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Make Vibrant Health Your Goal

Make Vibrant Health Your Goal

The physical side effects of a dysfunctional relationship with food are not unlike the environmental complications that have arisen from pollution in our world today.  You may have trouble imagining your body as polluted, so do the following exercise using graphic pictures that depict the damage pollution is causing to the earth.

  • Collect some magazines and make a collage of beautiful pictures of the earth; sky scenes, landscapes, seascapes.  If you can’t find appropriate images, draw a picture in your journal of a beautiful world.  This world represents the way God intended your body to be.
  • After that, find pictures of the ravages of pollution.  On the next page in your journal, draw or paste pictures of how pollution has harmed the world.  These images represent how your eating behaviors have polluted your body.  Be aware of your physical reactions to these different pictures.  Does the beautiful scenery make you feel calm and peaceful?  Does the polluted world give you feelings of sadness?
  • At the bottom of each picture, write a brief description of how you feel about what you’re looking at.  Just as the awareness of pollution’s dangers has caused people to repair the damage done to our earth, so also your own awareness of the real toll you are placing on your body can give you added motivation for discovering the source behind the pollution of your eating behaviors and putting an end to them.  Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as  God intended it makes me feel….  Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as it has been polluted makes me feel…  Fill in those blanks and reflect on your feelings.

All your life you’ve heard the expression, “It’s never too late.”  You need to believe that now.  Yes, there has been damage done to your body, but that damage can be dealt with and, in most cases, reversed.

In the past, you have spent a good deal of time focusing on how your body looks from the outside.  Now it’s time to look at your body from the inside.  What is happening to you on the inside affects how you look on the outside.  Your relationship with food has not brought you to the point of vibrant health.  Instead, it is robbing you of your well-being, little by little.

Before, you were concerned only with the end result, attaining some sort of desired result.  Now you need to be concerned with the means you are using to that end and the damage it is causing.  To be thin is not necessarily to be healthy.  To put on weight is not necessarily to be fat.  Vibrant health is what you are striving for physically.  Proper nutrition can aid your body in regaining the health of its systems.

Learn more about how nutrition can have an impact on your mental health.

If you or a loved one show signs of having an eating disorder, you may benefit from consulting an eating disorder specialist. Our team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE focus on whole-person recovery, and take special care to understand the many aspects in a person’s life that may be contributing to their eating disorder. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today.

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

As human beings, we want to be in control of our own lives. This is a universal characteristic, whether people profess faith or not. Control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as slavery. The paradox is that we invite excessities into our lives from our position of control. We use our control and decide to engage in the Gotta Have It! behavior.

Excessities, however, are notoriously bad guests. They don’t tend to stay within the boundaries we set. Once told yes, they don’t like to be told no, and they perpetually promise what they can’t deliver. Before long, what you invited into your life to obey your needs ends up becoming the one you obey. The sad reality is we begin excessities thinking they will be our slaves – to bring us significance or value or pleasure or numbness whenever we decide – but they end up enslaving us.

Perhaps one of the most insightful groups into this phenomenon of control and slavery and how one can turn into the other rather quickly is Alcoholics Anonymous. The alcohol doesn’t take that first drink thinking it’s going to take over his or her life. No one forces them to take that first drink or the second or maybe even the third. After that, however, it gets a little murky. Alcoholism is a very slippery slope, and Alcoholics Anonymous bands together people in sobriety with a Twelve-Step path to recovery. Here are those Twelve Steps. As you read them, think in the context of Gotta Have It! behavior, whether it’s alcohol or not:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs. {1}

The Twelve Steps, especially the first three, speak to a very fundamental reality that is constantly misconstrued and overlooked: first, that when our lives become unmanageable, they are out of control; and second, that in order to get back control, we have to completely give up control. Jesus puts it this way: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). Again, self-control isn’t something you can arrive at all on your own. Rather, you gain self-control when you give it up to something else.

Giving up control is a frightening prospect for many people. They believe the control they have is the only thing holding the monsters of life at bay. What they don’t realize is that this control isn’t opening the door to freedom; it’s keeping the door closed with them imprisoned inside. The monsters aren’t being kept on the other side of the door; the monsters are really on their side of the door, being kept in.

As topsy-turvy and scary as it sounds, the best way to gain control is to give it up. You need to understand an important point: The control you are so hesitant to give up is in reality not your control; it is the control the excessity has over you. This is a tug-of-war of wills – yours versus the excessity. You need to give up your control, as the AA second step says, to a Power greater than yourself.

