Joy 101 — How to Open the Door to Your Emotions

Image of a daffodil. A nice symbol of joy.

Joy, or her gentler sister, happiness, can seem elusive. We have been told by our society we will be happy when we achieve a goal or gain an item we have coveted. I’m here to tell you joy can be found without any of that. Not only can it be found, without those items and experiences, but pursuing them at all costs can interfere with joy.

The reason many of us find happiness so elusive is that we have decided to shut the door on emotions.  Let’s back up a little. Emotions can be labelled “good” or “bad”. That is a simple idea. Anger, envy, jealousy and hate are seen as negative. Even sadness and regret can fall into the “bad” category. We all seek the “good” feelings of joy (that’s what this blog is about!), happiness, love and contentment, for example.

Social rules of engagement further say we can express the good emotions, usually, in public, but not always. Try laughing out loud during a eulogy if you don’t believe me. The bad emotions, however, should be hidden and denied. If you are really angry, it is generally not acceptable to express it in the moment, especially if when angry you throw and break things.

So, what am I getting at? We have been taught to greater or lesser degrees when and how and if we can express the emotions we are feeling. Truth is, if you feel impatient, you feel impatient. It is neither good nor bad, it just is. The trouble starts if you decide to lash out at someone because you are feeling this way, but I digress.

When an emotion is created energy is built up. There are tons of hormones, bodily reactions and sensations associated with all kinds of emotions. If you choose to repress them, in the moment they occur, that energy does not dissipate. It stays somewhere in your body and waits to be released.

We are all familiar with someone who strikes out in anger at some small slight. In some instances this can simply be a build up of anger, that was not expressed at the time it formed. The energy from the anger is still trying to escape and a small thing sets it off. It is expressed in an inappropriate situation and seems out of proportion to the small slight that set it off.

Forcing ourselves to not experience emotions, when they occur not only can backfire, like described above, it takes a huge amount of energy to keep your emotions under control all of the time. Enter addictions. If we have anger, sadness, hate and other “bad” emotions we are trying to suppress, not express, and their energy is building up, one of the ways to deal with this is to avoid it. Shopping, gambling, legal and illegal drugs (governments decide on this distinction so I would argue the distinction is not real), over-working, over-exercising…there are too many to list. These things numb us and allow us to ignore the pent up emotions we have stored in our bodies.

Unfortunately, this does not work long term. Unexpressed emotions can erupt at unexpected times, can lead to illness, stress and depression and worst of all, we cannot just block the unpleasant or “bad” emotions. When we block emotions, we block all emotions.

In order to get to joy we must feel all emotions, the “good” and the “bad”. This includes all of the emotions we have failed to express in the past. If we want to get to a place where we can feel joy, happiness and contentment, we must feel and express what we have been told are unacceptable, or what we have found are unpleasant emotions.

Here is a step by step guide on how to release repressed emotions:
1. Find Time

The actual exercise can last from a few minutes to over an hour depending on you personally, how many emotions you have repressed, how long you have been storing pent-up emotions and how painful the experience is.

In addition to the time spent doing the work, you will need recovery time. This is not the type of exercise you should do right before going to work, or before a social outing. Leave time to take a walk, have a shower or bath, get outside, listen to good music or some other activity that will act as a balm over the wounds you are about to open. This is not the best time to turn to any addictions or bad habits you may have.

2. Find a place

You are looking for a place where you will have the maximum amount of privacy you can muster. This may be more difficult for some, especially if you live in a home that does not afford you privacy. You may need to find a wooded area that is not heavily populated, or park your car in a secluded area. You may need to ask a friend if you can do this exercise at their home. Do whatever you can to find a place where you can make noise, feel safe and not have to worry about your surroundings.

Depending on you personally, you may prefer one of the two following things:

1. Some individuals need to have a place where they cannot break or damage anything. If you know or suspect this may be you, plan for it. Have things you can break, pillows you can punch, paper or cardboard you can tear, that sort of thing.

2. Others need comfort. If this is you, grab a blanket or shawl, wrap it around you and sit somewhere you feel safe and secure.

3. Do the Work

a.  Think of things that have rattled you. Remember times you were wronged or shamed or felt hurt. Play music that makes you feel sad. Watch a movie you know dredges up emotions. Do what you need to do to have any emotion surface. Allow yourself to feel and express the emotion.

b.  Be prepared for rage, anger, crying, sobbing, yelling, laughing or any other way an emotion can be expressed. Let it happen. This is a highly personal and individual experience.  Do not get pulled into a thought process about why you feel this way, or that you shouldn’t feel this way. If your brain is demanding attention, focus on describing how the emotion appears in your body.

c.  Create a picture in your mind about the sensations. “My stomach is a red ball of liquid” for instance. Do not say, “I am angry”, describe the sensations using colours, textures and shapes. There can be no judgement. Do not berate yourself for being weak or for having the emotions. Try to stop the part of your brain trying to understand and explain what is happening. Allow yourself to fully express the emotions that come up.

d.  It is normal to start with one emotion and have it evolve into another. Do not judge yourself for starting with sadness, for instance, becoming angry, feeling hate and then laughing out loud. This is normal. The order I gave was just an example. The emotions will come up in an unpredictable way.

