Therapy Digest 09

Therapy Digest 09

 

 

 

Therapy Digest 09
Ghosting arrives in the workplace while deviant sex and violence are played out in the virtual world of video gaming or in our own head. Plus simple steps to accountability.

 

The ghost in the machine

Ghosting as a term originated in the world of dating and specifically online dating where people might be more likely to hedge their bets and be communicating online with several potential suitors before making their romantic choice.

In the early stages of online getting-to-know-one-another technology acts as both a facilitator to communications and a barrier. It is the same dynamic that people feel gives them permission to behave badly whilst driving even though they would be less likely to ever behave in the same way in face to face situations.

When you are ghosted you are unceremoniously dropped and usually blocked from all previous ways of communicating. This happens without warning in most cases and without recourse to an explanation and that can feel extremely distressing and confusing.

Ghosting is now showing up in the workplace too as increasing numbers of job candidates suddenly block all communications with their potential employer during the latter stages of negotiation.

In India, for instance, a prime example of where talent is in the ascendency and skilled candidates are in demand about 35 per cent of potential hires end with the candidate ghosting themselves from the talent acquisition pipeline. That means that out of every 10 hires, about 3-4 people ghost their potential employer.

In the workplace ghosting costs, money and time invested in a recruitment process ending in a disappearing act and how business is handling this provides some interesting strategies for the world of romantic dating too.

Business is having to recalibrate its approach to corporate formality by increasing the number of contact points in their recruitment process. Human resource experts are of the view that a mix of technology-led interventions and regular human interactions could be a solution.

The new approach means that the recruitment of a new employee from the acceptance letter onwards will take a more holistic approach and include reference to the softer aspects of the candidate’s life including profession of their spouse and permanent residence considerations among others. The will also use the past incidence of where ghosting happened in the recruitment process to implement a contact point to reinforce the connection.

It can take weeks, sometimes even months for a large corporation to put in place all the minutiae required before a start date can even be set, so it’s important to ensure the candidate is kept ‘warm’ and isn’t tempted by other offers. 

Checking in on voice calls is more effective to determine if a candidate is still interested in the job role. Any signs of weakening interest from a potential hire can hopefully be countered early by communicating and reinforcing the company’s commitment to the candidate.

Getting the candidate to come in for an informal meet up after the job offer has been made gives would be employers a chance to look at the body language as well as how enthusiastic a potential hire is and can provide an idea of whether they will ghost the company. 


Reinforcing connection means that people behave better with each other making ghosting less of a problem.

Workplace ghosting also happens within internal communications and can cause an unsettling train of reactions for the person being ghosted and ignored. The emotions this may spark can follow an arc similar to that of grief beginning with feelings of shock and denial through to overwhelming sadness.

Initially, a person can feel confused and even doubt that they are being ghosted so keep making repeated and sometimes more intense efforts to contact the person. It’s not unusual for the ghosted person to feel excessive and increasing levels of anguish as the whole scenario of being sidelined keeps being played over and over in their mind.

The idea that multiple communication platforms in the workplace are an aid to improved communications has become the accepted wisdom of the day, but the reality is very different.
If you are reliant on multiple platforms, accept this is far from ideal and that you could encounter ghosting.

What the majority of these platforms have in common is that they are reductive from the optimum form of communication which is face to face, eye to eye, preferably in the same room. Anything else is a compromise and provides the connection gap that encourages people to behave disrespectfully.

This brings me neatly back to the world of dating where a connection is even more vital to minimise the distress of relationship ghosting.

A few guidelines can really make a difference to the quality of connection you have with a potential suitor or whether you are considered just another disposable candidate in the ‘talent acquisition pipeline’ to use the corporate parlance.

In all communication keep uses of tech platforms for minimal logistical information – What time and where are the ideal extent of these sorts of interactions. Nothing nuanced. Nothing that can be misinterpreted.

Establish clear lines of expectation concerning a reply and feedback framework. Agree when to be in touch again as part of each communication. If this is in place, you’ll know quickly if the other person is reliable or not.

Convert from online communication to real life, eye to eye meeting preferably in the same room as soon as possible.

In love don’t waste time communing online. Most people will know in 125th of a second – the speed of a camera shutter – whether they like the look of someone romantically in the flesh or not.

Be pro-active and include as much structure as you can with your own communication but remember their absence of response says more about them than you.

And in your romantic life consider that anyone who ghosts you is not your soul make.

Are you struggling with your communications either at work or in your private life? Does miscommunication impact on you, or perhaps you feel you’re the cause of some? Reach out to book a call with me to explore your communication dynamics and find ways to transform how you can speak your truth and be properly heard.

 

Shining a light on dark sex & violence

Immersive video games can be so convincing that the players become so engrossed that their physiology reacts with pupil dilation, a faster heart rate and increased sweating. It is as if they are fully present in their imaginary world.

Advances in technology and artistry have come a long way in achieving this level of realism. Computer game industry insiders indicate that soon the technology will become even more convincing and mainstream. More people will be enticed to spend their leisure time checking-out from their day to day reality into an enhanced virtual one of their own choosing.

For all the millions of gamers who play by the rules, there is already an emerging trend with players in virtual worlds who are relishing breaking society’s rules and taboos instead.

Some players wilfully direct their virtual characters to rape or murder one another or act out cruelty and violence on an epic scale. Within the confines of their secret virtual world, they demonstrate behaviour entirely at odds with who they are in their real lives.

Another secret world where some people play out deviant sex scenarios and violent fantasies in their mind is during consensual sex or while they self-pleasure.

Just like virtual gaming, some sexual fantasies are filled with all kinds of degrading or violent acts most people wouldn’t contemplate or agree to as part of their own vanilla sex lives.

Some people are distressed that a part of their psyche finds it exciting or even sexually satisfying to conjure up the dark sex and violence from their imagination. It makes them question themselves and ask if there’s something wrong with them in taking pleasure from acts that society as a whole doesn’t approve of or sanction.

Fantasies played out during video gaming or during sex are often extreme in nature. There is a duality where many people will view cinema or reading books created by others that explore the dark underbelly of our psyche are okay to explore but who remain secretive and ashamed of their own fantasies.

 

Sex once a private reserve is now fed by a billion dollar industry to give people what they want – even if what they wanted had never crossed their mind before. The pornography industry provides material for every ‘ism’ imaginable and themes of voyeurism, exhibitionism, violence and sadomasochism represent our internal emotional conflicts – to control or be controlled, to dominate or be dominated, to live within the light and yet access the dark.

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence with one’s dark side, and therapeutically the journey into ones’ unique secret fantasies is vital to understanding the inner workings of our mind.

Humans are massively complex creatures. For the most part, they comply with the social norms of the society in which we live. To be able to do that effectively people repress their violent urges and some of their erotic impulses too.

Our technicolour self can get reduced to a socially acceptable mono-tone, and by embracing our underbelly, we allow ourselves to indulge and delight in the forbidden.

It is genuinely healthy for us explore our dark fantasies of sex and violence.

Psychologists agree that there is no correlation between conscious desires and sexual or violent fantasies. The ability to fantasise and explore internal worlds of imagination is a valuable, even vital component of the human mind. It reflects our ability to manipulate thoughts, ideas, perceptions and reality, all within the private confines of our own minds.

What does it mean, that some of our own fantasies and thoughts frighten us or disturb us?

Do people who have these thoughts and fantasies ultimately act upon them?

Do these fantasies become burning desires that must be satisfied in the real world?
Do they take over a person’s mind and life, such that eventually, fulfilling the fantasy becomes the most essential thing in a person’s life?

Will these secret imperatives translate to real life mayhem and destruction?

The answer is it’s all about context. If exploring our dark side is just one activity within a balanced, creative, socially connected and fulfilling life then most likely the part-time fantasists in us all will remain emotionally stable and healthy.

Relax, sexual fantasies and the dark scenarios played out in virtual worlds are just a pressure valve release for most people. 

A word of advice. Most couples are curious about the sexual fantasies of their partners and what fantasies they indulge in during sex. Is it a good idea to divulge all? Probably not seems to be the consensus from my couples therapy work. Best draw a veil or lie and tell them you just fantasise about them…seems to be a better option.

If you feel your life is out of balance and want to transform how you think and feel about yourself, then you can reach out and book an obligation free call with me on this page.

 

Steps to being accountable

People generally aren’t accountable and they become experts at the blame game. They blame other people, themselves, and quite often the world.

They wonder why things aren’t happening for them the way they wanted them to. It’s a mystery to them and will remain a mystery until they have the revelation that gives them an insight into their predicament. The one that goes something like this – they are the only one that can make their life better. Them and only them.

So to hold yourself accountable for perhaps the first time ever is at once not just empowering but totally liberating.

If there is one person on the planet who you can trust your life’s dreams and aspirations to, it is you, so finally you are in the best hands to succeed and thrive.

Once you’ve had the realisation that the buck stops with you, then all the excuse making for what had or hadn’t happened is irrelevant.

It’s so easy to blame everyone else for our problems without looking inward at what negative limiting beliefs or self-sabotaging habits are really to blame.

Now imagine if you were to put the same amount of effort for excuse-making into servicing your goals?

Imagine how different life can be from now on if you were always conscious of those times when you were making excuses and just stopped yourself.

Don’t judge yourself, just simply ask yourself what you could do differently to get better results.

Taking responsibility means you allow yourself to be accountable.
If amazing stuff is happening, you are responsible for part of it or all of it. If challenging stuff is happening, you are responsible for part of it or all of it.

Being accountable puts you in the driving seat, and you get back ownership of your life.

Shift your focus
Is your glass half empty or half full?
Do you focus on the obstacles in your life instead of seeing the possibilities?
Shift your focus from the rearview mirror to the present, and you’ll notice how everything looks different.

By focusing on the present, you can work on changing your reality. Focusing on past failures and disappointments creates a present of regret and unhappiness, and that’s disempowering.

By focusing on what you can do now, you can align with the fantastic possibilities life has to offer you.

 

Life knocks us all down at times. No-one escapes however blessed they may seem. The variable is how long we stay down before being able to bounce back from adversity.

So ask yourself what is my focus right now? 

Am I focusing on something I want or am I focussing on something I don’t want? 

Am I seeing the possibilities and opportunities or only the obstacles?

These questions help you get clarity and create awareness.

Who is speaking to you?
Change how you speak to yourself.
Take a moment to listen to your inner voice. You may be surprised how detrimental it is and how it puts you down.
Find a new way of dealing with your disappointments that do not involve beating yourself up emotionally.

Listen and be aware of the stories that you tell yourself. You may realise you’ve been living with a script in your mind for a long time. It could be a story about your self-worth or what failure says about you as a person but all of these are constructs, and they’re not real.

Becoming aware of your stories means you can let go of those negative judgements that have been running on auto-pilot. It can help you shift from a result-at-all costs focus to one where you relish the experience and learn to enjoy the moment more.

Choose instead to refocus on the present and be accountable for how you can move forward.

When you are accountable for your own life, everything changes from the way you talk to yourself about how you think and feel about yourself.
Having this increased self-awareness means you can deal more effectively with any situation you find yourselves in.

The day you chose to be accountable for your own life is the day you take back control and step into a more empowered and satisfying role.

Most people believe that their emotions are beyond their control. However, where they focus their attention is their choice. It is also everyone’s choice in how they speak to themselves and the language they use. It is also everyone’s choice to be accountable and to take responsibility for their own happiness.

