The way you grew up shaped your relationship with your own body and your psyche. The emotional contexts from your childhood interact with your temperament which in turn created your personality traits. These traits are not fixed, instead they are coping mechanisms that you have acquired along the way, and the difficulty with these coping mechanisms is that we keep applying them even when it is they no longer work. We don't learn new coping mechanisms unless we are told about a new way to cope.
The brain does not hear ‘stop’ or ‘don’t’. So just being told to ‘stop that’ or ‘don't do that’ means the exact opposite. So basically when we talk about your coping we are talking about how you have responded to your environment, and this response has set up a pattern of behaviours that you have developed to ensure your survival. As such, what we are really talking about is habitual defence mechanisms that you have unconsciously adopted, and because they have been unconsciously adopted we actually identify with them as indispensable, that we can’t actually be any other way because we identify them as a part of who it is that we are. We can actually harbour self-loathing for these adopted traits.
When needs are unmet, when we come across lack, we have a tendency to develop obsessive coping styles, underlying which is anxiety. The base line of anxiety is either pain or fear or both and when a person gets in touch with this sense of lack, these unmet needs, they also experience a stress on the system. We develop desperate responses to emotional deprivation and these responses are our coping styles.
Stress eating is a coping style, it is a response to your environment in order to ensure survival. Emotional repression is also a coping style. It is a conditioning learned along the way that negative emotions need to be hidden and eating is a way to hide them, it is a way to ensure survival. Food=Love. It is a way to self-sooth when there is no one to talk to, no one to meet those unmet needs, the behaviour becomes repeated and multiplied, harming your bodies natural homeostasis and because it is unconscious, it becomes habitual, a constant defence against self-loathing, a constant defence against anxiety.
Are you a silent sufferer? Do you have an intense need to please? Do you care for yourself, or do you care for everybody but yourself? Do you find that you need to control everything? Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?
Or do you go the other way and give up easily? Feeling like it is hopeless anyway? Joining in with what others are doing and then blaming them for your inability to have your needs met? Are you stressed and depressed? Physically ill?
These are lifelong patterns of repression.
When you were a child and you felt sad, upset, or angry, was there anyone you could talk to? Even when the only one you could talk to was the person that triggered your negative emotions?
‘Well, what’s the point if I can’t let loose once in a while?’
Once again I was watching my favourite show, X Weighted. The family on the show was comprised of two overweight parents and their slightly over weight son. At the half way mark both of the parents were weighed in and they had both lost a healthy amount of weight, yet, they both expressed their disappointment that their weight was not lower and as well, how hard it was to motivate their son to stick with the diet as he is a teenager and constantly pushed back against their healthy meal choices.
The end of the episode showed the son at his healthy weight, he had achieved his goal and was no longer obese. Both of the parents however failed to lose any more weight after the half way point, in the entirety of the six months they had been doing the show the nearly 400 pound dad lost almost 30 pounds and the mother who had lost 12 pounds at the halfway point only lost 10 pounds in total. She had GAINED 2 pounds!
The doctor on the show was understandably disappointed and a little confused at their lack or weight loss and when he asked the mother responded, ‘Well, yeah, every once in a while I would go out and get a burger. Why can’t I even have a burger? If I can’t even do that then what’s the point?’ Which you and I and even the T.V. doctor knows is total B.S. If a 400 pound man can’t lose more than 30 pounds in 6 months then obviously your having more than just one burger every once in a while.
This is the problem with not being up front and honest with yourself, you may fool yourself into believing that you are just having a burger every once in a while, but the truth is you eat the burger, then the fries, then you have blown the diet for that day anyway so you get an ice cream, but because you hide all this from your rebellious son who you do not want calling you a hypocrite you sit down and have the healthy meal that you prepared the family as well.
This is why food diaries are such a blessing, they force you to write down everything you have so you can’t be in denial. This is why having a dedicated weight loss partner is such a blessing, because if you both really want to lose weight you won’t enable yourselves to stray from the diet, instead you will motivate each other to keep going. This is why being able to pay someone to kidnap you and hide you in a remote place so you can’t cheat is such a blessing, because basically you are forced into sticking with the diet because what else are you going to do? Wade through a jungle with snakes and spiders, and God knows what else, oh my?
This is why the Emotionally Focussed Eating Program is such a bonus, it is tailored to help you learn how to be up front and honest with yourself.
How to Prioritize Yourself
Everything about weight loss is about you, your past, your present, and your future. Weight loss can only be achieved through self care, self regulation, and self acceptance. When starting your weight loss journey make a pros and cons list of of how it will effect your life, and here is an example;
Cons: No more excessive drinking or partying, no more Friday night binge parties, I have to change my families habits as well as mine so I am not derailed, I have to accept I will lose some of my friends (maybe even my closest ones).
