self esteem

How to Raise Your Self Esteem

how to raise your self esteemI always explain to my clients that raising  or gaining your self esteem isn’t about harnessing some unknown force or creating something that doesn’t exist or gaining something new– rather than gaining something new, it’s about letting go of something old– old messages that tell you that you’re not okay, that you have to be better than you are, that there is something wrong with you. Self esteem is about being kind to yourself, accepting and loving yourself even if you’re not perfect. It’s about going toward greatness and allowing yourself to evolve, but loving yourself in that process. It’s about holding yourself with integrity to the best of your ability, always being kind, thoughtful, compassionate and loving to the people around you and to yourself.  So, when you hear the voices telling you that you’re not okay, telling those voices that there is no room for them or that you don’t have to engage with those thoughts as you strengthen those that serve you. Try this guided meditation download to help you to let go of those old non-serving thoughts and bring in higher more function feelings about yourself.

In 1994, Nathanial Branden wrote The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem which is considered the definitive work on Self-Esteem. Branden believes that to have self esteem, you need both self-efficacy and self- respect. Having self-efficacy is the knowledge that you have everything inside of you that you need to survive no matter what. Self-respect is being aligned with your values and knowing that because you are, you deserve to be loved, respected and cared for and to be happy no matter what.

When you have self-efficacy, you’re not afraid of being alone, you’re not afraid of being left because you know that you have everything that you need inside of you to survive. You have confidence in your own abilities to navigate life rather than fear of being in the world. When you have self respect, you know what your values are (for me they are always being kind and treating everyone around me with respect and compassion and consideration, not gossiping or spreading rumors, not judging or criticizing and living with integrity) and you do your best to live in alignment with those values. When you live a life aligned with your values, you feel better about yourself and being in the world.

Branden identifies six philosophies that he believes are integral to living with self esteem. They are: living consciously, being self accepting, taking responsibility for oneself, being assertive, living with purpose and holding strong personal integrity

Living Consciously  is about being aware of your body, being aware of your choices, your environment, being mindful or your choices, your enviornment, your bodily sensations, your thoughts, your actions and your fears.

Those who have eating disorders don’t live consciously. They either binge or starve themselves, they don’t honor their appetites, they hate their bodies because they believe that there is something wrong with them. They completely reject themselves.

Check out guided visualizations on eating mindfully and loving your body and letting go of negative body image.

Being Self Accepting: When you accept yourself, you stop trying to be someone else, you embrace your strengths. Rather than comparing what you don’t have to what other people do have, you celebrate and strengthen what you do have. Check out these great tips on being self accepting. 

Taking Responsibility for Yourself: This is about not blaming other people for choices you made. Understanding that you have power and that you are not stuck and that just because you made a bad choice, you are not stuck in it because you have the power to constantly be rethinking and recreating your life.

Being Self Assertive: When you are self assertive, you stand up for yourself. You always treat other people with respect and you do not allow other people to talk down to you or to treat you poorly. If you have a boss, for instance who is verbally abusing you or yelling at you, it’s okay to look at them and say, “it’s not okay to talk to me that way.” It’s about standing up for others who might not have the ability to voice their own needs.

Living with Purpose: 

When you live with purpose, you take care of yourself, but your main purpose in life isn’t about getting thin or getting pretty or making money or trying to impress or look good to other people. It’s about having goals that feel purposeful, meaningful to you.

Having Strong Personal Integrity: 

What is it to live with integrity? In my opinion, it’s to be as honest as you can without being hurtful. Being honest doesn’t mean telling someone that they look fat in their new dress or that they’re acting like a jerk. That’s not honest, that’s your subjective opinion. Being honest is more like telling someone that your feelings were hurt when they didn’t answer your phone calls or respond to your messages. Being honest is not stealing, not lying, not purposely saying things to hurt people, not spreading hurtful rumors, and not using other people to achieve your own means. It’s about being kind, being helpful, but also not sacrificing yourself or your own needs for the sake of others. Personal integrity is about knowing what your values are trying to live up to them. What are your values? When you identify your values and do your best to live up to them, you will always know that you are okay and you won’t have to worry about what other people think about you.

