Friday, December 28, 2012

Guilt Trip? For shame!



GUILT & SHAME

"Guilt is a rope that wears thin."
                   -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

“We need never be ashamed of our tears.” 
                  ― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

Disordered eating can distract you from intolerable emotions and conflicts.  It's easier to focus on food/weight/behavior than to experience difficult thoughts and feelings. Feeling guilty or ashamed for what you’re eating (or not eating) or how much you weigh can be a distraction from a deeper sense of guilt and/or shame about your needs, wants, and core self.

GUILT can be understood as being about something that you did or did not do.  It references behavior and actions.   People feel guilty when they think they’ve done something wrong, or when they choose not to take action.   Guilt sounds like:  “I’ve done something really bad and wrong.”

SHAME is about who you are as a person, your essential character.   It’s not that you’ve done a bad thing, but that there’s something essentially bad about you.  Shame is often associated with secrecy and leads to isolation.Shame sounds like:  “There’s something really bad and wrong with me.”

Understanding your behavior around food (or anything) can help mitigate the feelings about the behavior and make you feel less guilty and shameful.  

Think of something that makes you feel guilt and/or shame.  What is your “crime”?
(ie, “I feel guilty for eating that pizza” or “I feel guilty for wanting ice cream”)



What does the behavior mean about you?
(ie, “I want too much and I have no self-control.  I am completely weak.”)



What is another way of looking at this situation and your behavior? 
(ie, “I have conflicts about wanting more out of life, and that makes me feel needy.  Wanting more is not bad, or shameful, but human.  I will be curious about where in my life I feel deprived, so I don’t turn to food to get “more” or to express my conflict over wanting more out of life by eating more or bingeing and purging, or by restricting.”)



If you feel guilty about eating too much, or restricting, or bingeing and purging, ask yourself what you feel guilty about that has nothing to do with food.   If your guilt is not attached to food/weight, what might you feel guilty about?  


If you feel a pervasive sense of shame, a sense that there is something inherently wrong with you, what is so bad about you?  


What do you imagine is wrong with your character, your basic and essential self?


Where did you learn to relate to yourself this way?  

When you identify and process your core guilt and shame, you’ll be less likely to express those emotions through disordered eating. 




Comments and questions are welcome.  Please share on Facebook and/or Twitter so more people can benefit from the information on this blog.

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Legal Disclaimer:  The content on this site is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not intended as psychotherapy or as a substitute for psychotherapy advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Other "F" Word


The “F” Word 

The "F" word is not what you think.  It's not "fat" and it's not the other "F" word, either!  I'm talking about a word that's as loaded as the others:

Feelings



Part of what makes us all human is our ability to feel emotions, but our culture tells us there’s something wrong with our feelings: 
Angry?  You have an anger management problem.
Sad?  Take an anti-depressant. 
Anxious?  There’s a pill for that, too.
Scared?  Be strong!  Fight!  Don’t give in to fear!
No wonder people often have difficulty recognizing that emotions, needs, desires and reactions are part of being human, not a defect.  A feeling is a reaction to a situation, not a reflection of your character. 
When you cannot identify or process uncomfortable or intolerable feelings, because the mere existence of those feelings is viewed as weak, bad or wrong, you may turn to food (or against it) as a way of dealing with those feelings.  That strategy is ineffective in the long run.  As counterintuitive as it may sound, the only way to get rid of feelings is to actually feel them.  First, you have to identify what you’re feeling.  Here are three feelings that can be problematic:

ANGER: Annoyance, frustration, rage and fury are all derivatives of anger.  It helps to make a gauge of what you’re feeling.  On a scale of 1-10, what’s a 10?  Rage?  Fury? 

What’s a 2?  Frustration?  Annoyance?  

If you don’t gauge feelings, every emotion seems like a 10.  Everything feels like too much.  And if your feelings are overwhelming, you’re more vulnerable to turning to food (or from it) for relief.

I don’t like getting angry because:
I’m afraid to feel angry because it reminds me of:

SADNESS:  Gloomy, unhappy, glum, hurt, dejected, depressed, grieving, are forms of sadness. 

I don’t like feeling sad because:
I’m afraid to feel sad because it reminds me of:

HAPPINESS: You might be thinking, what’s difficult about being happy?  Happiness is a good thing.  All I want is to be happy!  People are often nervous to be happy, afraid the rug is going to be pulled out from under them.  They don’t let themselves get too happy because they’re afraid they’ll lose that good feeling, so they sabotage themselves.  

