How do you view your identity?
Identity is to do with your individuality and how it is that you view yourself. In this day and age we have a tendency to be post modernists and the post modern view is that we invent ourselves, depending upon our context. We all have many faces that we take with us no matter wherever we go and pull our whichever identity is needed at the time. When we are at work we construct ourselves to reflect upon who we need to be when we are at work. When we are at a party we construct ourselves based upon what our personal identity needs to be socially. When we are at home we construct ourselves based upon our home life experience.
This is very different from a modern view of self identity. The modern view is that of authenticity, our self identity is universal no matter what our context. We are the same on the outside as we are on the inside.
So the question is ‘who are you really?’.
When I think of myself and food I look at myself now as authentic. My identity in regards to food is that I am all things keto and so no matter what my context, I act in ways to promote all things keto. I used to base how I looked at food depending upon my context, if there was a buffet I would hoover down as much as anyone else, but now looking at myself differently, as needing to maintain authenticity, I no longer do that. I maintain my view of food and myself, so that when presented with non kept food, my response is ‘nope’. I might construct myself differently in other ways, (professionally, psychologically, emotionally, personality wise), but in regards to food I have an authentic view of self, which I take with me no matter where I am.
So when I take a look at what gives me meaning and purpose, the most important thing is that my new view of self as being all things keto creates a spiritual connection of self-meaning that is larger than me and transcends my immediate self concerns. When I feel negative feelings I associate my core identity of being all things keto, which separates my sense of self from those negative feelings because they don’t undermine who it is I am as a person, because I maintain my core identity values.
This reconditioning of how I look at myself works by me associating my core values with my physiological arousal to eat, which means that I have associated my meaning and purpose with eating for health and well being. I therefore no longer attack food, or have the need to overeat or eat food that is not keto. This is something that I have practiced hourly, daily, weekly, since I have started this blog, and I take my reconditioned self-identity with me everywhere, at work, at a party, at home, I can feel my core value identity as my driving force.
Rediscovering and aligning with your own core values.
Your core value is your guiding principle of how you live life. Based upon what you have as your core value, will then dictate what you think about food and how you consume it as well as what you believe about food, what you feel about food, how you end up eating, and making your choices about food. Therefore, your core value will direct you to how it is you will actually live your life in relation to food. So, it is really important to think about your belief system because you can have competing values at play, and what you think about will create your end result. For example; lets say food is fun, you will gravitate to all of the different food choices that you think of as fun, your belief system will be based in linking food with fun and so whenever negative situations or negative feelings come your way, then your feeling of food as fun will contribute to reinforcing your belief, which will also form your habits and the results will be a diet that is not based in health but a diet that is based in food choices that could be quite destructive.
So lets do the same process looking at food as health; if my core value, my guiding principle is that food is health, then my thoughts about food will make me gravitate towards foods that are healthy choices. If my belief is that I link food with health as my guiding principle, even when I am surrounded by unhealthy food choices, I will look for the healthy food choices and stick to them. My feelings and emotions will be based in reinforcing my belief and as such, even when I am feeling negative emotions I will look for healthy food choices. That will reinforce my habits around food, in which the outcome will be self-affirming healthy behaviour.
Many people who do not want to look at food differently develop limiting beliefs, such as, that when on a diet life will be boring and unexciting and restrictive. People have linked restrictive behaviour with unhealthy behaviour. The goal is to be self-aware and have the courage to align what you do with your core values in order to make better decisions, and live a more fulfilling and purposeful life. We all need to live within limits, so you need to be able to set your limit and live within it. This is not a restrictive way of living, it is a healthy way of living.
Limiting beliefs are beliefs that keep you frozen, unable to find a way forward, keeping you unable to change your life. It is good to think about what limiting beliefs you have held onto. An example of my limiting belief is; I “should” be able to eat what everyone else is eating, that’s normal!
