Do you Live your Body? (Part II)

Dear ___

In my last newsletter, I shared my journey in re-learning how to live in my body. 

This is a difficult subject for the many women who don’t want to live in their bodies.  For many of us, our bodies were hurt or have been the target of shame (and we therefore believe that they are the source of the shame.)  And since we feel this pain and shame in our bodies themselves, it makes sense that we try to disconnect from them.

One of our main strategies for disconnecting is through using food – either not eating or eating too much. Both work.  And both have side effects. For those of us who turn to comfort foods or eat enough to deaden the pain, the side effect (besides feeling sluggish and dull ) is weight gain. 

Great!  Now we have something to focus on instead of the pain that caused us to eat. We can focus on our body image. Now we can try to change the way our body looks instead of focusing on what is actually driving us to eat. 

We are encouraged to do this, of course, by the diet industry. And many of us learned this pattern from our mothers.

But today’s newsletter is not about changing our body image.   Instead, I’d like to focus on how to develop a relationship with your actual flesh and bones body.  Why? Because if we’re not inhabiting our bodies, we miss the pleasures of the senses that can only be experienced when we are in our bodies instead of lost in our thoughts. Experiencing our senses make us feel alive! And, if we don’t experience and take in all the pleasures of sight, smell, touch and hearing, we need to have all our sensory needs experienced through our taste buds– hence we overeat.

We also miss the wisdom our bodies know. Through our intuition- our sixth sense.

For example, have you ever had a sense that you felt uncomfortable with a certain person or that you had uncomfortable feelings about a choice you were considering –but you talked yourself out of what you were feeling?  If you had trusted your intuition, would things have worked out better for you?  Our intuition lives in our bodies but we need to be aware of our feelings and sensations if we are going to benefit from their wisdom.

Do you remember the experiment I suggested in the last newsletter?  To ask yourself frequently throughout the day, “How do I feel?”  What do I want?”  “What do I need?”

These are questions that the body can answer.  The mind thinks it knows the answer.  But it is often wrong.  It knows what it thinks you should feel.  Or want. But the mind can confuse us.  Part of the mind thinks we should do A.  Another part thinks we should do B.  We go back and forth, confused and indecisive. 

But the body knows. 

The next time you are trying to make a decision – whether it’s to take a new job, whether to eat another cookie, whether it’s to go to bed – try this experiment. Imagine yourself doing that thing. Feel yourself doing it.  Now drop into your body and notice what you feel.  Your body knows what you need.  It is the greatest source of wisdom that we have.  Not your therapist.  Not your mother.  Not your best friend.  All these people want the best for you.  But none of us know what is right for you better than your body.

If you want to “live your best life,” as Oprah says, learn how to live in your body. And listen to its wisdom.

“Do you live in your body?” (Part 1)

“Making Peace with Food & Your Body”

Do you live in your body? That may sound like a strange question, but in the past 25 years of developing and teaching my “Making Peace with Food & Your Body” approach, I have noticed that very few of my clients with eating issues feel comfortable in their bodies.  Or are even aware of their bodies much of the time.  Many of us tend to live from the neck up.

We know we “have” a body. We do the basics for it. We feed it, although not always what it needs. We force ourselves to go to bed because we know it needs sleep, although we often override those needs with our pleasures or our to-do list. We brush its teeth because our parents got us into the habit (and maybe as adults, we got ourselves in the habit of flossing, at least before our dental cleaning). But many of us treat our bodies as a commodity, a necessity, a machine that gets us from one place to another, gives us pleasure – and sickness and pain (and then we get mad at it!)  

Many people care for their cars better than they care for their bodies! 

Take a moment and consider the question “What is the quality of your relationship with your body?”  Do you take breaks to give your body rest and nourishment or do you push through pain and fatigue?  When you wash or put moisturizer on your skin (and do you moisturize, use sufficient sunscreen – in other words, protect it) – do you slap it on or do you touch your skin lovingly.  We all need loving touch, not just babies.

I’ve read that the way that we treat our bodies is related to the way we were treated as children.  If we were cherished, our feelings and needs honored, we are more likely to honor our bodies’ needs and treat them with care.

Developing a caring relationship with my body and learning to inhabit it has been a process.  I learned to dissociate as a child to help me get through trauma.  I’m grateful that my body-mind automatically did that, when I didn’t have the tools to cope with overwhelming emotions.  But whatever worked initially (like using food for comfort) became the default.  Until we decide to change the default. And learn the skills that allow us to do that.

There is a section in my book, “Conscious Eating, Conscious Living” called Making Peace with your Body.  I talk about two basic components to making peace with our bodies:               

  • examining and changing the way we experience and treat our physical bodies
  • examining the sources of our negative body image and challenging those distortions.

 And, since it is a workbook, I ask the reader to answer questions to get a deeper understanding:

1- How well do you take care of your body (stretching, exercising, giving it enough water, oxygen, nourishment, rest etc.

2- If you engage in body bashing, what precipitates those episodes and how does it affect you?  Does it make you depressed or precipitate a binge?  I suspect it does. Does it encourage you to eat healthier long-term?  Probably not.

3- Are you willing to accept your body and treat it well even if you don’t lose weight?  If not, what are your fears about accepting your body as it is?  (If you’re afraid that accepting your body will precipitate an eating frenzy and weight gain, the research shows the exact opposite.)

4- Do you fully inhabit your body or do you ignore your body’s need for love and attention when it is tired or sick or injured?

Writing this last question, back in 2001, when I wrote the 1st edition of “Conscious Eating, Conscious Living,” I knew that it was important to live in our bodies. But I was just learning how.

In Part II of this newsletter, which I will write and send out next month, I will share with you what I have learned and what I’ve been practicing, with myself and with my clients.  If you’d like to learn more now, I recommend Jonathon Foust’s course on CD or MP3 called “Body-Centered Inquiry,” which you can order from Soundstrue.com

In the meantime, if you’re willing to try an experiment: 

Every day, as often as you think of it, ask yourself “How do I feel?”  “What do I need?”  I started that practice 25 years ago, when the only ways I could manage my strong emotions was to stuff them, distract from them, or complain about them (and whatever had triggered them). This practice of self-inquiry was my first step in knowing and befriending myself, my feelings and my body (where our feelings live.)

