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Archive for January, 2007

The Process of Lasting Change

Overcoming Food Obsession

Repeated patterns are a window to your needs. For every pattern you repeat, for example: overeating, purging, or restriction, there is a need which is being met within you. Your inability to change the undesirable pattern has nothing to do with lack of willpower or discipline. The pattern is merely a symptom of a deeper problem. If you direct your efforts only at attempting to eliminate the symptom without putting effort into understanding and dissolving its cause, you are setting yourself up for a very fatiguing and defeating battle.

Awareness is the first step in changing any behaviour. You must first become aware that you are doing something which is detrimental to your values and life plan. Resistance is often your immediate reaction to becoming aware of what you are doing and why. This makes perfect sense. You have lived your life with a certain set of behaviours and beliefs. Given this, change, even if desired on some level, often feels less like innovation and more like annihilation of your entire existence as you know it. You wonder what will be left of you, your relationships and the life you know, when you have made the changes necessary to free yourself of this debilitating behaviour. This really means: when you are fully aware of the underlying need that led you to execute this behaviour, will you still choose the people and things you have chosen thus far? From this perspective, change can look very scary and the outcome very lonely. This is why so many of us have to hit our own personal “rock bottom” before we are ready to challenge old, harmful patterns of thoughts and behaviours. You must reach a place where you say, “I don’t care what the outcome is. Just make it stop!”

And yet, questioning what life will look like when you are “done” is a wise and significant thing to do. It implies that you know you can change, and on some level you know that your current behaviour is providing you with a way of remaining in an uncomfortable situation without having to fully feel the discomfort being generated. In other words, you know you are numbing yourself to certain aspects of your life, and, because you have chosen this approach to problems for so many years, it is a little scary to imagine being fully present and aware. You are saying that you want your life to be different but are fearful of how this change might appear. This sounds reasonable, from the perspective of the person who has yet to experience the benefits of the change and can only imagine the void which will remain by the removal of the old behaviour. Until you have experienced the pleasure and freedom that is created by letting go of the old pattern, you are naturally going to have some discomfort and doubt about the change.

It is human nature to seek familiarity and feel comforted by it. Often, even when the familiar behaviour is harmful to your essence and prevents you from fulfilling your dreams, you will cling to it because of the comfort provided by the familiar. This very tendency in all humans is why lasting change must happen gradually and this is where overcoming food obsession starts to kick in. When you demand immediate and complete change, you deny yourself time to learn the lessons that the problem or situation you have created is meant to teach. And you certainly don’t have a solid base or foundation in place to feel secure as you move into unfamiliar territory. This means you are likely to flounder and find yourself returning to your old familiar behaviour when things get a little challenging. This can leave you feeling defeated and hopeless.

Just think of any diet or “nutritional plan” you have tried. You no doubt discovered that your attempts to heal your relationship with food and body-image focus, prior to understanding the cause, set you up to have short-term success. Your success could last only for as long as you did not require those coping strategies, that is, as long as nothing in day-to-day life upset your apple cart! This is why, at the pinnacle of our Diet Mentality, many of us can stick to a diet or some form of restrictive behaviour for only about 12 hours! Max! You can be “good” during the day when you are busy, out and about or in front of others, but when you get home, or the chores of the day are mostly attended to, you decompress with food and the whole cycle repeats itself. If the underlying trigger that leads you to use food to cope is unattended, you will be in trouble when something happens that you hadn’t planned for, or didn’t happen the way you had hoped. The feelings and unmet needs, which naturally and appropriately get triggered in those life situations, currently drive you to restrict, binge or purge to cope.

To be successful in changing an old coping strategy, you must have the confidence of knowing that a nurturing force is standing by, ready to catch you when you start to naturally default into those old patterns. And this force must be predominantly found within. Building a solid, nurturing, supportive and understanding relationship with yourself can take some time?as it would with others; however, you will begin to see the benefits of this stronger and more supportive internal relationship immediately, in your awareness of what you are thinking, feeling and needing in that moment and in your ability to respond to those thoughts, feelings and needs respectfully and appropriately.

With a greater sense of trust, security and awareness of yourself rather than the impatience your Drill Sgt. was throwing your way, you will feel a sense of relief which allows you to relax and trust yourself to make life-enhancing and dignified choices around food, yourself and others.

