Thursday, June 6, 2013

Life is a marathon, not a sprint

If you’ve ever trained for and completed a marathon, you understand how much dedication, consistency and patience it takes to accomplish that goal.  Getting up in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday to go meet the running group, slogging through mile after mile, increasing the mileage week after week, and cherishing the few “rest” weeks where you get to do 10 miles instead of 18—What a relief!  During the week, no matter how busy you are, you find time either by getting up earlier than usual to get in your miles before work, or going out to the gym or outside in the dark to run at night.  Regardless of how tired you are, you do the mileage that the training program/book/website  says you’re supposed to do—or at least a close approximation thereof.  You know you need to either do the mileage that day, or you’ll have to make it up later, so may as well go ahead and do it.   You may even become obsessive about how much you sleep, whether or not you carbo-load, what gels or gu’s you take with you on a run, how much Gatorade or water you drink…  All because you know you need to have put in the miles and prepared your body to be out there for 26.2 miles.  You’ve tried out different things that either worked or didn’t work so that you don’t get to race day and try a new gel that makes you hurl. 

Then on race day, you hit a wall, or several walls along the way.  Each time you’re faced with continuing on or quitting.  At mile 8, say you start to feel like you’re wiping out.  But it’s only mile 8, you can’t quit now, so you take a gu or gel or Gatorade to keep you going.  And you keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Then again, at mile 20, coming up a big hill, you hit another wall!  This time you seriously consider quitting.  But you can’t quit—you have to finish.  It’s only 6 more miles.  So you keep going.  At mile 22, you think, “I don’t think I can pick up my feet anymore.”  And then you think, “well if you think that way, then you won’t be able to—so stop psyching yourself out! And just try!”  So you keep picking up your feet.  Even if every step hurts, and it seems like you’ll never get to the finish line, you keep picking up your feet.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You have to hold onto that hope that eventually you get there.  And then, … you do!  And it’s done!  You’ve just run a marathon!  You’ve got a new medal around your neck, probably an aluminum blanket thrown around your shoulders and you don’t think you can walk another step to get to your ride home.  But of course, you do.. what choice do you have. 

This is what life is like.  There’s very little instant gratification.  And sometimes, there are very few things that you can control in life.  And just when you think things are great, something bad happens.  That’s the way life is.  But do you give up?  No.  You keep putting one foot in front of the other.  For all of the people who’s industries have disappeared or morphed into something new, and they’re having to recreate their careers and find new sources of income, it may feel like things will never get better.  For the husband and wife who are going through a divorce, it may feel like things will never be stable again, or they’ll never find love again.  For the kids whose parents just got divorced and they’re shuttling back and forth between two homes, it may feel like they will never have a “real” home.  There are births, there are deaths, there are lost jobs and gained jobs.  There are marriages and divorces.  There are wars and at times there is peace.  But most of that you have no control over.  You can set up a few things that you know will make your life easier—like managing your eating and sleeping, doing the work you have or using your time productively towards whatever goal you’re reaching for.  But the gratification may not come right away.  It may not come for some time.  And you have to tolerate the frustration of waiting for something good to happen, or something to finally “work out.”  And until it does, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other—even if every step hurts.  Keep picking your feet up, even when you don’t think you can.  Keep the things that you can control under control—stay focused on the goal.  And no matter how frustrated or hopeless you feel, just keep plodding along.  Eventually, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually, you will get where you want to go. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Changing Unhelpful Scripts in a Financial Crisis

