Therapist and professor Pauline Boss coined the term “ambiguous loss” to describe unique types of losses for which there is no closure. Prototypical examples are when a loved one goes missing and is never heard from again, or a parent or partner develops Alzheimer’s disease and slowly ceases to be the person you once knew despite being physically present.
Because these fall outside the realm of “typical loss,” the folks left behind experience more enduring and more complicated grief. Most of us are prepared to deal with losses that are concrete and finite. We have rituals—burials, commemorative tattoos—that help us mark the end of a chapter. When loss is ambiguous, there are no such rituals and no finality. People around us are often ill-equipped to help. They may be confused or put off by the intensity of our grief. They might even regard it as inappropriate or unfounded. It can be tremendously isolating.
Hi Folks! This week, Erin is navigating the age-old pain versus gain debate, providing strategies for injury-free workouts, ditching the restrictive diet mentality, and the real reason you’re not seeing results. Keep your questions coming over in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group or in the comments below. Raymond asked: “I’m struggling to lose the last 10 pounds, mainly because I can’t be as active as I need to be. Every time I try to exercise or do strength training, I end up in pain. Part of me doesn’t want to do it because I know I’ll be miserable for a few days afterward. Any tips on exercising pain-free?” It sounds like you’re clear on your end goal: to lose those last 10 pounds. But you’re also struggling with body pain every time you work out. I hear you Raymond. Pain is no fun. Thankfully, you don’t have to subject yourself to it in order to lose weight. The whole no pain, no gain mentality is total BS. Punishing yourself just to reach your end goal is never a good plan. But let’s take a step back and look at your situation for a minute. You say every time you try to exercise or strength train, you end up in pain. Is that true? Is it every time? Or is it only when you do certain exercises or do them for a certain amount of time? We often look at workouts as lifting dumbbells, taking a class, or going for a run. Or we overdo it on a consistent basis because we’re comparing our workouts to that of someone on Instagram or in our circle of friends. All of which has the ability to create undue pain. And not just physical pain. Just remember that any form of movement has the potential to lead to weight loss, or as I prefer to say, fat loss. And a big part of how successful you’ll be starts with how you perceive your efforts. So, I’ve got to ask. Do you look at your workouts as a chore that might finally get the scale down 10 pounds? Or is exercise something you actually enjoy doing? It’s possible that by reframing the way you see your workouts, you could actually diminish your perceived pain. In one study, researchers saw a major distinction between spinal cord injury patients who were motivated to be physically active by positive versus negative incentives. Positive incentives were things like seeing an improvement in mood either during or after the activity and feeling satisfied with their accomplishments. Negative incentives were all motivated by fear or obligation, often causing the participants additional discomfort and pain. Back in the day, our ancestors stayed active by chasing antelope so they’d have dinner or they walked to the nearest spring to get fresh water. There was no selective pressure to find joy in exercise because it simply needed to be done to survive. Thankfully, these days, we have the choice to work out in … Continue reading “Ask a Health Coach: Why Pain Doesn’t Equal Gain”
Let me be the first to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you. You may have some patterns to unlearn, some self-love to embrace, and some new behaviors to embody, but seriously, there’s nothing wrong with you. If you want to change your negative self-talk, you’ve got to first understand where it comes from. There’s a famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi, that, in a nutshell says, “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. And your words become your actions.” So if your actions include binging on sourdough (again), rolling your eyes at your rolls and wrinkles, or subconsciously sabotaging your sleep cycle, you can go ahead and thank your belief system for that. You can also take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. On any given week I’ll hear my clients say that making a protein rich breakfast takes too much effort. Or that they’re too busy to work out. Or they can’t stop eating desserts. These are all beliefs. And, as we’ll be breaking down here in a second, there’s a big difference between beliefs and truths. Your Brain’s Role in Self-talk Here’s the deal. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe. Because of this, it will always choose what’s familiar and comfortable over working toward a change that’s different. Even if that change is in the best interest of your health and happiness. What’s familiar is safe and what’s unknown has the potential to hurt you. At least from your brain’s point of view. And so, it automatically creates negative thoughts (and negative self-talk) to keep you nicely tucked into your comfort zone. Examples of Negative Self-talk Here’s a scenario to illustrate what I mean. Say you’re thinking about ordering take out. Will it be a large, extra pepperoni pizza or a thick steak and roasted veggies? Depending on your past experiences and your personal belief system, your brain will automatically assign a meaning to that choice. If you choose the pizza, your self-talk might be, “well, I guess I’ll be heavy my whole life” or “I never make good choices” or “life’s too short not to eat pizza!!” Unfortunately, that reaffirms your negative beliefs, which you’ll continue to repeat unless you do something to change them. Other examples of negative self-talk might be: I’m always out of shape I’m too lazy Why bother I never have enough time Nothing ever goes right for me That’s impossible When will I learn It’s my fault I always mess things up Overcoming Negative Self-talk Reframing is a psychological technique used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Also known as cognitive restructuring, it allows you to reprogram your brain, changing your pattern of negative thinking — and the way you feel about certain situations, people, places, and things (including yourself). This is important because, as noted above, your thoughts end up becoming your actions. And negative thoughts very often turn into self-destructive actions. “I’ll never be able to stick to the Primal Blueprint” quickly spirals into you speeding through … Continue reading “7 Ways to Change Negative Self-Talk”
Measuring. Counting. Depriving. IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). Labeling as good or bad. Cheat day. Diet. Guilt-free. I could go on and on. I’m so over all the ways we inadvertently sabotage ourselves. Maybe you are too. Maybe you’re so sick of being stuck on what you think you should be doing, that you’ve lost sight of what your body actually needs you to do.
