This is a fast paced world and most of us live our lives as if we are in a race to the finish.. We seem to think we are going to get somewhere and when we do, we will be able to stop and rest. Where exactly is it that we think we will get to? What will have to happen for us to have finally arrived “there?” Does “there” mean being at a certain career level or seeing a particular number appear when we step onto the scale? Does “there” mean having a certain kind of relationship or car or amount of money? Are we ever content just to be who we are, where we are or what we are? Are we ever happy with what we have, what we look like, what we do? Close your eyes, breathe slowly and take some time to think about yourself and these questions.
I notice that people who come to talk with me about their struggles with food and weight most often are keeping themselves so busy that these basic questions have never entered their minds. They think that there is some miracle place that they will get to at some point and all their worry and stress will dissolve. They think there will come a time when they will no longer have difficult issues to confront or problems to solve. This will not happen. What does happen, for example, when you lose an amount of weight? Do you sit back and enjoy your new body size? Do you feel relaxed and proud of yourself? Is the struggle really over? No, not usually. Instead you fear that you will regain every pound and more. You may even become more anxious and stressed. There is never a time when you can relax and say “It’s over.” When you get there, there is no there there!
So rushing towards an unattainable goal gets us nowhere. I suggest you spend some time thinking about this and rethinking your priorities. Think about why you want to stop eating compulsively at this time. You will be ever frustrated and discontented with yourself, your life and your weight if you fail to appreciate yourself and your situation in present time. We spend most of our time living in the past or future. It is challenging to stay in the present. What we have in reality is only the present moment to enjoy. We are always thinking of things we did or didn’t do in the past or worrying about what we will or won’t do or have in the future. We miss the present moment and our lives go by without our even being aware of the passage of time. We remain out of touch with ourselves this way. Staying in the present helps us appreciate our experiences and ourselves. Obsessing about the past or future keeps us disconnected from ourselves and our experience. This disconnection keeps us anxious and unhappy and our Chew smiles and appreciates that!
With love and care,
Acceptance of our whole self does not come overnight. It is not something we can just decide to do, and then do. Loving our bodies takes time. It takes patience and the willingness to open our hearts to the possibility that we are beautiful, loving beings. We may not feel beautiful. We have learned not to. The messages we have received over the years have reinforced our negative self-images repeatedly. We must begin now to give ourselves new, positive messages and to construct new images.
Begin to think about how your body has been treating you. Think about the many ways this body has performed for you over the years. I am talking about really appreciating and getting to know your body. Become familiar with what it really looks like and appreciate how it has served you throughout your life. The process of making friends with your physical self is a worthwhile pursuit and an essential one if you are to treat yourself with respect and care. For example, if you have stretch marks that are the result of pregnancy and birth, then think of how miraculous it was to conceive and bear a child. Think of your legs and of all the miles you have walked. Think about your heart and how it has been pumping blood tirelessly to all of your organs day and night for years. These are things we seldom stop to appreciate but looking at ourselves in this way can help us cultivate genuine appreciation of ourselves. This is necessary if we are to treat ourselves in a loving way. Our bones, our muscles, all of our body systems are part of ourselves and, although we may become ill at times, or suffer from disease or have accidents, our bodies keep serving us in the best ways they can under all circumstances.
Many of us have abused our bodies over the years. We may have starved them and then stuffed them with food. We may have given them diet pills, diuretics, and laxatives and then fed them damaging substances like caffeine, alcohol or aspartame. We may not have given them the exercise and care they have needed to perform optimally. It is not too late to begin nurturing your body and treating yourself with respect. To overcome compulsive over-eating completely, and to maintain a healthier body permanently, you must begin to cultivate a warm and friendly attitude towards your body. It may not be perfect but it has been functioning for you since birth. By looking at your whole self – inside and out – and appreciating yourself, you are developing the self-love necessary for the changes you plan to make.
With love and care,
I’m sure you have taken significant steps towards changing your overeating behavior. As you have read my newsletters and blogs you have gained a clearer understanding of your relationships with food, with your body, with your feelings and with your spirit and you have learned how societal messages have impacted upon you. As you have been educating yourself, you have been preparing to move in a healthier direction. You have been doing the research necessary for making important, permanent changes in your life. Hopefully you have begun to understand where some of your self-destructive attitudes and behaviors came from and to recognize many of the ways you have been pressured to diet and to fit into a mold. Armed with this knowledge, you are ready to stop listening to others and to make some different choices. It is time to listen to your own voice.
