Today is a day that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Today I achieved something that I have been fighting to win for years. When I was twelve years old I weighed myself and I was a shocking 217 pounds. I weighed more than my 6ft2” father. After that I continued to gain until I reached my pinnacle of 268 pounds. The lowest I have ever gotten was in my first year of college and I reached 208 pounds, I was so excited because I surpassed by lowest weight and I was so close to reaching what the weight loss community calls ONE-derland. But alas, I sabotaged myself because of the deep rooted issues that weren’t properly dealt with. I gained 30 pounds and thus started my journey to take a year, sort myself out, and reach 180 pounds.
Today I woke up, took a wiz, and weighed myself. For the past few days I had been bouncing around the 201’s. Seriously, the scale was torturing me, keeping me in suspense by showing 201.8 then 201.6 then 201.2 then back to 201.8 again. I looked down today and gasped, yes, I gasped. Finally, I have reached 199.6. For the first time in my entire adult life I have reached onederland and it feels great. For so long it feels like I have been making myself promises and sabotaging myself time and time again. Telling myself that I can do it this time and proving that I actually couldn’t.
Taking the time and actually admitting that I needed help and putting in the work to sort through it all is the cause of my success. I have a supportive wonderful family who understands the importance of my health, whether physical, mental or emotional. I honestly believe that if I continued to push down all the festering poisonous feelings I had accumulated over the years, instead of being 199.6 I would be back up to 268 or worse.
Joining the Emotionally Focussed Eating program was the best present I have ever given myself. It was difficult and painful and I had no idea how much processing I had left to do with my past traumas. I cried so many times going over and retelling how I was mistreated by people and how it had sunken so deep into the core of my very being that I felt like I would never escape it. I arrived home somedays so emotionally exhausted I felt like I would never be happy again. Fortunately, I actually decided to enforce the coping strategies I was taught, instead of eating my emotions to drown them out I confronted them, my feelings of anger, sadness, frustration and guilt were actually being resolved.
If you have been struggling to lose weight and feel like you are an emotional eater like me, then give yourself a present and join the Emotionally Focussed Eating program. I am worth the success, I am strong enough to achieve my goals, I am worthy and receive all the love the universe has to offer me, and so are you.
Waves of Sleep
What we do during the day will either enhance of hinder the sleep that we would get at night. The chances are, if you have excessive amounts of caffein during the day or especially after a certain time during the day, this will produce a sense of arousal and therefore make sleep difficult. Some people can handle caffein all day long, but others of us cannot, and we can only handle caffein to a certain time limit. For me I do not have anything caffeinated after 3pm, at the maximum 5pm, but you have to run your own tests to be able to know your own limit. The same goes for the last time of the day in which you eat.
Being physically and psychologically active during the day is also an oportunity to optimize your chances of a good sleep, going to bed when you are physically tired because of your physical activity during the day, is likely to help a good sleep. So, having a good exercise routine is an important part of not only optimizing health, but enhancing the oportunity for a good sound sleep. Also, when you increase your body temperature with either exercise, a sauna, hot bath, or hot tub (or alcohol intake) around three hours prior to your bed time, also creates physiological readiness for a good sound sleep.
Situations that get in the way of good sound sleep are to do with anxiety, perhaps it is to do with anxiety with what happened today or anxiety with what will happen tomorrow, then you are less likely to sleep well. The goal is to be able to develop a routine which will help to dissipate your built up stress hormones that have accumulated during your day as well, it is important to create an evening ritual of sleep hygiene of preparing for sleep which might include meditation, yoga, prayer, or relaxation exercises, as well as perhaps listening to music. Everyone needs to find what works for them.
It is important to be able to experiment with a range of calming options. It is important to view sleep similar to how it is that we digest, meaning that it doesn't really take a conscious effort. When you try too hard it means that you are making it a conscious effort, instead sleep is about a subconscious effort, meaning that you don't actually have to think about it, it is something that you allow to happen, just like breathing. Your circadian cycle is your bodies natural clock, the circadian cycle works through a complex interplay of various hormones.
