The Myth of A Natural Birth

canada-goose-216003_1280As I counsellor I do some voluntary work for a Birth Trauma Association. My job consists of giving email advice to new mums on how to deal with the consequences of traumatic birth experience, helping them to find a counsellor etc. More often than not I help mothers to start processing the birth experience itself– confirming that what happened was, indeed, quite traumatic and it is hardly surprising that a new mother is presently feeling low, anxious or depressed.
I am talking here of a physical trauma – something went wrong, there were complications, medical support was inadequate, baby or mother’s life was in danger and so on. What is surprising, though, that very often I get emails from mothers who have delivered healthy babies and are feeling physically ok, yet emotionally they are in a complete turmoil. I am not talking about post-natal depression, which may be caused by hormones, lack of sleep, complete change of lifestyle etc. These are the cases when emotional distress is caused by a wide gap between mother’s expectation of birth and an actual birth experience.
More often than not, these women had an idealized picture of birth – completely “natural”, almost pain free, no medication or drugs involved. Which is a fantastic idea in itself and it is great when birth goes as planned. Unfortunately, it is not often the case. Thousands of things can go and do go wrong and medical help is required. As a result, instead of feeling exhilarated and proud after giving birth to a healthy baby, new mothers feel like failures. This feeling of inadequacy and failure can sometimes develop into depression.
In their antenatal groups expectant mothers are commonly given a picture of a “natural” birth as an only “right” option, making it sound easy and achievable for everyone. Birth is, indeed, a natural process, but it is also quite natural for it to go wrong. Many women through the history have died in the process and it is still happening in many countries today. Advocating the “natural” birth as an only option should always include mentioning the risks associated with it. Expectant mothers should be offered different options and the choice should be theirs, depending on the circumstances, health risks etc. Rather than bullying women into one “right” way of giving birth, antenatal groups should be explaining pluses and minuses of various options and providing women with information. What works for one mother could be completely wrong for another and there is no need to make a failure from what should be a celebration.
Having met plenty of women who have opted for a natural birth, I have yet to meet a person who has asked to see a “natural dentist

Getting Into Shape After Having A Baby

happy selfGETTING INTO SHAPE AFTER HAVING A BABY

One of the most common problems facing new mums is losing weight after having a baby. I can remember discussing various diets with my girlfriends and looking forward to recovering my pre-baby body. I also remember really struggling with being on a diet and not quite succeeding. My friend’s experiences are quite similar to mine. So why do diets so often don’t work? I did not get my answers until quite a few years later when I was seeing clients as a counsellor and having counselling myself.

If you are looking after a lively toddler (or two!), you might be craving food because you are tired, not because you are hungry. Before starting on yet another diet, which is likely to make you even more exhausted, it is worth asking yourself a few simple questions: Why am I reaching for food now? Am I tired? Sleepy? Just need some comfort? There are many other ways of fulfilling these needs rather than food.

Losing weight isn’t easy – otherwise, why would overweight people continue to put up with prejudice, disapproval and feelings of guilt and shame?
In fact, almost one in four adults in England is classified as obese.
There is no genetic explanation why some people are unable to regulate their food intake. Research indicates that the answer may lie in our emotional relationship with food.
It may not be real hunger that pushes us to reach for second helpings, but actually a response to an emotional need elsewhere, which is nothing to do with food.
Well known weight loss companies have for many years successfully used group counselling techniques to help people lose weight.
In my practice, I work with clients on resolving emotional blocks that prevent them from achieving their perfect weight.
During sessions we first find out what the client’s relationship with food really is. What does he or she feel just before reaching for food? And what about after? What do they say to themselves when they overeat?
Next, we explore what being overweight means to my client. We experiment with my clients seeing themselves thin and imagining how their life is going to change as the result.
We discuss the role food played in a family of origin – what messages were given by parents about eating or not eating? What cultural attitudes to food were predominant? How were overweight people regarded?

If you would like to lose weight, start noticing when you overeat – do you reach for biscuits when you are tired? Upset? Anxious? Is there anything you can do to deal with your emotional discomfort instead of eating? Paying attention to and resolving a psychological issue is a way to loose weight for good, much more effective than a crush diet (which is likely to make you even more stressed and irritable).

Taking supplements might also help you lose weight after pregnancy. Certain food cravings indicate that your body is lacking vitamins or minerals. For instance, if you can’t live without peanut butter, it means that your vitamin B intake is insufficient. Taking a supplement instead of dipping into the jar will greatly improve your waistline!
Craving cheese is often a sign of Calcium and Phosphorus deficiency. Try taking a supplement or eating more broccoli – it is high in calcium and phosphorus and has a lot less calories than cheese.
If you need comfort food when you are stressed – give Omega 3 a try and make sure you take it for at least a month. Essential Fatty Acids improve brain functioning and might make you feel calmer and clear the brain fog.