If you are struggling to get to the point where you are ready to change the reach out and book an obligation free call with me. Change itself takes a moment but to get to that point can be hard on your own.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

Therapy Digest 08

Therapy Digest 08

 

 

Therapy Digest 08  
Catching my eye in my therapy practice and in the media right now are relationships and the damage lies can cause;  Our primaeval need for true connection in the time of tech obsession and how jealousy hurts no one but yourself – so let it go!

Playing for connection – our need to deeply connect with each other has got lost

Maybe it is as if the addictive power of the latest shiny tech smartphone or tablet might be loosening its grip on us all at last – or at least for some of us. Or, maybe it’s just not so great after all that everyone is plugged into their own gadgets having their independent, but solitary experiences online.

Whatever the cause, there has been a recent resurgence in the popularity of playing board games with friends in cafe´s or bars and for families spending an evening together in their sitting rooms.

A clue for this is that the most powerful drive of human nature is of connection to one another. We thirst for it and literally cannot thrive without it. It’s primaeval and these instincts are hardwired into our ‘old brain’. The ‘old brain’ is the innermost part of the brain, the part nearest the spinal cord.

It’s this part of our brain that carries out the same functions for us today as they did for our ancient ancestors. The ‘old brain’ is in charge of basic survival functions, such as breathing, moving, resting, and feeding, and creates our experiences of emotion. Further brain layers developed in mammals including humans that provide more advanced functions—for instance, better memory, more sophisticated social interactions, and the ability to experience emotions.

In recent years smartphones and tablets have changed the way we spend time together so that even when in the same room together attention can be fractured or disassociated by the sound of an electronic ping.

A board game is a perfect antidote to the tech overwhelm many are experiencing today. In fact, there’s nothing like a board game played between two or more people to bring attention back to the here and now.

What is also great about board games is how the structure and rules of a game allow friends or family to express healthy competition under the guise of playing a game.’

With board games, there is a compelling emotional link to childhood for people. In many cases, although of course not everyone, childhood felt like a less chaotic or challenging time, and we can be nostalgic for that too.

Board games give people an even playing field to compete with each other and permission to go all-out to win. This can make thrashing your mates at Scrabble momentarily heartening especially for those who are struggling in other areas of their life.

Work for many has never felt more pressured, and relationships can be complicated, so even a small victory is a victory.

Research by Alex Lickerman, M.D., author of ‘Happiness in this World: Reflections of a Buddhist Physician’ confirms that when couples actively compete together whether in a sporting capacity such as on a volleyball team; a treasure hunt team; or even the same team for a group board game there are definite benefits.

For instance, it enhances their sense of cohesiveness, often even if they lose.

He further suggests a strong connection is reinforced by shared experience, the antithesis of our tech experience.
Gil Greengross, Ph.D., author of ‘Humor Sapiens: The laughing ape and other insights into the nature of funny.’ recommended catching a funny movie or going to a comedy club.

Hip also said “Sharing a laugh together is always helpful, but often couples are too stuck in their routines to crack each other up. Letting someone else tell the jokes takes away pressure.” —

All of these activities break patterns of behaviour that can make our intimate relationships or how we interact with our friends seem stuck in a rroutine that might not give us what we need.

Robert Taibbi, the author of ‘Fixing Families: Tools for walking the intergenerational tightrope,’ gave some great advice when he said “If you need more affection, give it. More sex, offer it. More listening, do it. By giving what you desire, you break old relationship patterns and let your partner know what relationship elements matter to you.”

So, if you’re looking for a more significant connection with the people love and care about turn off the tech and sit around a table to play some board games. You never know where a game of Scrabble could lead…

If you are struggling to find a connection with others or even connecting to yourself you may need a few more strategies than a game of Monopoly can afford to make the first move and connect with me via the Discovery Call link on this page and we can take it from there.

Would I lie to you? And how would you know?

We are seemingly living in the age of post-truth and even blatant lies so it can feel daunting to be a seeker of truth in our personal relationships. There is so much deception, and hidden agendas its challenging to know if you are being lied to or cheated on.

However, our bodies always do try to tell the truth – and you can read the signs if you know what to look for.

Someone who is lying to you will often show it with their body language. A liar can do this by almost slipping into themselves, slouching and shrinking. This is a subconscious attempt to protect themselves while they lie.

They may also lean away from you, and that could be a tell-tale sign that they’re uncomfortable and their body is exposing that. Lean in towards them and watch their reaction. Do they look more uncomfortable? Do they move away?

Observe if a person crosses their legs so that their top leg blocks you. Or, if they sit with their back half turned towards you. or places their hands on their opposite side from you. You can also pay to see if their hands are held away from you or that they’re pointing their feet towards the room’s exit in a sub-conscious acknowledgement of their escape route.

Someone telling the truth tends to have a more open body posture indicating again subconsciously that they have nothing to hide so that they are comfortable being physically more open.

Another indicator of someone lying is that they will self-sooth to calm themselves by doing things like repeatedly touching their face or rubbing their forehead.

Equally, the more skilful a person is with lying they already know about these sub-conscious indicators that could give them away as lying and work hard to counter them consciously.

Liars typically want to trick the other person into thinking they’re calmer than they are, so they choreograph their movements to reflect this by trying to manifest a fake aura of calm.

So if someone’s face seems expressionless, like a poker-face or their arms are pinned at their sides so that they look unnaturally still they might be making a great deal of covert effort to look calm and trustworthy when they’re not at all. In fact, this kind of poker-face lying and conscious control of their body language is indicative of a skilled liar, making it difficult to discern the truth.

It’s not surprising that a lack of eye contact is one of the most conspicuous non-verbal signs that someone is lying. You can see it with small children who have been caught out doing something they’re not supposed to do. Children look away or look down when they’re lying as they desperately want to disengage from the situation and haven’t as yet developed the guile to do anything else more convincing or compelling to cover their lies.

People understand on a deep primaeval level that eye contact is an essential part of normal conversation and when someone tries to avoid eye contact it feels very uncomfortable and unsettling.

Depending on how long you’ve been exposed to a person’s lies and how skilled they are at lying, it is almost impossible for most liars not to have inconsistencies in their story.

Counter-intuitively liars often embellish their stories with extraneous detail to make their lies seem more credible. You might think if they were lying they would tell their stories with expansive and vague brush strokes keeping detail to a minimum but this isn’t often the case.

One lie a client was told was about a car journey that took her partner out of town for a couple of days on what it turned out was a fake work trip supposedly over the Pennine Hills of Northern England. He came back with ‘real-life’ details of how his journey had been hampered with landslide warnings. This was a credible detail used to embellish his story. It turned out to be a complete fabrication as later my client found out he hadn’t gone far at all and was ensconced in luxury London Hotel for the weekend.

Another woman’s husband told her their telephone line was regularly unplugged from its socket by their dog playing with his toy rubber-bone in the hallway. He blamed the dog for covering the fact that it was him who regularly disconnected the landline when she was home during the evening so that credit card companies he was indebted to could not connect him via their landline.

If you’re suspicious, listen carefully to their story. If you’re in a relationship with someone you suspect of lying you will want to give them the benefit of the doubt as nothing is more painful than being lied to by someone you care about. Catching a liar out in a lie may be as easy as questioning them on one inaccuracy in their story.

Finally, your best lie detector is your intuition or gut instinct. Your intuition is your best friend, It has no other agenda than taking care of you and only ever wants what is best for you so if you feel uncomfortable about something or someone you need to listen to your instinct. In hindsight, lots of people will say how I never really trusted them, but I had no idea why not – well that was their gut instinct saying watch out! Don’t be one of those who over-rode their instinct and regretted it. Just ask yourself; How do I feel about this” and listen to your intuition because it is always telling you the truth.

Sally was recently interviewed by MTV to fast track viewers of their new TV series ‘True Love or True Lies.’ She gave insights into body manner and behaviours to help people recognise the give-away signs that liars find hard to hide when they are not telling the truth.

If you have been lying to yourself or others or are left broken-hearted by betrayal and lies reach out now to make contact with an obligation free discovery call.

 

Feeling jealousy when you see an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend out with their new beau says a lot more about how you think and feel about yourself than just reacting to the pang of the green-eyed monster.

Ex’s are ex’s for all the right reasons so you can wish every last one of them well and thank the lucky stars that you are not with them anymore. Being footloose means, you can focus on doing things that make you happy and increase your sense of self-confidence and self-fulfilment.

To wholeheartedly let go of your past you need to trust that your future is positive and the best is still to come. You may need to fake that feeling until you can own it for yourself and make inner-optimism your default mindset.

Even with only a glass half full approach to life, you are more open to possibilities and new beginnings than the glass half empty jealousy mantra you’ve been focusing on about someone who’s not even worth the mental attention you are paying them. It’s just BS thoughts so stop it now!

Some people have a well-developed sense of resilience – the ability to bounce back from disappointments and let-downs. You can often tell who they are as they are fortunate enough to have unwavering faith in themselves and their ability to recover from all sorts of adversity. They are not prone to jealous feelings are they are determined to live their lives and thrive.

Not everyone’s childhood was ideal, and the seeds of jealous reactions and self-doubt were probably sown when you were growing up. Sometimes childhood experiences hamper you developing your inner-resilience, and this affects your ability to shrug off disappointments in love too.

if you are the kind of person who struggles more with self-doubt and self-esteem issues, there is plenty you can do develop those core skills now and to move on from past relationships and leave jealousy behind you.

To help you to do that learn to interrupt your over-thinking when you find yourself replaying the ‘What if’s and the ‘If only’s’. Ruminating on the past is called disordered thinking, and it’s a stumbling block to your happiness.

If you naturally feel pessimistic and your self-esteem feels battered by past relationship breakdowns you could help yourself gain some useful perspective by acknowledging the reality of those relationships.

 

It’s easy to hanker over some overly-romanticised and idealised version of what you two had together. Seriously, if your ex-lover was that great why did he or she make you feel insecure, doubt yourself, or make you feel sad? And, why did they end up sleeping with your best friend?

The dreaded re-coupling with an unsuitable ex often takes place in a moment of self-doubt when you’ve managed to over-ride your gut instinct that is shouting ‘No!’ Come on it happens and you can find yourself back in a relationship that is not good for you. Take a deep breath and connect with your inner courage that is there hidden and often ignored in all of us before you break the news that ‘It’s me and not you’ and leave them to get on with their own life while you duster yourself down and prepare for more. Coupledom might be called settling down, but it’s not called settling for less.

The person out there in the world for you is the one who makes your world a better, happier place to live in and who sticks around to work things out with you. The way you’re guaranteed to find him, or she is to kick jealousy into touch and get busy enjoying your life to your utmost will make you magnetic and irresistible.

Do you find yourself attracted to partners who let you down but find it hard to break those ties? If jealousy is one of your key emotional responses, it’s time to let go of old patterns of behaviour that do not serve you. You can book an obligation free call with me via the link on this page.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

Therapy Digest 07

Therapy Digest 07

It’s that time of week again and here’s my latest therapy digest of media that caught my eye relating to my work or topics that have shown up with my clients.

Dieting is the wrong focus for overweight kids and teens.

For parents who have teenagers struggling with their weight, a recent study in Cleveland, USA showed that encouraging them to diet sent the wrong message and could have long-lasting adverse effects on their relationship with food.

