Dr. Nina Savelle - Rocklin Psy.D and psychoanalyst, author and speaker specializing in weight, body image and disordered eating, runs a successful clinical practice in Los Angeles. Dr. Nina aims to totally transform your relationship to food.
Comfort food is actually about the need or the wish to be comforted by another person. If nobody is available to provide comfort, or if the people in your life are not able to respond in a way that feels good, that’s painful. The good news is that you can learn to give yourself what you need to feel better.
If you’re turning to food for comfort, the primary challenge is learning to respond to yourself with language instead of action (eating).
If you turn away from food as a way of feeling better, you’ve learned to respond to your needs by ignoring, denying or judging them. It’s humiliating to have unmet needs, and you may have turned against your need for comfort as a way to feel powerful, turning passive to active.
You cannot stuff down your feelings, nor can you starve them away or purge them. Cultivating an ability to recognize, value and respond to yourself without bingeing, restricting or purging will help you overcome eating disorder behavior, no matter what your struggle with food.
Keep in mind the acronym VARY as a guide to providing comfort:
Validate: Recognize that your feelings and thoughts are reactions to a particular situation, and you have an absolute right to feel the way you feel.
For example: I got passed over for a promotion at work and my co-worker got it instead. I feel hurt, unappreciated and upset. Of course I feel that way. How else could I feel given, this situation?
Acknowledge: Accept the existence and truth of what you’re feeling.
This is a painful, upsetting, and humiliation situation. I also realize that some of my sibling issues might have gotten stirred up, since my brother was always getting special treatment.
Reassure: Encourage and inspire yourself by remembering that this situation will pass, and you will feel better. Keep in mind past situations in which you were able to overcome difficulty. You will this time, too!
I’ve overcome a lot of challenges in my life (recall them specifically) and I’m going to get past this, too. I feel awful now, but I’m not going to be stuck in this horrible feeling. I will feel better
When you are consistently respond to yourself in a supportive way, you feel better. You may even feel good. When that happens, you don’t use food to comfort, numb or distract yourself. That’s how you make peace with food for good!
As a psychoanalyst and specialist in food, weight and body image issues, my area of expertise is the psychology of eating. Whether someone has an unhappy, unhealthy relationship to food or is struggling with an eating disorder, I help them look at what's eating "at" them instead of focusing on what they are eating.
Yet, many people find it difficult to create permanent, sustainable weight loss, and for some of them, there are physiological issues that make it difficult to lose weight and keep it off. That's why I was so intrigued when I heard about a new device that helps people regulate their hunger, appetite and gain health through neuroscience.
The research is really compelling and so many people have benefited from his, that I thought I would introduce you to this device as a complement to the psychological piece.
I invited neuroscientist Dr. Jason McKeon to tell you more about his revolutionary new approach. Take it away, Jason!!
The Neuroscience Of Weight Loss
by Dr. Jason McKeown
It’s becoming more apparent that people don’t realise just how challenging sustained weight loss is. Only 5% of dieting attempts actually succeed for a significant amount of time.
As I see it, we only have two options when it comes to weight loss:
1) The highly desirable, fast, all-in approach that can shift the pounds on the scales quite drastically. Typically, this is about hitting an impending target like a wedding, holiday or dress size.
2) The slower, health driven approach to change a lifestyle, which doesn’t have an end point, and doesn’t use the scales as the sole judge of success.
Nearly everyone wants the first and it’s easy to see why. We live in an instant world. Social media, fast food, Netflix, Uber, even quick-fix diets! It’s quantifiable, done quickly, and easy to move on to the next thing. However, that’s not how weight loss works.
We like to blame will-power for its role in weight regain. Namely that our will-power eventually wanes and we give in to the forbidden fruit, and the weight piles back on. Psychology and neurology play a massive role in this.
The neuroscience behind it all is both complicated and hard to influence. When it comes to fat storage, the cornerstone is an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. It literally controls how much fat you store. That’s great if it naturally keeps you lean, but an eye-opener for anyone who struggles with their weight because it’s very good at storing fat.
In fact, if you adopt a radical diet, or begin an intense exercise regime, your hypothalamus adjusts to prevent your weight from going down. It has been programmed to store fat with ridiculous efficiency.