I never could have imagined that self-inquiry and connecting with the wisdom of my body would lead to such deep fulfillment. I wish that for you too.

More in a few weeks.  In the meantime, take good care of yourself. 

All my best,

Barbara.


Do you Live in your Body (Part II)

How to Inhabit your Body

Why is it important?

Our bodies give us information about what we’re feeling.  If we are outer-focused (like most of us are) and aren’t attuned to our body’s signals, we can miss its signals of what we feel (I really don’t like that person, I don’t feel like going out tonight… ) And  we easily override its messages, like its need for food, rest, touch etc. We live by habit, or to please others, or so we don’t trigger our inner critic.

If we want to lose weight, inhabiting our bodies is key. If we don’t recognize our hunger, we can wait too long to eat – and then it’s difficult not to overeat.  If we aren’t paying attention to the sensations of our bellies filling up, again it will be hard not to overeat.  (Of course we have to give ourselves permission to have this delicious food again when we really want to eat it or we will need to get it all in NOW!) I call this “eating from the inside-out.” 

When we were babies, we loved and trusted our bodies.  Most of us ate when we were hungry and turned our heads away when we’d had enough. Dieting taught us not to trust our hunger and our fullness. (And, in disconnecting from our bodies, we also disconnected from our feelings which live in our bodies.)  Instead, we turned to calories or points to guide us.  And if you’d prefer to be a Weight Watcher lifer who is guided by points, that works for some people.  But for those of us who rebel against being regimented,  wouldn’t you like to know and trust your body again?

Are you reluctant to inhabit your body?  I was.  There is deep knowing in the body.  It’s said that our thoughts can fool us, or contradict each other, but the body doesn’t lie. 

One of the most important things I do as a therapist is to help my clients know and accept themselves. And it starts by recognizing, and becoming curious about our emotions.  Think of feelings as the embodiment of those emotions. 

If you’re scared of your feelings, I get it.  I was too. 

If you don’t know how to be with them, you can learn.

I’m going to suggest 2 simple practices.

1- Every day, many times a day, drop in and ask yourself “How do I feel?  What do I need?”  If we’ve been living our lives responding to our task list and other people’s expectations and needs, checking in with ourselves is essential. 

2- If you discover that you’re upset, uncomfortable, ill at ease, numb or anything besides calm, happy or neutral, try Tara Brach’s wonderful question “What’s here now?  And can I be with it with kindness and compassion (and I would add curiosity.)

If you really want to try a 3rd practice, pay attention to how you touch your body when you wash it, put on moisturizer.  Is it rushed, haphazard or nurturing touch? Would you be willing to experiment with touching it like you would for someone you love?

Next month, I will send you Part II of “Do you live in your body?”  Generally, I only send these newsletters 2 or 3 times a year.  But since learning how to make friends with and inhabit our bodies is so crucial for our health and well-being, I’d like to share other practices that I and my clients have found helpful in making peace with our bodies.

With Warmest Wishes,

Barbara

Changing Habits

Dear ___  

I just returned from a 9 day retreat called “Radical Aliveness” with my mentor, Richard Moss, whose work I have written about in previous newsletters.  It was an extraordinary, challenging and illuminating workshop where we learned, among other things,  how we leave ourselves through our thoughts and reactions and practice how to bring ourselves back to the present moment.  I have been studying mindfulness for years and have gotten better at noticing my habitual thoughts and reactions but felt this intensive practice would enable me to make it a regular habit.  Now of course, the challenge is to continue the practice.  I often use the example of people with asthma who are taught how to breathe when they’re having an asthma attack but they don’t practice, there’s no way they can have the presence of mind or the skills to use the calming breath when they’re actually having an asthma attack.  I liked Richard’s suggestion that we congratulate ourselves when we’ve noticed ourselves going into one of our stories, because that means we have awareness of the story and are not totally identified with it.  I thought of all of you and how important it is to congratulate ourselves when we notice ourselves eating mindlessly or habitually or as a reaction to an uncomfortable emotion.  Even if you are not able to stop eating that moment, if you able to notice yourself doing it and breathe and be with what is happening, your experience will change.

At the retreat, we had fabulous cooks (!)  It was so delightful not to have to cook and to be nourished in that way and I generally ate “from the inside-out.”  But at the end of the final dinner, I found out that I had cleanup duty and, having spent the afternoon helping prepare the room for the evening’s festivities, I was mad and told myself stories about doing double-duty, it’s not fair…   And then I saw the chocolate cake!  So, instead of sitting down and savoring it (which has been my habit these past years, most of the time), I walked around with one piece, then another, attempting to shovel in sweetness to take away the sourness of my mood.   I vaguely tasted the chocolate that had been so lovingly prepared and ended up with a stomach ache – and fortunately, amusement at myself for having fallen back into an old pattern.  Interestingly, the next day, our farewell lunch included brownies.  I asked if they were worth eating and when I was told they were “to die for” (couldn’t resist that!) so I decided to give one a try.  This time, I remembered to be mindful and appreciative, picked up a section of the brownie (leaving the rest in the plate) and proceeded to love it with all of my senses.  That bite was so satisfying that I packed up the rest of the brownie to take with me on the drive. 

I learned from my trip to Italy (if you didn’t get that newsletter, I’ll be happy to send it to you) that I have both sets of habits and that if circumstances trigger me and I am not centered and aware, I am likely to fall back into compulsive and emotional eating. My practice is to use my tools to stay centered (like a boat with its rudder down so it isn’t pulled whichever way the wind blows – especially if you use the sail skillfully) and to forgive myself when I am pulled off course.