When you have a regular sleep time that you have practiced as a part of your daily routine, you will excrete hormones that enhance sleep into your blood supply in which you will fall asleep at consistent times. As well, you will awake at consistent times. If you have a disrupted sleep pattern, you will wake up at an inappropriate time, in which you will have to start altering your circadian cycle, forcing it into the pattern that you want. You can do this by setting your alarm clock at the time that is your ideal wake up time. You may not be able to force yourself asleep, but you can definitely force yourself awake. The goal of which is to stay out of bed, changing your circadian rhythm which forces you to be more tired when you want to go to bed as long as it is you stay awake during the day and not fall pray to napping.
Brain Emotional Systems, Lust and Sex!
There is a core sensualist system in everyone creating sexual urges that link up with the seeking system, that we talked about earlier. Of course males and females link up with that seeking system differently. A females sexuality is more strongly regulated by oxytocin circuits creating sexual appetite facilitated by dopamine seeking urges. Estrogen promotes oxytocin transition in the brain in order for females to be receptive to desire. Testosterone on the other hand is strongly regulated for male sexuality intensifying male sexual assertiveness as well as jealousy.
As human beings, we exercise extensive restraint over these urges because we have our higher cognitive functioning’s which can block the free flow of libidinal energy. This libidinal energy can get in the way of quality and ability to sleep as well, after all, if you are exciting yourself, expect to be excited! Here is the kicker, if that sexual excitement results in satisfaction of your needs (the care/nurturance seeking system) it will be conducive to sleep! However, if it does not lead to satisfaction of your needs, not resulting in the feeling of care/nurturance, then the sexual activity will actually have the opposite effect. That opposite effect can result in emotional pain, psychological pain, stimulate the panic grief system, lower self esteem, make you feel bad about yourself, making it more difficult to sleep. This increase in the feeling of psychic pain will as a result, stimulate the need to find the need for these energies else where.
In order to facilitate the need for strong bonding and the release of that oxytocin, instead will be directed towards a self expression in other ways, in order to soothe the self in sympathy. The emotional attachment and regulation of meaningful whole bodied dynamics associated with the core sensualist system, therefore needs to be acted on elsewhere and can be found with the ingestion of food (usually, high fat, high carbs, high salt). Emotions are meant to be both corrective and integrative for living inside the body of an active mobile self-agent. Emotional changes mediate feelings adjusting and maintaining the energy resources of the body. Emotions pay attention to the world outside of the self always aiming to mediate how the self perceives their environment.
This adaptive functioning directs itself to both a positive approach of behaviour or a negative withdrawal. The negative withdrawal is a way to self-protect against negativity, bad feelings and stress. The positive approach of behaviour results in the further need to acquire more positivity, good feelings and benefits. Emotions depend greatly on self-perceptions of events and circumstances, which can bring creative benefits of the feeling of adventure and further needs of experience but also, can go the other way, to distortions or delusions. Anxiety can result, which can make the present and/or future feel unbearable. When emotions are associated with past negative experience, it can give rise to phobias, addictions, and obsessions. When emotions are associated with past positive experience, it can give rise to positive self-aesthetic or positive moral self-evaluations to seek satisfying actions in the present or the future of more sexual excitement. Negative emotions are for survival and trigger survivalist activities such as eating, sleeping, drinking etc. in order to avoid the fact that needs have not been met. When needs are not met, then negative emotions can ensue, causing all of these survivalists tactics to go off the rails.
Improving your quality of sleep
Poor sleep patterns make people more sensitive to overeating and that becomes a vicious cycle of overeating, night eating, and poor sleep. Sleep plays a vital roll in emotional well-being and so does your nutrition in terms of the ability to cope with life in general. Having less sleep or poor quality sleep results in a heightened sensitivity to emotional pain as well as physical pain and the reduced ability to cope. This happens because sleep is regulated by the actions of your neurotransmitters which are highly affected by stress and those that are experiencing emotional pain, physical pain, or people who are not nutritionally eating well, are highly stressed by that experience and therefore experiencing inflammation in the body which exacerbates the feelings of pain (emotional or physical) the continued need to eat unhealthy food, as well as resulting sleep problems.
Sleep is a multi-faceted issue, the quality of your sleep environment is really important as well as your sleep hygiene rituals. If your environment is too loud, too hot, too cold, too much light, too much activity, too cramped, just plain uncomfortable, all of these factors will get in the way of good sleep. You need to be able to work out for yourself your own requirements.
