How Does Therapy Work?

If you have never been to therapy, just thinking about going can be anxiety producing. Realizing that you need help may make you feel weak, but deciding to no longer live with distressing feelings is the most courageous step one can take. Talking to a complete stranger takes bravery. Accepting our limitations takes courage. Seeking help takes strength. But what is psychotherapy? What is it like? Understanding therapy and what to expect can help reduce the concerns about going, and prepare you for the process. Read More

You Don’t Have To Lose Weight.

This time of year I am seeing social media posts and advertisements for a variety of weight loss programs and exercise routines you can invest into. Some are scary looking, and others seems quit reasonable and even healthy.

My message to you is stop.

Don’t spend another penny on a weight loss program or workout regime that you probably don’t need. Stop starving yourself (even if you “don’t feel hungry”) or working yourself to death in order to fit societal standards of what beautiful and healthy look like.

Starting in high school I tried to diet and exercise to be “healthy” and fit in. Over the years I have tried everything including liquid diets, detoxes, supervised restrictive diets by a Certified Nutritionist, exercising with personal trainers, and many other “healthy” weight loss programs. I lost weight. I looked amazing. I felt fine. It never lasted.

“Biology dictates that most people regain the weight they lose, even if they continue their diet and exercise program.” (Bacon, 2008).

Then in 2007 I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, back when the average person had never heard of gluten. After a series of testing, I would find that I was intolerant to a variety of foods including gluten, soy, peanuts, and dairy (just to name the top four). I then had to, for medical reasons, begin a restrictive eating lifestyle. It was a difficult transition.

There are no bad foods. Only people with a medical reason should restrict specific foods. If you are not gluten intolerant, then eat gluten!

At first I would find that I lost weight, and a lot of it, but eventually that weight would come back on despite my continued restrictive medical diet, and I would eventually gain and weigh more than I had ever weighed in my life. Talk about a double whammy. I don’t eat any fun stuff and I am gaining weight!

Restrictive eating messes with the hunger sensor in your brain, causing you to lose the ability to know when you are hungry and when you are full (Bacon, 2008).

Then I read the book, Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD. This book changed my way of thinking and gave me a new lease on living healthy. Linda Bacon earned her PhD in physiology from University of California, David where she is currently an Associate Nutritionist. She also holds additional graduate degrees in both psychology and exercise metabolism. She is one of the few, if not the only, weight loss researcher who is not financially connected to any weight loss program. Bacon is well published in scientific literature. Her book Health At Every Size (HAES) has been helping people regain power over their weight problems to live a truly healthy life, both emotionally and physically.

Here are a few facts she discovered in her years of research:

  • The average “overweight” person is more likely to live longer than the “normal” person (Bacon, 2008).
  • There is no scientific study that has ever proved that losing weight will prolong one’s life (Bacon, 2008).
  • The BMI scale that the medical industry is currently using was decided on by a panel of people who are all finically associated with a weight loss program. In the 90’s they met and overnight lowered the “healthy” BMI, making thousands of people “obese” when they awoke the next morning (Bacon, 2008).

If you eat adequately healthy and exercise adequately, your body will find its healthy weight naturally. Trying to force it into another size or shape is self-harm.

If you are like me, you are finding these facts crazy and mind blowing. We live in a society that believes that thinner equals healthier. It’s just not true! It’s time we start seeing ourselves as beautiful, no matter our shape or size.

So today, before you sign up for yet again another weight loss program, I encourage you to first read Health At Every Size and learn what real health looks like. You might be surprised that it looks like the person looking back at you through your mirror.

What Do Social Workers Do?

When I first started pursuing a career as a Clinical Social Worker, I often heard people say “Oh. You are the person who rips screaming babies out of the arms of their mother”. Well…not quite.

Read More

Be Your Own Valentine

Valentines Day is looming and for many it is a difficult day; a reminder of the love they are missing. However, Valentines Day can be the perfect day to show yourself love and practice self compassion. You don’t need an intimate partner to celebrate this day. Make it a point this year to be your own Valentine. Here are a few things you can do:

Read More

Grief in the Holidays

Holidays can be extremely hard and triggering for those who are grieving the lost of a loved one.  Here are a couple tips to help: Read More

Is AARM Right For You?

