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Raising Natural Eaters

Appeared in October 2003 Issue of Island Parent Magazine

You’ve prepared a wonderful dinner for your family. Chicken Marsala , fresh spinach salad, and a creamy risotto. Just as you’re about to tuck in, the kids start to complain. They pick at the rice, stab at the chicken, and whine about the spinach. The battle over food has begun.

You want them to eat healthy, nutritious meals, and they want hot dogs and ice cream.

Over the years, our perceptions about parenting and food have changed. We’ve been implored to make sure our children eat enough fruits and veggies, avoid processed foods, and watch their fat intake. The results have left everyone, especially concerned parents, scratching their heads. Because if this approach works, then why isn’t it working?

A third of Canada ‘s adults are considered obese, as are a quarter of our children. Thirty-three percent of women report the onset of an eating disorder at the ages of eleven-fifteen. Fifty percent of nine-year-old girls and eighty percent of ten-year-old girls have dieted. Fifteen percent of college aged women relate to the term disordered eating, and thirty percent of the nation admits to binge eating. Yet, we’re also a nation of calorie counters, dieters, and health conscious parents.

The dichotomy lies in the Diet Mentality, and the answer lies in Natural Eating.

The Diet Mentality is a way of thinking that has been ingrained in us by messages we receive from our family and friends, from advertisements, and media messages. These views about how we should look, feel and behave have become a part of our way of life. According to the diet me ntality, there are good and bad foods and you are good or bad depending on what you eat, and how much. Eating is restricted to certain times of the day, (breakfast, lunch, dinner), which forces us to tune out to our body’s natural hunger and fullness signals.

Natural Eating, the opposite of the diet mentality, isn’t defined by rules. It’s about listening to your body, and feeding it on demand. Everything is legal. Pizza for breakfast, pancakes for dinner. As long as you’re eating when you’re physically hungry and stopping at fullness, you’re eating naturally. But rather than being the precursor for wild abandon and unchecked indulgence, the fact that we are allowing ourselves what we really want, actually means we eat less and are more satisfied. Therefore, we focus less on food.

A basic analogy is one every parent can understand: Potty training. Why is it that after toddlers are potty trained, we step back and never question their inalienable right to use the bathroom, when and where they need it? After a child learns to use the bathroom successfully on their own, we trust their judgment that they will be able to regulate themselves, and know when to use the bathroom.

Eating can and should be, the same way. It’s a natural function, and at one point, we were all able to regulate our hunger. If we were lucky as infants and toddlers, our cries for hunger were answered, regardless of whether it was a set mealtime . We ate when we were hungry, and stopped when we reached fullness. It is very, very rare for an infant or toddler to be obese, unless, a caretaker intercedes in some way, or there is an existent medical condition. Unless food becomes an emotional issue, there is no reason for children to overeat on a daily basis.

A recent study conducted by Donna Sprujitz Metz at USC, showed that the more a parent pressured a child to eat, the less the child ate. The flip side is also true: The more parents pressure children not to eat the more the child internalizes the message, “I’m not okay the way I am,” and seeks comfort in food – thus eating more rather than less. Alternately, if a parent motivates a child to eat something they don’t want with promises of a treat after, they unwittingly give the child two very conflicted messages. First, tune out to your internal signals of fullness. Secondly, someone else knows more about your needs than you do. Parents must set some boundaries. But, making a child eat something they don’t want, and then rewarding their behaviour with food, sends a very dangerous message that distances our children from the natural signals that their bodies give off about fullness and hunger levels.

Here are some common questions parents have on the topic:

If I follow the Natural Eating approach won’t my child binge on junk food and become overweight? Aren’t I encouraging obesity?

In the beginning of the process, your child may consume a diet that is filled with processed, fatty foods. And this is when it’s most important to step back, and reserve judgment. Once your child trusts that they will not be restricted or criticized, those previously taboo foods lose all power and allure. Part of growing up is becoming independent. Eventually, your children will have to learn to make food choices on their own. If they’re school aged, they already do so on a daily basis: at school, with friends, and while you’re apart. Giving them the tools and permission to stay in touch with their inner hunger and fullness signals is a gift.

Okay, this sounds like something my family would like to try, how?

