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23
Jun

Childhood Sexual Abuse & Weight Release: Making the Connection


Were you sexually abused as a child or teenager?

Do you struggle with your weight today?

Is food your go-to source of comfort when upset?

If so, you’re not alone.

There is a high correlation between early sexual trauma, obesity, emotional eating and body image concerns. If you can relate, you may be surprised to learn that your ongoing struggles with weight most likely have little to do with food and exercise, although these are important. The reasons behind your weight and emotional eating challenges are both neurological, rooted in your nervous system’s response to stress, and psychological, rooted in your conscious and subconscious trauma-based beliefs.

If you’re a woman with a past history of sexual abuse who’s struggling to release weight and feel good about your body today, you may have experienced the following:

  • You equate being thin with receiving unwanted sexual advances and feel vulnerable to sexual assault. These fears may be conscious or hidden in your subconscious mind, and, as you release weight and become thinner, they surface. You feel anxiety, experience panic attacks, or simply feel unsettled and don’t know why.
  • You feel uncomfortable being noticed, even in a positive way. After years of protecting yourself behind extra weight—your pounds of protection—you feel uneasy or self-conscious receiving compliments.
  • Because food, in fact, helped you cope, you experience a sense of loss or fear at the thought of no longer eating certain foods that have felt like your friends. Food was a source of comfort when people were either unavailable or dangerous.
  • You spent years detaching from your body to cope with the sexual abuse and have trouble creating a trusting—and loving—connection with your body today. Dissociation is a defense mechanism often used by sexual abuse survivors. They psychologically remove themselves from their bodies during the abuse and “watch” what’s happening from above. If you relate, understand that this helped you survive. But you’re safe now and can learn to reclaim your right to a positive and connected relationship with your body today.
  • When you experience trauma-based feelings such as fear, anger, helplessness, betrayal, shame, or guilt, it triggers emotional binge eating. Even minor stress can feel overwhelming because it brings to the surface those old feelings, causing an overreaction. Once those old feelings and pain are released from your mind and body, handling life’s stress becomes easier because you stop bringing trauma-based feelings from the past into today’s challenges.
  • You’re ever alert for danger. This is because childhood abuse affected your developing nervous system as a form of protection. You were in danger so, as a survival mechanism, your brain responded to help you always be on the lookout. But today it’s hard to easily distinguish manageable from unmanageable situations. Even minor stress can feel destabilizing. For example, you may experience an increased heart rate, a sinking feeling in your gut, or rapid breathing. That’s not easy to deal with, so you turn to food to ground yourself. You’ve probably discovered that certain foods—especially high fat and sugary ones—help ease the uncomfortable fear-based sensations in your body and soothe your overwhelming emotions.

(more…)

06
Oct

Why Your Weight Needs Your Love



“Aargh… I’m up a pound!”

“Oh, good… I’m down a pound!”

“Ugh… I can’t believe I haven’t even lost a pound.”

Sound familiar?

It’s easy to obsess about the number on your bathroom scale. If that number colors your mood and dictates how you feel about your body, however, your body won’t feel loved—and you won’t get the results you want.

To release weight permanently, it’s important to focus on the relationship you have with your body, not on what you weigh.

So here’s something crucial you need to do (and I bet you aren’t going to like it. At least at first.)

Learn to love your weight.

Yes, you heard me. Learn to love your weight. Here’s why: Your body carries the energy of your inner thoughts and feelings. Especially if you experienced childhood trauma and had no one to support and protect you, that extra weight most likely holds the energy of pain, sadness and loneliness.

Emotional eating may have been—and perhaps still is—your only source of comfort. And that weight can be like a cozy old blanket that helps you (and your inner child) feel safe.

What if you could shift from seeing the extra weight as pounds of fat to hate… to seeing them as pounds of pain that need your love? (more…)

28
Mar

Check on the Children During the Covid-19 Pandemic


Staying home during this pandemic is the right thing to do. But when it started, the first thing I thought was:

What will happen to vulnerable children in abusive homes?

These children aren’t going to day care, school, or after-school programs where astute adults can notice something amiss. The stress in their families, as in all families these days, is heightened. And in emotionally and physically abusive families, children often are the targets of parental stress.

Child sexual abuse isn’t triggered by stress. It’s much more insidious. What perpetuates sexual abuse is that it is a “secret” between the child and offender. Now more than ever, it’s easy to keep things secret when families stay at home and children are isolated.

All of these children are at risk. They’re in greater danger now that staying at home is the norm in most US states. For them, their homes aren’t safe havens with parents giving them fun things to do during school break. Many of these homes resemble prisoner-of-war camps. I wish I were exaggerating but I’m not. I’ve worked with these kids and heard first-hand their truth.

