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Baggage: Are you letting your “once was” dictate your “to be?”

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Everyone comes with baggage; roads traveled, tears cried, and scars of recent and distant past.  But we also come with gifts, strengths, and dreams.  Don’t let your “once was” dictate your “to be.” Write the ticket. Then go! —Dr. Robyn Silverman, from Creating a Community of Character, Keynote presentation

Tabula rasa is dead. And it’s OK.

We are all born into current states of something.  Good or bad, bad or good, we come in with a suitcase and we fill it up as we go along.

Some might view this as depressing. I guess it can be depending on how we choose to look at the contents of the suitcase.

What are you carting along with you? When you take inventory on the contents of your baggage you notice…

(1) Life experience wears on you vs Life experience makes you stronger: Well, which one is it? Maybe it’s a little bit of both at times—sometimes events in our lives make us feel tired, frustrated, angry, alone and sad.  We’ve all been there—some more than others. Many choose to stay in this state of unrest for months, years, and sometimes even their whole lives.  Others find ways to remain hopeful and move forward.  They use their life experiences to help them make decisions for the future and for that, they are grateful.

scar-300x199(2) Scars keep me guarded vs scars remind me that wounds heal in time:Betrayal, loss, pain and suffering have a profound effect on the human spirit.  Some are cut deep and remain closed off from others—concerned that the wound will easily open and they will be hurt again.  While we take a chance with trust, this is no way to live.  We guard ourselves from hurt but also from joy.  So many choose to try again. To trust again. To love again.  And for those who do, they give themselves a chance for new happiness and fulfillment.

(3) Challenges hold me back vs challenges urge me forward: When you feel challenged, do you push back or do you cave in?  There are many challenges in life.  Some are dealt what can be seen as a very bad hand—disabilities, unsupportive or unplugged families, poverty, illness—and yet, some thrive.  And those who do often use their challenge as a stepping stone rather than a boulder holding them down from their dreams.  One of my friends had major learning disabilities and ADHD growing up—moved from school to school hearing that she’d never be good enough– she’s now a special needs teacher who helps many children every year learn, grow, and believe in themselves.

(4) Labels stick vs labels are just one person’s opinion: Children are labeled at a very young age.  Negative labels, whether true or not, can make an impact on a young person’s psyche. “She’s shy.” “He’s not athletic.” “She’s awful in math.” Some children, teens and adults self label. Others receive implied labels by comparison, for example, “His brother is the book worm” or “Her sister is the real ‘go-getter’ in the family.” And then there are the name-calling labels such as “bitch,” “player,” and “slut,” that can pigeon hole, hold people back and keep them from attempting new goals and meeting new people. Children, teens and adults tend to live up to the expectation set forth for them.  Unless…we learn that one person’s opinion is not necessarily reality.  As mentors, business people, parents, teachers and leaders we must demonstrate that we make our own reality.

(5) Yesterday’s noted characteristics haunt me vs help me: Were you called “argumentative,” “spirited,” “headstrong,” “stubborn,” or “opinionated” when you were little?  Sometimes the old traits that frustrated our parents and teachers in the past are the very characteristics that serve us well in the future. Reframing those opinions in the positive—perhaps seeing “opinionated” as “assertive” and “headstrong” as “determined” can show that you were always in training to go after your dreams.

suitcase-300x199(6) Old baggage stored vs dealt with or dumped: Remember that bully you never faced in elementary school?  Can’t forget that one thing your parent, teacher, or friend said to you in 9th grade? Wish you said sorry for something you did in college? Negative memories can hold a lot of weight in the baggage we cart around in life.  But they don’t have to.  When I first got onto Facebook, I reached out to a bunch of people who I felt I wronged in some way in childhood or adolescence.  As a different person now, I wanted to be accountable for my mistakes.  I also remained open to others who wanted to do the same with me.  They were different people now too.  The band aid was finally pulled off—and the memories were reframed, explained, and changed.  Some of you can do the same. If the chance has passed by due to death or inability to get in touch, write the letter, say the words, have the conversation with someone else you trust so you can forgive and let it go.

(7) Negative people accommodated or released: Everyone has housed negative, rude, unsupportive, and detrimental people in their lives for some period of time.  Some have taken permanent residency in our lives—even seated in the driver’s seat or at least backseat driving us to an unhappy place each day. When it’s a family member, it can be hard to let go.   And when it’s a friend you’ve had since childhood, it can seem wrong.  Still, it may be best to literally or figuratively dethrone that person in your life.  That means cutting ties, having a frank conversation about the need for change in the relationship, spending less time with that person, or what I call “demoting them” in level of importance in your own head space.  Sometimes, the negative people are no longer in our lives but we still repeat their ugly words in the privacy of our own head—shine light on that—and let them go.