Letting go of control of your child’s diet is difficult in our culture. Giving them autonomy over their food intake will take ti me and practice. Start with a discussion. Let your children know you’re trying something new, you’re letting them make their own decisions around food, and you trust them. Your child won’t starve, won’t become undernourished, or overweight if you let them have what they want without guilt. Guilt is a major factor in disordered eating.

The body knows what it needs. Eventually, the body will demand veggies, fruit, and whole grains. Continue to provide these options, model natural eating for your children and they, too will associate food with nourishment.

What if I let my child eat whenever he/she wants and the overeating or constant eating of junk food continues? How long, is too long?

How long depends on each child. Generally, a parent could expect that the more the child perceived certain foods as being off limits, the more time he or she will need to adjust to their newfound freedom, and experiment with hunger, satiety, and even overeating. 3-6 months would be average. After that, it’s probably time to check in as a family.

What do I do if my child is reaching for food when they aren’t hungry?

Occasionally, even natural eaters will use food for emotional comfort. This is normal. If you see your child reaching for cookies after being teased during school, and you know she’s just eaten, you can bet she is eating to soothe her pain. Let her have her cookies, and talk to her after the binge. By doing this, you’ve acknowledged both emotional pain and her autonomy. Most importantly, you’ve provided her with alternate coping skills. Next time, she’ll be able to deal with the problem directly.

On the other hand, if your child is consistently reaching for food for comfort, this is an indication that they have adopted food as a coping mechanism to avoid other, more painful issues. If your child is frequently eating/restricting for emotional reasons, it’s important to get help.

By following natural eating as a family, you’re giving your children independence, and encouraging them to trust themselves and their bodies. Gone are the heated arguments and the power struggles over food. Your children are less likely to develop eating disorders, to diet, and are more likely to have higher self-esteem and self-awareness.

By, Brooke Finnigan

 

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By Elianna Lev

On a winter evening in 1992, Michelle Morand was working up a sweat at the gym to burn off all of the calories she had consumed earlier. She would often exercise vigorously for hours at a time after one of her eating binges.
At the end of her exhaustive workout, Morand happened across a nutritional brochure that asked such questions as "Do you feel controlled by food?" and "Do you eat when you are physically not hungry?"

She considered all of the questions carefully and then to her surprise the 32-year-old recalls"answering ‘yes’ to six of them,"That’s when she realized her poor body image and compulsive eating habits were neither normal nor healthy.

Shortly after she had made her startling revelation, she tried to seek out help but there wasn’t any to be found. There was plenty of help for people suffering from anorexia and bulimia, but no one seemed concerned at that time about Morand’s particular problem.

"Seven years ago, compulsive eating was seen as lazy," she explains. So after a considerable search, she finally found a specialist in Vancouver who she visited with for six months. It was during her counselling sessions with the specialist that Morand decided she wanted to help others who were afflicted with her problem. She returned to school and completed her master’s degree in counselling from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington in 1995.

About four years later she decided there was a desperate need for a clinic that focused on compulsive eating and so she "dipped" into her savings to open the Community Eating Disorder and Related Issues Counselling Centre (CEDRIC).

Originally, the plan was for the centre to specialize only in compulsive eating but Morand decided that there should also be a focus on other problems. The clinic provides counselling to people who suffer from all eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. Staff members also address other issues that typically accompany eating disorders like low self-esteem, depression and abuse. All four of the counsellors who are currently on staff at the clinic have recovered from a disordered eating pattern.

CEDRIC sees about 100 patients per year. The centre provides group and solo counselling as well as physical therapy such as Reiki and zero balancing, a technique designed to align energy fields. And while Morand admits that some people might dismiss such therapy as "airy fairy", she says she provides it because there is a demand.
"So many of our clients saw a significant jump in their recovery with the use of this therapy," she explains.

Sandra (who asked that we not use her real name) is a recovering compulsive eater who has been meeting with counsellors at CEDRIC for the past two years. "It’s been overpowering, life altering," says the 34-year-old. "It’s been amazing overall." She learned about the clinic after a nutritionist at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital recommended it. She says she has been trying to cope with compulsive eating all of her life.

"I always knew it was a problem, but it got to a point where I didn’t know what I was doing to myself," Johnson explains. "(The CEDRIC centre) gave me the basic understanding as to why I was doing what I was doing."
She says that the clinic went beyond any other help she’s sought out. "It’s not a bandage," she says of the help she has received, "it’s a cure."