Researchers followed more than five-hundred teens in the US who had been told to diet. After checking back in with them some fifteen years later, the researchers found that the diet group they studied were now more likely to be overweight and have problems with their body image than a control group who were not told to diet.

Experts from many countries now agree that focussing on dieting at a young age can create a dysfunctional relationship with food that can influence a person’s eating behaviours for decades.

Seeing dieting as a negative influence is due in part to the fact that most diets are calorie restrictive and the compulsion to eat and even overeat can feel overwhelming when one is experiencing enforced hunger and lead to yo-yo dieting.

A pattern of behaviour develops for many yo-yo dieters of commitment to the latest fad diet-plan only to give up and regain the weight they lost plus usually more too. This pattern of weight loss and weight loss can hurt self-esteem as people feel like failures when in fact it was the diet that failed them.

So, how does acknowledging that focussing on diets with young people can be counter-productive sit with a recent campaign initiated in some UK schools that intend to send a letter home to parents to alert them that their child is overweight? The idea behind the letters is in response to a record number of under-11s who are already too heavy and who are potentially contributing to a national health crisis.

The ‘fat-shaming’ letters have sparked a debate as to whether sending these notifications to parents are cruel or a necessary evil to prompt parents to act. The discussion also poses the question that if your child is overweight as a parent do you already know this and are in denial or just not sure what to do for the best?

It is not clear from advance information whether the letters advise parents on how to tackle their child’s obesity and whether putting a child on a diet is recommended or not.

Apparently what the letter doesn’t address is the causal link between childhood obesity and food poverty when lower-income families struggle to provide nutritious and satisfying food on a tight budget. The ability to provide nourishing meals if further hampered when the adults in the household are not skilled at home cooking or do not have access to adequate cooking facilities.

A more promising approach that came from the US study of teens reported that instead of focusing on what not to eat it is better to focus on the health and nutrition that comes with eating well. To achieve this will mean teaching children about how to buy, prepare and eat real food versus the drawbacks of eating junk food.

Influencing young people with sound information about proper nutrition is harder to achieve as many of the world’s largest ‘frankenfood’, and soda manufacturers regularly contribute to the funding and the creation of misleading or biased resources for schools and colleges.

The report also recommended teaching young people mindful eating so that kids learn to slow down their eating and focus on their meal times by turning off devices so that consumption doesn’t happen in a zoned out way while occupied doing something else.

“It’s so important to give teens these skills at this juncture in their life, and I talk to parents about tools, not rules. So moving away from food rules but helping them change their habits around the way they eat,” said Susan Albers, at the Cleveland Clinic.

Experts also recommend helping your teenager learn to manage stress by relaxing, reading or going for a walk, as opposed to turning to food. That will help steer them away from comfort-eating and swallowing down their emotions with food which leads to emotional eating.

If you or a member of your family is struggling with weight loss or weight management food may have become a way to manage painful emotions including anxiety and anger. If this sounds familiar, you can book an obligation free call on this page.

Women quit sex after cancer.

I was saddened but not surprised to read a recent headline in the Daily Mirror newspaper quoted the results of a survey from the UK’s Breast Cancer Care charity.

They asked nearly 1,000 women of whom almost 95% said cancer treatment had stopped them from having sex. This figure included a high percentage of women who had been diagnosed three or more years previously indicating that women struggle with this problem for a long time.

Of the total of women surveyed 94% reported that side effects of their life-saving treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapies had stopped them having sex and they blamed the adverse impact on their libido, uncomfortable vaginal dryness and reduced self-esteem.

More than two-thirds said they were not warned about the possible detrimental impact of their treatment on their sex life and the majority reported they did not receive adequate support from health professionals.

Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care, said, ‘These figures paint a troubling picture of the reality for countless women whose relationships and sex lives are sidelined – sometimes permanently.’ She continued, ‘Everyday we hear from women with dramatic scars, hair loss and intimate physical changes. The treatment for breast cancer can be utterly traumatic and side effects can continue for years.’

When I read the article in the newspaper, it hit home to me that for every traumatised woman there must be quite often a traumatised partner too also sidelined and cut adrift by a system not geared up to resolve the emotional fallout of these treatments and the inevitable physical changes that survival has demanded.

Clearly, cancer survivors, in particular, are exposed to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from both the diagnosis and the rigours of the treatment.

It feels cruel indeed to submit women to all of what cancer treatment entails to continue living and yet not be given every possible support to thrive fully.

I work with a lot of clients living with chronic disease and have worked over the years with many women survivors of breast cancer too.

The work often needs to begin by exploring how their image of who they are has so fundamentally changed and that naturally brings with it grief and sadness for the person they were before their illness.

There are similar feelings of loss acknowledged by most of my clients who are living with the fall-out from chronic disease. The loss of one’s former self is felt very strongly and deserves to be acknowledged and mourned.
There is no expectation of clients having to accommodate a blanket acceptance of everything that has happened to them on the premise of ‘I can’t dwell on this because I’m lucky to be alive’. The work gives a voice to all of their emotions from anger and sadness to fear, and the work can only be transformational if those emotions are acknowledged as valid.

When working therapeutically with life-changing issues such as these, it is wonderful to be able to work directly with the sub-conscious mind. Working in this way cuts through all of the subtle and not so subtle pressure to be brave or stoic or whatever else is going on so that powerful changing can be made at a profound level.

It is important not to underestimate the enduring trauma of partners, parents and other family members too. Their need for therapy to resolve the residual fears they are holding on to and their own sadness can get lost in the relief of their loved one’s recovery. However, it is vital to work so that everyone is able to unite once more in their new landscape.

Survivors of cancer need to find a way to fully come home to themselves and that journey is just as vital for their complete recovery than the chemo or whatever else they had. Therapy can bring them back to who they are, even as charged as they may be. It can also give them the choice and hopefully the desire to reconnect with the sexual part of themselves and renew their emotional relationships. The aim is never just to survive but to fully thrive again.

If you have recovered from cancer or know someone who has who continues to struggle to reconnect with who they are then you can book an obligation free call with me here on this page. If you thought survival was your goal but now you’re ready to thrive then its time to reach out.

Are drug users in your workplace?

It is no surprise that a recent report by a US federal government agency acknowledged that some 69 per cent of illicit drug users in the United States is in employment.

As a London based therapist often the clients who come to see me for help with their addiction problems are high-earning, high achieving, high functioning alcoholics or Class A drug dependents although of course, they would never describe themselves in this way.

The metropolitan professionals I see are mainly, although not exclusively men and they often normalise their recreational drug and drink consumption either in secret or in the carefully chosen company of friends or work colleagues who pretty much share their habits.

What they come to see me for as a therapist it is to cure them of their unexplained panic attacks; alarming bouts of paranoia or to relieve their symptoms of anxiety.

Alternatively, they may come to see me about how insomnia is ruining their life. Or perhaps how their violent outbursts of rage with their partner leave them feeling shaken. They are often overwhelmed by the emotional fallout from their extreme mood-swings ruining their relationship and yet at a loss to know where all their anger came from.

It only takes a few open questions to find out about their usual levels of drinking and drug use.

It is often initially described to me as occasional; recreational; just weekends. Then after a few more questions, it becomes apparent that it’s almost every, if not every weekend and that the weekend often begins on a Thursday night and can run through to a Tuesday.

In therapy, clients although initially resistant, begin to acknowledge the elephant in the room and see the correlation between their addictive behaviour and its impact on their mental well-being as well as the detrimental effect it is having on their private life.
However, it is not just out of hours behaviour that can be compromised by their drug use. It impacts on how they are at work too and if you are an employer and you have reason to suspect that drug use is affecting an employee’s performance and/or relations with co-workers, here’s some guidance on what to do

1. Don’t ignore the signs.
Obviously, if an employee has dilated pupils, slurred speech, or an unsteady walk, or if he or she smells of alcohol, you have every reason to suspect that person is having a problem. But you should also be on the alert for more frequent absences, especially with suspicious excuses, deteriorating relationships with co-workers, inattentiveness, taking longer to complete tasks or alternating between completing tasks quickly or slowly, evading responsibility for errors, and decreased attention to grooming or hygiene.

2. Make sure you know the law.
If you believe an employee may be suffering from a drug or alcohol problem that is affecting his or her work, don’t wait for it go away. Plan to sit down in private with the employee to address the problem. Before your meeting, make sure to review your legal rights and obligations to your employee.

3. Don’t assume that you know what’s truly going on–or that your employee will tell you.
Years ago, in what seems like another life now, I led a sales team. They were all younger than me and exuberant and high energy most of the time. They worked hard and as well as working together they often partied together at the weekends. I began to notice a pattern of behaviour with them collectively. Monday’s would be a slow day with a hung-over quietness amongst the team. There would be fewer calls made to sales prospects and plenty of staring vacantly into space and cigarette breaks. Regular Monday morning’s hang-over city is probably pretty common when you employ lots of young single extroverts enjoying their life in the capital and they needed lost of rallying and prompting to get through their work.

Nothing compared to the mayhem of Tuesday’s though. The team members were often agitated and argumentative with each other and worse with me. They could even be short with prospective customers on the telephone or inept at following up ‘warm calls’ that could lead to sales. Some members of the sale’s team were particularly difficult and unreasonable – but only on a Tuesday!

I couldn’t work out why this was happening and did some research to find that use of Class-A drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy cause this Tuesday mood change as people’s bodies go through the effects of a physical withdrawal from their weekend drug use.
I had to work to resolve this by focussing purely on the performance results of the team. Eventually, I promoted the worst offender to head up the team and made his pay bonuses dependent on the results the team achieved collectively. This proved to be the only way for a culture change to take place and with the insider knowledge he had of his team members he was able to make them behave more responsibly, motivated as he was by his own pay-cheque.

4. Steer the employee toward professional help.
Whatever you do, don’t try to counsel the employee yourself, or organise an in-office intervention. Your employee needs help from a trained professional, not a boss or friend, however well-meaning. If your company has an employee assistance program, you should point the employee in that direction. If not, come to the meeting prepared with brochures and phone numbers for local organisations that can provide help along with information about services your company’s insurance will cover, if any.

5. Don’t cover for the employee.
If an employee is failing to complete assigned work due to a suspected substance abuse problem, you may be tempted to lend a helping hand by finishing up some tasks yourself or re-assigning work to someone else. While you need to make sure that the work gets done, make sure to document any instances where you or someone else has to complete tasks that were the employee’s responsibility. Don’t try to save the employee from embarrassment by making excuses when he or she misses a meeting or deadline.

Your employee’s sub-standard performance should have consequences, so a record of these incidents will be a valuable tool to either compel the employee to face up to the problem or provide cause for discipline or termination if that becomes necessary. But more to the point, if you care about your employee, know that you aren’t helping him or her by providing cover — you’re enabling the substance abuse to continue. In the long run, that will only make things worse, for yourself, your employee’s co-workers, and your company.
(Some points of this guidance were first published by www.inc.com)

If you recognise that your own drug or alcohol use is getting out of control or already has impacted on your relationships and work then reach out now and make an obligation free call via the link on the page.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

Therapy Digest 06

Therapy Digest 06

Therapy Digest 06.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week’s Therapy Digest looks at the nudge theory and how it can be applied to any areas of your life where you want to makes changes plus how losing weight is a mind game and how you can use food to eat your way out of depression.