The weight we give our so-called deficits, weaknesses, negative life experiences, leaches, and unsupportive labels actually is up to us.  It’s not always easy to let go, reframe or disempower whatever has been weighing us down—but it is possible and it is time.  When we commit to making this shift, our strengths become more obvious, our happiness more likely, and of course, our baggage more manageable, lighter, and quite nice to have along for the ride.

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Colds, Colds, and More Colds! Getting Healthy During Cold Season

dadanddaughter_sleep-199x300Well, I like to think of it as an indicator of just how close my family is– when one has a cold, we all get it.  It’s hard to avoid, you know, with my almost 3 year old giving lots of hugs and kisses to everyone and my 19 month old putting his mouth on everything and then coughing and sneezing in our faces.  Fun times in the Silverman household.

chickensoup2-300x225 remember how it once was—no problem avoiding colds.  If my husband, Jason, had one, I would simply pistol-pack Lysol in one hand and Fabreeze in the other, spraying everything in sight– doorknobs, sheets…Jason. I’d wash my hands every chance I could. Avoid touching my face. Took vitamins and downed my share of the very awful-tasting Grapefruit Seed Extract.  Not to mention, I would make a huge pot of chicken noodle soup (made it last night, as you can see from the pic, and hoping it’s not all gone by the time I get home today!), an offering to the cold gods to please, please, please overlook me if I just took care of the rest of my family and friends who already were laid up.

Of course, I didn’t have young kids back then.  The cold gods have no mercy for parents.

So here’s the scoop about colds during Sneezin’ Season:

Cold Symptoms

  • Usually develop 2-5 days after exposed to someone else who kindly shared their cold with you. (My 19 month old started sniffling on Tuesday, my almost 3 year old on Wednesday, and my husband and I on Thursday).
  • May include: Fever, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, headache, and muscle aches. (What a joy!)
  • Mucus: Likely starts off clear then turns green or yellow after 2-3 days (let’s not even go there). This does not automatically indicate an “infection” as the medical world used to believe.
  • Symptoms usually get worse over the first 3-5 days and then slowly disappear over the next 10-14 days. (What ever happened to only 7 days?)

Treating a Cold

  • It’s not a bacterial infection, so antibiotics won’t work. Taking them is pointless unless you or your child has an ear or sinus infection. If you are concerned, make sure you take him/her to the Pediatrician.  My son starts to lose his balance when he gets an ear infection–he is a bit prone to them.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you or your child: Take in extra fluids, use a cold humidifier, and rest a lot—well, if you can—which most of us probably can’t…but we can dream, can’t we?
  • You may want to get a bulb syringe or saline nasal drops to clear nasal passageways for young kids who don’t “get” the whole idea of blowing their nose yet. Of course, anyone who has a young child in their life knows that this bulb syringe (which we call the “Booger Bulb” in our house), is not received with the greatest fanfare by the child in question.
  • Some say that over-the-counter meds might help ease symptoms like fever, congestion, and cough. Talk to your pediatrician about all medications before giving them to your child.  Many are not made for young children or do not have the right dosage for young children listed on the back of the bottle.
  • Zinc lozenges should not be used by children because they’re not often tolerated well and haven’t been shown to be helpful in children.
  • Some are turning to natural remedies like honey. Doctors often recommend putting honey in tea or giving a spoonful to your preschooler to help soothe throat pain.
  • Consult your pediatrician for more information for your specific child. Be aware of possible interactions with other drugs or allergies that your child might have before trying to treat cold symptoms.

Do you have any great cold remedies? Please share here or on our Facebook page!

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Mind Your Manners! Top 10 Tips for Helping Children Show Manners during the Holiday Season

boy_potatoes-199x300Joey, a seven year old boy with big brown eyes and a proven love for mashed potatoes did the unthinkable.  Sitting around the holiday table, Joey wanted to show his Aunt Theresa that he could be part of the “clean the plate club” just like his Great Uncle Lester.  With great conviction, he picked up his plate and licked it—sending his leftover turkey onto the floor, his unused gravy into his lap, and his mashed potatoes up his nose.  Then he sneezed…and no, he didn’t cover his mouth or nose.

Joey’s mother, Trish, told me during one of our coaching sessions, “Perhaps it would have seemed funnier if half my guests weren’t covered in remnants from Joey’s dinner…my mother-in-law included.”

Holiday time can be unpredictable. It can encourage parents to push the limits of their credit cards and children to push the buttons of their parents. The excitement of these special days coupled with “once-a-year” guests, competition for parental attention, anticipation of gifts, power shopping and elaborate meals can inspire children to do things that they might not try at any other time of the year.

How can you help to ensure that your child doesn’t do a repeat performance of Joey’s dinner disaster?

(1)  Expose them to role models with manners: It’s challenging to teach good manners if a key adult or older sibling in the house isn’t modeling them. Actions speak louder than words. Children must be shown as well as told what you would like to see with regard to manners. Older “cool” friends or siblings who have great manners can be a particularly powerful influence. If your children see others showing great manners, your children will learn to do the same.

