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Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle:

A Manual for a  Guilt Free System of Healthy Living

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Chapter 3: Eat to Live

Eat to Live

 

I. A Food ALERT You might be wondering why in the last chapter the cavepeople were used as examples. The cave people are used in this book as a metaphor for people who live a balanced lifestyle automatically with no thinking, planning or emotional pain. Just like the cavepeople of old, these people use lifestyle balancing to live, survive and stay healthy with no pre-thought about why they do what they do. We are not cavepeople nor are we people who naturally live a balanced lifestyle. If we did, we would not need this program and you wouldn't be reading this book and I wouldn't be writing it. What we are trying to master and incorporate in our lives is the thinking, feelings and actions of the "cavepeople-like" people who have naturally implemented a balanced lifestyle in their lives. We want to do this so that we too can live healthy lives with self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth. So we visit the cavepeople again in this chapter on food.


The cavepeople did not have the time or leisure to think much about food. What they spent a large amount of their time in was: scouting for, hunting down, capturing, bringing home, preparing and eating food for their survival. Cavepeople saw food as a means to live. They were not concerned about the excess amounts or variety of foods available to them because there wasn't enough food around for them to take it for granted. They needed to work hard to find enough food to live on.They saw food as a commodity which they needed to struggle to gain for themselves. They did not view food as a means to address their feelings of boredom, anger, sadness, loneliness, rejection, embarrassment etc. They saw food as the fuel to give them the energy enough to find more food. They did not feel embarrassed to eat in front of others on the converse they enjoyed eating socially because it was a sign of their success in surviving the cold and wild world in which they lived. Food was a sign of their success and they enjoyed eating it with their fellow cave members. Cavepeople did not obsess on what food they were going to eat the next meal. They were too busy trying to find their next meal to be compulsive over what it would be, how much they would have and how they would prepare it. Cavepeople felt no guilt over eating food instead they felt the pangs of guilt if they were unsuccessful in finding enough food to feed themselves for survival sake. Cavepeople tended to eat only when they were hungry. This seemed to be about three times a day. Once when they awoke after their nightly sleep. The second time in the mid day after their first half of an active day in pursuit of their food prey. The third time in the evening after they completed a full day of hunt and searching for their food sources. They only ate when they were hungry and only ate enough to satisfy their hunger. They ate sparingly from their food cache so as to help extend their food supply to last longer given the hardship of capturing enough for themselves. This would become a greater problem during certain seasons of the year (winter and rainy seasons) and after certain natural disasters (such as floods, fires, storms, earthquakes etc.). Cavepeople accepted food as an essential of life. They showed no fear or caution of food. They saw no nonpoisonous foods as "bad" for them. They experienced no panic when facing a table of food because they knew they needed to eat in order to live. They only experienced panic about food if there wasn't enough to eat. Their only worry was that they and their fellow cavedwellers would experience malnutrition for lack of food. They accepted that food was an essential to live and they balanced their lives around food to insure their survivability. Cavepeople ate to live.


If you are to become like the cavepeople of old, you need to balance your life with food. You need to change your concept of food from: "I live to eat" to "I eat to live." You need to change your concept of food from: "I eat all the food I want at any time of the day or night" to "I only eat enough to satisfy my hunger." You need to change your concept that food is a "person" who is either "my best friend" or my "worst enemy." You need to accept that "food" is just food. You need to stop seeing food as "entertainment," "emotional release," or a "time filler," but rather you need to see food as the source of energy to fuel your body to accomplish working, playing, having fun, relating to others and living. You need to accept that you need to deal with your emotions and feelings in food-free healthier ways. You need to change your thinking and feelings about food so that you can change your actions with it. You need to reduce the anxiety, stress, guilt, tension or panic you experience when thinking about or are in the presence of food. You need to rid yourself of the unhealthy beliefs, behavioral scripts and old tapes in your head about food. You need to free yourself of the burden, food has been to you in the past, so that you can put food into a healthy perspective in your new balanced lifestyle. To accomplish the reduction of your unhealthy reactions to food you need to do a food ALERT.

 

First, you need to

Assess what is causing you stress, anxiety, panic, tension or guilt in your current life. For this food ALERT, you as a compulsive eater or "food addict" must accept that your cognitive and emotional reactions to food have become uncontrollable and at times your life has become unmanageable as a result of this. You have a tendency to become obsessive or compulsive in thinking about food. You tend to think about food in one form or another much of the time. Sometimes you are thinking about what will be the next thing you can eat. At other times you are thinking about how much you ought not be eating and how you need to go on a diet. Sometimes you are thinking about all of the unhappiness and sadness food has brought into your life. At other times you are thinking about all of the happiness and joy food has brought into your life. Sometimes you are thinking that you must eat only three meals a day. At other times you are thinking about how you need to eat as often as you can because three meals are just not enough. Sometimes you are thinking that you should only eat when your are hungry. At other times you are wondering what it would be like to feel hungry. Sometimes your are thinking about how you can hide your eating from others so that you will not feel embarrassed. At other times you are thinking about what you want to feed the others in your life at some special event or party you are planning.

 

Sometimes you are thinking about the latest diet you have just heard about. At other times you are thinking about the local take-out service and how they are now delivering to your office to bring you all of their latest delicacies in a more convenient way. You are a foodaholic who has gone out of control. Your life has become unmanageable because of the way you think and obsess about food. While you have been reading this book and possibly participated in the Balance Lifestyles classes, you have found yourself thinking and day dreaming more about food. This is because of the "operant conditioning" you have experienced in the past from diet programs. Since you started reading this book or attending the classes, you have still held onto the belief that this is another diet program. So you are sure that you will be made to deprive yourself of the foods you enjoy eating. So you are thinking and obsessing more about food since beginning this process. You are afraid that "your best friend" or is it "your worst enemy" will be taken away from you. You are anxious that you will no longer be allowed to enjoy food the way you once did (When was it that you last enjoyed eating?). You are just waiting for a new food plan or diet to be dropped on you unexpectedly by this program. You are out of sorts. You are talking and thinking more about food since you started this program. You are even eating more. You are afraid that food will consume you someday because you are consuming too much of it. You need to accept that food is a problem for you, because you a have a poor relationship with it. To help you do your ALERT on food you may want to review Step 1 of the Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous as outlined in Section 4: The SEA's 12 Steps on page 109 in Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous (Messina, J. J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). In doing this food ALERT you need to identify what beliefs, behavioral scripts and old tapes you need to change so that you can improve your relationship with food.

