Toilet Talk Newsletter

Toilet Talk Newsletter: Be Healthy, BU

 

           

Fall 2014 Toilet Talk

By Alice Sounthala, UCC GA and Randi Scheiner, PHD and UCC psychologist

           

Side 1

Instilling Hope

Have you ever realized that when you are having a bad day, you forget about all of the good things that happened to you that day? In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), this is called 'disqualifying the positive.' Disqualifying the positive means that a person rejects positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason. This type of thinking is a large contributor to feelings of hopelessness and depression. In this article, we will examine different ways people disqualify the positive and discuss approaches to help alter those ways of thinking.

One of the most common ways that people disqualify the positive is 'all-or-nothing thinking.' All-or-nothing thinking means to view the world in absolute, black-and-white terms. Statements such as,  "I am a terrible person!" or "I am a failure!" are examples of all-or-nothing thinking. This type of thinking makes it difficult to see the positive aspects of a situation and puts too much pressure on you to be perfect. If you try seeing yourself and situations in shades of gray, rather than black and white, you may feel better about yourself. Consider all parts of a situation, the good and bad. This may help you to assess and accept both the positive and negative qualities of a situation.

It is helpful to be aware of how you 'minimize' or 'maximize' the importance of a situation. Minimizing certain aspects of your life may make it difficult to see the positive parts of a yourself, and vice versa, maximizing certain aspects of your life may only let you see the negative parts of yourself. Examples of this type of thinking include,  "I've only lost 4 pounds!" or "I feel fat because my pants have gotten tighter." Along with this way of thinking, consider whether or not you tend to dwell on a single negative detail of a situation. Focusing on a single negative event can impair your ability to see things in a positive light. Again, to avoid this type of negative thinking, look at your situation as a whole and accept that the negative parts of a situation are only a part of your life. Try not to allow the bad things in life determine your entire life.

It is also helpful to be aware of 'fortune-telling' or 'mind reading'. Fortune telling means predicting the worst outcomes, even if you don't really know what's going to happen. An example of fortune-telling is, "I know I'm going to fail this class." The problem with fortune-telling is that your mind is so powerful, it can make negative outcomes more likely to occur. For example, you can make yourself so anxious before a test, that you become unable to focus on studying and end up doing poorly on the test.
Mind reading is when you think you know what someone is thinking. An example of this is, "I know he thinks I'm fat." The reality is, you really don't know what someone is thinking, nor can you control it. Fixating on things that are beyond your control can make you feel helpless. If you find yourself fortune-telling and/or mind reading, try adding opposite or pacifying statements to your prediction, such as "or not" or "so what?". For example,  "I know I'm going to fail this class.. or not" and "He may think I'm not perfect, but so what?" This change in thinking will become easier to do more convincing with time.

Finally, to avoid disqualifying the positive, you should try not to take things too personally. (internalizing) It may be hard not to take things personally, especially when you feel like you are the target of something bad. Try to remember that not everything is about you and that there are other factors involved. Think of other reasons, other than yourself, as to why a specific situation came about.

In conclusion, by acknowledging positive parts of your life, you can decrease feelings of depression and increase feelings of hopefulness. You may find that not all of these techniques apply to you. However, acknowledging that certain ways of thinking can affect your feelings is a critical step in fighting depression and low self-esteem. It is important to remember that incorporating these techniques into your life takes time to accomplish. It is not an automatic way to get rid of depression or feelings of hopelessness, but it can help. You can try to incorporate these techniques into your daily life, little by little, until they become more authentic to you. If you feel like CBT could be helpful to you, don't hesitate to seek professional help to learn more about the therapeutic approach.

Burns, D.D. (1989). The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.


Side 2

Instructions for How to Look in the Mirror

We look at ourselves in the mirror every day, sometimes dozens of times a day, but do we ever stop to think about what causes us to look at ourselves so critically? Through mirror gazing, we may find ourselves judging and scrutinizing our appearance. This approach to looking in a mirror may be attributed to social expectations that have been reinforced through the power of social media.
Today's media puts a great emphasis on rigid standards of beauty and perfected body types. We see it over and over again in magazines, movies, television, billboards, etc. It is no surprise that we can't all realistically live up to those standards.
What you see and how you react to your reflection may depend on many factors including gender, ethnicity, and age.
According to research on body image, women are more likely to be more critical of their appearance than men. The standards of beauty for women have progressively become more unrealistic and impossible to achieve. However, men are increasingly seeking counseling for body image issues, as an unattainable muscular appearance has become the media's masculine ideal.
A person's idea of beauty may be also be dependent of their ethnic and cultural background. For example, one British study revealed a majority of Ugandan students to be attracted to 'obese' body types because larger body represents wealth. Whereas, in the U.S. the more acceptable body type for women is the opposite.
Age and body maturity may also be an indicator to how we react to our body image. Adolescent boys go through a shorter dissatisfaction stage during puberty than adolescent girls. When boys go through puberty, they typically grow taller, form broader shoulders, and gain muscle, whereas adolescent girls typically grow taller and gain fat in their hips and thighs. This may be difficult for girls who live in a society where having body fat is misinterpreted as being overweight.

