Eating Disorders Expert
Meet Olga González, psychologist, international speaker, founder of the Mexican Association of Eating Disorders, which currently brings together the largest group of experts in the country. She has been the youngest President of the Academy for Eating Disorders for the Hispanic Latin American Chapter, author of two books, one on Bariatric Surgery and the last one: DETOX DIGITAL.
Who is Olga? Define yourself.
I am a persevering woman, once I set myself a goal I work tirelessly to realize it. I am a dreamer and a fearless entrepreneur, but at the same time, I am willing to work hard to reach it. I’m not afraid of leadership and I enjoy being guided by a good leader. As for my personal life, I like to be close, I care a lot for the people around me, I like joy and being surrounded by people, but at the same time, I enjoy a lot of solitude.
“I’m a psychologist so I’m looking to change my thoughts, my emotions, my activities, my approach, I try to challenge myself so that in the midst of difficult situations I get out of victimhood and star in the life I want to have”
How were you as a kid?
I was very serious, everything was embarrassing, even if people greeted me I was ashamed to answer. It wasn’t an easy childhood, my parents divorced when I was four years old and in the new home we were victims of domestic violence by their partner repeatedly and systematically, the violence occurred in different forms, that led me to develop insecurities in elementary and high school, but thanks to the fact that I had a very resilient mother, to some friends, spiritual groups and thanks to my approach to psychology I was able to overcome many of those situations and turn those experiences into strengths.
You have a Bachelor degree in Psychology and a Specialty in Clinical Psychology from the University of Sonora, a specialty in Eating Disorders and internationally you have trained in Bariatric Surgery in Spain, France, and Hong Kong, you specialize in Transdiagnostic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, why did you decide to study psychology and all the above?
I wanted to be a lawyer I studied three semesters of law, it was clear that I wanted to talk to the masses, I wanted to generate laws that allow great social changes. However, when I was at law school I realized that I had a very romantic idea of the practice of law in Mexico, every semester that I advanced I liked the career less, I began to feel out of place, I was not in my area. So talking to my mom who was very wise and guided me, she gave me a piece of advice, I already had verbal and communication skills so I should look for a career where I can communicate my content and improve communication skills in courses and workshops that run parallel to my career. That was a great idea.
Several people around me constantly told me that I was good at listening, finding solutions and seeing the "B Side" of things. In the university admission exam I came out among the top five, I loved my career from the first semester and from then on my love and interest in psychology has been unstoppable. This the ever-changing world represents new challenges for the mind to adapt to, that is why every subject of specialty for which I have been interested in psychology I have given the formality of approaching the researches, the experts and I have taken it very seriously.
You’ve been the youngest president of the Academy for Eating Disorders for the Latin American Hispanic Chapter. You have given conferences in different countries about Eating Disorders, overweight, obesity, you are an active member of various national and international associations and agencies dedicated to the study and care of these disorders, You even wrote a book on Bariatric Surgery, what is the recipe for your success?
Eating disorders was a topic I was very curious about, my mom was a social worker and specialized in nutrition and sports health. She started into the world of gyms but they were exclusive for women, there my sister and I spent the evenings while my mom worked, we did homework and we walked around, so since I was 6 years old I grew up listening to women complain about their bodies, desire the a body that the other had, the struggle to lose weight, anorexia, bulimia, obesity, and all the disorders that you imagine, in the bathrooms, on the stairs, my mom tried to help them with words of self-esteem, sometimes came more serious cases.
When I was 15 years old I began to teach in the gym and I saw the problem closer, that’s why since the fifth semester of my career, I started on my own to approach the academies and institutions that could instruct me to help my students. At first I wasn’t taken seriously because I was so young, but I decided that I would persevere, that I would do whatever had to be done to be taken seriously and to make my mark, I researched, I got involved, I worked actively, and gradually I gained a place of recognition and respect among my colleagues, until I was proposed by other women also very enterprising and professional to be president for 17 countries and lead the topic at the American Academy which is the most important in the world.
Being president, the number of experts grew twice its size and we gave it a huge boost with more innovative ways of communicating to expert groups, something that marked a before and after a panel of experts. Thanks to the work done there are that I have just been awarded the highest recognition of the Academy as a Fellow for "innovative professionalism and extraordinary contributions to the field of psychology" I am the first Mexican psychologist to receive that recognition for which I feel very honored and happy.
