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.
We all know that diets don’t work and yet we are always in pursuit of that one “magic” diet that will. In this culture we crave instant gratification and many of us constantly search for the magic answer (and there is no such thing). We eat for emotional, social and spiritual reasons, not just because we are physically hungry. In this video, Dr. Denise Lamothe explains How to Tame your Chew.
Chances are you have been victimized in today’s culture. Perhaps you were urged to mold yourself into a shape that you would never be able to achieve. Most likely you were victimized in this way not only by other people but by the huge, powerful diet industry. Maybe you were invalidated and learned that your feelings and thoughts were of no importance. Chances are you were humiliated at times and learned to protect yourself by pushing your emotions deep inside perhaps with emotional eating. Instead of being taught how absolutely precious you are, you learned that you were faulty in some way. That is not true. You are perfect just as you are. You will never be able to do everything perfectly at all times—that is not the human way—but you are a perfect being nonetheless.
My position is we have all been damaged in some way during our lifetimes. The beautiful light within each of us has been hiddenunder a blanket of fear. We grow up thinking that we are not goodenough, and we work harder to prove our worth to others to garnertheir approval. We think if we can work harder, lose weight and look flawless we will get others to admire us, validate, love and respect us.
We search outside of ourselves fordirection and approval instead of looking within (where our truth lies) and trusting ourselves to know what is best. The tactic of looking outside of ourselves will never help us blossom into the energetic, joyful spirits we are deep inside.
In The Taming of the Chew and The Appetite Connection I outline ways to understand why you have been behaving as you have and then offer many suggestions for ways to connect with your inner guidance and your spirit. Once you make this connection will you be free tocreate the life of your personal dreams—a truly delicious life.
Remember, there is no one answer, no one right way. You are a distinct being—precious and loveable. My hope is you will realize just how magnificent you truly are! I wish you a life of purepleasure. You deserve that!
Operating in the future is as destructive as focusing on the past but in different ways. When you allow yourself to anticipate what the future holds for you, you are likely to either expect problems that may not materialize or to set yourself up with expectations that may not be met. Either way, this is another waste of precious time and energy. A third consequence of thinking too much into the future is the likelihood that you will overwhelm yourself. If you begin, for example, to think of all the things you have to do, the pending workload will seem impossible to cope with. You will be tired before you begin. You may find yourself stuck and shoving chocolate, pasta or cookies into your mouth. Remind yourself to come back from the future into present time.
None of us can operate in present time at every moment. We probably spend 90% of our time in the past or the future. Begin to notice this in your own thought patterns. If you would like to learn more, I highly recommend you read the works of ThichNhatHanh, a Buddhist monk who writes beautifully about being mindful and living in the present. The teachings of this gentle man guide us in the art of being in each moment and appreciating fully our experience here on earth. He advises us to focus on the present moment as often as possible, to breathe deeply and to smile.
If we don’t focus on the present and we allow our energy and attention to jump back and forth between past and future, we lose the present. In doing so, we miss opportunities to feel and experience our lives. This behavior keeps us eating, and eating even more, in an effort to feel satisfied and alive. Eating, of course, doesn’t help. If we are out of touch with our feelings and experiences in the present, we will continue the pattern of overeating. We will notice that time is passing by while we are sitting on the side lines observing life instead of living it. When you notice that you are in past or future time, remind yourself to be in the present. The past is gone and the future is not yet here to command your attention. You need all of your energy to be here now.
What does it mean to set boundaries? I asked professors and peers to explain boundaries but no one told me anything concrete to really clarify the term. So, I observed people who seemed healthy and well-adjusted and I listened carefully to them. I watched other people make themselves and their needs top priority and gradually I began to get some idea of what people meant by “clear, firm boundaries.”
Having boundaries means feeling good about ourselves and setting clear limits with others. It means saying what we really mean and then sticking to it. It means not allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of and expressing our true feelings. It means taking responsibility for ourselves and our feelings and not for everyone else and their feelings. In short, it means being true to ourselves.
This is important for each of us to consider. If we do not understand what “ healthy boundaries” are we will not be able create them and maintain them. If we don’t create and maintain them, we will feel confused, unhappy and anxious and, we are likely to search for food to anesthetize ourselves and soothe our discomfort. Having clear, healthy boundaries is essential to feeling in control of our lives and to eliminating compulsive eating behavior permanently.
Having healthy boundaries means so many things. It means trusting appropriately. It means entering into and building any relationship step by step. Sometimes we may think in black and white terms, either not trusting at all or trusting completely before we really get to know the other person. When we have clear boundaries, we go slowly and move into any relationship paying careful attention to our inner voices. We don’t distrust or fully trust immediately. We become intimate one step at a time, all the while asking ourselves if this is a healthy connection for us to put our energy into
We respect ourselves. We weigh the consequences of our actions and maintain our personal values whether others agree with them or not. We become sexually involved only when we feel comfortable doing so. We say “no” to any advance, touch, sex, gift, food, etc. that we don’t want and we ask another before touching them. We do not take advantage of, or exploit others, in any way. We clearly communicate our wants and our needs and we treat ourselves and others fairly and lovingly.
Being clear means talking to ourselves and others gently, honestly, assertively, respectfully and lovingly. It means staying centered on ourselves and nurturing a positive attitude. It means using our sense of humor and being our own loving, nurturing parent. If we fail to do these things, life is murky and difficult much of the time.
Because women are socialized to be passive, to please others, and to put personal needs aside, being assertive and clear does not come easily. Some have trouble at first just saying the word “no.” Even though it may seem awkward or scary at first, it is crucial to be true to yourself and to set boundaries that feel appropriate and safe for you. If you do not, you will continue to eat your way through the confusing and painful feelings you will experience.
In honor of Emotional Overeating Awareness Month, it is valuable to review the following article. April is a fantastic time to think about your own eating patterns. Emotional eating is a lifestyle for many and causes weight gain, frustration, guilt and shame. We may be soothing painful feelings or mindlessly snacking and we become disconnected from physical hunger.
You can manage your stress in other ways — take a walk, talk with a friend or take a warm bath for example. You must consider your total wellbeing. If you think self-destructive thoughts about your appearance then you are likely enter a loop of negative thinking leading to negative behaviors, increased weight and worries, deprivation, guilt, shame and fear. This can lead to depression, increased anxiety and eventual apathy. You may submerge yourself in unhealthy food to shield yourself from these painful feelings because you know from experience that these substances will reliably provide a few minutes of relief.
You are eating for emotional, not physical, reasons and you set yourself up to fail at meeting your goals. Once you accept yourself and become gentle with yourself, you will make progress toward reaching your ideal weight, vibrant health and balance. Each of you must figure out precisely your own ways to soothe yourself during difficult times. Pause, breathe and substitute positive thoughts to turn your negative thinking around.
Pay close attention to your feelings. As I describe in great detail in my latest book, The Appetite Connection, they represent your internal guidance system (which is never wrong). When you identify what you are feeling you will know what to do. If you make yourself number one and heed the messages your feelings are delivering through this system you will move closer to your goals.
This is your life and your body and emotional eating will never bring you the happiness that you deserve. To be happy, healthy and whole is up to you and the time is NOW!