Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where is your better feeling place?

We all have times – minutes, hours, days, months when we feel “down.” Life catches us off guard sometimes and we can easily find ourselves in what I call a major funk and often overeating to soothe our emotions. When you find yourself stuck with unhappy feelings and nothing much seems to go right, what do you do to turn it around? Where can you turn to reconnect with yourself – to make contact with your more pleasant feelings?

I know that for me I forget my own advice at times and try to do all the things I know to do to move me forward to a happier place. I don’t like feeling out of sorts and sad. I think that I will find my better feeling place when I feel better. That makes sense on the surface.

But I fail time and again to realize that I have it backwards. To feel better, I have to consciously go to my better feeling place. This is what works for me: First I have to give myself permission to relax and remove those perfectionistic self-expectations that sabotage my efforts to accept myself as the human being that I am – not super-human, not bionic, but vulnerable and frail at times just like everybody else. (Can you relate to this?)

Then I ask myself where this body of mine would be most comfortable. I may choose to lie down for a while or sit in my favorite chair and read or meditate. I could choose to do some sketching or take my little puppy to the ocean for a walk. At any time, on any day my better feeling place changes. It is vital to go there though, wherever it is at the moment, and to do whatever I want to do at the time.

This is my better feeling place – wherever I need to be in the present moment to take care of myself. Later things usually seem more manageable and I can relax a bit. Think of where you can go and what you can do when daily stress overwhelms you. Then be patient. Your feelings will pass but you may feel better sooner if you allow yourself to retreat for a while and take time to reconnect with yourself.

And please do check my website from time to time for new workshops, articles, services and products. And make today a fabulous one! Do something fun!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Helping the overweight child

As a professional speaker and psychologist I am often asked questions about preventing obesity -- for adults and children. This blog has focused primarily on the difficulties of the adult but today I dedicate this to the millions of children who struggle. If you have children, please read this and pass it on. It will give you ideas for preventing obesity in children as well as ways to help if they are already overweight. Also please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions or would like would like me to deliver a program for your organization or association.

tell your child they look fat or will get fat.
comment about their weight.
embarrass, humiliate or shame them.
put your child on a diet – this will ultimately cause weight gain
focus on appearances.

ALWAYS assure them that you love them for who they are, not for what their body size is or is not. Focus on making healthy choices – on feeling as (physically and emotionally) healthy, strong and balanced as possible.

Do not use food to reward or punish your child. Rewards should be things like extra time with you, a hug, a little later bedtime or a special outing. Punishments (better thought of and explained as consequences of the child’s behavior) include early bedtimes, no television or loss of a privilege.

Be aware that food and mood are intertwined. If a child is eating sugars and refined carbohydrates and not getting enough protein, they will likely be depressed, lethargic and angry. Stressors that are a natural part of life can become overwhelming to them.

Know that a bagel, pretzel or bag of popcorn is only sugar in disguise. White flour products, pasta, corn and starchy vegetables metabolize immediately into sugar in our bodies. These are the foods that put on extra pounds.

Also know that we all need healthy fats every day – (olive oil, a bit of real butter). These will not add pounds but, if you do not get some healthy fat, your body will think it is starving and you will make up for that with craving more carbohydrates and sugars.

Make sure they are eating protein three times a day and some carbohydrates, like fruits and whole grains and you are likely to see immediate, positive changes in their behaviors and moods. Make a list of proteins your child enjoys and consult your list when you’re in a hurry (some suggestions: meatballs, homemade hamburgers instead of fast food, almond, soy or peanut butter (Be careful, commercial peanut butter can be loaded with sugars. Buy natural if you can. Also, other nut butters are more nutritious than peanut butter.), yogurts and cheeses, nuts). Remind yourself often to provide protein of some sort at each meal (especially breakfast).

