Toilet Talk Newsletter

Toilet Talk Newsletter: Be Healthy, BU


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


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: 8/13/14