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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 1: Getting Started with Your Balanced Lifestyle

Getting Started on Your Balanced Lifestyle

 

I. Making Goals Realistic and Liveable


In making plans to change your lifestyle so that you can live a healthier life, you might be caught up with the "old dieting" mentality. The Balance Lifestyle in this program is not a diet program. This is not a diet. This is not a program of weight reduction. This is not a guilt inducing program which monitors you so closely that you feel under severe pressure to perform or get out. This program is based on the principles of the 12 Steps of the Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous Program (SEA's). It is based on the belief that you are a human being subject to failures, mistakes, imperfections and potential for relapse. For this reason, there is no pressure to abide by some diet or food plan. There is no pressure to participate in a prescribed exercise program. There is no pressure to act or behave in a certain way. What is expected is that you will make a commitment to love yourself enough to make the effort to change the way you relate to food, increase the amount of exercise and physical activity in your life and the way you deal with your feelings about yourself, your body and your self image. This program is based on the belief that our bodies are like bank accounts. The deposits we put in must match the withdrawals we make or our accounts will bulge from the excess of deposits we put into them. Our bodies are make to burn up a certain amount of calories and fat grams per day. If we do not have sufficient exercise and physical activity to burn off the excess calories we ingest each day the calories and fats will be stored in our bodies as excess weight. The goal of this program is to balance the calories and fat intake with the amount of exercise and physical activity necessary to bring your bodies into a "healthy weight" for yourself and to maintain this healthy weight once we reach our goal weight. This program is based on the belief that you will become a healthier person and sustain your new balanced lifestyle if you become more concerned about your internal needs and become less dependent on externals to make you happy and content with yourself. For this reason you are asked not to use a scale. You are asked not to keep a food diary or fat gram log. You are asked not to set goals for yourself which are not accomplishable in the first year of the program. You are asked to make a commitment of a minimum of two years to implement your new balanced lifestyle. You are asked to become self-loving and self-nurturing and not to use the "old" guilt inducing models of weight management programs which compel you to comply to their rules or be feel shame and guilt for not being successful in your compliance.

 

Most of you view your goal bodies as Swiss Bank Accounts which are svelte, lean and thin. These Swiss accounts are based on rigid weight charts which do not take into account the genetic or hereditary structure of your bodies. I have an Italian genetic bank account which is large boned, wide hipped and prone to enjoyment of the fine foods of life. I have given up the need to have the Swiss Account and as such have been able to maintain my Italian Account which is close to 100 pounds less than what it once was. For the past seven years I have been able to keep the Italian Bank Account in balance. I have been able to enjoy food, guilt free. I have been able not to give up my favorite foods. I still enjoy food like I did in the past. However I balance my deposits with my exercise and physical activity withdrawals. When I kept my focus on the Swiss Account, I was never able to accomplish the goal. It was too difficult and required so much sacrifice that I never enjoyed my life and I never was able to get into balance. Once I decided to accept the realities of my Italian heritage, I have been able to enjoy life and be thinner than what I ever had been in my life up to then.

 

It is imperative that as you enter this Balanced Lifestyle program, that you become realistic and kind to yourself. Set your goals not on the Swiss Account but rather on your own heritage account. Give yourself enough time to accomplish your initial goal to get your account into a balance. Remember, it took many years to get your account(body) in the sad state of affairs its is in. It will take a number of years to get your account(body) into balance. The slower you go at putting your account into balance, the better you will be able to maintain it once you are successful.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous

  • Section 1: An Overview of Self-Esteem
  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • Section 3: The SEA's Tools for a Recovery Lifestyle
  • Unit 1: The SEA's Recovery Lifestyle
  • Unit 3: Goal Setting in Recovery
  • Unit 4: Handling Anti-Recovery Thinking
  • Unit 5: Overcoming Perfectionism in Recovery
  • Unit 11: Cues for Non-Recovery
  • Unit 16: Self-Image in Recovery
  • Unit 17: Handling Feedback in Recovery
  • Unit 18: Testing Motivation in Recovery
  • Unit 19: Exercise for Recovery
  • Section 4: The SEA's Twelve Step Tools

2. Tools for Personal Growth

  • Chapter 1: Self-Esteem
  • Chapter 2: Handling Irrational Beliefs
  • Chapter 4: Handling Guilt
  • Chapter 11: Handling Fear of Success

3. Tools for Relationship

  • Chapter 5: Handling the Need for Approval

II. Affirmations of Commitment to Change

 

When you are deciding to change your lifestyle to one which is more balanced and healthy, you will be fighting the messages and beliefs which you have hidden in your mind since you were a little child. These messages are typically negative and do not encourage you to pursue the balance lifestyle in this program. The first task you need to accomplish to assist you to be successful in your lifestyle change is to change the messages in your mind which sabotage or unravel your good intentions to change. To do this you need to first use the ALERT system to identify the irrational beliefs which hold you captive to negative thinking about yourself and your desire to change and grow.

 

To do an ALERT you need to first

  • Assess what is causing you anxiety, panic or stress. In this situation what is causing such stress is that you are want to change your lifestyle and this includes changing your relationship with food, implementing an exercise program into your life and changing the ways you relate to yourself and your body. This will be very stressful if you have a number of messages or old scripts in you brain which tell you that you will never be able to accomplish this goal. Once you have assessed what is causing the stress, then you need to
  • Lessen the impact of the stressor by identifying the sick, irrational, unrealistic, non-reality based thinking which underlies your beliefs feelings about the stressor. You need to identify what irrational messages you have in your head about food, weight loss, exercise, body image, thinness, size, appearances, diets, etc. You then need to
  • Ease out of the stressor by developing new rational, realistic, reality based, healthy messages which are affirmations which you can use in self-talk and visualizations which teach you a new way to think about, image and feel about things which are involved in developing a balanced lifestyle. Once you have identified the new self-talk messages you can
  • Relax by breathing in the new messages and breathing out the old stale ones. As you become more relaxed and less anxious about pursuing your balanced lifestyle changes your can then
  • Take Action to implement the changes needed.

 

Once you have ALERTed out what the old messages are you then need to change these messages into new healthy self-affirmations which you need to then consistently tell yourself for the rest of your life to keep your efforts at balancing your lifestyle on track. The use of the ALERT system in identifying the unhealthy old self messages will assist you to reduce the anxiety, stress or panic you feel as you begin the process of lifestyle change.

 

What follows are sample negative self-scripts which keep people stuck in their unhealthy lifestyles. After each negative message you will find sample affirmations which utilize the I am... I can... and the I will... sentence stems. Put the messages which you need to hear your self say on 3 by 5 index cards and keep them handy to repeat to yourself throughout the course of every day you need until these new messages become habitual ways of thinking about the change in lifestyle you want to accomplish. You can also put these affirmations on an audio tape in your own voice to listen to throughout the day so as to help motivate you and to keep you on track in your efforts to establish a balanced lifestyle for yourself.

 

Old Message:

I shouldn't have to expend so much time, energy and resources on trying to change my lifestyle.

New Affirmations:

I am willing to spend the time, energy and resources needed to change my lifestyle.

I can spend time, energy and resources necessary to change my lifestyle, because I deserve it.

I will spend the time, energy and resources necessary to change my lifestyle.

I need to spend time, energy and resources to change my lifestyle.

To change one's lifestyle takes a great deal of personal time, energy and resources.

 

Old Message:

I am ugly and unacceptable.

New Affirmations:

I am beautiful.

I can acknowledge my beauty every day of my life.

I will acknowledge my beauty every day; of my life.

I accept myself unconditionally.

I can accept myself unconditionally every day of my life.

I will accept myself unconditionally every day of my life.

I accept myself as a human being who needs to change my lifestyle so that others will be able to see the beauty I possess.

I accept myself as beautiful and am making a commitment to let that beauty shine for others by changing my lifestyle.

I am willing to do what is necessary to change my lifestyle so that my beauty will shine more.