Taking a look at changing my core belief has allowed me to move past this limiting belief to a new outlook on life and food. My new core belief directs me to my truth about me and food. The truth is, that my body dictates what I can and cannot eat and, if I have an intolerance to what other people are eating, then it’s nothing to do with whether I should or shouldn’t be able to eat it, it is just not a healthy choice for me.
Identifying your core values
Everything that we do, say, and are, is about our core values. Our values are distinct and about who it is that we are in our authentic way of being. Our core values are also based in our emotional way of being. It is important to be able to get in touch with what your emotions really are. When you pay attention to your emotions and acknowledge them then you have the opportunity to be in control of them. It is then that you are in control of what those emotions will conduct how you will behave.
Therefore, when you are in control of what you think then you have choices of what you would like to do about how you feel, and as a result be able to decide what you do about them in what you end up doing.
The function of emotion is to motivate behaviour, and generally speaking we have a tendency to just go along and not be aware of our underlying emotions. The only time that we have a tendency to become aware of our emotions, is when we are not paying attention to how we are feeling, and we are not doing what it is that they are telling us to do.
So, in regards to emotional eating it is not about taking the emotion out of eating, it is about choosing our emotions that motivate our impulse to eat. So therefore, we have two choices; we can either choose to be based in the emotions of either pain or fear, or on the other hand be based in what our core values dictate.
These emotions of pain or fear are what people have a tendency to label as hurt. Hurt is actually defined as a combination of depression mixed with fear. Our core hurts are based in our feeling of lacking something, in which we devalue ourselves. When we are in this place it is exhausting, we feel tired, we are looking to distract ourselves, we become confused.
Core hurt eating is based in negative emotions such as; feeling disregarded, unimportant, guilty, shamed, devalued or disrespected, rejected, powerless, inadequate or unloveable. These feelings are based in the need to overeat. The difficulty is that when the eating stops the hurts come back and could actually feel worse.
On the other hand, when you eat based upon your core values, then the result is that you are always in control of what you are feeling and therefor what you are doing. Core values are based in a sense of self, competence, growth, creativity, health, nurturing, well being and self- compassion.
The goal is to be able to value yourself more and therefore when your core values are in control, you are in control of your subconscious motivation. When this occurs behaviour changes to the need of well being of healing, self-correction, the need to improve, build and rebuild.
Connecting Our Values
When you harbour bad feelings about yourself we have a tendency to get confused that what we are really saying to ourselves, is that we are worthless. The truth is, that those bad feelings are trying to connect you with the notion that you are actually worth more. So, therefore based upon this way of looking at self is that better care and more self-compassion is needing to be implemented. Self value is a feeling, that something is important and worthy of appreciation. Everything that we do and everything that we say is reflective of our values and as well, everything that we eat and the way that we eat is also reflective of our values.
Our values are driven by an unconscious motivational system, and these values can be in competition with one another. For example, I might value looking fit but I also might value eating chocolate. Values that are strong in sensory attractive taste, sight, smell, will prevail, because they get in touch with our subconscious and our subconscious is based in feeling states.
Strong sensory values create images in our minds of past experiences and emotions that connect and resonate with us from our past, creating a deep sense of connection. Weight management is a conscious endeavour while, deeper values and strong sensory values are linked with the subconscious. In order to make a weight management strategy, a strong value to this effect would mean that we have to get in touch with our health and well being in regards to food preferences. So then, when life, health, and well-being become important as a value is when we look at food intake, we have look at food differently.
It is good to be able to get in touch with the food items that you crave or connect with or have a tendency to have in your fridge or cupboard no matter what. The reason why that those foods are there is because those foods provide the strong sensory attractions of taste, sight, and smell that you value. In order to change these sensory attractions, you would have to be able to look at those foods differently. It is good to think about when you do look at that food, perhaps that chocolate bar in front of you, what are the images that come into your mind as you see, smell, and taste it?
