Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for 'health coaching'

Blogger Sarah Kopplekam’s post “How to talk to your daughter about her body” went viral last month, landing her a spot on the Huffington Post where 146,249 people have “liked” it and 35,292 people have shared it.

What Sarah said isn’t revolutionary to those of us who work with eating disorders. Unfortunately, wise counsel like this often only reaches parents too late–after years of negative modeling and messages have already done their damage. And her wisdom applies to sons as well as daughters.

My favorite suggestion: Don’t dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your kids, or about your new diet.

A dear friend’s daughter recently moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school. We hung out last week, laughed about how “crazy” her mom and I were when she was young and the impact our relationship with each other and our bodies had on her. “I never heard my mom say anything negative about her body. I asked her about it a few years ago. She raised her eyebrow like she does when she wants to make a point and told me that she was very intentional about that.”

Katie internalized a healthy sense of her body by watching us love and enjoy being in our woman bodies, enjoy good food, move because it felt good and not be afraid of getting dirty or talking about vaginas and penises! Needless to say, I was absolutely delighted by this conversation. I can’t imagine a better compliment than to hear that my example, even more than my words, impacted the life of another person.

The greatest gift a mom can give her child is her own positive relationship with her body.

The greatest gift one woman can give another woman is to fully embrace our own bodies and lovingly care for ourselves through the many changes and challenges of the female life cycle.

Passing it forward to Natalie

I met Kristen Fenton at the beginning of her career in social work. She participated in a self-care mentoring group I lead for ministry and mental health professionals.  I passed onto them the understanding and skills that have helped me find a new way of being in my body and life.  Years later, Kristen passes it forward through helping others heal from disordered eating and body image in her private practice in the Chicago area.

Last spring Kristen visited Los Angeles and I had the delight of meeting her engaging and beautiful daughter Natalie.  In writing to thank me for the time I spent sharing my life with her, she wrote “I am forever changed because of it. And my sweet Natalie now gets to live her life with a mama who is not enslaved to food or a poor body image.”

Thanks be to God!

Maybe you don’t “love and enjoy” your body. Begin with a small step: notice what is right with your body: your eyes that see, your ears that hear, your ability to walk. Practice noticing what is right with your body, not what is wrong.

And, if you need to talk about what is not right, the things you hate, wish you could change, please don’t do that with your daughter or son. Kids have more than enough negative and confusing messages about body image coming from media and peers. They don’t need you to add to that baggage.

Lots of resources are available. No matter what age your kids are, now is moment to begin to change your relationship with your body into a more loving, compassionate, and even celebratory one. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.

If you’d like some support, I’ve been there and done that and would love to share my experience, strength and hope with you.

Yesterday I passed my semi-annual breast exam with an “all’s clear” from the doctor!

Thanks be to God!

And thanks be to my own good choices over the past twenty years!

Hereditary and genetic predisposition for diseases like cancer can’t be altered–although researchers in the fields of epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology are working on it–but how we live each day significantly impacts our risk. Research indicates that where we live, what we eat & drink, the quality of our relationships, how we manage stress, exercise and many other choices we make each day profoundly affect disease onset as well as our ability to recover.

An Example of Self-Neglect

Growing up with a mother who neglected her health gave me a good example of what not to do.

Moira Diedre Ford & Moira-Cecily Brady 1983

A diagnosis of breast cancer in her sixties did little to change her lifestyle. In fact, even after a second round of breast cancer followed by lung cancer a few years later, she smoked her Virgina Slim cigarettes right up until her last days of life.

In her last weeks of life she was confined to bed and on respiratory assistance. Yet, several times a day she’d rally the energy and strength to get out to her balcony for a smoke lest she blow up the entire house by lighting up in the vicinity of the oxygen tanks!

Mom had courageously overcome other addictions but remained a slave of nicotine until her final breath. Sadly, her cigarettes were her “precious” delight, her tonic for what ailed her, what she valued more than life itself to some degree.

Addictions do that to us. The immediate gratifications of soothed anxiety, numbed pain, and avoided interpersonal conflicts, lure us into a state of forgetfulness about our deepest values and highest aspirations.