Morand has set high goals for herself in terms of the clinic. One day, she hopes to help other people like Johnson, all across the country. "Our goal is to educate the community about prevention. I have a greater vision than just the clinic in Victoria," she says. "It’s just the start."

The CEDRIC centre is offering a workshop for parents who want to raise their kids free of eating disorders. The workshop is aimed to educate parents about harmful eating patterns they might put on their children.
"Some parents may have their own concerns about weight that may not have been addressed," says the centre’s founder Michelle Morand. "But our intention isn’t to dump on parents for doing it properly or not."

The workshop is aimed to give parents the tools to guide their children towards a healthy relationship with their bodies and food. It will take place Saturday (Nov. 23) from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the CEDRIC Centre, 205-661 Burnside Road East. It’s recommended to call and reserve a spot. For more information call 383-0797.
Articles are published at The CEDRIC Centre website for information and tracking purposes, they feature qoutes from our counsllors and information about our work. We are not responsible for the content of any article and can only assume responsibility for direct qoutes.

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Taming the Beast: Writer’s Block – the writer’s deadliest foe

by Brooke Finnigan

If you’re reading this, then the drive to write is already there. You know both the intoxicating high of writing for eight hours straight, and the frustrating low of spending an hour on a single word choice. Doubtless, you’ve fallen in love with your characters and spent hours matching the words on the page to the vision in your mind. Writing is hard work, yet it’s fulfilling. But there’s one little thing we’re all hesitant to mention: writer’s block. It’s a jinx; just saying the words can mean you’re suddenly struck with the debilitating disease.

My pet theory is that writer’s block has nothing to do with writing. In fact, it has everything to do with your state of mind. If you weren’t a writer you’d call it a slump, a bad week, depression. But as writers, we tend to relate our whole world to our work; we eat, sleep, and even breathe writing. And maybe that’s why writer’s block is so common, so integral to being a writer.

Writer’s block is a process, an insidious dilemma that sneaks in and wreaks havoc. The good thing, though, is that we can prevent and treat writer’s block more effectively than we think. It’s not a curse, it’s a cue. If you’re working ten hours a day with no breaks, then you’re asking to crash. Many of us think of this as a naturally occurring phenomenon, that you can’t have the bout of extreme creativity without paying for it later. And we accept this as a necessary evil. Or maybe you’re not writing at all, and instead find yourself staring at an almost blank screen feeling alternately guilty, frustrated, and conflicted.

Both cases are more similar than they first appear. We’re attributing our success, or lack thereof, to something beyond our control. Something that happened to us, almost magically, rather than something we did. Just as a good streak builds upon itself, so does a bad streak; our thoughts reinforce our actions. If we reverse our thoughts, we reverse writer’s block. It really is that simple.

Underneath writer’s block is fear. According to therapist Michelle Morand, writer’s block is most often triggered by self-critical thoughts. Doubt creeps in and it grows. We become anxious. Then we indulge in behavior that isn’t helpful to reversing the onslaught of negative thoughts; we work ourselves even harder, and we speak to ourselves more harshly. And, because no one can work under such a negative and punitive strain, we begin to collapse under our self-imposed weight. The sad thing is that this confirms our worst fear: that we are just hacks, after all. Our critical thoughts increase, we get deeper into the slump, and then the process repeats itself over and over, ad nausuem.

On paper it sounds clinical, almost too easy to be true. But remember this, no one ever excelled under negative encouragement. That was the most difficult thing for me to accept when breaking the cycle of writer’s block. I had control, I created this situation, and my old patterns of thinking – to push, prod, and push some more – were not only ineffective tools for motivation, they were causing my writer’s block.

The last thing many of us want to hear is that we need to start treating ourselves gently. We buck against the suggestion. But that’s exactly what I’m proposing. And maybe the harder we resist such an idea; the more we need to consider putting it into practice.

The next time you find yourself slipping into a bad case of the dreaded Block, ask yourself these questions:

Are these self-critical thoughts about my abilities as a writer helpful to me or are they getting in my way?

