What Is Your Best?

A few years ago, I remember arguing with a friend about whether ketchup needed to be refrigerated after the bottle is opened. He asserted that it does, I argued that it does not. My basis for this was that ketchup sits around on restaurant tables all the time without being refrigerated, it tastes fine, and I have never gotten sick from unrefrigerated ketchup. I also told him there is nothing on the bottle that says it should be refrigerated after opening, but my friend disagreed.

Anxious to prove him wrong, I searched my kitchen cabinets for a bottle of ketchup and found none. I ran down to the basement and finally found a large unopened bottle of ketchup from Costco. It had been stowed in a deep storage cabinet for future summer cook-outs. Rushing back upstairs I shoved the bottle at my friend, confident that he would find nothing on it that says it needed to be refrigerated.

He scoured the bottle and after few minutes, began to read, “Best if kept refrigerated after opening.” I was floored. Desperate to save face, I advised that this meant that it didn’t need to be refrigerated, it was only ‘best if refrigerated.’ More like a suggestion…right? His only comment was “Why wouldn’t you do the best thing?” -To that, I didn’t have an answer, but it was a question I was all too familiar with.

What is best?

Being our best is subjective.  By that I mean we subject ourselves to what we think is best based on our perceived capabilities and the information we have at the time. When we don’t value ourselves sufficiently, we can get skewed ideas of what our best is.

I used to think being my best was being thin and eating salad every day.  When I didn’t live up to my idea of this ‘best’, I felt guilty and chastised myself to the point of self-hatred.  For years, I vacillated between being too thin and donning extra weight. I put my health in danger to be my ‘best’ as I thought it should be.

There were times I used to look in the mirror and ask -Why am I doing this to myself?  I felt out of control with disordered eating.  I knew I needed to make a change but kept waiting for a ‘sign’ or something to happen outside of me that would make that change take place.  All the time telling myself what a loser I was for not being my best.

Of course, it wasn’t the eating behavior or the size of my body that was not my best. It was the way I thought about and spoke to myself.  Berating myself for overeating and for being overweight only served to lock my psyche into that behavior. After all, why would I want to help myself if I was such a pathetic loser?  With this attitude, I perpetuated the behavior and guaranteed that I would never really be my best.

It took a few years to figure out that being my best wasn’t about weight loss or eating.  It was more about how I valued myself.  As long as I felt guilty for eating and berated myself, it was a battle to change the eating behavior.  But when I stopped the guilt and self-criticism and learned to appreciate who I was, my eating behavior began to normalize.

To me, this seemed miraculous.  Appreciating and loving myself despite what I looked like or how I ate was the “sign” I had been searching for to bring about the change I needed to make. And I don’t ask myself why I don’t do my best anymore.  My life is not always pretty and perfect, but I know it’s usually my best and I’m okay with that.

Begin Your journey-Binge Free Start Here

 

Accept and love yourself no matter what, and you will do your best.

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The Bathing Suit Test

Journal excerpt

July 5

We went to the river today.  I wore my bathing suit all day.  I did not put on a pair of shorts to hide my thighs, I did not put on a large T-shirt to cover everything.  With all my big talk about accepting my body and being nice to myself for the past two and half years, today is the first day I wore my bathing suit without being worried about my body or what I looked like to others. 

When I slipped off the bathing suit to shower, I felt like I had passed a test.  Like I reached some milestone in life.  It’s been easy to talk the talk and say how I feel empowered by eating normally and that I accept myself as I am, but the truth comes in hard doses.

The first truth is that I have gained a few pounds since I broke my ankle. The next truth is that my that my daughter is getting married. We have both been busy making plans and reveling in the joy of it all.  But deep in my mind, a pin prick of self consciousness began to grow.  

I began to think about dresses I would wear, how they would look on me and how I would look in pictures.  I mulled over styles and tried to choose the best one to make me look thinner.  

This began thoughts of maybe losing a few pounds, several pounds actually, for the wedding.  This started me thinking about calories, which led to restricting some foods which led to eating more food which led to guilt about eating some ice cream, which led to…..no, I didn’t binge.  But I did overeat for a few days while sorting all this out. 

And it can be sorted out. It takes some time, soul searching, and some confidence in who I am and what I am about.  It takes reassurance and self compassion. Oh, and it takes faith in myself and faith in something bigger than myself -I call this God.  

