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Why Do I Keep Doing This To Myself?

Obesity is Not Mental Illness, It is a Symptom of Food Overeating

Hello, and welcome. It’s Michelle Morand here.

Last week I was a guest speaker on a talk radio station in Vancouver, BC, CKNW. It’s not my first time on the show. In fact I’m becoming something of a regular, which I find really fun and exciting. But that’s not the point of this article. The point is, one of the callers during the phone in portion of the show said something that I hear so very often I felt compelled to write about it. I was grateful for this man’s statement/question as it made for a wonderful and natural opportunity for me to educate the listeners on a key error in thinking that often keeps us stuck in harmful patterns. On the show I had 2 minutes to respond, so I had to keep it brief. On my blog though, I can expand and I will.

So, grab a cup of tea, curl up and read on.

The CKNW interview so far had been on the topic of using drugs to treat obesity – you may have caught the article in your local paper during the week of (September 11 – 13th, 2007). I made a comment which caused quite a stir among listeners and garnered some strong reactions. My comment was this:

“Obesity is not a mental illness. For most people* it is a symptom of the use of food to cope by overeating, otherwise known as Binge Eating Disorder, which, is already classified as a mental illness. Using drugs to treat a symptom will only leave those who take them dependent on the drugs and not looking beneath their symptoms to the true cause of their use of food to cope. Therefore, the individual never gets to heal and trust that they can live life without medication. This is similar for many people with depression and anxiety who are depressed and anxious for very good reasons, past and/or present who are given medication to dull their awareness of their body’s natural signals of stress or dissatisfaction. Those individuals aren’t healing, they’re just coping.”

The announcer, John, then asked me what those folks were coping with. I responded by saying that most people who use food to cope, or who struggle with depression or anxiety are doing so in an attempt to cope with the trauma of having unmet needs for security and for love/acceptance as children or young adults.

Well…, that was pretty close to what I said and I got a few calls from people who felt that I was saying that medication should never be taken and who clearly felt very strongly to the contrary. That wasn’t difficult to attend to, since I don’t believe that medication should never be used and I hadn’t said that I simply clarified that I do support the use of anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medications in acute circumstances (ie. panic attacks, suicidal ideation etc.) given that the individual is using the medication to take the intensity from the emotions while they are actively engaged in therapy to attend to the true cause of the problem. And given that medication is seen for most people as a temporary measure and not a solution in and of itself. That seemed to help clarify and those callers went away satisfied.

Then, the big piece! A man called to say that he had an issue with my statement that overeating, depression and anxiety stem from trauma/unmet needs from childhood or young adulthood. The host, John, asked him, did you ever experience trauma or a lack of security or love as a child? The caller responded “sure, I did, and I struggled with depression later on, but everyone goes through those kinds of things.”

I became immediately aware that he had just made a key statement and that I had 2 minutes to respond effectively and educate the listeners on a key misunderstanding that leads to much grief and self-harm. Needless to say I said something general in response that invited him to challenge his assumption without opening a can of worms in the process – very unsatisfying to me but that’s radio!

His argument essentially was that since most people experience some unmet needs for security and/or love, acceptance and belongingness as children or young adults it is therefore not trauma and not the reason that people become depressed or anxious or turn to food to cope.

The most obvious response to that statement, which, I chose not to offer on the radio with only two minutes to respond, is to pose the following argument: In Iraq for example (insert any region in any time period that has experienced war/ or military dictatorship) millions of people have been forced to leave their homes, guns firing around them, bombs dropping intermittently, their basic human rights taken away, members of their families killed, lost, whereabouts unknown, future uncertain, no personal power…I could go on but you get the picture. Now if this caller’s argument holds water we would say that because everyone in those regions has experienced, or is experiencing, those circumstances, ie. because they were “normal”, they weren’t traumatizing? You tell me?

Now, let’s say that someone from Iraq moved to Canada recently and was sharing with you, over coffee, that they felt quite anxious and depressed and found themselves eating when they weren’t hungry. Would you think that person was weak? Would you judge them as having no willpower? Or might you suggest that because they had just come from a very stressful situation in which they didn’t feel safe they would naturally feel quite anxious and overwhelmed and that as they came to feel safer and more secure in their new environment they would likely feel less anxious, depressed and compelled to use food to cope? Consider that for a moment.

I was at a workshop yesterday and the facilitator spoke of a cartoon that I had seen a few years back in a psychological journal. It was a picture of a large auditorium, rows of empty chairs but for two people. A banner reads “convention for people from non-dysfunctional families” and one of the two folks is saying to the other “I think I’m in denial!” Quite funny – and quite true.

Most of us experienced some fundamental unmet needs for safety and security and/or love, acceptance and belongingness as children. That’s true. What is not true is the assumption that those events do not impact us today.

Of course they do.

Not feeling safe; not feeling loved or accepted is very painful and prevents us from feeling solid and secure in the world on the whole and in relationships with others. This then prevents us from developing our hearts and minds fully as we become so desperate for external safety and approval that we stifle and compromise our authentic thoughts and feelings and desires and instead try to create the least disturbance, draw the least attention and struggle to feel safe and secure for just a moment.

Now, if only we were aware that we were stuck because of the pain of past unmet needs we could actually attend to those unmet needs in the present and step into ourselves as the confident, secure, beautiful beings that we are capable of being. But, for the most part, our society has the following story attached to it:

  1. That because those things happen to everyone they didn’t really hurt you.
  2. No one else has a problem dealing with them.
  3. Therefore, if you have a hard time coping with or getting over those events you are too weak and too sensitive and you should just get over it.

This is a story of denial. It’s a bunch of pahooey! As we saw in the example of the war torn region – just because many people experience unmet needs for security or for love and acceptance as young people doesn’t mean that those experiences don’t have an impact.