“I’m really obsessed with quality. I firmly believe that a job well done opens a thousand doors for you and badly done closes millions”
Among your main achievements stand out bilateral agreements in Europe and Latin America; now you have set your sights on linking with Asia for the treatment of morbid obesity, psychological management of patients candidates for bariatric surgery and eating disorders, Tell us more about your plans for this.
My husband specializes in business with Asia, thanks to him I have been able to visit, admire and love Asian culture, in my visits to Japan and other Asian countries I began to see that they were preventing or solving in practical ways problems that we as Latinos had the theory, then I started to approach the experts and they were as interested in knowing how we did certain things in Latin America as we did in them, I found a channel of communication and common interest, that opened the doors for me to other experts in other countries and that’s how I started to make alliances for scientific dissemination and communication among specialists in that continent.
You recently published your second book "DETOX DIGITAL is the first program aimed at all audiences, with emphasis on parents and educators, that seeks to end the excessive use of screens (cell phone, tablet, television, computer...) and thus achieve a balance in all aspects of your life. Where and why did the idea of writing this book come from?
The idea came from my own experience with screen addiction, specifically cell phones, social media, specifically Facebook. When I realized that I couldn’t go without checking my phone, that the bills were getting bigger and bigger and I wasn’t even stopping, that I interrupted important conversations by looking at my phone and especially that I tried to leave it at home or in the bag and I couldn’t stay more than an hour or two without feeling anxious and afraid of missing something important (FOMO). It was when I decided to look for the topic, that was how using my knowledge in designing behavioral treatments I designed my own treatment, which was going through a process of trial and error until I could completely overcome my addiction.
This method is simple lasts 21 days, anyone can do it at home, I was sharing it with my patients and in turn they were sharing it with their friends. Emails and comments began to arrive from people from other places outside of Mexico who were doing the method and they told me about their successes, they asked me for more details of the method and so I thought about writing a book, something that accelerated the the process was that one day that I sat down waiting for my turn to get into a restaurant, I could see the customers through the glass and they were watching their cell phones, a super sad scene, a family parents were on their phones and the children, one with a tablet, another child with a cell phone and the older girl with a cell phone and headphones, the waitress struggled in the order they pay attention to ask their order.
I thought it was a a very sad scene, my heart was hurt had just released my first book a few months ago, but I set out to write the book Detox Digital as soon as I could because it’s a topic we needed to talk about urgently.
“Explain scientific advances through self-help books aimed at the general public, videos, publications through social networks, media interviews, all these strategies have taken me to very pleasant places in the heart of the general public “
We all have hard times in our lives, what do you do to get out of that phase?
I have three ways to get out. The first is that with the pass of time I have sought to surround myself with a team of people (therapists, friends, collaborators) who contribute a lot to my life, each one brings something different when I am in a crisis or in a difficult moment I talk to them, seek their advice, their opinion, ask for your help. My husband gives me a lot of restraint and support, he is the first one I look for, but very often he advises me or seeks the shelter of my immediate group and that works very well for me.
The second thing is that I read a lot, almost always there will be some author who has written what I need at that moment. For example, I am now rereading Victor Frankl and he is helping me to maintain a positive attitude within social isolation, he reminds me of the importance of humor, of the calmness that daily tasks give, of visualizing the result so now I work, but above all to seek the ultimate meaning to situations.
And the third, psychology, I’m a psychologist so I’m looking to change my thoughts, my emotions, my activities, my approach, I try to challenge myself so that in the midst of difficult situations I get out of victimhood and star in the life I want to have.
How are you like mother and wife?
I can tell you that I try to be a loving mother, from the day I knew I would become a mother I made the decision that I would not hit my children or yell at them, educate with discipline and firmness, but without resorting to the blow, there have really been days that I’ve been about to break my promise, but my career has given me so many tools to achieve it.
I think about my children a lot, I adore them, they make my life happy, I try to be very affectionate both physically and verbally, I try to get them to trust me and me constantly take care that they develop a good character and a good attitude to life for my husband and me, a proactive attitude to life is the most important parameter of success in life. As a wife, I try to be very independent, caring and supportive. I’ve been married to a very good man for 10 years, we really have a good time, we don’t have big conflicts and we rely on each other a lot. We respect each other’s autonomy and we push ourselves in our lives. I can tell you that without any doubt the serenity, the balance and the gratitude that is born from my family gives me the impulse and energy in the professional world.