Considering these factors, it is easy to see why we are so critical of ourselves when looking at our reflection. We all have standards of beauty, but sometimes those standards distort the way we look at ourselves. We become master critics of our own self-image. In order to avoid this, it may be helpful to try to look in the mirror in a different way.


Parent, M.C. (2013). Clinical considerations in etiology, assessment, and treatment of men's muscularity-focused body image disturbance. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 14, 88-100

Side 2

Tips on How to Look in the Mirror

1.) Be less critical of yourself. When you look in the mirror ask yourself, "what looks good?" instead of focusing on perceived flaws.
2.) Make sure you are looking at YOU and not using someone else's impossible ideal to judge yourself. You can never live up to everyone's standards and impossible ideals. Set your own standards to live by that you can be happy with.
3.) Don't compare yourself to others. Acknowledge that every body is different and that beauty can be found in all shapes, colors and sizes. Just because you find someone attractive, even though they look nothing like you, does not make you unattractive.
4.) Try to look at yourself as a whole rather than fixate on parts of your body. Dissecting certain parts of your body parts may make those parts look out of proportion. You may see things as too small or too big, when in reality, those parts are probably normal sized and proportional to your entire body.
5.) Look at yourself in the mirror and accept how you look. Appreciate what you have and think of positive ways to treat your body (e.g., healthy eating, exercising, massage, etc). It might be helpful to accept yourself if you can acknowledge that your self worth is not determined by what you see on the outside.

Mirror Challenge

How hard do you think it would be to go through the day without looking in a mirror? Here's our challenge to you: For two days, allow yourself to look in the mirror only once a day. We suggest you use a mirror to get ready in the morning and then challenge yourself not to look in a mirror again until the next morning. This challenge will help you take a break from focusing on physical flaws and imperfections. It may allow you think differently about how to see your internal and external self.

Think you can do it?

 

 

 

 

Spring 2014 Toilet Talk

Written by Lisa Reynolds UCC GA and Randi Scheiner, PhD

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Side 1

Health at Every Size

Do you ever get the feeling that you are fighting against your body just to try to lose a few pounds? Have you ever found yourself doubting your metabolism after weeks of dieting and exercise have yielded no weight loss? And, to add insult to injury, your friend seems to eat whatever they like, whenever they like and not gain a pound? If so, you're not alone. In fact, you are part of the majority of people in this country. Furthermore, this is actually a reflection of your body's natural defense and adaptation mechanisms, proposes Health at Every Size author, Linda Bacon.

When functioning optimally, the body can be viewed as having a "fat-thermostat," which Bacon calls the setpoint. This is the "healthy weight that your body aims for," the weight that is "biologically ideal" for each individual (Bacon, 2008). If you deviate above your natural setpoint by gaining weight, your body normally "turns off" the hunger mechanisms and increases metabolism to return to its setpoint. Conversely, if you drop below your natural setpoint, for example by eating less and losing weight, your body decreases its metabolism and employs its hunger mechanisms as a means of regaining that weight. When your metabolism decreases, your body clings to the stored energy – the fat – that it has.

The primary player in this fight to maintain homeostasis is a small region in the brain called the hypothalamus. This part of the brain sends signals to the body to release hormones that tell various organs to regain balance. As applied to hunger, the hypothalamus exercises control over things like food cravings, perception of taste, appetite, and even energy level. How does the hypothalamus know when to act? It actually "listens" to your fat. Adipose tissue secretes a hormone called Leptin which stimulates metabolism and energy level as mediated by the hypothalamus. The more fat that exists in an average body, the more Leptin that is produced and, in turn, the higher metabolism and activity level.

If the idea that your body will automatically maintain a setpoint weight seems to challenge what you have observed in life, don't be alarmed. It may sound unfamiliar because we have effectively broken this system within our bodies. This mechanism of weight maintenance is an adaptive process meant to keep us alive in times of scarcity. However, we are fortunate enough to live in a society where food is abundant. In this regard our bodies are behind the times.

As said by Bacon, "our internal weight reduction system remains ideally crafted for the environmental conditions of the past - food scarcity – helping us pack on pounds and thwart hunger and has yet to evolve for the environment of today, where food is everywhere."

As if this weren't enough, our culture of fad-dieting and restriction also contributes to the breakdown. When a person restricts or diets, the body's natural reaction is one of self-preservation. Believing that food is scarce, the body clings to the fat it has, decreasing metabolism and energy level. While diets might work in the short term, they have actually been found to increase the body's setpoint weight to protect against future diets. This means that chronic dieting actually results in overall weight gain. From here, the body invests its efforts in maintaining this new higher setpoint at all costs, making weight loss harder than ever.