Think of your next bout with writer’s block as a blessing in disguise. Morand recommends paying close attention to when your inner critic pops up. In particular, what does your inner critic say, and how does he/she say it? Pay attention to regional accents, gender, intonation, and choice of words. You might be surprised to realize that the voice belongs to someone close to you. Most often it’s a parent or a spouse, but it can also take the guise of a teacher, a sibling, or a boss. Once you’ve identified the voice, then work to neutralize it. Nip the inner critic in the bud with a phrase like: “That was my old way of thinking. What you’re saying isn’t true. I am a good writer.” Or, take it a step further. Morand suggests having a written dialogue with your inner critic. Challenge your negative voices and expose them to the light of day. That way, when they do pop up it’ll be even easier to dismiss them for what they are: nonsense.

Am I expecting myself to be perfect? Who else do I expect this of?

One of the best things you can do for yourself when the block is on your back is to switch perspectives. Look at yourself and your work from a different point of view. Depersonalize the situation. Would you be as critical of a friend as you are of yourself? Do you expect the people in your life to be perfect? No, so why should you expect it of yourself then?

Am I thinking in all or nothing terms?

This is a trap, advises Morand. It’s the perfect way to paralyze yourself into not writing at all. As long as you plan for the steps between the local paper and the Times bestseller list, it’s helpful to have lofty goals. But, when you box yourself in with unrealistic expectations, you’re asking to fail. The next question to ask is why are you making it so hard to succeed? Many writers are more afraid of success than they think. Get in touch with that inner critic again and find out why you don’t think you’re worthy enough to make it all the way to the top.

Am I condemning my writing on the basis of a single event/difficulty?

One rejection letter and a bad week do not a horrible writer make. Don’t let small setbacks keep you from seeing the bigger picture. Quell your inner critic and get back to writing. A writer writes. Period.

Am I concentrating on my weaknesses instead of my strengths?

Re-train yourself to accentuate the positive and to work around a problem until a solution utilizing your talents can be found. It may sound odd, but equate your strengths and weaknesses to training a dog. When the dog obeys, you lavish it with praise. When it doesn’t, you move on for a while and try something new. You wouldn’t whack Fido over the head with a newspaper because he doesn’t comprehend a concept, so why is it perfectly acceptable to beat yourself up when you uncover a weakness? Attacking yourself for weaknesses, perceived or otherwise, is counter-productive to becoming a better writer.

What perspectives might be helpful to me and how can I put them into practice?

When have you thrived most: under punitive conditions or positive encouragement? Which of the two is more conducive to writing? Be honest and realistic. Chances are, like most people, you work best when you feel supported and understood. Treat yourself as gently as you would another in your situation.

How can I create a nurturing environment for myself when it comes to writing?

Do you write best on your own, in bursts, or on the weekends? How can you turn off your inner critic and trust your innate knowledge as a writer? Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what’s right for you. Some people are night writers while others get their best work done in the early hours of the morning. Most of all, remember to be your own champion. There’ll always be people out there to criticize your best efforts or sabotage your peace of mind; don’t waste your time trying to beat them to the punch. If you don’t make yourself and your writing a priority, no one else will.

Every writer has a distinctive rhythm and style. As a group, we’re likely to judge our accomplishments, and even the volume of our work, against writers we perceive as more successful. Writing is not a contest designed to compare the merit of two people on the basis of their writing ability. Nor is it a race to see who can get to the finish line first. It’s an expression of the spirit, and
thankfully, no two spirits are alike.

Works Cited:
Morand, Michelle. Personal Interview. 6 November 2000

Appeared in Netauthor E2K:
http://www.netauthor.org/e2k/stacks/finnigan.html

 

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Vegetarianism or politically correct eating disorder?

Written by Brooke Finnigan for The National Eating Disorder Information Bulletin

Whether vegetarian diet and weight loss for health, religion or for ethics, research exists about the benefits of a plant based diet. Recent research also shows that a growing number of people, especially women in their late teens, are adopting vegetarian and vegan diets in order to lose weight, maintain low body weight, and mask restrictive eating patterns.

A study from the University of Minnesota found teen vegetarians are more likely to have eating disorders than non-vegetarians. In this study, vegetarians were more likely to contemplate and attempt suicide, and vegetarian males were noted as an especially high risk group for unhealthy weight control practices. The research indicated that teens who were already susceptible to emotional difficulties were drawn to vegetarianism as a means to lose weight and fit in, but that vegetarianism itself had no correlation with emotional difficulties.

