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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.

Are You Living in the Yellow Zone of Depression?

Are You Living in the Yellow Zone of Depression?

Everyone feels lousy sometimes.  Everyone experiences days when they just don’t want to get out of bed, when they’d rather just roll over, pull the covers up over their head, and call in sick to their life.

Depression is more than an occasional I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed day.  Depression is a condition marked by three characteristics: frequency, severity, and duration.

To help figure out if you are depressed, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1.    How often does this happen? (frequency)
  2.    How bad is it when it happens? (severity)
  3.    How long does it last when it happens? (duration)

The more it happens, the worse it is, and the longer it lasts, the more likely you are not just having a bad day—you are dealing with depression.

But what exactly is depression, especially when everyone has bad days, and people come in all sorts of emotional shapes and sizes? Depression is an overall category of specific feelings and behaviors.  However, if you are depressed, that depression may look very different from your cousin’s or aunt’s or the person’s down the street.  Trying to compare the way you feel, and matching it up with how someone else feels, may not help define whether or not you are depressed.

Instead of comparing one person to another, try comparing the way you feel with the following two lists.  The first I call my Yellow List, which describes symptoms that signal caution, and a need to be monitored.

As you look over the following Yellow List, a word of caution is needed.  Some Yellows can be tricky to identify, because they may have been present in your life for a long time.  You may be so used to these Yellows they have become normal for you.  A Yellow is not normal if it follows the three characteristics of depression symptoms: frequency, severity, and duration.

Here are items in the Yellow List:

  •    A loss of enjoyment in established activities
  •    Feeling restless, tired, or unmotivated at work
  •    An increase in irritability or impatience
  •    Feeling either wound up or weighed down
  •    Feeling overburdened with life and its activities
  •    A lack of spiritual peace of well-being
  •    A constant anxiety or vague fear about the future
  •    A fear of expressing strong emotions
  •    Finding relief by controlling aspects of your personal behavior, including what you eat or drink
  •    Feeling unappreciated by others
  •    Feeling a sense of martyrdom, as if you are constantly asked to do the work of others
  •    Exercising a pattern of impulsive thinking of rash judgments
  •    Apathetic when you wake up in the morning about how the day will turn out
  •    A sense of enjoyment at seeing the discomfort of others
  •    Anger at God for how you feel
  •    A recurrent pattern of headaches, muscle aches, and/or body pains
  •    Feeling left out of life
  •    Feeling trapped during your day by what you have to do
  •    Experiencing recurring gastrointestinal difficulties
  •    Feeling like your best days are behind you and the future doesn’t hold much promise
  •    Displaying a pattern of pessimistic of critical comments and/or behaviors
  •    Bingeing on high-calorie foods to feel better
  •    Feeling social isolation and distancing from family or friends
  •    Feeling that it’s easier to just do things yourself instead of wanting to work with others
  •    Feeling old, discarded, or without value
  •    Feeling trapped inside your body
  •    Dreading the thought of family get-togethers or social gatherings
  •    Feeling overweight, unattractive, or unlovable
  •    Sexual difficulties or a loss of interest in sexual activities
  •    Unmotivated to try new activities, contemplate new ideas, or enter into new relationships

Living in the Yellow means diminished joy and fulfillment, yet some people seem to live in that zone for a long time, finding ways to cope until the accumulated weight of despair or a sudden, traumatic life event propels them into a deep depression.

You can survive in the Yellows for quite a while, but that’s not really living.  This may seem like bad news, but it’s actually good news.  You weren’t meant to live a life of mere survival, and you don’t need to.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  The Center was recently voted one of the Top Ten Facilities in the United States for the Treatment of Depression.  Break free and achieve peace.  Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.

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.