Note:  even the most painful of feelings will last a maximum of 90 seconds. There may be more than one wave of emotions, but each will only last 90 seconds. You can allow even the most uncomfortable sensation to last that long.

e.  When no more emotions surface, or you’ve reached your limit. Stop. Do the activity you planned for before you began, like go for a walk outside.

It is not possible to do this exercise wrong. As you do it more often you will become accustomed to how to release the emotions without trying to “think” your way out of it. You will know you are doing it correctly when you feel slightly “lighter” afterwards. If you feel like you have re-experienced the trauma that caused the emotion initially, you are in your thoughts too much. Practice describing the sensations visually while doing this exercise, that will help.

4. Repeat

This should be repeated as often as possible. The sessions will decrease in time and intensity. Piece by piece you are dismantling opening the door to emotions. This is when joy starts to flow into your life. It is not possible to feel joy exclusively, you must feel all emotions and this exercise will help you to do that.

Some Like it Hot

IMG_0056Is it Hot Enough For You?

Do you remember shovelling snow, hating the slippery roads, wearing layers upon layers and still being cold? This heat wave is the weather that we were all looking forward to as we stepped into deep water secretly hidden under a thin layer of ice, soaking us through to our socks. True happiness comes from knowing one’s self and getting in touch with how we truly feel and what we truly want.

Focusing on external circumstances like the weather (what can we control less?), especially if we aren’t enjoying them, can be a bad habit that is often used to avoid paying attention to what we are feeling. Do you find yourself shopping when you don’t need anything and spending more money than you have? Do you eat when you are not hungry and past the point of being full? Do you need a drink in order to face your day, or perhaps several? People do many things to distract themselves from their feelings. If you do anything habitually, that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing as much as you do, you may be trying to avoid your emotions. Click here to read more…..

In order to truly get in touch with what you want it is necessary to stop thinking about what should be making you happy. It is easy to get pulled into the idea that the next promotion, the next purchase, the upcoming holiday is what will make us happy. These are all future events and are not happening now. It is important to become aware of the less tangible, more satisfying aspects of your life. Especially in North America, we are all about the logical, scientific mind. We are quite confident that if you can measure it, test it and quantify it, “It” is real and worth our attention. We are driven by…click here to read more….

I want to welcome you to your life. Some things can be changed, some cannot. The trick is to experience your life to the fullest and to allow yourself to indulge in your passions. So stop thinking so hard and doing so much and enjoy the weather before the snow returns.

Stress Eating?

IMG_0057You are on your way to check out the new fish that are arriving today at the pet store and a car rear ends you at a stop sign. Then, you get there to find out that they haven’t arrived yet and you see your lover petting kittens with someone that you don’t know. You rush out of the store and run into an old nemesis and exchange comments and then you rush home and dive into the refrigerator and eat until you enter a coma. Stress eating? Maybe…..

Stress eating is often confused with other types of over eating because the situations that bring on these bouts of uncontrolled eating are often very similar. The actual underlying cause may not be.

Stress eating can be defined, in broad terms, as any time that you eat when you really don’t need to eat. The eating is in response to stress and usually involves eating way past the point of being full and may include favourite, high calorie foods.

Let me back up a little. Our society is focused on a few very superficial things. These include symbols of wealth that are expressed as possessions, youth and beauty. Beauty is fairly narrowly defined and always includes being underweight. I purposefully do not use the word thin here, because the models that we see on runways, the way that women are airbrushed in magazines and the “beauty” image is one of being underweight.

The average model is 5’8″ tall and weighs 110 pounds. This gives a whopping BMI (body mass index) of 16.7. If your BMI is less than 18.5 you are considered underweight. So our standard of beauty, for a woman at least, is a body type that is underweight.

For the purposes of this explanation, lets divide ourselves into two parts. There is the biological part, your body, that focuses on keeping us alive, meeting our needs and finding things to take pleasure in. The other part is our brain. It too will find things to take pleasure in but it is also the “trainable” part that learns all of the rules. The brain is worried about what other people think and has learned the proper way to behave. The biological part cares less about that and just wants to protect and enjoy itself.