In another study, conducted at California State University-Northridge, researchers found college women who claimed to be vegetarians had a significantly greater risk of developing eating disorders than their meat-eating peers. The overlap between eating disorders and vegetarianism occurs because vegetarianism is a way for men and women to openly control their food choices, without attracting negative attention to their behaviour. Also, many believe that restricting meat from a diet will lead to weight loss, believes Michelle Morand, founder of The CEDRIC Centre, an eating disorder counselling centre in Victoria, B.C.

“Family, friends, clinicians, and vegetarians themselves, need to know that the potential exists for vegetarianism and veganism to mask an eating disorder,” Morand said. This doesn’t mean vegetarianism is the cause of an eating disorder, or that people shouldn’t adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, but it may be a way for the individual who is struggling with food and weight issues to justify her or his restrictive eating behaviours.

Vegetarian Diet and Weight Loss

Carol Tickner, R.D. Nutrition Therapist with the Eating Disorders Program in the Capital Region cites two possibilities for the increase in popularity of vegetarianism. ” Vegetarianism has been promoted as a healthy way of managing weight. With weight being such a focus in our society, it makes sense to some as a way of managing weight, and health, at the same time,” she says. “For those teenagers who have disordered eating tendencies, becoming vegetarian can be a way of trying to respond to a changing body, (weight gain due to puberty), in a healthy way, vs. dieting like their friends.” However, this is just dieting for weight-loss in another form.

In many ways, beliefs about animal protein in diets versus plant-only diets are similar to the messages we hear about physical appearance in North American culture. In both cases, we are given conflicting messages. In one breath we’re admonished not to judge a book by its cover, and in the next, we can never be too rich or too thin . In a similar vein, we say one thing about the humane treatment of animals, and treat our pets as mini-humans, but frequently farm animals for food under dreadful conditions. This cultural hypocrisy is increasingly in the media with stories of unsanitary conditions and contamination of foods. And, at this stage in their lives, young adults are acutely aware of societal doubletalk.

“Teenagers are searching for meaning and a way of being in the world that expresses their individuality. This is exactly what they are meant to do at this stage in development.” says Morand. “They’re in the process of individuation, separating from their parents, developing and testing their own value systems, and learning about who they are. By choosing a plant-based diet, they’re choosing to exist on the planet in a different way than most of their parents’ generation. For many teenagers, becoming a vegetarian may be the first informed, adult decision they make.”

Why Go Veggie?

Vegeterian diets can reduce risk from certain cancers by up to 40%, decrease the possibility of heart disease by over 30%, and lower high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

A plant-based diet can also be environmentally friendly. By eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, less packaging and processing is needed. On the other hand, as popularity for vegetarian diets increases, more packaged foods are available to supplement and complement the traditional vegetarian diet, which means more waste from packaging.

Some religions advocate a vegetarian lifestyle. Some people choose a vegetarian diet over an omnivorous one out of ethical concerns for animals. Many vegetarians are concerned about the wide spread usage of factory farming, growth hormones, and abuse of animals designated for human consumption. It is also cheaper to consume a vegetarian diet than to include animal products in one’s shopping basket.

” There is an increased societal awareness about where our food comes from and more people taking an interest in how animals are treated. This was especially brought to the forefront last year with mad cow disease and the chicken flu,” says Tickner.

In addition to eschewing meat and animal by-products in their diets, a large number of vegetarians purchase animal friendly cosmetics, and cleaning products that haven’t been tested on animals, as well as alternative sources for leather, silk and wool products.

The Incredible Lightness of Being Vegetarian

Adherents of a vegetarian lifestyle have always touted the health benefits, and in recent years, as coverage of the obesity crisis continues to influence public policy, some organizations have linked a plant based diet with slenderness. Given our cultural preference and pressure around thinness, (which is seen as an indication of a person’s worthiness in North American culture), it seems inevitable that vegetarianism would be adopted as yet another tool in the quest for weight loss.

In his book, The Obesity Myth , author Paul Campos argues that we use body weight as an indication of “moral fitness”. Culturally, we idealize people who have managed to sublimate their appetites and become, or remain, slender. In this puritanical atmosphere, fatness isn’t just a body type description, but an alleged indication of how a person really is: undisciplined, stupid, and unworthy. Fatness is one of the last socially sanctioned forms of discrimination in our culture, and avoiding fatness is often used as an added allure to becoming vegetarian.