We all have them, our own inner scripts, that play through our heads over and over again.  We may be aware of them, or they may run quietly under the surface as expectations or assumptions we have of ourselves.  For instance, some positive scripts are, “I can succeed at anything I put my mind to,”  “I make friends easily,” etc….  These scripts can be very helpful in keeping us going through difficult times. But we also have negative inner scripts--the ones that are unhelpful or stop us from succeeding in our lives.  For instance, the one that says “No matter how hard I work, or how much I scrimp and try not to spend, I can never get out of a paycheck-to-paycheck type of life.”  Or, “I’ve tried every diet and failed, so why bother, I’ll never lose this extra weight.”  If you’ve ever kept a journal, and you look back at old entries, you may have noticed that these negative scripts appear over and over again, year after year.  Even if you are in four-times a week psychoanalysis, these scripts continue to reappear.  That’s because they are ideas that we’ve internalized into our basic self-concept.  They most likely were messages we were sent as children, either overtly as comments that were made to us, or covertly in the “role” we were assigned in the family.  And as we grew up, each disappointment or failure got filtered through the lens of these pre-existing scripts.  They’ve been worn into us like grooves into our brains—over and over again, repetition after repetition. 

Considering the economy we’re living in, the foreclosure crisis, offshoring of jobs, etc., many of you can probably relate to the “paycheck-to-paycheck” script.  Say you were building your own business, steadily increasing business, doing better each year, and then the economy crashed and you lost your main client.  And your house lost its value so you became underwater on your mortgage.  So, you hustled around for other clients, and took lower-paying clients just to stay afloat.  Now, you’re working just as hard, or harder (7 days a week, long hours every day), but still, just to stay afloat, you have to dip into savings.   But you’re staying afloat—just barely.  Then, like many Americans have experienced, your whole field suddenly gets off-shored to another country where people will do your job for pennies on the dollar.  All of a sudden, you are completely out of work and have to find another way to support yourself.  Perhaps, now you are in foreclosure on your house and at threat of losing it.

What happens if you listen to the script that says, “no matter how hard I work, or how much I cut back, I will never get out of this paycheck-to-paycheck way of life.”  Your self-esteem goes into the gutter and you feel helpless and hopeless.  You may even go into “globalized” thinking where you see the whole world this way.  The jobs have gone overseas, there are too many people vying for the same jobs, there are too many houses on the market, and “no matter how hard I work, or how much I cut back, …[you know the drill].”  You may even get so low that you feel like giving up.  But really, what are your choices.  If you’ve been working as hard as you have for years, chances are, you’re not ready to just lay down and die.  And if you feel like you might actually hurt yourself, please get to an emergency room or call 911 right away.  There are people who can help you get through that until you can get back into a healthier mindset.  But assuming you’re not quite there yet, but are feeling hopeless and dejected, and feel like you can’t succeed, think about it this way.  Recognize the script that’s being repeated in your head, and how strong it is.  Think about how deeply ground those grooves are in your brain.  But realize that that voice in your head that’s telling you to give up is the “saboteur” or as some call it, “the death instinct.”  This is the part of yourself who is trying to shut you down, to make you fail.  And the script is a lie!  Let me repeat that… THE SCRIPT IS A LIE!  Don’t believe it. 

There is no magic “secret” that makes some people succeed and other people always fail.  You are not doomed to be penniless or always struggling.  There is no magical larger force out there who has deemed you unworthy of success.  The truth is, that everyone is struggling with something, all the time.  Life is hard, it always has been and it always will be.  There are times that are good and times that are bad.  But if you listen to the LIE that says your efforts are in vain, then what’s your option?  Either give up, and shut down (stay in bed, don’t take care of yourself, don’t pay your bills, don’t work), and things get drastically worse than they are now; or stand back up, and take control over the things that you have control over. 