13 ways to lose weight without dieting. Clue: It’s all in your mind.

 

1.Observe the emotions that might be triggering you to over-eat. Learning to check-in with how you’re feeling increases your intuition and self-awareness. Taking the time to acknowledge your authentic feelings can interrupt your established habits of turning to food when feeling angry or sad and is an effective first step in changing your behaviour.

2. Notice if you’re regularly bingeing on sweet things at certain times of the day. Mid-morning energy slumps or afternoon drowsiness can make you crave a quick sugar fix to help drive you through the day. Instead, find ways to add more protein to your breakfast or lunch to help you to stabilise your mood and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

3. Make the times when you eat your sole focus. Zoned out eating is when you eat while doing something else such as surfing the net; working at your desk; or watching television. The act of eating is your opportunity to honour yourself with proper nutrition so take the time to source the best food you can and appreciate this act of self-loving kindness.

4. Prepare your food. The act of preparing real food is a fundamental stage for your mind and body to recognise that you are about to eat. The sight and appetising aromas of your meal cooking cause physiological and psychological reactions including signals from your brain to your stomach to release digestive enzymes in the expectation that food is on its way. The whole process of cooking from scratch aids digestion leading to increased satiety. You may well find you need to eat less to feel contented and full.

5. Mouth full – hands empty. This mantra helps to remind you to put down your cutlery between mouthfuls of food. Eating hurriedly doesn’t give your body time to register when you are full. It takes time for the messages from your stomach to register with your brain that you have eaten enough. This mantra helps to slow down your eating until it becomes your natural eating pace.

6. Always sit down to eat. Find a quiet place to sit and eat that is away from your desk so your mind and body can be receptive to the nutrition you are providing for yourself. Alternatively, turn the TV off and take a breath or two to help you to feel more relaxed before your meal. Stress hormones in the body inhibit the digestion of nutrients, so it is beneficial to be as relaxed as possible at meal times.

7. See everything you plan to eat on a plate. Eating anything including biscuits or crisps from a packet makes it much harder to keep track of how many you’ve eaten. Tip the biscuits, crisps or sweets into a bowl first to increase your awareness of how many you are eating and then focus on what you are eating. You may well find you still satisfy your desire while having eaten less.

8. Reduce your portion size by reducing your plate size. An optical illusion can play a part in managing your portion sizes. The trend for oversized plates encourages larger food servings. Choosing a smaller plate tricks your mind not to notice your smaller portion or a deep bowl with a narrow opening gives the impression of eating plentifully even with a smaller sized serving.

9. Break the eating rules imposed on you. Any parental pressure when you were growing up to clear your plate can make you feel uncomfortable as an adult about leaving food on your plate can compel you to eat more than you want. Remember whether you eat it or not the food will still end up as waste so make it your new rule to throw away food you don’t want the moment you have finished your meal.

10. Find new ways to reward yourself. Compensating or rewarding yourself with food after a tough day is favourite defaults for emotional eaters. Consider new methods of treating yourself that do not revolve around food. How about running a bath with essential oils for an indulgent soak or telephoning a friend to share the news of your day? What activities did you used to enjoy doing that you haven’t done for a while? Find ways to incorporate them back into your life.

11. Are you eating your emotions? Swallowing down food is often a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings. If you feel compelled to eat when you know you’re not hungry take a moment to focus on how you’re feeling. By merely acknowledging your feelings of anger, frustration or sadness it can be enough to break the binge eating spell and is a necessary step to dealing with what is eating at you.

12. Raise your bar and demand more. Eating foods to make you feel better or to distract yourself from life’s challenges are indicative of feeling disempowered or overwhelmed. What incremental, small changes could you make to improve how you feel about yourself? One perhaps surprising way is with walking. It is nature’s way of calming and grounding yourself by regulating your breathing. Even a short daily stroll outside can shift your mood and help you to feel refreshed and renewed.

13. Track the source of your negative, self-critical voice. We all have an inner critic to some degree, but if your inner voice is particularly acerbic or judgemental about your body size, shape or what you eat, then it is worth exploring where it originated. Becoming aware of one’s inner critic is the first step to silencing it for good. A lot of your self-judgements happen just below your conscious awareness and act as a constant drip-feed of disparaging and unkind comments. Focus on how you speak to yourself and question in your mind the assumptions you believe about yourself. Most likely they are negative and self-limiting. Learn to be your own best friend instead and speak to yourself with kindness and respect.

This post was originally written by Sally Baker & Liz Hogon for Healthista and was inspired by their book 7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating available from Amazon.

If emotional eating is stopping you from achieving your weight loss goals, then you could benefit from exploring and releasing your triggers to disordered eating. If this resonates with you, book an obligation free discovery call with me on this page.

Nudging yourself towards change

 

The Nudge Theory is about nudging or encouraging behavioural changes through positive reinforcement and indirect suggestion. In the wider world Nudge Theory has been applied to economics, politics and health. Supporters in the effectiveness of the theory exist in the hallowed halls of academia, the White House under Obama and in the British Government to name but a few.

So, how can Nudge Theory be applied to you eating healthier in your own life?

Your existing habits, thoughts and beliefs have brought you to where you are today, so nudging towards making positive changes is vital in allowing easy changes and maintaining them in the future.

Decide when
In practical terms, this means choosing a time to initiate changes that have the most chance of success. It is surprising how many people set themselves up to fail by launching a new initiative without thinking through how much they already have to do with their life.

Look at your diary for an opportunity when there may be a lull in stress levels at home or work or a time when you can give more energy to embrace fundamental changes to your usual eating habits. If you are canny with your timing, you will be giving yourself a head start towards success.

Ditch the crap
Behaving with your usual default habits around food perpetuates you feeling the same way about yourself. It is a truism that if you keep doing what you have always done, you’ll get the same results you’ve always got before.

Reaching for snacks in your kitchen that you have always reached for maintains the status quo, so an essential part of your preparation is to ditch the old low nutritious, poor quality processed foods in your cupboards and replace them with tastier and highly nutritious options. If you’re not the only family member using the kitchen, then separate out their foods from yours and claim space and ownership of the foods you want to eat.

Ideally your efforts to maximise your health and well being would be supported by all family members, but more often than not you will face resistance. If you wait for everyone in your life to come on-board you could wait a lifetime so be the change you want to see in your life; set your own standard and let them see how much healthier and happier you are. It’s about doing something for yourself.

Just because you’ve decided to nudge yourself towards better nutrition doesn’t mean you will magic away all your impulses to snack.

This is especially true while you are adjusting to this new way of eating and feeling about food. The nudge ensures everything you need is at hand to fulfil your mealtime and snacking requirements to maximise your nutrition. This may mean shopping differently and stocking your cupboards and fridge with different foods.

You will find a comprehensive list of real foods in the ‘Foods to Marry’ section of Sally Baker & Liz Hogon’s book ‘How to Feel Differently About Food’ published by Hammersmith Books. Available from Amazon

Eat your way out of depression.

 

Nutrition-related health issues seem to take an age to become part of accepted medical practice. The medical establishment requires comprehensive scientific evaluation, randomised trials and peer review before a new drug can be licensed, for instance.

The pharmaceutical company has to weigh up the costs of research and development versus the potential profit to be made from launching a successful product that can earn a good return on their investment. (When you add in the factor that 80 per cent of their budget goes on marketing, it is clear the stakes are high indeed.)

As real food is simply real food and can’t be licensed, branded or patented, there is little impetus for the business community to fund costly research.

Medical research over the last couple of decades has, nevertheless, highlighted how an unhealthy gut could contribute to many physical diseases and these findings are becoming more accepted in mainstream medicine. Clinicians increasingly agree that the gut-brain axis also plays a crucial part in emotional well-being, including the development of conditions as diverse as chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and autism.

The gut-brain axis is a way of describing the interrelationship between gut health and brain health. The various aspects of digestion are controlled via the vagus nerves by a complex set of neurons embedded in the oesophagus, stomach, intestines, colon and rectum. The brain sends messages to all the nerves in your body, including the neurons that control digestion. All works efficiently enough until a person is anxious or stressed on an ongoing basis. You perhaps know for yourself that if you are feeling nervous your stomach can feel upset and queasy. The reason for this is that strong negative emotions, stress and anxiety increase cortisol and adrenaline, which then stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and shut down the parasympathetic nervous system, which includes control of the gut.
This causes a physical chain reaction:

Reduction in pancreatic enzyme production
Reduction in gallbladder function
Reduction in the production of stomach acid
Slowing down of peristalsis – the involuntary muscle movements essential for moving food efficiently through the intestines for the absorption of nutrients
Reduction in blood flow to the intestines
Suppression of the intestinal immune system.

In the short term, this allows the body to focus its resources on ‘fight or flight’ – a good survival mechanism. However, with ongoing stress and anxiety, this cumulative slowing down and suppression of the digestive process can, over a prolonged period, lead to a condition called ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’ (SIBO).

As the digestive process is compromised by stress and anxiety, the lack of stomach acid allows the stomach and small intestine – which should both be pretty much microbe-free – to be colonised by unhealthy bacteria, and yeasts, causing foods to be fermented rather than digested. In addition to gas and bloating, compromised digestion leads to declining absorption of nutrients, which contributes to the loss of the co-factors needed for good digestion and consequently further gut problems.

Now consider this situation lasting for extended periods of time. The integrity of the gut lining may be compromised, contributing to gut permeability (‘leaky gut’) that may be sufficient to produce chronic low-grade inflammation.

The inflammatory process includes the production of cytokines, chemical signals of inflammation that are carried by the blood to the brain. The cytokines can activate cells in the brain called ‘microglia’ – the brain’s immune cells – so that the inflammation originating in the gut thereby causes widespread inflammation in the rest of the body, including in the brain.

The impact of brain inflammation is that the brain has reduced nerve conductance which – guess what – shows up as depression, anxiety and stress.

This vicious circle can self-perpetuate and requires long-term changes to heal the gut, which in turn will help to heal the brain. This is done through changes in behaviour and improving levels of nutrition through changes to food choices. To improve your natural resilience to stress it is important to increase the amount of healthy polyunsaturated omega-3 oils in your diet, so look for oily fish, grass-fed meats and butter made from the milk of grass-fed dairy herds. Good plant sources include hemp seeds, linseeds, chia and some nuts and nut oils (macadamia, almond).

If you consider yourself to be depressed, it will be helpful for your recovery to manage your stress levels, improve your sleep patterns and add nutritious and gut-healing foods into your regular eating plan. For information about all this and more see the end of this post.

Do bear in mind, however, that you may also need professional help if you have been suffering from this debilitating psychological disorder for some time. Please make sure you are accessing all the medical and psychological support you need. Try hard not to add isolation to an already challenging situation.

Gut health

As we have said, the health of your digestive system is increasingly acknowledged to be the key to your potential to be physically healthy and well. You cannot be entirely well if your digestion is out of kilter. However, you may not be aware that your digestive functioning is impaired. Many factors affect your digestion that is commonplace in our busy, modern lives. They include poor quality sleep, stress and anxiety (as explained above), stimulants such as alcohol and recreational drugs, and many prescription medications, including antibiotics.

Feeling sluggish, bloated or out of sorts becomes the usual way of feeling if it goes on for long enough. Add in processed foods and fast foods that are calorie dense and nutritionally poor, and your body becomes progressively less efficient at supporting a healthy immune system and fighting infections. Perhaps you’re already beginning to recognise yourself from this brief description.