How is your day today?
For three years I migrated almost all my activity to the Home Office, except the workshops conferences and some media interviews that are irreplaceable, everything else I do online. I get up and exercise at home, exercise first thing in the morning gives me the feeling that I own my day because it gives me vitality. Then I take care of the children's process and take them to school, etc. I work in the morning either giving online consultations, projects, write meetings with my team. In the afternoon it´s family time, in the nights when the children are asleep and I have no activities with my husband, I like to read and write, when I am developing a project, I restructure my schedule and find a way to commit myself full time.
“The key will always be THE SUPPORT NETWORK. I always tell the women around me to look for a support network with other women”
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your professional decisions?
¡Yes, excellence! I’m obsessed with quality. I firmly believe that a job well done opens a thousand doors for you and badly done closes millions. To be excellent one has to do a lot of previous work and excellence brings ethics, professionalism, honesty, commitment, and dedication. So if I’m going to do something I’m not just going to do it in big, I’m gonna do it the best way I can be done.
What do you like most about your work? And what’s the hardest part?
I like how practical it is, we actually make small changes in my clients' lives, and immediately the transformation begins. It is very satisfying to see a person rise to their conflict and resolve it and how this achievement impacts their family, their work environment, and everything around them. My work has a lot of meaning in my life and people’s, and that is invaluable satisfaction.
The hardest part is dealing with the stigma of the psychologist, who everyone believes can work with the brain and with emotions, gives me a lot of impotence as people trust their time, money and effort in pseudo-"professionals, mental health enthusiasts and cases end up getting complicated or people stop believing in psychology, I wish that every time someone overcomes all stigmas and comes with a psychologist their experience was very satisfying.
From your experience on the subject, what is the root of eating disorders? I’ve ever heard a specialist say that the way we eat is a reflection of how we live our lives, what do you think?
It is a great subject, because of its complexity it took many years to know what causes them, but in short, it is the result of a dangerous combination of predisposing genes, personal environment, environment, parenting, and life situations. You cannot turn the scales to just one aspect, that is why it must be an expert who helps the person to simplify his understanding of the problem and above all to introduce small changes that build a new, long-lasting, and healthy lifestyle.
What strategy has helped you grow your business?
The the strategy has been to make the difficult easy, namely the dissemination of science in a simple and accessible format. Psychologists or mental health professionals who are involved in scientific academies and very important institutions (as in my case) usually develop a language that is only understood among the same professionals.
For my academic preparation I can perfectly understand a scientific study and explain it in such a way that even the person furthest from the subject can understand it. Explain scientific advances through self-help books aimed at the general public, videos, publications through social networks, media interviews, all these strategies have taken me to very pleasant places in the heart of the the general public and on the other hand those who produce science are thankful that someone makes their discoveries known. There I found a large niche market that is a halfway point between the two worlds is very profitable, very interesting and in which I feel very comfortable.
What situation marked your life to be who you are today?
Certainly not having had the easy things since childhood combined with the culture of effort with which I was educated has helped me to strive for what I want and overcome many barriers of all kinds that I have faced. There are five strong events that have given a resounding turn to the way I see and live life: To have lived closely the tragedy of the ABC daycare center, the birth of my two children, the death of my mother, and now the COVID-19.
These life events have deeply cemented me, remind me of the delicacy of life and at the same time their strength, place me in the priorities, make me want to participate in a a better world and help me set priorities. Those events, some very painful at the same time reminds me of the true meaning of life.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Reading, getting into nature (when possible), dancing, and talking with friends. But if I had to choose all things, reading is my favorite activity.
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, blossoming family life and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, you are married and have 2 kids, so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
It’s a big question of my life! There is nothing more difficult than balancing all the roles, I have undertaken absolutely nothing in my professional or personal career to compare keeping all the "balls in the air". A professional woman and mother of a family thinks about quitting her job about 17 times a year, and I think seriously I don’t tell you that it’s just a thought on the air, well, I had a season that thought about it I think 17 times a day. When the children were babies they are very demanding, besides I had to start to rise in my career at the same time as my husband in his, then it was very difficult to decide who would sacrifice his moment.
One of the formulas that I found and that I share with other women whenever I can is that number one I set stages, that is, the first 7 months of my children’s life I prioritized them was my main project at the same time as (and this is the secret) I was training someone I trusted 100% to be my other half. Many times I worked almost only to pay that "someone" but the benefits it gave me in my mood, in freeing up my time to be able to exercise, doing leisure activities well were worth it.
