Weight Loss & Mental Health

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I am a clinical psychologist, life coach, and NASM certified personal trainer. I love understanding the relationship between our mental and physical selves. The way we take care of our bodies correlates with our levels of self-worth and our mental health. Mental and physical health are undeniably intertwined; there is more research every day to confirm this statement. In my opinion, the field of clinical psychology has not placed enough of an emphasis on physical health. Humans deserve to be treated as whole individuals, and physical health deserves to be part of the picture when creating effective treatment plans.

I decided to share my personal journey with mental health and weight loss with the hopes it could help at least one person. If one person reads this and feels they can relate, then my decision to be vulnerable will have been worth it. Sharing this story is not easy, and it has taken me years to make peace with this part of my journey. I share it with the humble hope it can be of benefit.

I thought that if I could “just be skinny” I wouldn’t be depressed. I vividly remember the day the scale hit the heaviest number I had ever seen. 215 lbs. I was 18 years old, and still thought Taking Back Sunday and heavy black eyeliner was cool. I was a senior in high school filled with insecurity and low self-worth. I remember seeing the number, feeling sick to my stomach with shame, and thinking: “that is IT, I am doing WHATEVER it takes to finally be skinny.” I had other self-loathing thoughts too. I was not kind to myself in this moment.

I thought if I could change my external world, that my internal pain would go away. I have so much compassion for that younger version of myself. She was doing the best she could do at the time. And in a world that associates physical appearance with happiness, I was just practicing what I had learned from society. I thought I NEEDED to be skinny to be happy.

I extreme dieted and sometimes didn’t eat at all. I ate the same three meals every day for a year. I exercised twice a day and took diet pills. I never felt skinny enough, but I was getting closer and closer. Then one day it happened, the outcome I had been pushing myself towards. I hit my “goal weight.” The endorphins and excitement lasted about five minutes. Ultimately when I looked in the mirror I still saw a woman who was incredibly unhappy and who still felt she “wasn’t good enough” even at her goal weight.

This belief that I “wasn’t good enough” showed up in so many areas of my life. Including my relationships with men. I put up with things, that now, I would have called out in an instant. I finally started to heal my relationship with myself and heal the childhood trauma I had experienced, in therapy. It was not easy, but working through my childhood trauma enabled me to start to heal the relationship with myself.

Growing up, I had internalized the idea that food should be used for comfort, that food was a way to “feel better.” I was using it to manage my emotions. Therapy helped me identify and let go of this habit, and learn new ways of managing my emotions. I slowly built up my own self-worth. During this time, I was pursuing my doctorate in clinical psychology, and becoming a certified personal trainer. I was on a mission to heal instead of “get skinny.” I slowly healed my relationship with exercise and food when I realized that I didn’t “NEED” to eat healthy. I realized that I “DECIDED” to eat healthy, nourishing foods. I did it for myself because I loved and valued myself, and I loved the way eating healthy foods made me FEEL. There was no extreme diet to stick to, just an overall decision to make healthy choices that fueled my body. It didn’t hurt that lifting weights was the best endorphin rush I had ever experienced, and I had created a community through my personal trainer network.

If I had not done the internal work, I would never have maintained the level of fitness and health I still have today. For the last seven years, I have enjoyed the benefits of being at a healthy weight, and even more importantly, maintaining a healthy relationship with myself. Of course, I am not perfect. There are days where I still feel insecure or use food as a way to deal with my emotions. However, the foundation I have now is from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing. I am committed to nourishing my body with foods that feel good and taking care of my mental health using healthy coping skills.

I honor you wherever you are on your health and fitness journey. No matter where you are, I encourage you to take the time to do the inner work. It is the only way for healthy habits to stick. I also encourage you to accept yourself and practice compassion no matter where you are at; this compassion will allow you to change, and change for good.

Thanks for getting vulnerable with me!

Dr. Morgan


Stop Shoulding on Yourself

Why is it that we can prioritize other’s needs, our work, and other obligations before our own needs? Many of us have learned that to be valuable we must be productive, and to be productive, we must be “busy.” I hear these statements all of the time: “I’m too busy for the gym, I’m too busy to hang out with my friends, I’m too busy to cook, I’m too busy to read.” Or maybe there are life goals you’d like to accomplish but you are “too busy” for those as well.

Every time you don’t listen to your needs, a little piece of you dies. A little piece of you learns that you don’t matter, your needs don’t matter, and that life is full of “shoulds” and “musts” instead of “I want to’s!” When our lives are filled with “should” we can experience sadness and even depression. Withholding your needs and prioritizing “shoulds” is a recipe for pain and suffering.

