A New Normal

Week 43 -Monday 6AM
I open my eyes. I want to jump up and run downstairs to weigh myself. I want to validate that I am doing something right. I will not go downstairs, I will stay in bed. If the number on the scale is higher than I expect it to be, I could be disappointed and mope around the rest of the day trying to decide if my new lifestyle is working for me. If the number is less than what I expect, I could go all vain and ignore the other good changes in my life. If the number is exactly what I think it will be, I will be validated…
Oh, that’s right, I’m not supposed to be using the number on the scale to tell me if I am worthy. After working on this concept for 43 weeks, the same time frame as a pregnancy, you would think I wouldn’t have to re-remember this every morning. Its not the digital blue number that is the problem, it’s the way I interpret it. I infuse it with meaning about respect and pride and love and worthiness. The scale doesn’t just tell me how much I weigh, it tells who I am, it predicts who I could be, it shows me my failures and celebrates my victories. Shouldn’t I want to know the reality of my weight? Its 6 am and already I’m overthinking. I feel like this is part of my DNA or something.

The above was an excerpt from my journal over a year ago.  I usually go to my journal only when I want to get ideas for articles, but sometimes I see an entry that defined me and I wonder how I even made it through that time.

I am in a completely different mindset now.  I haven’t thought about my weight in months.  I haven’t binged in two years.  My life seems almost boring compared to the times when I actively struggled with food and my body. I am what I always dreamed of being, a normal eater.  And, like many things we aspire to, its not as glamorous as it seemed.  But I am happy and content, which is something I never thought I would say.

Sometimes I wonder if I am too confident, if something will happen that will break me down and send me running back to food.  But my life is not perfect, in fact sometimes it downright stinks, and I haven’t used food to soothe my soul yet.  I don’t even want to.  Now that I can eat anything I want anytime I want, eating doesn’t hold the mystique for me it used to.  It’s a normal function of everyday life. Ho hum.

When I first realized that chocolate cake didn’t really turn me on anymore, it was a letdown.  But I have learned to do many other things to bring fun and enjoyment to my life.  One of those things is to accept and love myself, not in an arrogant way, but in a…well, a normal way.

If you struggle with food or depression or anxiety or self pity, or any other thing that you want to change in your life, just know that you can change to create a new normal.  But first you must accept yourself the way you are at this very moment.  Instead of trying to change what you don’t like about yourself, like everything about yourself and change those things that don’t fit in with the person you want to be.

 

“Instead of trying to change what you don’t like about yourself, like everything about yourself and change those things that don’t fit in with the person you want to be.” MD stmaryseditedaaaaa

Stop Coping, Start Living

I used to think I had to cope with my problem behavior, whether it was overeating, drinking too much alcohol, or being depressed and anxious.  I went about my life, going to school, working, getting married, having kids, all with a coping strategy running in the back of my mind.  Sometimes the coping didn’t work, and the bad feelings and behaviors would come to the forefront. They would take out a few months of my life and I would have to regroup. But for the most part, my unwanted feelings and behaviors became something I learned to function with.

The problem with coping is that it never ceases.  By telling myself I had to manage my depression, anxiety and eating issues, I gave them more power than they should have had in my life.  Notice, I even called it my depression, my anxiety, my eating issues. When in fact, they weren’t ever mine, they were just symptoms of an erroneous thought process.  I considered myself flawed compared to others, like I had a burden to carry, so I resigned myself to living and performing with these issues.

This burden almost felt good, at times, like I deserved this depression or anxiety, bulimia, binge eating or whatever else I was dealing with.  So, year after year, I stayed in survival mode, saying things like,

“I’m hangin’ in there,” or “I’ll manage,” or “I’ll get by.”

To me, these were positive statements. They were proof that I would get through and live for another day.  But in reality, they were mistakes in my thinking.  As long as I had the notion that all I could do was ‘hang in there,’ I stayed in victim mode.  I saw my defects as something that happened upon me, maybe from the way I was raised or from my genetics or for whatever reason.  And as long as I was merely coping, I took no responsibility for my actions. I just tried to quell my behavior and fit into life the best I could.

So, how do you get out of coping mode and into living?

Once I decided to overcome my issues and not just cope with them, things began to change. The very first attribute I acquired was a sense of value. I had to know that I was a good person regardless of my behavior. This doesn’t mean I congratulated myself for bad conduct, it means I became aware of my value as a human being.  I realized that nothing I could do or not do determined my value as a person. A faith in God helped me, but even if you don’t believe in God, you can still believe in your inherent worth.  You are as human as anyone else on this earth. You weren’t born with depression, anxiety, or eating problems.  And if you had a traumatic past or believe you are genetically predisposed to these problems,  it still doesn’t mean they have to manifest in your life.

