Apr 19

Intuitive Eating, Not Dieting: Health at Every Size

The concepts of not dieting vs. dieting and/or intuitive eating and/or mindful eating are not new; nevertheless, because of the pervasive dieting culture, many find these hard to grasp.

Geneen Roth‘s Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating was groundbreaking in 1984. Her list of then-revolutionary Eating Guidelines designed to replace dieting:

1. Eat when you are hungry.
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
4. Eat what your body wants.
5. Eat until you are satisfied.
6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.

Then there’s intuitive eating. As defined by expert Evelyn Tribole, author of multiple books, this approach is related but somewhat different. It “is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought.”

The philosophy of the Health at Every Size (HAES) community is another variation on a theme. In short, when it comes to changing your eating habits, do what makes you feel okay. Also, being in a larger body is not always unhealthy. (Conversely, being in a smaller one sometimes is.)

In addition to the resources noted above, the following books may be of help:

How Not to Diet: The Groundbreaking Science of Healthy, Permanent Weight Loss by Michael Greger (2019)

Dr. Michael Greger founded the Nutrition Facts website. His main emphasis: plant-based eating.

Ending the Diet Mindset by Becca Clegg (2018)

Clegg is a therapist with expertise in women’s issues and eating disorders. Check out her blog.

States the publisher: “By identifying the ten destructive Diet Mindsets, you can change your perspective on dieting and embrace a newfound respect for your body. Live a life free of obsession, and instead gain the courage to love yourself and find peace within.”

Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller (2016)

The title says it all. But you can also read an article at Refinery 29 that gives some backstory to the author’s creation of her Anti-Diet Project.

Kirkus Reviews: “Miller does take a look at some of the deeper reasons behind her compulsive eating, and it’s in these passages that her vulnerability comes through and her story becomes truly compelling. Readers will cheer for Miller to succeed on her ‘anti-diet’ diet of intuitive eating, her quest to eat according to her mindfully mined needs and desires, not according to a rulebook. It takes a lot of work to change a mindset that radically, and it’s slow going for Miller, who tends to trade one obsession for another…”

Mindful Emotional Eating: Mindfulness Skills to Control Cravings, Eat in Moderation and Optimize Coping by Dr. Pavel Somov (2015)

This book expands on his previous writings to focus specifically on “legalizing” and/or depathologizing the inevitable bouts of emotional eating—as long as they’re mindful, that is. What he helps readers reduce is “emotional overeating” and “mindless emotional eating.”

Smart People Don’t Diet: How the Latest Science Can Help You Lose Weight Permanently by Charlotte N. Markey, Ph.D. (2014)

Psychologist Charlotte N. Markey synthesizes tons of pertinent research. Included is info about what doesn’t work. You can ignore tips, for instance, that advise skipping dessert, no eating after 8 PM, and no between-meal snacking, to name a few.

What about dieting? Markey advises the following, as told to A. Pawlowski, Today.com:

‘Dieting makes you miserable, it makes you cranky. It actually makes you more likely to overeat and to binge and fast,’ she said.
‘Don’t feel guilty about having good stuff in moderation. Don’t feel deprived, but don’t be over-indulgent either. There’s got to be some middle ground.’

Apr 12

Resilience: How to Cultivate This Trait

When we began our study, we assumed that resilience was rare and resilient people were somehow special, perhaps genetically gifted. It turns out, we were wrong. Resilience is common and can be witnessed all around us. Even better, we learned that everyone can learn and train to be more resilient. The key involves knowing how to harness stress and use it to our advantage. After all, stress is necessary for growth. Without it the mind and body weaken and atrophy. Steven M. Southwick, psychiatrist, in The Huffington Post

Trauma experts Steven M. Southwick and Dr. Dennis S. Charney, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, are the brains behind Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges. In other words: how to bend, not break.

The authors conducted their own research, reviewed other related research, and interviewed many survivors of severe trauma. From this they came up with 10 factors that help people recover most effectively:

  •  Optimism
  •  Flexibility
  •  Core value system
  •  Faith
  •  Positive role models
  •  Social support
  •  Physical fitness
  •  Cognitive strength
  •  Facing fears
  •  Finding meaning in struggles

Southwick states that a couple of these—social support and optimism—are particularly powerful.

In an interview in Time, Southwick says of the former: “It looks like social isolation has as powerful an effect on longevity as smoking and [heavy drinking] and lack of exercise. It’s very bad for you. There’s lots of neat connections between social connectedness and ability to handle stress.”

And of the latter, states Charney: “It’s important to note that it’s realistic optimism we’re talking about. You need to have a very clear eyed view of the challenges you’re facing.”

Another resource is Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success by David B. Feldman, a psychologist, and Lee Daniel Kravetz.