Soft drinks are loaded with not only sugar, but caffeine as well and children are very sensitive to both of these substances. Limit (and eventually eliminate) sodas. Encourage your children to drink plenty of water (or juice mixed with water if you must.) Fruit juice is loaded with sugar and even though it is a natural sugar, it still causes weight gain and fosters dependence upon sweets. Buy juices with no sugar added. Often hunger is really thirst in disguise. Once your child has had a healthy drink (preferably water) and is hydrated, he or she may not be tempted to grab snacks.

Help your child to understand that they really do need a protein at each meal. It feeds their muscles and they need it to be strong and healthy and happy. Talk matter-of-factly and directly about this. They may rebel at first, saying they don’t like chicken, meat, fish, almond butter, nuts etc., and you will have to be very firm and unwavering about your absolute intention to take the best care of them possible because you love them so much.

You are the parent and you decide. At first a child may not like you for setting limits. Later they will appreciate your effort (maybe not until they are parents themselves).

Introduce changes gradually and don’t get into power struggles about it. Simply say, “You can have the cookie (candy, ice cream, etc.) if you want, but you do need to have some protein first so your body gets what it needs to be strong and happy.” If your child says, “OK, then I won’t eat anything.” That’s OK. Tell them they can make that choice. Your child needs to know that you have their best interests at heart and are not going to give in or bargain and plead for them to eat. Unless your child has a serious medical condition, it won’t hurt him or her to miss a meal once in a while.

Fast foods and sugar-filled treats should be offered sparingly. Limit pizza (if your child has pizza once in a while sprinkle it with ground meat, tofu or poultry), chips, fries, fast food burgers, ice creams, bagels and candies (and remember that the “healthy” alternatives, like granola bars and fruit treats sold in grocery stores are loaded with sugar).

Have truly healthy alternatives on hand. In summer, frozen fruits like raspberries to snack on are particularly refreshing. Celery stuffed with nut butter or soft cheese, nuts (unsalted preferably), raisins, yogurts, raw veggies with dips (like lo-calorie salad dressings). Be creative. Make trail mix from dried fruits and nuts and toss in a handful of M&Ms for appeal if you need to do this at first to capture your child’s interest.

Limit TV, computer and video game time. This forces kids to use their imaginations and, if they are also undergoing dietary changes, they may feel better and choose to do more physical things. Any creative activity burns more calories than sitting in front of a TV or computer screen. This also enhances self-esteem which is at the core of food control issues.

Encourage your child to try all sorts of physical activities such as a family walk or bike ride. Plan frequent weekend hikes. Try a nearby swimming pool or beach. Let friends come along. Model an active life-style as much as your own time and physical health allows.

Talk directly with your children. Have weekly family meetings. Discuss how you’re doing as you work on improving your health and ask them how they are doing. Listen. Tell them you love them and want all of you to be as healthy as possible, which is the reason the whole family will be making some gradual changes.

Talk with them, on their own level, about the dangers of fast foods and sugars. Discuss how playing video games and watching television too much is harmful and that more and more children and teenagers are gaining weight and getting sick. Point out television commercials that are made to trick children into eating more fast foods and sugary foods. Tell your kids that people are just now becoming aware that some foods we have all been eating are really harming our health.

Be sure that your child gets plenty of rest. Children are busy growing and their bodies need time to recoup. A set bedtime is essential. A half an hour or so of quiet time before “lights out” and/or a warm bath or shower close to bedtime can help with unwinding and preparing to go to sleep. Do not allow eating for at least an hour or two before bedtime. Lying down to sleep with a full stomach interferes with they body’s ability to fully relax and rest.

Make sure you ask your kids how they’re doing every day and listen to their answers. It’s hard being human and especially hard being a child who can’t understand the complexities of life the way we can as adults. Notice how your child is acting and how he or she appears to be feeling. See if what you are observing matches what they are telling you. Let them know you are noticing and that you are always there for them. Resist the temptation to lecture. Instead listen as caringly and attentively as you can. Hold fast to your limits and boundaries but don’t be too rigid.

What is most important is:
Letting your children know you care…
Feeding them in the healthiest ways you can…
Paying attention to them…
Asking them how they feel and validating them…
Listening to what they have to say…
Respecting them…
Setting clear, sensible boundaries…
Outlining clear expectations (and reasonable consequences when you must)…
Giving freely of your love…
This is all that’s needed.

