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Self-Care Part 5: Letting go of your stories

Self-CareHello CEDRIC Community Members.  In this article we are continuing with our goal exploration and creating small, doable steps to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

If you’re just joining us as a community member and want to take part in this series about self-care and forward momentum, I recommend you follow the link to the first article in this series and build from there. You’ll get much more out of the process and it will transform your current use of food to cope.  We have two more weeks (after today) of the self-care series and then we’re on to other key bits and pieces of the recovery and freedom process.  Eating when you’re not hungry, eating more than you’re hungry for, not allowing yourself to eat enough, and purging are all harmful ways of coping with the world and the stress it currently presents to you.  They are learned patterns of behaviour. They are not who you are. They are behaviours, and behaviours can be changed.

Those harmful behaviours are triggered by undermining thoughts such as I can’t. I am incapable. I am bad. I am wrong. I am undeserving of health, of love, of caring. I am unlovable. These thoughts are just stories. They aren’t true. Even if someone said anything like that to you, or behaved in such a way that made you feel that way, that is their interpretation and not the truth. No scientist would ever use the feedback of one subject as absolute evidence for her life theory, regardless of who that subject was (mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother, sis, teacher, coach, ex-partner, etc.). No scientific study is ever considered to have validity until it has been tested across many populations and has been found in each situation to have statistical significance. Statistical significance is not one person, not one family, not one school, or one office.

Chances are you are basing your entire life right now on stories you received, or told yourself about yourself from a very small (but influential) subject population. That only works if you completely tune out any rational approach to determining the truth and if you believe that those people were perfect, God-like beings who were healthy in all ways and had no growing to do whatsoever and no issues whatsoever. Do you know anyone like that? No? Then, the people who influenced your current perception of yourself and thus your current behaviour were imperfect, ordinary humans with issues of their own. In other words, they weren’t and aren’t God. They didn’t know the “Truth” about you. They only had their opinion and they were only ever doing their best, which, depending on their upbringing and life experience and training to be a human, may have been quite dysfunctional and misguided.

The choice of course is yours. You can keep believing those folks and the stories you tell yourself, but my recovery has shown me that if something doesn’t feel good it means it’s not right for me. And calling myself a fat, ugly, stupid, lazy pig never felt good to me. How does it feel to you?

If you’d like to step free of those limiting behaviours and thoughts, you can. You just need a little guidance. Neuropsychological studies have proven that the human mind cannot conceive of anything it hasn’t already experienced in some way. That means all you folks out there who have a Drill Sgt. in your head telling you that you shouldn’t need any help, that you can figure it out on your own and you’re stupid and lazy if you need help. are just spinning your wheels and will continue to do so until you allow yourself to seek out some new information and new ways of approaching things. The truth is, without outside intervention in some new form, your brain will not be able to conceive of things in any new and lasting way. It’s human nature. It’s not a flaw in you. It’s the way we’re wired. So perhaps you could cut yourself some slack and let yourself take some steps towards a new perspective. It’s the only way to finally step free.

This week we’re going to finish up with the goals piece and then next week we’re going to explore creating a plan to make some space in your week for the first steps on your path to freedom from 24/7 food and body focus.  A quiet mind is on the way!

Last week I covered goal #1, so if you want to explore some suggested small steps for that one, read Self-Care Part IV on the blog.

Goals (Where you’re going to be):

  1. I want to be a natural weight for my body. (I realize that many of you will not know what that weight is as you’ve never been there – we’re going for a feeling of health and strength and tone in your body that you can sustain without restriction and over-exercise – you’ll definitely know it when you get there – if it’s not enough to be going for a feeling of ease and movement then go ahead and pick a ball-park number but don’t get caught up on the number, it’s the feeling of strength and ease of movement you’re really going for.)
  2. I want to have a peaceful relationship with food.
  3. I want to have an abundant financial situation.
  4. I want a career that fulfills me financially and intellectually and allows me time and energy for my personal life too.
  5. I want to have a loving, considerate, intellectually stimulating, passionate romantic life partnership.
  6. I want to have a healthy and enjoyable relationship with my …(fill in the blanks) mother, father, brother, sister, grandmother, uncle, my best friend that I’m currently estranged from etc.  (I’m going to pick sister on this one but you can pick anyone)

Where you are now:

1 a. I am currently 75lbs over my natural weight.

b. I am currently 15 lbs under my natural weight.

  1. I currently think about food in an obsessive and stressful way 24/7. L
  2. I currently have 25K in debt.
  3. I currently have a job that doesn’t stimulate me or pay me well enough to achieve my goals financially.
  4. a. I currently have no partnership.

b. I currently have a partnership that doesn’t meet my needs in a key way (intellectually, sexually, emotionally, consideration, communication….)

1. I currently have no connection at all with my sister.

So, let’s look at # 2

I want to have a peaceful relationship with food, but currently I think about it 24/7 in a stressful way.

So, I take out some paper, turn it sideways (landscape) and on one end I put:

24/7 stressful thoughts of food

And at the other end I put: I have a peaceful and effortless relationship with food.