And know this as well: you own this process of change. It does not own you. You can take it as fast or as slow as you like and as you have time and space for. You can look at as much “stuff” and be as aware as you want at any given time, and you can make as many changes as you wish; furthermore, you can return to your previous comforting behaviour whenever you feel the need for the old numbing peace that it brings. Soon, you will naturally find that the old, comfortable coping behaviour no longer fits. It just doesn’t feel right any more. It is not who or where you want to be, nor will you really feel the need to find “security” this way. You will naturally choose not to use it, opting to engage in thoughts, feelings, and behaviours which you have had some practice with and that are coming to feel so much more respectful and natural?so much more “right” – on a gut level than that old coping strategy ever did or ever could. You have found yourself. You have found peace.

Michelle Morand

Posted in: CEDRIC Centre, Relationship with Self, Tips for Natural Eating

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Parenting and the Art of Detachment

Parental feelings against a disordered eater. As parents of someone struggling with disordered eating, one of your greatest tools to cope with the stresses that come up will be the tool of “Detachment”. Hearing this word may bring to mind images of cold, steely indifference. In fact, detachment is anything but that. Quite simply, detachment is the ability to see the limits of our power over other people, places and things.

We can love others, but we do not have the power to control their lives. That power rests within each of us as self-determining individuals. Detaching from a loved one who is struggling to overcome an eating disorder will involve examining our own anxiety and powerlessness in watching someone we love make choices that are harmful.

Detaching will feel strange and uncomfortable if we are so used to being overly emotionally enmeshed with others. In our interactions with those from whom we need to detach we will be actively practicing “holding our tongue”. Where previously we might have offered advice, or issued threats or bullying tactics in order to get our loved one to act in the way “we want them to”, now, with the tool of detachment, we will acknowledge that the power to change rests within our loved one, and we will make statements acknowledging that. Detachment also means allowing others the dignity to create their own life and reality. It is a paradox, but the more we take our hands off of another persons life and give them the “space” to make their own choices, the more they will step up and begin to take responsibility for their own actions. Building detachment as an element of character takes determination and effort but the rewards are worth it. Detachment will transform the way we experience and express love and concern. Previously we saw co-dependent over involvement as love.

All the major religions speak of the quality of detachment as a manifestation of love. In Buddhism it is the experience of equanimity. In Christianity, it called being in the world but not of the world. When we disengage our emotions from the actions of our loved one that is practicing detachment. Detachment also means focusing more on our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Often, in being overly emotionally enmeshed with a loved one, we have lost sight of ourself and have become completely consumed with the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of our loved one.

Beth Burton-Krahn, CEDRIC Counsellor

Posted in: Relationship with Others

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Sharing on insecurity

Diet Mentality and Insecurity – I attended the Victoria health and wellness show this weekend. I also gave a presentation at the show on Sunday to a room of 130 people. It was a blast, I so enjoyed the whole experience. And, you know, presenting for me used to be such a scary thing. Early in my recovery, when I was still quite full of the diet mentality and my old core beliefs, I really wanted to speak publicly. Part of me enjoyed it so much but I was so preoccupied with my own bad body thoughts and self-judgement that all I could think about was how fat I must look or how stupid I must sound. These thoughts would understandably undermine the quality of my presentation and I would come away feeling awful.

Inevitably when I asked for feedback sheets there would be 30 awesome ones and, yes, of course, one nasty one. There was always one piece of feedback that just stuck a knife in that weak and vulnerable part of me. Someone who thought I spoke badly or looked awkward or just spent too much time on something etc. etc.

Now, no one ever said: “You’re too fat lady, get off the podium!” Or “You don’t have a clue what you’re saying I should have stayed home!”

But at that stage in my recovery I was so sensitive to everything and anything that if you didn’t say I was God’s gift to public speaking I was a shambles

I was also buying in to the old story that everyone thought that I had done a poor job it’s just that only one person had the courage to say so! I harmed myself frequently with that old story in which I undermined all of the positive feedback and reassurance I had received to instead focus on the one person who didn’t like my message, my delivery, or perhaps me.

Diet Mentality and Insecurity, Sharing Helps!

A big part of my recovery process became focused on shifting that old way of thinking that felt so true and natural for me. It was an old pattern that came from my father. He was such a strong presence and usually so very critical and contemptuous that I came to judge myself as he judged me. Therefore, as a child, when dad approved of something in me it must be good. However, if my mom said it was good and my dad didn’t, then it was bad. Or if the entire school body thought I had done well on something but my dad didn’t acknowledge it or chose instead to focus on the thing I didn’t do right, well, none of the positive feedback counted.

It wasn’t long before I had internalized my father and a part of me turned in to my own personal abuser. Enter the Drill Sgt. “Perfection and nothing less” was his motto.