 

Old Message:

I have always failed in the past. So why try? Since I will fail again in this effort.

New Affirmations:

I am able to change my lifestyle despite the failures in the past.

I can change my lifestyle despite my failures in the past.

I will change my lifestyle despite my failures in the past.

I am changing my lifestyle by ridding myself of guilt over my past.

I can change my lifestyle without resorting to use of guilt to motivate me.

I will change my lifestyle without using guilt as a motivator.

 

Old Message:

I shouldn't have to give up food and begin to exercise to change my lifestyle.

New Affirmations:

I am developing a new relationship with food and incorporating exercise in my life to change my lifestyle so that I can be healthier, have more energy and feel better about myself.

I can develop a new relationship with food and increase the level of exercise in my life.

I will develop a new relationship with food and increase the level of exercise in my life.

 

Old Message:

I should be on a diet program in order to loss weight and gain a balanced lifestyle.

New Affirmations:

I am able to loss weight and gain a balanced lifestyle by not going on a diet.

I can lose weight and get my life in balance by not going on a diet.

I will lose weight and get my life in balance by not going on a diet.

I will lose weight by developing a new relationship with food and increasing the exercise and physical activity in my life.

I am free of diets.

I love myself enough to cut back on the foods which keep me out of balance.

I love myself enough to increase my exercise and physical activity when I choose to eat foods or large amounts of food which put me out of balance.

I will work at keep my body's bank account in balance.

I will balance the deposits of calories and fat grams into my body's bank account with the withdrawals of exercise and physical activity.

 

Old Message:

I should enjoy exercise in order to make it part of my balance lifestyle.

New Affirmations:

I am able to implement an exercise program in my life which is reasonable and healthy for me.

I can exercise in a healthy and reasonable way.

I will exercise inorder to balance my body's bank account.

I am committing to make room in my day for exercise and physical activity.

I can exercise consistently and learn to enjoy it.

I will exercise consistently in order to feel better.

I will exercise consistently because I deserve it.

 

Old Message:

I should be able to achieve my goals for weight loss and a balanced life right away.

New Affirmations:

I am committing to a life time of balancing my life.

I can take time to do what I need to do to lose weight and balance my life.

I will allow myself the time needed to lose weight and balance my life.

I will grow in patience with myself as I take the time needed to change and grow.

I am able to have patience to face the tasks ahead of me to put balance into my life.

 

Old Message:

I should only be rewarded for my efforts if I lose the weight I think I should lose.

New Affirmations:

I am going to stop being critical and judgmental of myself.

I can reward myself for the internal changes I make and not judge myself on the externals.

I will reward myself for the efforts I am making because I am worth the effort.

I am changing my lifestyle for me and no one else.

I will stay off of a scale during the next two years.

I will measure my success in balancing my lifestyle on my internals and not my externals.

I am growing in a guilt free lifestyle.

I am able to do good things for myself.

I will let go of the need to be self-critical and self-judgmental in my efforts to balance my life.

I will do what it takes to change and will reward those internal changes as they come.

I recognize that a balanced lifestyle comes first by changing the way I think about myself.

 

Old Message:

I should never be easy on myself or I will never accomplish the goal of a balanced lifestyle and loss of weight.

New Affirmations:

I love myself enough to do what is necessary to balance my life.

I can grow in self love and do what I need to do to put my life into balance.

I will love and nurture myself internally as I put my life into balance.

I love myself enough to do what is necessary to put my life into balance.

I will live a guilt free lifestyle.

I will do what I need to do to balance my life because I am worth it.

I will change the way I live my life because I deserve it.

I am changing the way I live my life for me and no one else.

I will not use self-criticism and self-deprecation in order to motivate myself.

I will love and nurture myself to grow in the commitment to do what is healthy for me.

I will accomplish more in changing my lifestyle by being self-loving and self- forgiving.

 

Old Message:

I should not be seen by others until my body is thin, beautiful and presentable.

New Affirmations:

I am willing to let others see my body today the way it is rather than what I wish it was.

I can let others see my body just the way it is.

I will let others see my body just the way it is.

My body is me and I am acceptable, loveable and beautiful.

My body is undergoing a change due to the change in lifestyle which I have begun.

My body will continue to change as I balance my lifestyle.

My body is worth being seen and heard by others.

I accept my body today just the way it is, because it is me.

I love myself, therefore I love my body for what it is.

I love myself enough to do what is necessary to help my body to become healthier.

I have alot to offer others and I will make myself present to them.

I will overcome my need to be invisible in order to help myself grow in self-confidence and self-love.

I will overcome my "achilles heel" of embarrassment over my body.

I will do what I need to do to accept my body as worth being seen and heard.

 

Old Message:

I should be able to change and balance my lifestyle perfectly or I should quit trying.

New Affirmations:

I am a human being and do not expect myself to be perfect in changing and balancing my lifestyle.

I can accept that I will not be perfect in changing and balancing my lifestyle

I will accept that there is no need to be perfect in my efforts to change and balance my lifestyle.

I am aware that relapse and slips are a part of recovery and I will get back on the "wagon" as soon as I fall off in my attempts to change and balance my lifestyle.

I accept that the Balanced Lifestyle Program is a program for human beings who are fallible and imperfect and that there is no need for me to be obsessed with doing it perfectly.

I can only do what is humanly possible to change, grow and get my lifestyle into balance.

I will measure my changes in this program by the changes in attitude and the increase in exercise and physical activity I accomplish.

I am giving up my need to punish and humiliate myself because I view myself as a failure for not being perfect.

I let go of the need to have a perfect body in order for me to love myself.

I will continue to love myself even if I slip or relapse in my efforts to balance my life.

I will utilize the tools of self-forgiveness and letting go of shame and guilt in order for me to accept that I am a human being who will fail and make mistakes in my efforts to change.

 

Old Message:

I should be able to do this on my own and privately without the need for group support.

New Affirmations:

It is ok that I am using a group to support my efforts to change and balance my lifestyle.

I can reach out to others in my support group for support as I work at changing my lifestyle.

I will reach out to others in my support group for support as I work at changing my lifestyle.

I can utilize the emotional support of others as I make changes in my life.

I will accept the emotional support of others as I make changes in my life.

It is healthy for me to reach out to others for support as I make changes in my life.

It is important for me to be open and honest with my feeling with the support people in my life so that they can provide me the emotional support when I really need it.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self- Esteem Seekers Anonymous
  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The TEA System
  • The ALERT System

2. Tools for Personal Growth
  • Chapter 1: Handling Irrational Beliefs
  • Chapter 3: Self-Affirmations
  • Chapter 4: Handling Guilt
  • Chapter 11: Handling Fear of Success
  • Chapter 12: Overcoming Perfectionism
  • Chapter 13: Handling Pride
  • Chapter 14: Developing Patience
  • Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility


3. Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child

  • Chapter 5: Letting Go of Shame and Guilt
  • Chapter 6: Self-Forgiveness
  • Chapter 7: Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Self-Love
  • Chapter 8: Self-Affirmations
  • Chapter 9: Mirror Work for Growing Down
  • Chapter 10: Re-Parenting for Growing Down
  • Chapter 11: Overcoming Invisibility
  • Chapter 12: Establishing Healthy Boundaries

III. Ridding Yourself of Stuffed Anger

 

In developing your Balanced Lifestyle you need to rid yourself of the anger which you stuff on a daily basis. This anger can come in many forms which is explained in the Tools for Anger Workout (Messina, J. J., Kendall-Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). Overeating, lack of exercise, compulsive dieting, not taking care of your physical health are all self-destructive activities which are described in Chapter twelve of the Tools for Anger Workout. People who do not live a balanced lifestyle are self-destructive and are stuffing down their anger. Healthy ANGER workouts will assist you to free your heart of destructive negativity, hostility and pessimism. In freeing your heart of the negative impact of anger, you will become free to experience the joy and fun of living and the optimism of a renewed lease on life through a balanced lifestyle.