You might say, “But everyone I know puts aside their needs to do what they are supposed to do!” Guess what, just because it is the norm, does not mean it is healthy. The point is, many of us are trained from early on to turn down the volume on our own needs. Our inner voice gets softer and softer with time until it is completely drowned out beneath the “shoulds and musts.”  

We can start honoring our needs and tuning into our bigger visions for ourselves by starting small. The word “self-care” is a buzz word these days. But what does self-care actually look like? To me, self-care is listening to your needs and honoring them. Self-care is different for everyone based on their own individual needs. My self-care sometimes looks like asking for help, rescheduling a meeting, taking a walk, or making sure I connect with a friend. It looks different based on my needs at the time.  

Every time you listen to what your needs are, and you honor them, you are telling yourself that YOU MATTER and YOUR NEEDS MATTER. You start to learn you are capable of caring for yourself. The act of caring for yourself is using actions to show yourself that you are valuable and your needs deserve to be respected.

Another important piece to think about is what happens when your busy, other-serving, yes-to-everything-saying train breaks down. Because it will break down. Guess what? All the stuff you convinced yourself was more important than your own well-being, all of it falls completely apart.

You see when we don’t value ourselves first, we are inevitably let down by the things we based our value on. If you lose your job after spending years working 12-hour days, you lose the thing you based your value on, and consequently, you lose yourself. Our own self-worth is our only constant. If you are not filling yourself up first, you will eventually have nothing to give. Maybe not now. Maybe not a month from now, but at some point, you will have nothing to give and it won’t be pretty.  

I hope you take time to reflect on this message and start thinking about the ways you can tune into your needs and honor them. Think about starting small and then working your way up. Maybe today your self-care looks like allowing yourself to rest, or calling a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while. Or maybe you are ready for an even bigger act of self-care, such as leaving a job you can’t stand, or finally booking that trip to your dream travel destination.  

Whatever your self-care looks like, I hope you start today by honoring your needs and turning down the volume on all of the “shoulds” in your life. Remember, by honoring your needs, you are sending yourself the message that you are valuable and your needs are worthy of respect. 

Please feel free to leave a comment and share one thing you can do to honor your needs.

Thank-you for getting Vulnerable with me!


Warmly,  

Dr. Morgan

Do You Know Your Rights in Relationships?

Our early experiences provide templates for what we know about ourselves, our relationships and the world. As children, we develop ways of being that please our parents because that is what we need to do for survival. For many people these “ways of being” or templates do not get examined and they continue to wreak havoc in our adult lives in unconscious ways. Our beliefs about who we are “supposed” to be and how we are “supposed” to act in order to be loved, influence our actions and negatively impact our ability to get what we want out of life and our relationships. Essentially, we get stuck.

Growing up I learned that expressing anger was not okay. I would hold in anger, and then distance myself from others instead of expressing anger as it came up. This is a particularly common experience for women. Sometimes women are “not allowed” to be angry because it makes others feel uncomfortable. Can you reflect on the uncomfortable emotions in your family? What are the ways you learned to behave in order to receive love? Some of my clients share that they learned they had to push down any negative feelings they had in order to “not be a burden.” Others discuss that they learned their emotions and needs didn’t matter, and it was better to just keep them to themselves. Another common experience is learning that other’s needs are more important than your own, that you should always prioritize the needs of others. Obviously, these unconscious scripts about who we are “supposed” to be can become very problematic left unexplored.

The way we communicate in the world is directly connected to the relationship we have with ourselves. For example, if I learned that my needs don’t matter, and I’m unimportant, it would make it very unlikely that I would ask for what I need from others. Knowing that our communication is directly related to our beliefs about ourselves, opens a whole new way of looking at our relationships. Do you feel confident at work asking for a raise, or expressing your ideas on a project? In your romantic relationship can you ask your partner for support in the way that feels best for you? Our ways of communicating illuminate the stories we have learned about how we are supposed to be, and our mistaken assumptions about our own self-worth. 

I want to share with you a short list of Your Rights in Relationships to get you started on reflecting on the messages you have learned (Your Mistaken Traditional Assumptions), and ways these assumptions are holding you back in your life and relationships.  

Please feel free to leave a comment to share your experience about what you have learned.  

Thank-you for getting Vulnerable with me!  

Warmly,

Dr. Morgan 

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