(2)  Set the expectations: Talk to your children about how you would like them to act in certain situations before they arise. Role-play these ideas.  What would you like them to say when someone gives them a present (even if they don’t like it)?  How should they behave at the holiday table?  Give them the step by step and allow them to help you generate ideas.

(3)  Start practicing at home: Going to someone else’s house for the holiday? Manners begin at home.  If you want your child to use manners out in public or in someone else’s house, they must be reinforced and used in your home.  Practice using a napkin, asking someone to pass the food, saying thank-you to the host, and saying goodbye to the guests.

(4)  Be consistent: Children retain what you repeat.  “Please” and “thank-you” will only become habits if you teach your children to say it every time it’s appropriate.  This does not mean you should nag.  Remind your children without making a big deal of it.

(5)  Use books and posters to show examples: If you have worked with me, you know that I like to compile children’s books by category such as manners, discipline, courage, and other character education words.  The use of books and posters can be great visual ways to start a conversation about manners during holiday time as well as throughout the year.

(6)  Play the “what if” game: Provide scenarios and questions and allow the whole family to discuss manners in this interactive way.  I like to provide about 18-20 questions for each of my clients to use so that each person in the family can answer several questions.  When you do this as a family, it makes it fun as well as educational.

(7)  Play the “messy manners” game: Another fun game I encourage people to play is the “messy manners” game.  During this game you can brainstorm all the rude manners one might exhibit at the holiday table.  You can even role play these “messy manners.”  Everyone gets a good laugh but most importantly, it provides a springboard for the questions, “Why shouldn’t we do that?” and “What should we do instead?”

(8)  Review the Powerful Greeting: Any child who attends a Powerful Words Member School or has worked with me during a presentation at a school knows about the “Powerful Greeting.”  This greeting is really quite simple.  First, teach the child how to shake an adult’s hand.  Then, teach him how to look at someone in the eye.  Finally, teach him to say, “hello, my name is ____, it’s nice to meet you,” or “Hello, it’s nice to see you again, thanks for having us.”  Everyone is always very impressed and the praise the child receives from others always makes the child feel really good!

(9)  Teach the Child How to Write Thank-You Notes: In the age of email, we all know how simple it is to send a quick note.  However, we also have to admit that getting thank-you card in the mail is better.  Teach your child how to write a thank-you card if he has received a nice gift for the holidays.  Young children can draw a picture and sign their name to the card.  You can even take a picture of that child with the gift and send that along as well.  It doesn’t need to be perfect or complex; it simply shows children the importance of saying thank-you.

(10) Praise it if you like it: When you compliment children on good behavior, they’ll want to do the same thing again.  Be specific with your praise.  What did you like?  “I like the way you helped clear off the table without anyone asking.  That really put a smile on my face and shows that you have very nice manners.”  Children will be looking to do a repeat performance and find other ways to make you proud.

Good luck with your holiday plans.  Remember to try and relax through the hustle and bustle of it all.  These tips are sure to prepare you for a great day. And if the mashed potatoes still end up flying in the face of your mother-in-law during holiday dinner, don’t forget, there’s always next year.

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Bah Humbug! 7 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer to the Cheerless

sad_dog-201x300Not feeling too cheerful this holiday season?

We all know that some people aren’t feeling particularly cheerful this holiday season.  Perhaps you are in that same boat. Recession. Poor health. Bad breaks.  Family frustrations. Maybe it isn’t even you—but you are constantly surrounded by doom and gloom such that you feel that you have to be (as one of my friends confided in me) “the proverbial daisy popping through the cement sidewalk for all.” Whatever your specific frustration, the holiday music reminding listeners of white snow and the commercials demanding that you buy the latest gadget are probably not helping.

So how are you supposed to bring cheer to the cheerless…especially if you’re the one who just wants to say “Bah Humbug?”

(1) Reach out to those who put a smile on your face: While you may not be able to leave your frustrations behind, you can catch a little time on the phone, on skype, or even in person with one of your favorite friends.  Sometimes the temptation is to block out all cheerful people to wallow in your own challenges but this will leave you in the same place you are in now.  You don’t really want to feel this bad, do you?  It is true that when you surround yourself with positive people, you feel more positive yourself…even if it is just for a little while.

Ask yourself; Who makes me feel good?

Pitfalls to watch: Going to someone who used to make you feel good but is now a toxin in your life. Going to someone who doesn’t make you feel good but asking them to do it anyway. Telling yourself you don’t need anyone.

(2) Grant a wish: Helping others can take you up a notch.  Whether you know of a friend who has fallen on hard times and can’t afford a holiday gift for her child or you know of a military family in town who could really use a home cooked meal, volunteering and charity might be just what the doctor ordered.  There is even a charity service called Wish Upon A Hero where you can grant wishes for others right in your area or around the US.  There is something about helping others that can really help yourself too.