So, when you diet, it’s your hypothalamus that makes you hungry. It also decreases metabolic rate, changes metabolic hormone, and makes you feel low and unmotivated.
These biological mechanisms make it a David & Goliath feat to lose weight and keep it off. Especially if you have held too much body fat, have been obese for a long time, or if you have something which negatively influences fat storage like medication, diabetes, thyroid problems, or even genetics.
Take ‘The Biggest Loser’ TV show for example; insane weight loss results. Yet, these guys were followed up after a few years and not only did they regain all of the weight, but interestingly their metabolic rate was actually lower than when they first went on the show. They were actually worse off than before they started their diet. In my opinion, this happened because they went too hard too fast and their body bounced back (thanks to the hypothalamus).
So, what can actually be done?
First, we need to rid ourselves of this mind-set that ‘people aren’t trying hard enough’ or are ‘lazy’. Yes, consistency with nutrition and physical activity are crucial to weight and overall health, but the real issue is the hypothalamus and we can’t just ‘will power’ our way through it.
Second, forget about diets. Diets have an exceptionally high failure rate. As mentioned earlier, 95% of the time you will not succeed. Yo-yo dieting actually increases your chances of gaining weight.
Third, ditch the quick-fix approach and replace it by being smart and consistent. Small but positive changes in lifestyle will make the journey much more manageable. Improving food choices to complement a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to a ‘six-week starvation diet’, will not cause a massive rebound in your metabolism. Incorporating physical activity into an enjoyable lifestyle will pay dividends for weight loss and your overall health.
An open-ended mind-set is crucial, but admittedly can be difficult to accept. While some people, whose hypothalamus keeps them lean, can appear to eat what they want, that may not apply to you. So, it will take consistency and discipline, particularly if you want to rewrite the neural pathways that drive the psychology and neuroscience, which have been reinforced daily within your brain for years.
Stimulating the hypothalamus correctly will ultimately make weight loss easier. I have two roles related to this – I work as a physician, and I also hold an academic position at UC San Diego’s Center for Brain & Cognition. The focus of my work there is to try and influence the hypothalamus using neurostimulation (small electrical impulses).
Previously this technology has only been implanted, which is both risky and expensive. However, it does work rather well. What we do at UC San Diego is to try and make the technology non-invasive. What we’ve created is called Modius and it’s a headset that can be worn for 60 minutes a day to send an electrical pulse targeting the hypothalamus.
Will this mean you can do nothing and get shredded? Absolutely not. But, what we are finding is that many people have used the device to make the entire weight loss journey more manageable. Particularly, when it comes to curbing appetite, or getting over that dreaded plateau where people just can’t lose any more weight. If you want to try it out, we’ll be at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) January 9 – 12 in Las Vegas.
The neuroscience of weight loss is a complicated area that extends deep into both the psychology and biology of the entire body. The most successful approach to it is the smart, steady and long-term method. And, even with new technology like Modius, this is still a journey that needs determination, commitment and a positive shift in lifestyle. We’ll be with you every step of your journey with us!
Dr. Jason McKeown spends his days running a medical device company in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and researching brain stimulation at the University of California, San Diego. In his spare time, he likes to relax by working as an Emergency Medicine Doctor.
Here's his official bio: Dr. Jason McKeown is a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Obstetrics from Queen’s University, Belfast. He is a member of the Association of British Neurologists and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and is a Visiting Scholar at the UCSD Center for Brain & Cognition. In 2015 Jason was invited onto the Propel Programme by InvestNI – a business accelerator aimed at ‘high caliber entrepreneurs who have the passion and energy to succeed on the international stage’. Upon his completion of the programme, Neurovalens was awarded Company of the Year 2015.
BONUS: If you're interested in talking with Dr. McKeown, I'm excited to announce that he'll be a guest on my radio show, The Dr. Nina Show on LA Talk Radio, on Wednesday, January 17th, 10am PST. You can listen LIVE on LA Talk Radio and call into the show, or you can listen later on iTunes.
Recently one of the listeners to my radio show wrote in and asked how to get food pushers to back off.
She said, "People who say, 'Oh, come on, it's the Holidays. Just this one time. It's a time for indulgence." Or hosts who say, "You barely ate anything. Have some more. It's just a little."
She wanted to know what to do about hosts who put the food on your plate rather than letting people put take own portions.