To create a connection that interferes with that strong sensory attraction, would mean that instead of looking at that those foods, based upon taste sight and smell, you would then have to look at those food choices differently. By going into your feelings in a unconscious level you would have to be able to change this to stay in your conscious brain. You would need to be able to connect with the component of the food item that is not healthy. If you change your way of looking at these foods by looking at these food choices to that of what they are really composed of, then you will be able to connect with these food choices differently.
Your vulnerability to these food choices is when it is that you fool yourself into thinking that those food items are life, health, and well being. Also, if you get into negative feelings of guilt, shame, or negative self thoughts, such as being unloveable or inadequate or if you get into your anxiety (which is the fear that if you don’t eat this food now you will never get to eat it), then these are the times you are vulnerable to overeating or attacking food that is taking away from life, health, and wellbeing.
Writing this blog has really opened my eyes to the reality of weight loss. Through research and personal experience I have deduced that there is a holy trinity to weight loss; exercise, nutrition, and mental health. Exercise is important for keeping your heart healthy, nutrition is the real driving force for getting those pounds off as you are what you eat, but nothing is possible if your mental health isn’t the number one priority.
Through my weight loss journey I have discovered that what really helps me stay on the diet is taking care of my past traumas. I have described before what has effected my life and my weight, the way people treated me throughout the years whether negatively or positively directly influenced my weight loss ability. The first few months I started my weight loss journey I did alright, I could lose a couple of pounds here and there, but it was such a struggle. When I started therapy and actually began to process the crap that had built up in my mind the weight just started melting off.
When I was in a good place I could control my relationship with food and really reap the benefits of my weight loss. For several weeks I was in a good place with my mental health and it showed! I was loosing the weight and it all seemed so easy, then I had the opportunity to see a friend in Toronto so I spent a few days with him. Just like that famous song by Celine Dione, ‘It’s all coming back to me now.’ when I came home I was angry, and frustrated, and no longer in my good place. I felt like I was behind, that I wasn’t doing anything, and that I was unappreciated. Luckily because I had already worked on my coping strategies I didn’t just start stuffing my face again, instead I had another therapy session and oh boy was it an eye opener.
This one weekend away brought up so much un-dealt with heartache, I cried and cried and had to make so many realizations that it made me reevaluate my entire life and how I saw people around me. This past week I had another therapy session where we would start from the beginning, the very first time I felt the feelings I feel towards myself today, and wow, I had forgotten so much. I recalled the first time the word ‘fat’ was used in a shameful way. I remembered the first time I was mistreated by my peers for the way I looked. I remembered the first time I felt abandoned by my teachers and how I felt I couldn’t trust anybody.
I sat on the couch with my eyes closed, I held two little vibrating things in my hands. This process is called Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) to keep me grounded in the moment, and I allowed myself to think wherever my mind wanted to take me. It was like I was looking at my past from a third person perspective, I could see the moments of my life that I thought defined me, that hurt me and made me jaded and scared to talk to people for fear of being judged or rejected. I was able to remove the emotional connection I had with some of these memories.
The first time I felt shamed for my body was when I was a little girl. My ‘friend’ (honestly she was un unregulated child) drew a picture of our teacher, herself, and me. Herself and the teacher were stick figures and I was a stick figure except she had drawn a circle around my waist to represent my tummy. I felt hurt, then I felt abandoned because my teacher just stared at it awkwardly and didn’t say anything about how rude this was.
As I sat on the couch I thought about how I should have said something, how I could have told her off or made it funny or just commented on her appalling drawing skills. I eventually thought about how I would react now if the same situation was presented to me and I felt confident that I would say something because of how far I have come with rising to the occasion.
At the end of the session I didn’t cry, I wasn’t even emotional at all, it was like I had watched a small movie about my life, something unfortunate happened, I did my best at the time, and now I can move on.
Overall I feel confident in my ability to be funny, smart, and beautiful.
Conscious Vs. Subconscious
When I talk about making weight loss a conscious effort I am talking about remaining in a state of consciousness. When you are in a conscious state these are the times when you are being true to yourself, and when you are being true to your most important qualities.