Food has served some very important purposes for you. As you learn more about this, food no longer serves as an effective way to cope with life’s challenges and the feelings that go along with them. Recognizing the negative messages you got from family, society, peers, religion, government, the media, and others about your body and body size helps you to challenge these messages. Realizing that you were expected to please others, to earn their approval as a way of feeling good about yourself, is also crucial knowledge. Knowing this frees you to find other ways to feel good about yourself. Likewise, knowing that the pressure to conform had much to do with your choice to abuse yourself with food helps you to end this self-abuse. All of this knowledge is powerful and will support you in finding and making more self-loving choices.
By realizing how you got here you move automatically into a new place. Please appreciate that you did not create the environment you grew up in. You have been reacting to physical, emotional and social cues and you have been using inappropriate eating behaviors to take care of yourself. You have not been responsible for your self-destructive behaviors in the past. Your overeating has been, instead, a result of all the forces around you and within you. Yes, you did pick up the food and put it into your mouth but it would have been difficult not to do so. You did not have the understanding and the tools necessary for resisting your powerful urges to binge. Now you do!
Your overeating most likely began as a way of protecting yourself from painful feelings. As a child you had no way to defend yourself or to speak up when people treated you unfairly. You learned that food could “take the edge off” when you were hurt or angry or anxious and you most likely experienced these painful feelings at times because you were bombarded with negative, hurtful messages. At that time, you could not understand the impact of these messages upon you. You chose food to cope with the confusion and pain that you experienced as a result. As you know, this has not worked. Food is not an effective way to cope with difficulties. As you know, there are better, less painful ways to handle your experiences and feelings and more productive ways to meet life’s challenges.
We do eat for so many reasons! Not only when we are uncomfortable but, in our society, to celebrate, fill hours of boredom, react to the addictive properties of sugar, fat and salt, etc. We are also duped by advertising slogans and fashion magazines. Many of these topics I have touched upon and there are many more to discuss.
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I hope you are enjoying every moment of your summer.
For me, caffeine is the hardest “drug” to eliminate. I play games with it…. a little this morning, none tomorrow (I tell myself) but more tomorrow is usually the case. I have been on the caffeine merry-go-round forever! Coffee, chocolate, non-herbal tea, some medications and many soft drinks contain caffeine. It initially speeds up body systems and many women claim they enjoy this “rush” because they experience temporary energy and can more easily go without solid food – having a cup of coffee instead of a nutritional breakfast. Mistakenly, they think they are helping themselves by taking in fewer calories and consequently losing weight. This is an illusion. Caffeine can produce anxiety. For some of us anxiety can be the catalyst to compulsive eating, especially of non-nutritional foods. For others, it can precipitate powerful urges to withhold nourishment. If you react to anxiety by withholding food, you give your body the message that it is in danger and your body decides it must store the calories and fats it has to prevent starvation. This is an example of our primal fear of famine kicking in. Even though our intellect knows there is no chance of actual starvation, our body has its own set of instructions left over from millions of years ago when food was difficult to obtain.
Caffeine intake leads to irritability and anxiety. Because our metabolism is accelerated, our body is working much harder than it needs to and we become exhausted. Caffeine can precipitate panic attacks and heart palpitations. It also acts as a diuretic and causes our bodies to excrete twice as much calcium from our body as we normally would. Excessive use of it can lead to dehydration. Since thirst is often mistaken for hunger, the dehydration effect can also lead to overeating. So, physically, caffeine use is self-abusive and may mislead us into thinking we are gaining energy and getting smaller by eliminating fluids. What is really happening, however, is that we are exhausting our body, lowering our metabolism by withholding food, increasing our anxiety and assuring that weight control and optimum health are harder to achieve.
As previously mentioned, anxiety caused by excessive caffeine intake can lead many of us straight to the doughnut shop or candy store to get what we think we need to calm our nerves (mask our feelings). So using caffeine leads many of us to seek out fats and sugars which provide temporary satisfaction and relief while, at the same time, assuring us of a lowered metabolism, increased anxiety, decreased energy and increased fat storage. Many of us also end up feeling exhausted and depressed as the effects of caffeine wear off and we may crave more caffeine. (Why do you think all the coffee shops with cases of muffins and other sugary treats are so successful?) What a not-so-merry-go-round!