The ANGER System begins with

  • Accepting that you are angry. If you overeat or do not exercise enough then you are angry at some level in your life, so admit it and get out of denial. Let go of the old preconceived messages about anger which were that it was wrong to be angry, that anger was unhealthy and that you are a bad person if you get angry. Anger is a healthy emotion if it is expressed in a healthy way and used in a healing way. The next thing you need to do is to
  • Name what you are angry at. This involves being clear about what you really are angry about. This means you need to identify what the trigger of your anger is bringing up for you. Is the trigger about current anger issues or remote or past anger issues? Is your anger disproportionate for the happening at hand, if so what is this current issue triggering from your past? Often what you are really angry at is a person either from your past or currently involved with you. However if the person you are angry at is yourself, you need not to do an anger workout on yourself. If you are angry at yourself, you need to use the Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child and do work on letting go of shame and guilt and increasing in self-forgiveness. It is not healthy to do an anger workout on yourself. When this program talks about developing a new relationship with food, increasing physical exercise and letting go of guilt and shame about your body are there triggers of anger in these issues which might explain some resistance or resentment about this program which keeps you from getting started in it freely with great enthusiasm and excitement? The next thing you need to do is to
  • Get it Out in healthy ways which do not include venting it on yourself or other people. The best way to get it out is to use the variety of methods contained in the Tools for Anger Workout. Yelling, hitting safe inanimate objects, writing it out and other physical exertions are just a sample. This takes time and a good plan is to set aside at least 5 to 10 minutes each day to get some anger out as you initiate and maintain your new balanced lifestyle. Anger will be with you for the rest of your life and no matter how much you expel and vent the anger about an issue of great hurt and pain, you can never guarantee that something in the future will not trigger it again to refuse the fire of pain and hurt in your heart and gut. Once you get your anger out in a workout, you will feel
  • Energized and ready to
  • Resume your efforts at a balanced lifestyle with a refreshed and open outlook. Anger will be with you for the rest of your life. There will always be things which will trigger your anger so bad that you might loose your cool and relapse out of your balanced ways. For this reason you need to make ANGER workouts a regular part of your Balanced Lifestyle agenda.

 

A way to get the anger out of your system not contained in any of the Tools for Coping Books is a method known as READ, WRITE and BURN. To do this you need to set aside a period of time in each day to do anger workout. The ideal is to set aside one(1) hour a day. If you can't afford an hour at least spend the same amount each day be it 10, 20, 30 or 45 minutes.

 

On the first day your are to WRITE for the one hour about an issue, topic, trigger, memory, person, place, or situation which makes you angry. You need to spend the entire time writing on this topic. Use loose leaf paper and write as much as you can. Use language which gets the anger out. Use foul, gross, disgusting language. Be vile, hateful, putrid, ugly and demeaning in your descriptions and statement. Don't hold back. Let it all hang out. Write stuff, you have never said before in your life, during this exercise. Vent, vent and vent some more. If you run out of things to say then use one or all of the following sentence stems to open you up more:

I hate it when ...

I despise ...

I loath people who ...

I wish that ...

I get so angry when ...

I hate ...

I will never again allow...

I regret that I opened myself up for ...

I don't like it when ...

I hope that the following will happen to ... for doing ...

The beauty of writing down your most vile angry thoughts is that no one except you will ever read what you write so you don't have to feel guilty about what you are saying since no one will be hurt by what you are writing or thinking.

 

On the next day your are to READ for one hour what you wrote on the day before. It is ideal that you are in a private place where you can read it out loud with great expressiveness and passion. Yell it out. Scream it out. Whisper it out. But use your verbal skills to be complete in your interpretation of what you wrote. It will take about 7 to 10 minutes to completely read your writings of one hour. This means you are to re-read what you wrote over and over again from 6 to 12 times during that hour you set aside on this day. The more you read what you wrote, hopefully the intensity and power of your anger will decrease or dissipate.

 

At the end of the hour, you are to BURN the papers. This releases the vileness, hostility and rage. If after the burning you find that you still harbor anger about the issue you just completed than on the next day for one hour return to the writing followed by the next day's reading and burning until you can exhaust the anger felt about that topic. Once you complete one topic then proceed the next day to another topic. Continue this during your initiating of your balanced lifestyle program to free yourself up of the anger which might be keeping you from resisting to implement the changes needed in your life.

 

As you do your anger workouts to get you started on the healthy balanced lifestyle track you might find the following list of issues as helpful to identify what triggers your anger as you proceed in implementing the changes needed to get your life balanced and on track:

 

Issues about food, diet, exercise, body image which trigger anger

  • Thin people who worry about their weight
  • Priority on being thin as being more important than what a person is or can do
  • Parents who obsess about food and/or diets and/or body image
  • Obsessive dieting in my family of origin
  • Parents giving me double messages about food
  • "Eat, but don't gain weight"
  • "Eat, but don't eat too much"
  • Food used as the only form of love a parent could give me
  • "I love you so eat, but don't eat too much or else you will get fat"
  • Anti-fat messages in the print and electronic media, movies, shows etc.
  • Advertisements which say I am not good enough
  • Advertisement which promote thinness as the only way to be
  • I am fat so I must be: jolly, happy, a joke teller, the clown
  • I am fat so I must be: stupid, lazy, a loser
  • Jealous of thin people who can eat all they want and never gain weight
  • Rejection for being overweight
  • Ostracism from social groups for being fat
  • Mirrors which remind me of how my body looks
  • Shopping for clothes
  • Condescending attitudes of clothing clerks about my size
  • "fat" jokes
  • Laughing on the outside at fat jokes and crying on the inside
  • Unsolicited recommendations by others as to how to lose weight
  • Unsolicited comments about what I am eating
  • Unsolicited comments about my exercise program
  • Being preached to about my weight
  • Being told: " You have such a pretty face"
  • Being told: " You could be so handsome or beautiful if only if ...."
  • Being told: "You used to be so pretty when you were thinner.."
  • You're thinner but not ever thin enough to please others or yourself
  • I still feel fat even after I have lost weight
  • I was told I was fat or overweight even though I was at an ok weight
  • Being told: "Was that really you when you were thinner?"
  • After losing weight being told: "You have lost ok but it is not good enough, lose more."
  • My weight being open to public comment, opinion or criticism
  • People judging me by my body size rather than by my accomplishments on the job
  • Condescending attitude toward me about my size, weight or looks
  • Why are good foods I enjoy so fattening?
  • My "okness" as a human is dependent on my weight, size and looks
  • My capabilities are judged by my size, weight and looks
  • It is not fair that a balanced lifestyle requires a new relationship with food
  • It is not fair that I have to exercise in order to have a balanced lifestyle
  • Exercise is punishment
  • Exercise is a waste of time
  • Being told I must be lazy and a good for nothing since I don't exercise
  • Being teased because I am overweight
  • Members of my family being teased because I am overweight
  • Society not accepting me because I am overweight, too large or not cute enough
  • The lack of fairness about body size, weight and looks in our society
  • The overemphasis on body image and weight in our society
  • Looks count more than anything else socially
  • My mom's attitude about food, diets, exercise, or my weight, size or looks
  • My dad's attitude about food, diets, exercise, or my weight, size or looks
  • My sibling's attitudes about food, diets, exercise or my weight, size or looks
  • My grandparents' attitudes about food, diets, exercise or my weight, size or looks
  • My relatives' attitudes about food, diets, exercise or my weight, size or looks
  • My friends' attitudes about food, diets, exercise or my weight, size or looks
  • Being made to feel embarrassed about my weight, size or looks
  • Hesitation to being seen in public
  • Hesitation to engaging in social functions
  • Being ridiculed by others for my weight, size or looks
  • Resenting the bodies of others at the health spa
  • Embarrassed by my looks when I enter a health club

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools For Recovery
  • The ANGER System

