Fork Your Way Into a Healthy 2018!

Healthy Eating Self Care - Cluff Counseling, Denton TherapistDid you know that around 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight? This scary statistic includes 30% of boys and girls under age 20! By understanding what specifically our bodies really need, we can aim to lead and maintain a healthy lifestyle–both physically and mentally.

Many of my clients have goals for 2018 that include improving their physical appearance by focusing on a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting more sleep, and boosting their stress management. While I am not a licensed health coach, this is pertinent information to me because physical health is closely tied to mental health. I, like you, am also working on bettering my diet and exercise regime in 2018. I follow several fitness accounts on Instagram for inspiration; just tonight, @soheefit shared her secret that slimmed her waist…There is no secret! The way we will see results is by eating well, exercising often, and regulating sleep and stress. We often fall prey to the latest trick or the newest laser therapy or the groundbreaking diet we hear about from friends or on social media, but, at the end of the day, those methods are not healthy or sustainable. We need to make lasting changes to our nutrition and exercising habits in order to see results. This is not news to you!

Have you ever felt discouraged or depressed, and gone for a walk or a hike? If so, it is likely you noticed that your emotional state improved as you got fresh air and let your heart rate increase a little bit. Our physical health directly affects our mental health. When we take care of our bodies, they take care of us. What specifically are you going to do in 2018 to take care of yourself (both physical and mental)? Exactly which “healthy habits” do you need to work on developing? As I mentioned previously, the three main things that influence our overall weight gain are: Diet/nutrition, exercise, and sleep/stress management. For the purpose of this blog, I want to focus on the first: diet and nutrition. Brian Regan, a comedian, has a skit where he mocks the food pyramid, saying nobody knows what on earth “legumes” are, and he pokes fun of the serving sizes saying no one actually keeps track of or ingests 6-11 servings of grains.

First, let’s clear the air about the “d” word…DIET. It is a dreaded word for many of us–especially those who have tried the South Beach Diet, a low-carb diet, SlimFast, Whole30, Jenny Craig, or any of the other millions of diet plans available nowadays. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that dieting typically does not work. Abstaining from eating major food groups is unhealthy, weight lost from pendulum dieting often comes back full-force, and then you feel overweight and discouraged. My recommendation is to fill your plate and your body with healthy options, while still enjoying what you are ingesting. Food is meant to be enjoyed! Take a moment to consider what you are eating and if it is what your body really needs.

In 2011, 19 years of food pyramid illustrations and teachings were laid to rest with an updated nutrition guide called MyPlate (see graphic below). MyPlate depicts a place setting with the recommended serving sizes for fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy, to help us visualize exactly how much of which foods our body needs. The following are specific ideas for each food group, to help you get creative with what goes on your fork:

Choose My Plate - Cluff Counseling, Denton Therapy

 

  1. FRUITS: Adults ages 18-30 should eat around 2 cups of fruit a day. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, juiced, or pureed. (Click here to see a comprehensive list of the fruit options).
  2. VEGETABLES: Adults ages 19-50 should be eating between 2½ -3 cups of raw or cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, dried/dehydrated, whole, cut-up, or mashed vegetables each day. Vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables.  (Click here to see a comprehensive list of all the vegetables you never even knew existed).
  3. PROTEINS: I think protein is the hardest to come up with ideas for (“um…protein powder?”). All lean cut and deli meats are protein, as well as beans, lentils, tofu, eggs, nuts, and seafood.  (Click on this link for the complete list of protein options as recommended by the USDA). Having an adequate amount of protein in your diet can often curb cravings and keep you full longer, which makes a world of difference in forming healthy habits!
  4. GRAINS: All bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products. There are two types of grains: Whole Grains and Refined Grains–we want more Whole Grains than Refined Grains. Whole Grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm, while Refined Grains have been refined to have the bran and germ removed. Aim for eating whole wheat bread/rolls/tortillas, quinoa, oats, and brown rice (click here for the full list of grains). Little changes to the base of your diet and nutrition–your grains–will make a huge difference!
  5. DAIRY: Milk, cheese, yogurt, and milk-based desserts (ice cream, frozen yogurt, smoothies, sherbert) are some of the common foods that make up this food group. (Please click on this link for a thorough list of all possible dairy foods!) Men and women ages 19-50 need three cups of dairy each day–be sure to choose low-fat or fat-free options for the Dairy Group!

