body

The Path to Healing: A 6-week series to help guide you on your path to health

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The path to healing is very personal. We each have our own journey in this life and it isn’t without pain or trauma. And at some point in our lives (or at multiple points), we get to the place where we can’t go on any longer in the state we are in. Whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual pain, we must face something within ourselves that needs attention. And our bodies are equipped to tell us we must pay attention or else the consequences can be devastating.

The body is a messenger. The state of our physical, emotional and spiritual health are sending us messages constantly. Sometimes they come in whispers and sometimes they come in shouts. At first we may hear a quiet message. It may come in the form of an emotion. Maybe we are feeling angry or sad or anxious. Or maybe the message presents itself in our physical body. We may have a headache or stomach ache. Sometimes these symptoms just come and they go. They aren’t significant or long lasting. They could be situational or circumstantial and not long lasting. But if something persists…if the “down” feeling persists and steals our joy for weeks or months. Or if the occasional headache turns into daily headaches or migraines, then we must pay attention. And thus begins our search and our path to healing.

I always believe that whenever we actively seek answers that we will find them. It may take longer than we had hoped for, but if we keep pressing on with our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open…eventually we will find the answers. Sometimes the answers bring immediate relief. Sometimes, we don’t like the answers and we fight them in our grief of letting go of something we have been holding onto. Even if it has been something that has been hurting us. And sometimes after we get our answers we feel overwhelmed by the steps ahead. This is the beginning of the healing process. And it may take time, but our bodies will tell us we are on the right path. That things are getting better. That we feel better. That it isn’t the easy path, but it is the only path to freedom. Stay on it and you will be rewarded. Go off course, and you will begin to feel that old familiar pain. This is designed to keep us on course. We must stay awake. We have to continue to pay attention to the messages our bodies are sending us.

I have come across many who are seeking answers in need of healing, in my practice and in my personal life. As I listen to the stories of physical or emotional pain or unrest, I always see how they are connected to our spirit. Something is amiss or unbalanced. It may be a job situation or a relationship or what we are eating or how we are taking care of ourselves. Something in our lives needs attention. We need to start working on making changes. And it is does require work. The first step is realizing and accepting this. Sometimes that is the most difficult step. And then the next step is beginning on our journey of healing. We are navigating into the unknown. But the answers will come as we are ready and do the work. This is the time to pay attention along the way, to keep our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open. You will get to the other side. Pain is often the catalyst to healing. To heal not only our physical and emotional pain, but also our spiritual pain. Then, when we are restored back to health, we will have the energy to live our life fully. To be able to do what we were meant to do in this life. My hope is that anyone who reads this, wherever you are in your journey, that you are reminded of this today. We were created to do great things in this life. We were created to live life abundantly. And I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, but I guarantee that it will definitely be worth it. Annnnd go!

The Hopeless, Worthless, Shameful, "I Don't Give a Sh*t Cycle"

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I always come back to this prevalent theme amongst the human race. And unfortunately, I see it in my office all too often. Mostly in my weight loss patients. The years and years of dieting, losing weight only to gain it all back and then some. It is the hopeless, worthless, shameful, I don't give a sh*t cycle. But because these patients schedule the appointment and even more importantly, because they show up...there it is... a glimmer of hope, a moment of feeling worth it, a nudging thought of actually giving a sh*t. It is their time to break the cycle. And I'm there to help them. But the honest truth is this: it is going to take some work on their part. But the honest truth is also this: that it is absolutely going to be worth it. 

Five steps to break the hopeless, worthless, shameful, I don't give a sh*t cycle:

 

  1. Start eating food to nourish and heal your body.

    Forget about eating or not eating to lose weight. Forget about calories and fat grams and intermittent fasting and "evil" carbs. Forget about your friend or sister that lost 30 pounds in 3 days by eating food out of tiny plastic containers. This is your path and yours alone. And until you realize that food can be part of your healing and that food was intended for our survival and nourishment, then you will stay in the cycle. If you want to break this cycle, work on changing your thinking about food. A great example of this type of healthy thinking is in the words of Hippocrates, known as the "Father of Medicine" from almost 3,000 years ago: "Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food". Perfectly said.

  2. Change your thinking patterns, and rewire your brain.

    The cycle goes like this: Dieting/Restricting > Overeat > Shame/Guilt > Binge/Overeat > Shame/Guilt/What's the point thinking > Weight Gain > Dieting/Restricting.  I will also refer to this cycle as the "destructive cycle" or "unhealthy cycle" throughout this article. The first step to changing the pattern here is to STOP dieting and restricting. This in turn, will naturally result in less of a physiological desire/impulsivity to overeat. However, because this has been a powerful piece of the unhealthy cycle, it will happen again. But this time, when it does happen, you will have to try something different. And this takes practice. You will have to practice letting go of any shame and/or guilt that you may experience after overeating. Carl Jung's quote says it how it is: "Shame is a soul-eating emotion". So instead, after overeating or eating something "not so healthy", stop for a moment and practice saying to yourself, "Okay, so I ate more than I needed" or "I ate something that probably wasn't the healthiest thing for my mind and body". Then pay attention to how you feel. You may feel great after just eating something, or you may feel tired, bloated and/or sick. Then practice saying, "I am not going to beat myself up. Instead I will use it for a lesson. And I will reset at the next meal or snack with something healthy and nourishing for my mind and body". The more you practice stopping yourself and redirecting your thought patterns, you will also start to rewire your brain. Keep practicing. Practice doesn't make perfect, but it creates change and pushes you further away from the destructive cycle. And anyways, you weren't meant to be perfect. You were meant to be human. 