So what does that mean, “take control of the things that you have control over?”  You don’t have control over the U.S. or global economies.  You don’t currently have control over whether or not you’ll have enough retirement savings.  You cannot control where industries send their work.   And you cannot control what the future holds.  So what can you control?  You can control getting out of bed at the same time you would if you had a job (ie., 7-7:30am at the latest).  You have control over your hygiene—shower and dress as if you were going to work every day.  You have control over whether or not you exercise.  You have control over how you eat (your diet).  You have control over how you use your time.  This can be the hardest one when you’re un- or under-employed.  But if you have to, when you get up in the morning and get dressed and eat a good breakfast, sit down and make a list of some ideas you can work on towards that new job or business.  Include on this list any errands you need to get done.  That’s another thing you can control—taking care of your daily living.  And then start doing the items on the list.  I can hear you saying, “but how can I work on writing my book when that won’t pay the bills this month.”   That’s true.  Anything that you have that brings in money obviously needs to be the first thing you do.  But when you’re done doing the things that bring in money and all you’re left with is too much time and nothing to do but fret, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  Your mind starts flying all over the place looking for solutions--“should I be a dog-walker and a writer, or a veterinarian, or maybe a cop?”  But now your mind is in a panic, not resting on anything for very long, and seeming to hit dead-end after dead-end.  Just try to slow it down, BREATH and focus on one thing that you can do right now.  For instance, working on your book, or researching one of those careers, or going to a networking event.  It’s hard for us as Americans to slow down.  We think we should be able to act in a moment and have an immediate successful result, or we’re utter failures.  But that is not realistic.  These major life changes take time, and if you are going to move in a direction that will be right for you, you need to slow down and focus on the “here-and-now.”  What can you do today? 

The next challenge in a financial or career crisis, is dealing with other people’s comments.  People may say things that are judgmental or insulting, that they don’t mean to be insulting, but reinforce the negative script in your head.  Or maybe they do mean to be insulting.  People can be very judgmental of others who are having a hard time.  It’s almost like there’s an expectation that we should all have money when we need it, and that if we don’t, we must be doing something wrong.  But that presumes that you have control over everything, the employers, the economy at large, the markets, etc.  You don’t have control over that, so it can’t be all your fault.  Our families, especially have the most power to pull the emotional rug out from under us with a single word.  Especially when you are having to lean on them for financial support, they can act like that entitles them to judge you as incapable and tell you what to do.  “Maybe you should go on welfare.”  “What are you spending your money on?”  “Maybe you should move home with me.”  These comments are like a kick in the gut.  And you have to keep your boundaries firmly in place.  Just because you need some help right now, in the moment, doesn’t mean that you are no longer an adult.  It doesn’t mean you are a failure, and it doesn’t mean that you are foolish or irresponsible.  It just means that you are human, and struggling in a difficult economy.  And if your family can’t help you financially, that’s o.k.  You will find a way to survive on your own.  Even living in your car is preferable to giving up your identity as a separate, adult human being.  All you can do is what any of us can do… get up everyday, control the things you have control over, stay focused on the here and now with an eye on figuring out your path for the future, and keep trying.  That’s all anyone can do. 

A financial crisis like this scenario is probably one of the hardest things a person has to deal with.  Their basic needs are threatened, and the helplessness has a tendency to bring back up that negative script, day after day, moment after moment.  So it is a constant struggle to fight it back, and remember that it is a LIE.  Giving into that script would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you shut down, things will get worse.  But if you keep trying it has to get better.  And besides, what else can you do? 

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Vicious Cycle

So here’s how it goes… You feel stressed out, or upset, depressed, sad, angry, or whatever… you have a feeling you don’t like. So all of a sudden you feel hungry. You may be fully aware that you’re not really physically hungry, or you may have even just eaten. But either way, you feel “hungry.” So you eat something. Chances are you don’t go for something particularly healthy. That’s because it’s not physical hunger, it’s emotional hunger. When people are looking to medicate their feelings with food, they go for so-called “comfort foods.” These are foods that we associate with positive emotional experiences, hence the name. From birth, food and love are paired in nursing/feeding by a loving caregiver. Over the course of a lifetime, we each internalize our own unique experiences where food provided some sort of emotional as well as physical nurturing. For instance, as a baby, you may have been given a bottle when you were crying, regardless of why you were crying. In a baby’s little mind, the message gets sent that when I am sad or wet, or angry, or uncomfortable, or lonely, people give me food to make me feel better. When you were a kid, ice-cream likely got paired with happy events or celebrations, as well as “being good,” or having a “good-game.” There are as many examples as there are people. Your “comfort food map” is unique to you.