And rather than helping you heal and step beyond those past experiences, telling yourself that the past didn’t impact you or doesn’t impact your thoughts and behaviours today only keeps you stuck blaming yourself for feeling anxious and depressed and for using food, alcohol, drugs etc. to cope.

The definition of a coping strategy is: Any thought, feeling or behaviour that allows you to remain in an uncomfortable situation without being aware of how uncomfortable you are.

Based on that definition it becomes obvious that the solution to healing any coping pattern (such as depression; all or nothing thinking; disordered eating or alcoholism to name just a few common ones) is not to focus on the coping pattern itself but on the underlying situation that triggered the need for the coping strategy in the first place.

If you focus on the coping strategy itself you’ll only spin your wheels on the surface and never achieve and lasting healing. That’s why, for people who use food to cope, no diet will ever bring lasting success.

The only real and lasting solution is to establish a strong foundation of respect and security within yourself, in the present. This may seem like a tall order, or perhaps, if you’re still buying into that old message of judgement and shame that society dishes out, you’re starting to scoff at the notion that any value can come from feeling safe in, and accepting of, yourself. But truly it’s not as difficult a prospect as it may seem. In order to establish that strong inner core and really know that you can trust yourself to meet your own needs for security and acceptance you must first begin to understand how you came to be as you are. That understanding is what we call empathy and only through self-empathy and compassion can you step free of the harmful coping strategies you’ve erected to barricade yourself from harm – past, present and future.

Perhaps you’re tea is cold and you need a refill – take a break – and, when you can, come back and read on as we get to greater clarity and most significantly, a solution.

Now, let’s back up the bus a little bit and look at your past. But first, I challenge you to notice if, as you read on, you hear a voice that says anything like: my experience wasn’t as bad as some people; so and so had it worse; it doesn’t impact me anymore; I’m over that…..etc. Just notice. And if you spot any of those dismissing thoughts and you know that you currently use food, anxiety, depression, alcohol or other harmful coping strategies then you know, with absolute certainty that you have bought into that societal story of denial and it’s time to refresh your perspective.

Or perhaps you’re feeling some resistance and annoyance at my proposal that your parents or other caregivers in your young life didn’t meet your needs for love or security. You may be saying “I don’t want to get stuck in blame, they did the best they could. What happens in my life now is up to me and I don’t want to dump it on them.”

Well, I support you and congratulate you for wanting to take responsibility for where you are now and the choices you make/have made as an adult. It is important that you see yourself as the person in charge of your life at this time.

It is also important for you to allow your primary caregivers or anyone who undermined (consciously or unconsciously) your basic needs for safety and love to be allowed to take responsibility for their choices at that time. Nothing is gained by blaming others and wallowing in the harm that was done to you. And in the same fashion, nothing is gained by pretending that your needs were met by key people in your life if they weren’t.

You see, both can exist: You can take responsibility for the choices you make in life now while also allowing your primary caregivers to be responsible for the choices they made as your parents/teachers/etc.

In fact, from this stance of seeing yourself as a responsible adult and seeing them as also having been responsible as adults in your life, you are in a much stronger, more balanced place from which to heal yourself and your relationships and to move through any past harm.

Allow yourself to imagine that when you were born you came into the world with peace at your core. The very centre of your being was peaceful and felt immense trust and faith in the world and in the people in it.

Had your basic human needs been consistently met from infancy onward you would have maintained conscious contact with that sense of peace and tranquility and you would now move through life from a place of balance and security, trusting that all is as it should be and that overall the world is a beautiful and safe place to be.

Now, allow yourself to imagine that for each experience as a child of your basic needs for food, security/safety, or love/acceptance and belongingness not being met you felt pain. In those situations you felt an appropriate and healthy response of sadness, fear or anger. In response to these healthy, but painful responses to your needs not being met, you began to erect a barricade around your peaceful, trusting core. You began to wall away and protect your authentic self from those painful experiences of insecurity and rejection.

Therefore, instead of experiencing life from your natural state of feeling balanced and centred and peaceful, you began to respond to life from a more defensive stance of anxiety and agitation, feeling unsettled and ungrounded. This is what is otherwise known as the “flight or fight” response. And, if you use food to cope or anxiety or depression among other common harmful coping strategies you can guarantee that you are still approaching life from this flight or fight place – on guard constantly and ready to fight or flee as the situation demands.

In essence you can picture yourself as a whirling tornado, spinning through life; frantic to find your lost sense of peace and acceptance, at all costs. You are perpetually looking outside of yourself for a sense of peace, acceptance and security which cannot be found anywhere but within.

Now, it would be bad enough if this pattern of being harmed and walling more and more of your authentic self away stopped when you reached adulthood and became responsible for yourself. But the reality is, because you have become so accustomed to feeling anxious and agitated, and to interacting with others in a certain way, you continued, in a manner of speaking, to do the same thing to yourself that was done to you: To engage in circumstances where you do not feel safe or loved and respected.

The “solution”? First and foremost you must learn to become aware of when you feel that your needs for security or love and acceptance are not being met by learning to notice when you are using your harmful coping strategies to survive. Then you must learn how to take steps to protect yourself (if you truly are being threatened) or learn new tools for challenging your patterns of thought that lead you to feel threatened when no threat is really present. That’s where counselors like myself come in. We help you to understand what is really going on underneath your coping patterns and how to heal those old patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Just so you’ve got a sense of the kinds of things to be on the look out for when you’re asking yourself to keep an eye out for coping patterns here is a list of some harmful coping strategies that you could be using:

Behavioural Coping Strategies:

  • Overeating
  • Restriction (not eating when hungry)
  • Purging
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug Addiction
  • Retail Therapy (shop to feel better rather than because you really need something)
  • Relationship Addiction (can’t be without one and be happy)
  • Co-dependency (believe you are responsible for the feelings and needs of others and/or that they are responsible for your needs and feelings)
  • Procrastination
  • Avoidance
  • Isolation

Emotional Coping Strategies:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Alexithymia (unable to identify what you are feeling, or that you are even having a feeling)

Thought Coping Strategies:

  • All or Nothing Thinking
  • Bad Body Thoughts
  • Intrusive Ideation (worst case scenario thinking)
  • Self-Criticism
  • Self- Blame
  • Harmful Core Beliefs (I am not good enough, etc.)
  • Paranoid Thinking
  • Suicidal Ideation

This list is not complete but it’s a good solid start to get you going.