Pros: Without constantly eating and thinking about food I will: be able to do the things I love like writing my book or learning new skills.
Cons: I will be bored, what if I can’t find something as fun and satisfying as food?
Pros: With my weight loss journey I will be able to feel good about myself, I can have fun without worrying about the judgment of others, I will feel comfortable in my own skin, I will be proud of the way I look.
Cons: I will have to learn new coping skills, I will have to deal with the emotions I have avoided for so long, how will I feel comforted? How will I feel full? How will I be able to change the way I have been for the longest time?
Creating a pros and cons list can be incredibly helpful, it can help you think about the situations and moments in your weight loss journey that you never thought would hinder your success. As well, a pros and cons list can be helpful in determining if you really want to lose weight. If your entire life revolves around your friends, eating at work, drinking, movie nights and popcorn, these reasons may sound ridiculous now but changing these habits that have been put in place for years can feel nearly impossible to change.
It is important to be able to base the pros and cons list of your weight loss journey not only on the results but also on the actual happenings of the journey. Make a pros list such as, feeling successful in actually starting, feeling accomplished at the loss of every pound, the sense of achievement when you have gone out for a coffee with your friend and actually stuck to the diet. This is important to do because this will allow you to understand and accept the hardships that come with weight loss but also the achievements and success that come with it on the way to your ultimate goal.
Personality Types: A,B and C
There are three personality types. The one I hear about the most is type A, ‘I am a type A personality!’. These are the people who consider themselves perfectionists, demanding, angry, tense, fast, aggressive, in control, 0 to 100 in regards to emotion, fricken anal retentive. Type B on the other hand represents the more balanced, moderate, easy going, able to express emotion personality. The expression of emotion is moderate, not uncontrolled. The third personality type is type C. Type C personalities are the people who are more passive in nature, these are the people who have a tendency to say ‘yes’ when they actually really mean ‘no.’ They are excessively cooperative, excessively patient, lacking in assertiveness, and breaking their own boundaries in order to make other people happy.
Type A’s have rigid boundaries and know how to keep them rigidly in tact. Type B’s on the other hand because they are easy going and pleasant can float with their boundaries, meaning that they pay attention to themselves as well as the needs of others but when their boundaries get stepped on they can easily express anger, fear, sadness, and other emotions accordingly. Type C individuals on the other hand are more the martyrs, the victims, the people who have a tendency to suppress or repress negative emotions. These are your conflict avoiders, they avoid conflict at all costs and struggle to maintain their placid composure, happy, smiley, people on the outside to cover up whatever pain might be going on in the inside. Denial and repression of negative emotions and a suppression of reactivity in order not to offend others and are described mostly as ‘nice’ or ‘good’.
Repression and the inability to say ‘no’ as well as a lack of self-awareness of how situations and experiences are landing on the type C personality, that falls under the category of anger, makes it much more likely for that person to continue in situations with unexpressed emotions continually, with needs being ignored, and that gentle demeanour being exploited. These individuals are highly stressed with the inability to express it, holding it in the body. This type of personality has an emotional coping style that can lead to only being able to express one part of their being, usually adopted through childhood relationships with parents. The expression of negative emotions was not acceptable, so therefore, a child learns to hide them. If the parents are not big enough to be able to accept all of the emotions that a child has, then the child learns to only present their nice or good part.
When this goes on unabated, repeating over and over again, the stress response is multiplied with the potential of harming the bodies natural homeostasis and the immune system. It is the stress caused by maintaining this facade that undermines the bodies physiological balance and immune defences. This inner pain and physiological stress is a link between chronic stress, personality traits and the result of emotional eating.
A holistic approach places the person at the centre, rather than just looking at the medical issue, or the psychological issue, or the social issue all separately, it takes into account the entire life history. It encourages each individual to examine carefully each of the stresses that they have faced and currently are facing, not only what is happening in their context at home or at work or in their extended family environments, but also those that are generated internally.
This self-reflective process allows the person to take into account every aspect of their lives and by doing so it allows for the ability to not only understand that there are influencers that connect everything together, but that all of these influencers need to be taken into account to be able to increase the chances of getting back to health. Also, it allows for the opportunity to create an isomorphic treatment plan. Isomorphism is a match between who it is that you are, where it is that you come from, what makes sense to you, what you actually truly believe, and how this plays out in your daily life with the treatment plan. If the treatment plan doesn't make sense to you, or just doesn't fit with your lifestyle, then there is no way that you are going to be able to adopt the changes over the long haul. You might be able to do it for the short term but the truth is if you don’t like eating eggs and the new diet plan is all about eggs then the program is going to die a quick death with no hope of continued implementation.