Ask yourself; who can I help?

Pitfalls to watch: Getting sucked into someone else’s problems and taking it on as your own.  Spending hours reading about the problems in the world and actually taking no action.

(3) Treat yourself to something you love: Whether it’s taking a trip to the park, a walk with a friend, a massage, a hair cut, or even whipped cream on your hot chocolate, do something that feels good to counter the bad.  Perhaps this is the time you take the drive to see your old friend.  Maybe going south for the weekend would give you a little refuge from your current situation.  A movie? Night out with friends? Reading your favorite book again?  No doubt you have favorite things—break ‘em out.

Ask youself: What helps me to feel good?

Pitfalls to watch: Spending money you don’t have. Putting off treating youself.

(4) Ask for help: Sometimes we feel like we’re on our own little island.  We have so much to do and we can’t catch a break.  Is this really the truth?  Or is there something—anything—that someone else can do to help you out.  Maybe it’s having a friend babysit for 2 hours so you have coffee out with a friend—or having a classmate’s mother pick up your child from school so you can go to the gym.  Maybe it’s having someone come over at night to be there while your elderly mother sleeps so you can go shopping with your sister while having peace of mind.  Perhaps it’s asking a neighbor if they could put leftovers aside for you one night so you don’t have to cook.  These are little things.  They really aren’t a big deal—but they may mean a few moments of sanity for you.

Ask yourself; who can I ask for help?

Pitfalls to watch: Not seeing that help may be right in front of you.  Making excuses that keep you from asking for help.

(5) Do things that make you laugh: We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine.  What brings you to tears…in a good way?  A hilarious book? A funny movie? A new comic on TV?  Maybe you just need to hang around with your 2 year old niece who literally says the darndest things or your uncle who never censors what goes through his head.  These are all little bits of medicine we can give to ourselves to relieve some of the stress and tension that is building…and building…and building.

Ask yourself; What makes me laugh?  What were the last few things that made me laugh so hard I cried?

Pitfalls to watch: Wallowing in self pity.  Telling yourself you don’t deserve to laugh or be happy.

(6) Get out: Get out of your room. Get out of your house. Get out of town!  Sometimes changing the scenery, even if it’s just for the day, can give you a difference perspective. Or some distance.  Or a refuge. Don’t know where to go? Sometimes it doesn’t matter much.  But I would say somewhere that gives you peace.  Open space.  Beautiful views.  The park.  The beach. The mountains. Or towards someone who adores you (see number 1)—a friend, a sibling, an older relative that would just plotz to pieces with joy that you came for a visit.  You could use a little plotzing with delight. (Note: To plotz means to collapse from surprise or excitement).

Ask yourself; Where can I go? What place makes me feel at ease? Where can I go that makes me feel happy?

Pitfalls to watch: Telling yourself you haveno way to get out, nowhere to go and no way of getting there.  Where there is a will there is a way.

(7) Move your body: Walk. Run. Ski. Work out. Turn on the music and dance.  There is nothing that can change a mood like a great piece of awesome music.  Turn it up and be a fool.  You can even break out the air guitar if you’ve got the notion.   Ask some friends to join you.  You might be surprised how many people could really use a good jig in the middle of the holiday season.

Ask yourself; What physical thing do I love to do?

Pitfalls to watch: Laziness, lethargy due to feeling sad or depressed.

Now I know what some of you are doing.  You are making excuses.  Shall we list a few? I don’t really want to see people…I want to stay in bed (get into my pjs, cry by myself, bury myself in a bowl full of rocky road icecream…) I don’t want to laugh. I hate asking for help. There’s nobody to ask for help. Everyone has their own problems…

Now stop it.  That’s not helping at all.  It may not be easy but the choice itself is quite simple. Commit to doing at least 1 of the 7 tips above.  Today. If you are feeling really ready to make a change, commit to doing 2 or 3 or more.  Then go do them.  People often quote Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world”but it has to start with you.  So be the change you want to see in yourself.  You can do it. All you need to do is take the step and have a little faith in yourself.  You deserve it.  You really do.

Happy Holidays, my friends. Peace, joy, and love.

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Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Anderson Show: Plastic Surgery & the Pressure to Be Perfect

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Plastic surgery is a booming business. In 2010, there were 296, 000 breast augmentations, 252,000 rhinoplasties, 203, 000 liposuctions procedures and 116,000 tummy tucks.  I imagine you can guess who are the most likely consumers of these procedures: women.

And it’s not just for adults. The latest figures from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show that the number of such procedures performed on youths 18 or younger more than tripled over a 10-year period – from 59,890 in 1997 to 205,119 in 2007. Liposuctions rose to 9,295 from 2,504, and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold, from 1,326 to 7,882. (Info here from my body image book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It)

In the above video, I’m speaking on The Anderson Show about body image and how, in a society where plastic surgery is becoming the norm, we can build positive body image in our girls and young women.  This can be particularly complicated when, in one of the families featured on the show, the father is an established plastic surgeon who performed plastic surgery on his daughter when she asked but is now saying no to addition procedures.