O.k., so back to the cycle… you might debate whether you should eat something, or you may not think much about it at all. Chances are, there’s at least a little bit of negotiation in your mind. You think, “why not, I haven’t eaten that much today?” “Other people can eat this stuff, why can’t I?” Or, “you know what? Yeah, I’m probably eating to soothe my emotions, but WHATEVER! At least I’ll feel better for a few minutes.“ It’s the WHATEVER that tells you you’ve given in to your internal saboteur, and the saboteur is now fully in charge. So you give in to the urge to eat to feel better, and you eat something that’s probably not all that great for you. So now, you’ve just fed your saboteur, who is also your inner bully, and guess what? The bully is now fully fueled and ready to attack.

You may be aware of the attack that follows, or it may happen on a deeper, unconscious level. Either way, somewhere in your inner world, you’re beating yourself up. You’ve just convinced yourself of all of the horrible, mean things that you think about yourself when your bully is let loose. For instance, ”see, this is why I never succeed at a diet.” “I’m weak! No matter how hard I try, I never succeed.” “I’m such a loser.” “I’ll always be the pathetic, fat little sister, who can’t take care of herself.” Again, your internal bully has its own well-worn script that is unique to you. These are things that have also gotten internalized over the course of a lifetime, originating in childhood and usually getting built upon, layer-by-layer by repetitive experience.

If you think about this internal dialogue, this IS “depression.” You feel helpless, and hopeless. You’re angry and it may come out in your driving or other “safe” ways. But in general, the rage is aimed squarely at your own head, because it’s not “safe” to let it out on those around you. You feel tired, sad, lonely, hopeless, and thoroughly convinced that you are an incapable person. You have trouble getting up in the morning, or getting to sleep at night. You don’t follow through on things that you’d like to do, because you have no faith in your ability to succeed. And now… you feel that much worse than you did before, and all of a sudden, you “feel hungry.” And around it goes again.

You might be saying to yourself, “all of that from eating something I shouldn’t? Or just trying to make myself feel a little bit better?” “It can’t be because of that!” “It must be genetic that I feel depressed.” Or “I’m just not a morning person.” Or “maybe my anti-depressant has stopped working… you know that can happen…” “It can’t possibly be because I gave in to the emotional hunger this one time!” “It’s just a cookie!” WRONG! You know how I know? Because I’ve seen what happens when you STOP the cycle. It’s starts spinning in a positive way.

How do you STOP the cycle? In that moment, when you feel a feeling you don’t like, and you all of a sudden feel “hungry,” you know that it’s emotional hunger, not physical hunger. So you wait. You don’t eat anything. If it’s in the middle of the day, you identify the feeling, understand it, and then go back to work or doing something productive. Even taking time out of your day to go for a run or walk is a better choice. Just don’t eat until your next meal. Then, eat your next meal like normal (no more or less than is healthy). Keeping a food and mood journal where you write down your feelings on one side of the page, and your eating and calories/points, etc., on the other side, is really quite critical to “getting” what I’m talking about. You’ll see it on paper within days of stopping the cycle. The journal also helps because you can write down what you’re feeling, thereby putting it somewhere else (out of your head). And you feel proactive, like you’re in control, on top of things. Write down EVERYTHING you eat. Even if you go out to dinner and overeat, go ahead and write it down. It will help you to see how easily that happens, and identify what you might have been feeling at dinner.