These past couple months have brought a whole new perspective on what it is to really accept myself. In the face of a wedding and wanting to look as good as possible for my beautiful daughter, I have had to come to terms with what it means to be my best for my children.  If being my best means that I am skinny, but my mind is constantly on my body and weight, how is that my best?

I will look my best when I feel my best.  And I don’t have to be skinny or even thin to feel my best.

My best is when I am happy and confident in who I am regardless of my body size.

My best is being content with myself so that I can fully participate in the life around me.

I’ve had a difficult time writing for this blog when my thoughts have been about losing weight and looking my best for my daughters wedding…

But I have pretty much resolved this issue. And when I wore my bathing suit for the entire day,  it cemented the idea that I don’t have to lose weight for any reason. I am okay just the way I am. I have passed the test.

Now that my ankle is almost healed and I am able to be more active, I may lose some weight. But I will not force this or dwell on it. For the wedding, I will dress in a stylish way regardless of my size, but I will not think about my thighs or my height or whatever else has kept me preoccupied in the past.  I will be happy for my daughter and celebrate her wonderful day.

Trying Too Hard?

Just before I entered fifth grade, my family moved to a new city.  It was summertime, no school was in session.  I was an only child and a little shy, so I didn’t make friends right away.  But my parents encouraged me to go out and play and find new friends.  I came back, day after day, having met no one and feeling dejected.  My mom asked me why I hadn’t met any kids and I lashed out with, “But I’m TRYing.”  She just said, “Maybe you’re trying too hard.”

My mom was right, I was trying too hard.  I have tried too hard my whole life.  I struggled with depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, bulimia, and bingeing.  All through those battles I would declare in exasperation, “But I’m TRYing!” Just like a dejected fifth grader.

Even with the knowledge that I made lots of mistakes, though, I don’t regret anything I experienced to get where I am today.  I’m just happy I am here now in this moment.  Of course all the good stuff happened when I stopped trying so hard.  And to stop trying so hard, I had to acquire a new mindset.

This mindset is based on the knowledge that I am valuable simply because I exist.  For me, as a Christian, the realization that God endows every human being with the same dignity, gave me the strength to begin to trust myself and understand my worth.  My genetics, my background, my character –none of these affect my value as a person.

From this foundation, I can simply build the life I want to live.  And by ‘simply’, I don’t mean easy, I mean uncomplicated -that I don’t need to force things to happen.  Knowing  I am worthy makes the process of doing the right thing natural.  I become responsible for my actions and add meaning to my life when I learn to respect myself.

This doesn’t mean I am perfect.  It means I am okay with being me and I accept myself. This, in turn, frees up space in my psyche that was previously used for self-bashing.  And with the extra room in my brain, I can concentrate on making the changes necessary to enhance my life.

Can I learn how to feel valuable when I feel like a failure and do the same stupid things over and over again?

If you’ve read any of my posts, you know I believe wholeheartedly that we can learn just about anything.  So, yes, knowing your value can be learned.  Let me rephrase that –you can unlearn all the bad stuff that obscures your feelings of worthiness.  Everyone is born with self-esteem and a knowledge of their worth.  When we were babies, we were never too embarrassed to cry when hungry, and we learned to walk without giving a second thought to what our thighs looked like or wondering if anyone was talking about us behind our back.  So, the foundation is already there.  Just be honest with yourself about what it means to be a worthy person.

One thing which can be unlearned is believing what others have said about you or to you.  It’s easy to believe someone when they keep telling you how bad you are.  If you had a troubled childhood, it’s easy to believe that what happened to you defines you as a person.  But you don’t have to believe that these things define you.  You can create your own truth.  And your truth is more real than what anyone says about you or how anyone treated you in the past.

When I went through this process, I had to come to terms that my truth had nothing to do with my looks, talent, or accomplishments.  The world uses these things as indicators of value.  But don’t confuse these with your worth.  Your truth and value stands on its own, regardless of your looks, talent, successes or failures.

And if you think you don’t have any accomplishments or talents or beauty, that will change when you see yourself as a worthy human being.  Once I gained the knowledge of my value, I no longer felt like I didn’t ‘fit in’ and was able to stop trying so hard to do just that.  I made positive changes since there was no reason to keep myself down.  I was no longer second rate and began to accept the weird stuff in my life.  I now know that my dignity, as a human being, is no more or less than any other person on this earth.

