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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Category: Ideas to Consider

15 May

Would you wish your life on someone else?

Ideas to Consider 9 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

A few months ago, my mindless scrolling through social media brought me upon an article urging me to ask myself if I would wish my life on my children. The post addressed why so many parents tie so much of their own happiness and self-worth to their children’s success. It was an interesting read, but what stuck with me was not the content but the question itself.

Would I wish my life on someone else? 

Truly, this question has followed me around like a basset hound for the last few months, nipping at my heels when I least expect it.

To me this question isn’t about the details of my life — my condo in little urban neighborhood, my daily commute to work, the amount of money I have to spend on groceries — but rather it’s about the way that I’m living my life. If I could unzip my shell and let someone else step into my world, would I let them? Would I feel proud of the way that I’m treating myself and my loved ones? Would I feel that I’m being kind to allow someone to live my existence and assume my habits? Would I want the other person to share the goals and values towards which my actions are pointing me?

The busyness of life sweeps us up in its torrent and before we realize it we’re miles from where we started. In its wake is sometimes left the remnants of the life we thought we would be living. For me this question is a compass. It’s asking me to recalibrate. The road back to where I veered off might be long, but with my feet pointed in the right direction, I can get there.

Would you wish your life – the way that you’re living your life today – on someone else? What might you change? Would you be kinder to yourself? Engage in things that make you happy more often? Slow down the pace?

12 May

The Chocolate Milk Monster

Ideas to Consider 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

choc milk

{image credit :: maria pontikis via flikr creative commons}

I get it. I really do. Get the sugar-laden milk out of the schools so that we can get our kids to drink more water and kale juice and we can curb the tide of the childhood obesity epidemic and we can all pat ourselves on the back while eating our bowls of ice cream on the couch at home.

Okay, so maybe I don’t get it.

I’m not arguing that chocolate milk is the prima beverage for kids or adults. It can add a significant amount of sugar to a child’s daily intake and potentially unnecessary calories. There are plenty of other foods and beverages that can pack a more nutritious punch ounce for ounce.

But recent research is showing that banning chocolate milk in schools leads to overall less milk consumption — in one study, approximately 10%. In 11 Oregon schools where Cornell researchers examined what happened after the ban, they found that while some kids did replace the chocolate version with white milk, they ended up throwing away 30% of it. And thus down the drain goes healthy protein, calcium, and Vitamin D.

Despite my mini-rant above, I do understand the urge on the part of schools to weigh the benefit of reducing sugar consumption heavier than the consumption of the nutrients in the chocolate milk. However, I worry that this reflects our greater cultural focus on eliminating the “bad” versus introducing and promoting the “good.” (Ugh, I hate labeling foods and bad and good and am only doing so here to reflect the way society tends to view certain items.) We’re so concerned with getting rid of trans-fats and pop and white bread and spend such comparatively little effort teaching kids to enjoy nutrient-dense foods.

To really know the net “benefit” of eliminating chocolate milk, we also have to better understand how kids are reacting to the change. Are they bringing cans of pop to school as their beverage instead? Are they replacing the sugar and chocolatey goodness they would have gotten from the milk with cookies or another slice of pizza? We have to consider what the compensatory behaviors are.

And perhaps most importantly, I worry about setting up a feeling of deprivation and restriction for kids around any food or beverage. These are kids… when you tell them they can’t have something, they’re going to react, rebel, and potentially even sneak and binge. For example, an important study showed that kids that had parents with more restrictive eating tended to eat many more marshmallows when offered. They didn’t know how to regulate themselves because they were always being denied.

In a few years when my son goes off to kindergarten, perhaps chocolate milk will be as ancient as pop rocks. (And maybe part of my reaction is born out of my particular fondness for the chocolate milk of my youth.) We could all be so glad that our kids have switched to kale juice and have lower glycemic indices. Who knows… But for now, I hope that schools work to truly better understand the implications of banning an item before doing so.

Do you think schools should stop selling chocolate milk?

30 Apr

A Programming Note

Ideas to Consider 2 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

I thought having an infant was the best excuse ever for why I couldn’t manage to get anything done, but the last several months have proven me dead wrong on that front. In fact, having a toddler makes it much more impossible to accomplish anything  outside of, well, caring for said toddler. At least when my son was an infant he slept for more than 30 minutes per day and stayed put when I set him in one place. I now am the proud mama of a rambunctious one-year-old who loves to run (waddle-run to be more precise), climb, nose dive into toy boxes, and open and close every drawer in the house. I kid you not… in a room full (full!) of toys, he will find the one thing he shouldn’t touch and that is the only thing that can possibly satisfy him, and it had better be rightthisverysecond that he gets his tiny little hands on it. Or we will melt down into a heaping pile of tears because, well, life as we know it is over.

So, there’s that.

In my professional life, things haven’t been any slower. I’ve been busy opening a new residential treatment center in the heart of downtown Chicago. It’s been a labor of love, the culmination of our center’s years of imagination, dedication, and hard work. I feel so humbled to be part of this amazing process and so proud of what my colleagues and I have developed. We officially opened our doors just a few weeks ago and have been busy getting everything settled. It’s been truly exhausting and totally great.

So, there’s that too.

Oh, and one more thing. I’m expecting a little one in October! Our little family is continuing to grow, which makes me simultaneously thrilled and apprehensive at how our lives will evolve. My pregnancy has been such a gift, but it sure has wiped me out. I’m finally feeling more like myself over the past couple of weeks, but prior to that felt a bit like a train had run me over by 1:00pm each day. Now I feel fairly human until about 8:30pm, so that’s progress.