We live in a culture that often convinces us certain foods are either good or bad (which is a key component in eating disorders!) and that we are either a good or bad person based on what we eat. Carbs are not bad. Meat is not bad. Milk is not bad. Our bodies need the vitamins and nutrients available in each of the food groups, and–as we eat from each food group in moderation–we will find our way to a healthier lifestyle. Eating a well-rounded diet will affect the overall health of your internal organs, your cholesterol, energy level, self-esteem, skin health, relationships…basically your entire life. You know what they say, “Fuel well, feel well!”

Maybe you have a New Year’s Resolution pertaining to your physical appearance this year. The goal should not be getting thin, but getting healthy. Get healthy eating better in 2018. Start today by improving what is on your plate. Make it well-rounded, make it low-fat, make it healthy, make it fun! Eating healthy does not have to be a drag. You can do it! The good news is that you do not have to do it alone. If you need support to explore your relationship with food, contact me today and allow me to coach you through the process.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

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Eating Disorders 101

Eating Disorders - Cluff Counseling, Denton TherapistUp to 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Understanding this epidemic is the first step to getting help–either for yourself or for someone you care about.

Everywhere we look we see ads, movies, tv shows, billboards, and models all flaunting perfect bodies: skinny legs, impressive thigh gaps, flat tummies, chiseled abs, massive biceps. With social media at our fingertips, it is easy to compare our body to what we see in the media. Other times, social comparisons are not at the root of an eating disorder–it may be that you are watching you parents go through a divorce, or you did not make the cut onto the Varsity team, so you look for an outlet to feel some sort of control over your life. When controlling your food intake becomes extreme or obsessive, it is called an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are very serious; many young women and men die each year from complications associated with their disorder. Both genders can develop an eating disorder, although rates among women are higher than among men. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life.

Eating disorders are psychological conditions with both physical and emotional symptoms. The three most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa (voluntary starvation), bulimia nervosa (binge-eating followed by purging), and binge-eating disorder (binge-eating without purging). Today, we will take a deeper look at each of these three types of eating disorders and discuss how to overcome them.

Anorexia nervosa
Those with anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. People with anorexia nervosa weigh themselves repeatedly, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, and eat tiny quantities of a small variety of foods.  They relentlessly pursue thinness–it consumes their life. Common symptoms seen in those with anorexia is an intense fear of gaining weight, distorted body image, low self-esteem (one that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape), and a denial of the seriousness of his/her low body weight. The long-term effects of anorexia include but are not limited to infertility, thinning of the bones, anemia, muscle weakness, brittle hair and nails, severe constipation, low blood pressure, damage to the heart, brain damage, and multiorgan failure.

Bulimia nervosa
The next eating disorder I would like to discuss is bulimia. This is where the individual eats excessively large amounts of food and then purges by vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike anorexia nervosa, those with bulimia nervosa usually maintain a healthy or relatively normal weight. Their binging and purging behavior gives them a feeling of control. Some of the negative symptoms include an inflamed sore throat, swollen salivary glands, worn tooth enamel (plus increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid), acid reflux disorder, gastrointestinal problems, intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse, dehydration from purging of fluids, and electrolyte imbalance (which can lead to stroke or heart attack).

Binge-eating disorder
Like the other types of eating disorders, binge-eating disorder involves a person completely losing control over his/her food intake. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. Thus, those with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Symptoms include eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, eating even when he/she is full or not hungry, eating fast, eating until he/she is uncomfortably full, and eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment.

An eating disorder is considered a process addiction, meaning the person is dependent upon a behavior– instead of a substance– for power, control, or satisfaction. I have worked with many patients who struggle with various types of addiction, and I know that recovery is possible. When a mental illness (such as depression or anxiety) is present along with the eating disorder, medication may be needed. Lasting recovery for eating disorders may also include regularly working with a dietician in order to establish and maintain a personalized, healthy goal for caloric intake. These actions, coupled with regular counseling from a qualified therapist, will address the physical and emotional factors of the eating disorder, and can lead to a full recovery.