So what if it’s late at night? Well if you haven’t been keeping your food journal for that day, go ahead and get it out and write down everything you ate for the day. Total it up and see how many calories you have left, or if you are over your goal (keep it a healthy goal, folks—not restricting crazily). If you’re way under, then you may need to eat something, but make it healthy. But if you are at your goal or over, think about how you are feeling in the moment. Are you really hungry? Are you tired? Sad? Lonely? Angry? Depressed? Nightime can be the hardest time for people with food issues. During the day it’s generally easier to stay distracted with other things. But then at night, all of the things you are feeling can come crashing in on you. And all of a sudden you feel hungry. But are you really? If you have already had plenty to eat, then maybe it’s time to go to bed. If, for whatever reason you can’t go to bed yet, then whatever you do, stay the heck out of the kitchen. Turn off the T.V., computer, iPad, Kindle, phone, etc. And read a book or listen to music. Just allow yourself to relax and wind down. Get out your journal and write down what you are feeling emotionally. Chances are you may need a page or two—nighttime is tough. And then go to bed.

Now see what happens when the alarm goes off in the morning. My experience has been that when you succeed at not giving in to overeating at night, the next morning, it’s a lot easier to get up on-time. You’ll feel more energetic, more capable, and ready to take on the day. Why? Because by not feeding the saboteur the night before, you fed the stronger, healthier part of your mind. You fed your “SELF”! You’ve made yourself feel stronger, more capable, and in-control, and able to deal with the day ahead. Now start all over again, and do the same thing today, and tomorrow. I know it’s hard, but you can do it. Moment by moment, one day at a time. Remember, giving in to the saboteur is NOT AN OPTION! You feed it just a little bit and it will grow into a monster and take over your life. After consistently sticking to the new cycle for a few days or a week, people notice a dramatic improvement in their moods. They are less depressed. They may be just as stressed as the week before, maybe even moreso. Stressors today are very real and valid and don’t just disappear overnight or sometimes for months. However, people feel better able to deal with the stress and any negative emotions that come up. They feel like they have a floor underneath them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “my anti-depressant seems to be working fine now.” And it’s the same anti-depressant they thought had stopped working. Here is your new cycle… and it’s not vicious, it’s invigorating and cathartic! And every day, every moment that you stick with it, you get stronger and more confident, building your self-esteem, strengthening your mental muscle, and growing into the best of yourself. You’ll be amazed at how this permeates other parts of your life, and you’ll find things changing all around you too. One seemingly tiny change turns into something MASSIVE!

Copyright © 2013 Sue Brekka

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Groups Forming

The next sessions for my two groups, are set to start the week of March 15th. If you haven't been to my website, or aren't familiar with my groups, here are some brief descriptions: ATHENA A Support Group for Young Women Ages 14-18 The goddess Athena symbolizes wisdom, courage, warfare, power, divine intelligence, skill, and creativity. During the teen years, young women are faced with a fierce internal battle between who they are and who our society, family and friends expect them to be. Amid this internal war, it is easy to lose touch with, and confidence in, these aspects of themselves. Athena is a therapist-led group where young women come together, in a safe place, to discuss any issues that they are facing in their daily lives. They learn that they are not alone—that every young woman faces this conflict in her own way. Together, they can gain confidence and pride in their own identity, wisdom, power, intelligence, skill and creativity. Among the issues we tackle are: Food and Body Image Dating, sexuality and intimacy Bullying Poor self-esteem, lack of confidence Shyness, loneliness and isolation Anxiety and Depression Academic Pressures Or anything else they need help with… and Healthy Mind – Healthy Body A support group for women struggling to create a healthy relationship with food. This therapist-led group provides a safe, supportive place where you can figure out why food became so much more important in your life than just sustenance. You’ll share your struggle with other women locked in the same battle, learn the tools to change, and together, internalize a new, healthier relationship with food. Discussion topics include: •How food became a substitute for love and affection •Using food to shove down/numb out feelings •Building the mental muscle – becoming more mindful of your food choices •Journaling to discover the roadmap of how you use food, so that you can make more conscious choices. •Family and cultural messages about food and body image •The vicious cycle of Depression and Anxiety that results from using food as a drug, perhaps momentarily feeling better, and the self-loathing, regret, shame and panic (or defeat) that follow •Sexuality and Intimacy (as effected by your relationship with food) •And anything else that makes it hard for you to heal... Each group costs $40 per session with an 8 week committment. If you are interested in either group, please contact me as soon as possible.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Stress Eating and Depression