There’s much that I would like to share with you about what I learned at the retreat, how I am using it with clients and  how I am practicing it myself, but I’d like to focus this newsletter on habits and how you can work with them this summer to have greater satisfaction and feel more in charge of your life.

With Warmest Regards,

Barbara

Resources: My workshop, Bitman’s Article

How to Change Habits

Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit” suggested some simple steps to changing a habit: 

1- Identify the Reward,

2- Define the Cue

3- Make a Plan

These are my suggestions on how to use these simple (but not easy) steps.

First, identify the reward.  A habit got started because, at least initially (and perhaps still), it gave us pleasure or helped us avoid pain.  Do it often enough and it feels like there’s something missing when we don’t do it.  So, to avoid the unease you would feel when if you didn’t do your habit, you do it.  Sort of like scratching an itch.  And then had some simple ways to If you are feeling worried or frustrated with your overeating, it may be tempting to go on another diet. Often, this is instigated by our shame about our eating and our fear that we will gain weight. It is understandable if you are thinking of going on another diet. Often we have lost weight dieting in the past. It is summer and we may not feel comfortable exposing our skin. We hear friends, family and colleagues talking about their latest diet. But if, like many of us, you have been on a diet-binge yo-yo, dieting is not the answer. The deprivation and underfeeding of most diets is a setup to binge. I try to remember this definition of insanity – doing things the same way and expecting a different result!

Here are a few ideas to help you change your compulsive eating pattern without dieting:

  • Track your eating for several days to get a clear picture of your current eating patterns. In “Conscious Eating, Conscious Living,” I have a chart for tracking which includes: time of day and whether your desire was prompted by hunger, fatigue, habit or an emotion. Most people think of charting as a way to stop themselves from overeating Mine is an investigative chart where I recommend eating as you would normally. This allows you to become an interested observer, a scientist who is trying to understand his or her patterns. You can’t understand your triggers if you are being “good.”

  • Remember a time when you weren’t struggling with food. What were you doing differently? You can use yourself as a role model!

  • Chart your hunger and fullness levels before and after eating. Notice if you tend to overeat (to the point beyond satiation) when you have let yourself get too hungry. If that is your pattern, make it a priority to keep your blood sugar even. This means planning your meals (there is truth to the adage “failing to plan is planning to fail”)

  • Notice (from your charting) if you are eating from habit rather than hunger. The easiest way to change a habit is habit substitution. Discover what times of day and in what situations you are most prone to eating from habit and decide in advance what you will do in those situations. For example, if it has been your habit to head straight to the refrigerator when you first come home from work, you might decide to make a beeline to your bedroom to change your clothes and take the dog for a walk or lie down on the bed with the cat. If you are feeling ravenous after work, it may be stress, experienced as hunger. If you are too hungry because your blood sugar has gotten too low, try eating a snack at the end of workday. While some people can keep their blood sugar even on 3 meals a day, others, like me, need 4 or 5. Let your body be your guide, not some rules you have heard somewhere.

Whatever you decide to try, remember that this is a practice. Which means that you will forget and fall back into old habits. And then you will remember again. See if you can forgive yourself for being human.And then remember the airline pilot and reset your intention and your course.

Nourishing Yourself

By Barbara L. Holtzman, MSW, LICSW

Now that spring is finally here, many of you may be thinking about summer with mixed feelings – pleasure at the joys of summer but anxiety about the loss of winter’s cover-up clothes, revealing more of your body. For many, this will bring up thoughts of the next diet.

Most of you have been on a diet – many diets, many times – and yet you hope this time will be different. And it can be – if you do it differently. Studies show that for many people, making small changes is more effective and long-lasting than making big ones.

In today’s newsletter, I will begin a series on nourishing ourselves and highlight some simple, effective ways you can fuel yourself with both food and non-food sustenance, including rest, fun, deep breathing and connection. I think of nourishment as energy and if we use or give out more energy than we take in, we will feel depleted. Among the many advantages of feeling nourished is that you will feel more energetic, satisfied, have more mental clarity and emotional resilience and you will be less likely to need treats to fill and fulfill you.

Upcoming newsletters, after this series, will focus on mindful vs. mindless eating, changing habits, body image and more. If there are particular subjects you would like me to address in the newsletter, please email me at barbara@barbaraholtzman.net.

And if you would like further guidance on the path, please consider my upcoming workshops, book & guided-imagery CD, psychotherapy in Providence or Wakefield RI or lifestyle coaching via phone and email. You can also download my articles and tips from my website- https://barbaraholtzman.net.

Nourishing Ourselves

Do you eat haphazardly or do you fuel yourself throughout the day?

You wouldn’t drive your car without gas or send your kids to school without breakfast, would you? Yet many of us skip breakfast, eat skimpy lunches – and then beat ourselves up for getting an afternoon candy bar!

There are many good reasons for nourishing yourself throughout the day, including:

-Increased energy

-Mental clarity

-Emotional resilience

-Weight loss

When you nourish yourself throughout the day, you are less vulnerable to physiological cravings (although you may still use treats to cope with uncomfortable feelings or simply because they look good.) Low blood sugar can make us irritable and impulsive, lowering our resistance to whatever catches our eye.

As counter intuitive as it sounds, fueling yourself through the day is one of the easiest ways to lose weight. If you eat when you can use the calories, they will not get stored as fat. (Remember the adage- breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper).

Experiment with eating “to the point of energy”.

