Spring – The Need for Peer Support and Professional Friendship

Support and FriendshipSpring – 2018 – The Need for Peer Support and Professional Friendship

Thank you for your interest in Megrette.com. In this quarter, I will be unpacking the complex connection between body image, societal norms, media perceptions, weight, and perpetuated misinformation as they relate to the “Thin Ideal.”

Looking past the perennial change that exists in life, you may ask how does a person change and what allows a person to nourish the change process. These questions have been circling my mind and I continue to discover the essential ingredient is support and friendship. After reading a passage about the Buddha, and his personal attendant, Ananda, I became curious about Ananda. He was the Buddha’s cousin and also his closest friend. I remember thinking, what would it be like to have a best friend that was enlightened? Projecting myself into this unlikely scenario, I considered what emotions would be present? Jealously topped my list, fear of messing up was a quick second, frustration at myself for having the first two was a likely third, and the list goes on and on. It seems that being a friend is like enrolling in a personal improvement class. What surprised me most was my “teacher” was not the wise and revered Buddha, but Ananda, his best friend. In the following passage, Ananda makes a statement about the value of friendship.

Ananda said to the Blessed One, “This, admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie, is half of the [holy] life, lord.”

[The Buddha stopped and disagreed with his closest companion]

“Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the [holy] life.”

When the Buddha said, “Friendship is the whole of life” I think I nearly fell over. What? I thought work and achieving, accomplishing, and getting it “right” was what life was about. Triggered by this realization I had to coached myself, repeating my neurobiological mantra, “Five deep breaths calm the limbic…okay, now I could ask, “Why is Ananda wrong?”

The Buddha explains [Which I have creatively adapted to support my larger point], “When a monkweight-neutral professional has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he/she can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold  a helpful path.

This explanation makes sense and helped me see the need for peer support and professional friendship. For example, after leading a 10-week Core Concepts of Mindful Eating Live program that ended in March the participants lamented, “I don’t want this class to end!” When I asked why, the students explained the class provided the support and safety to be wrong, to practice, and to learn from each other.

Weight Neutral 4 Diabetes Care - A Group for Diabetes ProfessionalsOn a personal level, Haley Goodrich, creator of the Facebook group,InspiRD to Seek chatted with me one Friday on the phone, after I reached out and asked for guidance on how to create a weight-neutral community. I was so grateful for those 30 minutes of reassurance that she provided me.  It helped me create the Weight-neutral for Diabetes Care closed Facebook group for HAES professionals. The group, WN4DC which is free, has forced me to ask for help, again and again, and again. It is now administered by myself and four professionals including Kori Kostka, Cynthia Gagnon, Halina Brooks, and Meg Salvia who collectively field questions and comments that are asked by members.

Everyone needs support and one member shared, “I was so unsure of how to approach diabetes from a weight-neutral perspective and what I am learning here gives me not only the knowledge but also the confidence I needed.” Support also provides direction, as another member explained, “I’ve been feeling “stuck” and sort of bored of my eating disorder treatment box and am grateful to now be thinking more about other areas I might want to work in.”

From a solid base of support you can identify and deepen your learning needs.  Which is why I am looking forward to participating in the body image workshop lead by Fiona Sutherland and Marci Evans as well as Understanding Emotional Eating for Health Care Professionals presented by The Center for Mindful Eating and lead by Kari Anderson, DBH, LCMHC, CEDS-S.

This quarter the theme is about recognizing the need for support and professional friendship as you work in a weight-neutral, health at every size, frame. Listening to Christy Harrison’s podcast Food Psych, and hearing her compassionate reminder that even as health professionals, “We are all part of the diet culture.” Accepting this truth makes it easier to ask for and receive support of our amazing peers.