You do not need to have had a medical diagnosis of Crohn’s disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to be experiencing the symptoms of digestive disruption. How about occasional, mysterious abdominal pain or fluctuating between diarrhoea and constipation or indigestion, heartburn and flatulence? Many people live with these symptoms for decades without ever consulting a doctor. It is as if they are resigned to feeling below par, and that this is how they expect to feel.

To find out more about how to maximise the health benefits of eating real food, then check out the book Sally Baker and Liz Hogon wrote called ‘How to Feel Differently About Food’ published by Hammersmith Books. Available from Amazon.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

Therapy Digest 05

Therapy Digest 05

Sport has dominated the whole of the UK for the past few weeks and although I’m not interested in football it has given me the opportunity to observe many aspects of the beautiful game from the dirty tactics of some of the teams to how our own waist-coated hero physically helped to lift his boys up from the ground after their semi-final defeat. I’ve learnt from Serena Williams too. I share some thoughts from recent media and whats been happening in my consulting room here in my latest Therapy Review.

Do you need surgery to love yourself?

Our body bears testament to our life. There’s no getting away from it.

The children we have borne; the life we have led and the joys and losses we’ve experienced are often writ large on our physical appearance. We carry our victories and our tragedy in the lines on our face and the curve of our back and belly.

Recently I read about Maureen Nolan, one of the Nolan Family who had pop success in the 1970s and 80s as part of an all-girl, all-sister singing troupe.
She’d revealed to the UK’s tabloid press about her plastic surgery to refresh her facial features after what she believed had been ten years of stress that had left its mark on her appearance.

She was pleased with the results and said she felt vindicated in undergoing elective surgery which went against her family’s wishes due to the risk factors involved.

So, can a knife erase the real stress and heartache of experiences and challenges that come with being alive?

Increasingly people think it can, and more and more cosmetic surgery is being sought by younger and younger women and by a growing number of men too.

Does plastic surgery work to lift emotions as well as it does to lift eye-lids? Can smoothing out worry lines effectively remove negative thinking or the limiting beliefs a person has about themselves?
Can having lip-fillers make a person love themselves more?

Plastic surgery does seem to improve some people’s self-esteem, and they often report feeling lighter and happier in themselves. However, it rarely lasts indefinitely as many of the surgical enhancements have an expiry date when they will need re-doing or topping up – depending on the procedures.

Also, however fabulous you look or however many procedures you have to improve your looks that become your benchmark, your new ‘normal’ and that soon gets taken for granted.

Weight loss, resulting from adopting changes to eating and lifestyle or post-bariatric surgery is another way that people can radically change their appearance hoping it will make them feel happier and love themselves more.

Carrying excess weight is a manifestation of a body out of balance. A therapy approach would be to bring yourselves back into balance so that it is safe to release your excess weight.

The goal would be to feel at home and safe in yourself not just be slimmer and lighter but to honour and care for yourself to the best of your ability.

It is only by entirely being comfortable being you will that you allow yourself to thrive. Self-love doesn’t mean you lose the drive to get your excess weight off and stick with being fat. Self-love doesn’t necessarily mean you will be content not to have a facelift or breast enlargement or whatever else you want to have done.

It does mean though that at the core of you will be a healthy amount of self-love so that once you’ve lost your excess weight or had your chin tucked or eyelids lifted you can go on living a full life and not sweating the small stuff.

It can be helpful to acknowledge how little you are at peace with yourself by writing it all down. By shining a light onto these self-critical, self-assassinating beliefs, you can take the first step in taking back your power from how your body looks to who you are.

In our book ‘7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating’ my colleague Liz Hogon and I suggest you list all the things you like about your body and then list all the things you dislike about your body.

Use the actual words and phrases you say about yourself or the words others have said to you to describe yourself physically.

Write down the praise and the admonishments.
As you do write your list make a note of the emotions or memories that surface. Take your time with this.

You carry the weight of your self-criticism and the emotional load of the harsh words and the physical trespasses others have made against you.
Here are some examples of like and dislike of other clients. Make your lists as comprehensive as you can.

The ‘like’ list
I like my eyes
My ankles are slim
I have narrow wrists

The ‘hate’ list
My breasts get me too much attention
I am never strong enough to protect myself
I hate my big stomach
Being small means being weak

By focussing on writing your list, you may have the revelation that it is not your physical appearance in isolation that causes you discomfort but the emotional connection you have made with your negative judgements or the judgements of others.

This work shows you the emotional undercurrent of how you feel about your physical self. So, before you choose the knife do the work needed to explore and re-appraise your judgments so that you can see them for the B.S thoughts they are.

If that feels impossible for you to do alone, I have therapy strategies that make your process of re-evaluation and self-acceptance much more compelling and effective. If you want some help with loving yourself, then call me for a chat.

Why does weight loss stall even post-WLS?

Weight loss that stalls, plateaus or ends in a person gaining back more weight than they originally lost are all forms of yo-yo dieting – a see-saw pattern of weight loss versus weight gain that can go on for years.

Yo-yo dieting when a person is focussed on losing weight and then gives up is never about being greedy, and never about a lack of willpower. It is, however, a repetitive cycle of the behaviour of the emotional eater who self-sabotages their potential weight loss success due to a number of key behavioural habits and responses, many of which exist below conscious awareness.

There are many examples of when self-sabotaging behaviour around food continues after Weight Loss Surgery (WLS).

It seems that the more people who commit to surgery without fully resolving their emotional reasons for bingeing, compulsive sugar cravings, zoned out or mindless grazing, and disordered eating in general then the more people who post-WLS will continue to struggle with emotional eating – even after a surgical intervention.

Liz Hogon and I specialise in resolving emotional eating and we see a growing number of clients post-WLS in our individual practices in London, England and Melbourne, Australia.

What kind of challenges to successful weight loss do we see with our clients who have undergone bariatric surgery?

A key one would be the continuation of endless over thinking about food. Remember to qualify for surgery on the NHS in the UK a would-be candidate for WLS would be morbidly obese and probably have other co-morbidities too such as diabetes.

Many years spent focussing on food takes up an inordinate amount of headspace. Food for emotional eaters can be an effective distraction from other issues they may have to address if they weren’t thinking so much about what they last ate or what they will eat next.

Continuing to over-think about food post surgery seems natural for many of our clients. They benefit from therapy to reframe their thinking and resolve their fears of letting go of a strategy that helped keep them distracted but that equally played a part in their weight gain in the first place.

Some compulsive behaviours around food can also continue after surgery. Even feelings of dissatisfaction about the amount of weight loss that is achieved post-WLS are an aspect of the negative self-beliefs that can dominate the thought processes and feelings of someone in the grip of unresolved emotions. These negative self-beliefs undermine a person’s sense of empowerment in their own destiny and helps to keep them feeling powerless and overwhelmed.

Feeling powerless can be a familiar feeling for many of our clients that can go back to their earliest years. Therapeutically it is tremendously powerful to reframe those old familiar feelings and let them go.

In therapy changes take place, and belief systems that no longer serve a person can be released and replaced with a more positive, and helpful framework.

Liz and I have found from our work that many of the original emotional drivers or triggers to disordered eating along with the reasons for carrying excess weight in the first place are below conscious awareness. We individually work with our clients to erase those old patterns of behaviour and that it is then, and only then that the therapy work can successfully transform how a person thinks and feels about themselves.

We believe this work is key to aligning the sub-conscious mind with the goals a person physically wants to achieve.

Liz and I believe that it is essential to resolve, and release the issues around emotional eating so that people, either with or without WLS can finally allow themselves to successfully lose weight, and maintain their weight loss.

If your weight loss has stalled and you are wondering how your limiting beliefs are getting in your way, either post-WLS or not, then you might need help to reframe your thinking and erase beliefs that no longer serve you. If this resonates with you then please book an obligation free discovery with me. The link is on this page.

Living in the Age of Sugar

Sugar comes disguised under about 50 different names and the food scientists are adding more all the time. If you are eating something with a label on it, then you are going to need to read it closely.

If you take sugar in your hot drinks, now would be a great opportunity to retrain your palette. It won’t take very long for you really to relish your drinks without the added sweetness.

To aid the transition, consider adding a slice of lemon to your cup of tea or consider upgrading your regular brand of tea to a select, single-estate brew. Using sugar is often a way of masking poor water quality too. Use a water filter jug to improve the quality of your tap water.

Sugar has a truly negative effect on your general health, weight loss potential and many specific health conditions.

Ultimately, we recommend that added sugar stays permanently excluded from your food choices.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a leading cardiologist based in London, is the science director of Action on Sugar. He has been instrumental in leading the debate about the public health implications of excess sugar consumption.

He advocates that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that not only is added sugar an unnecessary source of additional calories but there is emerging evidence that the effects of excess sugar are harmful independent of body weight.

He referred to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It revealed that adults in the USA who consume more than 25 per cent of their calories from added sugar trebled their risk of cardiovascular disease. This was compared with those who consumed less than 10 per cent from added sugar, even among the non- obese (Yang et al, 2014).

We live in the age of sugar, with a myriad of sugar derivatives and substitutes found everywhere in modern processed foods.

When you start reading food labels you realise that sugars, hidden in plain sight, can be found almost everywhere, often in the least expected foods, from bread to soups to sauces.

The only foolproof way of avoiding them is to diligently read labels and be vigilant with regard to what you choose to buy. It is an important health and weight loss consideration to reduce the amount of sugar consumed.

It slips in under the radar in so many processed foods, of which one of the worst offenders is sweet drinks like root beer, ginger ale and cola. A typical 340 ml/12 oz serving contains 10 teaspoons of sugar and a typical teenager often drinks two cans a day. The average American eats almost 23 teaspoons of sugar each day, half of which is stirred into tea and coffee or baked into cakes and cookies.

Consider your own dependency on sweet things in your daily food choices. We are born with a natural attraction to a sweetness. Breast milk, a human’s first sustenance, has a sweet taste to make it irresistible to a newborn
 baby, and for many people their love affair with all things sweet continues throughout their lives without censure.

Eating sugar stimulates the same pleasure centres in the brain that respond to the class A drugs heroin and cocaine. All appetising foods cause a similar response to varying degrees, but nowhere near as pronounced an effect as a hit of sugar.

The way the human brain responds to sweetness goes back almost to the beginning of humanity itself – some twenty-odd million years ago when 
a craving for the sweetness of fruit in the autumn was a prerequisite for survival during the harsh, lean winters.

Around this time, some of our ancestors developed an ability to take the fructose from the autumn fruit abundance and, due to a genetic mutation, became efficient at storing even small amounts of fructose (fruit sugar) as fat. Imagine how that genetic advantage was key to survival when winter arrived and all food sources were hard to come by. Now, take that premise forward to today; that same genetic ‘advantage’ for metabolising fructose and storing it as fat is still prevalent in an era when we are literally awash with food.

It does not help that sugar masquerades under many different names. You can only be on the lookout for it if you know what to look for.

Sugar by any other name is still sugar

Peruse the (sample) list below and consider the many alternatives on offer to the white granulated table sugar you currently consume. We challenge you to find a substitute which provides more nutrients than the harm consuming sugar causes. Spoiler Alert: There isn’t one.