2. Tools for Anger Workout

  • All 15 Chapters

3. Tools for Handling Loss

  • All 9 Chapters

4. Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child

  • Chapter 3: Dumping Negative Garbage
  • Chapter 4: Getting in Touch with Feeling
  • Chapter 5: Letting Go of Shame and Guilt
  • Chapter 6: Self-Forgiveness

IV. Healing Your Inner Child as a Motivational Tool

 

As you work at instituting a Balanced Lifestyle in your life, you need to heal your inner spirit also know metaphorically as your "Inner Child" or "Child Within." The concept of Inner Child healing is presented in Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child (Messina, J. J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). The inability to love yourself unconditionally and the overriding sense of shame and guilt you have over your body size and weight are signs of the need to do CHILD work. The CHILD System outlined in Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) addresses overcoming your need to be invisible so that others will not notice your body's size, shape, appearance or weight. The use of CHILD work helps you to get in touch with feelings which you have stuffed down for too long. It helps you to grow in self-forgiveness and acceptance of yourself as a human being subject to mistakes and failures. CHILD work involves you actively in the process of self-affirmations using the mirror as a way to communicate with yourself to grow in self-acceptance, self-approval and self-love. This effort teaches you to re-parent yourself so that you can give yourself healthy guidance needed as you begin the effort to change your life and lifestyle. CHILD work encourages you to dump the negative garbage from your past while filling your heart with new messages of hope, courage, strength, optimism and possibilities. By utilizing CHILD work appropriately, you will grow in your ability to play and have fun so that you can enjoy life one day at a time and one moment at a time. By having fun and learning to play you will be able to accept life as it is rather than what you want it to be. CHILD helps you to grow in inner peace while accepting the reality and presence of your Higher Power in your life.

You will have a difficult time in changing your relationship with food and exercise if you are not willing to open yourself up to loving yourself by healing your inner spirit. You will not be able to accept you body for what it is unless you open yourself up to love yourself with no prescribed standard of behaviors or looks necessary to be eligible for such love.

 

The CHILD System requires you to

  • Calm yourself down when you are feeling alone, forgotten, abandoned, depressed, hopeless, ill at ease or ready to give up on yourself as you try to change your lifestyle. Once calmed down, you begin to
  • Heal your inner spirit by getting in touch with your Child Within you who needs to be re-parented, loved and accepted. At the same time you are asked to open yourself up to the presence of the Higher Power in you. The image is that the adult you, your inner child and your Higher Power are a team working together to assist you to grow in self-love and deservedness so that you will have the strength and ability to sustain the efforts needed to change your lifestyle. As you are visualizing the presence of your inner spirit, your adult self and your Higher Power in a meeting in your life, you are asked to
  • Inform yourself and inner child of the many positive attributes, gifts, skills, knowledge and abilities which you possess that will make it possible for you to be successful in your effort to change your lifestyle. As you continue to inform yourself of the positives you possess, the goal is for you to grow in
  • Love of self unconditionally for being you rather than for what you do. As you grow in self-love you will be able to face with more realism and understanding any failures, disappointments, setbacks or relapse you experience in your efforts to gain a balance in your lifestyle. As you feel yourself growing in self-love you will be able to
  • Direct your inner spirit to be a beacon and connection with your Higher Power so that you will never need to feel alone, abandoned or forgotten as you put energy and time into making changes in your lifestyle.

What follows is a CHILD System visualization to assist you as you initiate the Balance Lifestyle Program in your life. Record this script on an audio tape in your own voice so you can use it on a regular basis to help motivate you. This visualization is based on the concept of The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson (Doubleday and Company Inc., New York, 1984). It would be helpful to read this story about the precious present as you work on changing your lifestyle. Use this visualization at least 5 times a week during your initial year of getting your lifestyle into a healthier balance.

 

Balanced Lifestyle CHILD Visualization

I sit down and find myself resting, breathing in and out. I breath in the fresh air of change and breath out the old stale air of stagnation and stuckness. I calm myself down and find myself in a safe, comfortable place. (This place can be your favorite space be it near the ocean, on the bank of a babbling brook, in the forest, on a mountain, in front of a fireplace, etc.)

 

As I settle down into my special place, I see a young child approaching me. As the child comes closer I recognize that this is my inner spirit, my child within, my inner child. I open my arms and welcome the child to come close to me. As I embrace the child close to me, I feel an intense warmth and serenity surround me. I recognize that this is the presence of my Higher Power who is always with me and my inner child whenever I call upon them to be present for me.

 

As I sit in this my special place I begin to tell my inner child and Higher Power, that I have been feeling alone, abandoned and isolated as I begin to make the efforts to change the way I relate to food, exercise and personal growth. As I begin to make the efforts to change my lifestyle and get a balance into my life, I feel that I will never have the time needed to effect this change. I also do not believe that I will ever be able to accomplish all that is necessary to effect this change in my life. I share with my inner child and Higher Power my self doubts and concerns about my ability to follow through on this worthwhile goal. I fear that I will not be able to accomplish all that I want to accomplish. I have experienced failure and lack of success in past efforts at losing weight and increasing my exercise. I am afraid that this effort at gaining a Balanced Lifestyle will be a failure as well. This makes me feel so alone and worthless. I do not believe that I have what it takes to make such a major change in my life. I feel guilt and shame about my body's size, appearance and weight. I do not believe that I have the right amount of motivation and energy to do what I need to do to change. I am so worried that others will make fun of me if I am not successful in this effort, like I was in my other past failed attempts. I continue to open up my heart inorder to let my inner spirit and Higher Power know that I am scared to pursue this Balanced Lifestyle Program for fear of being a failure, making mistakes or having setbacks or relapse in it. I sit here in my safe place knowing that I am being listened to by two open and unconditionally accepting beings who are my friends. Together we make a team to assist me to grow and change in this effort of mine at lifestyle balancing.

 

I hear a voice, from within me, which is my Higher Power, saying: "Trust yourself, you have what it takes to be successful in your efforts to change. You have Me and your inner child to comfort you in your times of sorrow and shame and to lift you up when your are down on yourself or lost in self-pity." I hear my inner spirit tell me: "You are all you need to be successful in your efforts to change your lifestyle. You do not need the approval or recognition of others as you change and grow. All you need is to be more self-accepting and self-loving to motivate yourself to be successful in this Balanced Lifestyle Program." I know that my Higher Power and Inner Child are here for me as I contemplate the effort needed to change and grow.

 

As I recognize the strength and comfort of the presence of my inner child and Higher Power, I recognize that I am a special gift to myself which I take for granted and do not spend enough time focusing on. I know that I need to grow in self-forgiveness and let go of the shame and guilt I have over my body and my life to this point. I know that I need to let go of the need to be invisible to others out of the shame for what my body and I have become. I need to let go of self-pity and self-flagellation for what has gone wrong in the past and take the risk to believe that I can become a new person through balancing my lifestyle. If I recognize that I am a special present to myself, I might be better able to recognize that I have what it takes to persevere and be successful in pursuing a Balanced Lifestyle in my life. I realize that with their help, my inner child and Higher Power will help me accept that the following gifts are there for me to use as I pursue my change:

I accept and love my brain which is filled with the intelligence to help me grow in understanding and knowledge of what it will take to change my lifestyle.

 

I accept and love my eyes as tools to help me see the beauty in my body and myself so that through full self-acceptance I will be able to grow in self-love and commitment to change my life.

 

I accept and love my ears as the vehicles through which I will hear the hopeful messages of the Balanced Lifestyle Program so that I can open myself to their meaning in my life.

 

I accept and love my nose as the sense which helps me scope out for the truth in things, so that I do not accept blindly messages about what is necessary for me so that I can smell a lie or falsity when it pops up.

 

I accept and love my mouth as a major tool in balancing my lifestyle, so that it will be in better control of what enters my body so that what is healthy enters and what is unhealthy is refused. My mouth is also the vehicle by which I will talk to others in the support system in the Balanced Lifestyle Program so that when I need support I can reach out for it.