It is important to be able to figure out what you are all about as well as what is really important to you. This is to do with your core beliefs and once you understand what you truly believe to your core, then you will be able to understand the new lifestyle that you need to implement, not only to be able to make life better but also to make it sustainable. Every one of us is like a tree, what is above the surface of the ground we can clearly see, however, what lies under the ground, the root system, is just as big or even bigger.
This part is hidden and supports the structure that you can see, the root system sustains the tree. It sucks up the nutrients for the tree to grow, so depending upon what those nutrients are will result in either a healthy and flourishing, resilient life, or the opposite. If the nutrients you have fed from develop a pattern for you of; emotional repression, anger, confused or mixed up feelings, feeling not protected, hurt, a failure, denial, pain, suppression of distress, low self-esteem, making everyone else happy, neediness, then the resulting growth will be an automatic reflex rooted not in adult realities of resiliency, but in childhood experiences and traumas that have programmed your current coping that has shaped your resulting system.
If on the other hand your root system is nurtured by love, powerful caring, support, good advice, this allows for the development of a tree that has a fighting and resilient spirit. Paying attention to what you allow as your nutrients that supports your system, is important in considering what the cost is to your resulting structure.
Troubled eating patterns are linked with unresolved childhood issues. Stress that creates problems with self-nurture are also stresses that predispose to ill health. Eating patterns are directly connected with emotional issues, and both arise from childhood as well as from current stress. The patterns of eating and as well of how we eat, how much we eat, and when we don’t eat, are strongly related to the levels of stress we experience. These patterns are also related to the coping responses we have developed in the face of life challenges. All of this together intimately effects the functioning of our hormones and our hormones influence the female and male reproductive tracts.
Temporary elevation of cortisol that occurs is episodes of acute stress is healthy and necessary. Acute stress is a limited stress over a short duration of time. What is actually not healthy is when cortisol levels are chronically elevated in those that are chronically stressed. A consistently identified risk factor to developing illness is the inability to express emotion, in particular, the feelings associated with anger. Repression of anger is a major risk factor to illness because it increases physiological stress on the system.
This inability to express emotion does not act alone but in conjunction with other risk factors associated with illness such as the feelings of hopelessness and lack of social support. This is the type of person that feels isolated even if surrounded by friends. This person does not feel or express negative emotions. Both of these traits occur because this persons real self is not seen. This person has a chronic inability to be true to themselves on the deepest level, hopelessness then leads to helplessness because nothing that they do is perceived as making any difference. These are psychosomatic risk factors to the onset of illness.
Eating disorders affect hormonal balance. The other traits that go along with this is the insatiable need of satisfying others as well as not paying attention to your own boundaries, constantly giving in to the needs of others instead of paying attention to your own needs and need for self- care. As such, psychological factors such as uncertainty, conflict, lack of control, and lack of information are considered to be the most stressful that effect sense of control and eating. Lack of control, lack of information, and unsatisfied emotional needs such as lack of love leads to emotional eating in order to be able to fill the void.
There is a mind and body link in regards to illness as well as our understanding of health. Trying to identify stress will lead to health. In healing every bit of information in regards to your emotions and your physiology is crucial. Given the strong connection between hormone levels and emotions means that there are psychological influences of both personality and stress factors on the causation of weight problems.
A good question to consider is what personality patterns or life circumstances may interfere with the bodies defence mechanisms? A holistic approach, such as the Emotionally Intelligent Eating Program, places the person at the centre, takes into account an individual life history, which in turn encourages careful examination of each of the stresses you face chronically, both those in your environment as well as those generated internally.
Chemical dependancy and substance abuse is a way in which to alter consciousness. It is important to understand what is being altered and why, in order to identify alternative nutritional strategies. If we look at addiction as a self-medication strategy this suggests that the substance has been chosen as means to self-regulate painful emotional states. This can also apply to looking at addiction to self-regulate nutrient deficits, the goal is to be able to understand what the person is actually really self-medicating and the nutrients that may be missing. Most addictive substances cause an increased production of dopamine in the brain; the feelings of reward and pleasure. Yet, if it is over-stimulated this leads to depleted dopamine production and as a result lack, of pleasure in life.
Drugs and alcohol stimulate that release, therefore the brain starts to suppress the production, meaning that the pleasurable feeling starts to become numb. There is primary and secondary malnutrition factors that can go along with chemical dependancy and substance abuse. Primary malnutrition is to do with lack of food intake which may be as a result of lack of money to purchase food, lack of the basic essentials of life, emotional or psychological disorders.