{1} “The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,” A.A. World Services, Inc., www.aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-121_en.pdf.

 

Emotional Abuse:  The Illusionist

Emotional Abuse: The Illusionist

“Bill is such a great guy!” Carly smiled and made some sort of neutral comment. It did absolutely no good to dispute the evidence of Bill’s obvious charm. He was engaging, witty, energetic, and charismatic. People liked him. She knew the feeling.

When Carly first met Bill, she was overwhelmed by his outgoing nature. His gestures were larger than life, outlandish even. But to a young woman being courted, he seemed the walking incarnation of romance. She was being wooed. What Carly didn’t realize was that while she was being wooed by Bill, she and everyone else were being fooled. Bill’s grand gestured and protestations of care and love were for general audiences only. In the intimacy of the private viewing area called home, Bill turned out to be someone quite different.

At first, Carly just put up with Bill’s moodiness, nastiness, and withdrawing into himself. She figured he would snap out of it. It didn’t take her long to learn that Bill’s negative private behavior could turn in an instant if someone cam over to the apartment. Finally, she mentioned to Bill her concern over the way he treated her at home as opposed to the way he treated her in front of others.

Bill’s reaction was astonishment. He acted as if he had no idea what she was talking about. Every incident she brought up was countered with a rush of excuses, reasons and outright denials as Bill fought to maintain the illusion of himself as the compassionate lover, the life of the party, the perfect soul mate. It struck Carly that Bill needed her only as long as she continued to mirror the reflection of himself he so needed to see.

Illusionists are generally highly intelligent, charismatic people who thrive on being seen well by others. As long as there is an audience, they are “on.” Because it takes a great deal of energy to be “on,” their “off” persona may be the exact opposite. In public they are witty and humorous; in private they are sarcastic and cutting. In public they are deferential and attentive; in private they are hostile and distant. In public they are happy and easygoing; in private they are sullen and angry.

Being in a relationship with an illusionist can cause you to doubt your own judgment. Because illusionists are generally highly intelligent, they are able to convince you, even in the face of contrary evidence, that the concerns you have are invalid.

If there is a problem, you are always portrayed as the source. Feigning confusion, they appear shocked that you find their behavior unusual. If you ask other people, people who have seen only the carefully constructed illusion, you may not get validation of your concerns. Instead, you may hear a reiteration of how wonderful the illusionist is. Highly persuasive, the illusionist is very adept at creating and maintaining a positive image.

What is most important to illusionists is the maintenance of the illusion of who they are. You are valuable to them only when you are helping them to maintain this illusion. You become a danger to them if you question the illusion they have created. Because the illusion is more important to them than you are, the truth is never acknowledged. Your reality of events and circumstances is consistently denied, downplayed, explained away, rejected. This is a pernicious form of emotional abuse in that it causes the abused to second-guess his or her own assessment of the relationship. As such, many will stay in the relationship for an extended period of time until their ability to help their abuser maintain the illusion demands too great an emotional toll.

At this point, the abused person will lean but with his or her sense of self seriously tattered. After all, how could anyone leave such a great person? Because others have not seen through this illusion, the abused person who leaves can appear to be in the wrong. Not only does the abused lose the relationship, be he or she may lose any friends made during the relationship.

If you or a loved one is struggling with emotional, sexual or physical abuse, or body image or other dependency issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

What You Put Into Your Body Matters

What You Put Into Your Body Matters

It is important not only to eat healthy foods but to eat them in the proper proportion.  As a unique individual, you have an amount of calories needed each day and a weight range that is healthy and right for you.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to visit with your primary care physician or gynecologist, if you have not done so already, and determine what a healthy weight looks like for you.

Different women have different body types and frames, so two women of the same height arrive at different healthy weights.  Many women are as cyclical with their weight as they are with their periods.   They lose and gain the same ten to fifteen to twenty pounds over and over again.  When the weight is off, they’re happy.  When the weight is on, they’re miserable.

Because of the nature of yo-yo dieting, the tendency over time is for the weight to come back on, stay on, and increase.  As you work with your doctor to find your healthy weight, come up with a plan to not only achieve that weight but also maintain it over time.

Additionally, how you feel and the health of your body depends not only on what you eat but also what else you put into your body.  If you are a smoker, I urge you to quit.  Pumping nicotine into your system and smoke into your lungs is not good for you.  The evidence of the damage done, apart from the dangers of lung cancer, is compelling.  Smoking is an age accelerant, as its toxicity contributes to a more rapid decline of the body and overall health.  If you smoke, you need to stop.  This is also a conversation for you to have with your physician.