People are under more stress these days. Perhaps you're underwater on your mortgage, unemployed, or underemployed. Jobs have been offshored and those that are still here are more and more stressful. With the economy not quite recovering, companies are failing, stretched thin, barely holding on and every employee is expected to produce results no matter what the market dictates. You may say, I can't possibly have a healthy relationship with food now. Either you are too stressed to eat, or too stressed to stop eating. But the reality is, for someone with food issues, sticking to a healthy eating plan is critical to surviving the stress intact. What happens when you stress eat? You feed the saboteurs. Usually it starts off in a seemingly inoccuous way. "I can have one Cadbury egg, it's so small." But then you've stepped onto the slippery slope. You know what I'm talking about. It starts with something small and then there's something after that. Your "crack foods" find their way back into your house. A little here and a little there, you may even truly believe you're still within your meal plan, because you've convinced yourself they're not that big a deal. But on another level you know these little variations ARE a big deal. You start to feel less capable, it may be harder to get up in the morning, the dishes pile up in the sink. And you wonder, what's wrong with me? What's wrong is that your internal saboteur has taken over and pulled you down into the black hole of depression. Often I hear, my anti-depressant stopped working, or I think I need anti-depressants, or a new one, higher dose. When really what's happened is little by little you've fed the saboteur and given it so much strength that you now feel incapable of fighting back. That's not to say that it isn't possible you would benefit from an antidepressant re-evaluation. A good antidepressant can put the floor back under your feet and give you the strength to fight back. But what MUST happen along with every other approach, is that you must get your structure back. Sticking to a healthy meal plan is phase one. Each time you make a good food choice, you strengthen the healthy, nurturing voice in your mind. And the stronger that voice will be to help you fight the depression. If you are unemployed or underemployed, you have to get up at the same time each day. Set goals for yourself--writing out a list of things to do each day can help keep you focused. And lastly start keeping a food and mood diary where every day, you write down what you eat and how you are feeling that day (before or after meals). This will help you see how your mood affects your eating, and also makes you acutely aware of how big of an impact those "little" treats really have on your mood. And if you "forget" to keep your food and mood journal, that's the best clue that you've stepped onto that slippery slope and are giving the saboteur your power. Just start journaling again and you'll find your strength again. The hardest thing for most people to accept is that your therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, wellness coach, cannot "fix it" for you. Certainly they can provide help and support, but you have all of the power. YOU are the only person who can get control, and you're going to have to make that choice every day. Keeping your structure in place makes it easier and easier for you to make the healthy choices. Getting up on time, making lists to keep you focused, getting regular exercise, and keeping your food journal are not "options." These are the basics. Non-negotiables.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What is the "Crack Foods List"?  This is an item I came up with a few years ago when writing my Healthy Mind-Healthy Body Journal for tracking your food intake and moods.  The Crack Foods List is a list of foods that for you are like crack cocaine is to an addict.  These are foods that you know generally lead you to overeat more, or slip into a full-fledged binge.  Here's a sample "Crack Foods List."  Now make one of your own. 

Sample "Crack Foods List":
Entenmann's chocolate doughnuts
Oreo's (of any kind)
Ice Cream (even the light stuff)
Cereal (will result in late-night cereal eating)
Macaroni & Cheese
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Ice Cream Sandwiches (even the "diet" kind--you'll eat 2 or 3)
Dove Bars
Milk (will result in late-night cereal eating)
Bread (will result in late-night toast eating)
Cheese (with the exception of laughing cow light--no urge to overeat on that).

And remember, it starts when you go to the grocery store. If you buy these foods and have them in your house, then you WILL eat them. Any ideas going through your mind that tell you you can control it, and not overeat on these, is the saboteur setting you up. Post the list somewhere in your house, or in your purse or wallet. Don't fool yourself into leaving foods off the list either. You know which ones belong on your personal list.