If you have suspected that a child was being abused, now is the time to contact your state child protective agency with your concerns. Or you can call the ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 (1-800-4-A-Child).

You don’t need “proof” and you can call anonymously. A child protective worker hears your concerns and their team makes the decision as to whether there is enough information to investigate. If there isn’t, your report stays in their system. If they get several calls about that child and family, they then take action. While all state laws are different, that’s generally how it works.

If you have contact information about a child you’re concerned about—perhaps the child of a neighbor, friend, or family member—reach out. (more…)

13
Mar

We’re In This Together


When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, we’re in this together.

Perhaps the good that comes from this illness is a deeper way of connecting with our fellow humans. I read the following online but don’t know who wrote it. (Please let me know if you know.) It’s apparently going viral in Italy right now. Share and spread the love:

“We come to understand that this is a struggle against our habits and not against a virus. This is an opportunity to turn an emergency into an opportunity of solidarity and unity. Let’s change the way we see and think. I will no longer say “I’m afraid of this contagion” or “I don’t care about this contagion”, but it is I who will sacrifice for you.

I worry about you.
I keep a distance for you.
I wash my hands for you.
I give up that trip for you.
I’m not going to the concert for you.
I’m not going to the mall for you.

For you!

For you who are inside an ICU room.
For you who are old and frail, but whose life has value as much as mine.
For you who are struggling with cancer and can’t fight this too.

Please, let’s rise to this challenge!

Come together…nothing else matters.”

05
Jan

20 Mind Power Tips for 2020


Happy 2020! Instead of making hard-to-honor resolutions (like releasing those last 10 pounds by February or getting to the gym at 5:30 every morning), I recommend starting the New Year with a recommitment to your overall health and fitness.

In honor of the New Year and decade, here are 20 of my favorite ways to recommit—that have nothing to do with eating and working out. Because while good nutrition and exercise are important, equally important are calming your nervous system to curb emotional eating, becoming spiritually grounded to treat yourself with love and compassion, and using the power of your mind to follow through.

1. Choose a Theme for the Year

A theme (such as patience, forgiveness, courage, etc.) guides your growth and progress through the coming year. It becomes the lens through which you make choices. For example, if your theme for 2020 is self-compassion, think how you will bring self-compassion to your weight-loss journey every day. If your theme is health-first, how does that affect your daily habit?

See what I mean?

2. Ground Yourself



Use this easy and effective technique called “Four-Step Breathing” to settle yourself when triggered:

Slowly take in a deep breath as you silently count to four.
Hold the breath for four counts.
Slowly release the breath as you silently count to four.
Hold again for four counts.

Repeat several times.

3. Choose Your Words Wisely

Eliminate the following words from your vocabulary: Try, should, can’t. These disempowering words add struggle to your weight-loss journey and weaken your confidence. For example:

Change “I’ll try to take a walk today” to “I will (or won’t) take a walk today.”
Change “I should eat a salad” to “It’s good for me to eat a salad.”
Change “I can’t exercise this week” to “I choose not to exercise this week.”

In the long run, being positive and honest with yourself keeps you strong.

4. Use the Power of Your Imagination

Success happens first in the mind. Take five minutes every day to visualize what it looks and feels like to release the next five pounds. Or imagine yourself reaching your goal weight. Especially important are the feelings—such as confidence or joy—associated with what you’re visualizing.

For example, imagine yourself ten pounds lighter and walking down the street with your head held high, feeling proud and at peace with yourself. Or visualize enjoying dinner with friends feeling content about making healthy food choices (and no longer thinking you’re depriving yourself by skipping dessert). This inner work of visualization with feelings ensures the outer work of your daily actions take hold.

5. Create Your Reality



Don’t listen to those who say weight loss is “hard” and “difficult.” (more…)

10
Sep

Stress Eating: It’s About Your Brain (not the food!)


Do you compulsively overeat and struggle with your weight?

And, were you abused and traumatized as a child?

If you answered yes to both questions, you’re not alone.

Research shows that people who experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in childhood are twice as likely to have a food addiction in adulthood as those who were not abused. If you suffered abuse or other adverse childhood experiences growing up, chances are your ongoing weight-loss difficulties stem from this past trauma.

Mainstream weight-loss programs entice you to buy their food, follow their diet plan, and count points or calories. While they may be helpful, they cannot offer you a path to permanent weight-loss if they don’t address the underlying reasons you overeat.

You may be surprised to learn that your continued struggles with emotional eating and coping with triggers most likely has little to do with food, although this is important. The deeper reasons behind your stress-related eating are neurological, rooted in your nervous system’s response to stress.