Quite often food cravings are not a sign of a particular vitamin shortage, but just indicate that you need rest. One client complained that she was a chocolate addict and could not get rid of the habit. A born perfectionist, she could never take a break and relax, so the chocolate for her became a substitute for a good rest.

Research indicates that overweight people, who try, but don’t manage to loose weight, often don’t have clear motivation. So when you decide to loose some weight, first ask yourself – how thin would you like to be? What does being thin means for you? Do you know your ideal weight and have a clear plan of how to reach it? Otherwise, your weight loss program will become just another exercise in self-criticism and low self-esteem.

Don’t blame yourself for an occasional chocolate or second helpings. Internal criticism is not likely to stop you eating too much, but will definitely make you feel bad and as a result – more comfort eating! Pay attention to your feelings and look after yourself, then you will not only achieve your perfect weight, but also learn to live in harmony with your body.

Anna Storey at www.annastorey-counselling.com

How probiotics can help make us thin and healthy

FullSizeRender-35We have all heard of the importance of probiotics for maintaining good immune system. Having a right gut bacteria is equally important if we want to lose weight and stay fit. But all probiotics are different – some would work for you but not necessarily benefit your friend.
I would really recommend reading a very informative article by David Asprey, before deciding on which probiotics to choose.
https://www.bulletproofexec.com/why-yogurt-and-probiotics-make-you-fat-and-foggy/

ARE YOU REALLY OVERWEIGHT?

gymnastics-1951237_1280Have you tried and failed to loose weight? You started on a popular new diet, cutting out all the things you enjoy eating, lost a few kilos, then, after a stressful day at work, came home and had a pack of biscuits at once. Diet failed, you felt even more miserable and desperate than when you started.
After several similarly unsuccessful attempts you just gave up, hating yourself for the lack of will power.

Try to look at it differently.
Losing weight is not about dieting, depriving yourself of your favorite foods and feeling miserable. It is also not about trying to become someone else – a thin model in a magazine or a celebrity. To really loose weight you have to engage in a slow process of becoming yourself – learning to take care of your needs and listen to your body, starting to like yourself a bit more. As a counsellor, I would agree with the view of Ayurvedic medicine, which states that obesity is often an external manifestation of our emotional problems.
I would not even call this process “loosing weight”. It implies loss and has a negative connotation. I would rather say “getting into shape”, finding your natural weight and staying that way.

So where do we start?
For a start, I would advise to do what in psychotherapy is called “a reality check”. This means looking at your fantasies, anxieties and assumptions and seeing “what is really happening”. For instance – how do you see yourself? If you see yourself as fat, then how do you know that it is true? Is your judgment based on the facts – like your dress size or your BMI? Or is it part of your negative self-image, that is part of the bigger problem called low self-esteem? In that case, it would be advisable to work through your issues in counselling and then reassess the situation. Or maybe you are told you are overweight by your friends, family, partner? Was it always your role in the family – to be a “fat one”? Reality check will help you see things as they are, not as you imagine them to be.

But what if after careful consideration you have established that you are, indeed, overweight, and would benefit from losing a few pounds?
Then we will need to explore what is it that you are trying to lose?
What your extra weight is for you? On the surface, we might hate being fat and would love to loose weight as soon as possible. But quite often there is a hidden reason why we are staying fat. Unless we discover what it is that is holding us back, all our attempts at dieting will fail.
An example could be my client from Aylesbury, Sarah*, who tried many diets and always ended up putting on more weight that she had lost. When I suggested to Sarah that she imagines herself being thin, she got very anxious and was unable to focus. Exploring the roots of this anxiety, we discovered that, for Sarah, her weight was some kind of protection. Without it, she imagined herself being vulnerable in the hostile world. Working with this vulnerability and restoring my client’s self esteem allowed Sarah to psychologically let go of her extra pounds and she started losing weight slowly but permanently.

Another client, Helen* from Oxford, used her body shape as an excuse for not making changes in her life. She was putting up with a dead end job “because no one is going to hire somebody so fat”. She also avoided thinking about her abusive relationship, “because if she will leave no one else will want her”. Through therapy, Helen’s feeling of self-worth increased dramatically and she subsequently felt able to make necessary changes in her career and relationships. When she stopped using her extra pounds as an excuse for her passivity, she no longer needed them and lost weight naturally.

