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Eating Disorders: The Thoughts – Feelings – Behaviours Link

Eating Disorders: The Thoughts – Feelings – Behaviours Link

In exploring Eating Disorders: The Thoughts – Feelings – Behaviours Link, we must first understand the underlying trigger that leads an individual to binge or restrict rather than listen to the natural cues of hunger and fullness in the first place. 

Eating Disorders are a pattern of thoughts, emotions and behaviours that are borne of a combination of stressful life events and a confused default process of thought that simultaneously generates great self-doubt; a strong tendency to presume the worst; and a chronic sense of being critically observed at all times.

Recovery from eating disorders of any kind requires the development of a new default thought process based on reason which builds self-trust, an openness to looking for solutions, and a sense of peace that one is in the process of becoming the best that they can be, and the confidence that they are equal to the task.

Recovery from binge eating, anorexia, bulimia etc. also requires a simple guide for how to relate to food in a natural, relaxed and trusting way.

These 2 pieces of the eating disorder recovery puzzle, when taught simultaneously, create a strong positive synergy that leads the individual to naturally step away from their extreme and limited thinking and stressful behaviours  and towards this more reasoned, simple, satisfying way of thinking and relating to food.

Thoughts trigger emotions and then emotions trigger actions – also known as behaviours. Our action /behaviour gives us sensory data which triggers another thought which triggers another emotion which again, leads to a behavioural response. And this is the experience of human life in a nutshell.

What makes a life a happy and fulfilling one is a combination of actual life events and our experience of them.

Our experience of these events is comprised of a combination of the actual event that has happened/is happening and our interpretation of it.

Ultimately the interpretation or perspective or spin we put on an event has the most to do with what we feel and therefore with how we will react. We must therefore have a way of  having reasonable confidence that our perspective is that of reality and  not of what anyone else, including our own mind, says/has said about what has happened.

An Example of The Thoughts-Feelings-Behaviours Link

Let’s say my new friend Melanie is 20 minutes late to meet me for coffee.

Unless she has texted or called or in some way given me a message to indicate why she is late and when she will arrive, any speculation about that is purely that – speculation. 

And yet, depending on how I feel about meeting up with Melanie today, how I’m feeling today in general, and what else is going on in my world, I could have any of the following reactions:

1. I could tell myself that Melanie is rude and inconsiderate and that I deserve friends who have at least got the courtesy to call if they’ll be late. This would trigger feelings of irritation and anger. Which could trigger the behavioural response of  me getting up and leaving or perhaps just sitting there, stewing about her dismissive behaviour and planning what I’ll say when she walks in.

2. I could tell myself something may have come up, who knows why she isn’t there – she’ll likely reach out when she can – maybe I’ll call her later this afternoon if she doesn’t make it and see what’s up. In the meantime I’ll just sit here and enjoy my latte and reading my BBC newsfeed. If she makes it great, if she doesn’t I’m still happy. I feel confident and happy and I engage in the behaviour of reading and sipping.

3. I could tell myself that something must have happened and that she is in trouble – something is wrong. This will trigger anxiety /worry and tension and I will respond behaviourally by trying to text or call her; by tapping my foot, biting my nail, sighing heavily, maybe even pacing. Or my behavioural response might be to sit tight – probably still tapping the foot, bobbing the leg, fiddling with the thread on my skirt, and cycle around into another thought that perhaps she’s not coming because of something I said or did?  Or did I get the day or time wrong – or the place??? Is she mad at me?? My emotional response will be an escalation of anxiety and tension and my behavioural response might be to leave ….  

You get the point? I don’t know any more about her lateness in scenario one than I do in two or three. And yet, my emotional state and my subsequent behaviours very greatly depending on my interpretation of events.

What is the Reality of the Situation: Not Just What I Think is True

Let’s say my friend got the location wrong and has been waiting on the next block for the same 20 minutes. 

Depending on my automatic default thought process I might just laugh and ask who’s walking to meet whom,

I might get defensive, thinking she’s going to make it about me getting it wrong.

I might feel hurt because this scenario triggers thoughts of mistrust: If this person can’t be trusted to get a coffee shop right how can I rely on them in a relationship!!?  Or I might feel hurt because it triggers stories of being unimportant or doomed to have stupid friends.