A favorite caffeine choice for many women is chocolate (particularly just prior to menstruation). This substance contains caffeine and also theobromine (which acts in a similar way to caffeine) and is a powerful, mood altering, addictive drug. People joke about being “chocoholics” but, for many, this topic is not a laughing matter. What eating chocolate does is provide sugar, fat and caffeine. It is a perfect binge food!
So, I’m not saying don’t drink coffee or eat chocolate. A little of these substances is fine. But, if it is as addictive for you as it is for me, please be careful. Your body wants the best for you. Pay attention to how you feel when you put anything into your body. Your body and your emotions will tell you what’s best for your particular body chemistry.
Be well and enjoy the spring flowers….
Blessings, Dr. Denise
Why do so many of us think that we should feel good all the time? When a feeling comes along that we experience as unpleasant, we think something must be wrong and we have to get rid of that uncomfortable feeling right away. We try to figure out what’s wrong – which usually means what we have done wrong – so we can correct it and feel good again. Not only is it dreadfully hard work to try to “feel good” all the time, it is impossible and for many of us it is especially hard right now. All human beings, at times, have feelings of dread, sadness, worthlessness, shame, envy, etc.
Right now, following the Boston Marathon bombings many of us feel broken-hearted, overwhelmed, furious, helpless, frightened, Just to name a few emotions that are flying around and through us. Please sit with your feelings for a bit and stop futilely trying to eliminate them. Pay attention to the messages your feelings are trying to communicate. They tell us much about ourselves. To eliminate them without first attending to the messages they bring is not useful and keeps us on a treadmill, eating to soothe ourselves with no idea why. It is tempting to block out these feelings using our old standbys of sugar, fat and salt, but instead allow the emotions, experience them and think of ways to honor yourself and the many lives touched by this disaster.
What can you do to help? What constructive action can you take? Can you donate funds to a charity? …write a letter in support of gun control? …pray? volunteer at your local SPCA? …reach out to a friend or donate time to help in your church or school? There are limitless ways to help other beings. So please go within your heart and use your feelings constructively. (Sugar fat and salt will leave you alone when they realize you are not going to turn to them for relief.)
Blessings to each of you,
Much research about women and relationships has been conducted by Jean Baker Miller and her colleagues at the Stone Center at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Dr. Miller and several other women began meeting early in the 1970’s to think and talk about how women relate to themselves, others and the world in different ways than men. They began developing a theory they named “Self-in-Relation” in an attempt to capture some of the ways women operate uniquely in the world. A pivotal premise of this theory is that women’s self-esteem depends upon our ability to make and maintain healthy relationships. Men and women may be similar as infants but early on our socialization process takes us in clearly different directions. Men (usually) are encouraged to move towards independence, autonomy and self-actualization. Women, however, are guided towards establishing relationships and nurturing them.
Male self-esteem (usually) revolves around work and the ability to be autonomous and to succeed in the world. For women, self-esteem is more internally directed. It is clearly tied to the connections we have with others. Our partners, children, family members, friends and acquaintances all become woven into the fabric of our daily emotional lives. When something is “not right” with any of these relationships, our self-esteem suffers. We blame ourselves for the problems and this can lead us to feeling out of control in general and quickly out of control around food. For us to thrive in relationships, grow through them and not run to food when we fear they are threatened, we need to behave assertively, honestly, clearly and in an open-hearted way. Today, as we all realize it is Valentine’s Day, You might contact a friend or loved on just to connect. It can make a big difference!
Happy (late) Valentine’s Day,
This year I resolve to take better care of myself. I will lose these extra pounds, begin an exercise program and manage my stress more productively. I will…” How are you doing with your self-improvement efforts at this point? If you have managed to keep your resolutions in the foreground and to implement your program to date, I commend you! For many, however, with January only half over, New Year’s resolutions have already faded into the background. Why is it so very difficult to stay focused on our good intentions, to manage food issues successfully and to make self-loving choices about diet every day?
One central reason is that we both reward and punish ourselves with food. We do this because as children we were most likely rewarded and punished with food. In my home, for example, desserts were withheld until all of the vegetables had disappeared. We were given cookies or candy for reinforcement if we behaved and, if we were “extra good,” we could have popcorn or a snack late in the evening. You may have been sent to bed without supper as a punishment or not allowed the ice cream or candy others received because you had been “bad.” For most, if not all of us, there are memories of food being used in these ways.