 

Second: You need to

Lessen the impact of food as a stressor, anxiety inducer, tension maker, guilt inducer and panic creator by identifying the old messages you have given yourself about food and to identify new healthier, more rational and more realistic messages to replace these old unhealthy food scripts. Once you identify the new messages about food you need to put them into self-affirmations. Put them on the 3 by 5 index cards. Begin to use these new messages to do a form of "brainwashing" of your mind of the old unhealthy scripts. Replace them with these newer healthy self-talk. What follows is a list of old unhealthy messages about food and the newer healthier alternatives.

 

Old Messages about Food New Healthy Messages about Food

  • I live to eat. I eat to live.
  • I eat whenever I can. I will only eat when I am hungry.
  • I eat wherever I want to, I will only eat sitting down at a dinner table.
  • Food = Diet Food is good for me.
  • My balanced lifestyle does not require a diet.
  • I will develop tradeoffs to have the foods I want.
  • I should never be deprived of food. I will make tradeoffs to have foods I want.
  • There is no need for deprivation with tradeoffs.
  • I can use exercise as a tradeoff to eat a wanted food.
  • I need more self-control around food. I will make trade offs to enjoy foods I like.
  • A balanced lifestyle involves tradeoffs.
  • Tradeoffs will help me eat guilt-free.
  • Tradeoffs help me relate to food in a new way.
  • Food = enemy Food = Food
  • Food is necessary for me to survive.
  • Food = bad for me Food in appropriate amounts is healthy for me.
  • There are no bad foods.
  • I need to be controlled around food. I will relate to food in a healthy way.
  • I can control my use of food.
  • Food = not good for me Food is a source of energy for me.
  • Food provides the nutrients my body needs.
  • Food is necessary to maintain my health.
  • Food is essential to life.
  • Food = Fat I will balance my intake of high fat foods.
  • I am not fat because of food but how I used it.
  • Food = Love Food = Food
  • I will give myself the food-free love I need.
  • Food = Pleasure Food = Food
  • I will seek new food-free outlets for pleasure.
  • Food = Comfort Food = Food
  • I will comfort myself in new food-free healthy ways.
  • Food = Depression Food = Food
  • I will handle my depression in a food-free way.
  • I will only eat food when I am hungry.
  • I will only use food as food to live on.
  • I will use food as a source of energy to live on.
  • I will relate to food in new healthy ways.
  • Food = Temptation Food is necessary to satisfy my hunger.
  • I will enjoy my new relationship with food.
  • Food tastes good and I will enjoy it.
  • I will only eat tasty food when I am hungry.
  • Food = Guilt inducing I will enjoy food guilt-free.
  • I can enjoy food guilt-free if I am balanced.
  • I will free myself of guilt with food.
  • Food is not fair. Food = Food
  • I can learn to live with food by making tradeoffs.
  • I can understand what I need to know food wise.
  • I accept responsibility for my weight problems.
  • My unhealthy use of food has made problems for me.
  • Food is what it is open and fair.
  • Food is just what it is a set of nutrients.
  • Food is fair because it can be measured.
  • Food is fair because it can be understood.
  • There are no secrets about food.
  • Food = Reward Food = Food
  • I will seek rewards in healthier food-free ways.
  • Food = Protection Food = Food
  • I will be my own emotional protector.
  • Food = Wealth Food = Food
  • I will be rich in health by accepting food as food.
  • Food = Sensual Food = Food
  • I will enjoy food in healthy ways.
  • Food = Sexual Food = Food
  • I can separate my sexuality from my eating food.
  • I will relate to food in a healthy way.
  • I will only use food in healthy ways.
  • Food helps me be secure. I will overcome my insecurity in a food-free way.
  • Foods are forbidden and sinful to eat. Food is good for me.
  • All foods are acceptable for me in right proportions.
  • Food should be limited. I will eat only enough food to satisfy my hunger.
  • Food instill greed in me. I will eat all foods in a balanced way.
  • Use of food is a sign of weakness. I will relate to food out of my strength.
  • Use of food is being out of control. I will be able to control my use of food.
  • My use of food = conformity I will be an individual in my relationship with food.
  • My use of food = nonconformity I can be a healthy individual in my use of food.
  • Food = acceptance by others I will gain other's acceptance of me without food.
  • Food = obligation to others I have no need to please others by my use of food.
  • Food = not to insult others who offer it I will relate to people in new ways without food.
  • Food = pushed on me I will assertively refuse food if I am not hungry.
  • I will only eat enough food to satisfy my hunger.
  • Food = embarrassing I will be relaxed in my relationship with food.
  • I only need my approval about how I use food.
  • Food = too accessible I will exercise moderation in my use of food.
  • Food = too convenient I will have healthy boundaries between me and food.
  • Food = too public I will eat freely in public places.
  • I will no longer hide from others when I eat.
  • I can be open and relaxed eating in public.
  • Food = insulation Food = Food
  • I will only eat to satisfy my hunger.
  • I will establish food-free boundaries with others.
  • I will remain open to others.
  • I will be visible to others
  • I will work at overcoming my invisibility.
  • Food = Shame Food = Food
  • I will use food without shame.
  • Food is two faced: friend and enemy. Food = Food
  • I will only use food as a source of energy and life.
  • Food is confusing and distorted. Food is fair, open and clear as to how it works.
  • Food is always obsessed about. I will only eat when I am hungry.
  • I will use thought stopping in dealing with food.
  • I will treat food as a necessary tool for survival.
  • I will spend more mental energy on my recovery.
  • Food = celebration I will celebrate in new food free ways.
  • Celebrations are for sharing good times not food.
  • I will enjoy the people rather than the food at parties.
  • The point of parties is socializing not food.
  • I will learn to celebrate food-free.
  • I can party without food or drink.
  • I will use tradeoffs to enjoy the food at parties.
  • Food satisfies all kinds of emotions such as: boredom, anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, tiredness, fear, procrastination, happiness, excitement, joy, celebrating. I will limit my times to eat only when I am hungry.
  • I eat to satisfy hunger and not my emotions.
  • I will deal with my emotions in food-free ways.
  • I will use the SEA's Systems to deal with feelings.
  • I can grow by food-free handling of my emotions.