One of the things that leads to our quality and ability to sleep is actually what happens before it is that we go to bed. This is to do with sleep hygiene. If you are too hungry when you go to bed you will experience waking up in the middle of the night because your body is desperate for glucose. If you are too full when it is you go to bed, your stomach will be uncomfortable and as it is you try to lay down, gastro-intestinal problems will ensue. All of this is to do with exciting yourself before you go to bed, like watching TV or playing video games or texting or having a serious conversation with family members or even reading an exciting book! What you are doing is highly arousing your system, stimulating your system instead of relaxing your system.
Another trap people often fall into is relying on substances. Alcohol is a depressant on the central nervous system and as much as it is that it is a depressant, if you are partying then you are actually really exciting your system as apposed to suppressing it. Other people use cannabis in order to put themselves to sleep, another form of a depressant. Too much of either will have the opposite effect, causing wakefulness. The goal for people who, generally speaking do either before bed, is to produce a higher level of sedation to suppress brain functioning in order to put themselves to sleep. Unfortunately studies have shown that these substances although allowing the person to get to sleep can be relatively short lived, causing sleep disturbances because there is a rebound effect. The brain has a level of electrical stimulation and once suppressed the brain wants to maintain its normal level of arousal during sleep in order for dreaming to occur. Dreaming allows you to ‘digest’ our experiences of the day in order to be able to process them through and when dreaming stops it interferes with our natural ability to resolve the emotional component of whatever problems you’ve come across that day. Without this ability to ‘digest’ these experiences, it also interferes with your overall ability to cope with life circumstances during the day, increasing the need to self-soothe by eating the problems away instead.
The goal to taking care is to supplement your own therapeutic self-care and nurturant activities to promote the release of endogenous opioids and oxytocin in order to be able to enhance your brains emotional system to overcome panic, grief, and separation distress. Social isolation induced psychic pain is one syndrome but the panic emotional system leads to depression and all of its many variations and to that chronic sense of aloneness. All of your emotional needs that have not been met can be much more distressing than anything bad that has ever happened.
A lot of people talk about anxiety and depression and these emotions begun to be an umbrella term that includes many many things. However, there is very little discussion about the underlying fear circuitry and the internal feeling of tension, that leads to a persistent negative affect. There are two distinct types of these underlying processes; the panic attack itself is to do with the feeling of disconnections from the comforts of the everyday, the sense of security falls away in a kind of momentary emotional storm. The fear system kicks in, to the anticipatory anxiety of another unpredictable panic attack, and that cycle then leads to becoming chronically anxious.
The chronically anxious have a tendency to turn towards food (as well as other substances and behaviors) in order to alter consciousness for comfort and anxiety reduction. It is then that we turn to carbohydrates, salt and fats. Bulimics have a tendency to binge on wheat, which triggers opioid like reactions. The foods we crave provide chemical reactions and it is important to be able to understand your own unique craving profile, to be able to interpret the food that you crave, the time of day that you crave it, and find substitutes. Because we are looking for attachment we have a tendency to turn towards foods that remind us of a certain time in our life or foods that we identify and link to people we have loved and lost or special times such as holidays or celebrations.
The key to the principle of substitutions is to find an alternative food that has the same effect as the foods that you crave, only these foods need to be foods that function with a slow up take of glucose that give energy, and provide a sense of focus, such as protein and dopamine rich coffee In order to provide comfort and reduce anxiety, mix fats and proteins with the carbohydrates not just carbohydrates, in order to optimize nourishment that brings balance to the body, mind and spirit.
In order to be able to provide comfort and overcome the fear system, substitutions are about substituting the happiness provided by gorging on carbohydrates, fats and salts and instead substituting that feeling of happiness generated, with other active expressions of happy movements. These substitutions are to do with redirection strategies such as physical exercise, meditative mindfulness practices, breathing exercises, and turning towards authentic foods that are low glycemic anti-inflammatory, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, foods free of refined sugars and grains, with no synthetic preservatives, food colouring, and are minimally processed. Whole foods that are nutrient dense and freshly prepared, both raw or cooked provide those same feelings of happiness, attachment and self-care.