Secondary malnutrition occurs because the chemical dependancy and substance abuse depress digestion and absorption of nutrients. Co-occurring disorders commonly occur such as PTSD, depression, and eating disorders for example and have a tendency to go hand in hand with alcohol and drug abuse as a form of self-medication. Alcohol consumption can lead to primary and secondary malnutrition. Nutrient deficits can actually lead to alcohol use and the ability to digest and absorb nutrients and fatty acids can become impaired as a result. Alcohol use inhibits fat absorption, omega fatty acids, vitamins A, E, and D, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B1.
Alcohol addiction is also a physiological addiction to sugar as a person withdraws from alcohol use the alcohol has a tendency to be replaced with the intake of refined sugar and simple carbohydrates and increased coffee consumption, as a method for handling withdrawal.
Cannabis is often used to self-medicate symptoms of PTSD and chronic pain. Chronic smoking can lead to lung irritation. Vitamins and glandulars can support lung recovery as well as increased consumption of essential fatty acids can positively effect the endocanebanoid system in the brain.
Cocaine addiction also depletes dopamine in the brain and damages mucus membranes. Cocaine addiction decreases appetite which can lead to primary malnutrition and also depletes vitamin B6, B1, and vitamin C. Opiates impair digestive function. The prescription of opiates is to be able to manage pain, but unfortunately extended use can impair the bodies capacity to reduce pain. Those addicted to opiates or are on methadone are at increased risk for sugar intake leading to obesity, hypoglycaemia, and diabetes.
Tobacco smoking and or nicotine use is a form of self-medication as well. Nicotine is an antidepressant and when stopping smoking it often triggers depression and because nicotine also speeds up the metabolism, weight gain also follows. Smokers are known to have lower levels of B-complex, vitamin C, and the antioxidants beta-carotin and vitamin E. Even exposure to second hand smoke lowers nutrient levels. Deciding to quite smoking means that a plan needs to be put in place in advance in regards to diet, nutrients, and exercise to mediate the effects of the physical symptoms of withdrawal; low energy, depression, and regressed cognitive functioning during the withdrawal process. Improving diet, balancing blood sugar with high protein, carbohydrates, and fats and chlorine-rich foods such as eggs, liver and fish will help mediate withdrawal symptoms.
Depression is related to anxiety and both are highly related to chronic stress imposed on the system. Depression is thought to be from situations of the past whereas anxiety is thought to be of situations of the future. Both nutrition and hormones interact throughout the lifecycle, the combination of which plays a role in depression to do with both men and women, especially around the age of forty. Up until the age of forty life is about learning, growing and becoming, and past the age of forty it is about dealing with aging.
For women, as estrogen levels decrease, so do serotonin levels associated with peri-menopause or menopause as well as testosterone levels to do with andropause. Chronic stress plays a huge roll as well as systemic inflammation. Inflammation effects not only your brain but your gut cells in your second brain. There are many factors that underly the symptoms of depression, which can be related to ADHD, cognitive decline, dementia, traumatic brain injury, deficits in omega-3 fatty acids, deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, or even excessive levels of lead and copper. Low levels of magnesium can contribute to anxious depression.
People who suffer from anxiety also can suffer from panic. Symptoms are that of hyperventilation as well as aches and pains throughout the body. People with anxiety have a tendency to have erratic breathing which increases fatigue, reduces oxygen, which can also contribute to depression. People who suffer from anxiety may also have low levels of magnesium and low levels of the neurotransmitter Gaba. Anxiety can be taught through the family system as well as depression as a way to deal with stress, depression is about removal and anxiety is about constant worry.
Mood disorders have a tendency to be related and are on a spectrum, the deficiencies of excesses mentioned earlier can also exacerbate depression and anxiety when there are food sensitivities such as sensitivity to gluten and casein or reactivity to aspartame or hypoglycaemia which aggravates mood lability. Those that have trauma as well as stress related disorders such as PTSD or complex trauma or developmental trauma also experience, depression anxiety, insomnia, and disassociation. There can also be physical symptoms which include pain, digestive problems, heart, respiratory, and reproductive problems.
People who struggle with trauma or stress related disorders have increased levels of inflammation, allergies, and are also vulnerable to higher rates of autoimmune diseases and depressed immune function. Those that suffer with mood disorders also have a tendency to have nutritional deficits related to poor dietary habits associated with impaired self-care strategies. Those that take pharmaceuticals to treat either emotional or physical pain systems, also suffer the side effects, which can include weight gain.
This can also apply to the effects of substance abuse as a self medication strategy in order to off set the symptoms, emotional, psychological, and physical, of mood disorders.
