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Understanding How Your Thinking Impacts Your Self-Esteem, Your Ability to Create Healthy Relationships and Prevents you From Getting a Grip on Food, Binging and Weight Loss
You’re a magical thinker.
That’s not a criticism, or a flaw. It’s the reality of the human brain. Magical thinking is a part of our wiring and it is also a key component of many of the most enjoyable parts of our culture and entertainment and a great way to release tension and stress. And it’s called magical thinking because it is not based in reality or on the facts of the situation as they truly exist.
It’s why kids so readily believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy and monsters under the bed. Magical thinking is the equivalent of clicking your ruby heels together, saying ‘there’s no place like home’ 3 times and expecting yourself to be transported from the gridlock you’re stuck in on the freeway to your front door.
It’s also why, since the dawn of humanity, each distinct culture has had their own spiritual or religious belief system, often with similarities that can only be seen as direct plagiarism, and yet still, each group of believers believes, with absolute certainty, that theirs is the only ‘real’ one.
And, perhaps, closer to home, magical thinking is the reason that, despite the many times your partner has not followed through on doing what he said he’d do, or has treated you disrespectfully, you still think that you’re going to get what you need in that relationship. In reality, it makes no sense to hang around, expecting someone to change a behaviour that is hurting you unless they admit they need to change AND get help to learn why they do what they do and what to do to change it. Anything else is pure magical thinking on your part and will keep you stuck in a relationship that will never truly provide the love and security you seek.
Essentially, magical thinking is an instinctual thought process, designed overall to make us feel happy and hopeful in the face of the many hardships in the reality of life. The day dream that I’m going to win the lottery helps me, if I’m struggling financially, to not worry so much, at least for that moment, about my financial future and winding up on skid row with my home in a shopping cart.
Hence the magical thinking I engage in at that moment really does make me feel happy and that plants a little seed in my brain – creates some neurones firing in a certain way – that may lead me, the next time I get stressed about my bank account, to revisit that lottery win fantasy and get a break from the stress of my reality.
That’s all well and good if I don’t get stressed too often about money and if I remember that my imagined lottery winnings are a fantasy and not some psychic indicator of what my future holds. If I quit my job and wait for the winning ticket, or I don’t save for my future because I expect my windfall, that’s taking my magical thinking too far and forgetting to include a healthy dose of reality in my planning.
Addictions are a prime example of magical thinking. Imagining that drinking or taking drugs or binging is really going to make things better, beyond the immediate chemical release of feel good hormones into my blood stream, is complete magical thinking and yet, it is because it makes us feel good in the immediate moment and because we don’t know what else to do to solve our problems and feel good in a long-term, big picture way, we keep reaching for those magical solutions.
Relationships are often approach the same way. I know I’m not happy and that I’m not getting what I need in this relationship and yet on occasion things feel good and it’s familiar and so I stick around, allowing my magical thinking to transport me to a time in the future when things will change. And in the meantime I stay put in a crappy relationship rather than leave and create the space for the relationship I really want.
You see magical thinking works two ways – it can tell us fantasy stories of the lovely things that will come, if for no other reason than because we desire them, and it can tell us horror stories of the terrible fates that will befall us if we take a certain action – particularly if we change the current familiar setting of our life such as change our job, move towns, end a relationship or stand up for ourselves with someone.
It is natural for the human brain to lean towards belief systems and explanations of events that will make us feel happy. This has been proven beyond a doubt in many solid scientific studies and is spoken of with great, easy reading detail and wit by Daniel Gilbert in his fantastic blend of science and human interest, ‘Stumbling on Happiness.’
So we come by this magical thinking thing honestly and it serves a purpose in our lives at any age. But it has a serious downside.
You miss out on the reality of life and on many opportunities it naturally provides you to create what it is you really want and to build self-esteem and healthy relationships.
So, you need to be able to be aware of when you are in magical thinking and when you are in reality. This allows you to make a conscious choice and to therefore be in control of where your mind takes you and of the actions you choose in your efforts to make yourself happy.
If you are not trained to think rationally and clearly; If you haven’t been shown how to assess a situation for the actual facts vs. your fantasies, your brain will naturally default into magical thinking – what you wish were true, rather than reminding you that you don’t have enough facts or information to form any sort of opinion yet.
This leads you to continue to see the world in a way that isn’t based on facts and therefore limits you to repeating old patterns and prevents you from taking advantage of the real opportunities that do present themselves.
If you haven’t had solid role models who taught you the basics of functional relationship:
- What good communication looks like – how to ask effectively and reasonably for what you need and want;
- What is reasonable to expect of others and them to expect of you; and
- What you are responsible for in any situation vs. what other are responsible for,
you, and anyone else lacking that training, will naturally struggle with knowing how to feel confident and secure in yourself and in your relationships with others and this will lead your brain to lean more on the fantasy / magical thinking to make you happy rather than looking for solutions to the actual problems at hand.
Unfortunately, sometimes the magical thinking part of our brain believes that telling you that you’re stupid or fat or ugly or useless or unlovable or unworthy or just plain ‘not good enough’ is going to help you to be happier.
The ‘logic’ behind this irrational thought process is that if you are not getting what you need in the way of caring, support and reassurance it is easier for you handle –ie. you’ll be happier – if you think that it’s about you and that means there’s something you could possibly do about the situation to make it better.