In between I make 3 marks so it end up looking like this:

24/7 thoughts    >>>>   X   >>>>>>     X     >>>>>     X >>>  Food is Peaceful/Effortless

Then I identify 3 small steps I can take that will lead me to where I want to go.  You might discover that you hit a wall about now. That’s a great indicator that you need to stop and figure out what your barriers are. What is it that keeps those 24/7 thoughts in check and what prevents you from moving forward. (This will help you to identify the steps you need to take).

So, we back up just a titch and we ask ourselves:

What are the stories I tell myself about continuing to think about food as I do?

What are the stories I tell myself about what will happen if I change my relationship with food and the way I think about it?

What’s going to happen if I feel peaceful about food?

Your answers may sound something like this:

If it’s not in my mind 24/7, I’ll forget and eat something I shouldn’t; I’ll lose my motivation; I’ll just get even fatter; I’ll get complacent and stop trying to be thinner/healthier etc.; Others that I diet with or who know I’ve been trying to heal will judge me if I don’t focus on it as much, they’ll think I’ve given up or don’t care about myself; I’ll lose the friendship with X because it’s something we do together; I can’t; It’s too much work; It’s too hard; I’ve never been successful before so I won’t be now; I shouldn’t even bother trying……

Any of that sound familiar?  Each of these stories is what we call “all-or-nothing” thinking.  They are not true. They may be things you’ve experienced in the past, but remember, your brain cannot conceive of anything it hasn’t already experienced, so of course your brain is telling you that you can’t, because it hasn’t experienced you doing it yet. We all have doubt about things that are new and different, it’s how the brain functions in its attempt to keep us safe (It doesn’t care if it’s keeping us safe in heaven or in hell, pleasure or pain, just as long as it’s familiar.).

Yes, we all have doubt and uncertainty about things that are new and different. It’s just that some of us understand, because of our life training, that we need to try anyway and that we’re more likely to succeed if we try than if we don’t.  Others have had life training where trying something new led us to be ridiculed, shamed, berated or harmed physically if we weren’t perfectly successful the first time.

I was beaten once by my dad when I was a very little girl for spilling milk that I was just learning to pour from a big glass jug. How long to you think it was before I ever dared to try and pour milk for myself again?  It wasn’t safe to make mistakes in my home. From that I got the story that I had to be perfect or very bad things would happen, and since I couldn’t guarantee that I could be perfect with things I hadn’t done or experienced before, I had better not even go there! Fortunately for me, life forced me to get out of my home early (15 years old) and I had to try new things, perfect or not, or die. I was still terrified and had incredible self-judgement around anything new for many years because I had no support and no way of knowing that it was my story that was harming me and not my actual abilities.

So, back to your stories. If you hear any of those stories popping into your noggin while you’re on the path to your ultimate goal don’t buy into them, instead, just gently remind yourself that those are just old all-or-nothing stories and you don’t wish to buy into them any more.

Now identify 3 small goals for the chart. How will you get, in a sustainable way, from here to there?

A first step on the path to a peaceful connection with food may be to encourage yourself simply to notice when you’re eating or wanting to eat and ask yourself: Am I truly physically hungry? If so, what would allow me to feel the most comfortable in my body and mind after eating it? And encourage yourself to do this more and more frequently throughout the day. That would be a great first step. Be prepared to sometimes choose to overeat or to eat things you know aren’t in your best interest. Just remind yourself if you see this happening that it’s a work in progress and as long as you’re checking in and making honoring choices more than you were last week you’re doing great!

If you notice you’re restricting at any point in the day (withholding food when your body is hungry of showing you signs of poor nutrition – fatigue, moodiness, hard time concentrating), invite yourself to remind yourself that your ultimate goal is to have a peaceful and easy relationship with food. Ask yourself if you would be willing to have something small right away when you notice any cues of hunger (not just the growlies). A few bites here and there. Consider foods that pack big bang for the buck like nuts, seeds, protein powders, etc. They will provide the most nutrients for the smallest amount of food and are always a good place to start.

For this goal, I would say that steps 2 and 3 would simply look like working through any barriers in your all-or-nothing thinking to allow yourself to do step 1 more often throughout your day until it becomes second nature. This takes such a short period of time once you begin. It’s getting over the inertia created by all the stories of what’s going to happen if you change your behaviour that is the hardest part. And that’s where most of us need assistance because of our pesky brains and their current limited perspectives.

The only people who expect you to be perfect are those with their own incredible insecurities. No healthy human on the planet expects anything more than a sincere effort. That is a fact.

Explore your stories and your goals. Do your best to use this exploration to identify some goals you’d like to attain. Plot them on your paper and take the first step.

Don’t give up. The only thing that stands in your way is the old stories and the limitations of your brain in its ability to only imagine things it’s already experienced. Just because you haven’t yet had complete success with being free from food stress doesn’t mean you can’t be. It just means you need a new perspective. Trust me. You can do it!

Love Michelle

Whether you prefer one-on-one counselling (in-person, by phone, or email), our intensive and transformative workshops, or the  self-help approach, take action today to have a stress-free relationship with food. Sign up for our free newsletter today! Newsletter subscribers receive exclusive product discounts and are first in line to get on all the latest new at CEDRIC!

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

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