Now add to that old “every one has to like me” story, the following ingredients:

  1. I have to be completely perfect in all ways
  2. Any negative comment I get, even if it’s only one, is really what everyone’s thinking
  3. Until I no longer get any constructive feedback or outright criticism in any way I will be completely “unperfect” and therefore, undeserving of love and compassion.
  4. and the worst thing of all! That I blush uncontrollably when I’m nervous or uncertain in myself.

And you have a completely red, blotchy, nervous, insecure, people pleaser who will compromise herself in an instant if she thinks that you might like her more for it.

Well that was me! And it wasn’t until I began to ask myself about the double standard I was holding in life that things began to shift and life became a safe and joyful experience. On one side of that double standard I was awful and imperfect no matter what anyone said and any positive comment was to be immediately discarded as someone “just being nice.” Any negative comment was immediately taken as some great truth and insight into the core of my being and I put all my energy into immediately cleansing myself of that terrible trait or behaviour so as to never again feel the pain of that judgement.

On the other side I always saw the best in others. I was willing to forgive and empathize and offer scads of compassion to friends, family, colleagues and yes, the grocery clerk and gas jockey too. They were completely acceptable humans regardless of their shape and size; regardless of how well they spoke; whether they blushed or got blotchy like me; whether or not they dressed well or had a degree etc. etc.

It seemed to me, when I got down to looking at it, that everyone was deserving of empathy and compassion but me. Everyone deserved a break and a second chance but me. Everyone was perfect just as they were, but me.

Something about that didn’t seem quite right. So, was I ready to take everyone else off their pedestal and judge them as harshly as I did myself? Or could I do the absolutely unthinkable (in my Drill Sgt.’s eyes anyway) and raise myself to an equal level with everyone else? Could I allow myself to paint myself with the same brush as that which I color everyone else? It was a pretty foreign concept I tell you. And for some months I felt as though I were doing something wrong. Sometimes I felt so strange challenging myself to judge myself as I do others that I was certain at any moment someone was going to tap me on the shoulder and say “Excuse me miss, you’re not allowed to consider yourself equal to the rest of us humans, you’re clearly still not good enough for that. Back to the drawing board you go!”

Well, fortunately that never happened. Not exactly anyway. Some people in my life didn’t like it when I began to treat myself better. They didn’t like it when I didn’t defer to them and their needs and ideas so readily any more. But they were the minority and they have since either changed their tune or gone by the way side to make space for the amazing human beings that are in my life now.

So, now if I blush I know it’s because I’m either a wee bit nervous or insecure. Perhaps I’m getting a bit caught up in wanting to please the other person or make a good impression. And you know what I do then? I remind myself that it’s okay to be nervous in new situations and that the only person’s approval and reassurance I really need is my own. Then I ask myself how I think I’m doing. That question alone brings me back in to myself and to the place where I always want to be coming from: my truth, my integrity.

As long as I’m acting from that I know that I’m doing what’s right for me and that if anyone doesn’t like that or doesn’t get me it’s okay. I’m far stronger when I come from that core place within me than when I look outside of myself for approval. And so will you be.

So, suffice it to say, the presentation I gave this weekend went great. I was a little blushy at the start mostly from excitement, but a little nervousness too. So I just reminded myself that I believe in myself and that I know my stuff. And I do, and I did.

So, as you go about your week keep in mind that as long as you continue to demonstrate less regard and acceptance for yourself than you do for others, people will be prone to continue to treat you as though you are less than they are, even if they don’t consciously intend to. This only serves to reinforce your old story that you are less worthy than others.

It also serves to keep your use of food to cope firmly in place. You can’t let go of that coping strategy if you’re feeling anxious and uncertain about whether you are acceptable or not. You have to know that you are acceptable to yourself and then food will simply become food.

And, being acceptable to yourself isn’t about what you weigh or how you look. It’s about you demonstrating to yourself that you are a trustworthy person. That you will put yourself first and not compromise yourself to gain the approval of others. Prove to yourself that you are a person you can trust in all areas of your life and you will feel greater respect and security in yourself immediately. You’ll hear a lot less from the critical drill sgt. within and you won’t need food to cope anymore.

Challenge yourself to model love and respect for yourself and the world will respond in kind.

Posted in: Relationship with Others, Relationship with Self, Tips for Natural Eating

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Holding a Torch

It’s Michelle here. I had a very interesting experience yesterday. I was interviewed by a t.v. station for a promotional piece on my presentation at the Health Show in Victoria this weekend. That wasn’t the interesting thing although the interviewer was extremely handsome! No, the interesting thing was that at the end of the interview the last question was: “What do you get out of doing this work? What’s in it for you?”