  3. Practice Mindfulness.

    Practicing mindfulness is a big part of this process. If you aren't ready to sit with some uncomfortable emotions and/or don't have the energy to push through the negative thinking and practice a different type of thinking, that's okay. It doesn't mean that you can't break the cycle, but it may take longer and you may not fully get to the root of why you are in the cycle to begin with. But that doesn't mean you can't move forward in breaking the cycle. You most certainly can. But I will pretty much guarantee you that at some point you will have to start practicing some mindfulness if you don't want to continually fight the pull of the destructive cycle. Once you have started nourishing your body, and practiced letting go of the shame and guilt if you go off course, then you may have to face some uncomfortable emotions. Often, we use food to soothe our emotions. It can become a coping mechanism to handle stress in our lives, to deal with anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. It can be how we connect with our family members or friends, but maybe on an unhealthy level. It can be the shame and secrecy we feel with binge eating at night when everyone is asleep while presenting a different well-controlled persona on the outside. There are many different emotions that are underlying our patterns of eating. And when we are breaking an unhealthy cycle, these emotions will emerge and they will come full force and will have to be acknowledged and dealt with in order to break the cycle. Often, a therapist is needed to help process these emotions in a healthy way. 

  4. Bring in the troops.

    Not all things were meant to be done alone. And breaking this destructive cycle is definitely one that I would recommend having support lined up for. This may mean friends, spouses/partners, family members, coworkers, doctors, etc. who are supportive of your well being. Maybe not the friend who says, "Aww cmon, lets go get ice cream and you will feel better!" (and you know who I am talking about). You may need a dietitian, therapist, life coach, personal trainer. Whatever and whomever you need to bring into your circle during this time of great change and transformation...bring them in and line them up. Let them in on your goals and how they can help you reach your goals. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You may have never asked for help in your entire life. But now you may need to practice that as well. Asking for help. And receiving it without guilt. Remember that there is a gift in giving and receiving. Everyone benefits.

  5. Document.

    Sometimes in our lives, it is important not to forget. The good and the bad. The little things. For example, the little changes along the way you have made. They may feel insignificant, but even if you practiced changing your thought patterns one time and practiced letting go of any guilt or shame and reset at the next meal...that is something!! Even if you asked one friend to support you in reaching your goals...that is also something! Write down what you have done so that you don't forget. It's also important not to forget how good or bad you feel. The human mind is created to have short-term memory when it comes to pain (ok maybe not long ago emotional pain from childhood), but the pain of feeling sick after overeating or a horrible hangover after drinking, even childbirth! Otherwise, we wouldn't continually repeat painful experiences (okay childbirth may be in a slightly different category). So write it down when you feel good or notice good things: ie. "I ate a piece of fruit with a handful of almonds today for a snack and had a lot more energy this afternoon. I wasn't starving when I sat down for dinner and I was able to control my portions". Also, consider writing down when you felt bad but using the healthier thought patterns: ie. "I was starving on my way home from work and went through the drive thru and ordered the #6 and now my stomach hurts and I feel sluggish. I was going to go workout but now I am dragging. So I am going to drink lots of water and have a healthy snack in a few hours and put on my tennis shoes and go for a walk anyways. Lesson learned". This way you are processing both the good and the bad so that you don't forget, and you are also practicing changing thought patterns. Which ultimately leads to breaking this destructive cycle.


    So now you have the 5 steps to breaking the hopeless, worthless, shameful, I don't give a sh*t cycle. Start putting them into practice. It will take time. It will take practice. It will likely be uncomfortable, possibly painful and definitely annoying at times. And I will guarantee you, it won't be perfect. But that's one of the best things about breaking this unhealthy cycle...you are learning that it is okay to not be perfect. I like to call that being imperfectly perfect:) Annnd go!

Mind. Body. Soul.

Mind. Body. Soul. We must ensure we are taking care of all three.

Mind. Body. Soul. We must ensure we are taking care of all three.

Mind, body and spirit. The three are connected. If one is out of sync, the others fall apart. How do we align the mind, body and spirit? We must ensure we are taking care of all three. 

Your mind. Begin by asking yourself these questions: How am I taking care of my mind? Am I putting positive or negative information into my mind? How am I managing stress in my life? How are my relationships with others? Am I challenging my mind with learning new skills or gaining new knowledge? Am I avoiding or at least limiting substances (such as alcohol) that might alter my mind? 

Your body. Try to answer these questions honestly: How am I taking care of my body? Am I getting enough physical activity? Am I putting healthy food into my  body? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I having any physical symptoms that I need to address with a doctor? Am I always tired, hungry, in pain, etc?

Your spirit.How you define your spirit is very personal. For some, it may be your spiritual life, such as being a part of something greater than yourself. You may define it as God or nature or the universe. It could be speaking your truth, or following your dreams. However you define your spirit, this is just as important as the mind and body. Begin by thinking about your definition of spirit, then you can ask yourself these questions: How am I taking care of my spirit? What else can I do to take care of my spirit? Do I feel a sense of peace or do I feel frazzled and stressed most of the time? What is my purpose here in this life? These may be difficult questions to answer.

Journaling or talking to a trusted friend or therapist can help you to process your questions and answers. This is the beginning of real change. Be patient with yourself. Be completely honest with yourself. Try not to be critical of your answers. They are not anyone else's answers except yours. They will help you to make the changes you need in your life. To be the person you are meant to be. When the mind, body and spirit are in alignment, you are at your best. Your mind, body and spirit are powerful. Take care of them. And they will take care of you.