Be aware of the preservatives, additives, and hormones used in the foods you eat and drinks you consume.  Many women have sensitivities and allergic reactions to these substances.  Whenever possible, choose organic-type produce and foods.  There are medical tests you can take that can help identify if your body is experiencing an ongoing allergic reaction to foods and other substances.  If you suspect you are allergic to a certain food, eliminate it from your diet for a period of time and track your symptoms.  When your body is under constant assault because of a sensitivity or allergic response, it will affect how you feel.

Be aware of the amount of alcohol you consume.  As a chemical dependency professional, as well as a licensed counselor, I’ve seen the hard alcohol causes.  If you have a problem with alcohol, don’t drink at all.  If you don’t have a problem with alcohol, make sure to drink moderately.  Not only do you need to be aware of the alcohol you are consuming, you need to also be aware of the extra calories in that alcohol.  The more you drink, the more you impact the amount of calories consumed each day.

Lastly, be aware of the type and quantity of drugs you take.  These include, of course, over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs.  If you are concerned about what you’re taking and how much, consider having a chemical dependency assessment done.  These assessments factor in both legal and illegal substances and evaluate your level of dependency and abuse.  If you’re worried or if family and friends have expressed their concern, if your use has interfered with your job or with social and family functions, I urge you to seek professional advice and assessment.

Please be aware that use and misuse of drugs is one strategy women use to self-medicate their feelings of anger.  Because the anger is suppressed and not dealt with, it doesn’t go away.  Because the anger doesn’t go away, the need for self-medicating doesn’t go away, and use can change to abuse.

If you or a loved one is struggling with body image or other dependency issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch with you soon.

Eating Disorders and the Cycle of Anger

Eating Disorders and the Cycle of Anger

Eating disorders and negative patterns with food begin with personal pain and set up a vicious cycle of anger: destructive behavior—shame—depression—self-hate—and back to anger. No matter what your food patterns, the misuse of food starts as a natural response of anger to pain. It goes something like this:

  • Something has caused tremendous pain in your life.
  • The pain hurts, and that you should experience this pain is unjust and makes you angry.
  • As you look for a way to vent this anger, to seek respite from the anger, you choose food.
  • Control of food, either through under-eating, over-eating, or intentional unhealthy eating, becomes a self-destructive behavior.
  • Your active participation in a self-destructive behavior produces feelings of guilt and shame.
  • Intense feelings of guilt and shame produce a profound sense of depression.
  • Guilt, shame and depression reinforce self-hate.
  • Self-hate says you deserve the pain.
  • Now you are angry not only at the pain in your past but at yourself for the pain in the present.
  • Once again you choose to vent this anger, to gain relief from this anger, by controlling food and continuing your self-destructive behavior.
  • Continuing this behavior produces shame and guilt.
  • Shame and guilt reinforce self-hate.
  • Self-hate says you deserve pain.
  • And the cycle continues on.

Breaking this cycle and finding the strength to disconnect from an unhealthy relationship with food requires relearning not only the proper response to food, but also the proper response to anger. Anger occurs as a natural result in life. We get angry over large and small things every day. How we deal with anger is something we are taught through either example or direct instruction. The training ground for dealing with anger is the family. Too often we have learned inappropriate ways of dealing with our anger through the examples of our families.

You’ve been numbing or avoiding your anger through your patterns with food for so long that it may be difficult for you to connect with that anger and put it into words. Oftentimes, however, recovery from your eating disorder can only be realized once you dig into the true origin of that anger.

Control over this anger has been the silent motivation behind your food patterns. But overeating, unhealthy eating, bingeing and purging, or starving your emotions into submission has only brought you a temporary respite from this emotion at a terrible physical and emotional cost.

The way to really control this feeling of anger is first to acknowledge that it is real. You need to understand your anger. You need to really feel it.

Re-experiencing your anger in its fullness is the price you must pay to free yourself from its control. Confronting your anger and those who caused it will free you for the next step—forgiveness. Only then will you be able to break the cycle of anger, and start taking back the control over your emotions and life.

If you are struggling with a cycle of anger that is fueling an eating disorder, contact the eating disorder specialists at The Center • A Place of HOPE at 1-888-771-5166. They can help you explore support and treatment options to regain your health and well-being.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Hope Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.