 

Third, once you have identified new messages you can give yourself about food so as to help you develop a new healthier relationship with food, you then need to

Ease out of your food based anxiety by using the new messages about food to help you develop visual images of your successful accomplishment of developing a new relationship with food. Visualize yourself only eating when you are hungry. Visualize only eating enough to satisfy your hunger. Visualize your ability to make tradeoffs so that you can eat the foods you want to eat and enjoy them guilt-free. Visualize your ability to eat in public with no fear of embarrassment or shame. Visualize your having desserts in public with no self-consciousness. Visualize yourself making tradeoffs by increasing exercise the next day or limiting consumption of food on days after you have had the foods you enjoy in the amounts you enjoy having them. Visualize the release of guilt and shame from your relationship with food. Visualize your acceptance that food is simply food and not some emotional comforter to whom you turn to when you are feeling good or bad. Visualize your handling of your emotions in food-free ways. Visualize yourself willing to take Step 1 in the SEA's program and your willingness to accept that your life had become unmanageable as a result of your old unhealthy relationship with food. Continue your visual imagery efforts during your next step in this process. Also develop a mirror work script with your new messages about food and use this mirror work script daily for the next 30 days to help you gain some self-confidence about your ability to relate to food in a new and healthy way.

 

Fourth, you now need to

Relax out of your stress, anxiety, tension or guilt with food by breathing in the new healthy, rational and realistic messages about food and breathing out the old stale, irrational and oppressive messages about food which have kept you in bondage with food in an unhealthy way. Use thought stopping when you fall back to the old messages and use the breathing to keep your relaxed and focused on your goal of a guilt-free relationship with food. Use the concept of tradeoffs with food to help you to gain a balanced perspective so as to become more relaxed when you are out eating in a restaurant, at work, at a party or when visiting family or friends for a meal time event. Use the breathing in process with your new messages as targets you can hold on to as you escape the tension and stress of the food-related event.

 

Fifth, you then need to

Take Action and utilize the Balanced Lifestyle approach to food. You need to work at this for the rest of your life. You will need to structure your life and set up specific guidelines to insure that you are: Eating to live and eating only when you are hungry. Such guidelines could be: Eat only at a table. Eat only when I am hungry. Never eat on the run. Handle my emotions in healthy food-free ways. Use behavioral chains (as explained on p. 77 in the SEA's Manual) to identify what emotions might be leading me to binge or become unbalanced with food. Make the celebration the focus of the party not food. Structure your house so that high fat greatly enjoyed foods are less accessible. Increase the use of exercise so that it can become a tradeoff to enjoy wanted foods. Learn more about the nutritional basis of food, so that you can be an educated consumer and make appropriate tradeoffs when needed. Keep in mind the axiom: real food for real people. When at buffets use the three bite rule: allow only three bites for each and every item on the buffet. This allows you to identify what you are eating, how good it tastes and reassures you how the rest of the food you left on the buffet tastes. Recognize that with food you have three choices: to eat it, to eat less of it or not to eat it at all. The choice is yours. Bon Appetite!

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous, The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The ALERT System
Section 3: The SEA's Tools for a Recovery Lifestyle
  • Unit 6: The Emotional/Behavioral Connection in Recover
  • Unit 9: Thought Stopping for Recovery
  • Unit 12: Behavioral Chains in Recovery
  • Unit 15: Mental Imagery in Recovery
  • Section 4: The SEA's Twelve-Step Tools
  • Step 1

2. Tools for Handling Loss

  • Chapter 3: Dealing with Denial
  • Chapter 4: Handling Bargaining Behaviors
  • Chapter 7: Accepting Change

3. Tools for Personal Growth

  • Chapter 2: Handling Irrational Beliefs
  • Chapter 3: Self-Affirmations
  • Chapter 4: Handling Guilt
  • Chapter 10: Overcoming Fears
  • Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility

II. ANGER Workout for Resentment against Food

The cavepeople did not harbor any resentment against food because it was so hard to come by and because they needed it to live. They at times might have been irritated by the taste of the food that day. Or they might have been frustrated by the fact that they had to work so hard to get food at a particular time. They might have been angry that there wasn't enough food to go around to keep everybody in their cave community nourished and healthy. If you had asked them if they held resentment against food, they would have wondered what was wrong with you for asking such a stupid question. They would have said, "We cannot afford to hold any resentment against food because we need it to stay alive. If we harbored any anger inside of us against food, we might not be aggressive enough in harvesting it and then we would end up starving and dying." Cavepeople were pragmatic. They did not worry about their negative feelings towards food since they realized they should be grateful if they were getting enough of it to satisfy their hunger and stay alive.


