Monday, January 30, 2012

Change what you can – accept what you can’t

In Alcoholics Anonymous participants recite a very powerful prayer called The Serenity Prayer.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Members ask their higher power to help them change the things in their lives they can; to accept those things they cannot change and to have the wisdom to know the difference. Many of us would like to change things in our lives that can be changed but we don’t think we can do it. There are things in our lives that cannot be changed but still we keep beating our heads against the wall stubbornly trying to change those. We do this to ourselves. Why?

Why are we so often discontent? Why do we attempt to do the impossible and then beat ourselves up when we are unsuccessful? Life really doesn’t need to be this hard. Things get easier when we begin to pay attention to what we feel and really listen to the messages our feelings transmit. We know if we feel good we are making the right choices. If we feel bad, we have strayed from the path we want to be walking.

Guide yourself gently back onto your path. In your heart, you (and only you) know the way. warmest wishes, Dr. Denise

Monday, January 2, 2012

It Takes a Little Courage to Stop Overeating

Throughout my life I struggled with anxiety and depression. I went through the gamut of eating disorders, surviving anorexia, seven years of bulimia, followed by binge eating, and extreme obesity. I was all over the map emotionally and physically. I was homeless for a period of time and eventually married and gave birth to three children. Still, I suffered and there was no end in sight to my self- destructive behaviors. I was living my life in service of everybody else and neglecting myself but I didn’t realize this.

I arrived in my adulthood driven to take care of everyone around me. Translated, this meant I needed to control them. If I saw someone failing to do what I thought was best, I would rush to the rescue. I thought I knew what was best for everyone. I was wrong.

One day it occurred to me that taking everyone's pain away and minding other people's business might not actually be my job. If I was spending my time minding other peoples’ business, who was minding mine? No, my job was to respect and love them but also to validate their choices and their feelings. I learned I also had to love, respect, and validate myself. This was a revelation! It seemed remarkable that I could begin to pay attention to myself. A novel and frightening idea! I resisted because I was afraid people wouldn't love me if I wasn't hovering with concern and advice. Again I was wrong.

But how to change?

How could I, a woman with low self-esteem and no confidence in my early twenties, find what I needed to jump-start my way into a different life experience? I was an unhealthy, overweight, overworked young mother of three. How was I going to find the vitality and enthusiasm that I so badly needed for each day? How could I convert a worrier's persona into that of a “warrior”? How could I become brave? It was going to take many steps, mostly forward; but I also needed to know there would be some slipping and sliding backward in the process. I had no idea what to do.

Then I took a big risk. My kick-start and one of the first steps toward my empowerment was learning to ride an off-road motorcycle, something I had always wanted to do. (OK, call me crazy.) I placed my large derriere on top of a very fast motorcycle and challenged myself to become an off-road motorcycle racer. I didn't want to be just a woman riding a bike; I wanted to ride well, fast, and ultimately race. The idea seemed preposterous at the onset, but, as I began to ride–at first very slowly and cautiously–I discovered a whole new me hiding inside. Suddenly the world seemed different. I felt more powerful, more adventurous, and I began to build confidence and value myself more than I imagined possible.

The thought of being on a motorcycle was preposterous at the time. I was extremely overweight, always tired, and often depressed. I was scared and lacked confidence. However, I had this picture in my mind of flying down the woodland trails, weaving from side to side with a big smile on my face as I negotiated the twists and turns of the terrain. Most of the time, it wasn't that easy or romantic. In fact it wasn’t like that at all. My vision certainly did not match reality.

I spent more time on the ground, in the mud, or under my bike than I did on top of it. I had to wear long sleeves and pants to cover my bruises. Then I noticed that each time I rode, I stayed upright a little longer than I had before. I wore tall leather boots, a belt to protect my kidneys, lots of padding, and thick gloves. Eventually, I learned how to cross railroad tracks and logs. Soon I could negotiate deep water holes without falling (at least most of the time). Each trail, power line, or mud hole I encountered presented a new challenge. Racing became a metaphor for my life. Gradually, I was able to apply my new self-confidence to everyday challenges. Of course I still had a long way to go. There were times I was flying along through life with a big smile; at other times, I felt as I did before: stuck in deep mud or upside-down off the trail with my bike on top of me.

As the months and years slid by, I noticed trail-riding was less painful. Focusing on the trail ahead and my performance took my mind off the more difficult aspects of daily life. I began to feel more alive and less anxious and depressed. I became more confident and discovered my progress riding the trail paralleled my progress in life. I noticed I was having more fun–both on and off my motorcycle.

Surely this was about much more than just sitting on a bike! Actually, each ride propelled me into a more positive frame of mind. As my skills on my bike improved, I felt more competent in my role as wife, mother, daughter, and employee. I was more conscious of how I treated my body, and this led to taking better care of my mind and spirit, as well. Please note: I'm not saying this one act of motorcycling provided me with a magic answer or that my path was miraculously transformed into a positive, productive one. I am saying it was a start, a kick start.

Now I feel too old to race. I don’t have the quick reflexes that I had 30 years ago. But the lessons of living my life courageously, keeping myself and my own needs in focus have never faded. I now enjoy my life. Anxiety and depression may creep in around the edges at times, but that is the way life is for any human being and no one can feel fabulous every minute. For the most part however, my life is balanced, healthy and joyful! I wish everyone the same!

Happy New Year and be sure to get your autographed copy of The Appetite Connection. It will help you move into 2012 with renewed vigor and joy!

Many Blessings! Dr. Denise

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