On vegetarian websites, in magazines and books, weight loss is often included as a benefit of switching to a plant based diet.

PETA, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), in particular, correlates a vegetarian diet with being thin. Recent advertising campaigns have included “jokes” about fat passengers needing two airline seats as a reason to go vegetarian,and equating letting children eat meat to child abuse.

While PETA is notorious for its overstated style of linking health, body weight, and vegetarianism, most other groups are subtler. But the connection between health and weight continues to thrive in the minds of many people. In fact, for many, health and thinness are synonymous.

The reality is, it’s possible to be a healthy, happy person, at any size, vegetarian or not. And creating false categories for health based on body size is one way in which the health and weight loss industry overlap, and, reap sizable profits.

A person’s weight will tend to fall into a certain range that the body is happiest and healthiest at, called our “set point” or “natural” weight, and will tend to want to return to this weight range despite strict calorie restriction or excessive exercise. Many other fact
ors affect a person weight, not only the type of food they eat, but the quantity of food they eat, the amount of activity they get, and their genetics.

A healthy vegetarian, Carol Tickner explains, is someone who “t akes the time to ensure that they are getting all the nutrients their body needs. This person would be eating vegetarian sources of protein at all meals and making sure they find alternate sources of protein, which is required to maintain a healthy metabolism, repair and build new tissue, and boost immunity, calcium, iron, zinc, and Vitamin D & B12 as well as omega-3 fatty acids.”

Morand adds, “To me, a healthy vegetarian is someone at peace with their decision to avoid animal products, and is committed to enjoying foods that nurture their bodies and spirits. A healthy person is someone who has energy, listens to his or her body, and feeds it accordingly.”

Feeding the soul

Morand has worked with many young women over the years who have used vegetarianism to cloak an eating disorder. “Typically, they don’t want to worry people in their lives, and saying they can’t eat something because of their moral commitment to vegetarianism is a safe way to avoid conflict or suspicion, especially since many people aren’t educated on the topic.”

“Some are in denial about their behavior, or if they have just begun down the path of disordered eating, they are still in that period where they believe they are “benefiting” from the behavior. They may be getting positive attention and reinforcement from their family and peers for their commitment and/or weight loss.” In any case, Morand continues, “it’s important to remember that the eating disorder, whether masked by vegetarianism or not, is a coping mechanism, and the person struggling has adopted it to camouflage other, more painful issues in their lives. They aren’t lying or manipulating, they’re just trying to cope in the best way they know how.”

It isn’t necessary to give up vegetarianism in order to recover from an eating disorder. However, an honest exploration of the motivations behind the choice to cut animal products from one’s diet is fundamental to the recovery process. If someone is truly dedicated to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle for ethical reasons, then he/she has to be true to themselves and honor their decision. But, if the original impetus was weight loss or gaining a sense of control over their relationship with food, the greatest gift that they can give to themselves is to authentically explore what may be currently taking place in their lives, or what may have occurred in the past, to lead them to feel that they lack control to the extent that they are seeking it in their relationship with food. Then they are in a position to solve the real problem, and no longer expend their energy trying to control the symptom.

 

  • Neumark-Sztainer D., et al. Adolescent vegetarians : a behavioral profile of a school-based population in Minnesota . Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 1997 Aug; 151(8): 833-838.
  • Klop, Sheree, et al Self-reported vegetarianism may be a marker for college women at risk for disordered eating, Archives of Journal of American Dietetic Association , 2003, June, 103:745-747
  • http://www.vegsoc.org

 

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A Safe Place Within: How Meditation Helped Me Recover from Food Obsession

By Alison McCabe

Two years ago, I started breathing and stopped bingeing. Through an acquaintance, I met someone who introduced me to the power of the breath. Since then, I have been on an incredible journey of healing and growing that has let me learn to live life without bingeing or dieting and accept myself and others unconditionally.

Recently, meditation has been attracting a lot of attention on the internet and in alternative health circles, but it has been used by many cultures for centuries. Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims use meditation and prayer to connect with God and overcome inner obstacles to peace and serenity.

Today, we are discovering that meditation has more than spiritual or religious uses. Many studies have shown that the potential health benefits range from enhancing the immune system by increasing the activity of “natural-killer cells” which kill bacteria and cancer cells and reducing the activity of viruses, to lowering blood pressure by increasing blood flow and slowing heart rate.