Or I might get angry because I wanted to have a nice long visit and now, because she screwed up on the location, we have half an hour to catch up. Maybe I’ll respond to this anger by telling her not to bother; by hanging up; by affecting a tone to my voice that ‘let’s her know’ that I’m not impressed; or maybe I’ll respond by suggesting we touch base before the coffee next time so we don’t lose out on precious time together.

A Possibilities Mindset is Key

Again, so many paths, so many possible interpretations / stories and so many possible emotional responses leading to a plethora of potential behavioural responses triggering more experiences (sensory data) which triggers more emotion and more behaviour etc.

If my default thought process leads me to assume that people are judging me; that I am unlovable or fundamentally flawed in some way; and/or that it is just a matter of time before I am rejected I am going to feel chronically anxious and insecure and I am going to desperately seize on whatever behaviour I can take to feel safe as quickly as possible. 

Some people drink. Some people binge on carbs or sugar or fatty foods. Some people go for control – restricting ignoring the needs of their body in favour of the sense of empowerment they get from controlling their basic needs – regardless of the ultimate consequences.  Whatever your poison, if you’re thinking in that extreme and limited way you’re going to need something to help you numb out to your brain and to your perception of present day reality.

The really sad thing is, almost all the time those worst case scenario stories of intentional rejection and ridicule are not the case at all and we are often walking through a world that, in this moment, could be exciting and fun and fulfilling and comfortable, and yes, safe, but instead, because of our thoughts in the moment we are feeling insecure, anxious and depressed and setting ourselves up for an even greater need to numb and soothe ourselves with our coping strategy of choice.

If you’re struggling with binging or restricting or weight loss or body image stress, or drinking too much or drugs, or spending too much time on the internet or watching T.V. , or you can’t seem to stick to that new exercise plan or that back room is still a pigsty even though you swore you’d tackle it last year….if any of this sounds like you or someone you know then it’s safe to say they’ve got a dose of this confused thinking triggering emotions triggering behaviours thing.

The more extreme and intense the behaviour the more intense and frequent the confused thinking. 

Tackle the confused thinking and the behaviour naturally changes.

Don’t Allow Yourself to Tell Stories

Stop telling yourself Melanie meant to stand you up or that you said something to upset her or that you got the place wrong and instead remind yourself of the reality – you don’t have a clue.

Either reach out to her and find out or let it go and let it sort itself out. That’s rational and reasonable and mature and functional. Anything else is a pathway to stress and tension and a diminished experience of life.

Stop telling yourself that you are unlovable because your stomach has a bulge, or even a full blown roll or two or three and instead ask yourself to be real with yourself about whether you are only open to loving people with perfectly flat stomaches or cellulite free legs.

There is no rational thought in a double standard so either you dump everyone from your life who isn’t naturally an airbrushed perfect 10 or you hold yourself to a more reasonable standard. 

Stop telling yourself that you must be flawed because you can’t make a relationship work, or even find one for that matter. And instead be open to looking at what your part in creating a healthy relationship is, do your work to have confidence that you can be and do that, and look for someone who is capable of and willing to do the same.  

If you can hear this. If you can take these thoughts into your mind, but the tension and doubt and pain inside you doesn’t shift that only means that your confused thought pattern just kicked in again and told you another story about what’s going to happen if you let go of your current expectations for your body or let go of the story that you are a flawed human unworthy of love and acceptance. 

Ask yourself – What am I telling myself will happen if I try this rational, reasonable thinking stuff?

Are you doomed to fail so you may as well not bother trying?
Will it take too much time and maybe not even work anyway?
Is it too good to be true?

Whatever you’re telling yourself. It too is just a story, and frankly you deserve a lot better than to live your life inside a doom and gloom story.

If you agree, come and join me and learn how to shift your thinking and watch how everything else in your life naturally shifts for the better.  And no you won’t blow up like a balloon or spend the rest of your  life in therapy.  See how trixy those thoughts are. You deserve better.

Send me an email any time:

Love Michelle

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What will it take for you to think you are okay?

What will it take for you to think you are okay?

Where did you get the message that you weren’t okay?

What will it take for you to trust that you are okay just as you are?

Often times when we are beginning to explore recovery and still struggling with food and weight stress it is too hard for us to think in terms of what we do want or what we’d most like to see. But ask us what we don’t want in ourselves, our bodies, our relationships with others and anywhere else in the world and we’ve got an answer for you.

So, try it this way:

What don’t you like about yourself?

What do you think that others judge in you/don’t like about you?

What makes you think that you are not okay as you are?

Easier right?