Let’s start with a mini crash-course on brain science and trauma that will help explain why you feel triggered to eat and hold onto extra weight. (more…)

07
Apr

Stop Fat-Shaming Yourself: Lose Weight with Radical Self-Respect


T-ShirtX2“Hey, I’m not fat. I’m just easy to see.”


“I’m in shape. Round is a shape.”


“Every time I lose weight, it finds me again!”

“I’ll have more cake. It’s somebody’s birthday somewhere!”

Yuck. Not funny.

Maybe it’s because I’m a psychotherapist. I know that painful stories are hiding behind the attempt at humor. So when I hear jokes that poke fun at serious health and mental health issues, I cringe.

Our culture is so inundated with this stuff—think how many shame-inducing memes appear in your Facebook feed—that we’re desensitized to how harmful it really is. I want you to see how demeaning jokes undermine your weight-release journey, how you unwittingly join in, and how practicing radical self-respect protects you from their harmful effects.

Take Another Look at What’s Funny

My client Karen struggled with her weight since childhood and regularly joked about it. She would say things like, “Oh, I just look at food and gain weight” and “Chocolate calls out my name!” (Do you say things like that, too?)

Karen kept a cartoon on her refrigerator. The caption said, “Pie Calling.” It was a picture of an overweight women clasping her hands over her ears to stop hearing the pie across the room yelling, “Eat me…eat me!”

That cartoon belittled the struggle Karen was going through, so I discussed it with her. I told her she was being unkind to herself. She got it and said, “I never joke with my daughters about things that bother them like my mother did with me. It’s not right to do this to myself, especially about my body and weight.”

Karen threw away the cartoon. She said it felt liberating to no longer see her weight-loss struggle glaring at her face every day. By getting rid of the cartoon, Karen also healed a part of herself that was still hurting from childhood trauma. (more…)

15
Dec

31 Gifts to Honor Your Body


FootSoak2aIf you’re like me—and most people—come January 1st, you’ve probably already created a long list of New Year’s resolutions, goals or intentions to stay focused on being healthier, fitter and better to your body.

While those are great strategies, today I’ve got a powerful—and fun—alternative for you… one that will leave you feeling good and more in tune with your body. Especially after the extremes of the holiday season.

This January indulge yourself in the 31-Day Honor My Body Challenge.

Indulge in a challenge? Yes, you read that right. Here’s how it works:

Every day—for 31 days—simply give your body a gift.

If you’ve read my Seven Easy & Effortless Weight Loss Secrets (Don’t have them? Enter your name and email in the box to the right and receive your free copy) you may remember that Secret #7 is about doing at least one kind thing for your body every day. I want you to live that Secret. For 31 days… (more…)

11
Dec

How Healthy Boundaries Lead to Healthy Eating



Do you say, “Yes” when you really mean, “No?”

Do you agree to make a dish, attend a party, or have overnight guests when your December schedule is already maxed out?

Do you disregard your needs just to please others?

And does the resentment you feel about doing this send you running to the tin of Christmas cookies your neighbor brought over?

If you can relate, you’re not alone. So many people do not learn healthy boundaries growing up. With the added demands of the holiday season approaching, it’s crucial to your health that you know when to draw the line.

Me —> Boundary <— You

Boundaries are the emotional and physical borders we place between ourselves and other people. They reflect how we see and treat ourselves in relation to others.

Strong boundaries are essential for your health and self-care. They support you to make good decisions for yourself. Weak boundaries support others at your expense.

For example, Karen has strong boundaries and is very clear when she doesn’t want to do something. (“Thank you for the dinner invitation but no, I can’t. I’m looking forward to a quiet evening at home tonight.”) She’s sensitive to other people’s feelings but not ruled by them.

Suzanne has weak boundaries and often says, “Yes” because she fears displeasing people. (“Sure, I’ll meet you tonight,” she tells her friend. She then beats herself up, “Why did I say that?! I have tons of work to do!”) Her fear of disappointing people makes their needs more important than her own. But her resentment and anger send her straight to the fridge.

Honor Yourself

If you struggle with setting boundaries around your time and energy, somewhere along the way you probably learned your feelings and needs didn’t matter. Trust me, though, your feelings are the only things that matter. (more…)

16
Sep

5 Thoughts That Keep Your Weight Loss Stuck


Have you tried a dozen different strategies to release weight, but nothing’s worked?

Or did you release pounds last spring that managed to find their way back this past summer?

Are you frustrated as to why you can’t seem to permanently release those pounds?

If you’re unhappy about your current weight, chances are it’s less about what you’re doing and more about what you’re thinking.