Some of you would have seen these patterns of thinking and behaving modeled for you by parents, grandparents, teachers etc. and either naturally took them on as “the right way to be” or rebelled against them only to find yourself with an equally harmful and overwhelming way of being in the world.

So, if you’d like to change any of these patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, start by inviting yourself to be more aware of when you’re doing them. Perhaps even ask people in your life that you feel safe with to gently point out those patterns when they see you using them to cope.

Your awareness of these coping strategies is the first and most important step in changing their strangle hold on your peace and happiness. But remember, awareness without compassion is just a set up for self-judgement and shame. That’s why understanding where your coping patterns came from, ie. why you needed to develop them in the first place, is so important because once you understand that piece you cannot help but have empathy and compassion for yourself.

Stay tuned for more guidance on what to do now that you’re tuned in to your coping strategies – but always remember – there is a reason for why you do what you do and I absolutely positively assure you it has nothing to do with willpower or your capacity to heal and grow.

You are a beautiful being. Regardless of what you may currently believe about yourself, I assure you, you deserve the same peace and happiness and freedom that everyone else does. You can create a life that is filled with passion and abundance. All you need to do is begin to allow for the possibility that things are not as they seem, that your perspective on the past needs a little tweaking and that you truly are worthy of all that you desire.

Love Michelle

*I say for most people because there are some who would identify themselves as overweight but have become so due to hormonal imbalances (thyroid concerns) or through accidents which have left them temporarily or permanently unable to exercise and they have yet to find a new balance with their nutritional intake.

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It’s Springtime!

There is something magical about the spring where I live.  Days get longer and the sun begins to shine more and more each day.  Flowers pop out of the ground and off the branches of trees giving the whole village the appearance of one big blossoming garden.

The snap that has been present in the air has been replaced by a freshness tinged with warmth and the promise of summer days that are perfectly long and baking.  Ahhhhhh, spring.  I love it.

At one time in my life, when I used food to cope, I used to languish over the change of the seasons: “Another year gone and I’m still at this unacceptable weight;”  “I promised myself that I would be in shape enough to feel comfortable wearing shorts this year. A bathing suit is absolutely out of the question.  How could I do this to myself? What is wrong with me? Am I ever going to stop eating!?”

It was excruciating for me to feel that warmth stealing in to the air and see the blossoms bursting forth.  It meant…..(insert scary organ music here!)  SHORT WEATHER!  I feared it. I loathed it. I loathed myself.  I began to avoid going out unless it was cool enough to keep on wearing my full armor of long pants and baggy sweater.  But at some point every year I had to give in and wear something less sweltering.  And at those points in time I always began to berate myself and to focus with razor sharp intensity on certain aspects of my body that were not as they “should be”.

And I was absolutely certain that everyone around me was zeroing in on those very same aspects and thinking exactly the same thoughts: “Who does she think she is wearing shorts in public?”  “Why did she even leave the house?” “My god, look at that cellulite!”

Agony!  It was sheer agony being in my body at that time in my life.  Year after year I would swear it would be different but it never was.  Spring would arrive, as it always did, and I would be pretty much the same degree of overweight and under-fit that I had always been.  I would feel that same self-loathing and helplessness that I had the year before – only now I felt one year more intense and hopeless.

No amount of inner Drill Sgt. pressure and criticism could create the motivation to change my relationship with food and exercise.  After a few days – usually by Tuesday! – I always reverted to my old patterns.  And at the height of my use of food to cope I was lucky if I could stick to any sort of diet for two hours (until the next coffee or lunch break).

What ultimately made all the difference for me, and what has led me now to almost 14 years of freedom from food and body image stress, was to come to a full understanding what lay beneath my use of food to cope.

Now, I mean no disrespect.  This is coming from the greatest respect and regard for you and your process, and, if you just read that and said: “I know what it is that makes me use food to cope I just can’t do anything about it,” you are lying to yourself – consciously or unconsciously, it doesn’t matter.  If you truly know and understand what it is that leads you to use food to cope you would not continue to do so.

You might “know” what it is – in the sense that you recall Mom’s diet mentality and modeling of that to you, or the abuse experience you had when you were 10, but, trust me, if you’re still using food to cope you haven’t truly come to know and understand the full impact of those events on your life.

Some part of you is still harbouring judgement, shame, fear and anger towards yourself for those events that really doesn’t belong there; it didn’t then and it doesn’t now.  And, until you come to see that fully and completely for yourself it will be impossible for you to shift out of the fear based and self-doubting mindset that leads you to use food to cope.

It is impossible to develop true respect and regard for yourself when you are constantly berating yourself for past life experiences.  And it is only through respecting and regarding yourself that you will find the strength and true desire to change your relationship with food and to begin to move your body in a way that focuses on health and wellness and not calories and fat.  Lasting change comes through self-love and compassion and that requires empathy – a true knowing and understanding of who you are and why you do what you do.

So, let it be okay to acknowledge that perhaps, while you “know” what happened to trigger you to use food to cope, you might not fully understand how that impacted you and how it continues to have ramifications on your day to day existence.

Every day is such a blessing really. Each day we are given can be lived in a state of joy and pleasure when we allow ourselves to release old painful stories and step fully into ourselves in this moment.