Now ask yourself:

If I could change those things that I don’t like and think that others don’t like about me, how would I feel about me and about life?

And what gets in the way of me doing that?

Is it that you don’t know how? Think you don’t have the time or the money? Think you can’t ever change those things because you haven’t been able to yet?

All of those stories about why you can’t succeed in being who you’d most like to be are what I call all-or-nothing or ‘extreme and limited’ thinking.

None of them are true.

Just because you don’t know how doesn’t mean you can’t. Do you know everything? Have you really tried everything? No you haven’t. You’ve likely tried the same thing over and over, expecting a different result because you thought it was you who was failing and not the approach. 

My favorite quote on this topic is from Success Coach Barbara Sher: ‘When too many people fail a requirement, there is nothing wrong with them,there is something wrong with the requirement.”

I’d say when you have a society that is obsessed with looks and weight loss and people are increasingly insecure and depressed there isn’t anything wrong with those people – there is something wrong with the obsession.

If you’d like things to change and you’re ready to feel good – really good – about yourself, email me and I’ll show you how in simple steps that will just make sense to you and change the way you think and feel forever.

Love Michelle

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I’m Lonely, How Can I Find Connection?

I’m Lonely, How Can I Find Connection?

This week I’m sharing a question that came to me through e-mail about why we might not reach out and create relationships even when we’re feeling lonely.

Hi Michelle, Thanks for sending your book, and also for the CD. I’ve read about 2/3 of it, and I am VERY impressed. I’ve always clicked with the Geneen Roth/Hirschman & Munter approach, and it has helped me in the past. But I’ve gotten stuck in certain areas, and I find your book expands on this approach and also gives such a point-by-point roadmap.

I’d also like to say what a positive experience it has been, the little amount of contact I’ve had with you and in perusing your website. I’ve made the circuit as far as e.d. treatment goes (St. Paul’s, individual counseling, VGH intensive program), and you convey such a warmth and non-clinical/non-patronizing manner. It’s very refreshing, and makes me feel hopeful.

One question that I’d be interested in your thoughts/feedback on, is with regard to unmet needs, I would say my #1 unmet need is for connection/companionship. I have no friends in my town (and only 2 friends farther way; 1 I see every couple months). And my family is not supportive/doesn’t “give” emotionally in any way. So, basically, aside from co-workers, I am completely isolated.

And yet, I don’t actually do the things I know would bring me in contact with other people and potential friends (e.g. joining a hiking club, book club, adult ed class, volunteering, etc). Sometimes I’ll push myself to do these things once, but then won’t follow through b/c I get discouraged, or don’t like it, or find it takes too much energy.
I know that sometimes I don’t want to go b/c it means less time for bingeing /purging, but that’s not always the reason. I think it’s mainly a sense of hopelessness/defeat at attempting to build new friendships. Plus, to make a good new friend takes time.

So, would you say that this issue is an issue for therapy (i.e. why I don’t do what I know would result in making new connections)? Or, am I missing something? And, in the meantime, how can I learn to soothe/comfort myself with the sense of isolation? There’s not many substitutes for other human beings, even when you’re okay with alone time sometimes.
Curious as to your thoughts, if you have the time to respond.K.

Thank you K for the question. 

Just to paraphrase, it seems that you’d like to have life that has more friends and social connections in your town and yet you see yourself behaving in such a way that undermines the creation of those friendships. Your immediate thought, it seems, is that it has something to do with wanting to be able to be alone to engage in your binging and purging behaviour, but I think you’ve missed the mark.

The binging and purging is just a coping strategy. I don’t believe that you want to be alone to binge and purge. I believe that you feel overwhelmed and unsafe in some aspect of your life, and you use binging and purging to numb and distract you from that underlying issue.  Sometimes, early on in our healing, it’s very difficult to see the distinction. But, the difference between believing food is the problem, and knowing that it’s just a coping strategy is huge!

When we’re buying in to the belief that food is the problem, we are stuck. There is no where to go with that except to control (or try to) our food even more and get more and more rigid and obsessed and then get more and more frustrated and self-critical when we aren’t successful with our more rigid guidelines which triggers us to get even more restrictive and self-critical which triggers a bigger “binge” and a greater need for isolation and withdrawal which triggers more self-criticism, and so on, and so on, and so on. 