If you are feeling a lot of pressure to approach the weight of a supermodel, your brain will tell you how to do this. There is no shortage of information about diets, pills, surgeries, elastic bands, exercise clubs and juice fasts to help you lose weight. We have been convinced that if we just follow an eating plan and make a few life style adjustments, we too can look like a cover girl.

The problem arises when the biological part becomes fearful for its life. In any situation where the body is in fear of dying, it will do everything that it can to stay alive. If you doubt this, try to hold your breath for three minutes. It’s OK, I’ll wait.

How did that work out for you? Were you able to hold your breath that long or did your body just decide that it was going to breath anyway? The same thing happens when we try to reduce our body weight below what our bodies are comfortable with. Our biological part is not comfortable with the weight of the supermodels, remember they are actually underweight.

We go on a diet, or a “lifestyle” change or a “cleanse”–the meanings are the same the names have just been changed–and our brains are firmly in control. Then we find out that we can’t buy any new fish for our aquarium and that our lover may not be faithful to us and our brains lose control for just a moment. Our brains become preoccupied with the drama that is going on in our lives and WHAM, our bodies take over and try to replace all of that essential body weight that we have been trying to remove. This is not emotional eating, even though it has the same triggers.

Emotional eating occurs when you are feeding yourself properly and the above happens and you are in so much pain that you don’t know how to make the pain go away. You have learned that eating can take your mind off of it and so you start to eat so that you can focus on the food instead of feeling the emotions.

So, if you think that you may be an emotional eater, first ask yourself if you feed yourself properly most of the time. If you are constantly trying to lose weight, you may not be an emotional eater at all; it is just the body taking over to avoid starvation. Can you blame it for trying to keep itself alive?

 

Step away from dieting and try something new. Develop a new relationship with yourself. Here are some resources.

 

The Importance of Respecting What You Want to Eat

IMG_0612I feel like lessons are being taught. For example, I made a soup out of the left over vegetables. This is something that I do. I love these soups. They are all unique, so never boring and they give me this sense of satisfaction. No food is going to waste. I have found a way that even the water that I keep my carrot and celery sticks in is going to go into a food. It is decidedly nutritious, delicious and frugal. These are all of the great things when it comes to food.

So, the problem this time was that the soup was not all that good. There was a flavour that made it unpleasant. I tried adding cheddar cheese on top of the first bowl that I had and it was nice, but not delicious. Then, I tried to add chicken bouillon to the soup to give it more of a soup base taste. The truth is that it didn’t help. I continued to eat a bowl of this soup essentially once per day, being careful to boil it frequently enough to make sure that it did not go off and to refrigerate it when necessary.

This boiling and refrigeration technique has been in place for over a decade. A good friend went to Ghana, where refrigeration is rare, and they had a technique and understanding that you needed to bring a soup to a boil and cover it with a lid and it was OK for another day.

So, I was using a combination of boiling and refrigeration. This was a large pot of soup because there was a lot of food in it. Now, of course, the amount of soup kept decreasing because I was eating bowls of it. But, I was not really enjoying it, so I kept trying different things to make it better. The last thing that I tried was adding in gravy thickener. I only added this to one bowl so that I could try it without ruining the soup and it was nice, more like a stew though.

So yesterday, I came home for lunch and I microwaved a small bowl. I have been keeping a food diary to see what foods give me an upset stomach and which ones give me heartburn. So, I knew to not take too much. Apparently, the size of your stomach is about the size of your fist. I had taken the time to measure the size of my fist and it was about a cup. I poured this amount into the bowl so that I would have a visual reference to know how far 1 cup filled the bowl and I had put less soup into the bowl than that.

So for the non-scientists in the crowd: The way that you measure the size of your fist is to fill a glass or bowl or some sort of container right to the very rim. Put in enough water that any more water would spill out over the top. Set this into a very large bowl or pot. The idea is that when the water spills out of the top of the first container it will be captured by the larger container.

Now, slowly, you don’t want to create waves, lower your fist into the first container. If you have set it up properly, the water will begin to spill over the top of the rim and it will be caught in the larger bowl or pot. Once you have submersed your hand right up to the wrist, stop. Remove the container that originally held the water. Now, pour the water that overflowed into the larger container into a measuring cup and you know how much space your fist took up. For me it was 8 ounces.

I have been learning the importance of not overeating, because after paying attention to it now for a very long time, when I do overeat, even a little, the pain in my stomach and my discomfort is immense. There is no question that the extra few bites are simply not worth it. Add in the possibility that what I have eaten is dense, versus liquid, and the time it takes to feel better is considerable.

So I had less than 1 cup of soup in the bowl. I began to eat it and the potatoes that I had recently added were quite nice. Overall though, it is not something that I would choose to eat. I loss interest quite quickly and decided that my hunger was gone and that was enough. So, there is no possibility that I had overeaten. None.