(a phrase from nutritionist Marc David) Of course, it is easier to know when you’ve had enough when you’re paying attention to the signals of satiety. Eating “just enough” food gives us energy; eating too much food depletes our energy. It is much easier to stop when we are physically satisfied if we weren’t famished when we started. And since undereating sets us up to overeat at night, most people find that they cannot lose weight if they don’t eat breakfast. Picture sumo wrestlers who eat most of their food at night…

Choose foods that nourish you

This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat treats, comfort foods or just plain junk food. But try thinking of them as the side dish and the nourishing foods as the main course. Some tools I find helpful are:

Adding nourishing foods to everything -fruits, vegetables, a few walnuts…

Switch to whole grains whenever you can. I used to hate whole wheat bread so I did it gradually, starting with a bread that was 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white (Read the label – enriched wheat means white bread; it needs to say “whole” wheat)


Eat a small amount of protein with every meal and snack to help keep your blood sugar even

Switch to healthy fats when possible, like olive oil and avocado

Start with where you are and make small changes. If, currently, you are eating 50% play food and 50% nourishment, try shifting the ratio to 60/40…
When deciding what to eat, consider how the food (and the quantity) will make you feel – physically, emotionally and mentally. Ask yourself what you really want. If you let yourself eat what you really want, and you allow yourself to eat it slowly and really enjoy it, it won’t take as much food to satisfy you. (Think of all the times when you didn’t let yourself eat what you really wanted and you ate huge quantities of what you considered more so-called acceptable foods).

Check in with your taste buds and belly and ask yourself:

What kind of taste do I want? -Sweet, salty, spicy, bland…

How do I want it to feel in my belly?

Do I want something light like soup, salad or eggs or heavy like pasta, meatloaf or a sandwich?

What kind of texture would feel right? – chewy, soft, crunchy…?

Do I want something hot or cold?

Am I hungry or am I actually thirsty?

Learning to nourish ourselves is new for many of us, especially if we have been focused for many years on calories, fats etc. This is a process so don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes at once. Choose a couple of ideas that appeal to you and try them out. Think in small, doable steps.


Conscious Eating, Conscious Living;

A Practical Guide to Making Peace with Food & Your Body

Workbook with Guided-imagery CD

*Find Your Body’s Natural Body Weight –

without Dieting!

*Learn to Manage Uncomfortable Feelings

without Using Food!

*Discover the Messages underlying your

Emotional Eating!

*Develop a New and Caring Relationship

with Food, your Body and Yourself!

How to Order Book & Guided-Imagery CD:
Available for $24.95 from:

Book & CD

This article is from the April 2009 Ezine…if you would like to receive this free Ezine, please signup below.

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Getting Back on Track

By Barbara L. Holtzman, MSW, LICSW

Anita Johnston, in her book “Eating in the Light of the Moon” describes how we all carry around 2 baskets – one that is filled with food and water and the other which is filled by non-food elements, including rest, loving connections, being in nature, deep breathing, intellectual stimulation, experiencing meaning in our lives… She describes how compulsive eaters attempt to fill all their needs through filling the food basket.

In this newsletter, I will talk about how you can get yourself back on track when you have gotten back into old habits of overeating or habitual eating. As with any readjustment, the longer and further you’ve been off-course, the more energy it will take to get back on-course. I find the 80/20 principle helpful in looking at this phenomenon. It is said that a pilot plots a course from point A to point B, yet is off-course 80% of the time – needing to readjust due to wind currents, other planes, birds… The further he or she is off-course, the more energy and fuel it will take to get back on-course. Regardless how long or how far you have been off-course, it will take a clear intention and a plan to steer you back. I will offer you some suggestions in this newsletter that I hope you will find helpful.

If you would like further support and guidance on the path, please consider my June 22 “Path to Self-Acceptance; Making Peace with your Emotions & Yourself” workshop at All That Matters in Wakefield RI, my workbook & guided-imagery CD, psychotherapy in Providence or Wakefield RI or lifestyle coaching via phone and email. You can also download my articles and tips from my website- https://barbaraholtzman.net

If you are feeling worried or frustrated with your overeating, it may be tempting to go on another diet. Often, this is instigated by our shame about our eating and our fear that we will gain weight. It is understandable if you are thinking of going on another diet. Often we have lost weight dieting in the past. It is summer and we may not feel comfortable exposing our skin. We hear friends, family and colleagues talking about their latest diet. But if, like many of us, you have been on a diet-binge yo-yo, dieting is not the answer. The deprivation and underfeeding of most diets is a setup to binge. I try to remember this definition of insanity – doing things the same way and expecting a different result!

Here are a few ideas to help you change your compulsive eating pattern without dieting:

Track your eating for several days to get a clear picture of your current eating patterns. In “Conscious Eating, Conscious Living,” I have a chart for tracking which includes: time of day and whether your desire was prompted by hunger, fatigue, habit or an emotion. Most people think of charting as a way to stop themselves from overeating Mine is an investigative chart where I recommend eating as you would normally. This allows you to become an interested observer, a scientist who is trying to understand his or her patterns. You can’t understand your triggers if you are being “good.”

Remember a time when you weren’t struggling with food. What were you doing differently? You can use yourself as a role model!
Chart your hunger and fullness levels before and after eating. Notice if you tend to overeat (to the point beyond satiation) when you have let yourself get too hungry. If that is your pattern, make it a priority to keep your blood sugar even. This means planning your meals (there is truth to the adage “failing to plan is planning to fail”)

Notice (from your charting) if you are eating from habit rather than hunger. The easiest way to change a habit is habit substitution. Discover what times of day and in what situations you are most prone to eating from habit and decide in advance what you will do in those situations. For example, if it has been your habit to head straight to the refrigerator when you first come home from work, you might decide to make a beeline to your bedroom to change your clothes and take the dog for a walk or lie down on the bed with the cat. If you are feeling ravenous after work, it may be stress, experienced as hunger. If you are too hungry because your blood sugar has gotten too low, try eating a snack at the end of workday. While some people can keep their blood sugar even on 3 meals a day, others, like me, need 4 or 5. Let your body be your guide, not some rules you have heard somewhere.

Whatever you decide to try, remember that this is a practice. Which means that you will forget and fall back into old habits. And then you will remember again. See if you can forgive yourself for being human.

And then remember the airline pilot and reset your intention and your course.

Eating for Pleasure

By Barbara L. Holtzman, MSW, LICSW

It’s summertime – a time of barbecues, ice cream and corn on the cob. So, are you enjoying your summer treats?