For more help on improving self esteem, check out some of Nathaniel Branden’s sentence completion exercises.

How to Stop Caring What Other People Think of You

taken from http://www.happyologist.co.uk/

taken from http://www.happyologist.co.uk/

A lot of women think that they can control what other people think of them by controlling what their bodies look like. They believe that if they look a certain way, people will think of them in a certain way. Sadly, the media reinforces this belief for us. A few years ago, Hillary Clinton was asked who her favorite designer was. Her reply- “Would you ask a man that question?”  My sentiments exactly. I throw that example right in the beginning because I cannot think of a more poignant example of the media’s portrayal of women. HIllary Clinton, a Yale educated attorney, a former US Senator, the former Secretary of State– all these crucially important positions held and we question her taste in designers. Is that necessary? No.  Is that ridiculous? Yes, it’s more than that, it’s insulting, it’s disgusting, and it’s a terrible commentary on how American society views the whole gender.

 

There is only one way to put an end to this stupidity, and it’s to not buy into it. It’s to avoid and ignore it. It’s to not worry too much about being what society (currently) deems is right for a woman to be. We don’t have to walk around in Lululemon eating just sprouts and coconut water all the time trying to get thin. It keeps women in a box. It keeps women from taking over the world. But not Hillary.  Unfortunately, not buying into these things is probably not going to have a huge affect right this moment, but the more you choose your own path, not the path that popular American culture has mapped out, the more people will learn by your example and new road maps will be formed. Just think, less than 100 years ago, women didn’t even have the right to vote, or wear pants!  But the suffragettes helped change that. Just think what you could do for the future of this society by choosing to cast your own net and do what you wanted to do without worrying about other people’s opinions. It starts with you.

You can never control what other people think of you, but you can control what you think of yourself. And you can do everything that you need to do to hold yourself in integrity. You can be the kind of person that you like. You can be the kind of person that you respect and admire. Rather than thinking about how to be the kind of person who other people would like, think about the person who you would admire and respect—that’s the person you can be. Life is too short to waste time trying to make people like you. If they don’t, keep being the good person that you are, and move on. You are perfect, whole, and complete just being you! And each day, each moment, you can evolve more and more deeply into that being.

So how do you do this?

1. Write down what your values are.

For example: I value integrity, kindness, intelligence and compassion.

Keep that list close to you, so that when you are confused as to how you should behave in comparison to what you think someone else expects of you, you can look to see if you are behaving in line with your value system.

2. Write down some of what your goals are for want to do in this lifetime.

For example: I want to read a lot of Dostoyevsky and write a historical fiction romance novel about the French Revolution and travel to Haiti and work with sick babies.

Then, if you hate yourself because you ate chocolate cake or if you feel that you’re not good enough because you haven’t gone to Bikram class, then you realize that being skinny isn’t your actual lifelong goal, you have other things that you’re focusing on. You can then refocus on who you are and what you want to be doing. Sadly, being skinny can be a lifelong goal for a lot of women and it prevents them from seeing more of what they want.

3. Stop analyzing other people’s thoughts.

For example: If you find yourself at a party thinking, Oh, he thinks I said something stupid, she thinks I’m fat… etc. You are projecting your own thoughts about yourself onto other people. You have no idea what other people are thinking about you. And, as they say, what other people think of you is none of your business. The only thoughts that you know for sure and they only ones that matter are what you think of yourself, so it’s important to do things that make you like yourself. And, the truth of the matter is, people are too busy thinking about themselves to worry too much about others. And if they are sitting around thinking about others– well then what a boring life they must have!

4. Don’t second guess yourself, it can make you paralyzed and unable to move forward. Even if you make the wrong decision, know that you have the ability to take care of the situation, no matter what. You can persevere. Life is never straight forward, there are so many ups and downs. Expect them and welcome them.