Before I started to eat, while driving home to have lunch, my stomach was growling. There was such an intense hunger that I was sneezing. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that I sneeze when my stomach is unhappy? Apparently, it is a recessive genetic trait that has only been studied minimally because, quite frankly, no body cares! If my stomach lining is irritated, for instance, think about eating candy that is extremely sweet and possibly sour, on an otherwise empty stomach, or eating too much, or being over hungry, I sneeze, repeatedly, but I digress.

So, I was hungry and I did not overeat. These are two very important criteria for me to follow when eating. I began to feel uncomfortable. By the time I got to the corner of Downey and the Hanlon, I knew that if the light did not change soon, I would have to open the driver’s side door and vomit onto the road. Let me explain that this is not only a very busy intersection but also a particularly popular intersection, because it is the most direct route out of my neighbourhood. I regularly see one or more people I know, at this intersection while waiting for the light to change.

I made it through the light and turned right onto the old Hanlon road and parked. This is the original road that was ignored when the highway was built beside it a very long time ago. It has been left in place and is now largely an off leash dog walking area that runs up the side of the new highway.

I made sure that the car was in park, turned off and out of the way, which seemed to take a lot of thought and care. It was as though I had forgotten how to do all of these automatic things and now I was going through a checklist. Yes, pull off of the road, watch for the potholes! Put the car into park. There. Now, shut it off. Let’s see, I’m off of the road, the car is in park and it is shut off. OK, now I can vomit.

I walked over to the side of the road and found some rather tall weeds. I suspected that the courtesy of finding tall weeds would not be appreciated by many of the passersby, but it is the thought that counts. At the very least, people were less likely to see that I had been there. It would be unlikely that this would be visible by someone walking along the road.

However, I could not forget that this was an off leash dog park and a few weeds were not going to fool a dog and that sniffer they have.

So, I vomited. The first few heaves were just dry air. It was a relief to have the pressure off of my stomach because it had felt as though it was going to burst while I was waiting for the light to change. Then it came, first in small amounts and then in larger ones. It appeared as though the only thing in the soup was carrots. There was no sign of potatoes and all of the liquid was that orange so characteristic of the carrot. I had not realized that there was that much carrot in the soup.

I continued on. I had an appointment in less than an hour.  The man that I had it with is not the sort of guy that you just drop in on and say, “How’s it Hanging?” So, I was reluctant to miss our meeting. It had been scheduled for a few months.

When I arrived, I found out that the meeting was cancelled. Fine. I went home.

The way home did not feel as bad because I was on my way home, which is always good, or at least now that I’m divorced is always good, and I managed to make it without needing to pull over to vomit. I did take the precaution of staying off of the highway. The sidestreets are easier if you have to hurl. Simply having a place to pull over can be a large advantage.

I plugged in my phone, put my food back into the fridge and walked up to my en suite. I undressed, hurled again a few times and went to bed. This time the acidity of my stomach was the main component of the vomit and it burned my throat and the inside of my mouth. I slept for over three hours and I felt OK but not great when I woke up. I did not vomit again and managed to eat some nuts in the evening.

All of this was to say that I didn’t want to eat the soup. Why did I force myself to eat it? What is it that I still need to learn about not eating things that I don’t enjoy? It felt as though I was being taught a lesson. If you don’t want to eat it don’t. That sounds simple but there are a million messages from the other direction including the classic, “People in China are starving to death” which somehow justifies North American obesity by contrasting it to a great lack in another part of the world. How does my eating this help those in China? I guess I’ll never be able to ask that question now.

I came from a family of plate cleaners. I vividly remember my father telling me with great disgust how a woman that he was having a meal with left a couple of fork fulls on her plate. This was ridiculous to him and totally unacceptable. I was supposed to concur with this story, but rather it illuminated the messages that I had been given as a child. It is imperative that you eat what is on your plate. Let’s not forget, this is not a plate that I have filled myself. This was a plate assembled by some other person, an adult. An adult that likely felt that if they could get me to eat a large amount then they would not have to bother to feed me as quickly after this particular meal.

My grandmother would walk around after our Christmas dinners or large family meals and empty the large serving bowls onto people’s plates. Now I mean large here. She often had several tables end to end in her basement with assorted chairs up each side and large bowls of food. Bowls that would look suitable on buffet tables in a restaurant. This woman was accustomed to serving meals for a family with nine children and possibly some invited guests. So when she was making a “big” dinner it was actually a “huge” dinner.

