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Friday, January 24, 2014

A Little Help With Self Help

Everywhere you look nowadays, there is another best seller, article, famous doctor, or celebrity talking about more ways to heal yourself.  It can be very overwhelming for anyone who is just beginning to realize they need help with emotional or physical problems.  Where do you start?  Who do you talk to?  Because it has become more accepted that our physical health issues result from emotional imbalances, and vice versa, it can be very difficult and even defeating to know how to manage the whirl wind of ideas, steps, and advice given from so many sources. 
My personal journey into the self help industry started 15 years ago, after I had my first son.  I was a single mother and in the time I spent alone raising him, I realized I had some major issues that needed more than just an armchair analysis from a therapist.  I needed to dig deep into my belief system that was causing me to sabotage my life and make unhealthy decisions.  I remember walking through the book store, flitting from Self Help, to New Age, to Diet and Nutrition.  I had no idea where to start.  With so many books, it gave me the sense that I’d never be good enough, or that I’d never finish improving.  It felt like I was embarking upon an endless path of introspection that would always lead me striving for perfection.  Many of my clients today feel the same way when they are just opening up to the self help industry.
What we need to remember is that the self  help industry, is just that- an industry.  So it must continually offer new insights and products.  As an industry, there are both good and bad resources.  Many times I will find myself reading an article or book from a well established “expert” only to find that I may not agree with them 100%, and that doesn’t make them wrong or bad.  Like everything, it’s up to us to decide which messages to apply to our own lives.
When you come into the self help industry in desperation (like I did years ago) trying to permanently change yourself, you’ll never be satisfied.    Like an addict, always searching for “it”, always needing a fix, you will be left back at square one after the high of enlightened advice or the feeling of an empowering seminar.  The misunderstanding here is that there really is no “there”.  There is no promised land- a place where we finally arrive and then our lives are perfect with no interruption or conflict.  The idea is that as we become more ok with ourselves, we can better handle conflict in our lives.
In truth, it’s only when we stop hurling ourselves into an idealized future that we can find what we’re searching for.  Consider the basis of most spiritual teachings: An infinite unchanging reality resides at the core of every being.  To experience this reality is to know that we are divine, and that everything that has happened or ever will happen is for our ultimate highest good.  Sometimes we fall into the trap that we can’t feel bliss until after we’ve meditated for hours, studied under a guru, gone to every spiritual seminar, read every self help book, etc.  I urge you to continue learning and growing through books and seminars, but also try to incorporate appreciating you as you are right now, in this moment.  I always tell people, “no worries, no hurries.”  When we get good at staying present, we stop striving so hard.  When we get good at listening to our own inner voice, we stop going into debt paying for advice from the outside.  Self improvement is an ongoing game- fun, educational, and always fascinating. 
To learn more about Crystal, visit her website at and become a fan of Clarity is The Way on Facebook.

Emotional Eating Part 2

Emotional Eating 2 of 2.  How to Heal, How To Hear
Regardless of whether you’ve been dieting since you were 12, or have never stepped on a scale in your life, you’ve been influenced by the diet mentality that is so prevalent in our culture.  This mass mind-state can cause us to view hunger with suspicion, even hostility.  Instead we rely on other peoples ideas and opinions of how we are to eat and treat our bodies.  We chose meals based on what we’ve already eaten, on what we’ve read in a magazine or recommendations from our trainers or mothers who have also been influenced by other people’s ideas.  The biggest problem I see with this mentality is that it separates us from our bodies.  We begin to listen to outside voices instead of what our bodies are telling us we really need.  We ignore the physiological signals from our bodies that we are empty or full, and we lose the ability to decide for ourselves what is right.  I have to wonder, from this disconnect, what other inner voices we begin to ignore.  If everyone outside of us has our answers, when do we stop listening to our inner knowing?  One of the simplest suggestions I give emotional eaters is to just eat when they are hungry, stop when they are full.  Yet most people have ignored their own inner guidance for so long that they have no idea where to even begin.  Recognizing hunger and fullness is hard for many people. 

Shifting your awareness from the outside to inside takes time, patience, and effort.  There is no grater feeling of empowerment than learning how to trust your inner nudges, and that you really do have an inner guidance system that knows exactly what you need and how much.  Begin by simply asking yourself when presented with food, “Am I hungry?” Check your mouth, throat, and abdomen.  If you feel hungry, give yourself permission to eat.  When you’re hungry, sit down with a healthy meal and do what I call, “mindful eating”.  This is where you sit with your food with no distractions.  You notice the colors of the food.  You appreciate the immense effort that nature took to provide you with edible plants. Allow yourself to enjoy the flavors, the textures.  Allow yourself to be relaxed with your plate, and congratulate yourself for eating healthy.  Think about the nutrients in the food and how they provide health and energy for your body.  As you chew each bite deliberately and enjoy every second of your plate, you will notice yourself feeling things like gratitude, love, appreciation, and joy in eating.  Something most people have forgotten how to feel about food.  You’ll realize that food is not the enemy.  It provides life and beauty to our lives.  Since emotional eaters are so used to feeling the opposite while binging on unhealthy foods, these new feelings of joy while mindful eating can also produce healthy chemicals in our brain that heal us rather than give us a “quick fix”.

Learning how to listen to our bodies is key for emotional eating.  When we eat because we are truly hungry, we stop when we are truly full.  We feel grateful for our food, and accept the energy and life that it provides.  Feeding emotional needs with food however, makes us feel that we are a bottomless well, never feeling full, never feeling satisfied.  And the motivation for eating never gets addressed.  For more information on health and wellness, please visit my website at –Crystal Doty

Emotional Eating Part 1

Emotional Eating Article 1 of 2. Emotional Eaters: Who Does it and Why?
Emotional eaters are not people you can pick out in a crowd.  They are not all overweight, nor are all overweight people emotional eaters.  Simply put, I define emotional eaters as anybody who uses food as substitute for their feelings.  Stress, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and fatigue are common triggers, and many people turn to food to quell anger.  The emotion can be anything that is uncomfortable, anything you want to stuff down.  In my experience, I see that a lot of emotional eaters share a tendency toward perfectionism.  They also believe that their lovability depends on how they look and what their performance is.  For perfectionists, there’s often a big difference between the idea of how they think life should be- the flawless house, job, garden, marriage, dress size- and how they see their daily existence.  Dwelling on imperfections (that are usually made up in their minds as they compare themselves to unrealistic ideas) and devoting one’s primary energy to “measuring up” can lead to depression and anxiety, two of the main triggers for emotional eating.
So why do emotional eaters turn to food rather than healthier sources of comfort?  When I ask this of my clients, most of them say that it is cheaper and more socially acceptable than turning to drugs or alcohol.  However, emotional eating does have a drug-like effect.  Foods rich in sugar and fat are associated with the release of the body’s natural neurotransmitters that help us with pleasure and pain.  What I’d like people to understand is that emotional eating is an addiction just like a drug because of the chemical result that is caused in our bodies when eating certain foods. 
Replacing emotional eating with healthier habits is an individual process.  This is because both the emotional triggers and the “fixes” vary from person to person.  Besides reading one of my favorite books on this subject, Constant Craving by Doreen Virtue, I also recommend doing the following exercise.  Start by making a list of non- food- related activities that make you feel good.  Then identify your personal triggers- situations, emotions, sensations, and people who tend to set off emotional eating episodes.  Finally, pair each trigger with a positive activity.  Be as specific as you can, and give yourself time to make the transition.  To learn more ways in how to heal emotional eating, stay tuned for my next article and in the meantime feel free to visit my website.  –Crystal Doty