5. Go forward on your own path. Accept who you are instead of wishing you were like someone else. Everyone is given their own journey on this lifetime. Instead of looking at other people’s paths and journeys, keep to your own. When you spend time wishing you were like others or thinking you should be more like them, you stop growing on your own path.

6. Don’t be snarky. Just as you are following your own path, allow other’s the freedom to follow their own too. Let go of judgment of others, it will just keep you down and stuck.

 

For some guided visualization on raising self esteem and letting go of jealousy, check out this download and this download. 

A recovery story

I’ve been seeing *Emily in therapy for four years. She has written her recovery story and agreed to have it posted.

I actually remember the first time I binged and purged. I was in eighth grade and we were at Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house. My grandma used to make these huge elaborate meals, with like 5 or 6 different pies and all sorts of mashed potatoes and stuffing. My cousin Jenny, who is a year older than me, was there. She was like, everyone’s princess.  Everyone was soooo excited because Jenny had  made the cheerleading squad at her high school and she was in the homecoming court. Up until that year, me and Jenny had always sat there during Thanksgiving and giggle and eat all the pies together. But this year, she barely paid attention to me.  She wore these tight  jeans and kept her portions small. She was like a real teenager.  My mother looked at her admirably and said she was so proud of how beautiful Jenny had become. She also said that it was smart to watch her figure now that she was no longer a little girl. My mom then looked at me and said nothing as I scarfed down my third piece of pie. I had never really thought about it before. I mean that’s what we did on Thanksgiving. We ate my Grandma’s pies. Even my Grandma turned against me. “Eat less pie Emily! Be more like Jenny. Look how thin and gorgeous she is now!”  I felt horrible. My own (not name brand) jeans were unbuttoned to make room for my swollen belly and I felt how greasy my hair and skin had become.  After dinner, I excused myself to the bathroom and I don’t know how or why, but I began searching through the medicine cabinet. That’s when I saw the chocolate ex-lax. I knew what they did and I knew that I could use them to get rid of the pie. I don’t know how I knew to use them. I guess I’d heard of it somewhere… and so I took three pills. I remember thinking that I should take more than it said on the back, but I didn’t want anyone to notice that they were gone.  The laxatives kicked in that night. I sat up all night running to the bathroom. And although my stomach felt ravaged and I was in terrible pain, after my bathroom  trips, I would step on the scale and see how much weight I’d lost. It was amazing to me that the pounds were just dropping off. And that’s how it started.  Later that week, I made myself throw up after eating a milkshake and onion rings from Burger King.

And that was my descent into the dark years of bingeing, purging, taking laxatives, and starving myself. I kept trying to be more like my cousin Jenny who showed up at Thanksgiving every year more and more beautiful, with perfect grades, the captain of cheerleading, with a football player boyfriend. And me, I became more and more isolated. I had put on a lot of weight and I wore all black, smoked cigarettes and had kept my hair dyed black and pierced everything I could. I didn’t really have a boyfriend, though I did sleep with a lot of boys, but no one wanted to get serious with me. I kidded myself into thinking that I didn’t care. But I was depressed. Really depressed. I used to cut myself on the arms and legs sometimes, just so that I could emote because I felt, I believed that I was completely alone. My grandparents seemed to tolerate me, but didn’t have a lot of interest or pride in me. And my mother sort of seemed disgusted by me. She knew about my activities with boys and told me that I had no self-respect.  Food was a lot of what comforted me. I would eat full pizzas on my own after school and wash them down with diet cokes. I’d go days eating nothing, just drinking coffee and diet coke and eating pixie sticks to keep me going. Then I’d collapse, cut school and go to the donut store and eat a dozen donuts in the parking lot, wash them down with diet coke and laxatives, then throw up in the bathroom of the gas station, and then drive around town buying food to binge on and find gas station bathrooms to purge in.  I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to be like my cousin Jenny. I wanted people to love me and I wanted to be beautiful and cared for. I thought that if I could get thin enough, I’d be okay. But my bingeing and purging  continued all through high school, and shockingly, I still was able to get good enough grades to get into college.