Thus, lacking functional relationship skills, and lacking the ability to think beyond the immediate moment and therefore explore long-term solutions to our present day stress, our magical thinking brain will default to making pretty much everything that isn’t going well for us (and pretty much everyone else), about something that is bad or wrong or unacceptable in us.
Our rational brain can see that this is irrational. How can I possibly be responsible for my partner losing his job or having a bad day? And even if I did or said something that upset him, how does it make sense that it’s okay for him to yell or to threaten or to withdraw his affection for me? How is that rational, reasonable or at all loving?
There are lots of appropriate and loving ways to express frustration and hurt in a relationship. You may not have experienced them as a child and as such you’ve got a magical thinking idea that, even though it didn’t feel good and you felt anxious and insecure a lot, the way that your parents or teachers or ‘friends’ expressed ‘love’ is normal and how it should be. In reality, if it isn’t feeling good and respectful and safe to you it isn’t right. End of story.
If you’re settling for a relationship where you are being told you’re at fault for how someone feels or whenever you bring up a concern about the way your partner is behaving they say something like ‘it’s just how I am,’ your brain is stuck in magical thinking mode and your relationship will not improve until you learn how to master your thinking and to see when others are thinking irrationally vs. reasonably.
Instead you’ll stay stuck thinking that something is wrong with you and that you need to figure out what it is and change it and then you’ll be able to get the love and acceptance you seek.
In reality, any time you compromise yourself for a relationship (partner, parent, friendship, or job) you are in magical thinking. You’re telling yourself a story that the only way for you to get what you need (love, support, acceptance) is to agree to something that really doesn’t feel right to you.
Dieting, as it exists in our 21st Century culture, is, for many North Americans (and Europeans and Africans and Asians too as statistics show) a form of magical thinking that has been cultivated by the multi-billion dollar per year diet industry, to such epic proportions of fame and notoriety that the likes of Santa Claus and Justin Beiber could only dream of.
The Diet Mentality magical thinking goes something like this:
I am not getting the love, acceptance, job, validation and support that I desire. I am feeling anxious and depressed, stuck and insignificant as a result. If I were thin I would a. feel better about myself and b. others would find me more desirable as a partner, friend or employee. So, I’d better get thin, fast!
Forget that I’ve felt this insecurity and self-doubt as long as I can remember. Forget that there are people who do love and care about me and even some that have professed, or currently do profess to find me desirable. Forget even that I’ve tried a bunch of diets before with no lasting success.
The diet centre people (or the commercial or the magazine cover or the fitness trainer at the gym) said that this diet really works! And if I can lose X pounds per week for X weeks all my problems will be over!!! I’ll be feeling so much better about myself that I’ll be able to figure all the other bits out no problem. All I have to do is just stick to this plan for X weeks!
Forget that I’ve never been successful with sticking to the plan for that long (like most North American women, you may find that sticking to a diet beyond 2 weeks is highly unlikely) or that some inner part of you is tugging at you, niggling at you, and saying ‘we tried this before and if nothing has changed it doesn’t make sense to assume it’s going to go any better this time!’ You don’t know what to do to make yourself feel more confident and to solve those issues of money, relationship, career etc. so, even if it makes no sense and some part of you is pretty sure you’re wasting your time, you’re going to try the latest diet and hope for the best!
The diet industry sells a great fairy tale. It’s a lovely story of a brief journey of deprivation which will ultimately provide you the happiness and self-confidence and love and security you seek in the world. How long have you been feeling crappy about yourself or your body? How many times have you tried to feel better by dieting or rigorous exercise programs?
The reality is, if you have extra weight on your body because of anything other than an illness or injury, you use food to cope. No diet will fix that.
If people around you say you look fine, even sexy or great, and you still think you need to lose weight, the truth is, no diet will fix that either.
You don’t need to look a certain way or eat certain foods in order to be lovable or to feel confident in yourself.
You need to trust that you’re seeing the world and the people in it clearly and that you are capable of communicating clearly about what you feel and need and of setting reasonable expectations for yourself and others. That’s what self-esteem is. That is what makes you feel confident and secure in yourself.
No amount of listening to someone else tell you what or how to eat is going to provide that for you. No amount of ignoring your body’s cues of hunger is going to build the confidence and security you seek.
Learning the basics of relationships and self-esteem is the key and then, as if by magic, your relationship with food will change. And you will lose weight and feel great without dieting or being preoccupied with exercise or with what you’re eating. That’s reality.
But that doesn’t make any money for the diet industry so you won’t hear them telling you that.
Next time you start to think negatively about yourself or your body or what you’re eating, instead of starting to think about diets and weight loss, try this instead. Ask yourself:
‘Separate from food and body image, what was I just thinking about or what just happened that might have triggered the magical thinking part of my brain to make me think of dieting and weight loss as a way of making me feel better?’
You’ll quickly uncover the really stressor in that moment, which will always have a solution that is much simpler and faster than the diet mentality one you’ve been trying for years with no ultimate success.
You can train your brain to stay in reality and use the magical thinking consciously for fun and play. Right now, if you’re stuck in the Diet Mentality approach to problem solving, your magical thinking is running the show. The path to real happiness lies in learning to master your brain and be in control of how much time you spend in magical thinking vs. reality.
