Category: Stumbling Blocks

Ask a Health Coach: How Bad Is It Really?

Love your weekly cheat meal? Got picky eaters in your family? Or maybe you’re high-tailing it to get the perennial favorite, the PSL as we speak. This week, PHCI coaching director, Erin Power is here to answer the pressing question: how bad is it really? And you might be surprised at the answers. Remember, you can ask your questions over in the MDA Facebook Group or below this post in the comments section.
Anne-Marie asked:

“I can’t resist those pumpkin spice lattes. Tell me they’re not as bad for me as I think they are.”
Who doesn’t look forward to a good ol’ PSL? The cinnamon, the nutmeg, the whopping 50 grams of sugar. While it’s true that sugar is linked to so many things you don’t want, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity to say the least, it’s not actually a hill worth dying over. At least not for me.

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How to Foster Healthy Body Image in Children

I belong to a ladies’ trail running community online. These women are cool, badass humans who perform amazing feats with their bodies. Last month, someone asked the group if they ever struggle with body image. The responses were overwhelmingly affirmative. Hundreds upon hundreds of women responded, “Yes! Me. Every single day.” Only a very few said no.

It was eye-opening and also woefully unsurprising. Most adults I know struggle with body image on some level.

Those of us who are parents would love to spare our children from this emotional baggage, but how do we help our kids develop healthy body image in today’s world? We’re up against massive biological and, especially, social forces. Humans are hardwired to see — and judge — faces and bodies, looking for signs of friendliness, similarity, and fertility. Our early survival as a species depended on it.

The modern diet and beauty industries have taken these natural propensities and exploited them to the nth degree. They bombard us with messaging, both subtle and overt, telling us we must do everything in our power to be as physically attractive as possible. No amount of time or money is too much to invest in the quest for beauty and the “perfect” physique. Oh, and definitely don’t show any signs of aging. The wrinkles, gray hair, and natural softening of the body that comes with growing older? Not allowed! Obviously, if you fail to live up to the ever-changing ideal, it is 100 percent your fault.

Short of moving to the woods and disconnecting from society entirely, we can’t keep our kids from being exposed. Our best hope is to help them develop a healthy body image early. Give them a strong foundation so when they inevitably get caught up in Hurricane Diet Culture, they may waver, but they’ll stay standing.

The strategy is two-fold: First, do your best not to repeat and perpetuate the culture that creates insecurity and negative body image. Second, teach kids to trust, respect, and appreciate their bodies regardless of appearance.

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How Do You Start Asking for Help?

Feel like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders? I can totally relate. If the struggles of living in an overly busy, stressed out society weren’t enough, the fear of navigating it all mid-COVID is the proverbial icing on the cake. Whether it’s the overwhelm of managing day-to-day tasks or deciding to get a handle on your mental or physical health, it can be hard to go it alone. Which leads me to the question: why do we feel compelled to do it all ourselves? Do You Have a Do-It-All-Myself Mentality? I ask my health coaching clients this question anytime I can feel them slinking back into their old patterns of avoiding asking for help. We sort of live by this notion that we should all be able to handle anything that comes our way. And if we can’t handle it ourselves, well, that’s a sure sign (at least in our own minds) that we’re weak, incompetent, or somehow unworthy of achieving success in that area. New health diagnosis? Sure, no problem. Relationship problems? Got it all under control. Global pandemic like we haven’t seen in our lifetime? No freakin’ sweat. The trouble is, asking for help can bring up similar, uncomfortable feelings. Research done in the fields of neuroscience and psychology confirm that there really are social threats involved in doing so. In fact, researchers found that an emotionally painful threat activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain does — which of course gives us even more reason to avoid asking and continue struggling in silence. Reasons You Avoid Asking for Help You may avoid asking for help for several reasons: You’re unsure where to turn You don’t want to be seen as weak Fear of being rejected Showing vulnerability Not sure how to ask Feeling like a burden Worrying people won’t like you Relinquishing control Admitting you can’t do it all Feeling like your problems are less significant You grew up with a pattern of being let down in childhood There’s no shortage of reasons why it feels hard to ask for help, but here’s where it gets wild. Studies show that people actually like helping other people — they get a huge benefit from it. Nothing we do as humans proves to be as fulfilling as lending a hand to someone else. To test this theory, researchers had participants write either a supportive note to a friend or write about their route to school or work before undergoing a lab-based stress task. Physiological responses like heart rate, blood pressure, salivary alpha-amylase, and salivary cortisol, as well as self-reported stress were collected and measured throughout the experiment. They found that participants who had written the supportive notes had lower sympathetic-related responses than their counterparts who just wrote about their routine. Asking for help makes people like you more too. This concept is called the Benjamin Franklin effect and is based on cognitive dissonance theory, which refers to “a situation involving conflicting attitudes, … Continue reading “How Do You Start Asking for Help?”