Also, food is associated with celebration and reward.  We commemorate birthdays, achievements and transitions food and allow ourselves a “treat” for a job well done.  If food is associated with special celebrations, it’s difficult not to eat or overeat on those occasions.

I’ll know when I’m happy when:
If I let myself be happy, then:

When you can identify, gauge, and process a range of emotions, won’t need food to escape, numb or distract yourself from those feelings.

Comments and questions are welcome.  Please share on Facebook and/or Twitter so more people can benefit from the information on this blog.

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Legal Disclaimer:  The content on this site is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not intended as psychotherapy or as a substitute for psychotherapy advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Food For Thought




Disordered eating is not actually "about" food.  Whatever is going on with food, whether you're turning to it or from it, the behavior is a symptom of a deeper problem, conflict or emotion - it isn't "the" problem (but it sure feels like it).  

That said, disordered eating involves food.  Here's some food for thought to get you thinking about what part food plays in your relationship to yourself:


To me, food represents… 
(i.e., food represents love and comfort)



Eating (or restricting food) has been a way for me to…
(i.e., eating has been a way for me to escape painful emotions)
(i.e., restricting food has been a way for me to feel strong and powerful)



All my life I’ve used food as…
(i.e., I’ve used food as a way to numb/comfort/attack/punish myself)



The feelings I use food to bury are…
(mad, sad, fearful, anxious, guilty, etc.)



Food helps me avoid…
(i.e., food helps me avoid disappointment in my life or in other people)



Sometimes I’m afraid to eat because…
(i.e., I’m afraid to eat because I don’t want to give up the sense of power I get from restricting…. I’m afraid I won’t stop eating… I don’t want to need anything, including food)


Comments and questions are welcome.  Please share on Facebook and/or Twitter so more people can benefit from the information on this blog.

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Legal Disclaimer:  The content on this site is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not intended as psychotherapy or as a substitute for psychotherapy advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cookies Don't Take Away Feelings!



Recently I sat at a local park and watched two toddlers playing in a sandbox, scooping sand into a pail. One of them suddenly ran off with a shovel. The other burst into tears.

Her anxious mother ran up, saying, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, it’s okay.”

The little girl continued to bawl.

Her mother hurriedly reached into her bag and pulled out a box of animal crackers. “Here,” she said, shoving the cookie towards her daughter, “Have a cookie.”

In that moment the girl learned her feelings upset others and she either shouldn’t have them or show them, but if she absolutely can't stop the feelings, a cookie will resolve the problem.


                As I watched and listen to this exchange, I realized it replicated the internal process of disordered eating. Sometimes when people start to feel something - anger, sadness, hurt, resentment, and so forth -a part of them resists the feeling, as if saying, "Don't feel that! It's too uncomfortable! I can't deal!" And that's when people might turn to food to cope or distract, or start attacking themselves or their bodies in some other way.

Other possible responses to this situation:

A dismissive parent might not notice that the girl was crying or might glance over and say, “You’re okay. It’s not the end of the world.” The girl learns her feelings are of no interest to others.

An angry parent might snap, “Stop crying, already!” The girl learns her feelings upset and irritate others.

A supportive parent would say, “Of course you’re upset, it’s okay to cry it out. Your feelings are hurt.”The girl learns that her feelings are worthy of her attention and that it's okay to express them.

How do you soothe yourself when you’re upset?

Where did you learn to relate to yourself this way?

A note on mothers (and fathers): Parents usually do their best, given their circumstances and their upbringing, but sometimes their "best" can be harmful to their children. It's not helpful to blame parents, because that can keep people in a victim stance (ie, "It's their fault I'm this way!"). Explaining why you feel or react in certain ways can be healing, as it helps you understand why you react to yourself the way you do.  Considering a different response leads to empowerment (ie, "I understand that my upbringing impacted me in a particular way, but now that I get it, I can work to change it.")



Comments and questions are welcome.  Please share on Facebook and/or Twitter so more people can benefit from the information on this blog.

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Legal Disclaimer:  The content on this site is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not intended as psychotherapy or as a substitute for psychotherapy advice, diagnosis or treatment.