This does not mean that everyone is the same.  We are each valuable in unique ways. That’s the beauty of knowing our worth. We can share our uniqueness without worrying about what everyone else thinks.  We can help make our lives, and the lives of others, better.  We can stop trying so hard.

Read more about overcoming binge eating:     Binge Free- The Beginning                                                                                                                   Binge Free- First Steps

“Even if I didn’t believe in God, I would have a good case for the significance of life.  We are all made from the same stuff as the universe. Who am I to think that I am any less than anyone else, or even the universe?” MD

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What Makes You Happy?

A few years ago, while attending a rehab retreat in Iowa, I had the opportunity to hear motivational speaker Ward Foley, AKA ‘Scarman.’  Foley was born with serious birth defects requiring many years of painful surgeries.  While working in a donut shop as a teenager, he burned both arms, up to the elbows, in a vat of hot grease.  A few years later, he was almost killed by troubled teens he was trying to help.  He’s been in a serious auto accident and his best friend died of cancer.

Despite everything he has been through, the first words of his presentation were, “I am the happiest person I know.”

Those words burnt a hole in my heart.  I couldn’t imagine how anyone who had gone through what he went through could ever say that.  I always thought happiness was situational.  When things were going my way or were better than expected, I was happy. When they didn’t, I complained.  And when I thought things were really bad, I got depressed or anxious.  This seemed normal to me, being at the mercy of my circumstances.

For a few weeks after I heard Foley speak, I tried to figure out what could make him be so happy after living a life so full of pain, humiliation and heartbreak.  And he wasn’t just happy at this stage in his life.  Throughout his talk, I realized he had been optimistic his entire life.  I thought the secret was that he had a close relationship with his mom who showed him love and support while growing up.  I figured since I didn’t have that, I could never be that content with life.  I was adopted as an infant and didn’t bond with my adoptive mom.  I felt like I missed out on this important love and support and used it as my excuse for not being able to sustain my own happiness.

But something kept me searching for that elusive happiness, anyway.  I eventually realized that I didn’t need an excuse to be happy or unhappy.  In other words, I didn’t have to have everything going my way to be content.  I didn’t need to have been born happy. I didn’t need a loving and supportive parent while growing up to make me happy.  In fact, I didn’t need anything in particular, I just had to have the desire to be at peace wherever I was at this point in my life, and I could choose to be happy for no other reason than just because I wanted to be.

hAPPINESS

That fact that happiness doesn’t have to be sought after is not obvious or popular.  For years I thought happy people were either born that way or had a perfect life that made them happy.  And that could be the case, but the reason someone else is happy has no bearing on my life.  It doesn’t mean I can’t be happy right where I am now.  It took time and effort to learn, but I am glad I stuck with it.  The secret to happiness is, well, there is no secret.

The erroneous thought that I had to do something to earn my happiness is gone.  I no longer feel like I have to wait for a time when I feel worthy, like when I’m thinner or more accomplished, or when things are just right in my life.  And since I decided to be happy regardless of my circumstances, I have developed a foundation of joy inside.  I no longer feel like I have a hole in my core. (which I used to try to fill up with food) This core of joy is what sustains me when bad things happen around me.  I’m not giddy or bubbling over all the time, and things happen around me that are troublesome.  But I do smile a lot, and regardless of what happens around me, I have an inner peace and an optimism that things will always work out.

To be happy and at peace, you don’t need to be thin or rich or possess any certain characteristics or personal qualities.  You don’t need to have everything just the way you think life should be.  I challenge you to figure out a way to say, “I am the happiest person I know.”  Take the risk and watch your life change.

More info on Ward Foley- Scarman.

The picture inside this article is a work by artist Rodney White called ‘The Hardest of Easy Choices’ .  For information on his art and other works, click here.

Sunset image from pixabay.

brake-clipart-13309573511112670181decorative-lines-2_large-hi“Instead of trying to find the thing that makes you happy, be happy and you will do what you are meant to do.” MD

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Person In Training

Pita – “I’m tough, Creasy.”

Creasy- “There’s no such thing as tough, there’s only trained and untrained.”

This dialogue is from the movie ‘Man on Fire’.  Creasy, played by Denzel Washington, is teaching nine-year-old Pita (Dakota Fanning) to be unafraid of the sound of the starting pistol as it fires a shot to signal the start of a swimming race.  This scene turns out to be the crux of the movie because, later on, Pita gets kidnapped and her training with Creasy (spoiler) may be what saves her life.