Spring is a time of rebirth.  You deserve to look forward to the lightness and freedom of warmer weather. So rather than letting this year be like any other and kicking in to self-judgement or some new exercise or diet plan, let yourself seek support and information; true understanding, of why you do what you do.

Begin to change those underlying patterns today so that next year, instead of lamenting about what you didn’t do, you’ll be able to celebrate the change that you have made and know it is a lasting one.

Love Michelle

Posted in: Relationship with Self

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Ready? Or not.

Ready or Not it will definitely come true, loving and caring for someone. Not so long ago I had the blissful experience of falling fully, deeply, soulfully in love with someone. It was truly unlike any experience I have had before.  I had recently completed a 5 day workshop called “Opening to Heart Consciousness” and had learned many things about loving and opening my heart.  The biggest learnings from that workshop were:

  1. How closed my heart had been; I could actually feel the walls around it, deep and solid that kept me from truly loving anyone and thus from feeling truly connected and intimate with a single soul.
  2. How incredibly wonderful and safe it felt to open my heart and love another being; to invite myself to truly love all beings. I felt so much more connected to everyone I came across and so much safer just crossing the street than ever before in my life.

Naturally I was drawn to want less of the walls and more of the open and safe experience.  I therefore began to focus consciously on keeping my heart open and those walls down.  My experience of life was so much happier and lighter.  I felt so free and so safe to be in the world in a way I had never felt before.

And the amazing thing is, the world responded by sending me lots of safe and loving, healthy, mature human beings. It was like they all started popping out of the woodwork and into my life.

So, back to this man.  A few months after the course, with my heart open and feeling truly light and free I met a man who was just wonderful. If I had had all of the things that I ever wanted in a partner written down on a list he had every single possible quality that I had ever hoped for, except one: He wasn’t available.

And I don’t mean that he was married, or even dating someone else, he really just wasn’t open to a deep and committed relationship.

It took me a while to cotton on because I was so full of love and so open to the experience I completely ignored/missed the signs that he was not as engaged and invested as I was.  It was only a few months before things became abundantly clear and the relationship came to an end.  Of course in the twilight of that fading romance I could see all of the signs and signals that had been present, pretty much since day one, that the relationship was not meant to be.

I have since read something that was written by Dr. Neil Warren, the founder of E-harmony (an on-line dating service) and author of a great book: “Falling in love for all the right reasons,” that I wish I had read before meeting this man as it would have absolutely made things crystal clear much earlier and spared me a few months of turmoil.  So, I share it with you in the hopes that any of you men and women out there who are in relationships that aren’t quite feeling secure will be able to more readily determine whether it’s a piece of work that you need to do on trust and opening your heart, or whether the person responsible for the other half of the relationship just isn’t there!

Ready or Not, To Commit

The phrases that Dr. Warren suggests you be on the look out for as an indication that someone is absolutely not ready to make any sort of relationship commitment are as follows:

“I’m so confused.”

“It’s not you—it’s me.”

“I just don’t know what I want right now.”

“I love you, I don’t think I’m in love with you.”

“I’m kind of going through some changes right now.”

“I don’t know what’s the best for us right now.”

“Why do we have to get so serious? Let’s just have fun.”

Each one of those phrases is an indicator that the individual uttering them is not ready, and equally as important, not able, to commit to the relationship in any long term fashion.

Two other key indicators of someone’s readiness for connection and true availability are their level of consideration of your needs and their demonstration of gestures of love and affection.

If you have been direct in asking for a need to be met and your partner is not respecting that request that is a red flag issue.   Now it’s one thing if your request is something that the other finds too challenging or outside their value system. And if that’s the case, a keeper is someone who openly tells you that: “I understand that this is an important need for you and I am just not comfortable with that particular thing but I would be willing to do ….. instead.”  That’s what you need to hear in order to know that your partner is capable of hearing and honoring your requests even if he/she can’t meet them.  We can’t expect our significant others’ to meet all our needs and respond affirmatively to all of our requests but we absolutely have the right to have our requests acknowledged and validated.  And if our partner can’t meet them then together we brainstorm ways of getting them met.

Gestures of love and affection are different for each of us.  Many of you have likely read the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.  It’s a beautifully simple and clear explanation of the different ways people like to be loved and the mayhem that can ensue when you’ve got two people in a relationship with different love languages: both are doing their best to love completely and demonstrate their love and commitment and the other is feeling completely unloved and unseen because they are not being loved in the way they need to be.  I invite you to visit Gary’s web site or pick up one of his books on the subject of love languages: www.fivelovelanguages.com

And, you know, even though my love experience ended rather abruptly I regret nothing about it. I learned some valuable lessons. The most significant……?  It is safe to love. You will not die, the world will not come to an end if you love someone completely and they do not reciprocate. It is safe to completely open your heart to someone, even if they don’t or can’t love you back. In fact in my lived experience it is more harmful and hurtful to ourselves to restrict our love and to try and stifle our feelings of love and appreciation and respect for others. It is not only safe to love, it is imperative to a full and passionate life experience.

As don Miguel Ruiz (author of “The Four Agreements” and “The Mastery of Love”) says “Your heart is most full when you are giving love.”  It is so true.  It feels so good to keep my heart open and to love others.  It truly feels bad to close my heart and “protect” myself from potential harm, rejection, ridicule etc. that may or may not ever come. So, I choose to keep my heart open and to love, regardless of whether I am loved back equally or even, at all.  And I feel so full of love as a result.

Don Miguel Ruiz also says, “Your heart is like a magical kitchen.” He means you can manufacture, in your heart, enough love for the entire world and then some. You don’t need anyone else’s love in order to feel loved and fulfilled.  And when you get to that place, even for moments a day, of feeling and knowing that you can completely meet your own needs for love, you are capable of creating a truly loving and blissful partnership with another human being.

There is so much to discuss about relationships that I can not possibly hope to cover it all here, and hopefully I have given you some things to think about and explore in your own relationship past or present.