The Panic or grief distress emotional brain system
Panic is to do with psychic pain. Psychic pain has to do with the feeling of being alone. The inter- psychic pain of social loss arises from the feeling of being lost. All of a sudden, when you realize that you do not know where you are and you can’t find anyone that cares for you, this throws you into a panic because we all possess a separation distress circuitry in our brains. This is an age old system that keeps us connected so that we remain safe and secure in numbers.
Let’s see, panic, oh yeah. I absolutely LOVE rides and I have been to Canada’s Wonderland more times then I can count. I think it was actually the first time that I went to Canada’s Wonderland (mind you, NOT the first time I was on a rollercoaster) and my family and I went on The Leviathan. I was sitting there, my mother beside me, my dad and my brother behind me, and all of a sudden I knew I was going to die. I started to cry and hyperventilate and it was all noticeable because some super star from the waiting line called out ‘don’t worry! Only three people have died!’ (it was a man by the way so there’s that). There I was, on a rollercoaster similar to the ones I had done a thousand times, with my family sitting right beside me, and I felt like I was the only one in the world about to plummet to my death.
That was my moment of being thrown into a panic, my separation distress kicked in as I got in touch with my sadness and grief over my loss, which resulted in me calling out for care which generally speaking is by crying. My brain chemistry exacerbated feelings of distress and what is it that alleviates feeling of distress? Chemicals in the brain such as brain opioids, oxytocin, and prolactin, which are generated by feelings of warmth, attachment, and care which resonate with that psychic pain creating a sense of trust, deep acceptance, and feelings of being saved, nurtured, redeemed, which regulates depressive affect. The attitude of care, nurturance, guidance, is essential because in panic, care is what is most urgently needed.
In this instance of me sitting on that ride it was my mother reaching out to me talking me through it over the duration of the entire ride. Without a self care protocol, that psychic pain can easily result in reaching out to food to powerfully alleviate that distress, by increasing those brain opioids, oxytocin, and prolactin, substituting food for social attachments to regulate depressive affects, food becomes the nurturant that guides through those feelings. The foods that you reach out for in order to comfort yourself are the foods that you are eating to alleviate the panic, grief, distress, and it is important to recognize that is what it is that you are really trying to do by reaching out for food. You are actually really looking for anxiety relief, depression relief and inflammatory relief from the distress chemicals that have been released in your brain, by alleviating that distress from the emotional biochemistry of the food (usually high in fat, high in salt and high in sugar). It is important to recognize though, that you need to be able to understand this in order to begin to use the principle of substitution.
The Fear Anxiety System
This is a system that threatens the integrity of the body and of life itself. This system alerts to danger. This is to do with freezing and the flight response to do with a classical conditioning of fear, freeze, and flight. When motivated by this system the brain is engulfed by an intense free floating anxiety which appears to have no environmental cause and no thoughts associated with it. This is to do with the fear of being afraid, this system promotes the generalized anxiety disorder, neurotic disorders, and phobias, and when this system is repeatedly stimulated produces the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Your mind, your thoughts, and beliefs directly effect your body. Your anxiety influences what, when, and how much you choose to eat. Conversely, it is the food you put in your body that effects what you think, what you believe, and how you feel, and it is your anxiety and your body that needs to be treated. Once you have learned how to recognize and change your limiting beliefs created by your anxiety, you’ll be able to recognize other limiting beliefs that hold you back in regards to eating. These include poor eating habits such as eating late at night, eating greasy and unhealthy food, or just consuming too many calories. Once you deal with your anxiety, eating healthy becomes much easier and as well, you therefore can begin to consistently eliminate a huge source of those empty calories. Without anxiety you can feel emotionally healthier, happier, and more stable, you will then know that you can cope and change that anxiety state.
When your mind and body is integrated and healthy there is no limit to what you can achieve. You get to free your body and mind from being a prisoner to food. Once you deal with your anxiety, then your weight management won’t be that hard. When emerged in anxiety, it feels like it is impossible, starting and stopping diets over and over and over again. Going from eating to binging and restricting, and once you deal with your anxiety, then the ability to be able to stick to the healthy diet and healthy habits becomes easy.