Last week, I went biking at an old favorite place on the other end of Rhode Island. It’s only an hour from my house but by Rhode Island standards, it’s too far to visit often! I hadn’t been there in years and since we passed by one of the best known and beloved ice cream shops in Rhode Island, I couldn’t resist having a cone. Several minutes later, I looked at my half-eaten cone and realized that I wasn’t enjoying it that much. The first few licks were very good but now it was just “pretty good.” But I had spent $3.50 for it! How could I just throw it away?!

Why didn’t the ice cream taste as good as I remembered? For one thing, it wasn’t a hummer. (We’ll talk about hummers later in the newsletter.) I hadn’t had a great desire for ice cream at that particular moment. I was reacting to an external stimulus – it was there and available and I didn’t know when I’d get that particular ice cream again.

Also, I had reached the point where the ice cream stopped tasting as good – I had reached my satisfaction point (officially known as “sensory specific satiety”) This happens naturally, although we don’t notice it if we’re not paying attention. The problem was – there was more ice cream in the cone and I didn’t know when I’d be in the neighborhood again. So, I did something called “chasing the flavor” – I kept eating the ice cream, trying to get back the wonderful flavor of the first few licks.

Finally, I reminded myself that, especially since it was a treat, it wasn’t worth eating it unless it was fabulous and I was really enjoying it. So I gave myself permission to eat the best ice cream I could find the next time I really wanted it – which made it easier to throw the rest of my cone away.

This was not easy to do – even for someone like me who has been practicing and teaching conscious eating for many years. But I can’t tell you how good I felt at not making myself a garbage can.

For other tips on making peace with food and your body, to learn about or purchase my workbook & guided-imagery CD, “Conscious Eating, Conscious Living” or to find out more about my new series of workshops this fall (see column on left) called “The Path to Conscious Living (which includes new workshops “Overcoming Emotional Eating with EFT” and “Conscious Spending; Making Peace with Your Money “), please visit my website:

https://barbaraholtzman.net/.

Getting Satisfaction from your Food

How do you choose what to eat?

Because it’s available?
Because this is what you always eat?
Because if you don’t eat this special food now, you might not get it again?
Because someone else made it for you and you don’t want to disappoint them?
Because it is cheaper – or healthier – than the alternative (which is what you really want)
Because you’ve been so “good” (whatever that means to you) that you deserve a treat?
In earlier newsletters, we talked about how to discern whether we need food nourishment or some other kind of nourishment like rest, companionshp, breath, stimulation or fun. Now that we’ve decided we want food – whether it’s to fill a physical hunger, an emotional hunger or just for fun – how do we choose what to eat?

What if you were able to find the perfect match – one that would fill you and fulfill you so you felt totally satisfied and satiated. This is called a “hummer” – a food experience that simply hums!

When we don’t pay attention to what we truly desire and choose what to eat from habit or impulse (because we’re passing a bakery, for example or, in my example above, a homemade ice cream shop), the food may taste good but we’re just as likely to be somewhat disappointed. Interestingly, it’s harder to stop eating the less -than -satisfying food – we keep hoping that the next bite will give us what we’re looking for!

Hummers: A hummer is a whole body experience. It satisfies us on many levels – the taste, the texture, the aroma, the way we’re eating it (licking an ice cream cone, nibbling through an ear of corn, sipping the hot coffee or cocoa as we smell the aroma). When we are mindful and enjoy the experience on all these levels, it is so much more satisfying and pleasurable. You may even find that it takes much less food to satisfy you when you choose your hummer -of-the- moment and savor it.

Finding your Hummer: When you’ve decided that you want to eat, take a pause and ask yourself what you really want. Try to get an exact match.

What flavor do you want? Sweet? Salty? Spicy? Bland?

What texture do you want? Chewy? Smoothe? Liquid?

What temperature would feel satisfying? Hot, cold or room temperature?

Try to picture an exact match and imagine eating it. Check with your taste buds, your olfactory (smell) sense, your belly. Is this it? Is this what would satisfy me most right now? If not, see if you can tweak it to find the right match. Maybe the burger would taste even better with grilled onions. Maybe chocolate came to mind but it is not quite a match. You would really love something juicy right now. A peach? Check in. Yes, that’s it! You may be disappointed if your mind wanted to indulge its desire for chocolate. You may be surprised or disappointed to find that sometimes your hummer is for something very ordinary, even healthy.

If you are able to get a good match – and you allow yourself to eat it slowly, savoring it, paying attention to when you’ve had enough (when you’ve reached your satiation point.), see if you can give yourself permission to throw the rest out or wrap it up and take it home. You will find it much easier to stop if you know you can have it again whenever you really want it.

Not only will you have had a fabulous eating experience, but you will be able to trust yourself to know what you want and take care of yourself. Formerly forbidden foods will not be frightening. And since you won’t need to overeat (since we tend to overeat when the food is less than satisfying or we haven’t given ourselves permission to have it again whenever we truly desire it), you won’t be gaining weight from the excess food you’ve been eating while trying to find satisfaction.

Sounds like a win-win to me!

Overcoming Emotional Eating with EFT

By Barbara L. Holtzman, MSW, LICSW

I hope your Thanksgiving was nourishing in all ways – tasty, nutritious and with loving companionship.  For many of us, Thanksgiving heralds the start of a 4-5 week spree of eating and buying.  But if you’d like to change that pattern this year, I have a wonderful tool for you – EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique.  A couple of months ago, I wrote that I had been studying this technique and using it on myself and with many of my clients for dealing with cravings and uncomfortable emotions.  And since I have just finished designing my December 7 workshop in RI on “Overcoming Emotional Eating with EFT,”  this seemed a perfect time for me to tell you about how you can use this remarkable tool.

