How To Surrender… And Win

After yo-yo dieting and binge eating most of your adult life, eating whatever you want may seem impossible.  When I first began my binge free journey,  I told myself I would eat what I wanted, when I wanted, where I wanted.  I took all restrictions off food.  In case you are wondering, I did not picture myself eating ten thousand calories worth of chocolate cake every day and not gaining a pound, but I did picture myself eating meals I liked and food I wanted, including chocolate cake, with no restrictions on type of food or portion sizes.

Somehow, I knew this was the right thing to do.  I was overeating at almost every meal and bingeing in times of stress. I  know, it doesn’t make sense.  If you want to stop eating too much, you should be able to say to yourself, “Stop eating so much.”  And poof…you stop eating so much.  I tried this for 25 years and it never worked, and it never will work, so why do we keep doing it?  I finally gave up dieting to save my sanity and maybe even my life.

When I say the words ‘gave up,’ I don’t mean I considered myself a failure and started eating because I’ll never lose weight anyway or that food defeated me.  It’s quite the opposite.  I took control of my eating by allowing myself to eat what I thought my body wanted at any given time.  Instead of succumbing to the food I used to restrict, I now eat my fill and it doesn’t rule me anymore.

I didn’t throw all my knowledge about nutrition out the window, but I did buy and eat foods I never allowed myself to eat in the past.  It seems ironic that I eat less of those foods now than when they were restricted.

When you restrict food or even have thoughts of not eating in the future, like starting a diet on Monday, your body gets a stress signal – ‘food will be scarce.’  So, it encourages you, rather compels, you to eat more now.  How many ‘last suppers’ have you had?  If you do happen to thwart the compulsion and reduce your calories for any period of time, your body slows down your metabolism to conserve energy.  At some point, you will give in to hunger for more calories and go off your diet, which causes you to feel guilty and eat more.  There you are, back in the vicious cycle.

To stop this cycle forever is not difficult if you really want to do it.  The hardest part is to be faithful to it.  As with any change, you must make a concerted effort to stick with the program.  This means eating cookies when you have a taste for them and not thinking of ways to make up for it later.  It means telling yourself you can still eat whatever you want the next time you are hungry, regardless of what or how much you just ate.  It means taking the guilt out of the eating process entirely.

Once you get used to this process and quit second guessing your decision to not diet, your body and your psyche will stop being at odds with each other.  And once they get on the same side, you will feel a peace that you may have not experienced in a long time.

“I used to ask the question -Why do I always do stuff that makes me feel guilty? When the real question is -Why do I feel guilty for the stuff I do?” MD

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The Binge Is Gone, Now What?

The thrill is gone.  The food police have left the building. The scale is broken.  The party is over.  But it’s not an ending, its just a beginning.

All this doesn’t mean I don’t overeat sometimes or that I lost tons of weight or that I eat exactly what I want all the time.  In fact,  the first few months of binge free living, I found myself eating just because I could.

But truthfully, food just doesn’t turn me on that much anymore.  I still love to eat, but my tastes have changed.  It’s almost depressing, knowing that a piece of homemade chocolate cake won’t send me over the moon.  If I don’t have cravings, why do I still eat those things?

One reason is that I am still proving to myself I can eat whatever I choose.  And if I have to work too hard to eat something healthy over junk food, many times, I’ll choose the junk food.  It seems obvious how to change this.  Just make it easier to eat healthy food.  But in reality, you have to work with what you have, play the cards you were dealt, make lemonade out of  lemons… you get the idea.

I’m not making excuses, but I live with my husband, my mother in law and my son.  My son is 24, a college graduate and has a great job, but he also has student loans, so we told him he could live here for awhile after he graduated to get a handle on the loans.  And after my husband’s dad died, it became pretty clear his mom couldn’t live alone, so we made room for her in our home.  That leaves my husband and I in the classic position that characterizes our generation, sandwiched between our progeny and our parentage.  All who eat completely different than me.

I’ve often pictured how I would eat if I lived alone, or with people whose palate was more akin to mine and I always prefer to be with my current family than alone or with someone who shared my dietary likes.  So, yes, I AM using my family as an excuse to eat less than the best I know and want to eat.

