Monday, August 25, 2008

Be playful -- It helps!

An attitude of playfulness helps stop emotional eating and ease the difficulties that are bound to arise on every Chew Tamer’s journey. It is an essential part of our healing process. I often ask my clients to share their childhood adventures with me -- things that took place before they learned the adult lessons of being fearful, worried and over-burdened caretakers. We discuss these stories and often they are surprised and delighted to discover that they have a playful, creative little imp hidden deep within. Many who come into my office, with or without food control issues, find reclaiming childhood playfulness frees them to become interested and involved in the development of something new in their lives. This information may manifest immediately in positive changes or in more subtle changes that take longer.

As an emotional eating expert and clinical psychologist, I have learned that epiphanies come in their own way and at their own time. Ask yourself what you would like to add to your personal life. Don't consider an activity because you feel you should like it or because someone makes a suggestion. Only consider things that ring true for you. Close your eyes right now and think about times you have felt joyful. Then ask yourself these questions: When were some of those times? Why did you feel so happy? What made those experiences important and freeing? Were these times you took on challenges, spent time with neighborhood friends or enjoyed an activity by yourself? What can you do today to recapture some of those joyful, illusive feelings?

Who are you? Are you a painter, a skydiver or a gourmet cook? Maybe you're a deep-sea diver or a yoga instructor. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that you're having fun. Try different things. If you try something and don't like it, try something else. Get actively involved in the process of living your life consciously. Be proactive, not reactive. Don't wait for life to happen, because it won't. Only you can do it. If you don't take responsibility for making the changes you want and creating the YOU you want to be, no one will. Managing your life is your job. Don't think of yourself as a victim. The time to act is now! Each moment that passes by without doing something for yourself is one more moment you have missed. Don't wait!

I certainly missed my share of opportunities along with many of the gifts life has to offer. My words are written solely to give you the impetus to create the most exciting life you can. Separate yourself from all the roles you play in life - parent, child, friend, partner, etc. - and spend time thinking of who YOU are. When I ask a client "Who are you?" I often get a teary reaction, simply because a conscious response has never been considered. Most people are far too busy playing roles they have learned to play and attending to everyone else. Spend time contemplating what you love to do. Brainstorm some ideas. No matter how far-fetched or impossible they seem, capture them on paper. This will grease the cogs of your brain and refresh your spirit. Feelings deep inside of you will become the manifestations of your dreams. You cannot create something new in your life if you don't know what you want. Spend time discovering who you are. Only then can you move towards the life you truly want to have - filled with zest, joy, health and balance.

Start now to uncover the creative, playful, delightful little imp dwelling deep inside of you!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Secondary Gains from Overeating

I often ask clients what they are getting out of their compulsive eating behavior. Most look at me as if I’m from another planet and insist that they get absolutely no benefits from eating compulsively or from being overweight. I can understand their surprised reactions, for how can an issue which feels so painful and all-consuming bring with it any advantages? Inevitably, when I suggest we talk about the possibility, people resist the idea. “How can this weight or this behavior bring me anything positive?” they ask. It seems too hard to think about, impossible to imagine. I often tell them the following story to illustrate my point:
Once I was working with a woman who had been steadily gaining weight since the birth of her first child. She was referred to me by her medical doctor when her weight began seriously taking its toll on her health. She was dangerously obese when we met and was becoming increasingly depressed and discouraged. We worked together for quite a while and, despite all of her best efforts and mine, she continued to put on more weight. Sporadically she would make attempts to take control of her emotional eating but nothing was effective.
One day, after several months of unsuccessful weight loss attempts, we began talking about her family situation and she disclosed to me that her husband badly wanted another child. Her first child, an extremely active little girl, kept her busy constantly and she strongly resisted the idea of adding to their family (and thus her workload). She feared her husband’s anger and possible abandonment if she openly stated that she did not want another child to care for. Soon she realized that her weight kept her from having to confront her husband or deal with the issue at all. Her doctor had emphatically told her that having another child was far too dangerous an undertaking if she became pregnant at her current weight. Losing weight would mean confronting the issue and admitting the truth to her spouse. Once she realized this she knew that she would never let go of her extra pounds until she figured out how to handle this matter directly with her husband.
Scenarios like this one happen frequently as part of the therapy process. People sometimes find out that their weight and out-of-control behavior provides them with illusions of safety. If they are overweight, they can avoid the situations that they fear. They may think such thoughts as, “If I am heavy, no one will make advances towards me. If I am fat, I can’t possibly _______ (fill in the blank: go to school, ask for anything, be successful, take risks, compete with others, have a good relationship, etc.) If I am fat, I won’t be called upon to give my opinions or ideas. People won’t take me seriously and I won’t have to risk being wrong and feeling foolish. If I am overweight I may be excluded from good jobs where I will be expected to be responsible and competent (it is illegal, but it happens). If I am obese I can stay close to home – buses, planes, trains and subways have small seats so I can’t possibly travel.” This thinking provides an illusion of safety.
Being overweight is not simple and generally there are at least a few hidden, unconscious agendas behind the eating behavior. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and think for a few minutes about the advantages you get from being overweight. Then return to the present. Write those advantages down. Now note any other, more nurturing ways you can take care of yourself and your feelings and write these down. Next, choose one area where you would like to make a change. For example, if you have discovered that one advantage of overeating has been to numb feelings of grief, you might plan to talk with a friend about your loss. In this way, you allow your feelings to surface and find expression and you no longer need food to anesthetize yourself. You can do this exercise often as a way of checking in with yourself and changing your compulsive behavior.