(Or worse, what to do about the dreaded buffet party).
Here are my recommendations:
Prepare clever comebacks
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Conversely, by preparing, you will succeed!
Going home for the holidays can cause a temporary regression. If you feel like a five year old as soon as you step through the doors of your childhood home, it can be difficult to retain your adult self.
Having snappy comments at the ready will help get you through.
For people who say, "One bite won't hurt you." (or something like that)
Respond with one of the following comebacks:
"In that case, only give me one bite."
"You're very interested in what I'm eating, aren't you?"
"Would you tell someone who's trying to smoke that one cigarette won't hurt? Would you tell an alcoholic that one sip of alcohol won't hurt?"
(I don't believe in food addiction, which I discuss in this post, but the point of these comebacks is to get people to back off, and this strategy is very effective).
For hosts who dole out food, it's perfectly acceptable to say, "Thank you so much, but I'll take my own."
If they say, "I insist on serving you myself" (which, is highly unlikely), say, with a smile, "You're working too hard, so I insist on helping you by fixing my own plate."
As for buffets, it may be helpful to ask a friend to make you a light and healthy plate, which helps you avoid temptation.
The point here is not to defend or explain, but to challenge these food pushers and put them on the defensive.
It also helps to be ready for comments and questions about your food choices and your weight, such as:
“Do you really need to eat that?”
“You’ve put on a few pounds since last year.”
There are three ways to deal with these types of comments.
“I’m not discussing what I’m eating or how much I weigh. Period.”
“I don’t like speaking about my weight, so I prefer you don’t bring it up.”
“No, I don’t need that. But I sure do want it. Is there a problem?”
“My weight is a number and it’s unlisted.”
“Thank you for noticing. And here I thought nobody paid attention to me.”
“Absolutely right. Curvy is the new black, didn’t you hear?”
“Wow, I actually HAVE gained weight. Thank you for letting me know because otherwise it would have completely escaped my attention.”
So what? What’s new with you?
Maybe. So how are you these days?
My weight really isn’t that interesting to me. What are your plans for next year?
If they tell you that they are only asking because they are worried about your health, say:
“I appreciate your concern, but I do not want to discuss this.”
And, remind yourself: this is TEMPORARY. Before you know it, the New Year will be here and you will have gotten through the holidays without gaining weight!
Haven't heard my show yet? Listen LIVE here on LA Talk Radio or get all the episodes on iTunes.
Do you think the scariest thing about Halloween is all the candy? I remember how I used to buy all the candy I didn't like (hello, candy corn) just so I wouldn't be tempted. I wanted to give you a Halloween treat that is 100 percent guilt-free and calorie-free, too. Here are my tips for how to get through Halloween:
1. Afraid of the dark? The scariest thoughts are the dark ideas you have about yourself. Keep out thoughts like, "I suck" or "I'm too fat/stupid/ugly" or "Who would love me?" Those thoughts just make you feel terrible about yourself. And that's truly frightening.
2. Got ghosts? If the ghosts of the past are haunting you, it's time to deal with them. If you had a critical parent, teacher or sibling, and you find yourself being equally critical to yourself, that critical voice belongs to others, not to you. Find your authentic voice, and view yourself as you are, not as others treated you.
3. Give yourself a treat. If you find yourself saying, "I'm going to be good this Halloween and not eat a single piece of candy," or "I was so bad because I ate that pumpkin cheesecake," then you're connecting your character to what you eat. Allow yourself to eat candy on Halloween without feeling guilty. Deprivation or anticipation of deprivation leads to overeating. If you give yourself permission to have candy you may actually eat less!
4. Living a zombie life? Do you feel as if you're the walking dead, doing the same thing day after day, not truly enjoying your life to the fullest? If so, bring yourself back to life. Think about one thing that you've been waiting to do "one day" and make today the day you start working towards doing that thing. If you want to run a marathon, go for a walk or a short run. If you want to start dating, go online and check out some dating sites.
5.Be playful. Remember the fun of going out with your friends on Halloween? This occasion is about being with other people, dressing up, and having fun. So, have a great time!!
So there you have it, some calorie-free "food for thought" to help you have the best day possible. And here's a thought: keep treating yourself this way every day.
Have A Happy Halloween!