I want to eat colorful veggies at every meal, they all want meat, cheese and starch. I don’t typically care about snacks; my hubby snacks throughout the day.  I can’t complain about my son because he’s not here half the time for meals, and when he is, he’ll eat just about anything that isn’t nailed down.

So, how do you eat what you really want at any given meal without cooking three different entrees?
I could just cook for myself, but in my household, I do the cooking for everyone and mother washes up the kitchen.  I like this state of affairs, it keeps her feeling like she has a responsibility and it keeps me from cleaning (win-win).  I also figure that if I cooked exactly what I wanted all the time, everyone in the house would eat bologna sandwiches.

I’ve given up trying to change their eating patterns and help them eat healthier because, well…because it doesn’t work.  I realized this the day my husband chose to make a sandwich over a balanced meal I had prepared.   I can’t make them eat any differently than they have always eaten just because I am eating differently.  I can encourage them, but decided this is not good either since it puts me in a position where I am trying to control the behavior of other adults and I don’t want to be in that position.   I just got OUT of that mindset!

I could make this another dilemma in my life, but I don’t focus on it.  Somehow, we get through each day.  We have ‘fend for yourself’ days, we go out to eat some days and sometimes, I do cook two different meals, but I keep it simple.  That mindset seems to work for me.

 

“Take care of itself, the outcome will, if you focus on the process more.” MD105_0403

 

Do I HAVE To Like Myself?

While in college, I once met a guy at a bar.  I know…first mistake, right?  In my defense, the bar was mostly grad students blowing off steam.

This guy was a post grad in engineering and was leaving the next day for a focused study group in another city.  We hit it off with interesting and funny conversation, so we made a date for a Saturday night in two weeks, when he would be back in town.

I lived alone at the time, was struggling with school, being chubby, eating, and life in general.  When we made the date, I figured I could lose at least ten pounds in the two weeks, so the next time he saw me I would look better.  It didn’t occur to me that he must have been attracted to the way I looked that night, but that’s the story of the chronic dieter, right?  I set out the next day to go on the most restrictive diet I could find.

Two weeks later, and ten pounds heavier, I met my new friend for our date.  I was nervous as he approached my car in the parking lot of the restaurant we were supposed to meet.  My pants were so tight, it was hard to breath, and I wore the highest heels I could find, to look taller.  He smiled at me and we went into the restaurant.

During the dinner, I was mortified he would think I was disgusting since it was obvious I had gained weight since we met.  I stammered through conversation that didn’t flow as easily as the first time.  But I thought there was still some kind of spark and wanted to explore it further.  We didn’t go out as a couple after that, but became close friends.

One day, while sitting in the student center, he asked, “Why do you do this to yourself?”
“What,” I asked.
“You know, keep people at a distance. Try not get close to anyone- put up this sort of, wall.”
I decided to be truthful with him.  “Well, for one thing, I was interested in you romantically the first time we met and wanted to get to know you better, but when you saw me the second time and saw how fat I was, you backed off and only wanted to be friends.  It kinda hurt.  Why should I put myself out there to be rejected?”
“That’s, funny,” he quipped, “I thought you were the one who backed off, so I backed off too.”
We looked at each other and laughed.  We never did date but remained close friends.

Sometimes relationships just go like this. And sometimes we make relationships go like this.

After that conversation I began to realize I was ‘doing this’ to myself.  I was the one who thought I was fat and unattractive, so I was giving that information to myself and sending it out to the world.  I wanted to change my outside appearance, not realizing I needed to change my inside appearance.

Fast forward a few decades…one year into learning how to accept myself and my body exactly the way I am. I am beginning to appreciate my value because I am a human being.  Yes, I have accomplishments that I am proud of.  But if I use them as the basis for my self-esteem, I will constantly go through life worried that I must top what I’ve already done.

Don’t get me wrong, striving to be a better person is a good thing.  But when you accept your inherent value and like yourself regardless of what you look like or act like now, becoming a better person is a natural and straightforward process.

Think about it – Do you like to help people you don’t respect or those who don’t like you? It’s the same with yourself… If you don’t like yourself, you will find it difficult to help yourself or do the right thing.

How do you learn how to like yourself?
Know this – You are human. You overeat or binge to quell anxiety and stress.  And even when you are not stressed, you may overeat due to habit.  But your body is doing the best it can for the information you are giving itTake the badness out of this behavior and it becomes manageable in ways that you never even thought of.