Couples and Families-Part Two
Parents are the leaders and the teachers of the family. Parents are the ones who set up the dynamic within the family system. How dynamics play out are based upon the set up, if the nutritional set up is to do with health then the leadership and teaching will be to do with healthy eating. If on the other hand, the set up is about reward then the system will play out based upon reward system. It is important to be mindful as parents of how it is that we are setting up our family system. Mindful eating is about being not only present to what you are eating but also present to how you are eating and what you are doing and the behaviours you are instilling in others.
Eating has been historically viewed as a communal act, food preparation is about love and eating is an extension of that love into the family. If we look back to the modernist families, they would sit down together for the evening meal lovingly prepared by mom, everyone is sitting at the dinner table, fostering relationship. This transitioned into the TV dinner where each individual was engrossed in watching TV and therefore disassociated from what they were actually really eating. It has been found that families that eat together leads to a reduction of weight gain as apposed to those families who are sitting individually in front of the TV to eat.
The truth is though that when the environment becomes competitive, homeostasis takes effect and the group starts to compete for the most amount of food. The family starts eating the same no matter what size they are individually, and they all start looking the same. So just eating as a family is really not the answer to healthy nutritional and behaviour changes. The pattern of eating is set by the parents not only by modelling but also by teaching. Modelling alone does not actually really work. When children go out into their own school and friendship environments they need the basic knowledge of nutrition in order to make good choices. That basic knowledge has to be known by the parents in order for them to be able to teach it to their children.
By the age of eight children are really at a good point to not only be able to make sense of food but to also be able to start helping in the kitchen in preparation of food. Cooking needs to be fun, if cooking is fun for the parent they will pass that down to the child, if cooking is not fun and therefore is just about takeaways then that is the knowledge that is passed to the child. If no nutritional education goes along with that then that will result in damaging eating behaviours.
Cooking together is a fun activity for not only parents and children but it also should be for couples as well. Helping one another in the kitchen is skill building, as well as health building.
It is hard to imagine but the truth is when you are grocery shopping and working from a recipe you actually have to do math, you have to measure, there is a chemistry involved in putting ingredients together. Foods come from certain places and they are about something. Cooking is also about patience and creativity, as well as teamwork. This provides a lot of opportunity for modelling, teaching and learning.
Couples and Families
Watching the program X Weighted, a family was highlighted in regards to their obesity. The highlight was that of the teenage daughter as she was listed in the 99 percentile for obesity for her age. What was particularly of interest was the relationship between the mother and the daughter. The father had had lower back surgery so he couldn't move very well and he seemed to be of regular weight. Because of his back issues he could not participate in the exercise so therefore was not highlighted in the show. Shockingly the teenage son who was under the radar in regards to his weight and as such was surprised to find out when he stepped on the scale that he was obese, at obesity level one. The mother was shocked and surprised to find out her weight at 187 pounds, was obesity level 2.
The daughter was more the height of the father and held a lot of her weight around her middle, and so her obesity was highly noticeable. The mother on the other hand because she was much shorter than the daughter and held her weight mostly in the legs was able to get away with a thinner look because her weight was hidden under her pants. Pretty much right away what was highlighted in the relationship between mother and daughter was that it was a competitive relationship. The mother would make jokes about the daughters inabilities, the mother would roll her eyes when the daughter would try to explain herself, and the mother would make undermining comments describing her as having tree trunk legs.
The show took them shopping and the mother kept handing the daughter in the change room smaller and smaller sized pants, which obviously would never fit. Eventually what was identified was the mothers unconscious agenda that if the daughter was kept fat she would never be promiscuous. This is a classic case of projection, the mother was projecting herself and her own insecurities on her daughter, locking the two in an unhealthy relationship which was resulting in the entire family becoming ill.
The answer to the question of how do we get children to participate in healthy nutritional and behaviour changes, as seen in this family dynamic is actually really not so easy to answer. Dynamics are powerful and when the family is caught in the dynamic it can be near impossible to change. When it is the relationship that is ill then it is the relationship that has to change. It is the relationship that has to have the education that it needs in order to put the skills in place once the dynamic is identified, to be able to over come the dynamic. It takes two or more people wanting to change a group dynamic in order to be able to do so. One person is not able to change it on their own.
Before the dynamic was identified the mothers subconscious projections were powerful forces that everyone in the family was agreeing to, without even knowing that that is what they were doing. By bringing in an outside ‘mirror’ so the family could see themselves and their dynamics, there then became the two or more needed to be able to change the dynamic from illness to health not only in nutrition but behaviour. Both go hand in hand.