But, more importantly, meditation actually helps to calm the body and heal the soul. Research has also shown that, by lowering the levels of blood lactate, increasing serotonin production (low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, obesity, insomnia and headaches), and shifting brain activity from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex, meditation decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety . It also diminishes activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.

However, after two years of practicing meditation, I don’t need a scientific study to tell me that meditation works. I have experienced it first-hand. When I spend time meditating every day, I am able to face life without food or diets; when I don’t, panic sets in, and life becomes overwhelming.

I ate because I was afraid, depressed, and stressed out. Food was my quiet place. When I binged I was numb, dazed, and oblivious to the painful emotions I was creating and avoiding. When I dieted, I was so fixated on losing weight that I didn’t have to face my problems or accept that I needed to change. The hope of the next binge or the next diet provided me with a temporary safe place, but in the end, it only caused me more fear, stress, and depression because it was an illusion. I was never happy when I ate or lost weight. I was just as miserable as I was before, but then I was starving or felt fat, too. By the time I started practicing, I was so sick, mentally and physically, of being obsessed with food and dieting that I was willing to try anything. I needed something that would help me deal with those feelings without numbing out with food or hiding in a diet. Meditation, my safe place, is just that.

When I began practicing, I was working with an understanding and supportive therapist, but I was missing the willingness to trust myself around food and commit to the long-term changes recovery requires. That’s where meditation came in. From my work in therapy, I knew what I had to do, but I wasn’t able to do it until I found the peace to let my self-defeating thoughts go and accept a new certainty: I had to recover, and I could.

Breathing takes me to my safe place, my centre, about two finger widths below my belly button. When I focus on that point and breathe into it, something miraculous happens: a space opens up between me and my fear, judgment, anger, sadness and impatience. Usually, they disappear altogether, but they sometimes they just fade into the background and stop being so unmanageable. Some days it takes ten minutes, others, forty-five. Once my anxiety is at bay, I have access to the inner strength that helps me accept the truth about myself, that I am strong, capable, and imperfect. It is hard for me to accept my imperfections when I am not centred because I am living in the fear that I won’t be loved unless I get “it” right. But when I am in contact with my inner strength, I am open to the truth that I am loved no matter what I do, that I am perfect just as I am, and that I am more loveable the more I love and accept myself unconditionally. This is similar to what I did with food when I binged or dieted. I created a safe little world where no one judged me and I could feel in control of how others perceived me. Now, instead of eating or dieting, I can breathe deeply, let go of my worries and thoughts, and be myself.

My journey with the breath has not always been smooth. It means getting up a lot earlier that I would like to go to class or fit my practice in, letting go of my old, comfortable ideas about what’s best for me, facing physical, emotional, and mental discomfort, and making a commitment to myself one day at a time. But I do these things, even when my mind screams “NO!”, because I cannot recover without it. Without my safe place, recovery feels too scary, and I need to keep recovering if I want to be happy and make the most out life. Now, thanks to my practice, recovery is no longer terrifying, but a possibility, and, for me, a reality.

http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/meditation/objectives.html

http://cms.psychologytoday.com/pto-20030424-000003.html

 

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Exploring Alexithymia

Understanding Alexithymia

By Michelle Morand, MA, RCC

Now bear with me here. I’m going to take you on a bit of a journey, in order to explain a very important part of your recovery process. If you were sitting in my office, I’d be leaning over and beginning to draw a diagram on my white board to illustrate this piece of information, and you’d be laughing at my poor artistic ability.

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Confessions of a Shopaholic Book Review

Similarities Between Shopaholic and Compulsive Eating

Okay, so you’re probably thinking Sophie Kinsella’s Book, Confessions of a Shopaholic has absolutely nothing at all to do with our work at The Centre.

On first glance, it doesn’t. It looks like a light, fun read, the epitome of chick-lit.

Becky is a modern gal in her mid-twenties with a so- so job, living in the big city of London, dreaming big dreams. The book is all about her search for identity, her friendships, and relationships with the opposite sex, family, and— her obsessive compulsive disorder.

You see, Becky is in big doo-doo because even though she’s a financial writer for a boring financial magazine, she is clueless when it comes to her own finances. Basically, Becky uses purchasing things , pretty much any thing , as a coping mechanism. When Becky is feeling anxious, she buys little knick- knackish do-dads. Bored, coffee. Happy, clothes. Sad, clothes.