Amazingly, even in midst of trauma, people continue to smile, to love, to celebrate, to create, and to renew. In making this observation, we absolutely do not mean to belittle the impact of traumatic times or the suffering many have endured and continue to endure. Suffering is real, but resilience is also real. It is an incredible and encouraging fact about human nature that, contrary to popular belief, after a period of emotional turmoil, most trauma survivors eventually recover and return to their lives. They bounce back.

As defined by the authors, supersurvivors “are those rare individuals who, in the aftermath of great tragedy and turmoil, reassess their priorities, redirect their focus, and accomplish extraordinary feats—they break records, win awards, and meet the seemingly unattainable goals they set for themselves.”

According to the publisher, this book will help readers “discover why certain delusions can be healthy, why forgiveness is good for the body, and why reflecting on death can lead to a better life. And, perhaps counterintuitively, we learn how positive thinking is not always a strategy toward the good.”

What are the five factors that most serve to help trauma survivors experience “post-traumatic growth”?

  • hope
  • personal control
  • social support
  • forgiveness
  • spirituality

Note that hope and social support are also highlighted by Charney and Southwick.

Some reviews have emphasized that whereas this book may be short on analysis, it’s long on true-life inspiration. Kirkus Reviews: Supersurvivors is(h)ope for the endurance of the human spirit in the face of tragedy. Artfully described…intensely powerful…riveting…uplifting.”

Apr 05

“How Not to Kill Yourself” by Clancy Martin

Philosophy professor Clancy Martin, author of the new book How Not to Kill Yourself: A Portrait of the Suicidal Mind, has said the following about suicide (Yakimaherald.com): “Suicide, for most people, is a process. Sometimes that process starts at a very young age. The writer David M. Perry talks about his own suicidal ideation beginning at age 9. I have a former student who first attempted suicide by riding his tricycle through a window as a toddler. My own desire to kill myself is among my first memories.”

Indeed, Martin has tried and failed over 10 times to take his own life. How does he feel about this? Via Emily Gould, Vulture: “’I’ve lived all my life with two incompatible ideas in my head: I wish I were dead and I’m glad my suicides failed.’ This sets the tone for the book, which encompasses philosophical and literary musings about the history and meaning of suicide as well as detailed autobiographical accounts of Martin’s own struggles with his mental health, addiction, and suicidality.”

Several years ago Martin’s viral essay “I’m Still Here” detailed much of the background that led to writing How Not to Kill Yourself. An excerpt:

I was already thinking about suicide in a daily way when I was 3 or 4 years old, and this didn’t stop until I was in my early thirties. Every day, for as long as I could remember, I fantasized about suicide. When I was young, I imagined that I might even get to watch the funeral and the aftermath. As I grew older, I accepted that it was not because I wanted to see what would happen, but because I was sure I wouldn’t have to live any longer. Essentially, I started with the ‘Fame’ version of suicide and transitioned to the ‘Consolation’ version…

On “the only really persuasive reason I’ve ever heard for not killing myself”: “A psychiatrist once told me: ‘Don’t not kill yourself because your children need you. They do need you, but they’ll be fine without you. Everyone’s parents die sooner or later. Here’s the real reason you shouldn’t kill yourself. Think of the example you’re setting for them.’”

A Publishers Weekly review snippet:

In three sections, Martin addresses societal conceptions of self-slaughter, his own struggles with alcohol and the times he hit rock bottom, and how to chart a path toward recovery. Along the way, he touches on famous suicides from Seneca to Anne Sexton, and historical and philosophical cases considering or even justifying the act, from philosophies as distinct as Bushido, pessimism, and stoicism. Funny but never flippant, Martin takes into account throughout the weight of his subject, even when describing his own grisly attempts, or those of his friends, without platitude or sentiment…

More from Kirkus Reviews on How Not to Kill Yourself:

Married three times and the father to five children, Martin harbors a deep understanding of others who suffer with the same dark feelings of despair, including several suicidal relatives in his deeply dysfunctional family…While experts impart captivating psychological explanations, Martin’s perspective inspires the most incisive and disquieting passages. Sections on his murky descent into alcoholism smoothly dovetail with accounts of the author’s candid, heartfelt work toward making peace with life and pages of proactive ‘tools for crisis’ for anyone considering suicide…

David Shields, author of The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead: “The most honest, complicit, searing, and discomfiting book I’ve ever read about suicide (and I’ve read quite a few—out of purely scholarly interest, of course).”

Mar 30

Global Mental Health: “Hidden Pictures”

In the words of Ethan Watters in his book Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche (2010), “We may indeed be far along in homogenizing the way the world goes mad.” And this is not a good thing.