If you would like to discuss these pieces further as they pertain to your own healing and life experience please arrange for an individual session by calling 250-383-0797 or e-mailing mmorand@islandnet.com.

Have a wonderful day and may you open your heart a little more each day to yourself first and foremost.

Love Michelle

Posted in: Tips for Natural Eating

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A Brief Look At Feelings

Looking Through Your Feelings

Feelings are signals from your body about what you need or want. They are not good or bad, right or wrong. They just are.

You have a need which triggers a thought, and immediately a feeling arises. A spiritual leader, whom I know by the name of Ramana, refers to this pattern as “thought/feeling bundles”. The thoughts arise from the sense of an unmet need, and immediately, with seemingly no space in between, a feeling is elicited, and to the extent that we are conscious of them, the feeling is felt!

It is practically impossible to have a thought without a feeling attached to it. And it is not necessary to the healing process to try to separate them. What is important is that we begin to trust?to know on a gut level?that what we are feeling has arisen from a thought which was triggered by a need. That’s all. When we absolutely know this, we no longer spin our wheels and harm ourselves by judging the feeling. Instead, we just ask ourselves, “What need do I have that is unmet right now, and what can I do about it?”

So, have I made my point? Feelings are normal, healthful, natural, appropriate responses to what you are thinking. Even if someone else may judge your feeling or emotional response as “too much,” “too sensitive,” “too drama queenish,” and so on, your emotional response is absolutely perfect, based on your perception (thought) of the circumstance at that time.

Now, it is possible that your perception is a bit skewed by your past experiences and the beliefs you are holding about yourself and others, but the key point is that your reaction is never “too much”. It is always exactly right for your understanding of the situation.

Did you catch that? Your reaction is never “too much”, you are never “too sensitive.” You are always reacting perfectly appropriately based on your interpretation of what is happenng.

So, remember this the next time a key person in your life judges your authentic emotional response to a situation or if you find yourself judging your natural and appropriate reaction to your perception of the situation. At the same time, begin to allow for the possibility that your perception may be coloured by old, distorted beliefs about how the world works and your right to peace and happiness.

At this time, while your goal is to establish a strong, healthful, trusting relationship with yourself, I beg you to err on the side of trusting what you are feeling versus trusting what others say you should be feeling. If you give yourself the benefit of the doubt rather than giving it to others and looking through your feelings, you will make great and quicker progress with this process. For even if, upon reflection, you can see that your emotional response was coloured by an old false story, you can still give yourself the experience of validating yourself in the moment and of then acknowledging that your response was appropriate, based on what you believed to be true at that time.

Then you can go to this person and let them know that you felt justified in your reaction at the time, and, upon reflection, you can see that you did not have all the information. Then ask if the two of you can talk about this some more. I promise, anyone who is at all interested in having a healthful relationship with you will be eager to share what they were trying to convey, and you will hear it differently because you are no longer blinded by this old belief.

And anyone who is resistant to hearing you or to sharing again, what it was they were trying to convey, is giving you the gift of seeing very clearly their own insecurities and their own need to control and dominate you and/or the situations in their lives. That is valuable information for you because it is proof for you that the difficulties you have in your connection with this person are not all about you. Allow yourself to see this. Always remember you are only responsible for your half of the relationship. And the more you get clear on what is your responsibility and what is theirs the easier it will be for you to trust in your feelings and needs and to seek out connections with people who are actively healing their own selves.

So, for now, allow yourself to err on the side of trusting your own immediate, authentic experience, and know that there is a legitimate reason for why you feel what you feel.

The article from a few weeks back on core beliefs will help you sort out any stories you may be carrying from what is really happening. You can access that article by clicking here: http://www.cedriccentre.com/blog/?p=18

Posted in: Tips for Natural Eating

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Authentic Sharing

Sharing Real Thoughts

By Michelle Morand

Across the board, without a shadow of a doubt, the most significant thing any of us can do to begin to claim our lives and step fully into ourselves as independent adults is sharing real thoughts and feelings with others.

The act of letting others know who we really are and how we truly feel about any thing or circumstance has two amazing benefits:

1. It builds inner trust and strength.

2. It builds stronger and healthier connections with friends, family, co-workers, significant others and any one else you come into contact with.

If you’ve been resisting being authentic with people about how you feel and what you think, you will be feeling some trepidation at the thought that you would benefit from being more open. You may even be dredging up past experiences to show yourself how wrong I am and that sharing authentically in the past has brought hurt and pain.

Well, likely it has. And, that’s only because one of two things happened:

1. You were sharing with someone who had given you indications that they weren’t trustworthy and/or weren’t able to really honor the gift of your sharing.

2. You had given that person the power (in your mind) to decide whether the thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc. that you were sharing with them were valid and appropriate and that individual trashed them, so you did too.

Sharing Real Thoughts and Building Inner Strength

Any time you share with someone from either one of those positions you will be wounded. And since sharing authentically is so very important to your overall growth and healing it is important to be able to know when someone has shown a lack of integrity/trustworthiness and to let yourself not share with them any personal information. It is also fundamentally important for your life-long happiness that you learn to value your own thoughts and feelings more than the feedback, thoughts and feelings of others. As soon as you master that skill, anyone around you can say anything and you’ll be solid, grounded, secure and clear in your respect for yourself.

The most obvious way to determine if an individual is someone you can trust is this: Their words and actions align. They do what they say they will, when they say they will. And, they consistently demonstrate respect and dignity for themselves and for others.

If this is the case you know you’ve got a person you can feel safe having in your life, whether it be as a significant other, friend or plumber! That’s because what that person is demonstrating to you is love and respect for themselves. And a person who truly loves and respects themselves will not disrespect another person.

They may not agree with everyone else and they will say so. But they will do so with respect and dignity for all concerned. They feel solid enough in themselves that they don’t need to put others down or build themselves up by making others feel bad.