This is actually a pretty simple fix. Some basic life skills and self-awareness tools is all it takes to master your brain and stop the magical thinking in your brain from running your life.
The Secret to Creating Great Relationships
Hi all, this article began as a response to a question I received from an on line program member as part of our group chat forum and it’s such a common experience for everyone who uses food to cope I thought I’d turn it into an article and share it with all of you out there in our global community.
The topic is that of our relationships to other people and how we can get what we need in our relationships with others directly and confidently and not feel so obligated and responsible for everyone else.
The truth is, everyone who struggles with addictions like binge eating, eating disorders, alcoholism, substance abuse, gambling, over-spending, internet, raging, isolating, procrastinating and all other harmful patterns of behaviour struggles first and foremost with this pattern. So, if this is you, you come by it honestly – and the good news is there is a simple fix.
It took me many years of therapy and some fairly crappy relationship experiences a.k.a. significant learning opportunities to figure this one out. My response below is intended to spare you that time and energy and provide you with what I wish I had all those years ago – a simple way of understanding what’s not working and a simple first step for what to do about it.
Question From A.S.:
Something I’m a bit unclear about is the idea that it’s not my responsibility to guess other people’s needs. I spend a lot of time feeling responsible for other people and believing I have to figure out what they need and then make sure they get it. I can see how this causes great stress for me and makes my life much more stressful and complicated than it needs to be.
But I get stuck in my efforts to change this because I believe in treating others the way I would like to be treated myself and the truth is I would absolutely love it if everyone could pick up on my most subtle needs and wants without me ever having to articulate them!
So, when I am taking on responsibility for other people’s moods, needs, and desires, I’m actually wishing that they cared enough about me to do the same. How do I sort this out so I can stop feeling so obligated and insecure in my relationships and get what I really need from others?
The Inside Scoop: What is Really Preventing You From Creating Great Relationships
This really is a great question because it is an issue we all deal with when we are healing a stressful relationship with food and struggling with negative body image. These two very common coping strategies are key indicators of anxiety/insecurity triggered by confusion about what is healthy and reasonable vs. harmful and unreasonable in relationships.
First, let me reassure you that it is perfectly natural and very healthy to want to be cared for, to feel safe and nurtured and to trust that we are important to other people.
The problem isn’t you. It’s not some fundamental flaw in you or something about your weight, hair color, your style, your laugh or your intellect. And it isn’t your need or desire to feel loved and cared for either. The problem is in the way that you, and most others on the planet, have been taught to go about meeting those natural needs for connection and support that is the real issue.
The old approach to relationships is doomed from the start because it’s based on manipulation, guilt, and poor communication which can never lead to a healthy, loving, safe and secure connection with anyone. Instead it leads to chronic anxiety, insecurity and self-consciousness; second guessing everything we say and do; and ultimately feeling hurt and resentful because despite our best efforts we don’t seem to be able to get what we need from the people in our lives. And this leads to you focusing on food and body image as a means of self-medication and distraction and, so you believe in the moment, empowerment to change so that you can feel better about yourself and these painful and awkward relationship experiences will stop happening….right?….No, actually, and that’s why these patterns get worse, not better, despite your repeated and determined efforts.
So, you come by it honestly – in fact most of the population of the planet has been trained to approach relationships from this co-dependent perspective – so you’re in good company. The answer to why this training is so rampant is another article entirely. You can find some of the answer in an article I wrote a year or so ago which is posted on my blog and entitled: The Way We Were: The Influence of our Ancestors on our Lives Today
So, What Actually Does Create Solid, Loving Fulfilling Relationships?
The fact is, instead of this old, rampant but harmful co-dependent training, what people really need to be shown, if they want to feel confident and secure in themselves and in their relationships, and stop leaning on food, isolation, procrastination, drugs and/or alcohol to cope with their insecurity and stress, is a way of relating to other humans that makes sense, feels safe, and most importantly, gets you what you need (most of the time).
In this adult, interdependent approach to the world:
1. We prioritize respecting how we feel – we don’t dismiss and judge ourselves for having feelings;
2. We take the time to identify and show respect for our needs – we don’t call ourselves weak and needy for having them or let anyone else stop us from respecting them, speaking up about them, or meeting them. We do not give anyone else the power to decide if our needs are reasonable or appropriate – we decide this for ourselves based on how we feel and on our trust in our ability to think rationally and behave reasonably (if you use food to cope, or other harmful coping strategies, you lack this trust and need help to build it – it’s not hard it just takes some guidance and support);
3. We ask confidently and directly for what we need and work with others to find solutions that will work equally well for both of us – and 99.9% of the time there is one! Truly.;
4. We feel strong and confident in ourselves – we trust our perspective and trust ourselves not to compromise ourselves for anyone or anything. We know, in our gut, that we have just as much right as anyone else to take up space and get what we need. And because we also know that there is almost always a way for both parties to get what they really need we don’t feel obligated to compromise ourselves or to push others into meeting our needs. We feel like we belong. We feel truly grown up; a feeling that only comes from taking full responsibility for ourselves while letting others be ultimately responsible for themselves.