While coping with depression, anxiety and eating disorders, I remember thinking I was tough and resilient.  I figured I could just ‘tough it out’ and eventually overcome my problems, but year after year, I struggled.  I had the desire, the determination, but I had the belief that I was born with certain personality traits, that these struggles were just a part of who I was.

I innately knew my parents didn’t teach me about self-esteem, integrity, or what it took to be successful.  They did the best they could, but they were busy fighting their own demons and trying to make ends meet .  They had the belief they were not meant to be too successful or even too happy.  I followed in their footsteps until I finally realized that just because I wasn’t born with certain qualities or hadn’t been taught them, didn’t mean I could not acquire them at this time in my life.

Many people fall into the category of thinking all they need is toughness and persistence to ‘make it through’ their ordeal.  Each day they hope for a better outcome than yesterday, they think persistence and determination is all that is needed.  Persistence is a great attribute to have, but if you are persistent in going the wrong direction, you will never get where you want to go.

I don’t believe life is made to be “toughed out.”  I believe we are made to thrive and be happy.  And the only thing we need to make this happen is a belief that we can learn how to overcome our weaknesses.  This takes our undesirable behavior out of the realm of shame and puts it, blamelessly, into the realm of acquiring knowledge.  Once you step out of that sphere of guilt and self-loathing, nothing can stop you from obtaining what you need to be happy and healthy.

You can train yourself to be content, to stop bingeing, to love yourself, or anything you desire.  Any attribute you think you lack, you can acquire.  You don’t need to have been born with a special personality, you don’t need to lose weight first.  You don’t need tons of people around you to tell you to ‘hang in there.’  You can do more than just ‘hang in there’.  All you need is the belief that you can teach yourself those life lessons you thought you missed out on, and you can fly.

Assess the attributes you think you need to be successful in whatever you want to do.  Be honest, don’t underestimate your good traits.  Find sources of inspiration and teach yourself to pay attention to the positive messages.  You can be trained or untrained, its up to you.

Click here for a similar article.

Click here for first steps to a binge free life.

“My past has no hold on me unless I let it.”

`buddha words

 

 

 

 

Our Functional Lies

Recovering from binge eating is not unlike recovering from an addiction.  Even though I don’t believe binge eating falls into the addiction category (here’s why), I do recognize that there are underlying beliefs and attitudes common to both.  The one I want to focus on today is truth.  Or rather lying.  It’s not truth that is the problem, it’s the lies we tell to cover up the truth, to disguise ourselves from reality.

Some of us, myself included, believe our own lies.  We become so adept at telling them, we forget there is a truth.  Lying becomes a thing we must do to make ourselves more valuable or at least less shameful.  You may impress someone with a lie, but once you speak it, trust is broken down.  You can’t build a relationship on lies or half-truths.  And you can’t trust yourself when you don’t know what the truth really is. So, how do we get out of this maze?

You must first recognize you have a problem.  I’m not talking about your overeating problem.  You already recognized that or your wouldn’t be reading this blog.  But think about the kind of lies you tell others or yourself, not just deceitful lies, but your functional lies.  These can be lies about your feelings, needs and desires.  They can be lies about your past or even about not being hungry and pushing your plate away when you really want to finish that pasta.  We use these lies to prevent shame or enhance our standing in someone else’s eyes.  We use them to trick ourselves into believing we are okay or are doing the right thing.

I used to tell the story that I learned how to swim because my dad pushed me off a dock into a deep lake when I was seven years old.  In reality, I took swimming lessons the summer I was seven.  I also used to tell people that I went to Catholic school from first through twelfth grade.  Actually, I only went to parochial school for a few years.  But, to me, it just sounded more impressive to say otherwise.

These lies were innocuous. They were not bad or dangerous, but they reinforced a sense in me that I was not enough as I was.  I had to constantly think of enhancements to my story to keep people interested.  And the more I told these lies, the easier it was to weave a tapestry of a false life.

 Once you start this, it eventually becomes second nature to hide events and thoughts and feelings from others.  You may even be convinced that you are protecting them.  But this is an arrogant position to function from, as if you think you are smarter or have a greater depth of being than everyone around you. You convince yourself you must lie so that others will not make false assumptions about you, because they would never understand and accept you if you told them the truth, right?