That’s the only thing that ever happens to anyone who begins to believe that their relationship with food is the reason they are: unhappy; alone; frustrated; “not good enough”; not having the life they desire or the career they desire or the partner they desire……and so on.Mountains become molehills quite quickly with this process when we remember that any focus on food or body image that isn’t about health and wellness is just a coping strategy.  Did you get that? It’s a very important point and makes your relationship with food a very different experience:

Food is a coping strategy for you if you:
  • Eat when you’re not hungry;
  • Eat beyond the point of fullness;
  • Don’t allow yourself to eat when you are hungry;
  • Engage in purging with laxatives, vomiting or excessive exercise;
  • Berate your body shape and size.
And if food is a coping strategy for you, the solution is not to focus on the food. The solution is to look a little deeper and identify what it is that is triggering you to feel that your life, as it exists today, is such that you can’t feel safe being present for it. What are you telling yourself about your life and yourself today that makes you believe that the best solution you have to offer yourself is to harm yourself with the coping strategies of isolation, withdrawal, procrastination and binging? It is those thoughts that need to be explored so that you can find out for yourself whether there truly is something that is going on in your present reality that needs some attention in order for you to feel safe putting yourself out there and creating new relationships.

You may find that the underlying thoughts that trigger you to feel so overwhelmed that you need to use food to cope are old thoughts and really have no bearing on your present day reality. And yet, they are running the show, in large part, because you’re not aware that those thoughts exist, and that times have changed.

So, to begin to create change in your social life, you must start with noticing when you’re using food to cope and taking the following steps:
  1. Tell yourself: “Oh, I’m using my food coping strategy right now – that means I have a need that isn’t being met.”
  2. Ask yourself what you were just thinking or experiencing that may have triggered that unmet need.
  3. Ask yourself if that thought or experience, in any way, undermines your sense of comfort or safety in your life in general or in your relationships with others.
That’s a great place to start. Bringing your awareness around to what is really going on rather than staying stuck on the surface focusing on food is what will create lasting change and lead you to a relationship with food that is truly natural. And if you’re not sure what that is, a natural relationship with food is one where you eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and you don’t have any energy about what you’re eating except to enjoy it.

Take it from someone who used to be obsessed, 24/7 with food – what I should eat vs. what I was eating; how fat and ugly I was; how lazy I was; how I was “never” going to be happy; how I was “always” going to be fat or to be struggling with food; how I was never ever, ever going to like my body and be happy with it; and so on, and so on. You can have a peaceful and easy and natural relationship with food and be a healthy natural weight for your body without thinking about it. The first step is proving to yourself that your current focus on food and body is just a coping strategy. Once you know that, everything else can begin to change because now you’re looking in the right place for the problem, and it’s much, much easier to find the solution!
Love The CEDRIC Centre - Michelle Morand

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Establishing a Normal Relationship with Food

This week, I’m writing in response to a question from a web program participant as part of a web program forum discussion about establishing a normal relationship with food. Since my answer to her question was rather lengthy and detailed and, I believe, relevant to you all, I thought I’d share the question and answer here for this week’s “Tools for Recovery” article. Question: If we’ve spent years using food to cope and stuck in the Diet Mentality, how the hell do we have a clue what is normal around what to eat and how much? Michelle’s Answer: In my own personal recovery and my 17 years as a specialist in this field, if there’s one thing I have learned, it is this: In the early stages of recovery, it is not helpful to focus on food in a structured way or to get caught up in some external meter of what to eat, when or how much. (more…)

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The Binge and Stress Yo-Yo

The Binge and Stress Yo-Yo

In this article we will briefly explore the binge and stress yo-yo experience that anyone who uses food to cope or who struggles with dieting and weight loss will relate to completely.

It is not difficult to stop one binge when you are frustrated and disgusted with yourself and determined to change.

However, if the underlying triggers are not ministered to, it is difficult to stop binging completely when the day-to-day stresses of life pile upon the mountain of unexpressed emotion and unmet needs that already exist.

If food is an old, tried and true way for you to numb out to these stresses and unmet needs, it will be very difficult, when you are already stressed out, to choose a new way of coping that isn’t yet proven. As the Japanese say ‘The Samurai does not wait to practice his skills on the battlefield.’  We must start thinking in a combination of learning from our past and using our past experiences to change the way we respond to the future.

If you’re stuck in the binge and stress yo-yo experience you are definitely experiencing the frustration of seeing yourself repeat harmful patterns of behaviour but you’re not doing what you need to do to change it. That’s not because you aren’t motivated or don’t care enough about yourself to change – it’s because you don’t know what to do and our society seems to have one message to pitch you – diet! 