Fathers are so integral in how they shape their daughter’s self concept and body image. They are the very first man in their daughters’ lives.  They answer the questions for many girls; “Am I beautiful?” “Am I valuable?” “Am I enough the way I am?”

When parents are watching the program today, I hope you’ll come away with this nugget: Tell your daughter over and over that she is beautiful just the way she is.  But don’t let beauty be the only thing you compliment.  Remind her that she is strong, powerful, talented, and valuable for all the things that make her uniquely herself.  Even if you think she isn’t listening, she is taking your opinions with her everywhere she goes—from childhood to adulthood—and if you are really consistent, those opinions will be what helps to shape a very powerful, healthy, and positive self concept and body image in your daughters.

More to come! (Additional info on the Anderson Cooper Website)

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Ask Dr. Robyn: 5 Tips to Encourage Generosity in Children

Here we are! Holiday season! At a time of year that shouts “buy, buy, buy!” how do we encourage giving and generosity in our children? Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a question about generosity and children from reader, Linda:

Dear Dr. Robyn: We want our daughter, Krysta, to be the kind of person who gives of her time and energy to others.  Kids are often all about what they get these days. Her cousins are so selfish– they get everything they want and don’t like to share.  Krysta gets jealous sometimes. We want her to be happy but we don’t want Krysta to pick up the same habits as her cousins have adopted.  How do we help her to become a generous, giving person?

How do YOU encourage generosity in YOUR children?

No Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat-Talk Free Thanksgiving

untitledThanksgiving is my family’s favorite holiday. Is it one of yours too? There’s something so powerful about a holiday that everyone celebrates in America because it is part of American culture, not religion.  But you know what can really ruin a good holiday meal? Fat Talk.

Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

A collaborative body image article by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

With Thanksgiving on Thursday and many of the major holidays right around the corner, expectations run high. The grand dinner, the family gathering and…who’s done what since the last get together. You know what I mean. Who’s dating and who’s been dumped. Whose daughter was accepted early to the best program and who is licking her wounds?

And of course, who’s gained weight.

The comparisons slip off the tongue as easily as the marshmallows are stolen off the sweet potato casserole. It easily, seamlessly, and expectantly becomes part of the dinner conversation. Between bites, stares of “should you be eating that” meld with apologies for eating too much and promises to be “good” at dessert time. Each plate is then served with a hefty heaping of shame, blame, and naming names of those relatives or celebrities who are or are not adhering to the narrow definition of what is considered the standard of beauty these days. Is this really what Holiday Dinners are supposed to be about?

Fat-Talk-Free Holiday Tips

It’s time to take control of our holidays instead of allowing Fat Talk into the driver’s seat. Dr. Robyn Silverman and Dr. Lynne Kenney give you the tips to make your Holiday a positive experience where everyone involved can come away feeling good, strong, powerful, and supported.

Dr. Robyn Says…

(1) Declare the Holiday Table a Fat Talk Free Zone: In Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I talk about establishing a Fat Talk Free Zone in order to take charge of what kind of “talk” you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Holidays, of course, are special occasions and times when we see people who aren’t in our every lives. While it may take guts, ask your guests (YES, your mother-in-law too!) to join you in making this holiday a positive one where you build people up rather than tear them (including yourself!) down. Hang it right on the door or by the Holiday Table; “You are now entering the Fat Talk Free Zone!”

(2) Don’t forget what Holiday Family Dinners are really all about:When you think of the true meaning of your holiday get togethers, they’re really about love, family, friends, and gratitude, right? I mean, what happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving? If we can focus on what we have—our strengths, our assets, and our support system—instead of what we lack, our Holiday dinners will surely be more enjoyable…and something to fondly look forward to and remember.

(3) Remember what Your Mama told you (if you can’t say something nice…): Whether it’s about yourself or someone else, snarky, rude comments hurt. They impact our minds and our moods and poison the dinner environment. And let’s not forget that such toxicity isn’t contained to that day. We remember those negative messages for years to come. Girls internalize it.  Boys learn that this is a practice that girls do AND that girls should indeed hold them to such a narrow standard. Frankly, it stinks. So let’s change the dialogue we say to others and to ourselves.

(4) Start a new tradition: Some go around the table and say what they’re grateful for while others retell old family stories. In the spirit of Fat Talk Free Holidays, why not start a tradition of celebrating our strengths? Ask everyone to say 1-3 things that they feel are assets they possess. You can also go back around the table and flip it—what are 1-3 assets you admire about someone else at the table? This is not about competition or comparison but rather, about seeing people for their strengths rather than their deficits.