Are You…

  • Fearful about finding and/or losing love?
  • Unable to fully grasp your emotions?
  • Lacking a sense of belonging?

Read More

Is Happy Theology Bringing You Down?

Check out my latest blog  “Is Happy Theology Brining You Down” which I wrote for the Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma.  You can read it by following this link:

http://www.anxietytraumatherapy.com/blog/2018/7/3/is-happy-bringing-you-down-by-gretchen-j-penner-asw

Let’s Talk Stigma

Recently I was at an event, and when I introduced myself and what I do, quickly the topic of mental health came up. The conversation went something like this:

“I am concerned that all bad behavior is now written off as a mental health illness,” stated someone.

“I worry about the opposite,” I responded.

“What do you mean?” someone asked.

“I am more concerned that we assume anyone with a mental health illness is bad.”

The stigma is real. Our main understanding and knowledge of what mental illness looks like comes from media. Often the image we see of mental illness is someone hurting themselves or hurting others on the news. Soon we begin to think that anyone with a mental illness (especially PTSD, Bipolar, or Schizophrenia) is dangerous. Then when we, or someone we love, start to have symptoms of a mental illness we begin to worry and think, “I hope I’m not crazy”; that negative stigmatizing word, “crazy” like Jack Nicholson infamous picture from The Shining.

The truth is, most people in America have a mental illness. Mental illness does not discriminate. It crosses all demographic and ethnic boundaries. Here are some recent statistics from the CDC:

“Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.

So what do these statistics mean?

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

It means that mental illness doesn’t always, and most likely rarely, looks like Jack Nicholson in The Shinning. It does, however, looks like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kendall Jenner, Adele, Demi Lovato, Kristen Bell, Prince Harry, and many more. It may even look like the reflection you see in the mirror.

The biggest challenge with the negative stigma is that it prevents many from getting help. As the fear of mental illness grows, seeking treatment diminishes. Yet, most mental health illnesses are treatable which means many suffer needlessly.

If you are suffering, ask for help. There are solutions available that just might work for you.

*Thank you to NAMI for the cure stigma picture. 

 

 

Love Yourself – Just The Way You Are

There is something about this picture that speaks to me. I see a person who knows who she is, and can accept herself including her imperfections. What if we could all be that way?  What if we could all accept ourselves and love ourselves unconditionally? What if we could quit beating ourselves up for all the mistakes we have made? What if we could stop obsessing over just one bad move we’ve made? What if we can stop judging ourselves and start treating ourselves like we treat our best friend? Can you imagine the positive difference that would make? Not only for us, but also for those around us.

ARE YOU AS KIND TO YOURSELF AS YOU ARE TO OTHERS?

Read More

Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Wholeness

Spirituality is a key part to our mental and emotional health. Many people find their spirituality in different areas. I find mine through my Christian faith. Having not only been raised in the church, but also the daughter of the church pastor, also known as a “PK” (Pastor’s Kid), I embrace my spirituality through my Christian beliefs.

Although I myself am a Christian, I have worked with people from all spectrums of faith, religion and spirituality, including self-identified atheists. In my professional experience, I have found religion and spirituality to be key aspects for mental wholeness. Why is that?

Well, let me first break down the difference between religion and spirituality.

Religion is a set of rituals, rules and expectations. Hawkins (2005) defined religion as “an outer expression of faith or behavior.” Religion frames our value systems.

Spirituality is the inner peace and feelings that you are connected with someone or something greater than yourself. It gives your life purpose and meaning. Hawkins (2005) defined spirituality as “an inner journey…an experience that takes us to a higher level of function.” Spirituality encompasses love, compassion, hope and/or forgiveness.

Religion and spirituality can exist separately. However, I am a believer that the two together form a stronger base. For me, my religion forms my values and personal belief system. My spirituality drives my spirit and inner peace, empowering me to love others, have compassion and forgiveness for myself and others, and to have hope for tomorrow.

For decades, going all the way back to Freud, psychotherapists believed that religion and spirituality was a symptom of mental illness. Today, however, that is drastically changing. Read More

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