And like most of us, Becky has expensive taste, so by the time the book starts Becky is in serious debt, and denial.

Becky also has a problem with being honest. She tells people what she thinks they want to hear and she makes the fatal mistake that most of us make in our twenties, of, pretending to be, think, feel, and yes, spend, like the women we want to be in ten years. Becky hasn’t yet figured out that the way to be that glamorous, sophisticated, and together woman is to be honest, forthright, and vulnerable-right now. So, she paints a picture of herself that isn’t completely honest and spends a lot of the book getting out of well, doo-doo.

Confessions is fun and frivolous, it exposes Becky’s obsessive compulsive relationship with shopping with a light touch. And I enjoyed that because, substitute shopping for eating, and Becky’s story could have been my own. Sad, eat, Celebrate, eat. Anxious eat. Not sure? Eat!

When we think of compulsive eating, I know I for one tend to take a very serious tact. I approach it from a really all or nothing sort of stance. Every day, I meet women whose lives have been put on hold for years because of their relationship with food and boy focus, and that was certainly true in my case, as well. But reading about Becky’s capers in Confessions helped me to lighten up a bit and laugh at the silliness of it all. The circles we run ourselves in and how seriously we approach this-as if our relationship with food defines indefinitely-as if it’s all we’ll ever be.

Like Becky, we can grow and change. And the process of change doesn’t have to be a huge, all encompassing task, it doesn’t have be a big serious to-do with tears and teeth gnashing. The process of finding ourselves can be fun, comical, and even wonderful. After reading Confessions, I can chuckle at my creative rationalizations for just one more bite- – when I was already stuffed to begin with. I’m not saying its okay to judge those past behaviors, but, really what’s the fun in making a huge journey to find yourself if you can’t laugh at what you’ve learned along the way?

Reviewed by Brooke Finnigan

 

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What is Orthorexia Nervosa?

Differences Between Anorexia and Orthorexia

By Brooke Finnigan

Orthorexia Nervosa is a term coined by Dr. Steven Bratman, who first published his insights to the readers of Yoga Journal in 1997. Bratman, a physician who utilizes dietary medicine in his practice, and, a long time proponent of the health food movement, wrote about his experiences, and how the impulse to be healthy can be taken to dangerous extremes.

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Thanks, Sedona

Cynthia, a client of The CEDRIC Centre

Disconnecting–with love–is supposed to be one of the secrets of contentment. But letting go is hard, isn’t it? How to stop trying to fix the past? How to stop being crushed by others’ remarks? How to stop trying to figure out what happened, feeling guilty, "needing" people who aren’t good for us, trying to control the future,  counting to 10 and blowing up anyway? How to show how well we meant, belong, be liked, be appreciated, make others understand how much they need our advice, get others off our cases, make others understand who we really are so they’ll stop being so unpleasant. How to stop spending our lives wishing everything were otherwise?

Sedona, that’s how. Knowing that you "shouldn’t" be taking something so hard is not the same as being able to. Just as knowing that you "shouldn’t" be worrying about someone else’s choices is not much help either. Sedona teaches the mechanics, the "how to", of not being bowled over, blindsided, overwhelmed, compelled.  It disconnects the buttons that get pushed; takes off that chain everybody loves to yank. It decompresses bad situations; lets you take a step back, disconnect, then act or not act. Whatever makes sense. In the here and now. (This is good. This is very good.)

I have a very stressful job. Shortly after I took a weekend course in the Sedona Method, a co-worker took me aside and told me that she had informed our boss that my telephone manner recently changed dramatically from defensive to professional.  (My boss told her to tell me herself.)

And it’s true. A fellow called me at work yesterday to express his anger about a letter he’d received from us (me) that he thought was rude. I just laughed, and said we weren’t rude, we were scared (but I was sorry if he thought we sounded rude). He laughed too. Then he gave me what I was after in the letter. This is probably not how it would have played out in the old days.

At the same time, Sedona makes the good stuff stand out too. Like a cat curling up in the sun and kneading a cushion with its toes, Sedona teaches us to recognize the good stuff, revel in it, and expect it to just keep right on coming.

I encourage everybody who unloads on me now to take the course. It seems nobody ever does, but I just let it go.

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