This is when we feel that we have meaning, we have purpose, and we are in harmony. We realize that we are born to seek to value and to be valued, life means more to us, we feel most alive, we value one another, nature, beauty, and we can get in touch with our spirituality. These are the times when we realize that there is something larger than just ourselves. When we are in our conscious state, we feel a motivation to improve, appreciate, connect, and protect.
The deeper we are able to get in touch with our values the more we are able to get in touch with our sense of meaning and purpose. This is a far different experience than when we are in our subconscious state. This is when we are detached from our core values, these are times when we feel negative emotions, we become protective of ourselves, getting into our anger and resentment, we use defensive behaviours and this is when we get into our aggression and withdrawal, defensiveness happens when we are trying to prove our core value to someone else, we become insular by brooding and becoming depressed, we become vigilant in which we are anxious or agitated. Also we get into removal of emotion; when we feel numb with feelings of guilt or shame as well as a sense of meaninglessness. Addictions and compulsive behaviours can form around any of these feelings, when we are detached from our core values.
When you are in your conscious state you know you’re valuable because you want to improve, appreciate, connect, and protect of self. You know you are worthy of love because you can feel compassion and negative thoughts are turned into motivations to improve, appreciate, connect, and protect. When you are in your conscious state and attuned with your core values you can still feel sadness, grief, disappointment, and loss, however, you never go to the place of feeling that you are unlovable or inadequate. Instead you turn these negative emotions into motivations to improve, appreciate, connect, and protect.
You are able to say self statements such as, ‘yes that made me sad, but I’m okay because I can still build value in my life.’ You know that you are worthy of love because you can feel self compassion. However, if you are in your unconscious state and not in tune with your core values then you can easily devalue more than you value yourself. In this state you are likely to suffer extreme negative feelings such as resentment, depression, and anxiety. Holding onto the negative things that happen while devaluing the good things that happen.
The prefrontal cortex of the brain is the part of the brain that makes plans and makes sure that they will happen, so it is really good to be able to put together a plan in which you will value your identity by getting in touch with your ability to create value and meaning in your life, that you commit to concentrating on your conscious state and your ability to improve, appreciate, connect, and protect yourself.
Researching for this blog has really opened my eyes to the reality of the history of weight. Ever since I was a kid I always thought that people from before the 2000’s were thin because portion sizes were ‘proper’ and there was a lack of processed foods. I would watch movies from the Hitchcock era and historical movies like The Help because I was fascinated at not only the plots but the food that they showed. The portion sizes were always small, at least half the size of what I think is normal, if not less of what is considered a proper portion size today.
Recently I watched an old beauty advice video from the 1940’s that utterly shocked me. The portion sizes in this video were massive, even by todays standards. Each meal (the recommended three meals a day) were basically a three course trek through carbs and sugar. Each meal had the main dish, let’s say tomato soup and a sandwich made with white bread, then a side of a scone with jam, a glass of milk, then a dessert.
I couldn’t believe it! I witnessed the real start to the weight epidemic. I realized that the reason why people weren’t paying attention to the portion sizes was, because back then, there was nothing to do, so everyone was forced to go outside to exercise. I remember my grandmother telling me (she grew up around the start of the compulsory sugar eating frenzy) that when she first got a bike she rode it all day, for hours, kilometres upon kilometres, and she was thin! It makes sense that people were thin back then even with those horrendous portion sizes.
I felt so bad for every girl who had to both watch, and was apart of that video because the woman leading it constantly contradicted herself, “your worth is not the sum of your looks, but the way you feel, present yourself, and the way others perceive you completely depends on them.”
The population of this time with this value system and followed the diet plan in this video didn’t stand a chance. Diet had to do with whether regardless of constant exercise and ‘play’, would have kept most of the teenage girls thin, they would soon have to further their studies or become house wives. What is most important is that both of which make a person more susceptible to a sedentary lifestyle and therefore if they followed the diet plan in this video, they would soon start to pack on the pounds and sadly not understand why.