EFT is a stress relief technique- based on Chinese medicine and acupuncture.  But instead of using needles, we tap on energy centers (meridians) on the face and body to clear out the stuck energy that, according to Chinese medicine, cause the symptoms.  We “target” our symptoms, being as clear and specific as possible, naming the feelings we’re having, the bodily sensations or the beliefs that get in the way of how we want to feel or the goals we want to achieve.  We clear out the negative feelings and beliefs and then substitute what we choose to feel and believe.  This is different from positive thinking because we are acknowledging the truth of what is present first, so we can clear it out.

I use EFT every day – whenever I notice anxiety or other uncomfortable emotions.  I notice that, like with my other tools (breathing, meditation and QiGong) that when I do it regularly, the stress does not build up and it is easier for me to catch and work with the feelings before they hijack me.  I am often surprised by what comes up.  For example, I was tapping today on my stress that my dog is experiencing allergy symptoms (again, despite my work with a holistic vet) and how upsetting that is for me. While tapping on my anxiety, I experienced waves of sadness for how powerless I feel to take away his itching.  And when I tapped for accepting all of my feelings – my sadness, my anxiety that he won’t get better, and my feelings of helplesssness, the anxiety diminished and I felt calm and peaceful.

EFT is a wonderful tool to use with the emotions that trigger our cravings and non-hunger eating. In the next section, you will find a basic outline of how you can use it.  If you would like to download the EFT manual,  the originator of this technique, Gary Craig, makes it available for free on his website – www.emofree.com.  And if you live in Rhode Island and would like to learn how to use it for your emotional eating issues, you may want to come to my December 7 workshop at All That Matters (401) 782-2126.


In this section, I will describe how you can use EFT to deal with the emotions and beliefs that trigger your eating. Before you start tapping, it is important to choose your targets – the conflict and the solution. 1) Identify the conflict, the issue as clearly and succinctly as possible, rating the intensity of the emotions on a scale of 1-10 so you can gauge how the EFT is working2) Identify your preferred solution – how you would rather feel.Examples of conflicts that precipitate emotional eating:

Even though…

-Being angry makes me crave sugar

-When I’m tired, I can’t stop eating

-I need a reward at the end of the day

-Food is the only thing that helps calm my anxiety

-I feel deprived if I can’t eat as much as I desire

-I can’t watch TV without eating

Possible Solutions (choose the one that best fits or make up your own)

-I choose to feel calm and confident

-I choose to deeply and completely accept myself – just as I am

-I allow and accept all of my feelings – just as they are

-I choose to schedule some enjoyable evening activity in its place

-I choose to savor every bite of whatever I  eat

-I am pleased that I can honor my body’s signals for hunger and fullness

-I  choose to take charge of how and when I eat

1)     Choose an issue above that fits best or make up your own

2)     Choose a solution statement

3)     Rate your distress (about the conflict that you are experiencing)
on a scale of 1- 10

4)    Tap on the karate chop point –with one hand, tap on the part of the other hand where you would do a karate chop, between the pinky and wrist (see box on top of diagram), while saying the conflict statement
“Even though I have (this problem),  I choose to (feel calm and confident – or whichever solution you have chosen).  We do the entire statement 3 times.  It can be the same exact statement or variations of it.

5)  Tap the other points in the diagram while saying your statements. You will do 3 rounds of tapping before retesting your level of distress.

a) one round of naming the conflict
b) one round of naming the solution
c) one round with both, alternating the conflict statement, then the solution statement each time you move around the tapping points. 6)     Check in and retest your intensity of the original feeling (0-10). It is best to do it until you reach a 0 or 1 but even if you get down to a 4, you will experience considerable relief!  

Learning to nourish ourselves is new for many of us, especially if we have been focused for many years on calories, fats etc. This is a process so don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes at once. Choose a couple of ideas that appeal to you and try them out. Think in small, doable steps.

Changing Your Relationship With Food

By Barbara L. Holtzman, MSW, LICSW

How do you decide what and when to eat? Because it’s lunchtime? Because someone brought donuts to the staff meeting? Because you’re tired or bored? Most of us eat based on external stimuli rather than our own physical needs and food preferences. Many of us don’t even know when we’re hungry or comfortably satisfied. If our urge to eat is usually triggered by external situations such as the time of day or the availability of food, we may lose the awareness of our body’s message of hunger. If eating is our primary coping mechanism for dealing with uncomfortable feelings, we may never experience physical hunger since we are medicating ourselves with food before we even experience the sensations of hunger.

For those of us whose physical needs for food have been overshadowed by our desire for a smaller body size, we have probably ignored our body’s signals, counting on a diet, rather than our body’s wisdom or our personal preferences, to tell us what to eat. When we eat from the “outside” instead of the “inside,” it is normal to rebel by eating formerly “forbidden foods.” To change our relationship with food, we need to develop an intuitive relationship with food. Intuitive eaters make food choices without feeling guilt; they honor their hunger, respect their fullness and enjoy the pleasures of eating.

If you’d like to change your relationship with food, you might want to experiment with the following:

When you think about eating, take a pause. Ask yourself whether you’re physically or emotionally hungry. If you’re not sure, drink some water, as you may be dehydrated. Take a few slow deep breaths, as fatigue and stress often trigger the desire for food. If you realize that you’re not physically hungry but still want food, try to become curious about it. “What is prompting my desire for food right now?” Is it a beckoner? (a habitual response to, say, passing a bakery?) Perhaps an uncomfortable thought or feeling prompted the automatic reaction of wanting food to distract you or sooth you. Are you willing to use the desire for non-hunger eating as a message from your inner self and become curious?

Try going inside and allowing the awareness to surface. Journaling may help. Is there anything else that will help soothe these feelings besides food? – taking a walk, calling a friend, taking a shower or bath, going into nature… If not and the urgency hasn’t dissipated, allow yourself a small portion of what you crave, experience the taste and allow yourself to be soothed by it. No berating yourself ! You deserve soothing for uncomfortable feelings and emotional eating is your most practiced tool. When you give yourself permission and allow the food to soothe you, the emotional eating experience will not turn into a binge.