Understanding and accepting my value gave me a reason to be happier and change my behavior.  And it came in this order – being happy comes first.  Being happy is not as hard as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t natural either.  My perceived failures gave me something to focus on and talk about.  It was an easy way to get attention from others.  I went to therapists and clinics and even in-patient treatment programs.  I took medicines and talked to others who had these problems.  I made a lifestyle out of working on my ‘issues’.

When I started to believe in myself, I didn’t want to just cope anymore, I wanted to thrive. I decided it was okay to have bad feelings and that things did not have to be perfect.  The bad stuff didn’t go away immediately, but the power it had over me did.  On days when I woke up with that tight, anxious feeling in my chest, instead of worrying myself into a full blown panic attack, I would acknowledge the feeling and make no judgement about it.  Then I got up and went about my day.  After a couple hours, I would forget about it.

In the case of depression, I realized that when I felt the most despondent, I thought everyone hated me and I felt sorry for myself.  I performed a reality check on the thought, “Everyone hates me” and realized that even if not everyone liked me, it still was highly unlikely that everyone hated me.  So instead of trying to stop the depressing feeling, I acknowledged it, made no good or bad judgement about it and decided not to have a pity party.  I soon found myself doing interesting things and reaching out to others.

Binge eating behavior was the last big hurdle.  I had overcome the darkest aspects of my life, but couldn’t seem to shake the eating problem.  It was only when I stopped feeling guilty for eating and stopped trying to restrict food that the insatiable hunger went away and was replaced by natural hunger and satisfaction with normal meals.

When I condense my life changes down to one page, like this, I wonder why it took me so long to become the person I am now happy with.  It could be that it takes time, maturity and experience.  But if we all wise up and get happier as we get older, all old people should be ecstatic and not cranky and depressed, as some are.  But whether you are young or old, you can bring about positive changes in your life.  It starts with an understanding of your inherent value.  We are all worthy whether we know and believe it or not.  And this inherent value supersedes genetics, past events, character and behavior.  Once I realized this, I stopped coping and started living.

How to realize your value click here

How to start a binge free life click here

Featured photo from pixabay.

brake-clipart-13309573511112670181decorative-lines-2_large-hi“You don’t have to entertain every thought that comes into your head.” MD
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Loved Ones, Addiction, Happiness

God chose me to be the mother of the children I have.  They are not mine.  They are God’s children.  Just as I am God’s child.  He will take care of them as he has taken care of me.  They have everything they need to be everything they were meant to be in this world.  All that happens, unfolds in God’s time and through his mercy.  There will no one thing that defeats them or me. 

I don’t pretend to understand the divine connection, or why God does anything he does, or even if God ‘does’ anything in the sense we understand the word ‘doing’, but I respect it.  Just last week, I wrote an article about being happy regardless of your circumstances.  I was writing from a place of peace and contentment.  Everything in my life was humming along just fine.

And even though I’m not sure why, or even if, God would test me, I am writing this new article on happiness while one of my children is on a path of destruction.  This child of mine, now an adult, is missing, not physically, but mentally.  He is trying to hide feelings, but all his actions and words point to the futility he feels about life.  He is beaten down, given up.  He’s mired in self-degradation and pity.

He’s been bouncing between the sober world of striving to build a good life and the wasted world of alcohol, drugs and self-sabotage.  In both worlds, he is a good man, but he does not know this.  He thinks he must earn his value as a person, although I cannot really say what he is thinking.  I just know that whatever it is, it is self-destructive.

I recognize this because I have been through it.  I didn’t go as far with alcohol and drugs, but food and body issues were my pacifiers for many years.  Of course, this is no consolation for me because it can lead me to believe that in some way, this is my fault.  If only I had raised him differently, or if I had only taken him to church when he was little, or if only I had my shit together much sooner in life.  But it occurs to me that this type of thinking only puts me back on that same old path of self-pity.

If I blame myself for my children’s failures, that means I must take credit for their accomplishments, of which they all, including him, have many.  And this is just not the case.  All my children are great people in their own right, and even though I am proud of them, I take no credit or blame for what they do.  They live the lives they want to live, and if I passed any bad traits down, I was passing them from my own genetics and experiences, just as they were passed down to me.  And for as many bad characteristics and behaviors that were passed down, there were more good qualities, from both their dad and me.

So, what do you do when you see someone you love in self-wrecking mode?
I used to think I had to be the one to make everything better, to help.  But I know now that helping is just a nice word for enabling.  And I have done my share of enabling.  This is something an addict must work out on his own.  It may not work out the way I want it to, or in the time I want it to, but something in my soul tells me that, no matter what happens, life will work itself out for the best.  So, the answer to the question is, stay in faith.  Don’t get despondent. Keep your cool.

