Monday, August 24, 2009

You do have choices

Remind yourself that although your energy is low and life feels particularly difficult in this moment that you do have options. Have a conversation with yourself. For example, you might say “Yes, I notice I am tired and discouraged and fearful right now. What would be the very best, most effective and gentle way to take care of my true needs at this particular time? Perhaps I can call my friend and talk awhile or take a walk with my dog or a nap. Maybe I just need a little quiet time to regroup, meditate, write in my journal, pray or cry. What is it I am really craving if I bypass my usual, mind numbing sugar/carbohydrate fix? Do I need stimulation or relaxation, isolation or socialization? Do I need protein or more water or a little sunshine? Do I need to attend to some unfinished business or do I need to let someone know how I feel?” There are many possibilities and each time you go through this process you are taking giant steps towards helping your appetite to serve you and to work with you to accomplish your life’s goals.

Practice stopping and thinking about what would truly serve you best in that moment. When you are attentive to yourself in this way, you will feel better and food will become less important. You will no longer have such persistant urges to eat for emotional reasons. You cannot do this, however if you don’t take the time for yourself. It only takes a moment, but it is an essential moment. It requires that you quiet down and focus within to tap into your intuition and to discover what will please you. Otherwise, you will remain focused outwardly and you will find yourself reacting to stimuli around you instead of acting on your own behalf. Once you develop the habit of this intuitive check-in with your inner self you will find the peace and balance you are striving for, and your body will adjust to the weight that is perfect for you. Your Chew will be a source of joy for you instead of frustration. And one of the greatest benefits is that you will feel proud of yourself. You will smile more and people will notice that you are glowing!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Take time to just be

Pause long enough to notice your surroundings. Notice the colors, the scents, the sounds and all the details. Allow yourself to tune in to the full experience of just being wherever you are at the moment. Then quiet your mind with some deep breaths and begin to notice what feelings are percolating around in side of you. You are likely experiencing a number of things. Try to identify some of the most powerful feelings. (It may help to write them down.) Then as you acknowledge these feelings to yourself, you can tune in fully to the experience you are having at the moment.

For example you might say “I notice I feel tired and overwhelmed. I didn’t sleep well last night, and I have been worrying a lot about my job [or relationship or money or health or something else]. I feel tension in my neck and shoulders and I am cranky and short tempered this morning.” As you notice these things, you position yourself to decide what you truly need to do to take the best care of yourself in that moment. In the past you have most likely used food to dull these important feeling messages, and you have missed the chance to identify your real needs. You may find you are tempted to grab a few pastries or some candy when you do this exercise. Your reaction is natural if eating has become the primary way you have been meeting your emotional needs. But perhaps you can defer that automatic response of food abuse and instead think of what else might better meet your needs.

Noticing your feelings and stopping to pay attention to them is a most important part of making the decisions that will help you as you continually strive for balance and joy in your life. Using the valuable information your feelings are providing for you to create the experience you truly desire is part of the training process. It is at those times that your Chew is working with you and helping you identify what you really want and need for your own peace, health and well-being.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Express yourself

Many of us never learned how to communicate within ourselves or with others. As we practice the skill of attending to our inner being and listening to our feeling messages, we are likely to discover that we want and need to communicate more honestly, clearly, and fully with those around us. This is not easy for many of us. Most of us were taught to be quiet from an early age (Children should be seen and not heard!). If we did dare to speak up we may have been reprimanded, ridiculed or discounted. Our precious thoughts may have been negated and our feelings invalidated. Soon we learned to withhold our true thoughts and to bury our feelings deep inside -- so deep that we may have lost touch with them ourselves. These consequences of our self-expression were painful, and it didn’t take us long to realize and appreciate the soothing relief we could find with a few cookies or a big dish of ice cream.