I stopped purging in college, but became addicted to diet pills, marijuana, and sometimes even cocaine to keep me from eating. I finally lost all the weight I wanted to, but my body was breaking down. I suffered three fractures by the second semester of my sophomore year. I realized then that I had to stop with my eating disorder. But I couldn’t. I had no idea how to eat normally. I tried to eat three meals a day, but it always ended with me bingeing. I managed to stop purging, but I was still bingeing and then restricting. I did manage to graduate from college, but my grades really weren’t very good. I barely went to class and when I did, I didn’t pay attention or get much out of my classes. I really wasted my mother’s money.

After college, I tried a variety of things to help me lose weight. I tried different diets, I tried nutritionists, I tried a 12 step group with a food plan. But all of those things made me just binge when I fell off my food plans or diets.  Eventually, I decided to start seeing a therapist. I knew I had an eating disorder and was ready for help. It was really hard at first because I felt like my therapist just couldn’t help me with the thing I most needed help with– I wanted to lose weight, I wanted to stop bingeing. I told her to just tell me what to do and fix me. She gave me lots of assignments, many of them were about eating 3 meals a day, whatever I wanted, but I had to eat mindfully. She sent me to a nutritionist who specialized in treating eating disorders, and she also recommended that I see a psychiatrist to help me get some meds that might help with my depression.  I spent a lot of money. A serious amount of money between all those specialists. But I was desperate. 

Talking to my therapist really felt like a relief. We talked through a lot of the pain, depression, and through a lot of my childhood.  I realized that a lot of my eating disorder wasn’t about the food and it wasn’t about me getting thin. It was about me feeling really badly about myself. My Dad left my Mom and I when I was 5 years old, and I always thought it was my fault. The more I began to understand how I felt completely flawed my whole life, the more I understand that it was a myth– a story that I told myself. And that through that myth that I had conceptualized in my 5 year old mind, I began to act the way I believed I was. I tried desperately to get love and attention from men, but ultimately, I felt so worthless, that I let them treat me like crap– letting them have sex with me then ignore me the next day. My mother said I had no self respect, and she was right. But she never taught me how to respect myself. She never quite let me think I was worthy of love and admiration. I wasn’t any less smart or less beautiful than Jenny, I just believed I was. She had a mother and a father at home. I had no Dad and a Mom who was angry and felt rejected and resentful. She came into therapy with me several times as we discussed her own feelings of being worthless after my Dad left her for a much younger woman.   As I began to understand my own sense of worth, I started to try and take better care of myself. I learned to sit with my feelings, I learned to HOLD myself with respect. That was huge. I didn’t have to be super witty, nor did I have to do everything for everybody to make them like me. I didn’t have to be anything. I just had to respect myself. And so as I did, my eating disorder began to have less of a hold on me. As I talked through all those things, I realized that the drive to be thin was really just a drive to be accepted. So I learned to accept myself. It has been really hard for me to accept all those lost years, it’s like my whole teen years and most of my 20s were stolen by my eating disorder. But in learning to accept, I’m just trying to respectfully mourn those lost years.

I’ve been 100% free from any eating disorder behaviors since September 18th, 2010. That was the day before my 28th birthday. I am not afraid of Ed any longer. I know that I have the tools to work through whatever life should hand me. And if I do relapse, I know that I can’t lose the recovery that I have. 

*Name has been changed.

If you have a recovery story that you would like to be published, please send it to bingeeatingtherapy (at) gmail.com

Would You Rather Be a Mermaid or a Whale?

via: Delphine Fieberg on Facebook

the photo is French model Tara Lynn

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: “How amazing am I ?! ”

 

How amazing are you? Do tell in the comments!