 

I accept and love my face for it is the real me that I present to the world. On my face others will see that I am growing daily in self-love and self-confidence as I feel more self-worth and self-deservedness from my efforts to grow and change in the ways I think, feel and act in my life. What was once called "such a pretty face" is really a beautiful mirror of my inner spirit and soul and as I grow in self-love and improved relationship with you my inner child and Higher Power I will be beaming more and reflecting lightness to others in my life.

 

I accept and love my head because it is the home of most of the senses I need to be successful in my new effort to balance my lifestyle. It is also home to my brain which is the seat of the thoughts and ideas which I will change as I pursue this lifestyle change.

 

I accept and love my neck because it is the conduit of intelligence and emotions between my head and heart.

 

I accept and love my shoulders because they have borne a lot of grief from me due to my old self-pity and embarrassment. I will no longer stoop my shoulders. I will hold them up because I am proud of myself and my shoulders are going to help me show the world the change I am making in myself.

 

I accept and love my arms because they help me reach out to touch and hug others. I will use my arms to hug myself on a daily basis as an affirmation that I deserve to be loved and cared for because I am special, loveable and worth being loved.

 

I accept and love my hands because they are tools to help me balance my lifestyle because they will not touch or hold or bring to me anything which is not healthy for me. They are the tools to touch and feel the world and they will assist me to learn to play and have more fun in my life.

 

I accept and love my trunk and chest area. This is the home of my important internal organs, my heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas etc. This is a special place because it is the home of my "gut feelings" which I am opening up to more and more as I change my lifestyle. These organs are the site of my instincts and intuitions which need to be given more attention to as I change and grow. This place in my body is special because it is the home of my feelings which need to be changed to become more realistic, rational and real so that I can grow and gain an improved balanced lifestyle.

 

I accept and love my hips and pelvic area. This is the area which controls my ability to bend and twist. I need to learn to be more flexible and spontaneous and this region of my body will assist me to do so as I increase my exercise and activity level.

 

I accept and love my legs because they are tools to help me gain a balanced lifestyle because they will transport me to places where I can exercise and do healthy activities of play and fun for myself. My legs bear the weight of my body and as such play a major role in my life. For this reason I will be more gentle and loving to them in the future in appreciation for what they have already done for me in the past.

 

I accept and love my feet because they will help me walk into places which are healthy for me and to avoid walking into places which are unhealthy for me. My feet will help me to get to places of fun, relaxation and play so that my life will have greater balance and harmony.

 

I accept and love my entire body because it is my Higher Power's special gift to me and because it is the home of my inner spirit and of me. I find my body is a beautiful, functional home for me which will assist me to gain the balanced lifestyle which I am seeking at this time in my life. I know that my body comes from my Higher Power and like they say: "God doesn't make junk."

 

My inner child and Higher Power thanks for visiting with me today as I open myself to the precious present which is me. My body is a wonderful gift and I accept it unconditionally and fully. I promise you my inner child and Higher Power that I will take care of my body in special ways. I promise that I will stand in front of a mirror each day and affirm myself and my body as wondrous gifts which need special tender loving care as I get my lifestyle into an improved balance.

 

It is now time to leave my special place. As I begin to prepare myself to return to my everyday life I release the grasp of my inner child and at the same time feel the warmth of my Higher Power release its grasp. As I watch my inner child walk away from this safe place I begin to count backwards from five:

Five: I promise to return to this special place at least five times a week during this first year of my Balanced Lifestyle efforts.

Four: I promise you my inner child that I will take better care of you so that you do not need to feel alone, abandoned or isolated.

Three: I promise you my Higher Power that I will spend more time in your presence to gain the sense of support and warmth you offer me.

Two: I promise you my body that I will be nicer to you. I think you are beautiful and I will tell you that daily in my mirror work with you.

One: As I get used to the room and the chair on which I am sitting I promise myself that I will work to the best of my human ability to do what I need to do in order to continue my efforts at putting my lifestyle into balance.

 

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 Personal Growth

  • Chapter 9: "Little Child Within"
  • Chapter 15: Spirituality
  • Chapter 19: Preventing Burnout
  • Chapter 20: Having Fun

3. Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child 

  • All 20 Chapters

V. Letting Go of Control to Gain Balance in Your Life

 

Since you are, like I am, a person who has had problems with maintaining a healthy weight, had a poor body image, had a poor relationship with food and had not been able to maintain a healthy exercise program in your life then you also have a major problem with control.

 

As a group, people like us tend to be over critical, over judgmental, exact high standards and expectations of others and are severe perfectionists. We tend to be quick to see faults in others and are quick to blame them for the imperfections we see around us. Inorder to maintain our sanity in life, we immediately, when faced with a problem involving another person or place or thing will try to fix or take care of it, so that it can be corrected the way we want it to be so that we will be happy and content with it. We will offer unsolicited advice to others on what to change inorder to fix or change the situation which is a problem for us. Better yet, we will do it ourselves to fix or take care of it. After all we rationalize, "If you want it done right, then do it yourself." We tend not to trust others to do things which we are dependent on them to do for us. As a result of our over control modes, we experience a great deal of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, depression, anger, resentment and fatigue which are all emotional triggers for our eating. We often nurture ourselves with food because we experience others as inadequate in the meeting of our needs.

 

This controlling mode focuses the attention on other people, places, things and conditions and keeps the focus off of ourselves. It assists us to become invisible to the world and to ourselves. It gives us a false sense of being important since we are fixing and taking care of things which others have failed to do "good enough" by our standards or expectations. The "self" becomes lost in our powerful expression of criticism, judgement making, perfectionistic taunts and expectation and standard evaluating. It is a statement to ourselves that: "I must have the outcome I want or else!" It also is a statement that: "I must have control of the situation, if it is to come out the way I want it to." It makes it impossible to ever delegate out responsibility to others to assist in achieving the outcomes desired. The controlling mode is a mask behind which we hide so that we do not have to take care of ourselves and the powerful problems over which we have failed to be successful or triumphant.

 

The amazing truth about controlling behaviors with people like us, is that when it comes to taking care of our need to put balance into our lives; to change our relationship with food; to work on improving our self-image; to heal our self-esteem; to grow in love of our bodies; to let go of the power of guilt in our lives; to increase our level of healthy exercise; to work at letting out our anger in a healthy way over things which frustrate us; to identify our unhealthy and irrational thinking and to nurture ourselves so that we grow in self-love and self-respect, we become immobilized. We do not take control. We become obsessed with the belief that: "I will never be able to fully achieve the outcome I want, so why try!" We become overwhelmed by our fantasy of how it ought or should be, that we do not have the energy to take control of the situation to change it. We come up with all kinds of excuses why we can't do it. We plead helplessness. We become withdrawn from the problem. We act in irresponsible ways around the problem. We procrastinate. We claim we are "too busy" or "don't have enough time." We become the very thing we criticism in others. Our self-esteem takes a beating because we at some level know we are avoiding doing the work we need to do, to get our lives into a healthy balance and we become riddled with shame and guilt for not taking "good enough" care of ourselves. We do the ultimate giving up of self-control by dropping out of programs like this because of the implied rules and pressure to take care of ourselves in healthy ways. It is almost like we are fighting the sense of being controlled by another person (the author of the text or the leader of the class) to do something, even if it is good for us. The rebellion and resistance we throw up to efforts which are good for us results in us not being successful in healing ourselves. This is crazy and a waste of emotional and physical energy.