I have a particularly vivid memory of having a huge bowl of corn scraped onto my plate. It was understood that I could not leave the table until this was finished. Any protesting would be met with stories about people that my grandmother had watched starve to death during the depression. She would talk about people that became so frail and so thin that the slightest cold would kill them. It was assumed that it was much better to have the extra weight from overeating than it was to not eat when I was over full.

I also remember being forced to sit at the kitchen table, when I was quite young, until I had finished my meal. In one particular memory, I laid my head down and pretended that I was asleep. I did not want to eat the food on my plate and I couldn’t leave the table until I did, so I might as well pretend to be asleep. The good thing was that a parent, and I don’t recall who now, carried me up to my room and I was never forced to eat the remaining food.

So yes, I know that I shouldn’t eat past being full and I know that I shouldn’t eat something that I don’t actually want, but I am still climbing over the mountain created by my upbringing. Vomiting after eating something that I didn’t want to eat in the first place will probably go a long way towards blasting a hole in the side of that mountain. That is for sure!

Unconscious Decisions

IMG_1683Going deeper and deeper into knowing and understanding myself is important to me. Who was it that said, “An unexamined life is not worth living?” To me, it is more than that. Discovering oneself can be the greatest and scariest adventure that a person can go on.

I often coach people that have put up barriers to their own happiness. One of the reasons that coaching is so valuable is that it is easier for someone on the outside to see that the barriers are self-imposed. We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, what is important to us and how we should act in the world. But, the truth is, these are just stories. When I observe one existing in the psyche of a client, we haul it out, brush it off and shine some light on it. Once exposed, the power of the story diminishes and sometimes belief in the story completely dissolves.

Now it seems a bit hypocritical to not examine my own beliefs in the same way so I continually try to see these stories and rid myself of them. But, here is the problem, it is much more difficult to see them in yourself. You go through your day making large decisions and small decisions both consciously and unconsciously and it is not always easy to see that you are basing these choices on subconscious beliefs that you might not even be aware of.

One of the ways that these stories can be unearthed is by journaling. But if you are a veteran journaler like I am even this starts to lose its effectiveness somewhat. Recently, I started to examine each of my behaviours individually and tried to determine why I did what I did. So, I threw a small notebook into my bag and I started to write down things like, I bought some groceries and then I tried to write down why.

The first thing that I had to guard against was the apathetic, “because I needed groceries”. That is the story. That is the left-brain, the logical, planning, learning, socially acceptable part of your brain, telling me a story about why I went for groceries.

The more in depth analysis looked at the fact that I had enough food in the house that I could go for days without actually shopping, so “needing” groceries was just a story. So, why did I decide today, not in a few days, not later today, but right now, to buy groceries?

Another story popped up. “I was near the store and it was the most convenient time to buy them.” Closer examination blows this one out of the water as well. If I didn’t actually “need” them as discussed above, then the fact that it was convenient does not get to the heart of the matter.

So, why did I go in? What was my actual motivation? Then, slowly, the truth starts to surface. I wanted a particular item. “OK, why did you want the item?” This is when it gets interesting.

As it turns out, I was looking for a particular feeling, a way to bring pleasure into my life and the particular item was not in the house, so I told myself that I “needed groceries and this was the most convenient time to get them.” When in fact, I wanted to look forward to eating something just because I knew that I would enjoy it, so I went in.

These are very different things. We all eat for enjoyment, but this was a prophylactic shopping. I was not planning a specific meal; I was taking steps so that I would be able to find pleasure in eating. Now, I am not critical of this, but lets face it, there must be another layer to this.

Deep, below the surface of this story line about needing and convenience was a larger truth. I had recognized that I would be alone, with nothing to do in the near future and instead of calling a friend, thinking of an activity or taking another action to make sure that I could enjoy myself at the later time. I went grocery shopping for something that I knew I would like to eat.

So the underlying belief here was that if I have time when I’m alone and have nothing planned to do, the best thing for me to do is eat something delicious. Well, let me see here, that one is worth taking out and shining some light on. Don’t you think?

This type of journaling is going to be added to my repertoire. I need to unearth these habits and see where they originate. It might be scary and leave me open to finding out things that I don’t like about myself, but it is an adventure worth pursuing.

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Some Like it Hot

IMG_0056Is it Hot Enough For You?

Do you remember shovelling snow, hating the slippery roads, wearing layers upon layers and still being cold? This heat wave is the weather that we were all looking forward to as we stepped into deep water secretly hidden under a thin layer of ice, soaking us through to our socks. True happiness comes from knowing one’s self and getting in touch with how we truly feel and what we truly want.

Focusing on external circumstances like the weather (what can we control less?), especially if we aren’t enjoying them, can be a bad habit that is often used to avoid paying attention to what we are feeling. Do you find yourself shopping when you don’t need anything and spending more money than you have? Do you eat when you are not hungry and past the point of being full? Do you need a drink in order to face your day, or perhaps several? People do many things to distract themselves from their feelings. If you do anything habitually, that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing as much as you do, you may be trying to avoid your emotions. Click here to read more…..