In case you’re wondering, everything we do in The CEDRIC Method, whether it is through individual counselling, workshops, books, workbooks etc., or our online education and support program, is geared towards teaching you how to change your approach to life from the old, irrational, harmful insecure one (a.k.a. Co-dependence) to a strong, straight-forward, confident one (a.k.a. Interdependence). We do this by teaching you how to identify what you feel; what that means about what you need; and how to meet those needs in ways that demonstrate respect for you and for the others in your life.
If you’ve been engaged with CEDRIC for any length of time, you know already from your experience with this process that your need for food to cope with stress lessens the more you approach life from this adult, rational perspective.
I’ve written a more detailed response to your question below if you’d like to understand my answer a bit more, but in addition to the above, the short answer to your question is:
If you want something – anything, from anyone – you need to ask for it, clearly and respectfully, unless you’re prepared to be just fine with not getting it and you are committed to not telling yourself stories about how people don’t care about you because they’re not reading your mind or don’t care enough to think about what you need.
Those are your options if you want to think and feel the way I described above. It’s that simple.
There are ways of asking for things that will create a greater likelihood of a positive response and they all include self-confidence, self-trust, reasonable expectations, and simple, concise requests. In all my work with CEDRIC members and clients these skills are a key component and lead to increased confidence and happiness overall as well as to a complete release from food and body image stress.
B. Accept that you aren’t ready or willing at this time to ask directly for what you need and get the support to do the work you need to do to identify what is preventing you from doing so and offer yourself empathy and compassion for the life experience that has led you to feel so frightened of direct and honest communication. (By the way, there is nothing about you that will prevent you from figuring this out – if you haven’t mastered this yet it’s only because no one showed you how.)
Ultimately If You’re an Adult, The Truth Is You Always Have a Choice:
A. Ask directly for what you need and commit to finding a way to meet your need that demonstrates respect for yourself and others. Or
C. Keep hinting, manipulating, using passive-aggressive techniques and continue to feel insecure and take things personally, damaging your relationships along the way, thus creating “proof” that you are not lovable, worthy, deserving, and therefore shouldn’t dare ask outright for what you need.
I personally am a fan of options A & B in tandem while you’re learning – some situations and people will be easier to be direct with right away and others will require a little processing and coaching – which you can get through the forums and classes on the web program or through an individual session with me. Ultimately you’ll naturally begin to just live in option A – it’s so much easier once you’re thinking clearly. On that note – let’s look a little deeper into what prevents you from thinking clearly.
What Gets In the Way of you Mastering the Secret to Great Relationships?
In order to sort this out first let’s clarify the key assumptions you’re making here that are harming you. Then let’s explore how to shake them loose and start approaching relationships in a way that will truly bring you happiness, peace, and confidence in life.
If I compromise myself for others they will see that I am doing this and
a. Like/love me more for doing it; and
b. Do the same for me.
This will make me happy and lead to healthy relationships where I feel secure and loved.
(Pan to image of green, grassy field with colorful flowers dancing gently in the summer breeze; sun setting as a couple walks peacefully hand in hand over the rise and out of sight.)
Sorry to trash your dream (and mine too in the past) but both of these assumptions are complete fantasy. That’s why we (and soooo many others) feel so unhappy and insecure in our / their relationships.
No matter what we do; how much we bend over backwards for others, we can never feel safe and secure in our relationships and trust that the other person really loves and cares for us if we continue to approach relationships from these assumptions.
Think of it this way, if you know that someone close to you doesn’t ask directly for what they need, but instead:
b) uses silent treatment or manipulation or anger, or
c) plays the martyr or victim card to get people to do things for them out of pity;
d) or says or does nothing at the time but laments after the fact about what they needed/wanted/wished someone would have done;
Really? How much trust and safety will you feel in your relationship with that person?
Or what if someone you know allows themselves to be manipulated by such tactics even though they really don’t want to do those things and they feel frustrated, resentful, obligated, and manipulated, how confident are you going to be that they really mean what they say to you?
How solid are you going to feel in that relationship when you know they aren’t honest with others about what they feel and want and need, and that they express frustration behind the others’ back but seem to do nothing to address things directly so that they can actually be resolved?
You’re not going to feel at all solid or secure or peaceful in those connections. Your trust in that person will be very limited. This is the problem with the co-dependent approach to relationships. The co-dependent approach creates a belief that we have to continue to compromise ourselves. It says that we can’t possibly just be honest about what we need or feel, or do or don’t want, because if we did the other person would not like us or want to be with us, they’d leave us / reject us, and we would be alone and unlovable. Pan to grubby bag lady on skid row…
This is what I call all-or-nothing thinking (or irrational thinking) but like all irrational thinking, until we are able to see why it doesn’t make sense and learn other ways of getting our needs met, we won’t see how harmful it is or even that our approach needs a tweak. Sure, we’ll experience the feelings of dissatisfaction and insecurity of this confused and doomed-to-fail approach to getting what we need, but we will mistakenly and confusedly assume that we just need to try harder, do more, be thinner or prettier…and then people will appreciate us, never leave us, and start giving back in kind. Right?? Nope. And you’re living proof of that – as are we all.
It’s the same line of confused thinking that makes us believe that even though every attempt we’ve made at dieting has ended in disaster, we should keep trying the diets because certainly there can’t be anything wrong with dieting – it’s so normal, it’s so popular, it must work, right?? And therefore (the story continues), the problem must lie with us and our intellect (we’re just too stupid), our laziness (we never follow through; we just didn’t try hard enough), our willpower (we just don’t have the inner strength to stick to a commitment), our self-esteem (we just don’t care enough about ourselves to take better care of ourselves) etc. etc.