The key will always be THE SUPPORT NETWORK. I always tell the women around me to look for a support network with other women. In my case, my mother had cancer and could not help me as much as she wanted and my only sister lived out of town, but I think for many years the women of the families lived in the same houses, the children grew up together and supported each other. That is the only way I could overcome that challenging stage, now it no longer represents a challenge for me because my network is very solid.
Another key is that, if you’re going to want to have a profession and also family, look very closely at who you’re going to choose as your significant other. A person who sucks you up, who competes with you, who is closed-minded, is going to steal all the energy you need to pursue your dreams and that frustration will be shared with the children and finally with your relationship as a couple. Professional success goes hand in hand with who you share your day today and that will be your partner. You must prepare for success in life and you will achieve it better and faster if you have a good network and that includes the choice of your significant other.
“You must prepare for success in life and you will achieve it better and faster if you have a good network and that includes the choice of your significant other”
What are your plans for the future?
I will continue to grow in my career as a writer (I already have a proposal for the third book) and at the moment I cannot say much… But there’s already an Audio Visual Project about Detox Digital, my most immediate plan is to expose more the Digital Detox theme, achieve multi-language translation and bring the 21 plan to everyone in the world who needs it.
There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experimented with the glass ceiling? If yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
It definitely still exists, it’s amazing that no matter how high you get and how much power you get, the gender gap is still there. A few weeks ago I realized that a the provider was acting with disdain towards my executive assistant (who is a very academically prepared woman) and I decided to call him myself, I also realized that he ignored my calls and treated me with an air of superiority. So I asked my Project Manager who is the man to take care of that contact, the story was completely different, the calls the e-mails and all the negotiation was taken at first and with courtesy.
Of course, when I realized I changed the provider, I wanted to make the message clear both to my team and to the supplier who was unwilling to tolerate such a deal. That’s what happened to me, too, with the harassment I’ve experienced for years since teachers in law school, psychiatrists, doctors, who harassed us young psychologists at congresses, and several barriers that I’ve had to face as well as millions of women.
I wish there had been #meetoo and so much education about it when I was younger because for many years I wondered what I did wrong? He blamed me, now it’s different, now I wonder: if I was a man would I have been asked the same question/snub/comment/salary? Most of the time the answer is NO. This is how I have overcome it, with an impeccable ethical and professional career that allows me to raise my voice and also to thank the women who preceded me in the struggle so that I can do it freely.
What tips can you give young girls who want to be psychologists like you?
My best advice is to take the science of behavior seriously, the non-romantic parts of psychology are not so attractive, but they are the most important to build a solid career that perseveres in time. Be patient, studious and do not lose the passion, touching the heart and the life of a person is a great responsibility and at the same the time it is a great honor, a transformed life can change the world and we can be part of it, let us do it with excellence.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you are (personally), and what you do (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Olga, and what´s not?
I think that even though I try to show myself as I am (including my internal and external struggles) on social networks, the magnitude of the difficult parts is often not shown.
Olga is not a a person who is always cheerful, nor is a person who is always right, nor is Olga given the successes "in the pot", Olga has received many "No", also fights with the stigmas of figure, beauty, ugliness, success, failure, of the good or bad mother or wife, Olga feels guilty for many things many times a day, Olga’s successes have been based on many efforts, many early hours of work, many problems on her health, she is a worker, is not afraid of leadership or responsibilities, she is strong, she is determined, she is cheerful, she is afraid of many things many and many times but she knows how to do things even with fear. Olga listens, she’s disciplined, she has trouble getting up in the morning, but she gets up anyway. Yes I have a stable, loving family, yes I have a successful marriage. Yes I’m a feminist, yes I defend minorities, and yes, I worry less and less about what they’ll say.
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
There are three women that I admire enormously to my mother, she was the first entrepreneur I met, now that I evaluate her work, I’m more surprised by her strength, determination and intelligence. I also admire Oprah, I find an example of a woman one of my greatest dreams is to meet her and finally Elizabeth Kulber Ross her life story and her contributions to mental health are invaluable, I would like to be able to leave a positive footprint on the world just as she did.
Name: Olga González Domínguez
Sector: Mental Health
Company: Olga González Domínguez Psicología
Desgination: Psychologist, author, speaker