© 2013 Sue Brekka

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

This is an interesting article on the link between diet drinks and depression:  The study did not prove any cause and effect, just a correlation.  But I'd be curious to know which came first.  The depression or the diet soda.  Are people who are depressed more likely to gravitate towards diet soda?  Or is it something else that leads people to drink a lot of diet soda and the diet soda results in depression?  This particular study doesn't say.  But as a major diet-coke drinker myself, and a professional working with people struggling with food and body image issues, I'd like to know the answer to this question.  If there is one...  Many people who struggle with their weight also drink diet sodas, and have depression.  But many others drink regular sodas or no sodas at all and have depression.  This subject definitely deserves more research.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dealing with Food around the Holidays, Part Two-Overeating at parties

I’ve received a request to go into more detail on dealing with anxiety at holiday parties, which, for many of us, triggers overeating. Being in social situations,including (perhaps especially) those involving family, triggers a high level of anxiety. Why is that? Mainly that’s because of our own insecurities or self-esteem issues. When meeting new people, or even being around people we know, there is always the unconscious awareness that people might not like us or our behavior. There’s always the chance that someone won’t like you, no matter what you do. Being o.k. with that requires 1. Liking yourself no matter what others think; 2. Being o.k. with not having control over what others think; 3. Being able to accept and love yourself as an imperfect human being. The problem is that we all have an internal bully in our heads that tends to get activated whenever we are around others and have to put ourselves “out there” risking rejection or judgment. If there are things that you do not like about yourself-which is true of most “healthy” people, that risk of rejection triggers your internal bully who starts to compare your to others, belittle and berate you, and beat up on you for your perceived failings.

Essentially, you do to yourself what you fear from those people around you-judge you, criticize, laugh at you, and be incredibly mean to yourself. Typically our own inner bully is much harsher than others would ever be. So, the inner bully beats up on you, making you feel bad, which in turn triggers the need to make yourself feel better-you need to soothe yourself. Some people self-soothe by drinkingor doing drugs. But if your self-esteem is tied up in being the “good girl”, then those are not options. However food is. So you turn to food to shove down your bad feelings. This only works momentarily and then the bully is retriggered and embollened to beat up on you for overeating. And so you need to self-soothe again, eating more food, and so on, and so on… For many people this almost takes a trance-like quality where it’s just you and the food. You may even convince yourself that no one is seeing how much you’re eating. You feel like disappearing, and it almost seems you have. The reality is that people do notice. That’s even more frightening.

So what can you do when you’re going to a party, and you’re afraid it’s going to mean an unavoidable hinge? There are a few things that can help. But I’m not going to lie, it is MUCH easier said than done. It helps to recognize the pattern above, so that you can recognize it when it’s happening. But then it’s really up to you to go to battle with your inner bully. At first this feels impossible. It’s like going to the gym and working muscles you’ve never worked before. It feels impossible, and takes every ounce of will and strength. But like working those muscles, it does get easier. Your mental muscle get’s stronger. How do you do battle with the inner bully? It helps to think, what would I say to someone else who said such horrible things about themselves? It may sound something like this, c’mon, that’s not nice. So what if that skinny woman seems so perfect, You don’t know what her life’s really like.” Or, “why wouldn’t they like you? You’re a really loving, cool person. And a lot of people love you. So if someone doesn’t like you, F@#k ‘em. That’s they’re loss.” And “think about how badly you’ll feel after a hinge. You don’t deserve to feel that way. Don’t put yourself through that! You can take care of yourself. And you deserve to be well-taken-care of.” Remember, you’ll feel amazing, and so good about yourself if you don’t overeaten tonight. I know you can do it. And what a great way to start off 2013! Happy New Year!

Copyright © 2012 Sue Brekka, M.A., MFT