So challenge yourself to share a bit more of your thoughts and feelings, more of who you really are with people who fit that description and allow yourself to share nothing of a personal nature with anyone who doesn’t meet that criteria. It’s not safe and you are responsible for making your world a safe and loving place. So start with letting it be okay to no longer share anything of yourself with people who have demonstrated a lack of integrity in their relationship with you or with others.

If someone in the “lacking integrity” category holds a significant role in your life you can tell them why you are taking space and when and under what circumstances you would consider reconnecting:

“George, I really care about you and I would like us to be friends, and when you roll your eyes or raise your voice to me, my needs for respect and safety aren’t met. Would you be willing to work on changing that pattern of behaviour?”

If George says “Yes,” ask him to get back to you and let you know what he plans to do to change that pattern and tell him that you’ll be taking some space from the relationship/keeping your distance until you can be certain that you won’t be harmed by his contemptuous behaviour.

If George says anything other than Yes, if he tries to make it about you being to sensitive, or says he was just joking, blah blah blah, if he says anything other than “I’m sorry and yes, I’ll work on that,” you’ve got to walk away from the connection. Your own needs for safety and love and self-esteem demand it.

The easiest way to get to a place of honoring your thoughts and feelings first and foremost  is to let it be okay for others to think and feel differently from you. It’s okay, in this example, for George to disagree and to judge you as being oversensitive.  Let him have those thoughts and feelings. He doesn’t get it and that’s okay.  We get so caught up in needing the approval of others that we become chamelions, changing who we are and what we feel to accommodate whomever we’re with at that moment.

Challenge yourself to be truthful to yourself about how you feel. If something doesn’t feel good to you; if something creates a sense of distress or disease take the time to figure out what it is and then take action to create a safe and peaceful environment for yourself.  You must be the most important person in your world. And you must care for yourself from a place of deservedness and clarity in your right to feel safe and peaceful. You do not need to feel shame or guilt or “needy” for having feelings and needs.  You are human.  Better than that you are a human with budding consciousness.  You are awakening and your first responsibility is to create an environment for yourself that is respectful and safe and allows you to be fully yourself at all times.

Love Michelle

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Reminiscing

By Michelle Morand

I am sitting at my breakfast table and remembering how I ate that much, my big fluffy orange cat curled on my lap. All is dark and quiet outside. It is 5 a.m.

My homemade soy latte helps rouse my sleepy head and I begin to reflect on the events of yesterday. Conversations with clients, friends, family; an outing with my son; this stress and that; deadlines; self-care etc. An average day all in all. As I sit here in my peace and calm, I am drawn particularly to one conversation in which a client was so beautifully excited to share about her experience of not using food to cope during a stressful situation. She was no longer just taking it on faith from our work together and from other books she had read, that recovery was possible; that she could have a life free from constant thoughts of food and body, she had lived it. Not only that, she knew she could recreate that experience and that that would become her “norm.” We were both very excited!

Thinking about that event calls me to remember my recovery experience of shifting from 24/7 focus on food and body to hardly even giving it a second thought. I distinctly remember getting home after work one day, a few months into my healing process, and realizing that I hadn’t thought about food once that day!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I ate that day, and I ate well. I just hadn’t thought about it, before, during or after. It was just eating, naturally. I was so amazed and excited to have realized that I had just had one day free of the constant chatter and stress and bad body thoughts guess what I did?

Ate!

How do you like that? My first day free of food obsession and I eat to celebrate! But I was also eating to soothe my fear. For it had hit me in that moment that if I continued my healing journey I would get to a place where I no longer used food to cope; where I didn’t eat to soothe myself.

Now, that was what I had been aching for for years at this point, and working hard to attain for months in counselling. So why the fear?

Simply put I had gone into all or nothing thinking and was freaking myself out! I was telling myself that if I kept on healing I would get to a place where I couldn’t use food to cope even if I wanted to. I was also telling myself that now that I had had that one “good” day I had to repeat the performance the next day and here on in to eternity. Those all or nothing stories were enough to make me feel the need to cling to food like a life line in that moment. And so I had binged.

But…..What I also did that was new and different and ultimately led to my complete recovery was to begin to ask myself the following questions while I was eating:

What is the situation that is triggering me to feel that my needs for love, acceptance, security, or connection are not being met?

What am I telling myself about that situation that is making me want to use my food and body focus coping strategy?

Is there any all or nothing thinking in that story?

What are some other possibilities (what are some other ways that things could go)?

What would have to happen right now in order for me to feel peaceful (unrelated to food and body!)?

In answering those questions I gave myself a wondrous gift. I proved to myself immediately that neither one of those all or nothing stories was true. First off, I could use food to cope any time I want, there was/is nothing stopping me. I just allowed myself to begin to choose not to because it harmed me and because I was in the process of learning so many other, life enhancing, ways to cope that I didn’t need to hurt myself and numb out from life.

Remembering How I Ate That Much

And telling myself I now had to be perfect every day because of one day without food and body focus was missing the point entirely. The point is: If I felt drawn to use food to cope, I knew one thing is for certain: I had a need, unrelated to food, that wasn’t being met. As soon as I acknowledged that my wanting of food or of a different body in that moment was really a signal from within that I was not feeling secure or loved or accepted, unrelated to my body and to food, I was in a position to ask myself those questions and begin to change old and deeply embedded patterns of thinking and behaving.

Every single time I found myself wanting to use food to cope I would ask myself those questions and within a few weeks I had proven to myself beyond a shadow of a doubt that some all or nothing thinking that was undermining me, making me feel frightented and insecure, creating distress where none needed to exist. Through the simple process of noticing myself using food to cope (or wanting to) I could walk myself back through my feelings, through my thoughts, and into the need. Here, in full awareness of that need, I was in a position to take action to meet it in a way that I could not do if I was still focussing my energy on what I was doing, or wanting to do, with food.