Self-Compassion is about valuing the self. Taking care of yourself, putting yourself first, valuing what you do and who you are, and having love for yourself, realizing you are human and therefore you make mistakes, you learn by struggling and having failures and that even though you may not attain exactly what you are wanting or striving for, that you are okay.
Remembering that no matter what happens you are learning and growing and becoming and therefore, you are okay, is a way to self-soothe.
Self-soothing is a way to show that you love yourself, “there there, it will be okay.” Self-soothing can also become an avoidance tactic of dealing with bad feelings, and this is when self-compassion can turn into self-defeating behaviour, “there there, it will be okay… it wasn’t going to work anyway. So have a tub of ice cream and make it go away for now.”
This is where your need for your development of core values comes into play. We are all born with a drive to create value. When you value self, other, or something, it is to hold that up as important and worthy of appreciation, you are willing to devote your time, energy, and effort to it and even sacrifice for what it is that has been held up by you as important.
Self-compassion and self-value goes beyond basic human physiological and psychological needs such as; survival, seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, status enhancement, and defence mechanisms. Most urges to overeat or attack food comes from times in which our motivations are based in these basic needs. These are times in which our self-value is low and therefore we are vulnerable. In order to be able to prevent these drops in self-value so that our self- compassion techniques are not self defeating, we must be able to know what are our core-values even when under stress so that we can get in touch with them, restore ourself to them, in order to have continued and consistent emotional well-being. Emotional well-being depends upon giving ourselves self-compassion, a sense of self-value more than a sense of self-devalue.
When we raise our level of self-value, our self-compassion increases, this is when we know we are authentic because to be authentic means that we are being true to our deepest values.
When we devalue ourselves, we lower our value of our own experience, and when we do this we start to become numb. When we become numb or disassociate or freeze it means that we are also becoming indifferent to our true or deepest values of ourselves and our experiences. When we feel shame (I am a bad person) or guilt (I have done a bad thing), this is our felt sense that we have violated our need of being true to our deepest values. The feeling of meaninglessness, in which we feel a sense that it doesn't matter what we do, that we will not succeed, and everything we do is really for nothing, it means that we are out of touch with our deepest values. These are the devaluing feelings felt when disordered eating has a tendency to occur.
So there is something called set point theory.
This theory suggests that each of us has a natural set point of weight maintenance in which the body always tries to return. Research suggests that the body has feedback mechanisms which adjusts the metabolic rate, so that fat stores are maintained at a consistent level.
Weight cycling is described as losing weight by dieting, then regaining that weight, then dieting and losing weight again and then putting the weight back on, also termed yo-yo dieting. There are three categories of weight cyclers; a mild weight cycler loses between five to ten pounds three or more times, a moderate weight cycler has lost between ten to twenty pounds and a severe weight cycler has lost more than twenty pounds over and over again. There is a huge return rate in regards to people who try to lose weight by going on a diet. The number of people who can keep weight off for more than a year is a very small percentage.
On the show ‘Fat and Back’, a professor stated that there was a 95% return weight rate and he suggested that those who actually can make the lifestyle changes necessary to keep weight off for more than 5 years is less than 10%. It is suggested that weight cycling is due to the constant cultural pressure to be thin, and that more women than men are weight cyclers. Most research on weight cyclers has been done on adolescent girls and many studies have found that binge eating is fairly common among weight cyclers.
There is a series of issues that lead to weight cycling.
The first is to do with genetics, researchers have found around three hundred genes that play a role in determining weight, helping to explain why some people gain weight more easily than others and have more difficulty keeping the weight off that they lose.
Hormones are another factor, ghrelin in the stomach stimulates appetite, this hormone increases before meals and decreases after meals, and leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells which tells the brain that enough food has been consumed and to stop eating. Differences in the levels of these hormones and in the bodies responsiveness to them plays a roll in losing and regaining weight.