Agave, aka ‘agave nectar’, is marketed and sold as a healthy alternative to sugar but in reality is composed of 80 per cent fructose which is more than is found in HFCS mentioned in the list bel. Stocked in health food stores with its relatively high-price tag, you can be fooled into thinking you are making a wise choice when in reality it’s just another laboratory-produced syrup almost entirely free of nutrients.

Barley malt syrup is a natural sweetener produced by cooking sprouted barley malt. It is dark brown in colour, with a pleasant malty taste. It is about half as sweet as honey. It is a natural product that contains some minerals and vitamins.

Beet sugar – About 30% of the world’s white sugar is made from processing this common agricultural crop into sugar. The advantage
it has over cane sugar is that it can be grown in temperate climates in poor soil conditions and doesn’t need the tropical conditions of cane sugar. After processing, the sugar from beets is white. If a producer wants to make brown sugar it has to be dyed with molasses from cane sugar. This conversion from white to brown isn’t 100% reliable as the molasses doesn’t fully penetrate each grain of sugar, leaving an uneven distribution of flavour. For this reason, it is avoided by home bakers and cake makers who favour the more reliable and expensive cane sugar.

Brown rice syrup, aka ‘rice syrup’ or ‘rice malt’: Even though it is made from brown rice, this syrup is still a refined sugar. It is actually higher in calories than ordinary sugar, varying (depending on the brand) between 55 and 75 calories per tablespoon compared with 48 calories in table sugar.

Brown sugar: There are no discernible health benefits to swapping from white sugar to brown sugar and although it contains some trace minerals they are present in only tiny amounts.
Buttered sugar, aka ‘buttercream’ or ‘butter fondant’ is a well-beaten mixture of icing sugar and butter for use in cake making for fillings, toppings or piped as decoration. It can be home-made (a ratio of 2:1 sugar to butter) or commercially bought and may include additional artificial colours and flavourings.

Cane juice (or cane juice crystals) is often sold as a healthy alternative to white sugar but is in effect the same as eating standard sugar in syrup form.

Cane juice (evaporated) is derived from sugar cane syrup to make a highly concentrated sweetener. Also, know as ‘panela’ or ‘raspadura’, the Latin American version is basically just pure sugar.

Cane sugar Is a slightly less processed version of white sugar. It retains a colour closer to that of its natural state but should still be treated with caution and does not impart any additional health benefits.

Caramel aka ‘toffee’, aka ‘butterscotch’, are all types of confectioners’ products made by mixing varying quantities of sugar, cream and butter. Different cooking temperatures change the consistency from soft and chewy to crunchy.

Confectioner’s sugar aka ‘Icing sugar’ is powdered sugar made from white cane sugar used to top cakes with icing and frosting preparation as well as a wide range of baked goods; it has a high-calorie count and is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing spikes in blood sugar levels.

Carob syrup is made from carob seeds and pulp. It is mildly sweet and is used in baking as a substitute for chocolate.

Caster sugar is simply more finely ground than standard white granulated sugar. (Its name comes from the Victorian era ‘sugar caster’ that was used to sprinkle sugar on food.) It can come from sugar cane or from sugar beet and consists purely of sucrose (see below).

Coconut sugar is often promoted as a healthier alternative to table sugar as it does contain some trace elements and nutrients but it has none of the healthy aspects of coconut oil, milk or water.

Corn syrup, corn syrup solids and corn sweetener are commonly used as sweeteners in processed foods and powdered beverage mixes; a large and growing proportion of corn grown in the US, and now the world over, is genetically modified. Genetic modification is generally associated with intensive use of herbicides and pesticides. Corn syrup is much higher in fructose (see below) than table sugar.

Crystalline fructose is made from corn. It is increasingly commonly found in baked goods and ice cream. It is chemically different
from its popular predecessor, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
which consumers are increasingly avoiding. However, crystalline fructose physiologically has the same effects and can be the cause of gastrointestinal upset and aggravate symptoms in individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). [Ref: Fructose Malabsorption and Intolerance: Effects of Fructose with and without Simultaneous Glucose Ingestion http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC3471321/ ]

Date sugar, as the name suggests, is made from macerated dates and is a less processed form of sugar. It uses are limited as it does not dissolve in water but has its uses in bread and baking.

Demerara sugar (and golden sugar, which is a more finely ground version) may have more nutrients than standard white sugar but be aware that any nutritional advantage is barely significant.

Dextran is a highly processed sugar often used as a food additive.

Dextrose is a simple sugar chemically identical to glucose, the sugar found in the bloodstream. As well as a common sweetener in a wide range of products, it has medical applications when dissolved in a solution and administered intravenously. The body is able to metabolise dextrose quickly as a source of energy.

Diastatic malt, produced from barley, is many times sweeter than standard sugar. It is associated with the salivary enzyme diastase which helps with the breakdown of sugars for absorption and can contribute to blood sugar spikes.

Erythritol is a sugar found naturally in pears, watermelon and grapes. It is used as a sweetener in chewing gum, some baked goods and drinks.

Ethyl malto’s scientific-sounding name should be warning enough that this laboratory-manufactured compound used in baked goods is completely artificial and has an unnaturally high sugar content.

Fructose occurs naturally in fruits and honey, which in our recent past would only have been available, and consumed, seasonally and sparingly. Now fructose is found in baked goods and sodas. It is one of the key sugars that has been indicated to be a major contributor to rising obesity and diabetes rates over the past several decades. As well as their modern-day role as an additive, fruits themselves have also been selectively bred to increase their sweetness by increasing the level of fructose they contain. Selectively bred apples and grapes, for instance, are almost unrecognisable from their original, natural varieties. Some varieties of small apple sold specifically as a healthy addition to children’s lunch boxes are often the worse culprits.

Fruit juice concentrates are made by removing water from fruit juice. The process also removes the scant nutrients which would be present in the freshly squeezed juice. However, all fruit juices, freshly squeezed or concentrated, are an unnatural way to consume the nutrients from fruit. Fruit is best consumed as whole fruits, in small quantities, and where possible it is best to choose traditional varieties of fruit that celebrate their natural sharp taste. Tropical fruits that have been picked unripe and then ripened artificially are particularly high in fructose.

Galactose is a derivative of the sugar in milk – lactose. It is found
in processed foods and fast foods. Even though it is a naturally occurring sugar, it has been observed to increase blood pressure and
is a contributing factor to diabetes. As a milk derivative, it may cause problems for people with a dairy intolerance. Glucose, like fructose, is found in sugar cane, fruits and honey and latterly in baked goods. It is also the simplest building block of carbohydrates so all carbohydrates consumed break down to become glucose for absorption, fuel and storage. Consumption of glucose has been linked to some heart diseases and the prevalence of obesity. Just as with fructose, this is a natural sugar. It is just not natural that it is consumed in such quantities.

Golden syrup is made from corn syrup. Drizzled over pancakes and desserts, it is comprised of three sugars – fructose, glucose and sucrose, which itself is broken down to become glucose in the human body.
HFCS or ‘high-fructose corn syrup’ is cheaper than sugar to manufacture and has replaced traditional corn sugar in a wide variety of products from jams to sauces, to soda pops, as well as fast foods, cereals and bread When you read HFCS on a product label, think twice and don’t buy it. The cheapness of HFCS has led to an increase in the availability of super-sized soda drinks with little or no additional cost to the manufacturer but delivering larger than ever portion
sizes laden with obesity-inducing quantities of sweetness. It is a controversial addition to the ‘frankenfood’ sugar arsenal, with large amounts of money spent by its advocates to prove it has no medical ill effects on the consumer. In paleo terms, it is to be avoided as one of the types of ingredient that did not exist 50 years ago. It is yet another modern additive invented by men and women working in laboratories to take advantage of US government-subsidised cheap corn crops. Remember from the fructose listing here that humans are genetically predisposed to efficiently store fructose as fat and that HFCS is no different, in encouraging body fat storage.

Honey contains so much sugar it is practically off the charts! Stirring it into a hot drink almost certainly kills any potential health benefits, assuming they haven’t already been reduced or obliterated by the process of pasteurisation. Raw honey has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties and might be better used by being applied topically to cuts and abrasions instead of eaten.

Inverted sugar aka ‘invert sugar’, is a corn sugar modified using an animal enzyme, making it verboten to vegans, vegetarians, observant Jews and Muslims. It is a commonly used sugar in a wide range of baked goods, sodas and general confectionary.

Jaggery is the name for the traditional process originating in Asia
and Africa of creating unprocessed sugar concentrate from dates,
cane juice or palm sap without separating out the molasses or crystals. The resultant product is semi-solid, softer than sugar and amorphous. It varies in colour from yellow to golden brown to dark brown. It is more complex than sugar with longer chains of sucrose and therefore releases its energy more slowly than processed sugar. The centuries-old process is the antithesis of the highly mechanised sugar industry and most jaggery comes from remote rural places, arriving at local markets and rarely exported out of its country of origin, although some specialist Asian or African food shops stock it.

Lactose is the natural sugar found in cows’ milk. A high proportion of the adult population of the world is lactose intolerant, so even if you are comfortable drinking milk produced by cows to feed their calves, it might be the cause of bloating, cramps and digestive disorders, and of problems with mucus in the sinuses, ears and chest. Exclude all dairy products, including cheese, for a period of a few weeks to see if this improves symptoms.

Luo han guo aka ‘monk fruit’ (translation) is obtained from a plant native to the Guangxi province in southwestern China. Although known in China for almost a thousand years, it has only recently been introduced to the West. It is a natural zero-calorie sweetener some 300 times sweeter than sugar. It also scores zero on the glycaemic index (the index of the impact of different sugars and carbohydrates on blood sugar levels) and is purported to be suitable for diabetics. BioVittoria company in New Zealand has begun to cultivate the monk fruit and grow it commercially for export.

Malt syrup results from a three-stage process beginning with germinated grain that has been fermented. Although any grain would work, the chosen grain is usually barley. It is used in baked goods and some diabetic prepared foods. It is half as sweet as table sugar and has a distinctively malty flavour.

Maltodextrin is another highly processed common food additive derived from corn and found in beer, sweets and a whole raft of prepared foods. It has been found to be a trigger for those suffering from coeliac disease and other wheat and corn allergies.

Maltose, aka ‘malt sugar’, is a component of malt and it is the sugar that is a natural element of beer. It is made up of two glucose molecules and is a known to be a significant cause of weight gain.

Maple syrup might allay some of your health concerns when drizzling it onto pancakes and waffles instead of golden syrup, but even the finest, most expensive brand you can buy has little nutritional value. It is primarily a sucrose with some glucose and fructose.

Molasses are derived from boiling down either sugar cane or sugar beet and are at least a good source of iron and calcium but have been known to trigger allergies, and even asthma attacks, due to the high sulphur content.

Muscovado sugar is the big brother of brown sugar (sucrose) and are that little bit less processed, although without any significant nutritional value.

Organic white sugar flatters to deceive as it is basically standard white sugar, as processed and refined as any other.

Organic oat syrup, aka ‘avena sativa’, is a common ingredient in breakfast muesli bars, baked goods and even ice cream. It has been claimed to be a rich source of antioxidants but is still highly calorific.

Panocha, aka ‘brown sugar fudge’, is made from a health defeating combination of brown sugar, butter and milk.

Rice bran syrup aka ‘rice malt syrup’, aka ‘rice syrup’ is made from fermenting brown rice. The resultant brown sludge is over half made up of the sugar maltotriose, followed by 45 per cent maltose and three per cent and glucose. By the time this sweetener gets broken down in the gut, it is basically just 100 per cent glucose, the same as processed white sugar.

