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.