Not! The problem with diets is that they don’t get to the root of why you have extra weight on your body in the first place.
Why are you eating more than you are hungry for?
What leads you to eat the things you do even when you know they aren’t the best choices for you?
Those are the issues that must be addressed for you to be successful with weight loss and your relationship with food. And once you’ve figured that out your relationship with food will naturally shift and you won’t need any diet program to tell you what’s healthy and what isn’t and when you’re hungry and when you’re not.
The Two Types of People You’re Most Likely To Attract – And Why That Isn’t a Good Thing:
In the same vein, it isn’t that you’re not lovable or worthy of respect and caring that makes people ignore your needs or not pick up on your cues, however subtle or otherwise. It’s the fact that you believe in the first place that you can’t just directly ask for what you want and need and still be loved and cared for. Instead you think that you have to be sneaky or hint or manipulate or just sit back and hope for the best or risk abandonment and rejection and the affirmation of your ‘not-good-enough-ness.’ That is what leads you to experience the pain of doomed relationships and why you will inevitably find yourself repeatedly in relationship with one of two kinds of people:1. The ‘takers’ are very willing to accept your willingness to compromise and use you as long as you’ll let them.
These people aren’t willing or able to reciprocate in kind and the way you approach your relationships makes it so they never have to. Then as soon as you start to want a little more balance in the give and take department suddenly you’re labeled as selfish, demanding, manipulative etc. and they move on to find another who is willing to meet their needs without them having to reciprocate and you’re left assuming you’re the problem and that it’s all because you asked for what you need. In reality it’s because you were willing to accept a relationship where you met their needs without asking for anything directly in return that got you into that pickle in the first place.
2. Folks like you who don’t feel confident enough in themselves to ask directly for what they need either.
Those that hint or guilt trip or manipulate or sit quietly, giving, giving, giving and then either just leave the relationship, assuming that you’ll never be able to meet their needs or they finally explode with their pain and frustration from their unmet needs; telling you that you’re selfish, inconsiderate etc. etc. when all the while you’ve been desperately trying to be respectful, read their minds, and meet their needs. This kind of relationship naturally ends with you either feeling highly insecure and dissatisfied because of the lack of direct feedback and communication, or with you feeling totally confused and frustrated because you thought you were meeting their needs – they didn’t say you weren’t – and now they’re telling you you’re selfish or that you can’t make them happy? Argggg!!
Now do you see why this approach is doomed? No wonder people choose the monastery!!…or food…or alcohol…or the internet…
The Real C-Word:
Where things go sideways is in the expectations we have of others and the definitions that we have for what caring, consideration, and importance should look like:
As mentioned above, the approach to relationship that you currently struggle with is what is referred to as co-dependent – and that term simply means that we feel responsible for what other people need and feel, above our own needs, and we expect that they should think and behave the same way.
From the co-dependent perspective someone only loves you and really cares about you when they are willing to intuit your needs and meet them without you asking and when they are willing to compromise themselves for you and do what you want whether it’s what they really want or not – in fact, many co-dependents take this one step further, believing that what they want should be what you want if you really cared about them because your life would be about them being happy first and foremost. Clearly there is no room for different needs or opinions or for individuality here.
If you believe that can’t be yourself and truly respect what you want and feel and need as well as consider the needs of others, you never get to feel the confidence and trust and intimacy that comes from knowing that the other person really sees and fully loves you for who you are. The relationship is doomed to stay in a state of infancy and insecurity and that gets tiring after a while and many people become disillusioned because their fantasy of their needs always being met has fallen through and rather than exploring the rationality of this expectation they end the relationship, move on, and start again with someone whom they believe will really meet their needs this time.
This is a pattern that can play out not just in romantic partnerships but in parent-child and sibling relationships, in friendships, on school PAC’s and in work settings. And if you have this way of thinking it will permeate all of your relationships not just your romantic partnership.
It is helpful in shedding our old co-dependent approach to relationship to see it not as a flaw of character or some innate dysfunction but for what it really is:
A kind of developmental delay (due to poor role modeling and relationship training) that we can outgrow fairly quickly with the proper education and support.
The Secret to Creating Great Relationships – What Healthy Human Relationships Really Look Like:
Think of it this way:
It’s perfectly appropriate for a little child – an infant, toddler, or preschooler, to expect that their caregivers are going to meet their needs without them having to ask for it because these little people are largely incapable of meeting their own needs or even communicating what they are.
Sure, the little one cries or screams and smiles or laughs to indicate their needs and pleasures but the adults around them have, ideally, been thinking ahead to when they’ll need feeding, changing, clothing, napping etc. and have been meeting those needs without being asked to do so. In essence the world truly does revolve around us when we’re little people, and given we have no other frame of reference for life at that point, this experience gets lodged as peachy keen and as the way we can expect that things will always be.
As we get a little older, we naturally want to explore the world a bit more and unconsciously we still expect our parents or caregivers to be at our beck and call and to solve any problem we might have, usually without us asking. Tantrums ensure when boundaries are set but these can be reduced and set aside with caregivers who demonstrate through their words and actions that they are there for us, they care, and that things are changing and that it’s okay to start thinking about other people as well as yourself.