In fact the more you focus on trying to control your food intake as a means of stopping the binge and stress yo-yo the more you’ll feel stuck and doomed.

That’s because food is not your problem – the stress is. And the stress comes from a combination of confused thinking patterns and past, present and future life experiences which are very challenging to pinpoint and solve on your own.

With a skilled guide you can be through the process of recovery and on to feeling confident and secure around food and in your body in a few months.

Don’t wait and suffer, reach out and get help fast to change the binge and stress pattern in your life. It isn’t hard – you just need simple tools and good support and that’s what I’m here for. 

I have 20+ years of experience as a specialist in this field; I’ve helped thousands of men and women world wide to find true confidence and freedom; and I’ve been there too – I used to binge eat and be 24/7 preoccupied with my weight and for over 20 years I’ve been free of food and body image stress.

Let me help you see how easy change can be. Email me and let’s get started.

Love Michelle

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Physical self-care

Physical self-care includes your level of physical fitness, your daily nutritional intake, the amount of rest and sleep you get each day, your awareness of physical sensations and needs in your body, and overall health care. All of these areas require some attention each day, even if it’s just a little mental acknowledgement of each one. It’s good to have a daily inner checklist conducted by the Nurturing Parent – and not the Drill Sgt. The checklist will speak to your goals in each of these key areas of physical self-care. The Nurturing Parent will gently invite you to keep them in mind as you go about your day.

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A Personal Exploration: All-or-Nothing Thinking

all or nothing thinkingAs I was walking from my friend’s house the other morning on my way to work, my mind had time to muse. It started to wander to you, my readers and the work we’ve been doing on all-or-nothing thinking. I was enjoying the warmth in the air at 8:00 am. The sun was shining. It seemed that everyone I passed had a bounce in their step as we welcomed each other warmly and celebrated the long-awaited arrival of summer. As I walked down one quiet street, a young couple emerged from their home and waved at the elderly lady next door who stood, watering her garden out front. After thanking her profusely, for what I do not know, they got in their car and zipped off down the street. (more…)

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Allowing your authentic feelings creates peace

Since you have very likely been distanced from a true connection with your feelings since childhood, you may feel some resistance to connecting with them again. You may begin to fear that there will be a considerable backlog of feelings which will sweep in and overpower you if you were to open the door. This is just your Drill Sgt. trying to maintain the status quo because his task is to keep you safe, and this is new and different and therefore, by his standards, unsafe. As you begin to connect with your authentic feelings in the moment and learn how to effectively release them, you are going to become more powerful and competent at taking care of yourself than the Drill Sgt. has ever been. And the ways that your Nurturing Parent will learn to take care of you will lead to greater self-esteem and peace.

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Coping strategies are understandable but not the best way

I promise that as long as any aspect of your life remains unbalanced or your needs are unmet in certain areas, you will use your coping strategies. For those of us who have a disordered relationship with food, I look at food as the trump of coping strategies. And, if we are using food or body-image focus, it means that all our other coping strategies are overwhelmed, and we are pulling out the big guns. Remember, judgement and self-criticism are just other forms of coping strategies, as is the use of food when you are not hungry or not allowing yourself to eat when you are.

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Diet Mentality and safety

The Diet Mentality and Safety

In the early stages of recovery from the Diet Mentality, you are still looking for physical change as the indicator of your progress or success. Let’s briefly explore the connection between Diet Mentality and Safety so you can start to see more clearly what you need to do to get a grip on food and weight for good. 

This physical change can only come from a marked change in your relationship with food; however, your relationship with food exists as it does because you have not yet found a way to feel safe in the world.

You must first identify what it is about how you think and about your life in the present that prevents you from feeling safe and secure and trusting of your worth and acceptability and once you’ve sorted that out you won’t need to diet to lose weight. If you’re overweight you will naturally just start to eat less and make better choices because you’ll be feeling better about yourself and you’ll be less stressed overall.

Do not confuse yourself by thinking that your weight or your binging is the reason you don’t feel good about yourself. Those things come second to anxiety and insecurity and painful past experiences and confused thinking. You can’t ignore the  things that triggered you to binge or be overweight in the first place and expect to change the binging.

If you’d like things to change for good and not have to starve yourself or focus on food to get there I can help.

Email me and let’s get started. Change is fast and simple when you’re using tools that work.

Love Michelle

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