Automatically, my focus on food would cease as I naturally focussed more constructively on the real issue and what I needed to “do” to feel peaceful about it. I felt stronger, more capable, more trusting in myself and my ability to handle life which led to less insecurity and therefore, less desire to use food to cope.

It’s a beautiful cycle and it works the same for any coping strategy that you know you use: Alcohol, avoidance, isolation, procrastination, shopping; over-exercise; co-dependency and all the others.

All you have to do is to be willing to allow for the possibility that your food and body focus isn’t all about food and body. If you’re willing to give me that much, you’ll be able to make great use of this tool by just asking yourself those questions when you notice yourself drawn to use your coping strategy.

Well, time has flown by. My kitty is still fast asleep, my coffee is in desperate need of a refill. Light is dawning out my kitchen window. How I love this time to myself, to think and reflect; to just be and let the moment take me where it will. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Have a wonderful day.

M

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Why We Don’t Diet

Why You Don’t Need to Diet to Lose Weight

By Michelle Morand

Hello, All.

This past week I was blessed with e-mails from two clients that I haven’t seen for a while. I have their permission to share them with you and wanted to do so here.

The CEDRIC Centre doesn’t believe in the diet mentality form of promoting our services, you know…”lose 30 pounds in 30 days” or “you’ll lose weight..” etc. That form of advertising only serves to reinforce that the issue is your weight and it’s not.

So, we quietly encourage you to honor yourself, to look beneath food and weight to the underlying issues that lead you to use food and body focus to cope. And what we find is that when people use our approach to healing their relationship with food, that’s exactly what they do: heal it! It’s done, over, gone, not a problem, finito etc.

That’s why I have such an issue with people who purport that disordered eating patterns are like a disease that once you have “caught” you have for life. It’s simply not true. Our staff, myself included, as well as hundreds of clients are living proof of the fact that complete and lasting freedom is to be expected as a result of our healing process, that is why you don’t need to diet and punish yourself.

It makes sense that if you use food to cope because of past and present stressors and hurts, and you find ways to heal those wounds and learn new ways to cope with stress that are not harmful, you just won’t need to use food to cope anymore. And that is what we see in our clients, time and time again.

What we find when we approach healing from a place of inner focus and building a strong relationship with ourselves first and foremost, is that the more highly we come to regard and respect ourselves the more freely and easily we make changes to our relationship with food and to exercise that are in accordance with self-love and not punishment.

So, what before was a great struggle ie. not eating more than we were truly hungry for; or allowing ourselves to eat when we are hungry, without shame or judgement; or engaging in consistent exercise; becomes effortless and easy because we are choosing to do these things out of love for ourselves and not because we feel flawed or sub-standard in some way.

If you use food to cope, any diet program is only going to exacerbate that issue. It’s only going to put more focus on the food and on your body. There is no way to heal from that vantage point.

If you are willing to trust that it is possible that you can heal completely and never have negative thoughts about your body, never have stressful encounters with food, never again punish yourself with restriction or overeating, then you are ready to begin to challenge yourself to begin the journey within.

The journey begins with a willingness to believe that any focus on food and body is simply your inner self calling your attention to something else in your life that isn’t working in the way you need it to. Then you take steps to identify what those pieces might be and learn new tools to heal them and attend to them differently should they arise again.

That’s the process of complete recovery in a nutshell.

Now, I’ll let you have a read at those e-mails I received this week and get a sense of how these women have transferred their old harmful overeating/purging/restriction patterns into honoring choices that are building greater self-esteem and healthy, intimate relationships.

 

Hi Michelle

I am doing very well. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of something wise you’ve said to me or some realization you helped me with. I am feeling great, my relationship with food is infinitely better, and I have re-established links with a lot of my female friends. I’ve taken up running. It’s so different from anything I’ve done before and I run with the most incredible group of women. I’m finding it very empowering and it’s a great stress reliever.

Although I miss our sessions, it’s great to know that I have the skills & abilities to handle (and enjoy!) life on my own!

Hi Michelle,

Since we last met, I’ve lost 20 pounds (I’ve gone the health-food-do-only-what’s-good-for-me route — which includes treating myself occasionally too — along with Jazzercise) and then gained 10 at Christmas (long story — but I’ve since shed the 10 and seem to be losing more). But GOOD FOR ME, huh? Yeah, I know, I’m amazing (how’s THAT for an attitude shift?!).

You know, despite it being a place where a lot of crap was released, I have good memories of your bright, sunny office. Thanks for making it such a special place to be!

I should mention, just for the record, that I did do some “no you can’t have any sugar” for a good month, even though I craved it madly. I found I just needed to break the cycle and let the hormones balance out.

Although it was tough some days, I explained to myself that the goal was to make me feel better than I ever have, so I could live strong and healthy. I kept in mind that chocolate was certain to be in my future, but when it became a “want” and was no longer a “need”.

Thank you.

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Core Beliefs

By Michelle Morand

The entire concept of a relationship with yourself hinges on what you believe about your own worth and acceptability. If you are still buying in to the old story you learned as a child/young adult that you are: (a) undeserving of love; (b) unacceptable as you are; or (c) unsafe in the world, you will have a difficult time trying anything new which goes against that deeply-ingrained story. Thus, while you may truly desire to change your relationship with food and to feel better about yourself, the underlying belief that you carry will continuously undermine your efforts and ultimately bring you to a place of paralysis and procrastination. This only reinforces the old belief and leads you to feel more stuck and hopeless. You may question why you are bothering to try to change when you have never been successful and always return to the same old behaviour. You may also feel as though you should give up. This is not uncommon, but it is important for you to see it as the old all-or-nothing thinking that it is.