Sorghum aka ‘sorghum syrup’ contains high levels of dietary fibre and is used in beer, cereals, baked goods and alcoholic beverages. It is pretty much devoid of nutrients and there are other less calorie loaded ways of obtaining fibre.

Stevia is a sweetener derived from the leaves of a shrub native to tropical and subtropical America. It is growing in popularity as a calorie-free alternative to sugar. It is available in granular or syrup form.

Sucrose, aka ‘table sugar’, is often at the forefront of any debate concerning the increasing incidence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It is what is called a ‘di-saccharide’ being made of two glucose molecules; the body needs to break it down to glucose before it can be absorbed so it does not produce quite such an instant ‘hit’ as glucose itself.

Sugar, or ‘table sugar’ to distinguish it from the broader meaning ‘sugar’ is the household name we give to sucrose, which is derived from either sugar cane or sugar beet. In many ways it is more benign than HFCS (see above), it’s cheaper replacement. Don’t let that fool you though. Long gone are the days when sugar was considered as rare a commodity as saffron. It is everywhere. Kidney and renal specialist, Richard Johnson at the University of Colorado Denver, in an interview with Rich Cohen for National Geographic Magazine (Cohen, 2013) said, ‘It seems like every time I study an illness, and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.’ He continued, ‘Why is it that one-third of adults (worldwide) have high blood pressure when in 1900 only five per cent had high blood pressure? And, why did 153 million people have diabetes in 1980, and now we’re up to 347 million? And, why are more and more Americans obese?’
Answering his own rhetorical questions he said, ‘Sugar, we believe, is one of the culprits, if not the major culprit.’

‘Syrup’ as a descriptive term features in many of the names of sugar derivatives. In fact, anything called syrup should come with a health warning as although some are more benign – being less refined – than others, all of them are high in calories and practically devoid of any nutritional benefits.

Treacle is made from the refining of sugar cane or sugar beet and is the starting ingredient of a whole raft of syrups of varying descriptions. It comprises the sugar trio of sucrose (which is made up of glucose), fructose and glucose. It contains no other nutrients.

Tapioca syrup is often interchanged with maple syrup. However, just as with maple syrup, it doesn’t have the nutritional advantage over any other basic sugar syrup.

Turbinado, aka ‘raw sugar’, is just sugar by another name, and is metabolised by the body in exactly the same way as any other sugar.

Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free chewing gum and sweets. It is naturally found in low concentrations in the fibrous parts of many fruits and vegetables. Highly mechanised extraction processes can also extract this sweetener from hardwoods or the outer fibrous cover of corncobs. It has a medical application to reduce ear infections. (
Animal Warning. It is worth noting that even with the small amount in sweets or candy is eaten it is poisonous to dogs and should a dog eat any product containing xylitol it should be taken to a veterinary clinic immediately.)

Note: When reading food labels, be aware that any ingredient ending in ‘ose’ is a sugar.

This is an extract from ‘How to Feel Differently About Food’ written by Sally Baker and Liz Hogon published by Hammersmith Books. Available on Amazon.

Lessons in Sport: Gareth Southgate and Serena Williams

Boys and young men have had poor examples of leadership in sport for too long and it has added to the growing trend of toxic masculinity that seems to be so prevalent today. When your heroes behave badly it can influence fans to behave in the same way.

Often fanatical about football our young men have seen their favourite team players arguing and disputing the judgments of the referee or match officials on countless occasions.

Earning on average £50,000 a week in the UK premier league the players have demonstrated the manners and habits of the gutter so much so that it has become the new normal to respond to unpopular decisions on the pitch with dissent, visible disrespect and aggression.

Even football managers behave badly on the sidelines and in post-match interviews. Snarling and blaming. Carping or in their petulance even refusing to comment at all.

It’s no wonder that similar behaviour is commonplace in schools and out on the streets with some of our boys. How could they know better when all they are doing is following the lead?

Even fathers are sometimes ordered to rein in their behaviour or be banned from watching their son play his Saturday morning kids league football match for unacceptable foul language or because of threatening behaviour. Poor behaviour begets poor behaviour as there is no-one of influence raising the bar.

It felt like the old-world style of Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United for 26 years until his retirement in 2013 had gone for good. Never again would we see his measured approach of toughness balanced with fairness. The days were gone when players were encouraged to improve their performance instead of threatened and berated for failing.

This current generation of managers was often depicted as more stick than carrot and their negative influence set the tenor for the whole of football.

What this World Cup bid from England gave us was a glimmer of the traits of heroes we can all appreciate and value and even look up to. The English players behaved well. They were a unified team and they really tried their best.

With Gareth Southgate, we had a manager with a high quotient of emotional intelligence. He even comforted an opposition team player from Sweden whose penalty chance was thwarted by the English Goal-keeper.

In one of the many memes flooding social media was a photoshopped image of the waistcoated Southgate of today comforting his younger football playing-self when he too missed a penalty opportunity in Euro 96.

The meme looks like a powerful hypnosis visualisation I might create if appropriate for a client to heal his or her younger self.

As part of a therapeutic approach, it can be a transformational experience that works on a deeply subconscious level. During the process, the older, wiser and more-able adult with the power of their sub-conscious mind travels back through time and scoops up his or her younger self-taking them to a place they can never be hurt again.

The next lesson in sport is from Serena Williams who had hardly played any tennis in the last couple of years compared to her pre-marriage punishing schedule of tennis tournament after tennis tournament.

Her life cannot be more different years since her marriage and the difficult birth of her daughter just 9 months ago but here she is lined up to play in Wimbledon Women’s final.

I’m writing this before the final but no one had expected her to do as well as she has so far. So much was against her succeeding facing as she was this year’s crop of the best young perfectly fit and expertly trained aspiring tennis players hungry for their chance of taking the top accolade.

Even without securing the ultimate prize her record this year must be her biggest victory to date.

To come back as a new mother, after numerous post-birth surgical repairs, and to win when so many wrote her off. Instead, several commentators have noted profound changes in her. Always the pro when interviewed in this tournament she expressed herself in ways they hadn’t heard her do before.

In particular of course, the press noted Serena’s sheer joy when she speaks of her daughter.In addition, it seems as if her intuition and sense of self is more deeply embedded within her like never before. She’s always demonstrated her resilience in her game but her resilience in herself has grown too and that’s wonderful to see.

She’s playing like a champion for sure but there is a sense that she’s emotionally grown and come to peace with herself at last.

And like many working mothers her commitment to her profession has not come about without the personal sacrifice of missing special times with her child.

Over the weekend she opened up about missing her baby daughter, Alexis Olympia, taking her first steps because she was training. It caused a social media storm as working mothers the world over commiserated and supported her choices to continue to juggle the almost impossible demands of work and family. Many working mums replied on Twitter to support Serena’s struggle to balance work and home by sharing their own sacrifices too.

Working mothers are lionesses who achieve super-human feats on a daily basis while giving themselves no credit for how hard it is to achieve in the work arena while also being present for the family. If anything Serena, even from her elevated and privileged position has reminded all of us of our humanity and human strength.

I’m grateful for the Gareth Southgate and the Serena Williams of this world offering us insights into their vulnerability while their behaviour evokes the values of true heroes. It’s good for us all.

If you are struggling to find the hero within or want to achieve peak performance in your professional arena or private life then you can book an obligation free discovery call with me here.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

Therapy Digest 04

Therapy Digest 04

Latest thinking and views that have caught my eye in the last few days from the wider media. Some stories stick because they turn up in my practice too; Parents struggling with their own pressures and anxiety; The whole beach body ready becomes more of a priority for some as the temperature increases and we wear fewer clothes – except for many its an all year round body dysmorphia challenge stealing joy on a daily basis; `csn you take supplements and not care about real food. Here’s the answer; plus Tea-tox is the latest shiny thing to hit the detox/weight loss shelves and it might not be as benign as you think.

 

Can you eat junk and take healthy supplements?

Can you live on junk food and supplement with vits?

A recent survey in Australia claimed just under a third of their respondents take at least one daily dietary supplement. In the US the proportion was even higher with just over half of the people surveyed saying they took at least one daily supplement.

A study just released focussed on the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements for the prevention of heart disease, stroke and premature death. The research found that the most popular supplements had no effect, while some less used ones did have an impact and that some supplements can be harmful.

The supplements examined included vitamins A, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), C, D, E, beta-carotene, and the minerals calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium. Multivitamins were defined as including most of these vitamins and minerals.

In studies testing the four common supplements of multivitamins including vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C, there was no reduction in the incidence of heart disease, stroke or premature death. This means there was no benefit from taking them, but equally, they do no harm.

The study also evaluated less common supplements that did demonstrate having a positive effect on early death, heart disease and stroke. They found that folic acid supplements successfully showed a reduction in heart disease and stroke.

It was calculated that to prevent one case of heart disease or stroke, 111 people needed to be taking folic acid supplements. For stroke, 167 people would need to take folic acid to prevent one case, and 250 people would have to take B-complex vitamins (which contain folic acid, which is vitamin B9) to avoid one example.

However, there are contra-indications with folic acid supplements. For instance, there are some concerns that high levels of folic acid in the bloodstream may increase the risk of prostate cancer, although the results are not entirely conclusive.

Besides, in studies testing folic acid supplements, stroke was reduced in only two of the seven gold-standard studies. One of these was an extensive study of 20,000 people in China. As a country, China does not have a folic acid food fortification program, whereas, in many western countries including the UK, Australia and the US, it’s commonly added to bread and breakfast cereals.

While a small benefit for taking folic acid was found, researchers also found some adverse effects from supplementation. In particular, those taking a statin medication to lower blood cholesterol who also took slow or extended release vitamin B3 (niacin) increased their risk of early death by 10%. This means 200 people would have to take statins and niacin before we would see one case of premature death.

Vitamin D was the most studied supplement. Researchers found no benefits for heart disease or stroke prevention, but also no harm. This was a surprise, given vitamin D is commonly taken for other conditions, such as diabetes. But there was no benefit seen for early death, although the study’s authors acknowledged their results were inconclusive.

The study concluded there is low-to-moderate quality evidence for taking folic acid for the prevention of heart disease and stroke, and also for taking B-complex vitamins that include a folic acid for stroke.

So, does it mean we can eat junk food and supplement with healthy vitamins?

It would seem not.

Taking supplements is very different from eating real food. Complications or health issues due to nutrient levels in the bloodstream are practically always due to taking supplements, not eating real foods.

When you concentrate on one vitamin, mineral or nutrient in a supplement, you do not benefit from the other phytonutrients found in plant foods that contribute to overall health.

The increase in early death for taking some categories of supplements should be a wake-up call that stronger regulations are needed around supplements, and people need a lot more support to eat real food. They also need to improve the quality of what they eat instead of relying on supplements to support a nutritionally deficient diet.

Everyone needs to eat more nutrient-rich whole foods, including foods high in folates such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, free-range poultry, free-range eggs, whole cereals and citrus fruits. Most flour used in commercial bread production or breakfast cereals are fortified with folate, and without it, they would have little or no nutritional value. Food sources of niacin (vitamin B3) are found in meats, milk, eggs, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts, leafy green vegetables and protein-containing foods. Always try to buy grass-fed beef or high welfare meat for higher levels of omega -3 essential fatty acids.