And, finally, please remind yourself often that…..

Copyright 2006
Dr. Denise Lamothe of Exeter, NH is an emotional overeating expert and author of
The Taming of the Chew: A Holistic Guide to Stopping Compulsive Eating.
She is a clinical psychologist, doctor of holistic health, author and professional speaker.
Ph/Fax: 603-778-4814 -- http://www.deniselamothe.com/ -- Denise@DeniseLamothe.com

Monday, September 8, 2008

Vacations should be mandatory!

When I talk to my clients about taking care of their bodies, minds and spirits I always stress the importance of relaxing, having fun and giving themselves a break from the stressors life delivers on a daily basis. Why then, I wonder is it so hard to follow my own sage advice? I am in Acadia National Park in Maine at the moment and truly relaxing for the first time in a long while. It was hard to leave e-mail, the office and phone behind but as we progressed farther and farther north and away from from those work-related pastimes I found myself breathing a little more deeply and anticipating the adventure of a few days in "paradise" of Maine.

We did bring a lap top along and I wanted to be sure to say hello to all of you who have so faithfully been reading this Chew Tamer's blog. But... this is the only time my fingers plan to bounce over the keys. Today a small hike of about 3 miles of the most replenishing scenery on earth. I strongly suggest you visit here if you ever have a chance. There are 57 miles of carriage roads just for hikers and bikers and most have gentle uphills and downs. It is easy to walk at a relaxed pace and drink in all the delicious treats mother nature has to offer.

Of course for those of your who prefer more rugged terrain, there is plenty and I generally do choose more difficult trails. I am learning, however, that it is fine to simply breathe, relax and enjoy. I am delighting in having unstructured time and not being in a rush about anything. I am cherishing every moment, staying in the present and I will return to New Hampshire at the end of the week refreshed and eager to immerse myself in my writing, speaking and meeting with clients with renewed zest and enthusiasm.

I hope never again to wait so long to give myself a break like this and I hope this little message serves as a reminder to you to do the same. Life is too short! Vacations will do more to stop emotional eating and promote healthy weight loss than any diet ever could -- they should be mandatory!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Explaining my Practice

Besides being an emotional eating expert, professional speaker and author, I have a private counseling practice. I am often asked to explain my clinical practice and so I am sharing my philosophy and practice with you in this blog. I hope you find it useful.

My practice is atypical. I function both as clinical psychologist and doctor of holistic health. The combination of roles provides a unique opportunity to incorporate a naturopathic philosophy into my overall practice. I tailor my course of action with each client depending upon their needs as they present them. I will outline many aspects of my work but first the most essential is the concept of respect – for the client, for the process and for myself as helper. This is the cornerstone of any successful practice.

When anyone inquires about my services, I engage them in a collaborative conversation. I want to know how they perceive their needs and what their perceptions are regarding the situation for which they are seeking help. This must be a mutual process. It will unfold through a combination of efforts – their’s and mine. I have great respect for my clients’ objectives. They know what they want and are looking for ways to achieve the goals they set. I function as a resource and facilitator. My training and experience is used to assist them along the path they have chosen.

Sometimes through the process of our work together a client might feel the route they are taking is not serving their best interest. This may happen many times throughout the course of our meetings. I encourage clients to revisit their goals and then we discuss the new options that manifest themselves. This often results in a change of direction and movement towards something more fitting and productive. When it occurs, this is a positive step and leads to greater understanding and more vibrant health. Each person has the opportunity to reevaluate and rethink former decisions and become more focused and flexible. These are necessary life skills and enhance the client’s self-esteem.

I am interested in a person’s entire being. It is vital to know how they are caring for themselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, environmentally and spiritually. It is also important to know some things about their socialization process and the forces that have shaped their ideas of how to perform in the world. I inquire about expectations they have based on their gender, skin color, age, sexual orientation, level of education, etc. and I ask about their lifestyle in general and how closely connected they are to other people and to nature.