My warmest wishes, Dr. Denise

Monday, August 11, 2008

Deprivation Diets NEVER Help!

As a leading international emotional eating I can tell you that we are the fattest people on earth? Do you know why? One reason is because we diet. Did you know that diets actually cause weight gain? Each diet promises a slender, healthy body, yet, as we diet more, the numbers on the scale continue to rise. As we realize we are getting fatter, we are likely to become more discouraged and anxious. We may search frantically for the latest, fastest ways to lose weight and diet more desperately. We may find that the harder we try the fatter we become! Following are some reasons to never diet again:

Diets forbid us to eat the healthy fats we need to feel satiated.

Dieting lowers metabolism.

Diets encourage us to consume diet products that are often filled with chemicals and devoid of nutrients.

Diets foster a lifestyle of deprivation and, if we feel deprived, we are likely to make up for that later by overindulging.

Diets limit our choices and restrict us. We may resent this and act out our anger by overeating.

If we severely restrict our caloric intake and we deny ourselves the pleasure of savoring foods we love, we will build resentment. If our friends are enjoying pasta and we are chomping angrily on a dry chicken breast and a few leaves of lettuce, we are guaranteeing ourselves that we will make this injustice up later by overindulging on junk foods.

The intention then is not to diet but instead to strive for balance. We do this by first educating ourselves about what foods promote high energy and health. Then choosing these foods most of the time. We can indulge now and then, noticing how we feel when we make less than self-loving choices and how we feel when we select nourishing, health-promoting foods instead. Over time, as we strive to be more mindful about our choices and their consequences, we can make more and more self-loving choices. Remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons!

This is the most effective overall strategy to achieve a life of zest and radiant health. Deprivation diets are never helpful. They do cause weight gain so be gentle with yourself!

Enjoy the rest of summer! Warmly, Dr. Denise

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Are Your Good Intentions Gone?

Have you ever had this experience? (I have hundreds of times!) You wake up in the morning regretting the way you ate last night and decide that today will be different. You set your intention firmly. Today you will remain conscious and choose foods and beverages that will foster health, energy and maybe even weight loss. You will be vigilant, aware, and you know that you will feel great about yourself as you move through your day making one self-loving choice after another.

You start your day with a wonderful, health-promoting breakfast – oatmeal, yogurt and fruit perhaps. You feel fantastic knowing that this day is truly a new beginning and today is your chance to turn things around. As you face the stressors of the day, however, your resolve weakens and you start slipping into the wasteland of unconsciousness and emotional eating. This means that your fantastic intentions are fading quickly into the background and your awareness is now off of your best interests and on to the problems and distractions of your routine.

By afternoon, your “best laid plans” have evaporated and the good intentions of the morning have been abandoned. As you reach for a “pick me up” of caffeine and sugar in the waning hours of the afternoon, you may make a quick decision to try again tomorrow if you even remember that you did start out with some really good ideas about how to take loving care of yourself all day. More likely, however, you are unconscious by then and won’t really notice and revisit the issue until tomorrow morning when you awaken regretting your behaviors of yesterday and once again resolving to make today the day you actually remain conscious and attend to your real needs.

So what happens between the morning yogurt and the evening bowl of ice cream? Why did you venture so far your path? How did you slip so easily from mindful to mindless without even noticing? These are worthy questions for you to ponder. It is easy to collapse into mindlessness and many of us have been doing that repeatedly for years. Now is the time to do something different. Now is the time for you to make yourself #1 all day long.

Here are a few suggestions. You can get a buddy to check in with throughout the day and ask each other how you are managing your stress and reminding each other to be gentle and loving with yourself. You can carry a small journal around with you and make a brief entry each time you feel like grabbing more snacks. You can schedule short breaks into your day when you can sit quietly and take deep breaths for a few moments. These are some ways to keep on your personal path.

You can also use The Bach Flower Remedies found in the emotional eating support kit – cherry plum, crab apple and chestnut bud. These can help you enormously as you learn to treat yourself and your body with care, stay in control and stop the frustrating cycle of overeating, feeling awful and overeating more to medicate yourself. I have been amazed at how helpful these little drops have been for my clients. You may find they provide an effective means of stopping the mindless eating and staying more conscious of yourself.

My very best wishes,
Dr. Denise