With this new understanding, I gave up trying to mold my body and my personality to fit into what I thought others wanted me to be.  I used affirmations and any positive encouragement I could find. After 15 months of this practice, I am still learning new things.  I am happier and healthier in mind and body than I was a year ago.  If I can do this, you can do this too.

 What To Do

Stop using all your effort to berate and criticize yourself and put that same effort into telling yourself  how good you are.  It won’t take long for you to begin to believe in yourself and change your life.

Actions

Say positive affirmations about your worth, out loud, a few times a day.
Read inspirational books and articles.
Listen to encouraging messages.  I recommend  Joel Osteen podcasts (also available on Sirius XM.
Find upbeat people to be around.
Question your motives.                                                                                                                          Practice seeing the positive in every situation.

You CAN do this!

“You are not defective or bad, you do not lack willpower.  You do not have a character flaw or a bad attitude.  You do not have a past or a genetic flaw that you cannot overcome.  You are significant and hold a special place on this earth just like each person does.” MD

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The Anti-Binge

No one wants to be told what to do, especially a stressed person who is actively binging. They feel the need to have everything under control themselves.  If one thing goes wrong, like eating a cookie that is not on the food plan or getting an urge to eat chocolate cake, then the binge is on.

This mentality gets you stuck in, what I call, shamedom.  You either hide what you are doing so no one will know, or you eat in public, with a chip on your shoulder, daring anyone to even look at you funny. No wonder food never seems to satisfy!

The goal of my writing is not necessarily to commiserate about how difficult this journey is or to tell about the unpleasant things I have been through. The goal is to help people, who are actively learning how to eat normally, accept themselves and get some kind of dignity back in their lives.

With that in mind, I want to share the story of the first time I actively thwarted a binge. This was also the last time I ever had an uncontrollable craving, and that was over a year ago.  It would be easier to just write a list of things you should do to stop bingeing and eat normally, and in some posts I may do that.  But lists of things look a lot like rules.  And let’s face it, none of us likes to follow rules.  If we did, we wouldn’t be in this situation, right?

Here’s my story:

Its been three days since I started telling myself I could eat anything I want, any where I want, anytime I want.  I am walking through the grocery store and spot a package of Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip muffins.  I try to remain calm as I pick them up and look at the nutrition label.  Before I remember that I don’t need to do this anymore, I see the information- Calories 360, Total Fat 18g, Total Carbs 46g.

I put them down and think to myself, “I want something sweet, I am allowed to eat something sweet. So I will find something sweet and chocolate that is not as bad as these muffins.”

I rush over to the bakery department and as soon as I turn the corner on the last isle, I see tables full of cakes, cookies, pies and muffins.  They ALL call to me.  I am overwhelmed at how much I want to eat every single chocolate baked good I see.

I start to wonder if I could eat a whole cake in the car and hide the evidence before I get home.  I am disappointed.  My cravings seemed under control when I decided to eat what I want, and now I’m planning a car binge. Why?

Just then, a thought emerged,

“If you can eat anything you want, why do you think you have to settle for the low fat, low calorie or low sugar stuff?  If you want the Otis Spunkmeyer muffins, eat the dam muffins, eat a hundred of them if you want. You REALLY are allowed to eat ANYTHING you want. It’s okay”

I go back and pick up the muffins, thinking they will be good with a cold glass of milk when I get home, if I am still in the mood.

Those muffins stayed on my counter for three days before I even opened the pack.  I ate two in the next week and had to throw the last one away.

In my experience, if I had continued on the path of trying to find something to replace the muffins and trying to fight the urge to eat all the other sweets I saw, I would have bought a couple boxes of the bakery muffins and gobbled them down on the way home -all the while berating myself and telling myself how terrible of a person I was.

In the beginning of my journey, any thought of restriction or limitation was fuel for a craving. Once I decided to take off the restriction,  It took several days to realize that I did not have to actively try to limit my portions, and I did not have to find alternative foods for things I wanted.  Of course, it took me several years of therapy, reading and striving to be a better person to even get to the point where I could say, “I can eat whatever I want.”

But, after practicing this for over a year, my thought now is, “Why would I NOT eat exactly what I want?”