If you are confused about what to eat and who wouldn’t be with all the conflicting information out there, Sally Baker and Liz Hogon wrote How to Feel Differently About Food published by Hammersmith Books just for you. It’s available on Amazon.

 

What family battles are worth winning?

Summer holidays are almost upon us, and it is a lucky family who has enough time away from their work commitments to cover their children’s extended summer break adequately. For most parents it will be a juggling act to put together a mishmash of summer school activity sessions; shared childcare with other parents and a smattering of help from any willing grand-parents available to help out for the odd day or two.

Parenting these days is often anxiety-inducing state and nothing ramps up the feelings of overwhelm and powerlessness like the long summer break.

For most parents there merely isn’t enough time to enjoy watching their children grow as they increasingly have so many other plates spinning that their children can get sidelined and ignored – especially if the kids are occupied and not under their feet.

One of the downsides of stressed parents is that after being at work all day, they really don’t want to come home and start a battle with their own children. They want their home life to be harmonious and light relief from their day job. It seems more pressing for many mums and dads to be friends with their children other than be their parents and so they are often reluctant to impose any kinds of sanctions around their kids’ behaviour, and it’s causing problems that no-one could for-see.

So, this is not about authoritative parenting and laying down the law with your off-spring it is however about selecting your battles.

So, what family battles are worth winning?

If you child wanted chicken in a box on the way home from school every afternoon would you let him or her have it just because all their friends do?

If your child wanted a meg bottle of cola on the supper table because that’s what his friend’s mum does then would you comply?

If your 14-year-old moans at you for not smoking dope with him when all his friends’ parents are ‘cool with it’ is that enough of a reason for you to light up too?

With the 20:20 vision of hindsight, parenting can seem like an ever-expanding set of choices of trying to make the right call for our kids.

One parental choice I really feel would be valuable for most parents to would be restricting or even zero tolerance of often violent role-playing video games. It can feel like a real challenge for many families to put that particular genie back in the bottle but it can be done, and eventually, that decision will seem small fry compared to the entirety of the challenges you will face raising a well-balanced, socially adjusted and connected adult.

I also, in contrast, believe it is important not to sweat the small stuff and to be able to give autonomy to our children is how they learn and grow.

An example might be if your son or daughter want bright blue hair for the school holiday then you could let them.

Or if they want to live in a pig sty bedroom, then that’s their call.

In my therapy practice, I’ve seen plenty of children of strict or helicopter-style parenting where the children feel closely monitored make a sub-conscious decision to stamp their individuality by whatever means they can. For many children in this situation, one of the few ways they can be autonomous is by becoming picky eaters, or vegetarian or vegan which can be a pathway to a full eating disorder.

No child’s development is permanently hampered by having guidelines imposed by a caring parent. However, the child’s development can be detrimentally affected by unfettered exposure to highly graphic video games.

If a child has both parents involved in their care it is essential they are in accord before imposing any boundaries around behaviour, whatever they may be. Children do not have direct power so will naturally try to divide and conquer by exploiting the good cop, bad cop parental dynamic.

Once the parents have an agreement between themselves, it is essential to inform the child of their decision. This can be backed up with age-appropriate information, but this is not a discussion this is a directive. Once the decision has been made it is not open to endless debate or negation.

Use the stuck record strategy of repeating a short phrase that sums up the new family policy. Do not get pulled in to discussing this further.

Psychologists have worked out it takes 21 days to embed a new habit, so you need to give this time too. The summer holiday is soon, and hopefully, parents will have a little more flexibility and time to spend with their family. If you are going away on holiday, then use this time to leave electronics behind or reduce access in favour of other activities. Habits are easier to break when not just omitting an activity but replacing it with something else.

Remember whatever your child says about their friends and what their friends’ parents allow them to do is irrelevant for your family. While your child might want to be endlessly playing video games other children are competing in martial arts, learning Mandarin or taking coding to the best level.

There is a little explored dynamic with many parents who are relying on short-term rewards to give them some respite from the demands of parenting. This includes absent fathers working at the office until late and fitting in a gym session before coming home just before bedtime and hard-pressed mothers who feel overburdened and are drinking far too much on a nightly basis. 

To make a change to the family dynamic will ultimately need the full participation of everyone in the family but the tenor is set by the adults, and they must take the lead.

If you are struggling with your family dynamic, I often work with couples, initially individually and sometimes later together, to explore your own behaviour in this, your key relationship. I offer a safe space to consider what old pain and unfinished business you brought with you and ways to erase and let go of the past. If this sounds like you then book an obligation free discovery call with me on this page.

Latest detox fad – might do you more harm than good

Tea-toxes are just the latest, all-shiny, all-promising, new detox products to gain prominence in a market always on the lookout for the next quick fix.

The idea of detox products ridding the body of toxins shows how many people have become polarised in their relationship with food. It is true that in, and of itself, food is simply neutral – except of course for those people with allergies or a medical diagnosis that means they need to avoid certain foods.

However, the thinking of food as either being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is a symptom of food no longer signifying nourishment but of taking on other loaded connotations that are not necessarily true or balanced. If you are of the opinion that some foods are ‘bad’, then it is not too far a step to believe that they could cause a toxic build-up in one’s body.

Some people may be lulled into a false sense of security with a tea- detox as something that is benign and safe. For them drinking tea feels very familiar and even comforting with positive emotional connections to home and hearth.

They may well be the same people who would shun the quasi-scientific based detoxes and choose a tea-detox as something that to them feels more natural and holistic.

They might well dismiss a regime based on consuming obscure sounding powders or pills or having to drink odd tasting juices in favour of a familiar ‘cuppa.’ Their very familiarity with tea may blind-side them to the fact that some of the tea-detox ingredients can have potentially uncomfortable digestive effects and even make a person feel quite ill.

Most people who undertake a detox would say it was because they are motivated to improve their health. Perhaps they would admit less freely of their willingness to subject themselves to what is often in effect an extreme, crash diet.

Most detoxes including some of the tea-detoxes encourage people to replace one or two of their daily meals with the detox product.

This can leave people feeling light-headed and quite dis-orientated as they are trying to function normally with low levels of nutrition or highly restricted calories. This method of self-imposed fasting can also disrupt blood sugar levels and can trigger feelings of anxiety and panic for some people.

So much disordered eating is hidden in plain sight as it takes place in secret in a person’s subconscious mind. For those vulnerable to disordered eating, or someone who has experienced an eating disorder in the past, the purchasing of detox products can be a way to legitimise their unhealthy eating patterns. It can also be used as their excuse to obscure what is really happening with themselves and food.

An intense detox regime which encourages replacing or skipping meals for a period can trigger a pattern of feast or famine with emotional eaters or disordered eaters who are regular yo-yo dieters. Failing to complete a strict detox can affect levels of self-esteem and plunge an emotional eater into a tsunami of negative self-talk, irrational shame, self-blame and even bulimic behaviour.

For those who experience weight loss during a tea-detox, they might well be encouraged to override the manufacturer’s guidance and quickly repeat the process to achieve further weight loss. If the tea-detox incorporates a laxative, then prolonged exposure can have long-term medical implications. It can cause the colon to require increasing amounts of laxatives to function to produce bowel movements. The colon can become ‘lazy’ in its ability to remove waste and ineffective. This can lead to many digestive disorders including severe constipation, colon infection, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and, even contribute to the risk of colon cancer.

The problem with all commercial detoxes is that the medical profession is united in their conviction that they do not work. Doctors stress that a normal, healthy body is already perfectly equipped for any detox duties required. Doctors also agree that if toxic build-up really were an issue, then emergency medical intervention would be needed to save a person’s life.

With the medical evidence in mind, it is difficult if not impossible to see any benefits from subjecting oneself to a detox. The premise is so deeply flawed that it might be possible to undergo one safely without causing harm, but it is simply not worth the money or the deprivation it would require. This is particularly true when almost all weight lost through detox is rapidly regained when returning to normal eating patterns.

If you recognise that your use of laxatives has become far too regular and that you increasingly rely on laxatives to be able to go to the loo then book an obligation free discovery call with me to discuss strategies and how to bring your body back into balance.

 

Beach Body Ready’ is a mindset, not a dress-size

Everyone harbours some level of negative beliefs about themselves The ‘Am good enough?’ Or ‘Do I look okay in this? These kind of self-doubts are the sort of internal conversations that pretty much everyone has.

When you have a healthy sense of self-esteem, you can often over-ride the niggling voice of self-doubt in your mind by batting it away and effectively ignoring it.

That’s because there is a part of you, at a deep core level, that acknowledges you are ultimately good enough. If this feels like you then congratulations you are equipped and able to tackle the challenges your life throws at you – even on the beach!

The flip-side is that if you are already highly anxious and your self-esteem feels battered, it can feel much more difficult to dismiss or silence the voice of doubt in your mind.

Planning holidays is a prime time in the year when some people’s negative voice can really ratchet up self-doubt and negative self-talk about what they will look like in either their ski-suit or in their bikini.

I’ve worked with both male and female clients who to the outside world look absolutely fantastic and yet are racked with self-doubt or who suffer body dysmorphia that continually steals their joy.

Everyone on this season’s Love Island UK TV series is typically good-looking young men and women. They are prime examples of the narrow, heterosexual, mainly white, western idea of physical perfection with the boys’ hairless torsos, perfect pecs and tight bums alongside the girls often enhanced breasts and plumped up lips.

It would be easy to assume that along with this level of physical perfection would come security in who they are and that they would have confidence in their own worth. Watching the series though this is apparently not the case. The way the contestants speak about themselves and interact with the others on the Island demonstrate they are as prone to insecurities and anxiety about how they look and how they come across to others as any other mortal not blessed with their god and goddess good looks.

There is no perfect body in existence that can shut off inner negative self-talk as critical self-judgements merely raise the bar of perfection ever higher, so that already beautiful people feel inadequate and seek out plastic surgery and enhancements to ‘improve’ their looks.

You might already recognise how profoundly your negative self-talk and critical self-judgements get in your way of you feeling good about yourself. Your negative self-talk might actually be destructive enough to stop you from doing what you really want to do. Only you know how much you temper your behaviour or hide your light from the world when you don’t feel good enough or deserving enough to live your life to its full potential.

The reason negative beliefs can be such a huge influence is that they happen in your subconscious mind and can be triggered when you least expect it to make you feel really insecure and doubt your abilities. Often they feel so overwhelmed with self-doubt that they just give up at the first hurdle and end-up playing small in their own life.

Your negative beliefs can feel as though they’ve been there forever and they are often unquestioningly accepted as if they are part of your DNA. As they usually exist just below your conscious awareness your negative beliefs are immune to your usual rational judgement so that you only accept that they must be true.

They are not true. Negative beliefs are stories you have told yourself often created many years ago, and yet they can continue to influence and control your life today.

Now is the perfect time to spend five minutes to find the origin of your negative beliefs and to rationally assess, possibly for the first time, whether they serve you, or whether they hold you back.

Spoiler Alert: You may even be surprised to discover that the negative beliefs you had about yourself were never really about you at all and originated from someone else’s projected insecurities.

If body dysmorphia or merely negative self-talk is limiting the life you want to live, then you can connect with me with an obligation free discovery call to find out some tried and tested strategies that would change your mindset from not being beach body ready to that of being prepared to take on the world.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.