An excerpt from the opening of Crazy Like Us shows some of the significant ways, in addition to the American-bred DSM‘s far-ranging influence, in which the U.S. has been inappropriately viewed or has functioned as “the world’s therapist”:

American researchers and organizations run the premier scholarly journals and host top conferences in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. Western universities train the world’s most influential clinicians and academics. Western drug companies dole out the funds for research and spend billions marketing medications for mental illnesses. Western-trained traumatologists rush in wherever war or natural disasters strike to deliver ‘psychological first aid,’ bringing with them their assumptions about how the mind becomes broken and how it is best healed.

Publishers Weekly notes the author’s argument that Americans’ way of doing psych business often doesn’t translate well to other cultures in various different lands: “…Western treatments, from experimental, unproven drugs to talk therapy, have clashed with local customs, understandings and religions.”

The documentary Hidden Pictures: A Personal Journey Into Global Mental Health, created by physician and mental health advocate Delaney Ruston, apparently was the first of its type to address global mental health.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) indicates that Hidden Pictures “looks at individuals and families affected by mental illness in Africa, China, France, India and the United States. Stigma and the need for greater access to treatment and care are major themes, framed against colorful, emotionally powerful backgrounds.”

And NAMI offers some pertinent statistics: “Approximately 450 million people live with mental illness worldwide. About 800,000 die from suicide, mostly in low and middle income countries—where as many as 85 percent of people living with severe mental illness receive no treatment. In high income countries, the figure is as high as 65 percent. Global spending on mental health is less than two dollars per year.”

In an interview with Real Change News, Ruston addresses such global issues as the lack of options for receiving adequate mental health care, the lack of mental health advocacy organizations, the importance of housing availability, and the need for mental health education in schools.

Her closing words: “Indeed, one of my key take-home points from making ‘Hidden Pictures’ is that, unlike the myth that our experiences globally are too diverse to understand and help, in fact, our experiences at the very core are much more similar than different, and global solutions are possible.”

A preview is available below:

Marvin Swartz, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University School of Medicine: “The written word often fails to convey the particular poignancy of people’s lives. Delaney Ruston’s masterfully told stories of individuals and families struggling with mental illness across the world, conveys a profound and visceral appreciation of the myriad effects of such illnesses. Hidden Pictures makes the story of the global burden of mental illness deeply personal and hauntingly memorable.”

Mar 28

“I Am a Narcissist”: Simple Test to Diagnose

“I am a narcissist.”

Whether or not this statement is true for you forms the basis of research conducted by Sara Konrath (Indiana University) in 2014. Indeed, she concluded that narcissism can be diagnosed just by asking. And apparently she got the idea to conduct this research after a perceived narcissist spontaneously outed himself in a group setting. Just like that. As though he was that proud of it. 

So here’s how it went down. In 11 different but related studies loads of subjects were asked, “To what extent do you agree with this statement: ‘I am a narcissist.’” A brief description was included: “The word ‘narcissist’ means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.”

Surprisingly, most persons’ responses matched up pretty well with results from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) each later took. This is a standard 40-question survey that you can take yourself to diagnose narcissism—just click on the link.

A possible conclusion has been that if you want to know if you are narcissistic maybe just this one question suffices. No big need to administer time-consuming tests. I mean, that is, if you really have to know that quickly if someone’s a narcissist or not.

Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Narcissist Next Door, explains in Time why this single question can be so effective:

The reason narcissists are so honest—a lot more honest than you’d be if someone asked you, say, ‘Are you a sociopath?’—is because they just don’t think their narcissism is a problem, which is perfectly consistent with people who think so highly of themselves. ‘Narcissists have these great mental health outcomes,’ Konrath told me when I was researching my upcoming book…’If you’re trying to think of a group of people who are low in depression and anxiety, high in creativity and accomplishment, that’s narcissists.’

That, by itself, doesn’t sound bad at all. But narcissists often possess those good qualities to the general exclusion of others—especially social and relationship skills, a shortcoming that can hurt both them and those around them.

A type of narcissism I’m guessing is harder to detect with the one-question strategy is covert narcissism, commonly known as the “vulnerable” type. It is the counterpart to the more grandiose and overt “invulnerable” type of narcissism.

If so, there happens to be a specific test for that, the Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale (MCNS), developed by Jonathan Cheek, Holly Hendin, and Paul Wink. It’s available in Scott Barry Kaufman‘s 2013 Scientific American article called 23 Signs You’re Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert.” (He was tired of all the recent “listicles” about introvert traits and intrigued by the purported similarities between introverts and narcissists.)

If you’re suddenly feeling fearful of losing your introvert status, however, approach very carefully—or not at all.

If you are a narcissist, you probably think this story is about you, and you are correct (as you so often are – right?). Kim Painter, USA Today