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Parental Burnout: What to Do If You Feel Overwhelmed as a Parent

Last year, an article in the New York Times described “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting.” That word struck me at the time and has stuck with me ever since. Speaking as a mom of two, the expectations and pressures weighing on parents can indeed feel relentless.

It’s not enough to keep our children clothed and fed, get them to school, and take the occasional family vacation. Parents today should provide optimal nutrition from birth and ensure that kids have the best educational opportunities. We’re told to enroll them in sports, extracurriculars, and tutoring to give them a competitive edge for college, then we’re obliged to volunteer as assistant coach, snack mom, and classroom parent. By the way, you’re already saving money for college, right?

Don’t forget, we’re also in charge of arranging playdates, monitoring screen time, and searching Pinterest for unique birthday party ideas and fun hijinks for the Elf on the Shelf.

No wonder parents are succumbing to burnout.

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Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation, How to Get Going When You Don’t Feel Like It

“I should work out today.” “I should eat better.” “I should stop shoving food in my face.” How many times a day do you find yourself using the word should? Most of my clients know what they should be doing to improve their health, but can’t seem to motivate themselves to actually do it. That’s why they come to me. Here’s the thing though. I can’t give you motivation, I can only give you the tools to motivate yourself. So, if you’ve been feeling like you should be working out more or eating better or refraining from cutting yourself another sliver of pie, keep reading. I’ll be unpacking what motivation is, the reasons you get stuck, and how to finally get off your butt and take action. What is Motivation, Anyway? In its simplest terms, motivation is used to describe why you do what you do.That why is the driving force behind your actions, whether it’s taking a swig from your water bottle because you feel thirsty, going for a run because you paid money to hire a trainer, or smashing the alarm clock because you stayed up too late binge-watching Netflix. Your why will likely be influenced by a variety of intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) motivators. Examples of intrinsic motivators: Running because it’s a stress reliever or feels fun Eating a protein-forward breakfast because it keeps you satiated all morning Doing yoga because it helps you clear your head Filling your fridge with healthy foods because it saves you time and money Organizing your space because it helps you feel calm Examples of extrinsic motivators: Losing weight to win a fitness challenge at work Cleaning the house so your spouse doesn’t get irritated with your mess Avoiding processed foods because your doctor or health coach told you to Sprinting because that’s what the people in your FB feed are doing Eating organic because you want others to perceive you as healthy Let me make it really clear though that your motivation (and your why) are entirely internal processes, meaning it’s your own perception of a situation that makes you more or less motivated to do something. That’s why it’s important to discover your own deep-down reason for staying committed to the path you’re on — or choosing an entirely different path. The Reasons You Get Stuck Clearly, motivation involves more than just wanting something or doing it because you should. That said, even with the best laid plans and a handful of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, why is it still so damn hard to actually do it? In my private practice and with my students and graduates in the Primal Health Coach Institute, I talk a lot about Toward Motivation and Away from Motivation. While the former is designed to ignite a positive, transformative emotion, pulling you closer to the things you want (having more energy, feeling great in your clothes, boosting your confidence), the latter usually more negative, acting as a reminder of all the things you … Continue reading “Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation, How to Get Going When You Don’t Feel Like It”

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The Pandemic’s Toll on Mental Health and Relationships: What Can We Learn?

When Mark asked me to write a post about the toll the pandemic is taking on mental health and relationships, I didn’t want simply to detail the ways it’s hard to live through a pandemic. Nor did I want to throw a bunch of statistics at you about how many people are having a difficult time. You know that it’s like living in the world’s least entertaining Groundhog-Day-meets-dystopian-thriller film.

If you’re like me, you’re sick of kvetching about 2020. The fact is, though, that I don’t know anyone, myself included, who isn’t struggling in one way or another right now.

After a lot of reflection, I’ve concluded that a big reason why 2020 is so draining is that our usual coping strategies don’t work like we want or expect. Most are aimed at reducing the source of our distress or dealing with the emotional aftermath. This pandemic is ongoing. We’re stuck in the middle of it, with no end in sight, and no way to speed the process along.

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