A list of tips and advice on how to Take Action to stop bingeing Click here

“I live the life I want to live.  There is no need to struggle if my actions are in line with my needs and desires. When my own needs and desires are met, I can help care for others with an open and honest heart.” MD

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How Much Is Enough?

One of my favorite movies is the 1969 version of  True Grit.  Set in the 1870’s, Mattie is a strong-minded young girl who teams up with a hard drinking US Marshall to find her father’s killer.  When asked why she doesn’t eat more during her first dinner with the rowdy Marshall, Rooster Cogburn, she replies in a straightforward way,

“I’ve had enough. Enough is as good as a feast.”

I have been mesmerized with that saying since I first heard it in that movie.  I used to think it was the brainchild of a savvy scriptwriter, but it’s actually an old English proverb that also appeared in the movie Mary Poppins.

For a long time, I wanted to agree with this proverb, but I couldn’t make myself really feel it or believe it.

“If enough is as good as a feast, why don’t I ever seem to have enough? I never feel like I’ve had enough, even when I am stuffed full and sick from all the food in my stomach. There is still something inside me which screams, “NOT ENOUGH.”

Of course, I realize now that part of the craving for more food had a lot to do with how I viewed myself and that I tried, during every waking moment, to eat a restricted number of calories per day.

But even now, I have times when I want to eat more than my body needs. Sometimes I DO eat more than I need.  But now I can stop when I realize I don’t need any more. My body doesn’t necessarily tell me I’ve had enough all the time, but my head does.  And I know it’s OK to stop eating.  So, what is the difference between now and back then, when I had the obsession?

How do I stop myself from eating all the chocolate chip cookies I just took out of the oven before my family even gets home?

When I first started this process a little over a year ago, I would just tell myself, I can eat these cookies now or I can eat them later, or tomorrow or any day for the rest of my life. This took immediate pressure off and I no longer felt compelled to eat whatever I was craving. I could then make a choice about what to eat or not.

If I suddenly found myself reaching for a fourth cookie, I just took notice and told myself it didn’t matter how much I just ate, I could still eat what I wanted at the next meal or the next time I felt hungry. I did not berate myself or tell myself I was a failure in any way.

I said this out loud everyday,  “I can eat whatever I want now or the next meal, in two hours, two days, next week, or anytime, for the rest of my life.”  This helped me to really believe what I was saying.

Once I began believing this, I saw my disordered eating through a different lens.  I realized it was a normal response to the signals I give my body via thoughts about food restriction or permission, and that it is related to beliefs I hold about myself and my value.  In recognizing this, I am able to stop having pity parties every time I do something I consider ‘bad.’

Once the ‘badness’ is taken away from the food/hunger equation, it’s much easier to choose to eat what you think is good for you and stop when you’ve had enough, even if you don’t feel fully satisfied.

But don’t worry, as you continue this journey, satisfaction will be something you will learn how to feel more than ever before.  Most days, you will really feel like enough is as good as feast.  And for those times you don’t – everything will still be Okay.

“Just because I don’t feel good at any one time, doesn’t mean better things aren’t happening in my life.”_MG_1186

 

Can I Be Weightless?

My mom used to weigh herself every day. She kept the scale in the bathroom our family shared. She would go in, pick up the scale from the tile floor and gently place it on the fluffy bathmat in front of the tub. She explained to me that placing the scale on the bathmat made you weigh less. For years, whenever I weighed myself, I would try to find the thickest rug to place the scale on. One day, it occurred to me that if the scale resting on a rug was not a true representation of what I weighed, then why was I doing it? I realized that, like my mom, I derived a good portion of my self-worth from where the needle pointed on that scale. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to function without thinking about my weight or my body size. I wondered if it was even possible. The allure of the weighing machine was disturbing. It promised changes that could enrich or devastate my day, my week, my life. But it could only do this if I allowed it.

 

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I try very hard to be kind to myself and not judge myself or others based on body size. And just when I think I have become completely nonjudgmental, I find myself being delighted and high-fiving my husband when I mistakenly put on a smaller pair of jeans and they fit perfectly.

In my psyche, there is still a tiny space occupied by a belief that a smaller body is better. It takes up much less space than it used to, but it’s still there.