 

The goal of letting go of control over other people, places, things and conditions is for us to be able to: "accept life the way it is rather than how we want it." By letting go of control of others, we can begin to refocus on ourselves in healthy ways. By not criticizing, judging and blaming others we can begin to lighten up the rules and restrictions we have placed on ourselves. We recognize that the control of others is our defense mechanism to cover up our self-criticism and blaming ourselves for having our lives so out of balance. By not holding on to our perfectionistic needs for others we can begin to free ourselves up from the need to be so perfect. We can learn to accept ourselves as human beings who are subject to making mistakes, experiencing failure, making slips or even relapsing. By not exacting high standards and expectations on others, we can become more self-loving and self-accepting of ourselves for who we are rather than who we want ourselves to be. We can begin to say we love our bodies now at the beginning of our program of recovery rather than to wait for the end when we "should be able to say it because the body will be just the way I want it to be inorder for me to say it is beautiful." By setting standards which are realistic for ourselves, we might be better able to accept the need to give up our "fantasy" swiss bank account bodies and accept the reality of "reality based" bank account bodies. By no longer needing to feel the burden of taking on other's problems to solve, we are free to focus all that energy on ourselves. We will no longer need to look to others to reinforce us for being "good people" who do so much for so many others. Instead we will be able to give credit more to ourselves and reinforce ourselves for doing such "good deeds" for ourselves. We will be able to let go of the need for the approval and recognition of others for what we do in life. We will be able to approve of ourselves for being who we are unconditionally. We will be able to keep focus on ourselves and our need to get and maintain our lives in balance as we let go of the need to be so overly concerned about how every body else is doing. We will be able to laugh and enjoy the saying of WGAS (Who gives a shit!) every time we regain our focus on our personal efforts. By letting go of our need to be concerned with other's problems, concerns or difficulties, we will be more centered on ourselves when we attend the program meetings or are doing our lifestyle balancing work at home, at work or in the community.

It is important to recognize that the nature of the control issue is determined as to where we place our locus (place) of control in our lives. We either can place our focus on the External Locus of Control which is on other people, places, things, conditions or situations in our lives which impact our sense of being approved, recognized, wanted and loved. Or we have the choice to place our focus on the Internal Locus of Control which is on the inside of me. The internal locus is on my mind, heart and gut. It is on my inner spirit and inner personhood. It is on my self-worth, self-respect, self-confidence, self-deservedness in other words my self-esteem. When we focus on the external locus of control we give the externals the power over us and how we feel about ourselves. When we focus on the internal locus of control we empower ourselves to grow in self-love and self-control. When we are busy focusing on the internal locus of control we don't have the time or energy to focus on the external locus of control issues. By accepting that we cannot control the externals in our lives, we are accepting our powerlessness over them. By accepting our powerlessness, we are then able to let go of our externals as being the uncontrollables and unchangeables in our lives; once we have let go of the power we give to our externals then we are able to maintain detachment from them so that they no longer have the power to influence how we feel about them. After being able to gain detachment over our externals, we are then able to accept unconditionally all of these externals for what they are rather than for what we wanted them to be.

 

The LET GO System in the Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous Manual (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, 1992) helps you to understand the letting go of control process. You first need to

  • Lighten Pressure which is to do ALERTS about what is leading you to want to control and then to do ANGER over what you wish you could control but know that it would be unhealthy for you to try and then you do CHILD to nurture yourself for your guilt free releasing of the need to jump in and take control of an external in your life. Once you have accomplished this you then
  • Exercise Rights which is to declare that the only thing you can control or change is yourself and that you will withdraw from efforts to control this problematic external in your life. You then need to
  • Take Steps which is to stop trying to fix, change, rescue, enable, give advise, judge, criticism, set standards, exact perfectionistic expectations or correct the problematic external and allow this other external to experience the natural consequences of their own actions. You then need to embrace the words of the Serenity Prayer by
  • Giving up the Need to control the externals in your life and to maintain a reasonably happy life, living one day at a time and enjoying one moment at a time. Finally you will
  • Order your Life accordingly so that you maintain an internal locus of control and let go of the need to focus on the external locus of control.

 

Affirmations for Letting Go of Control as you begin your Balanced Lifestyle:

  • I will maintain my locus of control on me.
  • I will change and control only myself.
  • I will grow in self-control.
  • I will take the steps to let go of the need to control others in my life.
  • I am important enough to work on changing and getting into personal balance and control.
  • I deserve the efforts I will put into making the changes needed to get my life in balance.
  • I will be able to let go of the need to control external issues which I want to change.
  • I am the only one I can change or control.
  • I only need my approval to be successful in my efforts to balance my lifestyle.
  • I will let go of my helplessness in dealing with the changes I need to make in my life.
  • I will make the time to make the changes I need to make in my life.
  • I am always able to give myself the time and effort needed to change my lifestyle.
  • I love myself enough to do what I need to do to change my lifestyle.
  • I will work harder on focusing my energy on myself.
  • I will do more reading and writing in the Tools for Coping Series.
  • I will put more time and energy into my efforts to change my lifestyle.
  • I will let go of the need to procrastinate about beginning to exercise more.
  • I will let go of the need to focus on others inorder to take the focus off of myself.
  • I make a commitment to make my internal locus of control a healthy process.
  • I make a commitment to empower myself by refocusing on my internals.
  • I make a commitment to depower the external locus of control in my life.
  • I deserve to focus more on self-loving, self-nurturing and guilt reducing behaviors.
  • I will reach out to others for their support to help me let go of my need to control others.
  • I will let go of the need to use a mask of control to hide my needs from myself.
  • I will let go of the defense mechanism of control of others so that I can change myself.
  • I will redirect all of my fixing and caretaking energy onto me and my lifestyle needs.
  • I will be able to fix and take care of my lifestyle change because I am a good fixer.
  • I will establish healthy boundaries between me and others.
  • I will maintain healthy boundaries between me and the others I want to fix and change.
  • I will spend more time on me and feel guilt free as I do that.
  • I have the right to fix and change only myself.
  • I have the right to expect myself to work on me.
  • I will keep the focus of my control efforts only on myself.
  • I will give permission to my SEA's Buddies to call me on it when I get into a control mode.
  • I will listen and give support to my SEA's Buddies without trying to fix them.
  • I will let go of my critical and judgmental nature as I attend SEA's meetings.
  • I will be free of my overcontrol mode as I progress in this Balanced Lifestyle Program.
  • I will allow myself to let others experience the consequences of their own actions.

 

Tools for Balanced Lifestyle Recommendation:

As you proceed in this program you need to protect yourself from your overcontrolling mode. For this reason whenever you are in this program's meetings or talking with someone from this program:Keep the focus on you and not on others. Try not to talk about anyone else while in the program. Try not to be critical or judgmental of your fellow program members. Try not fix or take care of anyone in the group except yourself. Use the rules for SEA's Buddies in the Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous, page 166-168 as a guideline for your behaviors in this program.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous

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

Section 5: Tools to Structure the SEA's Program

  • SEA's Small Group Sharing Format
  • SEA's Buddies at SEA

2. Tools for Personal Growth

  • Chapter 8: On Becoming a Risk Taker
  • Chapter 11: Handling Fear of Success
  • Chapter 12: Overcoming Perfectionism
  • Chapter 13: Handling Pride
  • Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility

3. Tools for Handling Control Issues 

  • All 15 Chapters

4. Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child

  • Chapter 11: Overcoming Invisibility
  • Chapter 12: Establishing Healthy Boundaries

VI. What's Keeping You from Getting Started?

 

Perhaps you are finding that you are having a hard time getting started on the Balanced Lifestyles Program. You have been attending the weekly meetings but have not found yourself reading the material in the Lifestyles Manual nor in the other Tools for Coping Series Books. You find yourself saying how excited and enthusiastic you are about this new program and yet have not written anything in your journal, nor written out or said any new positive self-affirmations for yourself. You find yourself telling or explaining to others about what you are doing, yet you are slow in implementing what you are telling others you are doing or "supposed to do." You find yourself saying:"This is not a diet or weight management program, and we never have to use the scale or weigh ourselves." And yet, you find it hard to get started on implementing an exercise program for yourself. You find yourself saying you like the emphasis in this program on living a guilt free life and yet you are hearing an inner mean voice berating you for not putting more time or energy into the program. You find that you like that this program does not require meal planning or a set diet and yet you are not putting into practice any of the nutritional concepts which you have already been exposed to in this program. What is going on? Are you two different people? Are you a split personality? Or are you simply a human being whose TEA system is out of whack?