How about you? Do you harbor any resentment against food? Do you resent the messages you have been given about food which have caused you problems in your relationship with food? Are you resentful against the people who have given you a hard time about food in your past? Are you resentful against people in your life who do not have a problem with eating food and who seem to be able to eat anything in any amount they want and still not gain weight? Do you resent aspects about food which you feel are unfair and not just? Do you get angry about food related issues when they come up? Do you find yourself getting mad at the focus of the messages of the Balanced Lifestyles Program about food? Do you find yourself stuffing your anger at food related issues as you proceed in this program? Are you resistant to changing your relationship with food because of old tapes in your head which keep you angry and resentful to food related issues? If you are harboring even a little bit of resentment about a food related topic then you need to do ANGER work to free yourself up emotionally to relate to food in the healthier way as promoted in this book and program.


First you need to

ACCEPT that you are angry and resentful against food or a food related issue. You need to allow yourself to be human and imperfect to have such an emotional response to food and it multifaceted issues. It is ok if you are angry and resentful, but you need to accept that if you do not address this anger at this point in the program you will not be able to relax enough with food to establish the healthy new relationship you need with it inorder to establish a balanced lifestyle. You will never allow yourself to be open totally to the new messages about food such as: "I eat to live." "I only eat when I am hungry." "Food is Food." "I will deal with my emotions in a food-free way." "I will accept all foods are good for me." "Food does not make me fat, I make myself fat so I will change the way I use and relate to food." "I eat to live and not live to eat." You will resist these new messages unless you rid yourself of your anger inhibiting feelings you hold against food. So relax your defenses and admit to yourself that you do indeed have anger against a food related issue and proceed to the next step.

 

Secondly you need to

NAME what you are angry or resentful over concerning food:

  1. You need to identify the messages you have gotten about food which you deeply resent because of the negative impact they have had on your life such as: "Eat everything on your plate." "You can feed 1000 Chinese people with what is left on your plate." "Just think of all of the starving people in the world who would be happy to be eating that right now." "Eat and be happy." "Look what I made for you because I love you, but you don't have to eat all of it since you don't need it." "If you don't eat that I won't be happy." "Is this how you treat my love for you by refusing to eat what I offer you?" "Don't eat that, it's not good for you." "How can you eat that it's so fattening." "Be a good member of the 'clean plate club' and finish everything before you leave the table." "I'm going to punish you if you don't finish that food." "I'm going to punish you if you eat that." "You can't have that food because it is not good for you." "Only special people are going to get the treat today." "If you don't hurry up and eat it, then I'll finish it for you." "If you don't eat it now, then there won't be any thing left for you to eat." "You should feel guilty for eating all of that food." You need to try to identify every message in your mind about food which makes you resentful towards food or a food related issue.
  2. You need to identify the people in your life who have given you the messages about food which bring up anger and resentment in you. These people could be your mother, father, sister or brother. They could be one of your grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins. It could have been a teacher, neighbor, friend or classmate. It could be a past spouse, lover or significant other. It could even be a member of your current family be it a spouse, son or daughter. You need to name every one who has said negative messages to you about food whom you resent to this day.
  3. You need to identify the implicit and explicit messages about food, you have received from the print and electronic media and from the food and diet industries which get you angry and resentful such as: "Thin is in, inorder to be accepted you need to eat less food, lose weight and become thin." "Thin is beautiful, join our diet plan for a more beautiful you." "Mr or Miss Right will appear after you become a thinner you." "Every food we advertize is delicious, nutritious and ready right now for you to eat." "Inorder to lose weight you need to obsess and think out what food you are going to eat." You need to look at the media and the food and diet industries carefully for their messages which keep you upset, angry and resentful about food.
  4. You need to identify the issues about food which rise your ire and resentment such as: "Why is it that the foods I like to eat are 'bad' for me and the foods that are supposedly 'good' for me taste awful to me?" "Food is too readily available and too easy to get my hands on." "Why is it that I can't eat as much of the food that tastes good to me as often as I like?" "I resent that food takes away my energy, by my carrying the extra weight around on my body which is the result of food in my life." "I hate that food makes me fat." "I resent that thinking about food occupies alot of my time." "I resent that food makes me unhealthy." "I resent that food is the center of all of my social dealings with people." "I resent that food is a problem for me." "I hate that food is my addiction." "I resent the food has not been fair to me." " I resent that I have to be conscious all of the time about what foods I eat." "I resent that I have had a failed love affair with food." "I hate the people who can eat all the food they want and never gain weight." "I hate all diets and the diet conspiracies perpetrated upon me over my life time." You need to identify all food related issues over which you harbor any anger, resentment or irritation.
  5. Lastly you need to identify all of the messages about food, in the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program, which raise up any rage, anger, irritation or resentment in you such as: "You can eat anything you want as long as you are willing to make tradeoffs with other foods within the meal or in increasing exercise or decreasing caloric intake over the next few days to compensate for what you have eaten." "You have to deal with your emotions in a food-free way through the SEA's Systems of Recovery." "Your current relationship with food could be classified as an addiction, compulsion or obsession and it will take your entire lifetime to correct your relationship with food." "There are no quick fixes to your problems with food." "There will always be the possibility of relapse in your dealings with food for the rest of your life, so it will be something you will always need to work on." "You will need to make a commitment to yourself, by loving yourself enough, to relate to food in a healthy way." "Life is not always fair. Your changing of your relationship with food will require you to accept life the way it is rather than the way you want it to be." "Food is Food." "You only need to eat when you are hungry." "You need to eat to live instead of living to eat." Unless you identify all of the messages about food related issues in this program which raise anger and resentment in you, you will never be able to become open to these messages to implement them in you new lifestyle. You need to recognize that your resistance to the messages of the Balance Lifestyle Program might also be based on your personality behavioral patterns described in this book on page 26 of Chapter 1 and in Laying the Foundation (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). Your resentment towards the messages in this program might be rooted in your approach to all efforts to help you change and grow. You need to identify and recognize how your behavioral pattern influences your level of resistance and how you jump to negative assumptions to turn you off and become resentful to messages of hope and health.

Once you have identified all the resentment and anger inducing issues about food and named all of the messages about food, all of the people who have said negative things about food, all of the media and food and diet industry messages about food, all the food related issues and messages about food in this program then you are ready to proceed to the next step.

