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Practicing Self-Care During the Holiday Season

Practicing Self-Care During the Holiday Season

The wonderful sights and sounds of the holiday season have finally emerged around every corner. Decorations have resurfaced from basements and holiday traditions are in full swing. No matter which holiday you observe, the holiday season can prove to be both a challenging and rewarding time of year for those recovering from an eating disorder.

Many people struggle with the environmental and social triggers during the holiday season that may elicit old, destructive eating patterns. Staying committed to practicing self-care throughout the holiday season is your solution to remaining on the path of recovery. Practicing self-care will create a more meaningful holiday season for you and your loved ones and will help you to enjoy all of the holiday festivities.

As you begin the holiday season by thinking about what you must do for others, it is imperative to remember that your happiness and health is of the utmost importance.

Tips to practicing self-care during the holiday season

Stay committed. Maintaining a semblance of normalcy during the holiday season is extremely vital to improving your overall well-being and enhancing your recovery process. The holiday season can be extremely busy but staying committed to your therapy sessions and self-soothing techniques can help you to continue on the path of recovery. Be proactive and create an action plan with your therapist for the holiday season. Together, establish productive coping mechanisms you can use when you are in social environments that may elicit old, destructive eating patterns.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the perfect solution to preventing old, destructive eating patterns. Because the holiday season is filled with many social events that surround food, it is important to anticipate these moments, and practice how you will respond in a productive way. Communicating with your therapist and making a plan for these moments is an extremely beneficial way for you to still enjoy these social events without reverting to old behaviors.

If your friends and family are planning events around cooking and baking, make sure that you make an action plan with your therapist of how you can still get involved in those activities while maintaining a healthy, nutritional balance.

Additionally, staying committed to your recovery by practicing positive self-talk and being mindful in the moment is vital in maintaining inner peace and contentedness during the holiday season.

Participate in your favorite holiday traditions. Revive your spirit and continue on your recovery path by having fun. Getting involved in fun, traditional activities with family and friends is the ultimate self-soothing technique that distracts your mind and engages your energy towards exciting activities. Whether it is shopping, decorating, or planning social gatherings, diving into traditions with friends and family will revive your spirit.

By immersing yourself in the holiday traditions you enjoy, you will be feeding your spirit by improving your health and your overall well-being. Use the holiday season and your commitment to self-care to empower you to enjoy the special moments with your friends and family.

Plan ahead and prioritize. Do not let the stress of the holidays inhibit all of the success you have made during your recovery journey. Take time to assess your needs with your therapist or with your family members and prioritize your events. Dedicate time for maintaining self-soothing techniques such as writing, walking, yoga, or meditation to establish normalcy during this busy time of year. If you are traveling, plan ahead and schedule time to continue on your recovery journey by meal planning and exercising to maintain a healthy balance.

Take a step back from the festivities to collect your thoughts and allow yourself to decompress. Remember, your health is of the utmost importance and the stress of the holidays can sometimes lead to old patterns of thinking and behaving. Planning all of your events ahead of time and prioritizing your needs by taking time out for yourself is a beneficial way to prevent feelings of stress.

Communicate with your friends and family. When you are surrounded by the people you love, it becomes a wonderful reminder of how much you are cared for. The priority of your friends and family is your health and overall well-being. Make sure that you communicate your struggling moments with friends and family. Tell them about your recovery journey and what they can do to help during the holiday season.

The holiday season is the ultimate opportunity for you to practice self-care because the people you love will be aware of your recovery and will do everything they can to recognize warning signs or help you enjoy the holiday festivities.

Enjoy yourself. Release any unwanted thoughts, live in the present, and enjoy yourself. Make time for your favorite activity, go to the movies with friends, or practice yoga for a break during the holiday festivities. Be kind to yourself and continue to cultivate self-compassion by immersing yourself in the holiday traditions and activities you love to do.

You are worthy and capable of having the most memorable holiday season if you let your recovery process empower you. Recognize how far you have come and enjoy the special moments with friends and family. Let this time encourage and strengthen the person you have become beyond your eating disorder.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

 

Signs That You Are Stressed

Signs That You Are Stressed

The symptoms of stress can show up in unexpected ways.  Consider the following questions and whether you’re experiencing any of the following signs of a stress-filled life:

What is your current resting heart rate?