How Shame Contributes to Eating Disorders and Eating Disorders Contribute to Shame

Do you ever feel shame?

Shame for eating too much, shame for eating too little, shame for the way you look, shame for the body you’re in, shame for the things you do, for the thoughts that you have, shame for lying about what you ate, shame for eating out of the garbage can, shame for stealing food, shame for drinking too much, shame for taking risks, shame for flirting, for being rejected, shame for not being good enough, shame for being too good, shame for being too proud, shame for your size, shame for your shape, shame for your job, shame for how much or how little money you make, shame for where or where you didn’t go to school,  shame for your parents, your husband, your wife, your friends, the people you associate with, your home, your judgements, your fears, your sleep patterns, your sex acts or masturbation habits, your messiness, your car, your furniture, do you ever feel shame simply because of who you are?

Renowned shame researcher Brene’ Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”  Because we are human, we want to feel loved for who we are, not for what we do or how we look, yet, somehow, at some point, many of us lose that sense, that we should be loved unconditionally and spend the rest of our lives trying to deem ourselves worthy of love. And for many, the task seems so momentous, that they give up. They believe that they are not worthy of love and figure “why try?”  Well the good news is, you are worthy of love whether you try or not. You are worthy of love if you’re fat or if your skinny, if you’re binge eating or if you’re purging or if you’re using drugs or drinking, or having sex with the wrong people, you’re still worthy of love. You don’t have to do anything to be valuable as a human being.

Yet, so many of us don’t believe that. Shame is a huge contributor to binge eating disorder. We believe that we are so damaged and so broken that we have to fix ourselves.  One of the ways that people try to fix themselves is by losing weight and becoming thin, they believe that if they are thin, they will be impervious to criticism by self and others. However, dieting can become binge eating, which then creates shame, which creates diet, which creates bingeing which creates shame.

Shame + Diet = Binge = Shame. People diet to get rid of shame. It’s almost as though they believe that they can sweat it away or starve it away.

But you can’t get rid of shame by trying to fix yourself.

Fixing yourself because you believe you are broken is very different than self growth and evolution and working to become healthy because you love yourself.  Fixing yourself because you are broken is a task of Sisyphean proportions because you will never be fixed. Mostly because you were never broken. You just thought you were, and you will continue to think you are until you find the antidote to shame, which is acceptance.

Because you believe that you are broken, there’s a part of you who tries to destroy yourself. How many times have you seen people reinvent themselves, “that was the old me, this is the new me!” (Ala Kirstie Alley- over and over and over again).

You’re always you. It’s okay, it’s necessary even to improve and change, but that happens naturally through the course of life experience, self growth, holding integrity and finding yourself. One of the wonderful parts about finding yourself is when you stop trying to fit into a mold that you think you’re supposed to be, you find that the person underneath is truly wonderful. Maybe the things that you do are not wonderful. Maybe the habits that you have are bad, or even shameful. But who you are and what you do are not one in the same. As you begin to accept who you are, you stop trying to destroy that person with bingeing, starvation, purging, excessive dieting, compulsive exercise, abusive self talk, promiscuity,  or other self harming behaviors that have the underlying intention of making you more acceptable.

So how do you accept yourself and find some freedom from shame?  That’s not a simple question.

