A Therapist's Changing Body – Guest Blog

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Today’s guest blog from Psychotherapist Jessica Aronson touches on a question that many working women and expecting moms often wonder. What can we do as parents or professionals to teach others (kids and adults alike) to both respect and feel comfortable with the inevitable physical changes as they grow, from puberty to pregnancy? How can we learn to cope with our bodies through different stages of life?

As you know, this is a topic I hold near and dear to my heart. Her account is decidedly honest, and I hope you enjoy. Please feel free to join in the conversation in the comments section below.

A Therapist’s Changing Body

By: Jessica Aronson, LCSW-R, ACSW, CGP Psychotherapist http://www.wmhcnyc.org/aronson/ www.jkpassages.com

As I anxiously and joyously await the arrival of my second child, another boy, I am reminded of the process all over again. It’s no longer just my client and I sitting in the room; with my son growing inside of me, there are three of us now.

My clients in particular are heightened to these changes. Having worked with eating disorder patients for more than 10 years, I’m familiar with—and prepared for—the comments: “You look great, did you change your hair?” or “You’re so little,” or “You’re wearing colors today.”

So it wasn’t all that surprising that the comments continued as I too continued to grow and change. People have remarked on how big I’ve gotten; how my skin has broken out; how uncomfortable I must be (and am). The list goes on.

At eight months pregnant, there is no way to hide my belly. It now shares the sacred space of a therapy session, a place that’s otherwise reserved solely for my patient and myself. That being said, I nevertheless try not to talk about my pregnancy or my changing body with my patients at great length, as it leaves me exposed and vulnerable as their therapist.

When the situation seems appropriate, however, I do push myself to inquire as to what thoughts and feelings my changing body and unborn child brings up for them. Clients have shared feeling uncomfortable by the size of my belly. They’ve expressed sympathy as well as the desire to take care of me by offering me a seat on the couch. They’ve expressed fears about my maternity leave.

Of course, there is no way to avoid these changes—or the physical changes any woman experiences during the course of their pregnancy. And while I know it is so important to use my own position as an opportunity to help my clients explore their own feelings and fears about pregnancy and weight fluctuation, I am also honest when I say that, as a therapist, I feel very exposed and vulnerable in doing so. Sure, I am happy to make this sacrifice to benefit my clients. I’m just far less enthusiastic about sharing it with strangers.

Many of my clients stayed with me through my first pregnancy, but I still struggle to cope with my own discomfort (as the baby kicks and moves inside me), as well as anxieties and fears that arise while in sessions with patients. Like any transition or change in a therapist’s life, this too is major. We just can’t hide or cover this one up.

 

A Moment of Momzilla!

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Last winter I took my eldest son, Bobby, and my nephew skiing for their very first time. When Bobby did great on his first run, I decided to take my nephew down the mountain too. Of course, it was ridiculous to think I could handle 2 beginners. Bobby ended up falling.

I was convinced I had ruined skiing for Bobby forever; he was resistant to sports to begin with. I had already scheduled private lessons for the boys 2 days later, so I sent them anyway.

Bobby was not exactly excited to get back on skis after his initial spill. He resisted. He acted out. It was ultimately a failed attempt.

Hoping he’d maybe forgotten about his first experience, I tried to get him back on skis on another weekend at a different mountain. This time, he was like a limp noodle, refusing to as much as stand upright let alone listen to his instructor. Bobby only wanted to ski with me, but that was impossible since I had unfortunately been in a ski accident the week before and was forced to sit on the sidelines for the rest of the season. I was so distraught.

Maybe it was the concussion speaking, but I just couldn’t understand how my son—my own flesh and blood—didn’t love skiing as much as I did. I was looking into buying a ski house. What would I do with Bobby if he hated skiing? To add insult to injury, my nephew, whose parents don’t ski, was having the time of his life. I couldn’t stop thinking how reversed the situation was.

To me, this was a catastrophe. Sad to admit, but I even cried about this to my therapist. It wasn’t so much that Bobby hated skiing or that my dream house was quickly becoming a nightmare. No, it’s because I was suddenly becoming this mother that I didn’t want to be—a momzilla of sorts.

Refusing to accept Bobby’s athletic distaste (how can a dietitian’s son be physically inactive?), I gave the whole sports thing one more shot (he refused to play soccer too)—this time with mother-son rock climbing. The result? Bobby thought that scaling the smaller wall was fun, but when faced with the full rock wall, he went running for the hills. (Well, really, he hid under the mat as though he were a small animal.) I, of course, said all the wrong things—and hated myself as each word escaped my mouth. I offered rewards. I made threats. I knew I was completely out of line.

Both my therapist and husband said I was overreacting. They said when my son was ready, he would participate in whatever physical activities he wanted. So, heeding their advice, I dropped it. No more sports classes, no more private instructors, no more pushing or comparing or dreaming. I needed to let Bobby be himself and grow into someone different than who I may have thought he’d be, at least at that age.

Well, guess what? This fall, I enrolled Bobby in a school soccer program. I know you’re thinking, “Here she goes again.” But my husband and I send our children to progressive schools that encourage self-exploration, teamwork and learning through activity, and I hoped he would react differently in a more supportive environment, especially now that Bobby was older. I sent him to a soccer program that focuses on having fun—not on drills—and it worked. He loved the class and never complained.