Whenever you eat, try to eat with awareness and enjoyment. If you’re eating while doing another activity, you miss the “cephalic phase of ingestion.” As Marc David, nutrition consultant and author of Nourishing Wisdom says, “You have to be there when you eat. (Otherwise) the belly is full but the mouth is hungry.” The brain experiences hunger if it hasn’t experienced the taste, pleasure, aroma and satisfaction from the food. If you’re eating until the TV show breaks for a commercial or you’ve finished the chapter, you will miss the body’s message that you’ve had enough food and you are likely to overeat. To feel the satisfaction from the food, it is important to be relaxed and aware. The French, who eat foods with a relatively high fat content, tend to be thin, partly due to genetics and partly because they dine rather than eat on the run. Careful attention is paid to the quality of the food, its preparation and appearance, and the ambiance in which it is eaten. Since food is eaten slowly, with great awareness and pleasure, they are satisfied with smaller portions. (Eating with awareness is the simplest way to lose and maintain weight loss – without deprivation.)

Experiment with eating for energy. After all, in addition to tasting good and satisfying us on many levels, food is fuel for the body. Try eating to the point where you feel more energy than before you ate. If you eat past this point, you are likely to feel sluggish and actually lose energy. It is important to make sure that you’re breathing and chewing fully as you eat, allowing oxygen and saliva to help your body digest the food, so you get maximum nourishment and energy.

Conscious eating requires commitment and awareness. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for the food. Each time we eat with awareness, we come home to that place of inner peace. As we learn to nourish our bodies, we find that we are spiritually nourished as well.

Making Peace with Food & Your Body

By Barbara L. Holtzman, MSW, LICSW

Author of Conscious Eating, Conscious Living;
A Practical Guide to Making Peace with Food & Your Body

Imagine a world where our bodies were all considered equally beautiful. No more dieting (and the bingeing that naturally follows a diet) in order to conform to this culture’s current standard. What a liberating fantasy!

Our culture, unfortunately, is still entrapped in its rigid norms. An unrealistic standard of beauty unattainable by most women is dictated by the beauty industry in particular, and by sex-oriented advertising campaigns in general. Our self-esteem as women suffers as we are told that we are not okay as we are – our noses are too big, our stomachs too round, our breasts too small – leading us to believe that if we fix these “flaws,” we will be “acceptable” and our lives will be perfect. Since all of us long for love and acceptance, we may buy advertising’s well-spend message that we are not okay as we are.

It is important for us to understand that the current standard of beauty is unhealthy for most women. Unless you were born with an ectomorphic body, you cannot have a model’s size and shape and still be healthy. Many models need to starve themselves in order to meet the industry’s current standards. Even then, an “imperfect” body part may be substituted by another’s in a spliced photograph. And these are the standards to which we as women compare ourselves!

Do we really want to change our bodies every time the fashions change, like we do our clothing styles? In the 1950’s, we would have had to get surgery or wear “falsies” to look like the hourglass figured beauties of that era, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. A decade later, we would have to starve or have surgery to look like stick-figured Twiggy! A lot more drastic than trading straight leg pants for bell-bottoms!

When we believe that only the culture’s current standard is acceptable and our bodies are not okay as they are, we may try to explain our problems by focusing on these so-called flaws of our bodies, setting us up for our first diet.

Diets, however, do not work long-term. Most dieters will tell you that they have lost weight on diets (often a lot, often many times). So this is not a problem of willpower. Yet 95% regain the weight. Why? Diets don’t work – for both psychological and physiological reasons.

A diet assumes that there is a beginning and an end. Diets dictate what to eat and when to eat, keeping us reliant on external cues rather than responding to our body’s needs for food. Diets that eliminate the food we love and want set up an urge to binge as a rebellion against feeling deprived. Diets that severely restrict the quantity of food turn a weight loss diet into a maintenance diet as the body’s metabolism changes to prevent what it believes is starvation. We can recognize underfeeding by its symptoms: lower energy, apathy, intolerance to cold, irritability and depression, preoccupation with food and a slower metabolism (so less food will cause weight gain once you stop dieting). This helps us understand how dieting perpetuates the compulsive eating cycle – and eventual weight gain.

A prevailing myth tells us that all fat people are overweight and should lose weight. It is important to differentiate being large from being overweight. You can’t necessarily tell by looking at a person if they are under or overweight. Being overweight simply means being above your set point, i.e. your body’s natural weight (determined by your genetic heritage, your age, and your metabolism after years of dieting and bingeing).

So it is possible to be large and yet not overweight. It is also possible to be an average size and yet be severely underweight, if it is being maintained by starving the body.

So how do we find our natural body weight? How do we get out of the cycle of dieting and regaining weight? Through lifestyle changes – exercising (a crucial ingredient for our bodies’ health) and changing our eating habits:

  1. Fueling ourselves throughout the day. (Underfeeding sets us up for a binge.)
  2. Giving ourselves permission to eat what we want as deprivation sets us up for a binge.
  3. Practicing conscious eating. When we eat when we’re hungry, slow down our eating and enjoy each bite to the fullest, we enjoy it more and are satisfied with less.
  4. Planning ahead so we have tasty and nutritious foods available at all times.
  5. Choosing our foods by how they taste, how they nourish our bodies and how they make us feel – physically and emotionally.
  6. Being sure to get enough water, rest and oxygen, as we often use food to fill these needs.
  7. Realizing that emotional eating means that we need soothing. Breathe and send yourself compassion for the state you are in.

For many of us, food has been a source of comfort when none was available. Food is a way to cope with the stresses of life. When we stop using food to stuff our uncomfortable feelings, we become more aware of our sadness, anger, and loneliness (since our feelings live in our bodies).

Who wants to feel those uncomfortable feelings, you may ask. There’s a price we pay for cutting ourselves off from our feelings and intuition – it’s a kind of numbness, a deadness inside. If we are to live life fully, we need to experience all of it. When we let ourselves experience all of our feelings, we begin to know ourselves better and what is important to us. As we take off the mask, we can relate to ourselves and others authentically. In harmony with our true selves, we can recreate a life of our own design.

