way on an almost continual basis. It’s a horrible way to live and makes holding a job, taking care of children, talking with a partner, and even getting out of bed impossible at times. Unfortunately, this isn’t something we’re likely to see any less of in the future. Our soldiers are being asked to risk their lives everyday and they are witnessing terrifying events. For the most part, we don’t teach young men and women in their 20s how to cope with these situations. Why would we? Most of us never have to think about these issues, much less witness them.

Before I started doing this work, I didn’t give it much thought either. I knew about PTSD and I had seen the symptoms in the women I worked with who had been raped or abused. The fears of America’s soldiers were never really on my radar. And yet some of the hardest stories I have had the honor of hearing, have come from these men and women. The level of terror we ask our soldiers to endure is breathtaking. I, as most of us probably do, look at military officers as being brave and strong, able to handle anything that comes at them. We forget that they are also human.

It is that humanity that I have so connected with over the past few months. These veterans risked their lives so that Americans could feel safe. I have also learned that it doesn’t take much to help the veterans either. After most of my appointments, the overwhelming response I get is gratitude for being willing to listen. Most of these men and women have never shared their experiences with anyone – they feel that no one wants to hear it or that admitting they were scared means they are weak. If even one soldier feels this way, we are failing our veterans.

Being a witness to the fear and the horror has become my most important job. Working with these men and women has changed how I work with all of my clients. I have come to understand that most people simply want someone to acknowledge their pain and tell them they have every right to feel that way. I’m not suggesting that you sit down with your nearest soldier and start asking them about their experiences – you may hear some things that you truly aren’t ready to learn. However, what you can do is help them find someone who is able to hear their story and support them in the healing process. Rather than letting them withdraw or push you away, offer your support and caring. Being a witness – it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve had the honor of doing.

Toning Shoes for Girls?!?

I was signing into my personal email account the other day, when a news item caught my attention. Skechers Shape-Ups . . . for girls! Now these ridiculous shoes have already made it into the closets of many women, even though there is no evidence they follow through on the leg toning abilities they claim to offer. But really, do young girls really need to be concerned about how toned their legs are? the headline itself kind of got my blood boiling, but then I read the story. These shoes are being marketed primarily on child centered television. Skechers is also not offering an equivalent type of shoes to boys. Do boys not need strong legs? That is what Skechers claims they are offering in the statement they released in response to a petition to get the shoes off the market. They even compared these shoes to Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Let’s Move Initiative, saying the shoes are about being active. Um, no they’re not. Tennis shoes are about being active. These shoes are about telling women and now girls, that nice legs are toned (and preferably tanned). In related news, the Today Show ran a piece this week about a mom in California giving Botox to her 8 year old daughter before pageants. What possible reason could an 8 year old have for needing Botox?

These two stories have truly made me question what the future holds for little girls. I work with women everyday who loathe their bodies and can tell you exactly which parts are wrong. They have learned their worth is measured by how their outsides look, regardless of what that does to their insides. And these women did not grow up with anywhere near the amount of pressure young girls experience today. I am not advocating that these products be removed from the market (well, except maybe the child Botox), but I am advocating that parents become smart consumers and that they teach their children to do the same. One of my favorite things to do with younger clients struggling with eating and body image is to look through the fashion magazines with a critical eye. Talk about the photo shopping, hours of hair and make-up, and unrealistic expectations being placed on the models. Talk about whether all of that sounds healthy. Educate them on what is realistic and what is simply Hollywood magic. Our children are smarter than we think they are sometimes. Some of these young women that I work with understand the pressure in those glossy pages better than I ever have. Understanding it doesn’t always mean that they can fight it though and sometimes that pressure gets the best of them. The ones who move through that and go on to feel proud of themselves for the size of their heart or brain rather than the size of their jeans, have parents who teach them that looks are not the key to success. Wearing the right makeup or making frown lines disappear will not make you feel good about yourself. And who knows, maybe if more of us felt that way, these products would disappear on their own. We can always hope.

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