That’s because your thoughts direct your actions. For example, when you tell yourself, “It’s hopeless. I’ll never lose weight,” you’re more likely to eat that second helping, grab fast food fries or binge eat a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

But keeping your thoughts strong and positive helps you feel strong and positive and helps you change your most ingrained habits. To change your habits so they support the lasting weight-loss you desire, start with looking at how you’re thinking.

When you become mindful of your thoughts, you’re helping yourself change your behavior. It’s like giving a power boost to any eating or exercise program you’re following. Even a simple reframe or slight shift in your thinking can make a huge difference by allowing you to take better care of yourself.

Focus on your mind and your plate.



To release weight successfully and permanently, be as mindful about what you’re thinking as you are about what you’re eating—and you’ll begin to rewire your thoughts so you can start achieving the results you want.

To illustrate how this works, here are five of the most common self-limiting thoughts I hear from my clients—I bet you can relate—and some strategies for how to change them, mindfully.

1. “I’m afraid I’ll never be able to lose weight.”

When you’ve struggled with your weight for much of your life, it’s easy to feel demoralized at times. The key is to not linger too long in that low-energy space. Otherwise, you’ll feel helpless to take any step forward. Unless you have a physical condition or are taking medication that inhibits weight loss (in which case, speak with your healthcare provider for support), remind yourself that there is nothing in your way other than your own thoughts and beliefs and becoming thinner is possible.

Turnaround:

When this limiting thought enters your mind, use it as an opportunity to strengthen your courageous side. Pause. Take a deep breath. Simply notice the thought with detachment and say:

“There you are again. That’s okay. I won’t give you my power and I won’t let fear get in my way. Thank you for reminding me to be courageous and take good care of my body today.”

2.  “Even when I lose weight, I always gain it back. What’s the use?” (more…)

18
Apr

Clutter Clearing for Painful Memories (and weight loss, too!)


It’s spring-cleaning season and a great time to clear the clutter from your life. An organized home filled with objects you love reduces your stress level and uplifts your spirit. And as unusual as this may sound, when it comes to emotional eating and weight loss, clutter clearing is your secret weapon.

Yes… that’s right. Reducing clutter from your life helps you reduce the weight from your body. They may seem unrelated, but releasing unnecessary stuff emotionally frees you to release extra weight. On an energy level, it’s all connected.

I’ve written before about the Three Ways Clutter Clearing Helps You Lose Weight and what to do with clothes that are too big or too small in Closet Clearing for Yo-Yo Dieters.

This time I want to go deeper and discuss objects from your childhood that hold memories of painful experiences. These may include toys, stuffed animals, jewelry, books, diaries, pictures—anything that keeps you connected to childhood pain and trauma. For example:

  • Diaries filled with loneliness and sadness.
  • Pictures of family members with angry or sad expressions on their faces.
  • The end table dented when your drunken father threw a pot in a rage
  • The music box your uncle gave you for your thirteenth birthday that your family oohed and aahed over—unaware he was sexually abusing you.
  • The angel from your family Christmas tree that witnessed years of holiday arguments and fights.

Powerful list, isn’t it? I wonder if you can relate.

As surprising as it may seem, letting go of these things can help make your weight-loss journey an easier one. Let me explain…

The objects around you either raise your energy or drain your spirit. This can feel so subtle that you’re not consciously aware of it. But too much clutter can feel unsettling on a subconscious level. This underlying uneasiness may contribute to your urge to eat when you’re not hungry.

Objects from your childhood—especially reminders of painful experiences—can hold you hostage to your past. In the same way you keep visual images of memories in your mind, you also hold memories energetically. You can’t see them but they live on in your energy field.

This doesn’t mean you let go of everything from your childhood—although it can be liberating to do so. It means you look at your things with new eyes and release everything connected with past pain and trauma.

Jenna’s Diaries

Jenna was 70 pounds overweight and struggled with anxiety and depression. As a child, she endured emotional and physical abuse by her parents. She remembers first using food to comfort herself when she was five years old and hid candy under her bed. As an adult, anxiety-filled days and lonely nights often ended with Jenna eating herself into a food coma.

Jenna discovered that Milky Way bars numbed her pain. When her aunt gave her a diary for her 10th birthday, Jenna found that writing helped, too. Jenna’s aunt gave her a diary for her tenth birthday. Through years of silently enduring a lonely and abusive childhood, her diaries were a source of comfort for Jenna.

When I discussed with Jenna the power of clutter clearing, she got right on board. She began getting rid of clothes, books, kitchenware—anything she no longer found useful or brought joy to her life.

But then there were all those diaries. She’d saved every one. (more…)

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