Since turning five, Bobby has taken to a few other sports too. He smiles through swim lessons (my husband initially taught him to swim since he hated the classes), has started skateboarding (and is doing well) and has even attended a 2-week sports camp with a classmate over winter break.

Apart from giving him enough time to acclimate to new athletic endeavors, I think that Bobby’s peers have positively influenced him as well. As a colleague of mine, a pediatric development specialist, taught me, when kids try new activities, they don’t have to do them well. It’s more important to offer encouragement and praise for trying. So this is what I have been doing and I think it is effective in building self- esteem and acceptance.  After his first swim lesson, Bobby said to me, “I know why you are proud of me. Because I was scared, but I tried it and I had fun.”

As parents, we need to focus on building our children’s self-worth as they learn to cope with their environment. Give your child time to be who they are, not who you want them to be. I caught myself being a momzilla and changed my ways. It’s a delicate issue, but as parents we have a responsibility to handle it with care.

Have you ever found yourself facing your inner momzilla?

 

Potty Training without M&M's

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Many of you probably know that food shouldn’t be used as a reward. If you didn’t already know this, then, from the prospective of an RD, I am telling you now.

As a mom, however, I also know that this is easier said than done. Food to a child can, after all, seem somewhat rewarding. Yet through my own experiences, I’ve slowly picked up on a few tricks on how to prevent food from becoming equated with success—and I think I can make it relatively easy for you moms out there too.

It all started with Billy, who will be three in a few weeks and just finished potty training. And guess what. We did not use food as a reward during this process.

Since Billy is my second child, I felt a lot less pressured to potty train him than I did with Bobby. Right before the school year began, Billy asked if he could go potty on the big boy toilet, and so I immediately pulled out the kid potty and we started training.

Billy sat on the potty a few times and then on the toilet. He went potty with the kids at school, but he refused to wear underwear or use the potty any other time. I figured I’d just let him be. As my Australian friend Maureen advised, they’ll learn at some point. (As it turned out, Maureen’s advice from down under was great. I just let Billy do as he pleased, and while he was still wearing diapers, at least he was content. And so I was happy too.)

As the holidays approached, the boys and I decided that sport and ski camps could be a fun way to stay busy during their time off from school. But Billy could only participate under one condition: he would need to be potty trained in order to be eligible for the program. I explained this to my three-year-old and offered him a small token to forgo his diapers and, voila—he was willing to concede.

Everyone tells you to bribe your kids with M&M’s. Instead, I opted to present Billy with handmade wooden animal ornaments for our Christmas tree—presents that actually benefited the entire family, though Billy was all too excited to receive them as gifts.

When I ran out of ornaments, Billy picked out a presidential brigade box of cars, limos, security cars, planes and other trinkets. The box cost about $30, but it was filled with 15 to 20 potential presents inside. Each time Billy used the potty, I allowed him to pick out a new vehicle from the box.

I am very happy to report that this ploy worked like a charm. Now, Billy has been using the potty without gifts for the past week and a half. We still have toys left in the box, too.

So, instead of making food seem special and putting what we nourish ourselves with on a pedestal, opt for non-edible rewards like Matchbox cars, temporary tattoos, stickers, cool underwear, or Polly Pocket pieces. If you use food as a reward, you may end up sending the wrong message: that you have to earn food or that food is a treat for good behavior.

Remember to teach your children that food is food—nothing more, nothing less. As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our children understand this concept if we want to prevent disordered and/or secretive eating in their future.

Do you offer your children rewards for certain behaviors or accomplishments? If so, what do you typically reward them with that could be useful for other moms out there?

Hints for Halloween from the RD in this mom.

What are you giving out for Halloween?

Written by Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE on October 18, 2011 · From www.LauraCipulloLLC.com

Trick-or-Treat: Keeping Halloween Healthier Yet Fun.

With Halloween around the corner, why not think outside the box? We can’t trick our Halloween visitors but we can treat them to new Halloween delights. Read on to get some healthier options, unconventional goodies, and finally a run down at the candy counter.

New Delights:

Clif Kid Twisted Fruit Rope, Clif Z Bar (granola bars), Organic raisins, Blue Diamond mini nut packs – almonds, Bearito’s No Oil No Salt Microwave Popcorn or Earth’s Best Organic Puree (fruit and veggies pureed like applesauce in squeeze pack)

Unconventional Goodies:

Tattoos, bouncy balls, yo-yos, stickers, pencils, chalk and mini coloring books

Candy Counter:

For those that adhere to moderation the top 5 Halloween candy picks: Smarties, Tootsie Pops, York Peppermint Patties, Twizzlers and Milk Duds

**Just know I will be giving out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups because they taste so yummy and a variety of the above!!

Optional Reading – nutritional information listed below:

  1. Smarties: 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 6 grams of sugar (per roll)
  2. Tootsie Pop: 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 10 grams of sugar (per lollipop)
  3. York Peppermint Patty: 60 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams of sugar (per snack size patty)
  4. Twizzlers: 160 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 19 grams of sugar (4 pieces)
  5. Milk Duds: 170 calories, 6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 20 grams of sugar (13 pieces)