Want more support on your journey? If you want to stop bingeing, you probably know there’s definitely more to it than willpower. That's why I created the Kick The Diet Habit program.
If you're struggling with food, it's because you haven't gotten to the real reason you eat, binge or constantly diet. That's because the root of your behavior is outside your awareness - it's deep in your unconscious. And, you can't solve a problem that you can't see.
I developed this program to show you how to access your unconscious and get to the source of your eating problems, so you can truly heal. Check it out at: www.kickthediethabit.com
Binges happen. When they do, there is always a reason. If you're turning "to" food, you're turning "away" from something else.
But what if you just can't figure it out? You feel the binge coming, like a train picking up speed. It feels like there's nothing you can do to stop it.
As someone recently said to me, "I know it’s important to identify and process my feelings so I don't eat when I'm upset, but sometimes I’m too stressed out to deal with it. What else can I do when I feel that way?”
If you can relate, you may be accustomed to eating to numb, distract or comfort yourself and don’t know how else to calm down.
Here are some ways to alleviate stress and anxiety by calming your body, centering your mind and stopping the escalation of stress.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise: Focus on your legs. Make them as tight as you can. Move up your body, tightening your stomach, then your arms. Make fists and keep your muscles really, really tight. HOLD that tension as long as possible, a minimum of fifteen seconds but ideally as long as possible. Then release.
Feel that? You’re probably feeling more relaxed.. The idea of this exercise is that without muscle tension, you can’t access muscle release. When your body is relaxed, your mind will follow.When your mind is relaxed, you won't feel the need to binge. And viola! You're delivering those cookies to a delighted new friend and forming a new friendship, something that will last much longer than the cookies. :)
The Four Senses Exercise: As you know, we have five senses, but if you turn to food when you’re stressed, you’re familiar with the sense of taste and probably use taste – food – as the primary way you self-soothe. The Four Senses exercise puts you in touch with the other four senses and helps you center yourself.
Wherever you are, look around and say one thing that you can:
Take in these senses with as much detail as possible. You can take this exercise a step further by not only noticing what you can touch, see, hear, or smell, but by indulging one of those senses with calm. Do you have a favorite song or playlist that puts you at ease? Stick some headphones in and let your mind focus on the beautiful sound. Visit nature and treat your eyes to a feast of plants, landscapes, and beauty. Burn a candle with a scent that is especially calming. Wrap yourself in a warm, furry blanket.
If you want to binge, your subconscious is asking for some love. Give it to yourself -- without food.
When I'm particularly stressed, I turn on my favorite old-school artist, Prince, and dance around my house like I'm on stage. That usually changes my mood. But if you need a little more help, here are some other options:
Visualization. There are two ways to use visualization: the first is to imagine a happy place where you feel safe and calm; the second is to think about something you’re afraid of, and imagine a positive outcome. Keep in mind those four senses as you work through the visualizations!
Visualization #1: Visualize a place where you feel happy. Where are you? Who else is there? Don’t limit yourself to reality; you can go anywhere your mind takes you. In your imagination, what are you touching, seeing, hearing, and smelling? Dwell in this visualization until you start to feel your heart calm down.
When I'm overwhelmed, I visualize being on a calm lake with the sun shining and water lapping the shore. I remember the time I went canoeing and a black swan swam alongside the canoe. I had the most lovely sense of wellbeing and calm.
Visualization #2: Imagine a situation that makes you nervous, thinking about the best outcome possible. Again, use the four senses to bring this to life. What upcoming situation is causing you anxiety? Whether it’s a job interview, a personal challenge, a blind date or anything else, imagine the very best outcome, visualizing and imaging the four senses.
I used to have an absolute terror of public speaking. I would get so nervous that my legs would shake (I was positive that the audience could see me trembling, which only made it worse. I realized that I was imagining a critical audience, thinking, “Look how nervous she is. Look at those knees shaking!” Meanies. I decided to imagine an understanding audience full of people who were benefiting from what I was saying, and I focused on how I could help them. Once I did that, my knees stopped shaking for good. And guess what? Now I love public speaking!
Using these methods to calm down, along with learning to identify and process painful, difficult and upsetting emotions, will help you comfort yourself and find peace with words, instead of with restricting, bingeing and purging, or bingeing.
When you are calm, you don't need food to cope. And that's how we will beat the diet habit!