  • One of the ways is through radical acceptance. Not necessarily liking the things to do, the habits you have, the things you say, the mistakes you make, the feelings you have, but accepting them without judgment.
  • Dr. Brene Brown talks about healing shame through connection and empathy. Having the courage  to share your stories, your mistakes, places where you messed up with someone who will listen and empathize, and also being able to hear others’ stories with empathy and without judgement or criticism. A great place for this is group therapy or 12 step groups.
  • Having integrity. Thinking about what traits you respect in other people and applying them to yourself. Traits aren’t eating carrot sticks instead of pizza. Those are habits. Traits are kindness, compassion, consideration.  Think about who you would want to have as a  best friend and be that person to yourself.  So often I see people come in who have best friends who they consider to be bitches. They hate their best friends. Yet somehow, they keep them around because they want to be like them, “she’s pretty, thin, rich, popular…” etc. They aspire to be like that person, yet they don’t really like that person. Be your own best friend and be the friend to others that you would want for yourself. Holding yourself with integrity helps you to feel good about who you are.
  • Break the binge-shame-binge cycle. Don’t beat yourself up. When you catch yourself beating yourself up, be kind. You are not a bad person because you binged. You binged because you thought that you were a bad person. The irony is, when you have a binge, that’s when you need the most compassion because you were probably having a tough time to begin with. So be kind to yourself.

How to Deal With Jealousy

Do you ever look at people and think that their lives are so much better than yours? Do you ever wish that you had someone else’s body, their boyfriend/girlfriend, their apartment, their job, their money, their clothes? Do you ever look at someone then hate yourself?

If so, you’ve experienced the kind of jealousy and envy that causes despair.

Some people have the habit of comparing their lives to the lives of someone else and then feeling bad about themselves. Compare and Despair. Or, as one of my former supervisors referred to it, “compare and destroy.” The truth is, when you compare yourself to other people, you can often wind up obliterating yourself or destroying the other person in your head.  For instance,  “She’s very pretty– therefore I must be ugly, I hate myself…” or  “She’s very pretty… but she’s stupid and she dresses badly.”  Rather than having someone’s positive attributes have nothing to do with you at all. Just because someone is smart doesn’t mean you’re not smart enough. Just because someone is beautiful doesn’t mean you’re not. Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean that you can’t be.

Jealousy, broken down into its core components is anger at someone for having something that you don’t because on some very primal level, you believe that they are stealing something from you. If they have it, you can’t have it.

People often measure themselves against others as  a way of understanding where they fall, how they’re doing. We don’t get graded in life. So, perhaps if we can see who has the most money, the thinnest legs, the biggest house, the handsomest husband, we can understand where we stand.

This can be particularly true with body image. Many women spend a great deal of their day and their mind space comparing their bodies to the bodies of other women and then feeling badly about themselves.  This kind of comparison is so detrimental to your mental and emotional health. It pulls you away from you. You become so busy looking at what other people have that you begin to forget about yourself. This isn’t only true about comparing yourself to a body that you think is “better” than yours, it’s also when you compare yourself to a body that you think is “worse” than yours. There are no qualitative parameters on bodies. You have been given one and it’s up to you to care for it alone.  Each person has their own dharma and their own path. It’s up to you to travel along on your own path, to go forward and figure out all your obstacles and roadblocks. When you compare yourself to others, you begin to look to other people’s paths. In doing that, you stop moving forward on your own. You can’t jump on anyone else’s path. You have your own. Each person has their own life and their own problems. When you compare yourself and your life to other people’s, you’re not taking into consideration that you don’t actually know what’s going on in their lives. You’re comparing yourself to a fantasy that you are having about someone else’s life.

When you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else and becoming upset, stop yourself.

First, notice if you are trying to destroy them in your head. Stop doing that. It’s not productive and it doesn’t feel good in your body, nor does it help you get closer to your goal.

Then, what is it that you’re jealous of? Is this something that you can have? If so, how can you get this thing. If not, think about how  your life differs, and what makes you and your life unique and how you can continue on your own life.

Empower yourself by thinking about what in your life you can control and making moves to go there. Jealousy is totally unempowering. It makes you feel helpless and paralyzed. People try to empower themselves and make themselves feel better with idle gossip. Trying to elevate yourself by devaluing someone else is never a good idea. It keeps you small. Elevating  yourself by being a genuinely good person and working to reach your goals will help you to deal with your jealousy. You will remember that you have your own life and your own personal goals that you are working toward that have nothing to do with anyone else’s goals or path.