 

The TEA System is explained in Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, 1992, p. 20).

  • T is for Thoughts which need to be changed before you can begin to initiate your recovery or balancing lifestyle activities.
  • E is for Emotions which you need to address and change about the proposed recovery and balancing lifestyle activities before you can successfully initiate such a program in your life. Finally
  • A is for Actions which will be initiated only after you have dealt with the way you think and feel about your lifestyle and made the intellectual and emotional commitment to proceed in implementing the changes needed to balance your lifestyle. The sequence of TEA is important. You cannot successfully stick to a program of lifestyle balancing if you just merely "wish" the change to occur. It is unproductive to merely think it would be nice to put this new program into action in your life unless you emotionally open yourself up to accept the need for such change.

 

One reason why your TEA System might not be in sync is that you have come to hate and despise yourself for what your body has become. Your body image may be so poor that you have come to feel disgust, loathing for and resentment against yourself. You on one hand recognize the need to change the way you live your life so that you can get your body into a healthier balance and yet on the other hand you hate yourself so much that you do not believe that you deserve the time, effort or energy needed to help you change. You on one hand want to feel better about yourself and your body but on the other hand you have disliked, despised and hated yourself and your body for so long that it is hard to break the habit inorder to turn yourself around to becoming self-loving, self-nurturing and self-encouraging. You hear that there is probably anger which lies at the root of your life being out of balance and yet the only one you can recognize any anger towards is yourself. You want to rid yourself of this anger, but the more you get angry at yourself, the more you are discouraged to begin to take the steps necessary to change and recover from your unhealthy out of balanced eating and exercising habits. You are so critical and judgemental of yourself that you find it hard to practice the unconditional self-acceptance and self-love encouraged in this program. You remind yourself of your past failures and lack of success in your past when you practiced yo-yo dieting, starvation and fasting dieting or compulsive exercising. You reason: "If I was a failure in the past why should I expect myself to be any more successful now?" You are filled with self-doubt and lack trust in yourself to follow through with what is needed to be successful in turning your life into a balanced process. So although you say you want to implement the Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life, your emotions are not in a place where they are ready for you to commence on this project with hope, excitement and enthusiasm. You are on a self-destructive course which needs attention now.

 

What you need to overcome your self-hatred and self-destructiveness is to not do ANGER workouts on yourself but rather to work on self-forgiveness and letting go of shame and guilt over your past. You need to get to work in the Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child (Messina, J.J. & Messina, C.G., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, 1992) chapters on Letting Go of Shame and Guilt (Chapter 6, p. 35) and Self-Forgiveness (Chapter 7, p. 45). Also you need to look at Chapter 12: Stop Self-destructive Anger Responses in the Tools for Anger Work-Out (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, 1992). You need to begin to accept yourself as a human being who is not perfect and is subject to making mistakes and experiencing failures. You need to give yourself freedom to slip and regress at times in your efforts to change your lifestyle. You need to work on giving yourself permission to not "do it right" all of the time. You need to set realistic expectations and standards for yourself in your goal to be successful in this program. You need to give yourself plenty of time to accomplish the goals of this program, considering that it will take the rest of your life to accomplish the complete and successful balancing of your lifestyle. Once you have succeeded in forgiving yourself and letting go of shame and guilt over you past failures you then need to work on accepting and loving yourself unconditionally as outlined in the Growing Down Chapters on Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Self-Love (Chapter 7, p. 45), Self-Affirmations (Chapter 8, p. 51), and Mirror Work for Growing Down (Chapter 9, p. 65). As you begin to be nicer and more accepting to yourself, you will grow in a sense of self-deservedness and self-worth which helps you believe that you are worth your time, effort, energy and resources in this program to be successful at gaining a balance in your life. Only by doing this work will your TEA System be in sync to overcome your current state of self-hatred and self-destructiveness.

 

Another reason why your TEA System might not be in sync is that you cannot intellectually accept that many of the procedures outlined in the Tools for Coping Series Books and the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program are reasonable and acceptable for you to do. You might think that journal writing, visualizations, self-affirmation cards, talking to yourself in front of a mirror, drawing pictures with crayons, playing children's games, doing anger release work, and letting go of control over other people, places, things, situations and conditions is a bunch of crap. I fully understand this intellectual resistance to the program, since only ten years ago I believed that these types of behaviors were too "touchy feelly," outlandish, silly, stupid, a waste of time, ridiculous for an adult to engage in, unproductive and not scientifically grounded for successful outcomes in clients. That is until I allowed myself to experience them all in my personal life. I used them in my recovery from low self-esteem and a life which was severely out of balance. I now use these and the other techniques in the Tools for Coping Series Books to keep me on target in my goal to love myself and keep my life in balance. I have been able to feel better about myself and keep my exercise and food program in balance for close to a decade now. I believe that this is because I was humbled by the realization that things which looked to me as Kookie, unprofessional or frivolous were needed in my life to heal my inner emotional turmoil. These behaviors were things I had never been allowed to engage in as a child and as such I was in desperate need to experience them. By doing them, my emotional life could catch up with my intellectual life so that my TEA System could get into sync and I could be successful in my recovery and change efforts. Give yourself a break and give up your resistance to trying these "non-orthodox" healing behaviors in your life. Try the tools offered you in this program. Allow yourself to openly experience what might at first glance appear to be foolish, silly or frivolous. Let your emotional life heal by engaging in these activities. By getting your inner emotions in a healing way, you will be able to experience your TEA System in sync as you progress deeper into this program.

 

A final reason which could explain why your TEA System is out of sync resulting in your slow rate of initiation of change in your lifestyle, might be the pattern of behavior which you learned in your family of origin as explained in Laying the Foundation (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, 1992). If you possess a Looking Good pattern, you deny the origins of your problem. You have a need to look and act over-responsible with the veneer of high achievement. You find yourself willing to take on challenges in your personal life, which you think you ought to take on. Yet, you lack the emotional "togetherness" to tackle them on your own due to your being out of touch with your true feelings about these challenges. You "looked good" coming into the Balanced Lifestyle Program and talked a good talk but your actions were out of sync with your words. As a result you put yourself down inside as not being "good enough" and being a failure in this pursuit. You feel guilt for your perceived failings and find a pattern of procrastination takes over in your initiating what is needed to begin the process of putting your lifestyle into balance. Stop yourself from "looking good." Admit to others where you are really at in this program. Admit to yourself and others, that this program is a hard one for you to take on freely. Admit that you need support of others to identify what emotions are blocking your willingness to implement this program in your life. Admit to yourself and others that you are a human being who is subject to mistakes and failures and that although you want badly to implement this new way of living into your life you are too habituated into your old unhealthy model. This might make you "look bad" to yourself or others, but really we all know why you entered this program. You have a problem taking good care of yourself. You are more responsible taking care of everyone else and less responsible when it comes to taking care of yourself. It is ok to admit that you have weaknesses and faults. Welcome to the human race! You have tons of anger which you have stuffed down in your life. It is ok to admit this. If you do not now know what anger you have stuffed that is ok, but do the anger workouts anyway. Remember, unless your emotions are in sync with your thoughts you will never be successful in maintaining your balanced lifestyle actions for the rest of your life. You do not need to be ashamed to cry or break down as you face the reality of how tough it is to maintain a balanced lifestyle for the rest of your life. Emotional catharsis for a "looking good" behavioral pattern is freeing and energizing since it allows you to shed that mask which you hide behind as you face everyone on a daily basis.