As common as it is to have concerns about your weight, it is also common to rationalize a way the issues of health and say that they are unrelated to your eating, but let’s be clear, sugar is a poison. When you continuously put sugar in your body you are continuously putting poison in your body, and every system in your body is negatively effected. Health issues that you quickly disregard as unrelated to your eating might not be as unrelated as you think. Problem eaters tend to live in denial, and even when you accept that you might have to cut back on the sugar that you are eating, it is really hard to acknowledge the potential consequences and that is due to the anxiety that you hold within that is caused by the need to change.
Your body has a remarkable ability to heal itself, even of anxiety. When you stop obsessing and start eating right, your body can begin the healing journey and begin to reverse years and even decades of continued abuse due to your anxiety.
What’s an affirmation and how do I say them without feeling silly?
An affirmation is a state of being affirmed, the assertion that something exists or is true. An example of an affirmation is ‘I know what I am doing.’ When do you need use an affirmation? Sometimes, you have to use an affirmation in the moment or repetitively, like every morning, afternoon, and night. An example of when to use an affirmation in the moment, is when you are being challenged, for example, when you are in your high school cooking class and everyone is telling you that you are rolling the sushi incorrectly. You can take the criticism, even though you know it what they are saying is wrong, and you can affirm yourself, ‘I know what I am doing.’ and complete the task correctly.
You can also use affirmations more consistently. Even if you are not religious, affirmations can be used as a kind of prayer to yourself, it’s a way of checking in and confirming with yourself that you are or can achieve (insert whatever you want to be here). Affirmations have a bad rap for being what the hippie outside of the supermarket trying to get you to sign their leaflet uses to confirm to themselves that it is okay not to use soap, but this isn’t the case. I used to think and feel really silly trying to affirm myself, I would try looking in the mirror (yes, sometimes naked) and tell myself positive things. I would always end up scoffing and feeling stupid, I would think about all the people who would ridicule me if they ever found out I had the audacity to look in the mirror and tell myself I’m pretty. Geez! What a weirdo for trying to get self esteem!
Recently, I have decided to give affirmations to myself and to try again. Every morning I wake up, look in the mirror, and no matter what the result, if my eyes are dark and baggy, if my hair is a mess and greasy, if a new zit just popped up on my upper lip, I say ‘well, hello there.’ in a very deep sensual voice (1, because I think it’s funny, 2, because I really do mean it and 3, why not?). I can get very down on myself and feel very stressed out about my path, where I’m going, what I’m doing, and of course how it all fits or doesn’t fit into the cogs of the world. Recently however, when I start to feel the uncertainty crawl in and lear at myself from the dark spaces of my mind, I will say a few affirmations such as, ‘I am on the right path.’ or, ‘I am doing my best and it is enough.’ or my favourite, ‘I know what I am doing.’. I have not been saying them for long, but I really do feel better when I do.
I have also applied them to my weight loss journey. Recently I have broken through a plateau and I am steam rolling towards my goal. Now I am not saying that there isn’t more work to losing weight than just looking at yourself and telling yourself that you are beautiful, but it can be a big part. Why not tell yourself your beautiful? Why not say that you are one sexy beast when you get on the scale regardless of the number that pops up? Why not take that step in feeling good about yourself and your body before the final result? Saying affirmations out loud isn’t a magic wand to get you what you want, but they can be the gold nuggets that make your journey fun, effective, and enriching.
The Care/Nurturance System
The Care/Nurturance system has a tendency to be maternal. Women are nest builders as apposed to men. Men typically have a weaker motivation for catering behaviours, women have a tendency to have maternal nurturance instincts. These instincts are activated by changing tides of hormones, increasing estrogen, prolactin, and oxytocin in preparation for baby making. These nuro-chemicals facilitate maternal moods that also facilitate strong bonding. They also ameliorate depression and promote prosocial moods.
Nurturing activities can promote the release of endogenous opioids and oxytocin, creating feelings of warmth and attachment and increased confidence. Nurturing activities are also self care activities, positive encouragers through caring touch, physical contact, sensation and pleasure. This can come in a wide variety of ways through interpersonal relationships, friends, family, co-workers, taking care of pets, massage, hot baths, and incorporating prayer or meditation, being out in nature, doing gardening, yoga, and it can also come in the form of the ways in which you chose to nourish your body.