(5) Nip it in the bud: If someone starts to “fat talk,” pull them aside and remind them kindly about your Fat-Talk-Free Holiday plan. While some adults may be able to filter out opinions about fat, calories, and weight, children and teens are very impressionable. Your silence, in this case, can be seen as an endorsement of the behavior and what the guest is saying. Speak up so that everyone can get back to focusing on enjoying family, food, friends, and some fat-talk free time.

Dr. Lynne says…

(1) Think first, speak second. The messages you send your girls really matter. They listen closely and watch even closer. Are you commenting on your need to diet? Do you identify some foods as “good” and others as “bad.” At the dinner table recently I heard a mom say, “Eat your dinner so we ca get good stuff, the dessert.” Desert can indeed be yummy, but it’s not the good stuff. Stop labeling foods, eat a touch of it all without comments and judgment. Fat-Talk-Free is the way to be!

(2) Lift one another up. Family meals are not the time for devaluation and gossip. No need to criticize those who are not present or take advantage of the audience to make yourself feel better by putting others down. Turn conversation into opportunities to share experiences, learn what your family members have been up to and celebrate one another’s passions.

(3) Offer to share the space. Do you get anxious each holiday knowing that your mother or mother-in-law is going to steal the limelight with her extravagant meal offerings, only to hear that you forgot to add the garlic to the mashed potatoes? Call ahead of time and offer to host an evening in your own home so that you can all have an opportunity to throw a family gathering the way you like it. Perhaps Thanksgiving is always at one home, ask to switch it up. Have dinner Wednesday evening at your own home and invite everyone you love. Celebrate everyone’s passion for entertaining by telling family members they can bring a favorite dish. Just because Thanksgiving has always been one way doesn’t mean this year it has to be the same old status quo.

(4) Add an activity to the holiday weekend. Family activities like sports, games and crafts bring each other joy. Consider a family game of football, a walk in the forest, or a game of Bananagrams. You can find a list of fun family activities for your fridge in The Family Coach Method. Rebecca Cohen offers great tips on planting and playing outdoors. Download her family activity list and put some family fun in your holiday.

(5) Do something nice for others. There is no better way to teach your children to give back than to offer to make crafts with elders at a local senior center, serve a meal at the local food pantry or clean out your closet and give away what you don’t need. Enjoying a family meal is only one aspect of the holiday experience.

Conclusion

This holiday season is one you get to design. So move away from old habits and introduce new ones with some thoughtful planning and preparation. You may be surprised by how others willingly join in.

Are you ready to set the stage?  Are you ready to speak up?  We all must be accountable for stopping fat-talk at our holiday tables. Do it for yourself. Do it for the other girls and women at the table.  Do it to reinforce the message to boys and men that beautiful women come in all different shapes and sizes.  This Thanksgiving, let’s toast to a very happy, healthy, fat-talk free holiday! People will thank you for it…

Note: Dr. Robyn Silverman’s book is Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.

“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home

Rebecca Tishman, our teen college blogger, has openly told our readers her story of eating disorders and recovery over the last 2 years. Her frank insight and bold discussion has helped many understand the many facets of eating disorders during the teen years and how they can be a support to others who are facing similar challenges.  Today, Rebecca writes about her eating disorder relapse. 

Relapse from an eating disorder is not uncommon. Studies show that 1/3 of women treated for anorexia or bulimia relapse within 9 years and 40% of patients with anorexia relapse within 1 year of being treated at an inpatient eating disorder facility. While Rebecca is in no way alone, there is no doubt that this article was likely hard for Rebecca to write. Please write in your support, comments, questions, encouraging words, and congratulations for her courage during her ongoing fight against ED either here or on my Facebook site where she’ll also be interacting with readers.

blog_rebeccat2-230x300“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home by our college blogger, Rebecca Tishman

I’ll be honest. As much as I’d like to say that I’m fully recovered from my eating disorder (ED), it looks as though ED’s still got me on my toes.

Back in May I finished my first year of college. What a feat, right? Two days later I moved to North Carolina for an internship opportunity I secured there at an artist collaborative. Things seemed to be going great at first. I did my own grocery shopping. I cooked meals everyday.  I was able to clear my mind of all the stress that developed over the past year and exercised in an appropriate amount. Yes! I was staying in control of my Eating Disorder instead of the other way around.

But then it happened. I had naively let my guard down and allowed ED sneak his way back in. I was relapsing.

It was about halfway through my stay there. I somersaulted so quickly. My own admission that I was in ED’s grips again My own admission that I was in ED’s grips again forced me to choose to return home earlier than I had originally intended to so I could see my team of doctors and be closer to my parents’ support.

I remember a time when I was in treatment. One of the tasks they gave us was identifying what relapse meant to us. They asked us; what would the signs of our own relapses would look like? They then asked us to give them to our family so that they knew what our relapse would look like and what signs to look for. This exercise helped me to identify the very painful truth. It was happening and I needed to do something about it.