In order to truly get in touch with what you want it is necessary to stop thinking about what should be making you happy. It is easy to get pulled into the idea that the next promotion, the next purchase, the upcoming holiday is what will make us happy. These are all future events and are not happening now. It is important to become aware of the less tangible, more satisfying aspects of your life. Especially in North America, we are all about the logical, scientific mind. We are quite confident that if you can measure it, test it and quantify it, “It” is real and worth our attention. We are driven by…click here to read more….

I want to welcome you to your life. Some things can be changed, some cannot. The trick is to experience your life to the fullest and to allow yourself to indulge in your passions. So stop thinking so hard and doing so much and enjoy the weather before the snow returns.

There is More to Life Than Avoiding Death

IMG_0307I was sitting on my balcony, enjoying the warm air and how the twilight deepens the colours and ushers in a peace that used to precede sleep in those days before lighting, when a clutch of little girls walked by. One of the girls said, “My mother won’t let me sit in front of the television for very long, no screen, she’ll say after about an hour.

“I’m a televisonaholic and a chocoholic,….” and then they were out of the range of where I could hear them.

Pity that. We’ve taken our preoccupation with trying to perfect ourselves so far that our children have picked up the lingo. The translation, for any of you that don’t know already is, “If I do anything at all that I enjoy, it is bad for me.” This has become couched in the language of addiction, because if we do it and we know that it is bad for us, it must be an addiction.

We have turned into a society of self-restriction and guilt. We have bought into all of the external messages about how we should look, how we should feel, how much we should eat, exercise and sleep and even how long we should brush our teeth, for heavens sake. This generation of North Americans is the unhealthiest and the unhappiest, regardless of whom you measure us against.

Part of the problem is that we look outside of ourselves for answers when they are, in fact, within us. We believe that our big brains know it all and that they can keep us health and happy and from growing old; possibly–even from dying. If we just follow all of the rules about how we should act, no harm will come to us. This is wrong. Eat well, exercise, restrict your alcohol intake and die anyhow.

It would be revolutionary to actually learn to listen to ourselves. Our bodies communicate a wealth of knowledge to us every moment, but we have learned to ignore it. If something tastes good it must be bad for us. If we sleep too much we are either depressed, and in need of medication; or we are lazy. Couldn’t it be that we simply need more rest?

The pity here is that in pursuit of a media generated standard, we are trying to follow all of these external rules. We spend an inordinate amount of our time trying to avoid death to the point that we are missing our lives. How many people do you know that have been so preoccupied with restricting themselves that they have not enjoyed themselves at a party or social gathering; people that constantly can’t or won’t do something they enjoy because they feel so much guilt about it? So often, we define ourselves by what we will not do rather than what we will do.

There is more to life than avoiding death.

What would happen if all of our preoccupation with diet, exercise, self-improvement, self grooming (well, we would need some self grooming!) went into things we were passionate about? What if we took the intelligence and drive that we use to punish ourselves and put it out into the world? Redirecting that amount of energy and passion could create quite a shift! How would your life change if you accepted your desires as an affirmation that you are alive and enjoying yourself instead of something to feel guilty about? What would your life look like if you stopped worrying about how many rules you were breaking and started to think about things that you would like to accomplish?

What if the little girl from above wasn’t caught up in the guilt of how her appetites were out of control? What if she was dreaming about something wonderful, and discussing that with her friends? How differently would she feel in the world if she could just love chocolate and enjoy watching television?

When people are asked what they are passionate about, many cannot answer. Their wants may or may not be something that they are aware of, but they know that they are not OK. Why? What is the point of living if you cannot enjoy yourself? I cannot believe that with all of the possible answers to the question, “Why are we here?” the right answer becomes, “To suffer and restrict ourselves as much as possible.” There is simply too much evidence of the opposite. Enjoy something you love today, without the guilt…..

 

Stress Eating?

IMG_0057You are on your way to check out the new fish that are arriving today at the pet store and a car rear ends you at a stop sign. Then, you get there to find out that they haven’t arrived yet and you see your lover petting kittens with someone that you don’t know. You rush out of the store and run into an old nemesis and exchange comments and then you rush home and dive into the refrigerator and eat until you enter a coma. Stress eating? Maybe…..

Stress eating is often confused with other types of over eating because the situations that bring on these bouts of uncontrolled eating are often very similar. The actual underlying cause may not be.

Stress eating can be defined, in broad terms, as any time that you eat when you really don’t need to eat. The eating is in response to stress and usually involves eating way past the point of being full and may include favourite, high calorie foods.