How do I deal with this? I check my thoughts as they come. When I find myself thinking about my thighs, I don’t judge them and I don’t judge myself for thinking about them. I just notice my thoughts, then let them go. No standing in front of the mirror and pinching my thighs from behind to see what they would look like if they were smaller. Yes, I used to do this.

So, when I was delighted for getting into smaller jeans. I told myself it was okay to be happy about that, but it wasn’t the thing that would make my day. I accepted my reaction and found more interesting things to think about to make my day exciting and fun.

I’m not missing the irony here.  Since I have stopped striving to be thin, and have begun eating what I want, my body is changing to more accurately reflect how I view myself.  But my view of myself is not necessarily thin. My view of myself is that I am a valuable person.  Regardless of what I look like or what has happened to me in the past, I am a good human being who deserves to be here.  By thinking this of myself, my body is conforming to that end – becoming healthier.  That weight loss may be a part of this is just a side bar.

Can you learn to accept yourself as you are – no matter your body size?

Over a year ago, I started to say this affirmation every day. It took a while, but it eventually began to sink in and, most days, I truly believe this. Use this or write your own affirmation to say everyday.

“It doesn’t matter what my body size or weight is.  It doesn’t matter what other people think of my body size. I don’t get my self-esteem from the size of my body. I am an integral part of this universe and hold a special place in it.”

100_0535For tips and steps to take action to stop bingeing click here

BED Recovery – All Advice Is Not Equal

My recovery did not look the same as any of the classes I took, books I read, or popular websites I perused.  It almost pains me to see some of the advice medical websites post for people with disorders like this.  I remember wondering what was wrong with me that made this advice seem impossible to follow.  Most of those sites now, at least, tell you not to beat yourself up, which is very good advice.  But when you can’t seem to do anything else they suggest, it’s discouraging.

Here is a list of common advice I have seen and how I interpreted it.  I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, or a psychologist.  I am someone who spent her whole life struggling with weight and food and body issues and finally figured out how to eat and feel like a normal person by taking the best advice from many sources and discarding what didn’t work.  It took a long time to realize that I could discard seemingly good advice if it didn’t work for me.  As with anything you read on this subject, take what works for you and throw the rest away.

Common Advice:  Avoid Temptation by keeping all junk foods and binge type foods out of your house.
My Take:  This advice was not good for me. It reinforced the idea that I can’t be trusted around some food because it has a magical power over me which makes me eat it.  My recovery depends on me believing that all food is good and that I can trust my body to tell me what it does and does not need and want.  So, I buy sweets and other snack foods that I think my family and I will enjoy and I don’t  worry that I will eat them in a binge.  Allowing myself to enjoy any foods, including sweets, alleviates cravings and thoughts of bingeing.

Common Advice:  Listen to your body and only eat when you are hungry.
My Take:  This is overall good advice for a normal eater, but completely unattainable for me as a binger, who wouldn’t have known a true hunger signal if it knocked me over.  If I had the ability to eat only when I was hungry, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.  So, I just eat what I think I really want with no restrictions and no guilt.  After a year of this practice, I realize I eat for various reasons and not always just when I’m hungry.  And even though I feel compelled to eat when I am hungry, I choose what and how much I eat, the food doesn’t choose me.

Common Advice:  Eat at regular times and don’t skip any meals.
My Take:  This too, is good overall advice for the normal eater.  But I found that any type of scheduled meal times smacked of control of my mealtimes by an outside source, leaving my body out of the equation.  My goal is to let my body tell me when it needs to eat and how much it needs.  I am just here to choose the food, prepare it and enjoy it.  When I first started this practice, I would eat breakfast and be hungry again two hours later.  I allowed myself to eat as much as I wanted at this two-hour mark, sometimes another full meal.  Usually, I didn’t get the urge to eat again until that evening and sometimes the next day.  This must have proved to my body that I wasn’t going to restrict food, because after about 3 days, I stopped being hungry between meals and my hunger became more closely tied to typical meal times.  I did not force myself to eat at normal times, though, it happened on its own once I allowed myself to eat regardless of the time.

Common Advice:  Do not avoid fat.
My take:  This is excellent advice, since fat plays an important role in your digestion and helps you feel satisfied. But I took this rule a few steps further – Do not avoid any food that you think you want to eat.
During the first year, my tastes changed dramatically. Things I used to crave, I suddenly didn’t have a taste for, and things I used to dislike, I acquired a taste for.  It was almost sad, the day I realized french fries didn’t turn me on anymore.