Are you Using Food to Cope?

Has hibernation combined with stress changed your relationship with food? Or exacerbated old patterns?

Would you like to learn some simple strategies for taking charge of your eating?  And boost your immune system as a side benefit?

Is this you?

“I can’t stop eating”

“I ate a whole pint of ice cream one night”

“I used to visit coworkers when I took a break; now I visit the fridge.”

“I’m afraid to run out, so, even though it makes me nervous, I’m going to the store a lot to stock up.”

“I’m afraid to wear pants with buttons.  I know I’m probably gaining weight.”

There are also those who are experimenting with cooking, something they never had time or desire for in the past.

Here are some things I have noticed in myself:

I feel hungry a lot.  I have to ask myself if it’s hunger or anxiety. 

I’m afraid of running out, since when I do place an order from a store, many of my favorite foods are not available.  So I’ve noticed old feelings of deprivation coming up. I have to stop myself from my desire to hoard since it would leave less for others.  I am reminded of the period in 11th grade when my parents chained the refrigerator in an attempt to stop my weight gain. At the time, I reacted by going to the supermarket and buying a pint of ice cream or a bag of cookies each day after school.  I believed I was trying to get back at them but now understand that bingeing was a normal reaction to feeling deprived (a pattern I repeated for years with my diet/binge cycle.)

Now I respond differently.  When I am able to get what I want, I try to experience as much satisfaction as possible.  So I’m slowing down, eating more mindfully, making the good taste last as long as possible. I offer appreciation to the food for how it’s nourishing my body. And a sense of gratitude and connection to all the people who made it possible to get it to me – the farmers, the packagers, the truckers, the people at the market, and now, the people who are shopping and delivering it to me at their own risk.

The Need for Structure

Without the structure we used to have to our day, many of us have gotten into compulsive or mindless eating.   We all need structure – children have meltdowns when their structure is disrupted. Adults also feel unsettled, restless, logy, more emotional.  This is exactly what we don’t need when we’re trying to deal with change and uncertainty. So how can we create a structure that balances work and family life, household chores, rest breaks, fun – and nourishing food?

Try to Step Back from Reacting and See the Bigger Picture

 I realized that one of the reasons that I write these articles is that it gives me an opportunity to step back from reacting and see the bigger picture. That’s one of the things I enjoy about doing therapy, asking the questions that help clients reevaluate how they’re living and how they want to live.

So I’m asking you – would you like to redesign the way you’re living and eating so you are most productive, most at ease?

 One of my clients, in trying to adjust to working from home, noticed she was snacking all day.  She had lost her routine.  So she recommitted herself to 3 meals a day with a limited number of snacks.  She is making a snack tray each morning for the day.  She can eat them whenever she wants.  And when they’re gone, that’s it for the day.  That’s her structure.

This is mine:

•I prefer to eat small meals frequently, partly because I don’t like how I feel after large meals. And my blood sugar becomes unbalanced if I don’t eat frequently.

•I’ve given in to sugary snacks between meals a few times, but it sets me off into that cycle of wanting more. Plus I’m aware that sugar (and stress) lowers our immune system. So I’m trying to eat regular meals with a balance of protein/fats/carbs to keep my blood sugar even.

• And if I want a treat, I eat it at the end of the meal, as dessert, when it doesn’t set me off. And if I eat is slowly and mindfully, I’m generally satisfied with a small amount.

But I don’t think there is one right way to eat.  Other than making sure our cells get the nourishment they need, it’s about finding what works best for us.  Which foods, amounts, frequency of eating makes you feel best in your body, with balanced emotions and energy? And can you create a plan to make it easier to achieve that? 

Emotional Eating

It’s said that we make 200 choices about food each day!  If we don’t have a plan and structure, it’s harder not to succumb to our urge to use food to manage emotions or as a filler between tasks. Most of us use food to cope, some more than others – and we currently have a lot to cope with. I shared some ideas and resources in my last 2 newsletters.  I’d like to offer you a couple more strategies.

The next time you are needing food to help you feel better, ask yourself on a scale of 1-10 how distressed you’re feeling. If it’s high, like a 7+ (in other words, it’s not just a reaction to the thought that you want food or passing the kitchen), I’m going to suggest that you ask yourself what exactly you would like.  Try to find the best match – not what you think would be an acceptable choice.  If you want cookies or chips or ice cream or cheese, that’s fine. Even if the ‘food police’ part of you is screaming that you can’t.  Right now you need it.  It’s medicine.  So, put a small amount on a plate (you can get more later if you still need it) and take it to your table or your couch.  And I’d like the ‘nurturing’ part of you to feed it to ‘the one who needs it,’ the one who is in distress, who needs to be comforted.  Perhaps even speaking gently “I’m sorry you’re feeling so upset,” the way you might for a young child. And let the distressed part of you feel nurtured and comforted by the food itself and by the act of being fed.

And, if you would like me to guide you, I’m offering all of you a free copy of the CD (in electronic form) that goes with my book “Conscious Eating, Conscious Living;  A Practical Guide to Making Peace with Food & your Body.”  There are 5 tracks of guided meditations, including one where I guide you in eating consciously and one called “Coping with Feelings without Using Food.” Just email me at barbara@barbaraholtzman.net for a copy of the mp3.

There is one more track that I’d recommend you listen to.  It’s called “The Body Speaks” where I ask your body questions about what it feels and what it needs. It’s always important that we take care of ourselves, but now more than ever, for our emotional state of mind and also to keep our health and our immune systems as healthy as possible.  Mark Hyman, functional medicine doctor, teacher and author, has an article on his website called “A Functional Medicine Approach to Covid-19.”  Here’s the link: https://drhyman.com/blog/2020/04/01/a-functional-medicine-approach-to-covid-19/

Take good care of yourself.  And let me know if I can be of any guidance and support.

All my best,

Barbara

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