Stress leaves you energized and may cause you to have difficulty relaxing, so your heart may have difficulty returning to a low resting rate.

What is your resting blood pressure?

The more stressed you are, the harder your cardiovascular system works.  This can create a situation where your blood pressure spikes and then takes longer than normal to fall back down to within normal range.

Do you find yourself hyperventilating?

Deep breathing in the face of physical exertion is useful, as it allows for increased oxygen to be used by the body.  Hyperventilation, or overbreathing, however, creates a situation where the body releases too much carbon dioxide, resulting in dizziness, tingling, headache, and general weakness.

Has your dentist mentioned that you grind your teeth at night?

Teeth grinding is a known symptom of stress, as clenching of the jaw muscles causes the teeth to work against each other, even during sleep.

Do you find yourself breaking out in pimples, acne, or skin rashes?

Stress produces toxins in the body that can be excreted through the largest organ you have—your skin.

Are you always quick to catch whatever cold or flu seems to be going around?

Stress puts a tremendous strain on your immune system, which can result in lower resistance to illnesses and infections.

Is your interest in or ability to have sex flagging?

Stress can suck all the sexual energy out of a room, leaving you tired, unmotivated, and uninterested.  Stress can also lead to painful periods in women and episodes of impotence in men.

Are you gaining weight, or have you lost interest in food?  

Food is a common way people cope with stress—either by self-medicating through food or losing their appetites.  Large shifts in weight—either up or down—can indicate the presence of stress.

Are you eating normally and easily digesting what you eat?

In response to stress, some people may eat too much, too little, or the wrong types of foods.  In addition, the physical effects of stress can interfere with the process of digestion and elimination.

Do you find yourself ranting or venting your feelings of anger?

An emotional rant or venting may make you feel more relaxed, more relieved, because stress can be painful, and people in pain may react strongly in anger.  Anger is a powerful physical and psychological response that can bleed off some of the effects of stress.

As a busy professional, husband, and father, I feel the effects of stress in my own life.  As a therapist, I often see the effects of stress in the lives of those I work with on a regular basis.  For some people, these stress effects are so familiar, they seem normal.

In order to stress less, there are six steps you can take that, when integrated together, provide a pathway to successful long-term recovery.  These steps can be found in my new mini-book that discusses the importance of finding recovery from a stress-filled world.

Remember that God has promised to be with us through times of tension and stress.  When stressed, we are meant to say, like Paul, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

If you or a loved one is struggling with severe stress, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.

Eating Disorder Recovery: Mapping Your Progress

Eating Disorder Recovery: Mapping Your Progress

Healing from an eating disorder is a journey.  The path isn’t always easy and level, but neither is life.  You must want to get well, to move forward and reestablish a healthy, balanced relationship with food.  Once you have understood that something is drastically wrong with the choices you are making in your life, the responsibility for making positive change lies solely with you.  You must replace the false control of food with a positive control based on your new understanding of yourself and your past.

As you continue on your healing journey, allow me to give you some food for thought.  Mapping your progress can be very beneficial.  I encourage you to use a journal to assist in the recovery process.  Here are six tips for you to consider:

  1. Imagine your healing process as a journey.  Draw a map in your journal of your progress so far.  Show the path you’ve taken, the obstacles you’ve had to overcome or work around.  Write about the high points where you’ve come to understand a hidden truth.  Label it, “My Journey.”  Remember, don’t worry about the quality of your drawing.  Use color and whatever details help cement how you’re really feeling.  This picture is for you, a visual chronicle of the work you’ve done so far.
  2. Go back through a previous healing journal to refresh your memory.  Read over the statements and questions you’ve already answered.  Take a moment to put this journey into perspective.  Fill in your journey up to this point and then, if you like, anticipate some of the highs and lows that may come up as you continue.  If you can anticipate the lows, it may help you to get through them.  You’ll have an idea they are coming, although you may not be sure exactly when.
  3. Looking at your map, what are the major high points so far?  What are the major valleys so far?
  4. As you look over your past, what are you able to see now, from a more mature viewpoint, that you haven’t been able to see before?  Think about letting go of your anger.  What are your immediate reactions?  Read these next two statements aloud and then write down your answers:
    • I’ve always thought I was at fault for what happened to me.  Now I can see that what happened to me happened because…
    • It’s difficult to forgive my parents for not being perfect because…
  5. Read over the following and respond as honestly as you can.
    • It’s hard for me to accept responsibility for how I use food because…
    • I realize I’ve contributed to my unhealthy relationship with food by…
    • In order to get well, I’ve been able to…
    • I choose to accept the responsibility for my future because…
    • In order to get well, I’ve been able to…
    • I choose to accept the responsibility for my future because…
  6. You have to want to get well.  You have to believe you can get well.  Use the following statements to reinforce your desire and your belief in your own healing.
    • I have the following reasons for wanting to get well…
    • These are the reasons I know I can get well…

You have been experiencing waves of emotions that have tossed and turned you about.  It is time for some calmer waters.  Everything we do, see, and experience is sifted through the filter of our perspective.  It provides the lend through which we see the world.  Continue to document your healing journey.  In time, you will be able to reflect and see how far you have come.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

 

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.

 

The Warm Embrace of Comfort Food

The Warm Embrace of Comfort Food

Few things bring as much comfort as homemade bread, especially when it’s hot out of the oven and slathered with sweet cream butter. It’s warm; it’s soft; it’s delicious. I attended a charity event, and one of the items up for bid in the silent auction part was called Delivered Comfort—homemade bread delivered to your house every week for two months. It was a very popular item. People would walk along the tables, reading all of the cards and descriptions of items to bid on, and when they’d come to this one, there was almost a universal sigh. “Oh, fresh hot bread every week!” You could hear the longing in their voices.

I kept track of this silent auction item because it intrigued me. Watching this particular bid sheet, I kept seeing the same bidder number. As other bidders outbid her, this bidder kept upping the ante. Finally, the bidder signed up for the “guaranteed bid”, which meant she would pay any higher price, thus guaranteeing herself the winning bid. It was her way of saying, “The bread is mine!”

Aren’t you like that about your comfort food? You tend to get grouchy if anyone tries to interfere with it. You need that food. It’s your reward. It helps you feel good. You use it to cope. It brings you back to your happy place. It’s your comfort.

In an increasingly uncomfortable world, comfort food takes on new importance. You’ve dealt with the ignorant and mindless eating, but comfort food isn’t ignorant or mindless. You know precisely what you’re after when you eat it and give it your complete and undivided attention. You don’t just eat it; you revel in it.

It is no accident that comfort food tends to be high in carbohydrates from grains and sugars. You’re after a certain outcome where this food is concerned, and without really knowing the science of it, you stumbled upon starchy, sugary food to achieve that feeling. Your unscientific trial and error with the pantry produces a very scientific result. Foods high in carbohydrates cause your body to have an increased supply of substance called serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which is a fancy way of saying it provides a pathway for nerves to talk to each other. When your nerves are communicating with each other through serotonin, you feel relaxed and calm. If you have a lot of serotonin, you can feel drowsy. After that really big pasta meal on Sunday afternoon, what do you want to do? Why, take a nap! That’s serotonin at work.

One of the precursors of serotonin is tryptophan. If your body has tryptophan, it can make serotonin. Turkey has a large amount of tryptophan. After a big Thanksgiving meal, you sign, stretch, feel extremely content, then curl up on the sofa and snooze. This is your body on tryptophan.

Comfort food is physical, and it is emotional. It is snuggly, cuddly, feel-good food. The world can be harsh, stark, and edgy, so it’s no surprise you like your feel-good food. Even if you’re increasing your fruits and vegetables each day, this type of food can be difficult to give up, because if you give it up, you think you’re giving up comfort itself.

It’s not enough to add fruits and vegetables to your diet. It’s not enough to give up snacking. You need to come clean about your comfort food.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are ready to get the help you need to regain your health and to reach the end of the tunnel, call us at 1-888-771-5166 today.