I immediately replied: “I get the gift of seeing someone who has been wrestling with issues of stress and control around food and body image for years finally understand that food is not the problem; when I see that light bulb go on and the awareness of a brand new and much easier way to approach food and life begin to take form in that person I know that their life is forever changed.” And this is the healing journey on eating disorders.

That answer was definitely true and it is a significant moment in the lives of my clients and in my own life as well. But, it was what I went on to say that brought me to tears and made me think even deeper than that.

I said “You see, when people first come to this process they are disillusioned. They have tried so many different diets and programs and they have lost hope. They keep trying because intuitively they know something has to change, but in many cases they’ve kept trying the same thing, diets. And because diets don’t work for someone who uses food to cope, they continue to experience defeat and continue to blame and judge themselves as flawed and lacking willpower. So my role when someone first comes to the centre is to hold the torch and let that person know there is hope; things will change; they can heal. I will hold that torch until they are able to hold it for themselves”

Well, tears came to my eyes when I said that. And I knew then that I had really struck the core of why I do what I do: It gives me such fulfillment and purpose to see someone, for whom hope was all but gone, come to life again and recognize their worth and power. To see someone shift their focus from the hoplessness and despair of what isn’t working or what hasn’t worked and learn a whole new set of tools for what will! That’s fulfillment for me.

And it got me thinking about Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Basic Needs. If we are using food to cope we are absolutely using food and body focus in an attempt to meet needs for saftey and security and for love, acceptance and belongingness. That’s a fact. And the healing journey is about finding new and honoring ways to meet those needs.

But there is also a part in each and every one of us that aches to feel fulfilled and passionate about something; to know that we are making a difference in the world or in the lives of others. It is what Maslow called Self-actualization: The fulfillment of our life’s purpose.

Regardless of where you are in your healing journey you can begin to identify what it is you really feel passionate about and what it is you really want to be able to offer to the world. You can begin now to take steps to realize that vision. You don’t have to look or be any way other than you are right now to begin. In fact, I can guarantee you that focusing some of your energy of moving forward towards identifying and then pursuing your passion will take a big bite out of your use of food to cope.

Healing Journey on Eating Disorders and Hanging On to It

So, think about hope. Think about how much hope you carry in yourself for ever truly healing your relationship with food and with your body. Think about how much hope you carry for ever attaining or even identifying your life’s purpose.

Realize that a lack of hope around those things will lead to depression, apathy, lethargy, procrastination, frustration, resentment, envy, annoyance, sadness, isolation, fear, negative self-talk, bad body thoughts, worst case scenario thinking and other harmful coping strategies.

And offer yourself the thought that, even if you don’t know how to do it right now, you can be shown how to connect with your higher purpose in life; you can be supported to take the first steps on the path to self-actualization.

“Why would I want to do that?” you say. Well if any part of you would like to be rid of the coping strategies I just listed above, it’s one of the easiest and most pleasurable ways of doing just that.

So, think about the ways in which you currently bring hope to the lives of others, and, as long as it doesn’t compromise your self-care or healing journey: Do More of That!

And if there isn’t any way right now that you feel you are in that zone of self-actualization pick up some books on passion, aliveness, career development etc. My favorite book of this nature is: I could do anything if only I knew what it was. by Barbara Sher. I read it in my twenties and it helped me formulate the idea for and move forward with the creation of The CEDRIC Centre. It’s great!

We have copies in our lending library for those of you who live in Victoria.

So, think about holding a torch of light and hope for others and what burns in you to be expressed and shared. What light can you bring to the world? If you can answer that question: Get on it! Make it happen, or keep it up!

If you can’t answer that question, take action to find out.

Love Michelle

Posted in: CEDRIC Centre, Relationship with Self, Tips for Natural Eating

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Ask A Counsellor: January 15, 2007

It’s Michelle Morand here, below you’ll find a fabulous question that we received from a client a few months back. She has given me permission to share it with you as I am certain it’s something that we all ask ourselves at many points during our healing journey Beneath her question you’ll find my response and you’ll find the response of CEDRIC counselor Beth Burton-Krahn. No doubt you’ll resonate with something in both and whichever piece sticks with you, go with that!:

Question: I feel overwhelmed sometimes by this process and wondering what notes are important for me to keep in my little diary for checking in each day. I have so much valuable info and I have entered a lot of stuff but I keep looking at the ezines thinking, oh, I should add this to remind me of that….ways to handle situations. Any advice of what to add to diary and what to weed out?