Ideally at this stage we are gently encouraged to step out on our own a bit, take a bit more responsibility for ourselves (put away our toys, put our dishes in the sink, tidy our room with some help etc.) but ideally the safe container of our caregivers is always there, gently supporting us to take steps to independence but there to catch us if we fall or just to hear about the day’s events and keep us safe from harm that we are too young to foresee or understand.
At this stage, which carries through into our adolescence, we should feel safe and supported to explore the world knowing that we have reasonable, loving people who have our back and will help us to sort out things that don’t make sense, and who will also set reasonable boundaries to help us understand what is healthy and what is harmful, and what is reasonable human behaviour.
From this place we naturally launch, often still with natural trepidation for the newness of it all, into a life that is more independent – whether living on our own or simply spending more time with school, work, and friendship pursuits. The safe container is still there but we feel supported to launch and live our lives, free from any sense of emotional burden or guilt or need to compromise ourselves for our parents or anyone else.
Caring but not Compromising
From this place, we naturally care about others and what they feel and need and we are more than happy to help people out when we can, but we know that we are not in any way obligated to compromise ourselves or our needs for others and that if we want something it’s up to us to ask for it and make it happen. From this perspective it also becomes clear to us that if someone else wants something the same is true for them: They need to not expect us to meet their needs unless it’s been previously agreed that we will and they need to ask clearly and respectfully for what they need or experience the natural consequences of their needs not being met as they would like or perhaps even at all.
From a healthy independent place we also know that we are not obligated to meet anyone’s needs and that our responsibility is, first and foremost, to be clear on what we feel, what that means about what we need, and identify ways that we will get what we need that do not compromise or demand things of other people.
We know that if someone feels they have to compromise themselves or their plans to meet our needs it will only damage the relationship and create a sense of burden, obligation and resentment on the part of the compromiser and some sense of expectation of us making a compromise in return. This, we know, is not an acceptable choice if we value our connection with that person and so we will not knowingly support others to compromise themselves nor will we do that ourselves.
Instead, we will talk with the other involved to explain our needs and to understand theirs and to find a solution that works for both of us, if we can (and 99.9% of the time you can) and if we can’t, we agree to go our separate ways on this subject, and possibly, depending on the issue, for good. But even in that worst case scenario parting-of-ways outcome we know we did our best and we have no guilt, no regrets and move on feeling clear and clean.
If you’re not approaching your relationships in this way you are stuck in the old co-dependent training but you don’t have to be.
The First Step to Changing from Co-dependence to Interdependence:
Try a little experiment this week: You’ll learn a lot and it will set the stage for safe, stable, simple, respectful change.
For this week (or for as long as you’d like):
Notice: anytime you’re feeling annoyed, irritated, resentful, resistant or impatient with someone. Or times when you are avoiding seeing or speaking to someone or responding to their communication via text or email.
Then: Ask yourself these 3 questions as often as you notice the above (Hint – making notes makes things move faster…):
1. What is it that I really need from/with this person in order to feel open and peaceful with them?
2. What would I need to say to them to communicate this clearly – what specific, concrete, request could I make that would allow me to feel more safe and respected by this person?
3. Can I commit to doing that asap? If so – go for it!!! If not – why not – what am I telling myself will happen if I ask for what I need.
This exercise will teach you a lot about what you think of yourself and others and what beliefs you carry about asking directly for what you need – prepare to learn lots and then reach out and let’s get cracking on making the shift from co-dependent to interdependent.
Remember, it’s natural to have doubt about anything new, but change doesn’t have to be hard, slow and painful – in fact it can be simple and even fun and exciting when you’re ready and you have the right guide and the right tools.