Food is a powerful motivator. Behavior modification programs use candies, for example, to change difficult behaviors in children or in people who are learning impaired. Once the child or adult learns that he or she will receive a candy when they perform a specific behavior, they become motivated to perform that behavior again to receive another treat. It is extremely effective.
We have all been conditioned in this same way to some extent. If we learned as children that food is a reward, we may continue to use it in that way and the deprivation we experience on any diet plan may translate to us as punishment. If food was withheld from us when we were little to keep us in line, we may feel angry now when we experience any hunger. We may rebel against those who punished us then by eating even more now than we really want or need. Begin to notice how often you give yourself a “treat” as a reward. Notice how often you feel deprived and punished at times when you are restricting food.
Taking responsibility for what we put into our mouths means, in part, releasing some of our old beliefs about food. If we can appreciate food as neutral – not good or bad – we can begin making more thoughtful choices. Food is a powerful force in each of our lives. It is hard to untangle our present eating behaviors from the ways we viewed and experienced eating in our childhood years. It is helpful to recognize this and to begin paying attention to the ways you may be using food to reward yourself or how you may be experiencing even mild hunger as a punishment. If you realize your tendencies to do this, you will be less compelled to act on impulse and you can give yourself time to decide whether you really want to eat or not.
Making resolutions without understanding some of the reasons you may be sabotaging yourself can lead to repeated failures and frustration. To truly Tame your Chew and relax around food, it is necessary to look inside and understand that food is neither a reward nor a punishment. If you choose sugars and carbohydrates to beat yourself up when you have failed, or to reward your accomplishments, you will continue riding the merry-go-round of dieting and failure. Perhaps now is the time to get off. Pay attention to and identify some reasons you may be eating more than you really want to. Ask yourself if it is really food that will fill your needs. Most likely it is not. Chances are that food will only temporarily fulfill your needs. You may really be tired and need to rest, or exercise or have a good cry or some support from a good friend. Think your situation through and see if you can identify what you really need at the time.
Make as many self-loving, conscious choices as you can. Enjoy whatever you do choose to eat and never, under any circumstances, beat yourself up. Remind yourself that you are in charge of you – not your “Chew” and remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons. So try to relax and be gentle with yourself. The more you nurture yourself in other ways, breathe and remind yourself that you have conscious choices to make every moment, the less important food will become.
I am blessed this winter to be living right across the street from the ocean in New Hampshire. What a glorious opportunity for me to spend time soaking in all those negative ions for the crashing waves and salt air! One day recently I woke up feeling “off” – I felt tired, crabby (I know that’s hard to imagine!) and had absolutely no energy to get up and get going. I came downstairs with Sapphi, my precious little therapy dog and was inclined to read and relax the day away.
I looked at Sapphi as she looked from me to her leash again and again and guilt prevailed. Rather that witness her little disappointed face, I decided to let her take me for a beach walk. Off we went. She sniffed everything on the ground and I sniffed everything in the air. It was a long, delightful experience. We walked quickly at times and slowly at others. We stopped just to marvel at the waves and seagulls (Which Sapphi unsuccessfully tried to catch. She learned they can and do fly and she cannot.)
Returning home, the grouchy Denise was replaced with a peaceful and content one. Giving myself that time to spend with my puppy and enjoy nature made all the difference. So, my question to you is this: What have you done for yourself today? Please treat yourself lovingly and give yourself something special (just for you) today and every day!
Warmest holiday wishes,
As mentioned in The Appetite Connection, you receive a constant streams of messages from your intuitive self that frequently are not about hunger (although they may seem like they are). These messages are a vital part of your internal guidance system — and this system is never telling you to go on the latest fad diet. If you simply pay attention to the hunger messages and attempt to satiate yourself with food, you have missed important communications from your internal guidance system. You are likely to remain hungry and not feel satisfied. When you pay close attention to the valuable communications your guidance system brings, you begin to follow your intuition and make self-loving (not self-loathing) choices.
If you heed the messages of this valuable internal guidance systemyou will make choices that are in your best interest in all aspects of your life. As you practice listening to your inner voice, your world will transform in amazing ways! Dr. Denise explains…
In this exciting video Dr. Denise shares various ideas to help you along your path to a healthy body, mind and spirit (without deprivation and dieting). She outlines her holistic philosophy of healing from food control issues and offers many ideas to propel you along your journey to a delicious life and the body, mind and spirit you have been longing for – free from emotional eating.