Being happy in this kind of situation does not mean I do not care or that I am shoving it all down and trying to just push through the pain.  Yes, I worry a little, and I have let that worry color my interactions.  And I could speculate about why events occur the way they do, but no matter how much I ruminate, I cannot change the past or read the mind of God to know the future.  So I don’t do this.  I make myself stronger by reading encouraging works, writing, and interacting with others.

My heart feels physically heavy, almost to the point of breaking, but I am still happy with my life and everything in it that I am privileged to be a part of.  My core of joy, though getting a work out right now, is based on a faith that God’s love envelopes me and my children, no matter what is going on.

You can be the happiest person you know. click here

featured image from Pixabay

 

“Your value is intrinsic.  It is not determined by what you do.  When you realize this, you can function fully.”

banff

 

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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There Can Be No Doubt

Recently I watched an online video by a doctor who stated that we should not eat from a certain group of foods.  He had a very impressive background being a surgeon, a public speaker and writer in scientific journals for many years.  He also lost weight at some point in his adult life and was determined that the foods he cut from his diet played a significant role in his weight loss and in keeping it off.

I was mesmerized with the video and how professional and scientific it was.  Just for fun, I googled the foods he restricts and found doctors with just as impressive backgrounds who didn’t agree with him at all.  Their websites were not quite as ‘in your face’ as his, but they, too, believed that certain groups of foods are unhealthy for humans.  However, their lists were completely different than the first doctor’s.  I added all these foods together and realized that if I restricted every food group touted as bad by someone somewhere, I would probably end up having to eat dirt and maybe a few wild berries.

In the midst of all the hype in the media about what is good and bad for us, it is difficult to feel comfortable eating whatever you think you want. We all want to do the right thing for ourselves and our bodies.  But the people we depend on for information about diet and nutrition have let us down.  And I don’t mean any disrespect, but just because doctors and medical professionals have degrees behind their names doesn’t mean they understand the problem of overeating and obesity.  If doctors, diets, pills, nutrition experts and exercise gurus had the magic solution to the problem of obesity, overeating and disordered eating, it would have already been solved by now!

And the reason it has not been solved is because we buy into what the ‘experts’ say.  We think they know better than we do what we should eat. This is false! No one knows better what you should eat than you and your body. And once you begin to trust yourself you will understand this concept.

The first several months of my binge free journey I would second guess myself.  I would hear of a new breakthrough diet or some new superfood that we should be eating and I doubted my decision to eat what I wanted.  I wondered if I should go back to counting calories or trying out the new food or stop eating certain foods. When these thoughts crept up, I found myself with cravings, which made it harder to eat sensibly.  In other words, thoughts of restricting portions of food (by counting calories) or thoughts of restricting certain types of foods (sugars, fats) caused me to crave more food and eat more.

I do advocate eliminating one thing from your diet, though, and that is guilt.  Yes, guilt is the number one cause of the restrictive thoughts that create cravings and make you overeat.  When you eat what you want, you must truly believe that you can eat anything you want now and forever after.  This means you cannot worry about how many cookies you may eat now, you cannot think about eating less at the next meal or running five miles to make up for these calories.  You can’t think of the cookies as a special ‘treat’ that you are only allowed to eat once in a while.  You must allow yourself to enjoy the cookies for what they are and tell yourself you can eat them anytime.

Once you can do this, shame-free, you will find yourself eating a few cookies and putting the rest away.  There is no urgency to eat them all now if you can eat them anytime you want.  And by allowing yourself this freedom, your body will reward you by giving you a feeling of satisfaction after a couple of cookies or telling you when it doesn’t really need or want cookies, and you will grow to be repulsed by the thought of eating the whole box.  You don’t believe this?  Give it a try and see the amazing results.

The statement, ‘eat whatever you want’ may sound like sketchy advice, but it is the only advice that helped me to stop bingeing and overeating. And I am not the only one. There is a large presence on the internet, in books and videos stating that restricting certain foods or portion sizes does not produce the results we hope it will, and even increases our chances of eating unhealthily and gaining weight in the future.  Unfortunately,  some of that hype places too much importance on keeping weight down.  (This warrants an entire article to itself, stay tuned.)

I don’t have the technical skills or the money to make a slick video just yet, but when I do, I will be as adamant as the doctor who wants you stay away from certain foods.   But my mantra is- don’t restrict any food from your diet.  I want to stand on the street corner and shout to everyone I see, “Eat what you think you and your body want and need, eat when you want, wherever you want, however you want, as much as you want, with no guilt, no shame, and watch yourself morph in to the person you have only dreamed about becoming.  Free yourself from bingeing and overeating forever.” Amen.

I have stepped down from my soapbox now. Thank you for reading!

Binge free- steps to start – click here

“Food is not something to try to avoid.  It is energy for your body.  Give your body some credit for knowing what to do with it.” MDfall color impression again

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