The earlier an eating disorder is detected and the sooner help is sought, the greater the chance for a full recovery. If you or someone you care about struggles with an eating disorder, now is the time to make a change. Health, happiness, and recovery is possible, and I am here to help. Please contact me today or click here to set up your first session.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

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#RelationshipGoals

Relationship Goals - Cluff Counseling - Lewisville TherapistDid you know that people who set goals are ten times more likely to succeed than those who do not? I know you want your relationship to make it, so let’s talk about goals you can set as a couple that will improve your relationship in 2018!

While the new year can be a great time to kick-start personal resolutions and habits, embarking on resolutions with a partner can also be a wise move.  Two weeks ago, I posted on my blog about New Year’s Resolutions and the power behind mindfully setting well-rounded goals to help you improve in all aspects of your life. This week I want to focus on applying that logic exclusively to relationships.

Do you and your partner set resolutions or goals for your relationship? This might include things you both need to improve, leave behind, or want to learn–like arguing less, listening more, or learning your salmon grilling techniques. Many of my clients only set individual goals, and not couple goals for things they would like to achieve as a unit. The following are nine simple suggestions that you can personalize and include in your 2018 couple resolutions:

  • Do stuff together. Yes, this sounds obvious, but often couples slip into monotony that leads to lack of connection. So my advice is to do things together–it can be simple things like paying the bills, cleaning your house, or running errands…just do it together. I also recommend doing meaningful things together–like worshipping, learning a new skill, participating in service, or visiting travel destinations. And do not forget to have fun together–be goofy, joke around, and remember that laughing together does wonders for a relationship.
  • Be present with each other. I understand that between school, work, kids, etc, your schedules appear full and you do not have much time to spare. Make whatever time you do have together COUNT. Make a goal to stop scrolling so much in your partner’s presence; put your phones down, and focus on each other! Take technology breaks and spend undistracted time with each other. When you and your partner are together, make sure ALL of you is there.
  • Do not turn a molehill into a mountain. This year resolve to not let little upsets grow into big ones. Remember that every conflict in your relationship is not personal.
  • Be respectful, even when you are upset. Although it can be easy to flare up in the face of contention and say angry things to your partner, it is harder to come back and apologize. Instead, try the Time Out technique and say, “I love you and because I love you, I don’t want to say or do anything that would hurt you or our relationship and so I need some time to calm down before I can continue this conversation.” Imagine what a difference this could make!
  • Speak up about what you want! Your partner is not a mindreader. He or she cannot magically know what you want or need. Use your words and tell him or her what you want–whether it is where you want to eat out, what is going on in bed, or how you communicate throughout the day. Set your partner up for success by telling him or her what you want so it can be delivered.
  • Speak your partner’s love language. Many of you are familiar with love languages (if not, click here to read more). To boil it down, each of us has a primary love language: acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Both you and your partner receive love through one of those primary love languages. It is your job to know what is most meaningful to your partner. The majority of my clients often feel disconnected and butt heads because each partner is speaking with his or her own preferred love language, rather than how what his/her partner receives love.
  • Ask your partner how (not if) you can help. Ana Aluisy, a couples therapist from Florida, says that simply being direct and asking your partner how you can help improves your connection and intimacy immensely. Aluisy says, “Many times we place immense amounts of efforts into being supportive towards our partner, but they may not notice. Knowing specifically how they need us to be there for them is key.”
  • Catch your partner doing good. More often than not, we overlook what our partner does well and only see that he/she loaded the dishwasher wrong. We must intentionally look for the good and express it often to cultivate a loving attitude within the relationship. Here is a simple exercise that I recommend to my couples: over the next seven days, catch your partner doing good and tell them what you see. At the end of the week, reflect on how you feel about your partner. You will be surprised how such a simple thing can make a big difference in your view of your partner.
  • Have regularly scheduled check-ins. Jeffrey Sumber, Psychotherapist and Author says. “I encourage couples to check in with each other on a regular basis, typically weekly. It’s not only an opportunity to see whether things are going amazingly or if someone’s struggling, but it’s also an opportunity to offer appreciation for one another on a regular basis and express what you each need.” Whether you have a nightly, weekly, or monthly “check-in,” it is important to have a time you both plan on discussing your relationship.