Given this broken and outdated – albeit physiologically amazing- system, what can we do to maintain a healthy weight? The answer is easier than you might think. Stop dieting and restricting food, and listen to your body. Regulate your metabolism by eating balanced meals and healthy snacks every 3-4 hours. As we said, setpoint is a homeostatic system that works in both directions; your body does not want to weigh under its setpoint any more than it wants to weigh over its setpoint. So, forget the calorie counting and cayenne pepper cleanses. Don't restrict your intake of nutrient dense foods to save for calorie-rich treats and alcohol.

Try not to eat emotionally—out of boredom, sadness, or loneliness. This is usually mindless eating. Pay attention to your hunger and how your body feels throughout the day and cater your eating habits to it. Try to be aware of the experience of eating, while you eat. Chew each bite thoroughly and enjoy your food. Tune into what your body truly needs and eat with purpose and quality. In doing so, you might find that you return to a healthier, happier, and far more natural state of balance. Bon appetite!

Reference: Bacon, L. (2008). Health at every size. (2nd ed.) Dallas, TX: BenBella 

 

 

Side 2

Self-Acceptance

If you were asked to describe yourself, what might you say? Would your description be mostly positive? Or would it have a more critical focus? Beyond that, do you associate that description with positive or negative emotions? If you make a mistake are you able to quickly forgive yourself or do you tend to beat yourself up over it? These questions can provide insight into your level of unconditional self-acceptance. What's that? Well, according to Psychology Today, self-acceptance is the ability to "embrace all facets of ourselves – not just the positive, more 'esteem-able' parts... self-acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification," (Seltzer, 2008).

Why is self-acceptance so important? A study published in 2003 found that individuals who demonstrated lower levels of unconditional self-acceptance also exhibited lower self-esteem, increased self-esteem lability, and increased depressive symptoms (Flett, Besser, Davis & Hewitt, 2003). In this study Flett, Besser, Davis, and Hewitt also found that low unconditional self-acceptance was linked with attitudes of perfectionism.

Consider, for instance, the idea of body image. When a person can let go of perfectionistic body standards and lovingly accept their body as it is naturally, that person is more likely to report a sense of overall well-being as opposed to feelings of depression. This has proven to be effective in the primary school setting. Health curriculums that focus on positive body image have been found to reduce the risk for eating disorders, as compared to more traditional curriculums that educate on symptoms and pathologies of eating disorders (Maine, 2000).

However, self-acceptance does not solely relate to physical attributes. It is important to also be acceptant of other types of flaws. For instance, if at the end of the semester your GPA isn't what you were hoping for, cut yourself some slack. While your grades might fall short of your expectations, they do not define you. No grade, however high or low, can dictate your self-worth. Take note of your feelings, but forgive yourself. Life goes on and you are still the same, wonderful you!

What does all this mean? Well, it simply means that through working towards accepting ourselves completely and unconditionally, we can work towards greater mental health. Both individually and in a clinical setting, this can be used to develop interventions that help to promote positive sense of self, thereby increasing resilience and well-being. So, cut yourself some slack and work towards accepting, if not appreciating, all aspects of the person that you are. It will feel good!

"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection" ―Gautama Buddha 

Side 2

Techniques to Work Towards Self Acceptance 

Sunset Mind

When you watch a sunset you most likely don't think, "That is the wrong shade of pink," or "The blue and orange really clash," or "I think it could use just a little more purple." Most people appreciate the overall beauty, vastness, and impact of the scene rather than picking it apart critically. Try using this same approach when thinking about yourself. Everyone has flaws and shortcomings, but they are all a part of the beauty and intricacy of the person as a whole. Just as each sunset is unique - different from any other that has occurred or will occur again – so too is each individual. You are the only you! Appreciate, embrace, and celebrate that – for better or for worse!

Change your self-talk!

Next time you notice that little voice inside projecting excessive self-criticism, ask yourself why you need to be so critical. Replace statements of guilt and self-shaming with statements of understanding and love. Instead of telling yourself, "That was a dumb mistake," or "This cake is the last thing my thighs need," try saying things like "I did a good job of learning from that tough situation," or "It's ok to eat dessert, especially when I normally eat so healthfully." Work to acknowledge your strengths more than you diminish yourself for your weakness. It's ok to love yourself. We remind our friends and family that we love them, why not remind ourselves?

Believe in your beauty, from the inside out!

To build a more positive body image, first acknowledge your inner beauty. Consider your strengths, hopes, personality, and feelings. These are unique to you and cannot be compromised by any external factors. Then, view your body as the vehicle for this inner beauty. No blemish, lump, or bump can detract from sincere acceptance and pride in yourself as a person. Respect and appreciate your body and everything it does to carry you throughout each day. As said by Roald Dahl, "If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Side 1 & 2 were written by Lisa Reynolds, UCC Graduate Assistant and Randi Scheiner, PHD & UCC Psychologist

Last Updated: 9/16/14