Common Advice:  Eat mindfully, slow down and savor the flavors and textures.
My take:  Here again I knew instinctively this advice to be good, but had no idea how to carry it out. So I went back to the one thing that I DID know. And that was to eat anything I want, anytime, anywhere. So instead of trying to eat mindfully, I just observed how I was eating with no judgement.
Sometimes I found myself in front of the TV eating out of the chip bag, sometimes I found myself standing at the fridge eating leftovers, sometimes I noticed I gulped down my meal faster than anyone at the table.  No matter what eating circumstances I found myself in, I did not make any judgements. I didn’t feel guilty or like a failure for not eating like I ‘should.’  Eventually, I asked myself what I would enjoy more, eating leftovers directly out of the fridge or eating a fresh veggie stir-fry I could whip up in a few minutes?  I began to slow down and appreciate aromas and colors and textures of food because it made me feel good, not because I forced myself to ‘pay attention’ while I ate.

Common Advice:  Instead of snacking when you are bored, make a list of other things you can do like go for a walk, call friend, or take up a hobby.
My Take:  ‘Yeah, right!”  As one frustrated commenter wrote on a someone else’s recent post, “If I could do that, I wouldn’t be seeking treatment.”  I already know what I should do, the question is, HOW do I do it?
This was not an easy thing for me to figure out since this is the crux of the issue- Why do I binge or overeat instead of doing something more fun and healthy?
This subject requires its own article, maybe a whole book, or better yet, an encyclopedia. There are probably as many reasons for someone to binge as there are people who binge. We are all different. But I did realize, that to stop bingeing, I didn’t have to delve into all my personal problems and anxieties.  All I had to do was give myself permission to eat and treat myself with respect and kindness, regardless of my eating behavior.  This soon spread to other aspects of my life – If I made a bad choice or a wrong decision about a relationship or some other thing, I began to comprehend that it was Okay to make mistakes without punishing myself and just go on with my day.  It didn’t take long for my overall anxiety level to lessen and I was able to enjoy more of my food and my life overall.

Common advice:  Stop dieting.  Eat in moderation and eat sweets as an occasional treat.
My take:  Again, the ‘stop dieting’ part is great, the other parts, not so good.  I tried very hard to learn how to eat in moderation but failed miserably.  Eating in moderation meant I had to use some one else’s guidelines because I didn’t know what moderation meant for my own body.  It was only in allowing myself to eat totally guilt and regret free that my body taught me what moderation was.  I was surprised that my body wants about the same things as the suggestions I see on portion sizes and meal times.  But I couldn’t force this information on myself, I had to allow my body to show me.

Regarding thinking of sweets as a treat; I have not yet decided how to fit this into my new lifestyle.  If I think of sweets as something special, something more tantalizing than other foods, it raises my interest and creates a false desire for them.  I am trying to figure out how to think of them in terms of everyday food.  I try not to give them any special status and allow myself to freely partake.  I am finding myself not nearly as drawn to them as I was when actively bingeing.

 

Common Advice:  Stop berating and punishing yourself if you slip up.                             My take:  Part of this advice is really good and part not so good.  The ‘not so good‘ part is the term ‘slip up.’  It gives me the impression that I need to be doing something other than letting my body determine when and what and how much to eat.  It makes me think that if I deviate from a food plan or healthy eating program, or even my current course of eating what I want, then I have to forgive myself and get ‘back on the wagon.’                   The truth is, I don’t have a set program based on what someone else thinks I should eat.  And I never have to forgive myself for eating anything.  Eating food is not a sin.  It is a very natural process.  Even overeating and bingeing is my body’s response to deprivation signals I give it from my skewed thoughts of restricting food to lose weight.

The good part about this advice is – No matter what or how much food I find myself eating, I don’t judge or feel guilty.  I treat myself nice.  I respect who I am as a person.  There is no ‘getting back on track.’   There is only the next time I am hungry and all the food in the world that I can choose from to satisfy my hunger.

 

 “My value is intrinsic.  It is not determined by what I do, what I have, what I look like or what I can accomplish.  I am valuable because I am a human being.  Once I believe this deep down in my soul, I can function fully.” MD                                                                             Tennpond watercolor