 

Third you need to

GET IT OUT of your system by doing Resentment anger workout as outlined in Chapter 7, Handling Resentment in the Tools for Anger Workout (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, 1992). For purposes of this ANGER workout write at least one letter of resentment in your journal for each of the five categories listed in the above NAME IT step. After you complete one letter than do an aggressive workout on your "anger bag" and beat out the visualized object of resentment until you feel satiated. If after completing these five letters with their respective anger workouts, you still feel resentment against food related issues then proceed to write more letters of resentment in your journal and do more aggressive anger release work. It is important to realize that you will probably need to continue to release your resentment and anger over food related issues for the rest of your life so do not try to rid yourself of all of it at one time. You will most probably be ready for the last two steps of the ANGER process after you write each letter followed by an aggressive anger workout.

 

Fourth Once you have gotten your anger out through your letter of resentment and subsequent anger work, you will feel more

ENERGIZED and ready to

RESUME your efforts at trying to develop a new relationship with food which will help you to become more like a caveperson in your dealings with food. You will find yourself being more receptive to the new healthier messages about food and ready to implement the changes necessary in your eating habits for your new balanced lifestyle. You will be able to do this because you will have achieved the ability to forgive all of the people in your life and food itself for the anger inducing issues over which you have harbored resentment for so long. As you resume your relationship building efforts with food try to visualize your successful attainment of such a relationship with food without the anger and resentment you once held for food and food related issues.

As you rid yourself of the anger and resentment over food in your heart and gut you will most probably find that you are no longer stuffing your anger over food with food. The more you release your negative feelings over food the more likely it will be that you will not use food to medicate your feelings over it.


Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery

2. Laying the Foundation

  • Chapter 3: Looking-Good Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 4: Acting-Out Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 5: Pulling-in Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 6: Entertaining Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 7: Troubled-Person Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 8: Enabling Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 9: Rescuing Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 10: People-Pleasing Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 11: Nonfeeling Behavior Characteristics

3. Tools for Anger Workout

  • Chapter 7: Handling Resentment

III. CHILD work of Self-forgiveness over Misuse of Food

 

The cavepeople did not misuse food, so they did not experience anger at themselves for misuse of food. They were too busy scouting it out, gathering it up, preparing it to be cooked, cooking it and finally eating it. They might have been angry at themselves for not being good enough hunters to capture the food they needed. They might have been angry at themselves for not being quick enough to keep up with their food-source targets. They could not waste a lot of time being angry at themselves or else they would have lost the momentum to keep up their struggle to survive and live.


You need to accept that you can not spend a great deal of emotional energy on being angry at yourself for the ways you have misused food in your life. You cannot spend time in recriminations against yourself for not being a "good enough" user of food. You need to stop putting yourself down as a loser for your past disastrous relationship with food. You need to let go of your need to punish yourself for your lack of "self-control" in your dealings with food. You need to let go of the shame and guilt you feel about your compulsive, obsessive and addictive need for food. You need to give yourself an emotional break from your self-destructive course of life where food is concerned. You need to stop using food as the punishment for your unhealthy out of control fixations, fantasies and cravings for food. You need to stop binging on food to medicate your shame and guilt for your poor dealings with food. You need to stop condemning yourself for your weight problem resulting from your foodaholicism. You need to get to work at nurturing yourself in emotional ways rather than with food, so as to gain a new appreciation for and new relationship with food.


You need to re-parent yourself about what place food has in your life. You need to rewrite the old behavioral scripts and tapes in your mind about how to deal with food. You need to let go of the anger your feel about yourself in terms of your failed love affair with food. You need to forgive yourself for being a human being who is subject to making mistakes and experiencing failures in life especially when it comes to your use of food. You need to accept that once you let go of your anger over food and food related issues and messages, you will then need to forgive yourself for your self-destructive, self-defeating roller coaster ride with food. What you need to do is the CHILD work of self-forgiveness using the format offered in Chapter 6: Self-Forgiveness in Growing Down-Tools for Healing the Inner Child (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

 

First you need to

CALM yourself down from your sense of isolation, self-loathing, self-hatred, shame and guilt which you feel when your are considering the disastrous aftermath of your failed relationship with food. Set yourself down and begin to visualize you and your inner child in the presence of your Higher Power in a safe place to work on your food relationship issues. Once you feel comfortable with your inner child's and Higher Power's presence you are ready to move on to the next step.


Second, once you are comfortable in the presence of your inner child and Higher Power, you are ready to help yourself

HEAL by writing out a Self-Forgiveness Script similar to that offered in this chapter on page 65. In this script you need to forgive yourself for your past misuse of food and include the new messages about food which you will need to maintain your new balance lifestyle. Once you have written your own personal script you will be ready for the next step.


Third, you are now ready to

INFORM yourself of the messages of self-forgiveness and new hope for your relationship with food. To inform yourself, stand in front of a full length mirror and read to yourself, in the presence of your inner child and Higher Power, the self-forgiveness script you have written to help you end your self-destructive relationship with food. As you begin to inform yourself of self-forgiveness message you simultaneously are ready for the next step.

 

Fourth, as you are informing yourself, in your mirror work, of messages of self-forgiveness, you give yourself messages of unconditional self-

LOVE to help you heal from the sense of failure, disappointment, shame, guilt and misery you have been experiencing in your past failed and disastrous relationship with food. As you continue to inform and grow in self-love you are ready to take the final step in this CHILD work.