Waking Up to My Own Need for Self-Care

My breast cancer diagnosis at age 30 woke me up to the way I’d been using alcohol to cope with mom’s dying. It was painful to visit her. My arrival was often her excuse for a smoke. “Help me up and we’ll have a visit on the balcony” she’d say with both a genuine gladness to see me and a sense of relief that she could get her fix. The last six months of her life I’d often pick up a six-pack on my way to visit and nurse a beer while she smoked her cigarette. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Six weeks after her death I received my wake up call. “Early stage…micro-invasive in-situ breast cancer…less than 5% chance of occurrence…” — none of that mattered. To me, it was cancer. And my early research indicated a correlation between alcohol use/overuse/abuse and breast cancer. Having watched my mom make poor choices for her own health, I choose a different path.

Me & Mom in a Box 1984 - Remarkable & Silly Mother

My mother was an amazing woman whose life inspired me in many ways. Her intelligence, humor, generosity, charm and diversity of friendships with men and women from all walks of life are gifts that continue to inform my development. I am forever grateful for those blessings.

Today, I also give thanks for the twisted blessings of her imperfections. I saw the damage her midlife struggle with addictions did to her well-being as well as the ways it undermined my own adolescent development. I’m grateful that my wake up calls came in my young adult years and I had her life as a model of what I didn’t want to become. I’m grateful that observing the consequences of her self-neglect inspired me to make self-care a priority. I imagine my mom is delighted that I’ve chosen the path I have. And for that, I am also grateful.

A Daily Choice

To choose a different path than those we grow up experiencing takes courage, determination and support. If your models for self-care were less than optimal, let them become inspiration for choosing a more loving way for yourself.

Find new role models. Surround yourself with people who take care of themselves and you’re more likely to do so yourself. And beware of spending too much time with those stuck in cycles of self-neglect or destructive patterns. Behaviors are contagious.

Enlist your friends, family, co-workers to support you in better self-care. One of my coaching clients gathered a group of her co-workers for a lunchtime health coaching group that I’m facilitating. Another client joined a workout studio that builds community support for fitness by creating a family atmosphere among the members.

Self-care or self-neglect. Which will you choose today?

Yesterday a client came to session stating that she didn’t think she was a good fit for coaching. She hates paperwork, forms, filling things in and writing things down. “I’m not a journaling kind of person.”

Welcome to My South Pasadena Office

It was awesome!  I love the way she took charge of what she wants and needs. She spoke her truth and started a conversation about adapting the tools and process of coaching to fit her needs and personality, not the other way around.

Women are biologically wired and socially conditioned to adaptation–to fit ourselves into other’s versions of reality rather than listen within and find our own way. This “substantial female preference to affiliate under stress” underlies the people pleasing dynamic that leads us to be silent when we want to speak up, say “yes” when we want to say “no” and compliantly fill out forms that we want to tear up and throw into the trash can!

The personalized health planning model I’m training in at Duke Integrative Medicine is a medical model. Paperwork, quantitative tools for assessing where you are now and where you’d like to be and creating measurable goals to guide behavior change are part of the package. It’s an excellent model with some solid initial research demonstrating positive health outcomes.

But, it’s just a model, not a magic formula.

I’m reminded of the scripture that says, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12.2).

Lasting change doesn’t come from the paperwork, the diets or the programs that the world has devised–many with good intentions and great benefits for some people. Transformation comes from renewing your mind, learning to attend to and  listen for your own truth, not by trying to adapt yourself to fit my model or anyone else’s.

From a Christ-centered perspective, transformation comes from deepening your connection to the mind of Christ within. To strengthen your awareness of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control that come from the Spirit of Christ within you.  It is within you, not in a book, a pill, or  a new routine.

Wired to attend and adapt externally, even after all these years of healing work, I still excel in people pleasing.  A big part of my on-going transformation comes from mindful awareness and centering prayer practices. Turning my attention within and just being aware of what is going on within and around me, without responding, has taught me a new way of being in my body and my life. When I neglect my daily practice of twenty minutes, I notice a significant difference in my ability to hold onto myself, take a stance and not fall into social adaptation patterns that don’t benefit me or others.

Like other helping professionals, I offer services, programs and information to support transformation. But the bottom-line of what I offer is meant to help you listen to yourself, trust yourself and live from within. That is the new way of being in your body and your life.

Listen to yourself, listen to your body, know yourself and be a discriminating consumer of services, information and programs.

I loved sitting with my client yesterday. The internal listening and honesty she exhibited in our conversation about the model and her health goals will guide her toward authentic, sustainable new ways of exercising, eating and living–because she’s living from within!