Making relationship resolutions in and of itself shows you are prioritizing the relationship. Couples benefit from constantly reevaluating their relationships and finding ways to strengthen them. Setting couple New Year’s resolutions can be a great way to increase your connection, strengthen your relationship, and improve your overall relationship satisfaction.

The above resolutions are just a few examples of goals you can choose for your relationship. I encourage you to pick 2 or 3, from the list or on your own, that you would like to focus on this year and discuss with your partner how you two will implement them in your relationship. If you feel like you need some assistance creating measurable or implementable couple goals, please feel free to contact me or schedule a session. Let 2018 be the best year so far in your relationship!

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

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Willpower: The Powerful Pre-Step in Addiction Recovery

Willpower - The Powerful Pre-Step in Addiction Recovery - Cluff Counseling, Denton Marriage & Family TherapyAccording to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2007, 20.8 million persons (8.4 percent of the population aged 12 or older) needed treatment for a substance problem, but did not receive it. As addicts try to stop their addictive behaviors, they may cut ties with their friends, avoid certain establishments, and purge themselves of their addictive substances or actions. But, more often than not, their actions do not last and the addict falls back into the cycle of addiction. Willpower needs to be coupled with additional resources in order to lead to lasting change.

Willpower is defined as control of one’s impulses and actions. In the context of addiction recovery, willpower is the choices and the efforts the addict makes to break addictive habits. Examples of exercising willpower to get on the road of addiction recovery could be avoiding certain people or places that encourage deviant behavior, discarding any substances or items that promote further addiction, and getting outside support for addiction recovery. Willpower is an essential step to get you started in the addiction recovery process, but it is not enough, on its own, for lasting change.

When my friend was little, she fell off the high beam at gymnastics and broke her arm. She was unable to go to class, let alone tumble or do anything active for several months. As much as she wanted to be well and healed, she could not make that happen on her own. She had to rely on doctors to prescribe proper methods for healing, a cast to set the boundaries, and time to allow her bones to transition back into place. Her willpower was not enough to heal her.

This example may seem quite obvious and somewhat silly in the context of a broken arm, but the same principle applies in the context of addiction recovery–outside help is needed. There will be times when more is needed than just our willpower. Sometimes, healing and recovery is out of our control and we need help. Sometimes we need to rely on qualified doctors or therapists to help us find balance and proper health. Sometimes we need a cast–or set rules/boundaries–to keep us out of harm’s way. Sometimes we need to rely on a support system of family and friends so we are not alone in recovery and can fall back on and be accountable to them. When these tools are used in unison with your willpower, lasting addiction recovery can occur.

All recovery programs that I know of call on the addict to recognize his/her powerlessness and to ask for help. Ironically enough, by surrendering his/her will and recognizing that he/she does not have all the answers, addicts find the will to recover. Asking for help is key. Let me highlight two resources that can bolster your willpower:

  1. Family and close friends. They love you and want what is best for you. Not only that, but your family and closest friends are the people who see you most, who are in regular contact with you, and can help you during moments of weakness. They can provide accountability and are readily available to help during those especially tough days.
  2. A licensed, qualified therapist. When my friend broke her arm, she received help from a professional who was experienced, knowledgeable, and had tools to properly diagnose her injury and give her a personalized plan for recovery. A therapist is your emotional doctor; I have spent years working with those struggling with addiction. I can help you.

By letting family and close friends, and a therapist help you in your journey, you will find strength in numbers, which will aid you greatly as you continue to seek recovery.

Many of my clients battle with some form of addiction. Whether they are addicted to drugs, food, substances, pornography, sex, or something else, I greatly admire them for seeking help. Their desire to change is the essential pre-step to addiction recovery. The desire to improve, to make lasting changes, and to leave behind destructive habits and behaviors must come from the addict him/herself in order for it to be lasting. Your willpower will carry you through those moments of weakness, push you attend counseling sessions, and keep you away from people or places that could threaten your progress. Willpower is just that–POWER. Make that step today and channel your willpower to help you overcome addiction.

Now is the time to channel your willpower and use the resources around you–namely your support system of family and close friends, as well as the help of an experienced counselor. Contact me today or set up your first session to get yourself onto the path of addiction recovery that will help you make lasting changes.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

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