Fifth, as you experience being informed of the messages of self-forgiveness and hope for a new beginning with food and feel the growth of self-love in your heart, you need to

DIRECT your inner child to be the beacon of hope and your spiritual link with your Higher Power as you progress in developing a new healthier relationship with food. You need to direct your team of support to be there for you when the pressures from food become burdensome. You need to direct your triad team of adult you, inner child and Higher Power to work together to assist you to come back from slips and relapses with food. You need to tell your inner spiritual team to be vigilant and ready for the assaults on you which food will make as you struggle with your new found understanding and commitment to relate to food in a healthier way. You need to direct the team to assist you to overcome the ongoing sensations of guilt and shame you feel as you do the mirror work encouraged in this program. You need to direct the team to help you overcome the sensations of being helpless, defenseless and incompetent to fight off the daily assaults which food makes on you. You need to remind your inner child and Higher Power that they need to remain with you to heal the sense of being alone, abandoned and isolated from food as you begin to effect a healthy separation from the enmeshed relationship you had with it in the past. You finally need to direct yourself to continue this effort of self-forgiveness and self-loving so that you will grow in self-esteem. This will then help you to believe that you are a beautiful person deserving of your effort, time and energy to make your lifestyle more balanced.

Do this CHILD work exercise at least five times a week for the next month to assist you to cleanse your heart of the pain, hurt and suffering you have experienced in your past relationship with food. Continue to use this CHILD effort for the rest of your life whenever you find yourself weakening and wanting to relapse or slip back into your old self-destructive use of food.

What follows is a sample Self-Forgiveness Script for this CHILD self-forgiveness mirror work, which you can freely personalize for your own needs.


Script for: SELF-FORGIVENESS FOR MISUSE OF FOOD (Remember you are talking to yourself in the mirror)

  • I forgive you for misusing food.
  • I forgive you for being a human subject to making mistakes and experiencing failures.
  • I forgive you for not being perfect.
  • I forgive you for responding to the messages which encouraged you to abuse food.
  • I forgive you for responding to food in an addictive, compulsive and obsessive way.
  • I forgive you for being a foodaholic or compulsive overeater.
  • I forgive you for using food to medicate negative and celebrate positive emotions.
  • I forgive you for the self-destructive and self-defeating ways in which you handled food.
  • I forgive you for being confused as to how to deal with food.
  • I forgive you for your irrational, unrealistic and unhealthy thinking about food.
  • I forgive you for having your old fixations, fantasies and inappropriate cravings for food.
  • I forgive you for being so out of control in your use of food.I forgive you for having a poor relationship with food.
  • I forgive you for having a failed love affair with food.
  • I forgive you for being a loser in your disastrous relationship with food.
  • I forgive you for having low-self esteem when it comes to your relationship with food.
  • I forgive you for what has happened to your body due to being out of control with food.
  • I forgive you for having gained more weight than is healthy for you.
  • I forgive you for your life being out of balance as a result of your misuse of food.
  • I will be able to get through the pain and hurt of my poor relationship with food by handing it over to my Higher Power.
  • I will be able to face the ongoing pressures of maintaining control with food by relying on my inner child and Higher Power to assist me.
  • I am a beautiful person who deserves to see myself as beautiful. I see you as beautiful. I love you for being you and nothing you have done wrong with food will keep me from loving you.
  • I know that in the past you did the best you could do, knowing what you did about food.
  • I respect you for your efforts to begin to change your life around and your efforts to put a balance into your life around food.
  • I love you for your willingness to take care of yourself, learning more about food and nutrition so that you can make healthy choices and trade offs to keep your life in balance.
  • I love you for being open to the new messages about food you are currently getting in the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program.
  • I do not need to condemn myself anymore for my past misuse of food.
  • I can let go of the shame and guilt over my misuse of food.
  • I feel lighter and less burdened by feeling forgiven for my past misuse of food.
  • I feel the forgiveness I am receiving, over my misuse of food, from my inner child and Higher Power
  • I can let go of my past misuse of food and know I am forgiven.
  • I am now ready to have my heart open to the new messages of hope about food.
  • Food is just food.
  • I only need to eat when I am hungry.
  • I will deal with my feelings in food-less ways in the future.
  • I will accept that foods are not fattening or bad as long as I use them in a healthy way.
  • I am ready to accept that tradeoffs can be made to enjoy the food I enjoy eating.
  • I will accept that I can deal with food in a guilt-free way and keep my life in balance.
  • I will accept that I eat to live and not live to eat.


Tools for Coping Related Readings

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous-The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The CHILD System

2. Tools for Handling Loss

  • Chapter 8: Letting Go

3. Tools for Anger Workout

  • Chapter 12: Stop Self-destructive Anger Responses

4. Growing Down-Tools for Healing the Inner Child

  • Chapter 5: Letting Go of Shame and Guilt
  • Chapter 6: Self-forgiveness

IV. LET GO of Powerlessness over Food

 

Cavepeople were powerless over their preoccupation with food because if they did not pursue food aggressively they would have died. They could not control their need to search out, hunt for, capture and prepare food for themselves. They needed to accept that it was their state in life. They needed to accept life as it was rather than how they might have wanted it. They were powerless over their need for food. Their lives were dependent on the food chain for existence. They needed to accept that fact or die.


You, who have struggles with food, must also come to accept your powerlessness where food is concerned. You who have been labeled as compulsive overeaters, food addicts, foodaholics or obsessively and compulsively focused on food must accept that you are powerless over this fact and that you cannot control it on your own. It is out of your power to control. No matter what types of strategies you take, be they: dieting, thought stopping, hypnosis, de-programming, relaxation training, psychotherapy, group work, stress reduction, meditation, electroshock therapy, behavioral therapy, rational emotive therapy, or psychoanalysis. You will never be able to have the power to change the fact that you are who you are when it comes to food. You cannot change your state in life. You cannot change something that is inherent in your psychological and physical make up. You are driven to food in unhealthy ways and use food in unhealthy ways. You are "sick" when it come to food. You have the disease of addiction to food. It is an illness or state of being which will be with you for the rest of your life. You cannot control or change the fact that you have this dis-"ease," anymore than people with diabetes can change that they have it. You can work on and change how it affects you, but you cannot change that you have this disease. You need to let go of the need to control this fact of existence which will be with you all of your life. You need to let go of the irrational beliefs that keep you "hooked" into trying to gain this control. What you need to do is to let go of your need to control everything out of your control. You need to accept your powerlessness over food. You then need to take the steps necessary to reorganize your life around this fact so that you can maintain a balanced lifestyle.