Emotional factors: some people when they feel stressed or upset cannot eat, while others feel the opposite, turning to food for comfort instead of addressing the situation that is causing the emotion. Boredom, loneliness, and frustration are other feelings that cause people to eat when they are not truly hungry starting the yo-yo cycle.
Psychological factors: unrealistic expectations of how much weight can be lost how fast as well as how much effort it will take and how many permanent lifestyle changes will have to be made also attribute to the weight cycle. People who weight cycle are more likely to have depression, binge eating because of impulse control issues.
While another contributor are social factors; social events, as well as peer pressure, eating to please others, or having impulse control difficulties often lead to eating more than intended in social situations.
Activity level: people who are dieting consistently underestimate how many calories they burn in exercise, ending up out eating their exercise. Lack of education about food; people underestimate how many calories they eat and over estimate the amount of food that makes up a portion size. As well, they do not pay attention to the nutritional information and become confused as to what is healthy and what is not when making their food choices.
Last night I had the opportunity to sit down and watch ‘Fat and Back’, which is a documentary about international model turned personal trainer, PJ. He came up with the idea of living a sedentary lifestyle for six months and eating everything and anything his little heart desired in order to gain 40 kilos. His goal was to be able to gain in knowledge of how come he has so many clients that come to the gym for personal training, but then drop off. He wanted to experience being overweight in order to get his overweight clients experience, so that he would be a better personal trainer to these clients. The entire reason he started this journey was because he called a client, who missed several appointments and he said to his client, “Listen! If you just follow my program for four months you will be where you need to be!” and his client responded, “if you did what I do for six months you would see why I can’t!”
The documentary goes through PJ’s experience of gaining the weight over this suggested six month period of time, in order to then turn around and start to lose the weight gained, along with being a personal trainer to an overweight client, with his hoped for knew perspective on how to keep the client engaged throughout the personal training process. What was very interesting was that he was not able to achieve his objective. PJ did gain his 40 kilos, he did struggle in losing the weight, he did gain a new perspective in regards to how difficult it is to take on a different lifestyle, and then work on turning around the bad effects that he experienced.
At first the training with the client went well, but then sessions started to be missed and eventually the relationship became hostile, in which the overweight client stated that, she did not find him to be motivational at all. What I found particularly interesting about this documentary was that there were many neurological and physiological professionals that were consulted about obesity and there were none to do with emotional and social aspects of weight management.
All of us have value systems that we acquire when we are children, and we keep them lifelong. Our values are on a spectrum, one of which is the value of competition vs relationship. Competition is at one end of the spectrum, and the other end of the spectrum is the value of relationship. Highly competitive people are based in looks, everything needs to look good. They set goals, they compare themselves to others, a competitive lifestyle is about rules and restriction, food is about fuel, not emotion, about looking good and standing out and being hyper-vigilant in this; nails done, not one hair out of place, weight maintained to perfect order, food consumption structured, muscles toned.
The other end of the spectrum is relationship. When we think about eating, eating is emotional and eating is done in relationship. Eating is done to feel good, so therefore it is based in feeling states. Relationship based people have a tendency to be relaxed and they look relaxed, it is not about setting goals or following rules, it’s about wearing sweat pants, putting your hair in a pony tail, not wearing makeup, and being okay when things aren’t perfect.
Unless there is some sort of crisis that forces us to re-evaluate our value system we do not ever make significant jumps down the spectrum. We may move one or two notches, but that is all.
PJ is based in a very competitive environment. The documentary showed how everyone around him was based in looking good and they joked with him to force him to conform back to the way they needed to see him, as buff. You could see how PJ was so frustrated in himself that he could not force his body back faster. His client on the other hand has a whole different basis of values, hers was based in relationship and you could see it in how she lived her life, dressed, smoked, and didn’t maintain her commitments. Even her final statement to him was based in emotion, “I find you de-motivating!”.