It’s not your fault though.
There is so much about our current situation that is challenging. There’s the obvious: job loss, financial insecurity, fear about the virus itself, uncertainty about the future. We’re living in a state of limbo, waiting for (more) bad news while trying to figure out what, if anything, we can do to reassert control and order over our lives. If you’re feeling… well, like you don’t even know what you’re feeling, you’re not alone. All of us are experiencing this massive disruption to our lives, and the collective fear and uncertainty that go along with it, for the first time. We’re learning to navigate and adapt in real time to a world that feels foreign. It’s normal to feel adrift, to run the gamut of emotions, and experience conflicting emotions sometimes simultaneously. Emotional Awareness as a First Step Toward Working Through Emotions It feels like emotions just happen to us. Especially strong negative emotions can feel like they overtake us, inhabiting our body without our permission. To some extent that’s true. What we call “emotions” or “feelings” are our subjective experience of our brain and body’s reaction to a situation. We can’t control the initial physiological response. However, we can shape emotional experiences—how strongly we feel emotions, how the thoughts we have about why we’re feeling a certain way, and how we cope. This process is called emotion regulation. The first step in any kind of emotion regulation strategy is awareness. We must recognize that we are having an emotional experience and then discern what, exactly, we are feeling. Anger, frustration, and fear all feel bad, but they are very different emotions that should prompt different responses if we are trying to help ourselves feel better. Mental health professionals suggest that simply naming our emotions, bringing awareness to how we are feeling, can be a first step in coping with emotional upheaval. Putting words to our inner states is one of the goals of therapy. It’s also a tool you can use to help yourself in the moment. When you’re hit with strong feelings, and you don’t know what they mean or what to do about them, simply pausing to say, “I’m feeling _____” can offer a bit of relief. I’m not suggesting that naming your emotions will magically fix everything, of course. That’s not reasonable. However, it is a tool you can add to your coping toolbox. If you’re like me, you need all the tools you can get right now. Naming emotions, or affect labeling Neuropsychiatrist Dan Siegel has coined the phrase “name it to tame it.” He explains that emotions come from a region of the brain known as the limbic system. Using language to describe our emotions recruits a different part of the brain, the cortex, which is less stress-reactive. By naming the emotion, we actually “calm” the activity within the limbic system that is triggering such strong emotions. This is supported by fMRI research conducted by Matthew Lieberman and colleagues. They have shown that “affect labeling” … Continue reading “Emotional Awareness and Processing Emotions Through Hard Times”
Hi folks, in this edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin discusses how to roll with the stresses and change in routine that come with life during a global crisis. Keep your questions coming in the MDA Facebook Group or in the comments section below.
We’re all feeling the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in one way or another. In this week’s edition of Ask a Health Coach, I’ll be answering questions from the Mark’s Daily Apple community and sharing strategies I use with my own health coaching clients about everything from maintaining your sanity while stuck at home, to bouncing back after a day of stress-induced snacking, to embracing the potential suck of at-home workouts.
I’m here for you guys, so keep your questions coming in the MDA Facebook Group or post them in the comments section below.