So there’s that as well.

All in all, life today hasn’t left me much time to cultivate this space. Not being able to tend to my little part of the internet has left me feeling a hole in my heart. I love being able to use this space as a creative outlet and I love being able to connect with others who are passionate about creating more balanced selves.

I just wanted to drop a note to say that I’m missing being here and that I hope to find a way to be here more often. Know that I continue to read every email (even though it’s taking me a little longer to reply) and every comment. If you’re reading this, let me say thank you for sticking around and bearing with me as life takes its crazy twists and turns.

Nourishing the Soul is four years old this month. I’m completely humbled by that. I’d like to say that if no one was reading, I’d have kept on writing anyway, but I don’t know that that’s true. It’s because you all have kept me inspired with your stories, challenged me with your opinions, and just generally helped me feel a sense of community that I’ve kept plugging away for this last several years. I know that this space will evolve as I do – as we do.

So thank you, and keep reading and writing when you can. I’ll do the same.

 

Much love and nourishment,

Ashley

17 Mar

So here’s what concerns me about CrossFit

Ideas to Consider 9 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

crossfit

{image credit :: KaneStr}

When a good friend of mine told me several years ago that she had decided to join her husband at the “box” for a CrossFit session, I was admittedly incredulous. A swimmer in her youth and moderately athletic, it wasn’t that I didn’t think she had the guts to do an intensive workout. But CrossFit? Wasn’t that the place where runners go to die and Navy troops end up disabled?

It was, but she loved it. And she realized it wasn’t about weight loss, but getting stronger. Soon, she was going to the box several times per week, crafting her schedule around the class times and speaking the lingo like a veteran. She humble-bragged about the WOD (“Workout of the Day,” which CrossFitters can find online), which might be a six-minute AMRAP (“As Many Reps As Possible”) of pull-ups, push-ups, and squats.

As I learned more about the world of CrossFit, I was reassured in my belief that it was not a world for me. I’ll admit, I was scared of the intensity of the workouts. But I also found myself anxious about the community itself. As someone relatively averse to competition, it seemed to me that the CrossFit culture would emphasize the very part of exercise that I most disliked.

While I openly admit that I’ve thus never tried CrossFit myself and am likewise no expert on the practice itself, as an observer, a therapist, a friend, and an eating disorder psychologist, I have a few concerns.

A few caveats before I “bash” something I’ve never tried: I fully recognize that each box (“gym” for CrossFitters) has its own individual style and culture as established by the franchise owners, the staff, and the people attending classes. I’m going to be painting CrossFit with a bit of a broad stroke, so I acknowledge the limitations of doing so.

Okay. So here’s the thing –

CrossFit can seem a bit cult-like to me at times. Now, I acknowledge that any time a group of people spends a large amount of time together doing something they truly love and value, a subculture develops. What gives me the heebie jeebies about the whole thing though is the mentality I’ve observed among many CrossFitters that CrossFit is superior to all else and that other ways of exercising are for the a.) uninformed or b.) weak. Another friend of mine who dipped her foot into the CrossFit craze pulled it back out again when she was told that she was “stupid” for running. While the principles of CrossFit may be different and – who knows – maybe running is silly – I don’t respond well to things that seem to put other things down to advance their own agenda.

For some, the culture of CrossFit is the perfect breeding ground for their own insecurities and harmful beliefs that we must push ourselves to our absolute limits. While this may never be something that a CrossFit instructor says explicitly, my observations have been that this is interwoven into the fabric of Crossift. If we’re not pushing ourselves, what’s the point?

Unfortunately, a growing number of individuals have seen just where this mentality can lead – potentially fatal health complications resulting from over-exertion. The issue that has gotten the most publicity is an ugly little condition called rhabdomyolysis. “Rhabdo” for short, this is a life-threatening issue that can develop when the muscle cells break down from over-use, spilling myoglobin, a protein that can easily overwhelm the kidneys, leading to significant illness, kidney failure, or death.  And it’s not just a condition that affects the unfit. Military and police personnel and football players doing CrossFit are among those reporting Rhabdo.

Sure, any workout is going to pose potential risks. Cycling can lead to getting hit by cars or other serious injuries, for example. What concerns me though is the attitude with which CrossFit and its leadership have approach rhabdomyolysis. You might imagine they would disseminate information and put safeguards in place, but instead they simply created a cartoon named “Uncle Rhabdo,” a jacked-up clown with blood and sweat spilling out and hooked up to a dialysis machine.  The response to a 2005 lawsuit in which a CrossFitter claimed that he was permanently disabled due to Rhabdo caused by his workouts? A children’s workout was named after him, the obvious implication that this gentleman was clearly weak.

The dangerousness of the practice wasn’t downplayed. Rather, it seems to have been used to inspire its followers and create a culture in which “only the strong survive.” CrossFit’s founder, Greg Glassman, was quoted in the New York Times saying, “It can kill you… I’ve always been completely honest about that.”

Um… okay.

Do I feel that CrossFit itself is responsible for its members who end up hurt, either psychologically or physically? I suppose that depends on how we define responsible. What I will say is that a culture has developed in many CrossFit communities in which limits are not observed, pain is lauded, and danger is ignored. For someone vulnerable to over-exercise or extreme behaviors, CrossFit could create the perfect environment for dangerous behavior to thrive.

Have you ever tried CrossFit? What has been your experience? What kinds of physical activity do you enjoy? 

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