The signs of relapse are different for everyone.  Here were some of mine:

  • Disconnection: Feeling disconnected from friends and family-whether physically far away from them or standing right next to them I felt like we were in different solar systems
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol to escape the feelings
  • Food intake: Basing the amount of food intake on whether I exercised and how much I exercised
  • Skipping meals: Intentionally skipping meals-while missing a meal once in awhile is not a definite sign of relapse, going into the day intending to skip meals and not making up for them at the next meal was a red flag for me
  • Eating “safe” foods: rather than enjoying what I was cooking and eating, I felt like I was in control of what I was eating and drinking by returning to my “safe” foods and beverages
  • Eating by myself: Not wanting to eat in front of people
  • Withdrawing: Wanting to be alone all day-I was constantly afraid of being left out, ignored, not wanted, so I recoiled into myself and stayed home for days on end instead of venturing out and making friends
  • Being afraid of food: Whether I ate an entire pizza or a single grape I felt like I was binging and instantly wanted to purge; in order to avoid that feeling I avoided eating (not a healthy solution!)
  • Using attention-seeking behavior to speak for me: often I use my ED to speak the words I don’t know how to voice

Of course, identifying the signs of relapse is a good first step, but it takes more than that – one then has to change those behaviors.

Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to change my relapse behaviors:

  • Returning to my original nutritionist: I’ve trusted her opinion for almost four years so having her set up a meal plan and give me permission to eat gave me back some control and helped me feel like all of those foods were now “safe” foods
  • Ridding my wardrobe of “skinny” clothes: I no longer want to torture myself with the reminder of the body I had when I was very sick so I got rid of all the clothes that do not fit or that I have had since before I went to treatment
  • Recommitting to recovery every morning: it’s tough but when I wake up I try to tell myself “today I am committing to a better life which one day will be ED free”
  • Having an open dialogue with my team and my family: They can’t possibly help me if they don’t know what is going on so I have to remind myself to be honest with them.
  • Making a plan to move forward: I’ve decided to come home once a month so that I can see my parents and my doctors and can try to be that much more connected to them all

I’m trying to learn from each slip-up in my recovery in order to avoid doing the same thing again. In doing so I learned how important it is to identify what is truly my own behavior and what is an ED behavior, what ED behaviors still exist after all this time, and what new ones are starting to crop up. Once I can identify them for myself I’m that much closer to changing the behavior and ultimately being truly recovered. Today that seems impossible but tomorrow it could be a reality if I continue to diligently call my behaviors into question.

Thank you, Rebecca, for your bravery and your honesty.  We are rooting for you every step of the way.  Readers; please leave your comments here or on my facebook site and Rebecca will surely read and respond either place.

drrobynsig170

Some other articles by Rebecca Tishman:

Is Vegetarianism feeding some girls’ eating disorders? HERE

Speaking out against Fat Talk while Recovering HERE

High School’s Helping Kids Down the Path of Eating Disorders

The Rub with Greasy Grub

Summer Renaissance: The Tale of a Body Image Rebirth

Are you part of the fat-talkin’ club? 7 Tips to Address the Problem with Friends

Are you a member of the Fat-Talkin’ Club?  There are chapters…worldwide.

blog_girlstalk-300x199It’s Fat Talk Free Week and, like every year, we are being challenged to drop the fat talk between friends.  This can be a tall order for many.  Why? Because fat-talking has become a habit and a bona fide, integrated component of many friendship circles.  Is it part of yours?

Let’s see.

Do you hear things like:

“You’re so skinny!

“I wish I had your legs!”

“I’m such a whale…pig…heifer…elephant…”

“I can’t believe I ate that.”

“I’m so fat…”

when you are with one or more of your friends?  Then you may be a card-carrying member of the Fat Talkin’ Club.

blog_girlstalk2-300x199So what can you do about it?

  1. Bring it up: This is the time to be assertive.  If you feel awkward, blame it on Fat Talk Free week.  You are welcome to blame it on me too! Discuss what you see happening and how it can be detrimental to the people you care about most.
  2. Challenge yourselves: Can you stop the fat talk for the week?  It would be even better if you could stop it for a consistent 21 days, as it has been stated that it takes 21 days to make a habit.  It may be the beginning of the end of your Fat Talkin’ Club.
  3. Redefine your interactions: What do you want out of your friendships? What do your friends want from them?  Take the time to discuss what is beneficial and damaging in a friendship so that everyone is on the same page.
  4. Create a Fat-Talk Free Zone: (I talk about this in my body image book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat if you would like more detail) When you and your friends are together, make it a point to steer clear of fat talk. When someone breaks that rule, call them on it and refocus so you don’t all slide back into old habits.
  5. Break free of toxic friends: Not all friends are keepers.  It’s the truth.  If a friend makes you feel inferior, unworthy, critical, or ashamed, it’s time to speak up and change the dynamic or part ways.  Surround yourself with people who embrace who you are and bring out the best in you when you are with them.
  6. Spread the word: When new people come into your life, don’t be afraid to talk about your commitment to ending fat talk in your life.  You will likely find some great people who are excited to embark on the healthy relationship you bring up!
  7. Clear your own head: When you are in the privacy of your own head, are you still fat talking?  Breaking free of this negative pattern needs to happen when we are by ourselves just as much as it needs to happen in our friendship circles.  Catch yourself when you are doing it and counter act these thoughts with positive ones about yourself.  You can always call a friend for an encouraging word.