As you move through your life, and pay attention to your own life, give your life and your self attention. When you obsess and dwell on what others have, you avoid yourself, you reject yourself and your life. It’s not conducive to positive change or a happy life.

Pay attention and give love to you and you will reap those rewards and begin to enjoy what you do have.

Anger and Binge Eating

There is a theory that many people binge on crunchy food, such as cereal or chips when they are trying to process unconscious anger.  Anger is a  challenging feeling for many women to feel. When rage and anger goes unexpressed, it turns inward and becomes depression. What’s important is to learn how to be in touch with your feelings so that you can recognize anger when it occurs. Perhaps someone cut you off when you were driving, or someone at a store said something rude or insensitive, or your boss upset you. Lots of women internalize that and believe that if someone said something mean or rude or insensitive to them, that they probably deserved it. But the truth is, no one should ever treat you with unkindness or disrespect, even if you mess up.  If they do, it is a character flaw within them.  In my opinion, being kind, being compassionate and holding yourself in integrity will get you far in life. And everyone deserves to be treated with kindness unless proven otherwise. When someone treats your poorly, it’s their fault, not yours.  When a binge eater is mistreated, rather than either standing up for him or herself or processing her anger, she will eat over it. It’s ironic. Someone hurt you and your response is to hurt yourself. When you begin to choose recovery, you will notice that your feelings are more apparent to you. When someone makes you angry, either talk to them about it (if it’s safe). If it’s not safe, write an angry letter and put it in a bottle and send it out to sea. Don’t let that anger fester inside of you to hurt you. Don’t stuff it down, get it out. You can talk to a close friend about it, you can punch a pillow, you and put on heavy boots and clomp up a hill.  It’s not easy to recognize when your default has always been to eat as soon as you even begin to feel anger, but if you can stop yourself and ask, “what am I feeling?” you might find that you are able to save yourself.

Going Toward Health Rather Than Going Toward Weight Loss

It’s not news that being thin doesn’t equate to being healthy.

However, did you ever think about the fact that aspiring to be thin can also be unhealthy? It can both mentally and physically detrimental. When the end goal is thinness, the means by which to achieve that end  can often be incredibly unhealthy. Some people live on cigarettes and red wine to reach their goal of thinness, some people go on restrictive diets where they just live on meat and diet coke to get thin, others exercise hours a day and restrict their calories or purge there food. They might be thin, but they’re certainly not healthy.

Unfortunately, when the only goal is to be thin, the road can be very challenging. Even thinking of the inherent goal is negative,  the goal is to lose something– you are focusing on getting rid of something. Shouldn’t a goal be positive? Shouldn’t a goal be going toward something, like health, vitality and longevity, shouldn’t you be trying to gain something rather than lose something?

Those who’s focus is to lose weight tend to become frustrated, either by the scale or their inability to stay on a restricted food plan. A woman I knew decided to go on a “no carb” diet. Each day she would eat nothing except meat, eggs, and bacon. However, every couple of days, she’d “fall off the wagon,” and add milk to her coffee or grab an apple or an orange between between meetings or grab a latte from the coffee vendor in her office building. Every time that happened, she felt as though she’d failed and would binge on donuts, cakes, cookies, chips, etc, then vow that she’d go right back on her diet the next day.   Had she been going toward health instead of thinness, she would have realized the insanity of believing that there was something inherently evil about a piece of fruit or some milk.

When you go toward health, you create a shift in your thinking. You begin to think of food as something that is loving and helpful for your body. You choose an apple for energy instead of a diet coke, you exercise to the needs of your body rather than pushing your body to injury, if you find that you’re eating something that you’d prefer not to, you stop eating it and love and accept yourself rather than continuing to eat and purging.

When you go toward health, your body finds its right place. You slow down a bit and give yourself what you need.

Linda Bacon, the founder of the HAES movement, published an article (Weight Science:Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift) this week in Nutrition Journal challenging the assumption that in order for overweight people to find health, they must  diet.  If the “obesity crisis” is truly at epidemic proportions, why the consistent push for diets, when they clearly lead to more weight gain and disordered eating?