It is good to look at these care/nurturance opportunities as medicine that you need to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. It is good to eat foods that contain the medicines that you need in order to stay healthy, the medicines in foods are vitamins and minerals and good fats, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, volatile oils that have different smells that alter awareness, the balance of blood glucose in the form of fibre stabilize mood, slowing the uptake of sugars, detoxifiers, and provides a means to altering of consciousness.
It is good to remember that mood follows food and that diet is essential but it is not sufficient, eliminate your exposure to additives, preservatives, hormones, toxic pesticides, and fertilizers, and if you improve digestion you improve your mental health by nourishing the brain both first and second (first in your head, second in your gut). The key is to be able to keep your care/nurturance system alive by creating a strategy to access them and make them affordable, it is so easy to turn your care/nurturance system into your stress system. So the healing power of your emotional care system has to stay in the arena of nurture.
Children can be demanding, pets can be frustrating, gardening can be exhausting, massage and yoga can be expensive, and eating healthy can be expensive too as well as time consuming. In order for you to be able to keep your food preparation in the arena of nurturance/ care is to meal plan by writing up a grocery list in advance in order to save money and time. Sit down and look through those flyers to see the opportunities for sales and use your credit card for the points so that you can feel additionally good (when my dad gets points on his optimum card, it’s like crack cocaine to him. He gets the flyers on Thursday, looks through them on Saturday, goes shopping on Sunday. He even goes before 9am so he can beat the old biddies to the deals).
So pick a day of the week to organize your food and food prep for the week, you can even wash and prepare your vegetables for the week. Travel with your cooler bag filled with eggs and cheese and fruit and your water bottles, and when shopping utilize those day old sales bins and shelves with veggies to save extra money. Even invest in a home garden!
The basic emotional system of play.
Play is an extremely important emotional system. We can make play out of anything. Play is what allows us to become fully social as long as our play energies are well used. This is to do with the areas of the brain that release the dopamine and the opioids and leads to our feelings of joy and allows us to laugh. Playfulness is an experience expectant process.
Abundant natural play strengthens the positive social affect circuits of the brain, mediating depression. Play is an under-utilized form of coping, especially as adults. In order for us to reroot our mature and sedentary way of being into positive, effective tracks we need to play. Physical activity is an anti-depressant and play can reenergize. Play can be anything from dance to sports, art, music, crafts, as well as culinary activities. It is good to remember that all basic emotional systems get stronger with use and also get weaker with lack of use. Emotional distress can intensify and become chronic and depression is much more likely to occur in people who experience chronic lack of support and insecurity. However, when you add in something that gives you support, allows you to feel good and secure, then you will also be able to experience emotional well-being.
Your affective life can be restructured. When survival is not threatened, play is a driving force that shapes and sculpts life. Play can become the doorway to a new self, creating new neural networks in the brain.
Probably when you were a kid you were told not to play with your food, but the truth is as an adult it is important to transition from a child-like way of looking at food. Do you remember pushing the stuff around on your plate of what you didn’t want to eat in an attempt to avoid eating stuff you didn’t like or too much food that you didn’t have room for? Or what about looking at food as a reward - ‘ok I’ll go shopping with you if I get a candy bar’.
How many times have you said to yourself ‘well I ate a salad so I’m aloud to eat that chocolate cake’ and then you pummel people to get to it. Or, as an avoidance for when you have been bad. As in, ‘well I already ate that chocolate cake so I might as well say hi to those doughnuts.’
As an adult, it is important to be able to transition your play-fullness, as the ‘Joy of Cooking’ suggests, to the art of food and the effects of food on health and well-being. Preparing fresh food is an act of self-nourishment. Preparing fresh food boosts mood and alleviates mental distress. Food gathering, preparation, and sharing is a ritual. The process of the ritual provides an endorphin rush of attachment and connection which is the basis of play and allows us to self- regulate our emotional systems, leading us into the parasympathetic state of relaxation and enjoyment. Unhealthy eating is representative of a struggle to mature. It is important to change your cooking/kitchen/eating structure into a safe place to exercise your joyous need for the healing power of nutritional play.