Which of these techniques resound with you? Try one out this week. Make a goal to try one or two before you head to the kitchen for that extra loaf of bread. Share your successes and failures with me on Facebook.
If you are looking for online support and community, check out my Kick the Diet Habit program. All members are granted lifetime access to my online community. This is a great online support for people to chat, ask questions, receive encouragement, and reach me directly. You can learn more about the program here or at the link below. You can respond to this email if you have any questions.
This is what one lifetime member of the Kick the Diet support group said about the program: “Thank you for freeing me from 40 years of dieting and living on low-fat foods and sugar-free this and that. We are in Paris and enjoying some very tasty French food, with no inner critic bullying me. Here’s to freedom and living life to the max!”
I sincerely hope that these techniques help you as you continue to work for greater health and happiness.
Remember, here is always hope! We are in this together.
Want more help to make peace with food? I offer an online program that you can do in the privacy of your home, at your own pace, to help you beat bingeing for good. www.kickthediethabit.com
Recently I was at a park where some girls were selling lemonade and cookies at a stand. I got in line for lemonade and couldn’t help but overhear what the girls were talking about. One was saying that some other girl named Kiley (who wasn’t there) had lost weight at gymnastics camp over the summer.
She said, “Is she skinnier than me?”
This began a whole debate about who was skinnier than whom. They compared the sizes of their jeans, the space between the thighs (the thigh gap) and complained about not being able to see their hipbones.
Then one of them said, “Well, Kiley may be skinny but she still needs a nose job.”
It occurred to me that the smallest part of these girls was their self-confidence, which seemed to be solely based on their weight and appearance in comparison to other girls.
Sound familiar? Do you compare yourself to others and constantly feel as if you fall short?
Or do you feel superior when you make comparisons? Recently someone confided at how superior she felt when she saw another women eating dinner at a restaurant. She scoffed, “I thought she was so weak. I felt so strong in comparison.”
This woman thought her ability to deprive herself and use willpower to not “give in” to the need to eat made her strong. This is a pyrrhic victory, one that causes suffering in the long run.
To stop comparing yourself to others, it’s important to challenge the ideas about yourself that negatively impact your self esteem. When you feel good about yourself, you’re less likely to turn to food for comfort or distraction, or to prove anything about yourself.
Food for thought: Where did you get the idea that you’re not good enough as you are?
What do you think needs to change? Weight? Martial status? Employment status?
What makes you think that depriving yourself reflects strength of character?
Think of someone you compare yourself to unfavorably? What do you imagine would change if you had her (or his) looks, weight, life?
What aspects of yourself – physical, intellectual, mental, emotional – do you feel good about?
What makes you happy?
When you feel good about yourself, you're less vulnerable food, weight or body image issues!
I'm pleased to share an essay by novelist JoAnna Novak. Sheis the author of I Must Have You (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017) and also Noirmania (forthcoming from Inside the Castle 2018). I’m thrilled that she has contributed to Make Peace With Food. Here's a peek into our conversation about her work.
Dr. Nina: JoAnna, can you share what inspired you to write this essay?
JoAnna: I attended an orientation recently--it was a morning thing--and the host brought bagels. That reminded me how much pressure even the presence of food can create for someone with an eating disorder.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized that I'd skipped many, many, many orientations just to avoid negotiating this particular stress.
It's a stress that always makes me feel guilty, too, because of course many people would be grateful to be given food; that guilt sort of exacerbates the stress, which is really what I was trying to capture in this essay.
Dr. Nina: I think a lot of readers on this blog can relate to those feelings of guilt and stress over food. Please tell us about your new book.
JoAnna: I Must Have You is a novel, a coming-of-age story set in 1999, in the aftermath of the heroin chic craze, long before anyone was talking body positivity.
Chronicling three women's interconnected eating disorders, the book is about middle school, girl crushes, anorexia, drugs, first kisses, and hunger--hunger for friendship, hunger for solvency, hunger for a firm grasp of one's self.
Dr. Nina: Thanks, JoAnna. That hunger for connection to self and others is something that so many people try to fill or express with food. What I appreciate about your essay is that it’s a rare glimpse into the actual experience of dealing with food: thinking about it, ruminating, obsessing and perseverating. It’s a powerful piece and I think it will resonate with lots of people.