Let me back up a little. Our society is focused on a few very superficial things. These include symbols of wealth that are expressed as possessions, youth and beauty. Beauty is fairly narrowly defined and always includes being underweight. I purposefully do not use the word thin here, because the models that we see on runways, the way that women are airbrushed in magazines and the “beauty” image is one of being underweight.

The average model is 5’8″ tall and weighs 110 pounds. This gives a whopping BMI (body mass index) of 16.7. If your BMI is less than 18.5 you are considered underweight. So our standard of beauty, for a woman at least, is a body type that is underweight.

For the purposes of this explanation, lets divide ourselves into two parts. There is the biological part, your body, that focuses on keeping us alive, meeting our needs and finding things to take pleasure in. The other part is our brain. It too will find things to take pleasure in but it is also the “trainable” part that learns all of the rules. The brain is worried about what other people think and has learned the proper way to behave. The biological part cares less about that and just wants to protect and enjoy itself.

If you are feeling a lot of pressure to approach the weight of a supermodel, your brain will tell you how to do this. There is no shortage of information about diets, pills, surgeries, elastic bands, exercise clubs and juice fasts to help you lose weight. We have been convinced that if we just follow an eating plan and make a few life style adjustments, we too can look like a cover girl.

The problem arises when the biological part becomes fearful for its life. In any situation where the body is in fear of dying, it will do everything that it can to stay alive. If you doubt this, try to hold your breath for three minutes. It’s OK, I’ll wait.

How did that work out for you? Were you able to hold your breath that long or did your body just decide that it was going to breath anyway? The same thing happens when we try to reduce our body weight below what our bodies are comfortable with. Our biological part is not comfortable with the weight of the supermodels, remember they are actually underweight.

We go on a diet, or a “lifestyle” change or a “cleanse”–the meanings are the same the names have just been changed–and our brains are firmly in control. Then we find out that we can’t buy any new fish for our aquarium and that our lover may not be faithful to us and our brains lose control for just a moment. Our brains become preoccupied with the drama that is going on in our lives and WHAM, our bodies take over and try to replace all of that essential body weight that we have been trying to remove. This is not emotional eating, even though it has the same triggers.

Emotional eating occurs when you are feeding yourself properly and the above happens and you are in so much pain that you don’t know how to make the pain go away. You have learned that eating can take your mind off of it and so you start to eat so that you can focus on the food instead of feeling the emotions.

So, if you think that you may be an emotional eater, first ask yourself if you feed yourself properly most of the time. If you are constantly trying to lose weight, you may not be an emotional eater at all; it is just the body taking over to avoid starvation. Can you blame it for trying to keep itself alive?

Step away from dieting and try something new. Develop a new relationship with yourself. Here are some resources.

Stress Eating?

IMG_0057You are on your way to check out the new fish that are arriving today at the pet store and a car rear ends you at a stop sign. Then, you get there to find out that they haven’t arrived yet and you see your lover petting kittens with someone that you don’t know. You rush out of the store and run into an old nemesis and exchange comments and then you rush home and dive into the refrigerator and eat until you enter a coma. Stress eating? Maybe…..

Stress eating is often confused with other types of over eating because the situations that bring on these bouts of uncontrolled eating are often very similar. The actual underlying cause may not be.

Stress eating can be defined, in broad terms, as any time that you eat when you really don’t need to eat. The eating is in response to stress and usually involves eating way past the point of being full and may include favourite, high calorie foods.

Let me back up a little. Our society is focused on a few very superficial things. These include symbols of wealth that are expressed as possessions, youth and beauty. Beauty is fairly narrowly defined and always includes being underweight. I purposefully do not use the word thin here, because the models that we see on runways, the way that women are airbrushed in magazines and the “beauty” image is one of being underweight.

The average model is 5’8″ tall and weighs 110 pounds. This gives a whopping BMI (body mass index) of 16.7. If your BMI is less than 18.5 you are considered underweight. So our standard of beauty, for a woman at least, is a body type that is underweight.

For the purposes of this explanation, lets divide ourselves into two parts. There is the biological part, your body, that focuses on keeping us alive, meeting our needs and finding things to take pleasure in. The other part is our brain. It too will find things to take pleasure in but it is also the “trainable” part that learns all of the rules. The brain is worried about what other people think and has learned the proper way to behave. The biological part cares less about that and just wants to protect and enjoy itself.

If you are feeling a lot of pressure to approach the weight of a supermodel, your brain will tell you how to do this. There is no shortage of information about diets, pills, surgeries, elastic bands, exercise clubs and juice fasts to help you lose weight. We have been convinced that if we just follow an eating plan and make a few life style adjustments, we too can look like a cover girl.