What is Binge Eating?First off, it’s natural to wonder what the word binging actually means because, in our culture, binging essentially could be seen to have three distinct definitions. One is the definition that the medical and psychiatric/mental health community have given to binging; the other is the definition that family, friends, passers-by, and restaurant servers (to name a few) might give to binging; and the last is our own personal definition. Just for your own interest, take a moment now to ask yourself: “If I had to, how would I define binging? What is binge eating?” (And don’t just say overeating! That’s a synonym not a definition.) If you’re judging yourself as having binged or maybe hearing someone else saying they binged, what images does that conjure up and what verbal definition would you apply to that? Simply put, when the definition of a problem is unclear it’s very difficult to solve it. And, it is highly unlikely that the definition your doctor, partner or parent have for binging is the same as your own. This is a huge part of why it can be so hard to trust that what you’re doing with food is reasonable (or not) and why, among other reasons, you may struggle to feel comfortable in your relationship with food. So let’s explore what binging is and what it isn’t. First, let’s explore a few scenarios that may have played out in some similar fashion in your own life: 1. Let’s say you’re really hungry at 2 pm and so you do a great thing for your body and you go and get some food. You’re sitting at your desk at work and someone walks by and makes a comment, something like: “Woah! Who got the munchies?” or “Somebody needed an afternoon snack” or “Giving up on the diet already?” etc. There you were, innocently feeding your hungry body and someone else who knows nothing of your hunger level or what kinds of things you’ve eaten already that day, makes a comment that implies that there is something wrong with you eating at that time or with what you’ve chosen to have. If you’re feeling sensitive about your relationship with food or about your weight or just unsure of whether you can trust your own perspective, you will be negatively impacted by this and start to judge yourself for eating at that time, regardless of the reality that you were hungry. Is that binging? 2. How about this one?: What if it’s 2 pm and you’re not really hungry but you can’t stop yourself from grabbing a sugary or carby snack. Whether someone says something or not, the truth is, if you struggle with binging you’re going to feel guilty and shameful because in your own mind you know you weren’t hungry, you know you had something that wasn’t in alignment with your goals for health or weight loss and so you feel out of integrity. And if that same person happens to walk by and say the same thing…“Woah! Who got the munchies?”? Well, that just clinches it and serves to further reinforce your ‘badness.’ Is that binging? What if it was a small chocolate bar? What if it was a small bag of chips? What if it was doughnut or Danish or an Iced Capp? Is that binging? (For the record, folks who don’t struggle with binging or aren’t stuck in that diet-binge-guilt cycle can have a sugary or carby treat that they aren’t hungry for and not feel guilty or ashamed. They just don’t do it all the time and they naturally adjust their eating for the next meal and wait until they’re hungry to eat and stop when they’re comfortably full. No big deal.) 3. And how about this scenario: You are out for dinner with a friend. You are famished! You order exactly what you’d like to have (now, I know that if you struggle with dieting and binging you’re not likely to have what you really want, you’ll order what you think others will judge the least, but for the sake of this illustration, go with me on this) and dig in with appropriate gusto given your extreme hunger level. Your ‘friend’ makes a comment about how much you’re eating and how you’d better be careful or you’ll ‘pack on the pounds.’ Are you binging? Are you doing something ‘wrong’? 4. And last, you muster up your courage and go to the doctor to talk about your frustrations with your weight and failed attempts to lose weight or eat a healthier diet. Your doctor responds with:
- A lecture about the health risks and your likelihood of developing type II diabetes and/or high cholesterol, and how you really need to stop eating those sugary, carby foods and get more exercise.
- A suggestion about a diet he or she tried recently or someone they know had success with.
- A referral to a psychiatrist for medication, or a prescription that they write for you themselves for an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication that is supposed to help you control your appetite and stop you from binging.
How to stop Binging, my article from last week, focussed on The Diet-Binge-Guilt cycle: Why we often binge in the first place and began a discussion of how to stop binging for good.This week I’m going to enhance that discussion with a more detailed exploration of how our intention to limit the kinds (or quantity) of foods we eat can go sideways and, instead of supporting us to achieve our goals and have more self-esteem, our plans, more often than not, actually make us feel more anxious and depressed and more like a failure than we did the day before. When we’re stuck in this Diet-Binge-Guilt cycle we feel lots of guilt and shame and hopelessness. The last thing we want to do is admit it to anyone, which makes it hard to get help and makes us want to withdraw from people and isolate. This often leads us to have increased social anxiety and insecurity in relationships and to lean even more heavily on those BAD foods to numb and soothe ourselves in order to simply make it through our day. Sound familiar? My goal is to make sure you have a clear understanding of why it is you binge in the first place and exactly how to stop binging for good; not just for a day or a week, but really, truly, once-and-for-all good. You see, I know you can stop binging for ever because I have (decades ago) and I’ve helped many hundreds of men and women worldwide to stop for good too. The best part about getting over binging and learning to trust yourself around food is that you now get to enjoy eating whatever you truly want and you no longer feel guilty or ashamed or like you need to exercise like crazy just to lose weight. When you simply eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, you will naturally lose weight (if you have weight to lose), there will be no need to diet or exercise your way there. Really. And in order to live in that space (that may sound really impossible to imagine right now) you just need to understand how your thinking and your behaviour is getting in the way of your relationship with food, then you can side-step that whole power struggle once and for all and get on with living life for real and to the fullest. Last week I explained how our plans for how to eat on any given day seem, on the surface at least, to be well-intended and you believe they will help you achieve your goals of weight loss; feeling in control of food; and feeling better about yourself overall. Your initial self-commitment of the day may sound something like this: “I’m not going to eat anything after dinner tonight because if I start I won’t stop and if I don’t binge or snack after dinner tonight I’ll feel lighter and less doped up tomorrow, have less negative self-chatter in my head, and ultimately, if I keep that up, I’ll lose weight and stop being so preoccupied about my body. Then I’ll feel better overall, have more self-esteem, start wanting to have sex with my husband or start dating a great new guy and life will finally be the way it should be.” That’s definitely a motivating image! Who wouldn’t want that?!! (more…)
These consequences that humans experience from binging are both long and short term, and mental and emotional. Some examples are:a) Being overweight, or at least not your best self physically; perhaps a little more paunchy or jiggley than you might like which can make you feel less confident with others and less comfortable in your own skin and spend your precious life struggling with diets and weight loss plans to compensate. b) The extreme fluctuations in your mood from the sugar you are ingesting. (Remember that processed carbohydrates like bread, chips, crackers etc. quickly become sugar in your body too, so even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, those savories are impacting you almost exactly as they would if they were candy). These foods initially trigger a chemical spike in your body that raises your dopamine levels and makes you feel happy and soothed and comforted. (After all, dopamine is known as the feel-good hormone.) Then just as quickly they trigger a compensatory downward spike in your mood as the sugar rush ends, dopamine levels fall, and now you’re depressed, judging yourself, and tired and wanting more. c) Then there’s the experience of witnessing yourself break yet another promise to yourself. Where is that damn willpower when you need it anyway? How can we be so competent and capable in other areas of our lives and yet seem to completely lack any stamina and follow through whatsoever when it comes to ourselves and what and how much we are eating? (more…)
Overcoming Your Love-Hate Relationship With Food
If you’d like to understand, once and for all, why you feel so frustrated about your weight and why your relationship with food is so stressful, this article will explain it all and give you a simple exercise to experiment with so you can start overcoming your love-hate relationship with food. Regardless of whether you are an emotional eater, a compulsive eater or struggle with an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder this article will help you understand a key piece of the puzzle of what you need to do to change how much room food takes up in your life and in your brain, for good!