 

If you possess the Acting Out and/or Troubled Person behavioral patterns, you are probably rebelling against the messages of the Balanced Lifestyles Program. You are probably in this program because someone else has been on your back to "get your weight off!" and to "get in shape!" You feel like you are being pressured or pushed to perform in this program. You resent the messages being given to you. You find the leader and other group members as irritating and so you get angry at the meetings and at the discussions which take place. You find yourself turning off. You want to get out of the program and yet you know there will be hell to pay if you fail at this program like you have all the others in your life. You find yourself acting out in the classes and groups. Your behaviors are at times disturbing to the others and you hope you will be kicked out so that you have an excuse that "you were misunderstood and that no one gave you a chance." You will blame everyone else but yourself if you are not successful in this program. You need to give in and accept that your lifestyle is out of balance and that you need help. You need to admit that you are just like everyone else in the program and that you need it as bad as the others do. You need to admit that you are as bad off as the next "gal or guy." You need to get some humility and let go of your grandiosity that says:"I don't need anyone's help to change my life. I can do it on my own." You need to drop your brick wall and other barriers to others so as to let them in on who you are. You can realize the beauty of mutual support and caring if you take the risk to be "real" in your class and group meetings. You need to decide to do this program only for yourself and no one else. If you cannot change your thinking around and let go of your intellectual resistance to this program then you need to drop out of the program now before you go too far and disable and disrupt the others so that their success in the program is imperiled.

 

If you possess the Pulling In and/or Nonfeeling behavioral patterns you are so out of touch with your real feelings that you are having a difficult time understanding the language of the program. You are probably afraid of being in the group meetings for fear of being seen or heard. You would prefer to be invisible to everyone else. You might even have made a vow never to talk in the group. You are used to living in a world of fantasy and can visualize what it would be like if your lifestyle should change and get into balance, and yet you are finding it difficult to cope with the realities involved in getting such a change in your life. You shy from asking questions or letting others know the difficulties you are having in understanding just what is expected or wanted of you in this program. You are finding it difficult to connect with the other members in this program, believing that they are better, smarter, more together, richer, happier, prettier, healthier, etc... than you. You need to take the risk to become visible to the group members. You need to be open with your inability to connect with the emotional messages in this program. You need to reach out to the other members in this program to gain their support so as to reduce your anxiety and fear which tend to paralyze you from taking any risk of change in your life.

 

If you possess the Entertaining behavioral pattern you want to joke and make light of the importance of the messages contained in the Balanced Lifestyle Program. You do this because you fear you would be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the change needing to be made in your life. You would rather laugh than cry about the enormity of the difficulties which lie ahead of you as you tackle the balancing of your lifestyle. You always found that people would accept you and your weight if you could make them laugh. But laughing about the problem is not tackling or solving it. A sense of humor is important in a balanced life, but there needs to be a balance of humor and seriousness as you initiate this program. Lightening the stress, anxiety, fear and tension present in the meetings as serious issues are being discussed is both distracting and disturbing to others. You would be best served to be open with the group about the level of anxiety, fear, tension and stress you are experiencing as you participate in this program. You need to open yourself to your inner hurt and pain and begin to share it with your support network in this program. You need to stop putting on the mask that "nothing bothers you" and admit to others what you are really feeling inside. "I'm laughing on the outside while crying on the inside," may be lyrics to the Entertainer's Anthem but they are unproductive emotional means of helping you get your recovery program into high gear.

 

If you possess the Enabler, People Pleaser and/or Rescuing behavioral pattern you may be feeling guilty, selfish, stupid, self-centered or egotistical for spending so much time focused on yourself, your needs and your goals. You feel embarrassed that so much attention is being paid to your problems. You would rather listen to the problems of the other group members and keep the focus off of your own. You feel that the messages in the Balanced Lifestyle Program are geared to making you so self preoccupied that you will not have enough time for others. You are afraid that if you fully implement all of the activities and actions in this program that the significant people in your life will be jealous of the time you are focusing on yourself instead of on them. You are afraid that significant people will reject and disapprove of you if you no longer take care of them or fix their problems. You are used to being a controller in other's lives and you resent the efforts being made in this program to "control" you. You are used to being the "helper" and not the "helpee." You get embarrassed when group members are interested in your personal well being as you progress in this program. You need to let go of the need to be the rescuer, fixer, caretaker, helper and savior of others in and out of this program. You need to focus on fixing and taking care of yourself. You need to accept that you deserve the time, energy and resources you are spending on yourself so that your life can get into balance. You need to let go of your irrational thoughts about feeling guilty or being selfish for focusing on yourself in this program. You need to overcome your intellectual resistance to the messages about the need for "taking care of your own health and emotional stability before you will be any good for others." You need to accept that it is healthy and rational to no longer place yourself last in the pecking order for your time, assistance, energy and resources.

 

The behavioral patterns of low self-esteem are based on unhealthy, irrational and unrealistic Thoughts, Emotions and Actions which are deeply ingrained from birth in you as negative self-scripts. You most probably have more than one of these patterns of thoughts, emotions and actions operating in your external behaviors. To understand how to overcome these patterns of low-self esteem read Section 1: An Overview of Self-Esteem in Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, 1992, p. 3). A description of how to rewrite these unhealthy behavioral scripts is contained in Chapter 12: Responding to Old Behavioral Scripts in Laying the Foundation (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, 1992, p.59). It is any wonder that you have not been able to get deeper into initiating the Balanced Lifestyle Program by now. You have too many opposing forces inside of yourself to address before you can successfully implement this program. You have a lifetime of work ahead of you to overcome the negative self-scripts of your behavioral patterns of low self-esteem.

 

As you begin to get your TEA System in a rational, realistic and healthy perspective you will be better prepared to start this program. You need to develop new skills and use new tools inorder to accomplish the goals of this program. You need to learn to crawl before you walk in this program. You will need to learn to walk before you can run in this program. No one is pushing, rushing or judging you in this program. The goal of this program is that every member is accepted unconditionally for who she or he is rather than what she or he accomplishes or does in this program.

 

You hopefully have recognized the sources of resistance inside of you which have made it difficult for you to get started in implementing the Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life. What is needed now is your commitment to use the ALERT, ANGER, CHILD and LET GO Systems over the next few weeks, months and years so as to help you overcome your behavioral patterns of low self-esteem so that you can get your TEA System into sync and put your balanced lifestyle program into full and successful implementation. Be kind and gentle on yourself for not starting this program more aggressively than you initially promised yourself you would. Remember you are fighting against a life time of old habits which are hard to break. You have been given some new tools in this start up Chapter of your Balanced Lifestyle Program. Use these tools over and over and over again. Do not hesitate to seek assistance from your program facilitator or counselor to help you better understand how these tools work and how they apply to your specific circumstance. Best of luck as you begin your journey to wellness on the path of a balanced lifestyle. It is well worth the time, effort and energy you will put into it.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous

  • Section 1: An Overview of Self-Esteem
  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The TEA System of Recovery
  • Section 3: The SEA's Tools for a Recovery Lifestyle
  • Unit 1: The SEA's Recovery Lifestyle
  • Unit 4: Handling Anti-Recovery Thinking
  • Unit 9: Thought Stopping for Recovery
  • Unit 10: Cues for Non-Recovery
  • Unit 18: Testing Motivation in Recovery

2. Laying the Foundation

All 12 Chapters, it is important to read the 9 Behavioral Patterns of Low Self-Esteem:

  • 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 Personal Growth
All 20 Chapters especially:
  • Chapter 1: Self-Esteem
  • Chapter 2: Handling Irrational Beliefs
  • Chapter 3: Self-Affirmations
  • Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility

4. Tools for Anger Work-Out

  • Chapter 12: Stop Self-destructive Anger Responses

5. Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child 

All 20 Chapters especially:

  • Chapter 1: A Growing Down Self-Assessment
  • Chapter 4: Getting in Touch with Feelings
  • Chapter 5: Letting Go of Shame and Guilt
  • Chapter 6: Self-Forgiveness
  • Chapter 7: Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Self-Love
  • Chapter 8: Self Affirmations
  • Chapter 9: Mirror Work for Growing Down
  • Chapter 10: Re-Parenting for Growing Down