First 

The first step you need to take is to  Lighten the Pressure to control the powerlessness you feel over food. You need to use the ALERT system to identify the irrational thinking which leads you to believe that you can control this fact on your own. You will need to let go of the belief that your compulsive, obsessive, addictive, pervasive relationship with food is something which you can control on your own. Read Handling Pride, Chapter 13 of Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) were the irrational belief, "I should be able, on my own, to control everything in my life," is disputed. You cannot handle, on your own, something you are powerless over. You do not have enough internal power to handle, on your own, the pressure which food causes you. You have been led to believe that, "I should be able to handle the pressure of food in my life by dieting." You have been led to believe that, "All I need to do to overcome the pressure of food on me is to develop self-control and will- power." The truth is that all the "will-power" in the world and all the diets you try will not be able to erase the fact that food is a compulsive, addictive, obsessive, pervasive influence and driver in your life. The rational perspective you need to ALERT yourself to is: "I am powerless over the pressures of food in my life and I need the help of a power greater than me to overcome this food-driven pressure." This rational perspective is contained in the SEA's program's 12 Steps, especially Steps 1, 2 and 3 as presented in Section IV of Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous The SEA's Program Manual (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992):

Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over the behavioral consequences of our low self-esteem; that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: We came to believe that our self-esteem could heal and grow by our cooperating with a power greater than ourselves who is our Higher Power.

Step 3: We made a decision to develop a spiritual life in which our wills and lives would be open to the healing graces of our Higher Power.

 

Second

Once you have ALERTed yourself to get rational about your powerlessness over the addiction of food in your life, you then need to do ANGER work over this reality of your weakness when it comes to food. You must do a great deal of anger work about your inability to control food's dominance in your life before you can become receptive to accepting the concept that Letting Go will help you. You need to do ANGER work to accept that, handing your powerless over food to your Higher Power, will help you deal with it better than going on a diet or developing a "super duper will-power." You also need to do plenty of ANGER work over the myth that: "My life will be better and happier once I lose weight." This myth is just not true. Your life can be better and happier by letting go of the need to control something over which you are powerless. You can become a happier and more content person if you begin to do CHILD work and accept yourself unconditionally for who you are, namely a food addict who is powerless over food who need the assistance of your Higher Power to address this reality. You need to do plenty of ANGER work over the myth that: "Once my body becomes thin, my life will be perfect." This myth underlies the propaganda of the diet industries. It is just not true. You need to do CHILD work and accept your body unconditionally and LET GO of the need to wait for happiness only if the condition of thinness occurs in your body. Food and body size are intermixed for many food addicts especially females. Food and body size become combined as one issue over which they are powerless. Only after acceptance that body size and use of food are irrelevant to your personal happiness will you be able to grow in your self-esteem when it comes to your relationship to food and your body. This requires much ALERT, ANGER and CHILD work so that you can then LET GO of the pressure to control the reality that you are powerless over food. Once you have done this, then you can begin to LET GO of the need to control this reality. Only after you become more rational, realistic and reality based about food in your life can you then go on to the next step of the LET GO system.

 

Third

The next step is to  Exercise your rights to declare that you cannot control the compulsive, addictive, obsessive, and pervasive power food has over you. You declare that you are powerless over food and that because of this your life has become unmanageable. You admit that your life has been deeply troubled and affected by food. Your body has taken the brunt of the negative insults of food. Your weight has been a victim of your struggles with food. Your poor relationships with others may be the result of the aftermath of your battles with food. Your dis-health may be the result of your chronic yo-yo dieting. Your embarrassment to go to clothes stores or to socialize in public may be the result of your powerlessness over food. Your life has suffered because you have been powerless over the pressures of food which were driven by the myths that if "I can control my relationship with food, I will become a happier person." You need to exercise your rights and declare that "I am the only person responsible for my happiness and since I am powerless over food, I will no long believe that only by controlling the power of food will I experience happiness." You need to reorganize your thinking and recognize that the only thing your can control is yourself. Your need to recognize that you cannot control other people, places, things or conditions. Food is a thing you cannot control. The pressure you experience from food is a condition you cannot control. What you can control is your response to food and your response to the pressure you experience from food. What you can do is to LET GO of the belief that "I can control the power food has on me." What you need to convert this to is: "With the help of my Higher Power, I can LET GO of the need to control the power of food in my life, by handing over this power to my Higher Power." By taking that monkey off your back and handing it over to your Higher Power, you will have new energy and strength to handle your response to the pressure of food by implementing the Balanced Lifestyle Tools in your life. You will no longer need to develop "will-power" or go on diets to deal with food. You will now be able to put the focus on living a life of exercise, rational living, self-esteem enhancement, self-forgiveness, self-loving and self-growth. Once your have begun to exercise your rights to let go of your powerless over food you are then ready to take the next step of the LET GO system.

 

Fourth

Your next action is to Take Steps to accept personal responsibilty for your own life and let go of the belief that: "Once I have my powerlessness over food under control I will be a happier person." To take the steps necessary you first need to develop a relationship with your Higher Power. Refer to Chapter 15: Spirituality, in Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) for a discussion of the concept of how to develop a spirituality with a Higher Power. You need to identify a Higher Power in your life who is powerful enough to accept the load you are going to hand over which is your "powerlessness over food." You need to have a Power who is capable of accepting this burden and not unload it on you at a later date. For most of you, this Higher Power will be God, Jesus, Buddha, Yahweh, Allah, or some other deity. For some of you, this step will become a real burden since you lack a Higher Power or spirituality in your life. The concept of Higher Power or spirituality does not require you to join a church or become religious but rather it requires you to stop being your own Higher Power or God. You need to accept humbly that there is an eternal consciousness or eternal energy source which has Power greater than you. For some this can be the universe, cosmos, mother nature, or life itself. For some it may need to be initially the group or class you are attending until you can get open enough to accept that there is a Power outside of you strong enough to absorb your lack of ability to control your "powerlessness over food."