After you find out what being overweight means for you and achieve clarity, you can then start building a new relationship with food. Your first step will be to find out how is this relationship working at the moment.

*all names have been changed

HOW THE RIGHT FOOD CAN MAKE YOU SMART AND HAPPY

anis-2170626_1280HOW THE RIGHT FOOD CAN MAKE YOU SMART AND HAPPY

When we think about mental health, too often we don’t take our diet into consideration. Yet the food we eat can have a great impact on the way we think and feel. Almost everyone by now knows that too much E numbers can affect children’s behavior, but there is more to our food than that.
If you would like to learn more about how our diet affects our mental and physical performance, I can really recommend www.bulletproofexec.com

How to find a counsellor?

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I am often asked to advise on how to find a counsellor.
If you have never had counselling before, the process can be rather confusing, so I thought I will share a few tips here.

Your first port of call is of course your GP. Some GPs are more helpful than others, but you will probably be referred to a local counseling provider. If you are lucky, you will be able to see a counsellor in a few weeks time, but often the waiting list is a lot longer. Even if you do see a counsellor soon enough, you might not get more than 3 or 4 sessions.

So what to do if you feel you need more than that?

The only way to go then is to go private.
It does not necessarily have to be expensive – many counseling training institutions have their own counseling services, where advanced trainees can gain necessary work experience, and offer reduced fees. Some charities local to you might offer free or cheap counseling services, so it is worth asking your GP about it.

If you do decide to look for a private counsellor, www.counselling-directory.org.uk is a great resource. It allows you to search by postcode and all the counsellors listed have to provide a proof of their qualifications.

If you want to be absolutely sure that your counsellor has had an appropriate training and is qualified, you can look at www.bacp.co.uk
It is a website for British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy and it has a directory of counsellors. If a counsellor is registered as an Accredited Counsellor, that means that he or she has trained at the BACP accredited training institution and has had several years work experience post qualifying.

Vitamin D and depression

happy selfOur psychological wellbeing is directly related to our physical state. Quite often depression appears to be a result of vitamins or minerals deficiencies. One of the important elements, which could influence our mental state, is the vitamin D.
There are many causes of depression. Researchers are now discovering that vitamin D may play an important role in our mental health. Vitamin D acts on the areas of your brain that are linked to depression, but it is not yet clearly understood how it works.
There is a growing amount of research into low moods and vitamin D. Research does seem to show a link between low levels of vitamin D in the blood and symptoms of depression. However, research hasn’t yet shown clearly whether low vitamin D levels cause depression, or whether low vitamin D levels develop because someone is depressed. Lack of vitamin D may also be one of many factors that contribute to a depressed mood. There may be many other things that cause depression, which means it’s difficult to say for certain that when depression improves it is vitamin D that is causing the improvement.
However, since vitamin D can greatly benefit your immune system, there is no reason why you should not supplement your diet with it, especially during winter months.

Kundalini yoga for weight management

When my clients are asking me to recommend an exercise regime to assist their weight loss programme, I often mention Kundalini yoga.
Kundalini Yoga works on weight loss in a number of ways: it speeds up metabolism via the thyroid gland and by making more oxygen available to the cells, it reestablishes hormonal balance, it helps restore energy flow into problem areas, and it works on emotional healing. Often people accrue excess weight as an emotional buffer, or as a fear response to their own inner vitality. Kundalini Yoga literally brings people back to life!

Kundalini Yoga for weight loss

little-girl-1894125_1280Did you know, that Kundalini Yoga works on weight loss in a number of ways: it speeds up metabolism via the thyroid gland and by making more oxygen available to the cells, it reestablishes hormonal balance, it helps restore energy flow into problem areas, and it works on emotional healing. Often people accrue excess weight as an emotional buffer, or an a fear response to their own inner vitality. I often recommend Kundalini yoga to my clients, as it might help you to work through your resistance to weight loss.

Weight Management Counselling

hotdogWeight Management Counselling

Food in Your Family of Origin

Another important topic to clarify before you start dieting is the attitude to food in your family of origin.
Here are some questions to consider:
What was the attitude to food in your family? Was it a pleasure? Or was it an enemy? Was food used as a reward?
Were any members of your immediate family overweight? If so, what was the general attitude towards them? Was somebody in your family underweight? Was anyone on a diet?
The relationship with food in your family of origin played an important part in establishing your feelings around food in general. By understanding the roots of your troubles you will find better ways to work through these issues.

Weight Management Counseling