Last week I told you about the relationship between certain foods and your brain chemistry. I gave you the scientific data behind why you are naturally drawn to eat certain foods (like chips, bread, cheese, ice cream and chocolate) even though you know they aren’t the best for you nutritionally and won’t help you reach your weight loss goals. (If you prefer to watch a video rather than read, my video on sidestepping the food-emotion power struggle explains it all and then some.)
This week I want to introduce you to the real issue; the thing that is at the root of it all.
What is it that makes you want those foods, even when you’re not hungry, regardless of your diet plan or your intention to eat well and your true heart’s desire to lose weight and feel great in your body? Well, through my personal recovery from binge eating disorder and my 20 years as a specialist in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and trauma, I came to see clearly that the cause of your overeating or diet dilemma, had very little at all to do with food and instead was triggered by some faulty wiring in the supercomputer that is your brain.
I am happy to say that, through the use of neural mapping and the marvels of brain imaging, science has since proven this to be true. So, we now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you often eat more than you’re hungry for or binge or diet more than once or twice in your lifetime or struggle with anorexia, being eating disorder, or bulimia or other forms of eating disorders the fact is, right now you have in your brain, some mis-wiring and mis-firing that has created what I call ‘a confused stress response.’
This confused stress response is also present in those who find themselves dependent on alcohol, drugs, tv, the internet and other common human coping strategies. As frustrating as this might have been for you until now, it is actually quite easy to change once you know what to do and how to do it. (more…)
How Your ‘All or Nothing Thinking’ Impacts Your Eating and Weight
This article ‘How Your ‘All or Nothing Thinking’ Impacts Your Eating and Weight’ will help you to understand exactly that, and I’ll give you some specific examples for how you can start to trust yourself to think clearly and make choices that you really feel good about.
As I enjoy the peace, the safety, the trust and confidence I feel in my body and in my world, the warmth and love I share with my colleagues and friends, and the time…..yes, the time, it seems so long ago, that there was a time when I truly felt like I had no time. I wasn’t on death’s door by any means, but I sure lived as though a demon was chasing me. Before my own recovery from emotional eating (some may prefer to call it binge eating disorder or overeating, whatever you call it – that’s what I did – 24/7!), I lived in a state of chronic, high-level anxiety. I also felt so fat and ugly that I believed that if someone, anyone, saw me eating anything, they would judge me as fat and gross and bad, and they would be right. Of course, when I examine that story now, it’s just silly. What did I think? Did I think that because I had extra weight on my body I wasn’t allowed or entitled or needing of any food whatsoever? Well, actually, yeah. I did believe that I should just starve myself until I was “good enough” and then I could eat something. Of course I couldn’t actually sustain my self-imposed hunger strike for very long. It always ended, as it would for any human on the planet as studies have shown, with a great big binge. This is where my insecurity and low self-esteem turned into a full blown eating disorder with me trying to control my anxiety and insecurity through restricting food in the hopes that I would one day be thin enough to be acceptable and lovable and to never, ever, no matter what, be abandoned or rejected or judged by anyone. Of course, being thin was going to bring me the love and security and accolades that I so desperately sought. Everything would be better when I was thin. Right? Not exactly. (more…)
Video: Help for Overeating, Emotional Eating, and Weight Loss
Click here to watch this video (or click on the image below) and learn what keeps you stuck overeating and overweight or struggling with body image and dieting stress and what you can do to get a grip on food and on your weight for good.
Michelle Morand will help you understand why you can’t seem to get a grip on food and why your heartfelt commitment to change how you relate to food never seems to stick. She’ll give you some very simple questions to ask yourself to begin to create awareness in yourself for what is really triggering you so that you can begin to change the grip that food and body focus have on you, for good.
In this video: Help for Overeating, Emotional Eating, and Weight Loss, you’ll get the answers you’ve been seeking to help you begin to understand what’s been keeping you stuck and what you can do about it to start to feel confident in your body and trust yourself around any food, in any quantity, any time – even when no one is watching!
I’ve been there – and for over 20 years I’ve been enjoying a stress-free relationship with food and a stable and sexy weight for my body without any focus on diets or rigorous exercise programs. Eating is a natural thing, it doesn’t need to be difficult or at all stressful.
Let me help you to understand what’s gone sideways for you and why, and let me teach you the simple steps that will change every aspect of your life for the better.
Thanks to Fanny Kiefer for the opportunity to share this information with your T.V. audience and for being such a great host!