Once you have developed a spirituality and accepted a Higher Power in your life then you take the step to "hand over"your powerlessness over food. You simply tell your Higher Power:

"Here is the powerlessness I feel over food. Here is the addictive, compulsive, obsessive and pervasive pressure I feel about and from food. Here are all the myths about food which I have absorbed and believed all of my life. Here is my belief that once I control my use of food I will become happier. Here is my belief that once I diet enough and become thin I will become happier. Here are all of the irrational beliefs I have about food and my control over it. Here is all of my anger over food and food related issues. Here is food and its powerful influence in my life. I accept that I am powerless over the power of food in my life and that because of this my life has become unmanageable."

 

Once you have handed over your powerlessness over food you will need to take steps not to take it back from your Higher Power. You will then be able to relax from the pressure you have felt from the tremendous power of food in your life. You will then be able to enjoy the peace and serenity which comes from your acceptance that this is one thing you could not change or control. Knowing that you do not have to change or control the power of food in your life, you will be more open and ready to implement the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle in your life. You can remind your Higher Power once you get going with this letting go that:

"I feel free and capable of implementing the necessary things I can do to get my lifestyle balanced. I do not want to take back from you my powerlessness over food. If I fall back into obsessing, compulsing, or acting addictive with food I will immediately hand it back over to You. I do not want to experience the pressure or pain this pervasive power food has had over me again. I thank You for being there for me. I thank you for being a powerful receptacle into which I can dump the toxic waste of food addiction and compulsive over-eating. I believe that You are more powerful than food and that you will be able to hold this powerful force for me as long as I continue to let go of it to You."

After you have taken the steps to LET GO of your powerlessness over food, you are then ready for the next step of the LET GO system.

 

Fifth The next step is to Give up the Need to control your powerlessness over food by embracing the spirit, words and meaning of the Serenity Prayer. For the purposes of the this program the Serenity Prayer has been revised to help those, who currently lack a focused Higher Power or well developed spirituality, to become receptive to its words. The Serenity Prayer is contained in the SEA's Program Manual on page 176 for those who desire the original version. In the Tools for Handling Control (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) Chapter 7: Letting Go of the Uncontrollables and Unchangeable, the value of implementing the Serenity Prayer in your life to help you LET GO is fully explained. To give up your need to control your powerlessness over food, you need to recite the Serenity Prayer over and over again until you believe it and feel released from the power and pull of food in your life:

The Serenity Prayer

Revised

Grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

and Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.

Taking this imperfect world as it is,

and not as I would have it.

Trusting that all things will be right if I surrender

to the way life is rather than how I want it to be.

So that I may reasonably happy in this life.

Amen

By using these words as a daily affirmation of your letting go of your powerlessness over food, you will begin to feel the peace and serenity which it promises. You will be able to focus on one day at a time as a measure of your success in letting go. You will be able to experience joy one moment at a time and not be so focused on the future. You will become reality oriented on the "here and now" and LET GO of the myth: "Once I get thin or once I control my eating I will be happy." You will become reasonably happy each day you continue to hand over the pressure of food in your life to your Higher Power. You will become more relaxed with your life and with yourself. You will be better able to grow in self-love and self-acceptance because you will be able to LET GO of the need for you to possess "perfect will-power" and "thinness" inorder to deserve your own self-love. You will be more receptive to the messages of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program and be ready to take the next step of the LET GO system.


Sixth

You are now ready for the last step of Ordering Your Life so that you no longer are trying to control your powerlessness over food. This means that you are now ready to implement the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle in your life more. You are now ready to implement or maintain a reasonable exercise program. You are now ready to accept that "I exercise to live." You are now more receptive to accept that "Food is Food" and that "I eat to live and not live to eat." You are now able to say that: "I will handle my emotions in food-less ways using the SEA's systems of ALERT, ANGER, CHILD and LET GO." You are ready to tell yourself: "I can develop a new relationship with food with the assistance of my Higher Power." You are now ready to accept that your old relationship with food was compulsive, obsessive, addictive and filled with pervasive pressure. You are better able to accept that you are a foodaholic or compulsive overeater and that you are powerless to correct this state of life without the assistance of your Higher Power. You are now more receptive to give yourself more self-love and self-respect by saying and meaning:

"I am a beautiful person."

"I accept and love myself unconditionally for who I am rather than for who I would like to be."

"I can develop a new relationship with food without dieting."

"I can be happy in life with my body just the way it is."

"My happiness is a day to day thing which I will work on daily to accomplish."

"I am a good person and deserve to have the freedom from the pressure of food in my life."

Once you order your life around the concept of the Serenity Prayer and handing your powerlessness over food to your Higher Power you will grow in self-esteem, self-worth and self-love. You will be better able to put your life into balance and you will develop a new healthier and balanced relationship with food. Your life will become happier and healthier. Your life will become more balanced and resemble the healthy aspects of the cavepeople day by day.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The LET GO System
  • Section 4: The SEA's Twelve Step Tools
  • Step 1
  • Step 2
  • Step 3

2. Tools for Personal Growth

  • Chapter 13: Handling Pride
  • Chapter 15: Spirituality
  • Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility

3. Tools for Handling Control Issues

  • Chapter 6: Accepting Powerlessness
  • Chapter 7: Letting Go of the Uncontrollable and Unchangeables
  • Chapter 8: Developing Detachment
  • Chapter 9: Unconditional Acceptance and Love

4. Growing Down - Tools for Healing the Inner Child

  • Chapter 5: Letting Go of Shame and Guilt
  • Chapter 7: Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Self-Love