Michelle’s Response:

Great question! I think we all get to a place like this in our recovery where we know we’ve got a hefty tool kit for most any situation and the problem then becomes figuring out which one to use when. In my own recovery process and that of many of our clients at CEDRIC I have found that you can simplify your process through the use of two fairly obvious cues to bring your awareness to one fundamental area of healing. This will make all the difference to whether you feel peaceful and grounded or anxious and compelled to use food to cope in the days, months and years to come. The two cues you want to be on the look out for throughout your day are:

A. The Permeating Level of Anxiety (your constant companion of low grade dis-ease or distress) and/or

B. Wanting to eat or actually eating when you’re not hungry. (Those of you who use food in a more restrictive fashion will want to note the times that you’re not allowing yourself to eat when you are hungry).

If you allow your conscious awareness to frequently be drawn to either of these cues throughout your day you are then in the perfect position to take action on what it is that is triggering you to either feel anxious or to want to eat when you’re not hungry.

The tool I would recommend most once you have that conscious awareness is this:

Ask yourself: “Where is the ‘all or nothing thinking’ alive in me right now?”

You could also ask this in this way: “Where is the all or nothing thinking in the thought or experience I just had?”

In other words, what am I telling myself right now absolutely has to look or be a certain way OR ELSE!?

If you can’t identify it by simply asking within take the time as soon as you can to sit with a pen and paper and ask yourself: “What are all of the things that are going on for me: Past; Present; and Future that might be impacting me right now?” Then you will ask yourself for each one: “Where is the all or nothing thinking in that situation?”

Inevitably, if you’re feeling anxious or using food to cope, the all or nothing thinking is there and it will reveal itself if you check in.

If you have checked in in this fashion and the all or nothing doesn’t seem to have appeared it’s time to share your list with someone like a self-aware and safe friend or your counselor and ask them to locate the all or nothing thinking that is alive in you around those issues.

It will be there. If you can’t find it on your own it’s only because you’re so accustomed to the all or nothing approach to situations it doesn’t stand out for you as anything amiss.

So, that’s my suggestion for how to pare down all of the skills you’ll learn or have learned on your healing journey. There will be lots of times when you’ll want to bring other tools on board and have the time and consciousness to do that, but for now, whenever you feel like you need a quick jolt of the healing process locate the P.L.A. or the use of food to cope and then identify the all or nothing thinking beneath that.

And what do I do once I’ve found the all or nothing thought, you ask? Well, in most cases, simply by becoming conscious of it it dissolves and you’re then left with a sense of release and the thought: “Okay, what are some other ways this scenario I’m imagining could happen?” And you naturally start to seek alternative solutions or outcomes.

If you don’t feel the release it’s because you aren’t willing to allow yourself to really see your thinking as all or nothing. Instead you’re saying something like “This is how it is, there is no alternative!” ie. “I must have this house spotless by 6:00!” Or “I must get this assignment done today!”

Experiment with this for a while and you’ll prove to yourself how much the all or nothing thinking impacts your anxiety level and your use of food to cope and how you are always able to find an alternative solution if not many.

And remember, give yourself the gift of asking others to illuminate other possibilities. If you’re new with the awareness of all or nothing thinking, or if you’ve been using it as a coping strategy for some time, as most of us who use food to cope have been, it will be second nature and therefore, pretty slippery to catch!

Please feel free to print this article and share it with others or carry it with you to reference.

Let me know how it goes. I really would like to hear your experiences.

Love Michelle

 

 

Beth’s Response

 

The most important tool in your tool box is going to a combination of growing self-awareness and self-compassion. Being able to stop and check in, to see what is happening in your life that is triggering your desire to use food to cope is the first step in breaking the cycle. Without self-awareness, making different choices is not possible. The second major tool, self-compassion is so important because without it, we tend to use the information we gain through self-awareness as another club to beat ourselves’ up with. These two tools form the foundation that your recovery is built upon. Self-compassion means giving yourself permission to be human, to make mistakes, to not know, to be confused, to lose your patience, and loosening the grip of perfectionism. We are all made up of the same stuff, none of us has it all worked out, we all struggle with finding our way and making sense of it all. As one of my favorite teachers once said, “Wouldn’t it be just great if we all admitted to being lost and confused and not having it all together?” It is so refreshing to hear things like this, because our tendency is to compare. To imagine that others have it worked out, and that we are the only ones struggling and having difficulties. But the truth is, life just keeps unfolding, almost without regard for OUR plans, OUR desires, so it is better to learn how to surf rather than endlessly trying to stop the waves. Self-compassion doesn’t mean doing whatever that little child part inside of us wants to all the time. Self-compassion or basic friendliness towards ourself is simply a recognition of our finite, human fragility. It is recognizing that we are equal to others in this regard. We ALL struggle, we ALL experience loss. None of us is immune. We really are all in this together. Take it easy with yourself. Go slow, be gentle.

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