I believe that you won’t stay in this defeated and doomed place for long, because something in you wants more. You want a life that is yours to live; one that inspires and fulfills you. And this desire motivates you to try again. Unfortunately, what you have been trying and re-trying is not likely to work. The restriction of the Diet Mentality and the “motivation through criticism” of the Drill Sgt.(that critical voice in your head) only serve to reinforce your old defeating beliefs. The simple act of tuning out to your body and listening to what someone or something outside of you says you should do is a gesture of disrespect and a true indignity to yourself.

As a child and/or young adult, you may have had to focus more outside yourself than within in order to survive in your family of origin or in other certain circles. You may have had to tune out to your authentic needs and feelings in order to remain in an uncomfortable situation, without being aware of how uncomfortable you were. As an adult, you are capable of creating relationships which support you to be the best that you can be. But as long as you are buying in to the old story about your worth and deservedness, you will continue to create relationships and life situations which mirror this old harmful perspective of yourself.

Let’s take a good solid look at that old story of yours and what you are still telling yourself about your role in the situation. First, let’s explore the old core beliefs that are influencing you on a daily basis.

1. What does your Drill Sgt. say about you when you are being self-critical?

2. What names does the Drill Sgt. call you when you are angry and frustrated?

3. What were the words people in your life used to describe you when they were angry or disappointed in you?

4. What messages about yourself did you receive from your parents, other family members, and/or peers (these can be verbal and non-verbal)?

Consider the above information. If you could capture the essence of your doubts about yourself in a single sentence: I am _______________________,

what would it be?

You may actually come up with a few sentences. Some common and very debilitating old beliefs which you may be carrying are: I am ugly; I am fat; I am stupid; I am worthless; I am undeserving; I am not good enough; I am not enough; I am unacceptable; I am unlovable; I am a burden.

Food Obsession and Your Beliefs Towards Changing

Allow yourself to be completely honest right now about what you truly believe at your core. Those old beliefs are only a child’s confused interpretation of the events going on around them. They were not true then, and they aren’t true now, regardless of how much evidence you could show me to the contrary. We will prove this together in a few minutes.

Now think about your earliest recollection when you thought and felt this way about yourself. What was going on? Who was it that gave you this message verbally or non-verbally? What do you now know, as an adult, about the situation which you couldn’t have known, imagined, or understood as a child? What was going on for them? Have you since witnessed this person behaving similarly toward someone else, perhaps even toward themselves?

If you find yourself feeling resistant to this exercise and to really looking at those old situations from a new perspective, take the time to ask yourself, “What do I think will happen if I allow myself to let that old story go? What benefit do I get from holding on to my old interpretation?”

Sometimes we resist seeing things in a new or different light, despite much supporting evidence, because we fear that we must say that those events didn’t impact or harm us if we let go of our story. Trust me, this is not so. You were clearly impacted by those events or you wouldn’t have had to implement the coping strategies of food, co-dependency, anxiety and making it about you. No one here is disputing that you were impacted. What I’m saying is that, instead of being impacted once for each incident, which is traumatic enough, the old core beliefs which you carry only serve to re-injure you daily. You don’t deserve this and it doesn’t benefit you in any way. It is my intention to support you to stop.

This is an excerpt from the chapter on Core Beliefs in the new book: Food Is Not the Problem: Deal With What Is. To order the book, please go to: http://www.cedriccentre.com/books.htm

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Wanting vs. Having

Satisfied with what you have? I’ve been thinking about this lately…how often I notice myself in a state of ‘wanting’. If you are satisfied with what you have or still lacking more and wanting approval, wanting security, wanting closure, wanting to know or understand, wanting, wanting…

As I’ve become more aware of this habit or tendancy, which seems to me to be a very conditioned human pre-occupation – I’ve also become aware of the subtle shift in experience that’s available in the invitation to ‘Have’ instead of ‘want’.

Could I let go of ‘wanting’ right now?

Could I allow myself to experience ‘Having’ right now?

This is a palpable redirection of energy and attention, and has proven to be quite helpful.

It’s a gentle reminder to the nervous system that has been trained to focus on ‘lack’ and ‘less than’, on what is perceived to be missing in one’s environment or experience.

The joy of the realization that as ‘real’ as that sense of lack or ‘not possessing’ can appear – equally as available is a sense of calm, satisfaction and ‘enoughness’.

There is a wonderful spiritual teacher named Adyashanti and I recently watched a video of his aptly named ‘The Gift of Wanting’. He believes that the experience of wanting is actually a gift, and serves only to draw our attention to that which we already possess in abundance, but have forgotten or over-looked.

He maintains that we have been taught from a early age that we ‘want’ because we lack, and that through the attainment of what we lack, we will find fulfillment.

However, anyone who’s ever achieved or acquired anything can tell you that the sense of ‘fullness’ (or satisfaction) that seems to accompany the reaching of the goal, is often quickly replaced by a renewed sense of wanting. Perhaps the wanting has shifted to a new person, object or experience, but it’s the same sensation.

Satisfied With What You have, Wanting vs. Having

Adyashanti suggests that it is not the attainment of the ‘desired object or experience’ that fulfills us. Rather, it is the inherent ‘fullness’ that is

present within us always that is typically covered over by a glaze of ‘want’. This fullness can only be deeply experienced when we cease our practise of ‘wanting’.

So, the next time you find yourself ‘wanting’…be it security, attention, approval, control, to be understood, or some material or relationship

‘want’, I invite you to check it out. ‘What do I believe getting this thing (insert ‘want’) will bring me?’ and follow that question to it’s core. The answer could be: ‘I will feel more peaceful’. or, ‘I will feel safe’. or, ‘I will feel ‘HERE’, eternal and present’…or any other number of desired states.

Then ask: Is it true that I actually lack in these ways, or could this wanting simply be a pointer to what, at the core, I possess in abundance? Is this desired state actually lacking in me, or have I been to busy ‘wanting’ to notice that it’s there?

Try it for yourself and see.

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