So now, when it is important for us to speak up as adults we may feel fearful. This is understandable given the ways our communication may have been received in the past. Ask yourself what is your worst fear if you speak up in the particular situation that concerns you. The ask, “is this fear realistic?” What’s the worst thing that could happen? Sometimes knowing what your greatest fear is can dispel the power you have given away in anticipation of a confrontation or rejection. It is easier by far to swallow a brownie than to tell your neighbor you don’t want to care for her child again. But, if you don’t speak up, and she doesn’t happen to be a mind reader, nothing will change and you will likely go on eating an endless supply of sweets, gaining weight, and harboring greater resentment towards her for taking advantage of you and towards yourself for allowing her to. Then you will need more anesthetic sugar fixes to keep that anger and resentment at bay.

So it is vital that you learn to assert yourself and communicate what your wants and needs truly are. You deserve to ask for what you want and to express yourself. Your feelings are no more or less important than anyone else’s. You can always ask for what you need and express all that you wish to express. This earthly life is your experience, and you are responsible for creating the experience you want. Others around you are responsible for creating their own life experiences. You can’t live your life to serve their needs to the exclusion of your own. Nor can you expect others to read your mind, discover what your needs are, and live their lives in service of you. Each of us must make our own choices and create the most positive, joyful life possible.

Here is a simple communication formula that many find helpful to express their thoughts and feelings.
(feeling) (behavior)
I feel___________ when you_____________. For example, “I feel angry when you leave your clothes all over the floor.” To use this formula effectively, you will first need to learn how to recognize and name your feelings. Once you are clear about how you feel, you can then name a specific behavior that you would like to address with the other person. In a perfect world, they might respond to your communication by saying something such as, “Oh, I am sorry. I will now pick up my clothes since I now know you don’t like me to leave them on the floor.” Chances of that happening, however, are slim. Usually you will have to tell them more than once. If they still do not respond to your request, it is time to add to the communication formula and to name a consequence.

(feeling) (behavior)
I feel___________ when you_____________ and if you

For example, “I feel angry when you leave your clothes all over the floor and if you continue, I will throw them out the bathroom window.” Now, your consequence must be appropriate to the crime and something you can actually do. Then you must follow through. If you communicate clearly using this technique, people will begin to take you seriously, and you will no longer feel helpless and invisible. Try it and see!

As mentioned in The Taming of the Chew, if you are lacking good communication and assertiveness skills, investigate opportunities in your area for groups or classes where you can learn and practice these essential skills. Knowing how to speak up and to stand up for yourself will empower you, and you will not need food as medication

Monday, August 3, 2009

How do we break the overeating cycle?

Sorry to have been away from my blog these past weeks. Vacation was wonderful and although I intended to keep up with things, my urges to hike and relax and eat fabulous food were stronger. So now I am back and no more trips are planned for a while. Thank you for your patience and I welcome you back to my weekly posts. Please do be in touch. I would love to hear from you with your questions, concerns or ideas for coming posts.

Millions of people can't stop eating even though they have already eaten more than enough to fuel their bodies. Most of us will do this occasionally. During these times when we overindulge we are likely to feel unhappy, frustrated and discouraged. Our self-esteem level plummets and, even though we may realize that we are damaging our health, we feel helpless to stop. Did you ever wonder why that is? There are many reasons.

We are constantly flooding with emotion and seldom paying attention to what the messages are that our feelings are delivering so faithfully to us. Cues in our environment drive our behavior and when we are faced with variety or excessive portions of foods high in sugar, fat, and salt most of us will overeat. Our desire for our sugar/fat/salt “fix” or reward is so strong that it usually trumps our desire for balance. This is the point where our overeating behavior crosses the “what the hell line” that I talk about in The Taming of the Chew. We then have little or no regard for the consequences of our repeated binging behavior.

Where the numbers on the scale settle is not because of a set point but instead a result of our motivation, how we seek certain foods to soothe our emotions and food's availability and the portion sizes that face us when we are served a meal. So, if cues are constantly surrounding us to eat and the urge for reward gets set in motion then how do we break the cycle of that eventually becoming a habit?

I have a list available of 30 tips to control overeating. If you would like a free copy, just email me at and I will send you a copy. Meanwhile, enjoy the day!
It's good to be back!

Dr. Denise