It is important that I use my skill and knowledge to help clients assess how they are caring for themselves physically. We discuss the importance of a nutrient dense diet that is as natural as possible. I tell them about different vitamins, herbs or food that may be helpful to them. I stress the benefits of sunshine, fresh air, moderate exercise, rest and play. I never prescribe anything. Instead I make them aware of alternative options. I talk about helpful services they may not be familiar with, such as Reiki, Polarity, Massage, etc. They choose what modalities sound interesting and decide what they would like to explore.

Some clients benefit from consulting a nutritionist. Others engage the services of a personal trainer or schedule acupuncture treatments. My role is to educate and to provide as many resources and viable options as I can. I do not presume to know exactly what my clients need although I do believe in educating them and introducing them to relevant books and publications so they can enlighten themselves further. In this way they make clear, informed choices and take full advantage of the healing modalities available today. I help each client explore various courses of action and assist them in making a plan for themselves and in refining that plan from time to time. Ultimately it is their responsibility to choose the options they wish to explore and to follow through.

If they report they are having difficulty, we address their resistance to change and examine some of their self-imposed limitations. We also discuss their feelings about making life-style changes. As a psychologist I again enlist the client’s aid in this process. It is never “I the doctor” and “you the patient”. It is always “us”, engaged in a respectful, mutual process of exploration where we combine our energy and insights to promote movement toward optimal health. We become a team. This creates a more open, relaxed and trusting atmosphere in which to explore all possibilities.

This inevitably results in more choices for my clients – choices about available options, possible directions to head in, services to seek and ways to increase their knowledge. My goal is to listen closely, to help each person move towards greater awareness of themselves and to discover ways to access and utilize their personal healing power. It is my role to encourage each client to assume responsibility for themselves which includes their choices in the present as well as how they have operated in the past. I urge them to look at themselves with gentle eyes -- not feeling judgmental, ashamed or guilty. I explain that the past is gone and choices made then do not prevent us from making different, healthier, more self-loving choices now. I encourage them to let go of the past and remember there are no mistakes, only lessons. I urge clients to be mindful and to stay in present time as much as possible. I encourage each to focus on making as many self-loving choices as possible in each present moment.

I also ask clients to pay close attention to their spiritual selves and to nurture the spiritual light within. I urge them to spend quiet time each day going inside of themselves to discover their peaceful center. I teach meditation, deep breathing or some type of reflective practice if they are open to it. I also encourage them to pray. This helps them quiet the incessant chatter of daily living, notice their true feelings and to discover what they really want.

I offer suggestions to help people uncover and strengthen their spiritual, creative and playful natures. For example, I might suggest starting a journal, spending more time in nature, taking an art class, dancing, singing in a choir, writing poetry or joining a cooking class. It all depends upon the client’s abilities, motivation and interests.

As a clinician I realize the importance of maintaining my own attitude of curiosity and am constantly educating myself. It is vital that I keep up with what is going on in the fields of psychology and holistic health in order to disseminate current, accurate information and offer the best service to each client.

It is also imperative that I model the healthiest lifestyle possible for my clients. I take the best care of my body, mind and spirit. Of course, I cannot do this perfectly at all times, nor can my clients. I share this with them, letting them know that what is important is not that we are perfect but that we do our best. There are no mistakes -- only lessons and no one can expect to behave perfectly in every moment. It is the human way to make less than self-loving choices at times. The road to optimal health is to recognize when we drift off course and to make our best effort to reset our compass in a healthier, more self-loving direction.

I also create a peaceful atmosphere in the office for my clients and myself and talk with them about the importance of freeing their chi energy. We discuss the principles of feng shui and ways to make changes in their home and work environments to help their movement towards greater, more vibrant health.

As I continue to educate myself and to evolve, I share myself freely with clients. This is humbling, sacred work and each time I sit with a client I ask spirit to guide my words and actions. I remind myself that each person is entering my space with their own agenda and it is their agenda that is important – not mine. I love this work. I feel blessed and I silently salute the spirit within each person whom I serve.