TRIGGER WARNING! This essay describes food in detail and may be triggering.
The Tyranny Of Free Food
by JoAnna Novak
I don’t want the mini Danish with its gluey bull’s eye. The bready, pre-sliced bagel, cut-side shining its hole up at the fluorescent lights, ringing a tub of cream cheese flanked by plastic knives.
I don’t want to do communal fruit, a spree of honeydew, the jelly packets, Welch’s or Smuckers or Sysco, the butter bonnets, the honey sticks, even the coffee poses questions: decaf or regular, the organic regular or the fair trade regular, cream or milk or soy, sugar, raw sugar, splenda, the green one, the blue one, the stirrer, the scald of exposure when there are no lids and the person standing next to me, a familiar face who, in this context, wobbles like a hologram of a visitor from another dimension, remarks, “Huh. You take it black.”
You warrior, you, I tell myself. You tough.
But are you ninja enough to navigate free lunch? More pinwheels than a 1950s block party, wrap after wrap, salmon pink means tomato and mossy green means spinach and that undercooked graham cracker tone is whole wheat, a matte wrap rainbow to distract you from the fact that, whole, every one of those tortillas is calories-enough for a decent meal, and now here they are, the wraps, halved or quartered, or maybe they’re in thirds, and they sprout toothpicks wearing Christmas-light bright cellophane, which makes the whole affair a little trippy, not to mention fatty, what with the roast beef and the ham and the American and Swiss, slices thin as blotting papers in the roll-ups, which you must pick up with indelicate, ineffective, ridiculously gilt silver serving tongs.
The iceberg salad. The spinach salad, dicey with turds of goat cheese. The fun-size chips and their fun-size bags and their fun-size crunch, an aural tattoo, marking you as a chip-eater, indulgent, fun, when they’re the only thing with a nutrition label in the room.
You could take a brownie, but it would need salt, and if you salt your brownie you call attention to yourself, the incongruity of your meal, which, if it includes a brownie can’t include “real food.” You could take a cookie and pick out the chocolate chips or the macadamia nuts, but see “you could take a brownie.” See “coffee: you take it black.”
Free food is supposed to be a gift, a grace, a sign that the world is not all business. It’s in the classroom, the boardroom, the backroom at funerals, at picnic tables, served poolside, in homes and offices.
You are supposed to be thankful. You are supposed to be tickled. You are an employee or a poor grad student subsisting on the myth of subsisting on ramen or a mourner or a daughter or a son or a boss or a volunteer at the literacy center downtown or an idle shopper at Whole Foods on Local Foods Friday.
“Wanna try Spicy Mo’s Jalapeno Jack on a cracker?”
The only thing lonelier than navigating the minefield of free food is overhearing the way eaters demonstrate they are pleased by it. Their voices bounce with the enthusiasm of precocious child actors. “Mm, this is actually delicious!” “The vegetarian wrap is reallygood!” “I do love pesto!” “I have to have a cookie—ok, one more! It’s here, so I’m eating!”
You are supposed to appreciate the gesture. Have seconds. Take home leftovers. Fill up. If the food is free, it’s also over-ordered.
Because isn’t there always someone like you, like me? Someone who hears that the first hour of an event is going to be group breakfast—and skips that first hour? Someone who invents conference calls or urgent emails so they can postpone grabbing a plate? Someone with jumpy eyes, whose smile keeps wobbling into a frown? What’s the worst part? Skipping the meal and being alone as you sit and watch people eat? Taking the plunge and eating yourself?
That’s what no one tells you about free food: it’s not free. It’s not free of calories and, if you’ve had an eating disorder, it’s not free of stress. Because free food asks the eater to perform their diet. Who do you want to be to your colleagues, your new classmates, your fellow grievers? You eat nothing and stamp your hungry foot, plead some unseen meal that’s filling you up, say you’re not hungry.
You gobble a heap, the whole spread, and field comments about your appetite, your metabolism, your body, where do you put it, your sweet tooth.
You build a plate by meal plan, feel the hollowness of scant portions at a table of the ravenous, the regular, the relaxed.
You excuse yourself after and puke even if you haven’t puked after anything in years. You try to meditate in plain sight.
You make space for your mind to run laps around the dining room while everyone doubles up on dessert.