In this type of existence, you may feel lost and empty, you don’t know what you want out of life because you cannot accept yourself for who you are.  In my case, this led to harsh scrutiny of my body.  I didn’t have very close relationships with other stable people and instead of examining my interactions with them, I blamed my outward appearance. I looked for diets and food plans to keep me on track and when these failed, I became bulimic.  Even after overcoming bulimia, I was still obsessed with food and body issues, for many years, to a point of malfunction.

And really, all the suffering I put myself through over the years was only caused because I believed the biggest lie of all – that I was not good enough just the way I was.

 

“I am not concerned what others think about me, I am concerned what God thinks about me.” MDcut out advanced

Do You Have What It Takes?

If you’ve read any other posts from this blog, you know I believe anyone can cultivate any trait they desire. You may not believe it just yet, but you were born with the characteristics of integrity, persistence, a positive outlook, a thankful spirit, self-confidence, and many more.  You didn’t miss the boat if you had a crappy childhood or made bad decisions in the past.  You don’t have a character flaw or some defect in your brain. You can cultivate characteristics you desire to be successful in any endeavor you choose.  All you must realize is that you don’t need to DO anything to earn these traits. You possess them already, they are just waiting to be acknowledged.

Success can be defined in many ways.  To some, it’s a great paying job, to others its completion of a creative endeavor, to someone else it may be getting healthy or overcoming a setback.  For me, overcoming binge eating was a huge hurdle. And I’ve had days, in the past, where getting out of bed meant I had a successful day.  But whatever you call success, we all have some common characteristics that make it happen.  It could be hard work, determination, persistence, confidence or desire.  It could be changing a process or creating a daily habit.

Whatever you think it requires to be successful, there is one underlying belief which is the foundation for any positive trait you desire.  This is a knowledge that you are valuable. And I’m not talking about a value that comes from prior successes and accolades from others.  I’m talking about a belief in the core of your being that you are okay, that no matter what happens, you have everything you need to do what you want to do.

You may say, “How can I believe I’m valuable if I feel so unworthy?” or “I feel like I have a hole inside that can’t be filled with anything.”  Well, here’s the revelation- just because you don’t feel worthy or significant doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy or significant.  Your feelings don’t reflect your value.  They only reflect the thoughts and beliefs you have learned during your experience of life.  And no action on your part, good or bad, will change your inherent value.  You are a valuable human being whether you believe and feel it, or not.

What Happened?

We all start out with confidence as kids, but life happens, and we end up second guessing ourselves.  I remember, in seventh grade, being chosen to represent my school in an oratory contest. I had a month to practice and knew I could win.  I was so excited, I ran home that Friday afternoon and read the speech to my mom.  She promptly told me I would have stage fright.  I know she didn’t mean to quench my enthusiasm, she just meant to warn me that it would be different up on the stage.  But that word ‘stage fright’ stayed with me.  By Monday morning, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t possibly get up in front of hundreds of people because I would have stage fright.  So, when I got to school, I found myself explaining to the nuns why I couldn’t do this.  They quickly dismissed me and found someone else to represent the school.  I was heartbroken and ashamed.

I wouldn’t say this event was the cause for my struggles throughout life, but it was one of a myriad of events that made me question my value.  I found myself thriving on the encouragement and positive feedback from others.  The problem is, when you look for the approval of others, you end up doing things you think they want you to do and not what you were really meant to do.  It took a long time to realize my confidence had to come from inside me, that it was a direct reflection of my inherent value.  All I had to do was see it.

Applying this to my eating disorders, I came to terms that my exterior body was just a fraction of the totality of me.  And my complete persona is different than anyone else on this earth.  I don’t have to fit into anyone else’s idea of beauty or goodness to be a valuable person.  I don’t have to eat what everyone else thinks I should eat.  I just need to eat what I think I want and need and go from there.  Sometimes I eat too much or too little or the wrong things, but I am confident that my body and I will get it right in the long run and I keep chugging away each day.  And whatever happens, I remember this…..I am a child of God. I don’t have to do anything to earn the grace that God offers me. All I have to do is reach out and accept it.

For more information on how to start the binge free process click here

“Confidence may not be what you think it is.  It may not be the self-assurance that you have talent or that everything is going to work out, it may just be the willingness to take a first step and see what happens.” MDphilbeach