The problem arises when the biological part becomes fearful for its life. In any situation where the body is in fear of dying, it will do everything that it can to stay alive. If you doubt this, try to hold your breath for three minutes. It’s OK, I’ll wait.

How did that work out for you? Were you able to hold your breath that long or did your body just decide that it was going to breath anyway? The same thing happens when we try to reduce our body weight below what our bodies are comfortable with. Our biological part is not comfortable with the weight of the supermodels, remember they are actually underweight.

We go on a diet, or a “lifestyle” change or a “cleanse”–the meanings are the same the names have just been changed–and our brains are firmly in control. Then we find out that we can’t buy any new fish for our aquarium and that our lover may not be faithful to us and our brains lose control for just a moment. Our brains become preoccupied with the drama that is going on in our lives and WHAM, our bodies take over and try to replace all of that essential body weight that we have been trying to remove. This is not emotional eating, even though it has the same triggers.

Emotional eating occurs when you are feeding yourself properly and the above happens and you are in so much pain that you don’t know how to make the pain go away. You have learned that eating can take your mind off of it and so you start to eat so that you can focus on the food instead of feeling the emotions.

So, if you think that you may be an emotional eater, first ask yourself if you feed yourself properly most of the time. If you are constantly trying to lose weight, you may not be an emotional eater at all; it is just the body taking over to avoid starvation. Can you blame it for trying to keep itself alive?

 

Step away from dieting and try something new. Develop a new relationship with yourself. Here are some resources.

 

There is More to Life Than Avoiding Death

IMG_0307I was sitting on my balcony, enjoying the warm air and how the twilight deepens the colours and ushers in a peace that used to precede sleep in those days before lighting, when a clutch of little girls walked by. One of the girls said, “My mother won’t let me sit in front of the television for very long, no screen, she’ll say after about an hour.

“I’m a televisonaholic and a chocoholic,….” and then they were out of the range of where I could hear them.

Pity that. We’ve taken our preoccupation with trying to perfect ourselves so far that our children have picked up the lingo. The translation, for any of you that don’t know already is, “If I do anything at all that I enjoy, it is bad for me.” This has become couched in the language of addiction, because if we do it and we know that it is bad for us, it must be an addiction.

We have turned into a society of self-restriction and guilt. We have bought into all of the external messages about how we should look, how we should feel, how much we should eat, exercise and sleep and even how long we should brush our teeth, for heavens sake. This generation of North Americans is the unhealthiest and the unhappiest, regardless of whom you measure us against.

Part of the problem is that we look outside of ourselves for answers when they are, in fact, within us. We believe that our big brains know it all and that they can keep us health and happy and from growing old; possibly–even from dying. If we just follow all of the rules about how we should act, no harm will come to us. This is wrong. Eat well, exercise, restrict your alcohol intake and die anyhow.

It would be revolutionary to actually learn to listen to ourselves. Our bodies communicate a wealth of knowledge to us every moment, but we have learned to ignore it. If something tastes good it must be bad for us. If we sleep too much we are either depressed, and in need of medication; or we are lazy. Couldn’t it be that we simply need more rest?

The pity here is that in pursuit of a media generated standard, we are trying to follow all of these external rules. We spend an inordinate amount of our time trying to avoid death to the point that we are missing our lives. How many people do you know that have been so preoccupied with restricting themselves that they have not enjoyed themselves at a party or social gathering; people that constantly can’t or won’t do something they enjoy because they feel so much guilt about it? So often, we define ourselves by what we will not do rather than what we will do.

There is more to life than avoiding death.

What would happen if all of our preoccupation with diet, exercise, self-improvement, self grooming (well, we would need some self grooming!) went into things we were passionate about? What if we took the intelligence and drive that we use to punish ourselves and put it out into the world? Redirecting that amount of energy and passion could create quite a shift! How would your life change if you accepted your desires as an affirmation that you are alive and enjoying yourself instead of something to feel guilty about? What would your life look like if you stopped worrying about how many rules you were breaking and started to think about things that you would like to accomplish?

What if the little girl from above wasn’t caught up in the guilt of how her appetites were out of control? What if she was dreaming about something wonderful, and discussing that with her friends? How differently would she feel in the world if she could just love chocolate and enjoy watching television?

When people are asked what they are passionate about, many cannot answer. Their wants may or may not be something that they are aware of, but they know that they are not OK. Why? What is the point of living if you cannot enjoy yourself? I cannot believe that with all of the possible answers to the question, “Why are we here?” the right answer becomes, “To suffer and restrict ourselves as much as possible.” There is simply too much evidence of the opposite. Enjoy something you love today, without the guilt…..