Rather than depriving yourself in order to try and lose weight, add something new each day like a support call, a piece of fruit, or a nice walk in the sunshine in order to go toward health.

 

Letting go of perfection…

One of the motivating forces behind eating disorders is the drive to be perfect. People hope for a perfect body, perfect eating habits, flawless skin,  trying to act perfect by always saying the right thing, they try to keep a perfectly clean home and car, and  on and on and on– whatever the individual definition of perfection is . The problem is of course, that nobody is perfect so in the strive for perfection, failure is inevitable.  Often, because of that, trying becomes a frustrating let down, as well as a horrible blow to self esteem. “I messed up, therefore I’m a failure, I suck, I’m a horrible person…” and descent into depression or further into eating disorder behavior, or other compulsive behaviors follow.  Some people have such high expectations of themselves that they feel paralyzed. They can barely function because their belief of what they have to be is unattainable so they figure “why bother?”and live in a stuck place where they are unable to go forward with their lives because they hate themselves so much for what they are not. Other people are not so dichotomous and strive toward perfection, but punish themselves when they fail. Like people who have very rigid eating regimens and so if they eat something off their plan they binge, and figure they’ll start all over again the next day. Or they might punish themselves by purging or doing excruciating exercise.

Letting go of the myth of perfection is not easy. So many folks have their heads wrapped around that goal that they believe their lives will be meaningless without it.

  • Remember that perfection is a myth. No one is meant to be perfect, that’s not the way life is. We evolve, learn and grow. Nobody can sit down having never played the piano before and play a perfect concerto. You must start from scratch, learn, practice, and make mistakes.
  • If you never made any mistakes, you would never learn anything. Mistakes are the way we learn. If you can learn from your mistakes rather than making the same mistake over and over again without learning anything, you are evolving.
  • Perfection is not a human or even animal trait. There is no such thing as perfection. That’s not why we exist on this planet. Of course  I don’t know why we exist, but I’m betting that being perfect is not at the top of the list. Especially considering that it’s so subjective.
  • Life is not exciting when our goal is to be perfect because we are unable to take in the intricacies of life. We become so stressed out when we “mess up” that we aren’t able to appreciate what is happening in the moment.
  • Having personal goals and striving toward them is crucial for happiness and joy. However, if the end goal is so rigid, the journey there won’t be enjoyable. The end goal might not even be attained, but what you can learn as you travel through can be more enlightening than what you even set out to achieve.
  • If you find yourself paralyzed, try to take one small step forward. Rather than thinking that you can’t do this overwhelming task perfectly, make small goals that will enable you to move forward.  For example, If you think that you have 200 pounds to lose, that’s very daunting and probably very difficult to begin. However, if your goal is something less daunting, like “try a new vegetable once a week” or “try and get some movement in every day” or “eat at least one fresh fruit and one fresh vegetable each day,” or “make an appointment with a nutritionist” you will find that it’s not too daunting. And if you go a day without getting movement or without eating a fresh fruit, you can always make up for it the next day, rather than thinking, “this is too hard, I can’t do it, I’ll just have to give up.”  It’s possible that you might not reach your end goal, but that’s okay. Your end goal is really health and by integrating changes, you will find improved health.  If you have a very messy house that seems overwhelming to clean, just do one drawer or one surface at a time. It might take you many weeks or months to complete the task, but cleaning one drawer or one section of your closet, or one corner of a room is a lot more doable than cleaning a whole house.
  • Rather than striving for perfection, think about what you can do each day that helps you to be the person that you like. Think about the things that you do that make you like yourself and try to do more of it.  You don’t want to do an overhaul and completely change the person you are, that’s a recipe for self defeatism and self deprecation, not to mention a complete self esteem killer.

Being who you are is what makes you perfect. No one can be a more perfect version of you than you.