JoAnna Novak is the author of I Must Have You (Skyhorse Publishing 2017) and Noirmania (forthcoming from Inside the Castle 2018). She has written fiction, essays, poetry, and criticism for publications including Salon, Guernica, BOMB, The Rumpus, Conjunctions, and Joyland. She received her MFA in fiction from Washington University and her MFA in poetry from University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is a co-founder of the literary journal and chapbook publisher, Tammy. She lives in Los Angeles. Find out more at www.joannanovak.com
I'm pleased to share my article in this month's issue of Masters Of Health Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to health and wellness.
Many of us yearn to have a different body, while ignoring the one we have. Social media is filled with photos of people on fad diets, starving themselves, or going to extreme measures, desperate to change their weight and appearance.
All too often, we hold ourselves up to an ideal of physical perfection and find fault with ourselves when we inevitably fail to meet their goals. This is true of men as well as women.
As one of my male patients once said, “It is just as hard to be Ken as it is to be Barbie.”
To create a more peaceful and realistic way of relating to ourselves, we must challenge the notion that there is only one good way to have a body, so that we can cherish, as well as nurture, the bodies we have.
Love Tip #1: Appreciate Yourself
Many people, when they think of their “self” only think of their image in the mirror. Yet, we are so much more than our size and appearance.
One woman described herself as the “queen of self care” and didn’t understand why she still felt bad about herself. When I asked exactly how she took care of herself, she told me she regularly got manicures and pedicures, facials and massages.
I told her that was grooming, not self-care. Her challenge was realizing that there was much more to her – and to all of us - than meets the eye.
Always keep in mind that you have a body, but you also have a mind. There are intellectual parts, emotional, relational, creative, spiritual parts of yourself, and a whole range of other qualities that make you the person you are.
Make it a point to identify, embrace and nurture all parts of yourself, because they all need your appreciation. When you feel good about your whole self, you won’t be as focused on your weight as a way to define yourself.
To cherish the body you have, define yourself by your basic values and unique characteristics, instead of by your appearance. Tune in to your physical needs by avoiding restrictive diets and cultivating a more intuitive approach to your food choices. And, accept your emotions and attend to them, instead of ignoring them.
This is the key to true transformation and inner peace.
Are you making New Years resolutions this year? Something along the lines of:
- Exercising more
- Eating more veggies
- Eating less sugar and junk food
- Stop bingeing
Chances are, you’ve tried this before. You start off strong and disciplined, but your resolve fizzles. And then it's another hope-to-heartbreak year all over again.
Here are some tips to make this year different:
Stop Trying So Hard
Resolutions are phrased in terms of “trying” to make changes. Do these sound familiar?
- I’m going to try to lose weight.
- I’m going to try to be healthier.
- I'll try to go to the gym every day.
If you're a Star Wars fan, you know there is no trying; there is either doing or not doing (thank you, Yoda).
If you’re trying (and failing) at your attempts to change, there is a reason, usually one of the following:
Fear of Expectations: You hope that by changing your body, you’ll change your life. But what if everything in your life stays exactly the same? Maybe that’s too much to risk, so you unconsciously stop yourself from going all-in, because you're afraid of what WON'T happen when you lose weight.
Fear of Impulsivity: Afraid you’ll act in an impulsive manner if you are happy with yourself – leave your husband, cheat on your wife, take risks at work, that kind of thing. If so, dealing with the wish to do those things – and most importantly, why - is a crucial step towards change.
Fear of Objectification: What are your associations to intimacy? What do you fear will happen if you’re perceived as more attractive to others?
Make A Different Kind of Resolution
New Years Resolutions are usually about behavior. What if they were about changing the way you relate to yourself? Resolve to be:
- Kinder to yourself
- Listen to your needs
- Pay attention to your wants
- Be curious, not critical
Make a list of the ways you wish other people would act towards you, such as responsive, open, supportive, and kind. Then, resolve to be that way towards yourself.
Why? Because the way you treat yourself directly impacts what you eat. If you're critical and judgmental, you feel bad. If your main source of comfort is food, you're likely to eat just to get away from your own mean internal voice.
Conversely, the nicer you are to yourself, the better you feel, and the less likely you are to eat for comfort or distraction! And that's how you make peace with food - for good!!