It’s time to make a change.  Make the commitment. End fat talk.  You can do it AND you are AMAZING!

Remember…

Unschooling: Is radical homeschooling right for your child?

Unschooling is a radical form of homeschooling that throws the books out the blog_unschooler-196x300 window on traditional learning. School [School newly corrected: Learning] takes place out of traditional school doors and on the child’s own terms. Today, I sat down with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, to discuss it.

How can this work?

(1) Know your child. Some children thrive in a less rigid, less structured, more free form education process. Some children are self propelled, self motivated, and ready to learn in many different kinds of ways. Other children thrive with structure and adult guidance.

(2) Know yourself: It may not sound like it, but this is an investment on the parents part. Self directed not mean by themselves.Unschooling doesn’t mean only exposed to what’s in front of you. Parents must be willing to get out, get their hands dirty, and take the road less traveled.  (There are lots of sites and blogs where parents and young people are sharing their experiences so you can see what this entails).

Why would people do this?

(1) Some parents may be dissatisfied with the local school system, their personal education growing up or even what traditional schools provide today.

(2) Some parents may have an exceptional child who has specific gifts that they believe would be better suited outside of the traditional classroom structure.

(3) They may want to nurture a passion of their child’s that they don’t feel the traditional local school has the time or curriculum to do.

Note: Some unschoolers will take a college class if they feel that this will help them to grow and learn what they are interested in as many they believe all avenues of learning should be tapped.

As a parent who may or may not be considering this– you may have some questions:

(1) Are there longitudinal studies? There are no long range statistics on if it’s working, not working, what’s working and what isn’t. Right now we’re going on faith and anecdotal evidence. Hopefully, studies will be provided in the coming years.

(2) Will there be gaps in their education? If the children are hyper-focused on one or two things, there may be concern that the fundamentals may be lost or delayed if they are not as exciting to learn. Even though unschooling is self-directed, parents will need to encourage some balance. After all, in order to delve into many topics of interest, reading, writing, and math are necessary. The philosophy here is; the children will learn what they need to learn at the time it’s necessary to learn it.

(3) What about socialization? Parents of all home-schooled children need to provide the socialization their children need to grow up as a well-rounded, social individual of our society. All children need to exposed to other children, away from parents, so they learn how to be with other kids.  If they aren’t in school, and other avenues aren’t provided, socialization can be an issue. (This is where programming like 4H, scouts, martial arts classes, sports, community theater and camps come in- many home-schooled children will take part in after-school programming or even get together with other home-schooled children during the day and learn together).

(4) Will they be exposed to enough variety? Parents need to ensure that their children are receiving diversified exposure that allow them to discover all their passions aside from the one they are already nurturing. If a child is really interested in one area, we still need to expose them to much more than that…or how are they going to discover all the passions they may have?

(5) Are they learning to persevere through tough subjects? Parents need to ensure that all children learn how to persevere and endure through subject matter that kids may not find all that intriguing but is necessary for their development. All children need to venture out of their comfort zones, try new things, and overcome challenges.

If college, then what?

If unschoolers want to go the more traditional route, they’ll have to do what every other student does and take the necessary tests to get placed. However, there is one major difference: they’ll provide a resume of learning rather than a traditional transcript. Some unschoolers will have to learn to take tests and focus in larger seminars if they haven’t been in that circumstance before. Only time will tell if there are significant gaps and when unschooling is right for a specific child.

What can we learn from unschooling?

Just as unschoolers can supplement their education with traditional school classes, those who go the traditional route, can supplement their child’s formal education with experiential learning in areas that truly excite them. Use some of your weekends, summer vacation, winter breaks, and after-school times to go the nontraditional route. Your child may want to do science camp in the summer, take trips to the zoo, dig in the dirt to learn about bugs, camp in the forest, or draw on a mountainside.

There are great things to learn out there beyond the school walls whether you are interested in unschooling, homeschooling, or traditional structured schooling. If you take nothing else away from the segment, I think that’s the bottom line here. The “recipe” for success is different for different children and different families– parents can and should explore a variety of different approaches to see what can work best for their child.

Let’s chat about it! Join me on Facebook or Twitter!

drrobynsig170